happy birthday alfie

You inspire me
When my eyes begin to glaze
You inspire me
In so many ways
When I’m on the ground
You seem to know
How to pour blessings down
And spread them all around

You inspire me
When my well is almost dry
You inspire me
And in the twinkling of an eye
I’m back on my feet
You’re so inspiring to me

The road is long
And it winds through the night
But when you’re near
You let there be light

You inspire me
When my eyes begin to glaze
You inspire me
In so many ways
I’m back on my feet
You’re so inspiring
I don’t have to wish upon a star
That’s how inspiring you are

Nick Lowe



happy Chinese new year to you all

its chinese new year ,  the year of the dog,  check out what events are running because a lot of cities celebrate the new year in their china towns. did you know that dog is man’s good friend who can understand the human’s spirit and obey its master, whether he is wealthy or not. the Chinese regard it as an auspicious animal. if a dog happens to come to a house, it symbolizes the coming of fortune.

i know that some of you have followed my blog for quite a while, its now 8 years old, but as life is constantly changing, then so does the information that i have given you;  sometimes i re blog a blog either to update the info or just to remind myself – so forgive me if i sometimes sound repetitive. i am constantly asked about dim sum restaurants and where i like to go with the family – so here is my list.

there are so many mediocre and over priced restaurants that it can put you off eating traditional chinese food.  there are of course the designer ones, hakasan, yuatcha, ping pong and A Wong, all very good quality food, slightly designer chinese food, but all very expensive!  dinner at Hutong in the shard is an experience – its a fabulous view and the food delicious, though very spicy – you can ask for some of the dishes to be made not so hot;  there is definitely a wow factor when you see all the views of london lit up. i know that the viewing platform is higher, but if you are going to pay to just see the view, it may be worth just going for one course or a drink in the bar to experience it. i think that all the restaurants and drinks are pricey in these tall buildings, but you may as well eat and drink than just pay the £25 into the viewing platform.

my kids just love the traditional chinese barbecue roast pork, or char siu and roast duck, which is only sold in the more everyday style restaurants, so we frequent the following restaurants – royal china in baker street (always busy, so be prepared to queue), wing yip in cricklewood, a very big busy and noisy traditional restaurant, great value, and you can then do your food shopping in the vast supermarket adjoined to it, again very busy. imperial china restaurant on lisle street, actually its through a door and courtyard on lisle street, but very good and moderately priced and then there is the good earth in mill hill, which is a smart smaller restaurant, but perfect for taking grandmas to – robert’s mum loved this place and it was close to her house!   we visit the traditional phoenix palace near baker street, its fine, but not as good quality as royal china, but equivalent in price and a good alternative if you hate queuing.  opposite royal china on baker street, there is bright courtyard –  quite up market –  high quality dim sum, similar in price to royal china;  sometimes, we really cant wait in the queue at royal china so have tried this one a couple of times. princess garden of mayfair is very good quality and you can book at lunchtime which is a rarity.  pearl liang in paddington basin is also good quality.

we tried a new very different restaurant recently A Wong – we had lunch, which is dim sum, but very designer, but not too expensive.  i was divided in opinion, some were good, some were over thought out, but Robert absolutely loved it!  dinner is a different experience apparently.

I just went to china town and New World restaurant is not open at the moment!  You need to check all the links and make sure that they are up to date.   Thats the problem with london, so fast changing, though New World has been there for years and years……. You can put in Joy King Lau as a good option in chinatown, but  I don’t think it has the trolley dim sum  Another one that we go to for dumplings is Dumplings Legend, which has nice freshly made dumplings, with the famous Shanghai soup dumplings, where the soup is in the dumpling!!!    Duck and Rice is more westernised and is leaning towards higher end pub style food, but does give you quite tasty food, but its pricey.

new years celebration start in china town this weekend, but remember that they will all be unusually busy this weekend.  a good tip on normal weekends is to go either very early, ie mid day or even just before, or after 2.30pm, you wont have to queue so much.

in manchester we take my mother to dim sum – tai pan, which is just outside of the city centre, but is easy to park and is consistently good standard;  i have found that parking in manchester has become very expensive, and even on a weekend you have to pay up to 8pm.   there are a lot of good chinese restaurants in manchester – chinatown is a place that i frequented all through my childhood.  my mother was a waitress at the yang sing restaurant all through my childhood years, so dim sum was (and still is) a regular occurence.

special vintage dresses

if you are looking for something special and unique – say for a wedding, a special event or celebration or you just want to treat yourself to something that you are not going to see on everyone else, then why not choose an exclusive vintage piece from aboutwilliamvintage.  William will source and advise you on that unique piece that will suit you perfectly – its the nearest that you will get to buying couture, but at a more affordable price.  this is Pip wearing one of my vintage dresses – this one I found in whitstable.  and this is one of my William vintage dresses that I wore for our 20th wedding anniversary and my book launch.


Pancake Tuesday

traditionally shrove tuesday is the day before ash wednesday when lent starts.   its considered a last feast with ingredients such as sugar, fat and eggs,  whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with lent.

my kids absolutely love pancakes, but due to lack of time in the mornings, they are only treated to pancakes on a weekend.  so whenever pancake tuesday arises, they are all excited to have pancakes in the evening!  they will have them savoury with ham and eggs, or sweet with nutella,  blueberries, bananas or plain old sugar and lemon.

cinema museum and phantom thread

its strange that I had never heard of the cinema museum before visiting this weekend;  tucked behind an estate the victorian building was formally a workhouse where Charlie Chaplin spent part of his childhood there;  its now home to a collection of old cinema signs and memorabilia.  the lofty chapel is used for events, such as talks and screenings.  there is also a 36 seat mini cinema room – the whole thing is run on a shoestring, manned by enthusiastic volunteers.  Robert and Jason (Solomons) hosted an evening of chatting and clips of Robert’s favourite New York and London films.  you can visit the space with its curious collection by appointment;  there is a cafe too for tea and cake.  sadly its under threat due to the building being sold by the council and at risk of being sold to the highest bidder – i.e. new developments – please sign the petition to keep it alive.

Robert and I went to see Phantom Thread and without spoiling the storyline – we both really enjoyed the film.    slowly paced, its a film about creative passion and the relationship between a couturier and his muse – beautifully shot, with 3 great actors, its definitely worth seeing. I have always loved Daniel Day Lewis and will be very sad if he never acts again…..

caring for skin through the winter

if you have suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter months – remember the central heating being on doesnt help, but if you put a glass of water by your radiator this will help put back moisture into the air – add a few drops of lavender essential oil for a lovely aroma –   then there are lots of different products out there, other than cortisone cream which is what doctors seem to dish out.

my daughter has always suffered in the creases of the arms, ever since she was little, and i have tried so many different products.  I am quite a natural person, white witch my son calls it, but generally i try to use natural to cure illnesses first, then if i have to resort to the chemical stuff, fine.  the best of all the products i have tried for dry chapped skin is Napiers, Infant Starflower cream – its soothing, penetrative and doesnt sting.  Calendula cream can sting excema, and therefore make it look redder.  barefoot sos is another soothing moisturiser.  my favourite though is golden tumeric cream by  sunseeta – it works in all areas that are dry and irritable.
other alternatives –  Stellaria cream by Neale’s Yard, or Aloe Vera moisturiser from B Natural Skincare, which is equally as good for any part of your body and Goats milk cream from Elegance.    Apparently lanolin is a big aggrevator of the skin, so avoiding products containing lanolin is advised.   For general everyday use, shower gel, body cream,  aveeno, seems gentle enough and is affordable to just use generously all over the body.   Good old simple is actually good too and is very affordable and in all supermarkets.  Remember that hair products, shampoo, conditioner, and especially hair dye all contain chemicals and can cause allergic reactions – it was one of the main culprits in my daughter’s case – liz earle products are very good for people with sensitive skin, as is australian organics for the hair.   simple products are also non irritating if you want something that is widely available.  the best cream i have tried for dry cracked heels is from dr organic, virgin olive oil cream – and good old coconut oil – try one of the organic ones –  it really has worked.

As with all creams, i tend to think that your skin gets use to all creams and changing is always a good thing, as your skin responds to new things.  Of course, everybody is different and they react to things differently, but natural is worth a try and none of the above are very expensive, so worth a try.

incidentally wholefoods have a a 25% discount off all cosmetics this week, so definitely worth buying your natural products from there.

new eateries in manchester

I go to manchester so often that sometimes I don’t go any further than my mothers house and the Chinese restaurant that she loves to eat in.  but now and again, I love to explore and if my friends are around they take me to new discoveries.  its such a pleasure to see manchester become more inventive with independent shops and eateries.  the norther quarter is far more interesting to walk around than the shopping streets of manchester and is a short walk from Picadilly train station.

Mackay market has just opened in that area and is housed in a splendid 1850’s listed building and is a wonderful new addition to manchester’s eateries – open from mid morning to late evening, it was pioneered but the same imaginative team that created Altrincham market.   however they don’t do breakfast till 10am, but we got breakfast at Ezra & Gil, which was perfectly nice and offers the popular modern version of cornflakes – avocado on toast!   describing itself as an “evolutionary concept in urban coffee, cafe culture and general provisions.”  Ezra meaning ‘helper’ and Gil meaning ‘happiness’, Ezra & Gil’s ethos is all about creating a coffee experience with a relaxed mood and an array of smells, tastes, sights and sounds to feed the senses.

strange as I don’t think that I had tasted avocado before the age of 35 and now my kids see it as a  normal everyday food  as we did with an apple or orange.  I.have a passion for teapots – beautiful everyday objects as well as being useful.