We've only just admitted to each other that whilst we enjoyed the culinary birthday I had planned we did very much feel out of place amongst these Bentley wielding, Michelin Star eating, designer clothes wearing hot shots. I'll take you to the start...
...back in May I was walking around Blackheath village with my cousin Cecillia when I told her I was at a loss with regards to what to do for my awesome husband's 30th birthday. She knew I'd bought him a couple of cook books for our first anniversary and he'd recently very successfully taken up the challenge of learning to cook; consequently, she suggested taking him out somewhere really special, somewhere known for it's culinary delights. I totally agreed - enter: the world of Michelin Stars.
I had very limited knowledge about Michelin Stars but I knew they meant "great quality food" and the more Michelin stars you had the posher your nosh. 3 michelin stars are the most you can have and the UK has only four such restaurants - the whole of the US has 11 such restaurants, this demonstrates just how very rare the accolade is.
I won't take you through all the deliberating I went through but ultimately we ended up going to:
Then the next morning, I told him.
"Remember that video we watched?"
"Yeah?" Harry said.
"Well, we're going to The Hand & Flowers for lunch!"
He smiled, "Phew, I thought you'd booked a cookery course and I wasn't up for doing any work!"
I continued, "We're also going to the 3 Michelin Star Fat Duck for dinner!"
"Two places in one day?"
"Yep." He looked happy but worried. I knew it was probably because he thought I was wasting money." We then watched these two videos which incidently were a continuation of the above series of Masterchef, The Professionals:
After watching these three videos we were officially both excited. I gave Harry his first birthday present: a white shirt that I had personally designed on iTailor.
The Hand & Flowers
Of all the places we went to this is the one I felt least out of place in. The desserts we had here were my favourite of all three restaurants because they were more hearty. The prices are also A LOT more reasonable so we'll be going back here.
Just to give you an idea of how popular the place is, the restaurant was booked up for weekends for about 12 months in advance! They also have 4 rooms to let but could I get one? Oh no, not 3 months in advance, as at May every weekend until February 2014 was fully booked!
The food in pictures:
After lunch at The Hand & Flowers we wanted to take a walk but were actually quite tired so we decided to drive to our cottage for a nap.
Clematis Cottage, Bray
When we got to Clematis Cottage I gave Harry his second birthday present: another custom designed shirt from iTailor, this time in blue.
After hanging out and posting some pictures to instagram we slept for a while before getting ready for dinner at the 3 Michelin Starred The Fat Duck; our first experience of dining at this level.
The Fat Duck
The Fat Duck's 14 course taster menu is something else. The food comes along with a fair amount of abracadabra and without someone there to explain it, you wouldn't have a clue what you were eating.
It goes without saying that the staff were all extremely polite and professional. Also, although the food was extremely complex it didn't matter who you asked, they knew exactly what it was and how it was made.
Bookings at The Fat Duck are almost impossible. They open up for booking at 09.55 a.m. exactly two months in advance. I had a friend on hand trying to get a booking from that time alongside my attempts. I failed, she succeeded after about 3 hours of trying!
I wasn't quite sure if I was "full" after the Fat Duck; there was space there for more but I decided it was because the food was so tasty rather than my stomach not being satiated. Anyway, the whole experience had lasted over three and a half hours so we were both tired.
At this point, Harry didn't even know about Le Gavroche.
The next morning after having breakfast, going for a walk and showering I presented Harry with his third and final birthday present: another iTailor shirt in a different shade of blue to the second, "One for each decade you've lived. " I said.
"Not one for every year I've lived?" he joked!
I also told him we were going to Le Gavroche. He looked unhappy:
"That's too much," he said, "I've had enough of fine dining. I feel guilty now."
To be honest, I was feeling guilty too by this point. I did think the indulgence of the day before was plenty to keep us going for months to come but I knew tonight was extra special, tonight his mum, dad, sister and brother-in-law would be there. I knew this would definitely make a difference to him and I wanted to tell him but I couldn't.
We spent the day walking along the Thames in Marlow. Some of the houses along the riverbank were insane. One private residence had a garden so large there were two gardeners on motorised mowers tending to the lawn! It could not have been a hotel because there would have been hotel patrons in the yard enjoying the river views on what was a gorgeous summer day but it was grand enough.
We left Marlow at a good time and arrived in the Mayfair area 30 minutes before the dinner booking but there was a problem: the "surprise entourage" were running late. I had to stall a very annoyed Harry for 30 minutes...Harry's sister Whatsapped us a picture complaining how late she was working and I thought, nice touch, but...
...in the end we still arrived about a minute before our group. In fact they were metres behind us and I thought Harry would see them. I pushed him across the road to Le Gavroche and I lied that I needed the loo to buy a little more time for the crew to get to the restaurant. The toilet was downstairs near the still empty dining area. Luckily Harry used the loo too and took his time, as usual.
When he came out of the toilet I wasn't sure how everything would go down, I had always imagined us arriving at the table and the family whispering "surprise" - I don't think you shout in these types of places! I was still thinking about what to do when the waitress said:
"Would you like to be shown to the table or do you want to go to the bar for a while?" I don't even know if she knew the conundrum I was in so I said bar and Harry fortunately agreed immediately. He still looked a little unhappy (although that could have been because he'd lost his wallet earlier that morning!)
The family were at the top of the stairs at the bar and I said to Harry, "Do you want to sit there?" Pointing to an empty seat next to his dad. He looked up not recognising the four people sitting there for an instant and then he realised he was looking at his fabulous fam. We hadn't seen them for a month. He grinned the happiest grin I had seen all day and we were shown to our table.
The food was fabulous, however, the crowning moment of that event happened when Michel Roux Jr of the Roux chef dynasty came to our table. I had made a request via a waitress but didn't dare to hope.
He posed in a picture with us AND signed autographs. We were all star struck and indeed very happy.
It was a beautiful evening.
I enjoyed these two days but I am actually happy to return to my normal life. For us, being in these places was a real treat, something very special - but, what do the have mores do to get that "I'm having a treat" feeling?
For us, dinner out at the restaurant chain Giraffe is a treat so this culinary adventure was a SUPER TREAT. I am left with one desire now: to take a journey through the thoughts of a Have More to see the relative contentment of their life and lifestyle, I'm just curious.
Anyhow, to a great life with Harry and many more years.
I am shirking work, yes!
Stumbled upon this video on English accents. Reminds one that even within the US and the UK accents vary. There is no correct one.
Views as at 1 July 2013: 16,037,360
This is the second take. I prefer the first because it was more "real". Videos that go viral unexpectedly usually are. It's good too though.
Views as at 1 July 2013: 877,191
Some people have naturally great, photogenic skin. I'm not one of them! This week I received several inquiries about how I maintain good skin so I decided to create a video.
In my teens and early 20s I used to get pimples all the time but now I rarely do and I think it's because I have a good skin routine. When I stop doing these things my skin starts to flare up, so here's what I do:
1. I drink eight 250 ml glasses of water daily.
This does not include coffees, teas, juices. If I drink a herbal (i.e. non-caffeinated tea) without any sugar, e.g. a peppermint tea I will include in my water count but anything else does not count.
All my water is drunk at specific times:
2. I jog
I have no idea how this works but when I stop exercising my face starts to look less good.
3. I wash my face twice daily
I do this almost without fail. It's easy enough because I also shower twice a day. Sleeping with makeup is an absolute no-no.
4. I rinse my face off with cold water after washing my face
This is a must to close the pores. I even do it in winter.
5. I do not wipe my face with a face cloth
I stopped doing this over ten years ago. Face cloths harbor so much dirt.
6. I use Dr Miracle's It Formula for my face
I have been using them for about 3 years now and I think they are very good. The system consists of a facewash, toner and a cream. None of them smell good but they work! The pack lasts about 6 weeks.
7. I use Maybelline Dream Matte Mouse Foundation - Cocoa
This foundation looks so good on me that about 10 other people started using it because of me including my mother, two sisters and cousins.
8. I should exfoliate weekly but I don't!
Because I am doing everything else correctly skipping this one thing does not appear to be too problematic for me. When I do exfoliate I love St Ives' scrubs. They are very good and they smell great.
Personally, I don't think Rihanna is showing too much flesh in this picture. If my booty was that toned it would also be out and about regularly. The image amuses and entertains me.
The fact that she got back with Chris Brown? Well the way I see it, she's a grown woman and she knew 100% what she was getting into.
People get quite heated about Rihanna and her antics but Rihanna has clearly expressed that she doesn't try to be anyone's role model, she's out having fun and being true to herself. I respect that. That said, young girls do look up to, admire and emulate her so I'm cool with her acting crazy but only to a certain extent.
If she took pictures of herself taking a class A drug and posted them to Twitter, I wouldn't be impressed. The pictures she took of herself smoking a spliff a while back are borderline, I would like to hope that any kids I had would be smart enough to know that's stupid.
What do you think? Let's let Riri have her fun or "get it together, girl!"?
When I walked into Django all I knew was that it was a violent film. I had no idea it was about slavery and the civil rights movement of the 1860s.
I had seen an interview where a UK reporter had talked about how the film encourages violence. Having seen the film, I don't agree with that view at all. No mature adult would watch Django and think "I need to get me a gun!"
The whole civil rights movement is something that's not taught on the British curriculum and it is certainly something I am very curious about.
When I was a teenager one of my aunts told me that my great, great, great (I don't know how many greats) grandmother was on her way to the ships but the chief of the village fell in love with her so she was saved. I have no idea how true this story is, I still haven't asked my dad but it makes me even more curious about the whole era.
I was horrified by the scene where the dogs were let loose on the fighter that didn't want to fight anymore; I hated the scene where the slaves were forced to fight. The beatings were evil and the rules designed to subjugate black slaves utterly demoralising.
We should never forget that the slave trade initially started out with all races. It wasn't only black people that were slaves. However, it became policy to only use black slaves because we were the only ones that could survive in the heat. Other races got ill and died pretty quickly. We are uniquely born with a natural sunscreen, the colour of our skin and our afro hair.
What I loved about Django Unchained is that it empowered Django from the start. He went from slave to hero. Samuel L Jackson pissed me off so much in the film! I wanted to jump through the screen and woop his ass. Django was very well acted by Jamie Foxx and the guy who saved him was a legend too. He brought to mind that even then not every white person was a racist.
This is a film definitely worth watching.
The one: "absolutely, positvely the only person on earth you are meant to be with. soul mate and best friend." (urban dictionary)
Some people look back at their life / history and can identify two, three or more people that they could have married and been happy with. When I look back, I think every single person I dated or had a crush on would never have worked, I think, 'That would have been a train wreck!'
That said, the number of people I've met and known well over the course of my life is finite so I can't definitively argue for or against the theory of there being just one, "the one".
It does confirm to me, however, that those of us that do find a good companion are supremely fortunate. It also part-explains the high divorce rate: in a world where men and women are both earners the realisation that you married the wrong one will inevitably lead to a break up.
What's the point of this blog? Well if I died tomorrow I just want this up for posterity! Year 1 of marriage was great and I remain certain that I married the right mate.
My husband will tell you that one of the reasons I put so much energy into my "random thoughts" and "books" blogs is so that if I ever died my family would have these thoughts to hold on to.
On the BBC this a.m. a story was aired about a tragic accident in which a white man's black wife was killed by a speeding Mercedes. He set up a blog on Life as a Widower to talk about his grief. Please show you support by following @lifeasawidower and liking Life as a Widower. The whole story felt even more sad to me having just woken up and written about my "one".
For a very long time now women have been vehicles for men's procreation, recreation and domestic organisation. Yes, those times are changing but not very fast.
I spent a few hours this morning at the National Portrait Gallery in London where they have a photography exhibition going on; whilst I enjoyed the exhibition overall, I thought there were one two many images of women in the nude with the worst offending images being those of naked children.
Without the vagina, this picture would have been okay. There's art and there's excess and personally I think this is excessive exposure. There wasn't even the hint of a phallus anywhere in the entire exhibition.
This young girl who is justing reaching puberty is the niece of the photographer. Firstly, I hope she got the mother's permission to take the image but secondly, even if she did get that permission why would you send this to a public exhibition? This young girl is far too young to consent. She can't comprehend the consequences of such nudity at all. She could be tomorrow's prime minister and surely no one of such a calibre wants photos of themselves in the nude.
The most offensive picture. This child is four year's old and her father cut her hair whilst she was naked and then took a photo. One person I was with said she probably thought, "There's papa taking pictures of me again."
The little girl looks unhappy and the caption says it's because she doesn't like having here hair cut...hmm? The father must be deranged to want every Tom, Dick and Paedophile looking at this image of his innocent child. I'm surprised the judges didn't call the police on him.
Weird fact about me: When I'm out and about with my headphones in and a good song comes on, I start to dance. I don't care who's watching.
To the 10 year old little boy who was taking a walk with his papa in Blackheath Village and kept turning around to watch: the song was "Sweat (a la la la la long), from the album Bad to the Bone - by Inner Circle" ~ but at your age you shouldn't know a song like that.
This is different to when I was in high school and would sit by the wayside at school discos because I was convinced "I couldn't dance".
I went to the University of Cambridge which is almost all white and because I was "different" anyway I started dancing. The 'white people can't dance' stereotype bulked up my confidence.
To my surprise, people would come up to me in clubs and be like, "You can really dance"!! My dancing confidence was boosted and a dancing queen was born.
Lesson: don't let what you think other people might think control your behaviour. Dance like no one is watching.
This extends to many other facets of life. Many people don't embark on new journeys because of what they believe other people will think. It's human nature, it's been impressed upon us from birth that we need to be concerned about how others perceive us but frankly the less I care the happier I am, generally.
I had to get this out of my system once and for all!
HOMEMADE is a Semifinalist in the $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition and is in the running to become the $100,000 Grand Prize Winner. It could also be named an Audience Favorite if it's among the ten that receives the most votes. If you love it, vote for it. Click on the VOTE button in the top right corner of the video player. Note that voting may not be available on all mobile platforms, and browser cookies must be enabled to vote.
Electricity in Malawi is a luxury many cannot afford. Installing a transformer to cater one area can cost up to MK 5,000,000.00 (USD18,000). This is the story of two young men from the village of Nkhatabay, Malawi who through self taught engineering have generated electricity powering more than 50 villages through invention of homeade generators locally designed and made from scrap metals.
Director/Producer: Villant Jana
Camera: Bwanali Makote
Sound: Yamikani Lozi
Editor: Villant Jana
Inventors: Hastings Mkandawire, Jimmy Mzilahowa
Location: Nkhatabay, Malawi
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.