Hem and Away: The Story Museum

Hem and Away: The Story Museum

Once upon a time we took a trip to the land of Oxford to visit the magical world of the Story Museum. We had so much fun exploring this delightfully quirky wonderland that we couldn’t help but dedicate a whole post to our adventures. Shall we continue?

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Since opening in 2009, the museum has been steadily working to create an international centre that’s dedicated to celebrating all forms of storytelling. Thanks to a willing army of volunteers (who are all very helpful and friendly), teachers, artists, and authors they have been transforming what they have called a ‘dilapidated building’ (but what is now more sort of charmingly ‘shabby chic’) into the most incredibly fun place to spend an afternoon. We honestly had so much fun there, it really does make you feel like a big kid!

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Just when you thought we couldn’t get any more ridiculous! You can imagine how happy we were when we stumbled across ‘The Changing Room’ where you are encouraged to throw on all sorts of ludicrous fancy dress and then sit on a giant talking throne! We spent a fairly unreasonable amount of time here.

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Much merriment was also had as we wandered around the ‘Draw me a story’ exhibition which features six fabulous illustrators. It was wonderful to see their original artwork, prints and sketchbooks as well as seeing so many children getting involved with the workshops and chatting to the the artist in residence!

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On the top floor of the Story Museum you are treated to the extreme reading room in which you can sit and read (books are provided) in all manor of ridiculous spots including a garden shed, a cage or, if you’re like us, one or two boats! You are then invited to pop on a dressing gown and enter the ‘Time for bed’ room in which you will find a 15ft bed, complete with patchwork quilt. This quite magical space is all lit up with fairy-lights and is, quite possibly, the comfiest room in the land!

The End

 Have you read our guide to Oxford

Hem and Away: Oxford

Hem and Away: Oxford #beagreatwesterner

We were recently invited by First Great Western to take part in their #BeAGreatWesterner campaign which aims to showcase the excellent places you can visit by hoping on one of their trains. We decided to take this opportunity to venture 90 minutes up the line to beautiful Oxford for a weekend city break as, despite meeting there at a festival, neither of us had ever spent any time in the city itself.

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Taking our love for hotel bars to the extreme, we checked into The Malmaison – a former prison which just so happens to also be a medieval castle! But of course! It certainly is a very impressive sight and we had a lot of fun exploring the hotel and its impressive grounds. With a central location and incredible cocktail bar, it was without doubt the nicest prison either of us has ever stayed in.

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Whenever we visit anywhere new we always spend an obscene amount of time scouring Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for nice places to eat and drink. Thankfully Oxford didn’t disappoint! We can highly recommend The Modern Baker for their delicious green macha latte and their ridiculous array of yummy cakes! We also had a great time in Brew drinking coffee whilst listening to The National on their record player – the dream! For dinner we visited SoJo to sample their much raved about dim-sum (turns out it deserves all the raves) and the fab Turl Street Kitchen, whose menu changes every day depending on what’s in season. We thought their two courses for £14.50 deal was a bit of a Saturday night bargain and oh my god look at those puddings!

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We spent a lot of time just wandering around gawping at all of the pretty buildings as it really is an incredibly stunning city! We coincidentally managed to time our visit to coincide with the last day of exams so the atmosphere was one of great jubilation and we loved watching all the happy students covering each other with flour and silly-string! We also had a great time at the Story Museum which had been at the very top of our ‘to do’ list. We actually had so much fun there that we are going to dedicate a whole post to it! We also found time to visit the very Instagramable Modern Art gallery to see Lynn Hershman’s Origins of the Species (Part 2), as seen above, which is on until 9th August.

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See? Pretty beautiful! After spending a long time browsing the historic Covered Market as the rain poured down outside, we were relieved to see some sunshine and decided to make the most of it by paying a visit to the gorgeous Botanic Gardens followed by a mosey around Christ Church college. There’s just so much to look at! Did we miss any Oxford gems? If so, let us know, as we need an excuse to go back!

J&V

 

1 Hot Bath Street, Bath Boutique Stays

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As you may know, we love spending time in Bath…..not just to keep ourselves clean you understand, but also to eat, be entertained and get pampered! Although it’s only a short train ride back home to Bristol, we just couldn’t refuse when we were offered the chance to stay in the tub a little longer and have a snazzy sleepover at the incredible 1 Hot Bath Street. There wasn’t a rubber duck in sight!

1 Hot Bath Street is one of the insanely gorgeous properties owned by Bath Boutique Stays. There is certainly nothing wishy-washy about this accommodation, it’s a Georgian dream! It sleeps up to twelve people in four bedrooms over three floors, but you may not be surprised to hear that we just couldn’t bear to leave each others sides and ended up bunking in together! After all, it wouldn’t be a real sleepover if we were on different floors, would it? It definitely didn’t have anything to do with the idea of being alone in a massive townhouse, no sirree. We needn’t have worried though as we slept soundly and felt very secure indeed! We were also pleasantly surprised not to be disrupted by any late might revelers, which was impressive as the property is right in the centre of Bath. Top marks!

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We had so much fun exploring all the rooms and admiring all of the detail that has gone in to creating such a fab space. We would have gladly taken a lot of the furniture home with us! They really have done an excellent job of creating a modern contemporary space whilst being faithful to this beautiful 200 year old townhouse and we really appreciated the local touches they have incorporated too. Our bedroom (which we chose because we liked its lamp so much) overlooked one of our favourite Bath hotspots, Thermae Bath Spa. Sadly we didn’t have time to pop along this time, but what an excellent excuse to stay again! I (Victoria) will be dropping lots of subtle hints to my exceptionally beautiful, intelligent and generous bridesmaids over the next few weeks as I’ve recently discovered the Roman Goddess Gold Hen Spa Package and HELLO, it sounds incredible. Vintage tea party! Cocktail making! Makeovers! Spa! It sounds like my perfect hen do. Hint hint.

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I think possibly our favourite room in the house was the kitchen, which has a beautiful breakfast bar area and everything you could wish for having a big celebration with family or friends, including cake stands, picnic baskets and even champers. They really have thought of everything. Naturally we had to have some champagne whilst we were there, as you really shouldn’t have Bath without bubbles!

She and Hem

Coffee with Currys

Coffee with Currys | She and Hem | Cardiff

Not a day goes by in which I am not fueled up to the eyeballs by delicious coffee. Without it, I am pretty despresso. Although I am slowly but surely working my way through the South West Independent Coffee Guide (look, here’s me really enjoying a hotdog at the launch party), when recently invited to a whole day of coffee based fun with added cocktails and cake, I just couldn’t say no to #coffeewithcurrys. The event was held at Waterloo Tea in Cardiff, a blooming lovely place which is located in the equally lovely Wyndham Arcade. Having only ever been to Cardiff once before to boo Luis Suarez during the 2012 Olympics, I really enjoyed wandering around the city and it’s charming arcades before the event.

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During the event there were five stations, where you could take part in different activities, such as latte art, coffee cocktail making and testing your taste buds at a coffee cupping session. Once you had bean (HA!) around them all, a glorious lunch was available, courtesy of Waterloo Tea. A gorgeous array of gourmet salads, artisan breads and cheeky truffles was our reward for a hard morning’s work (it was work, right?), and I would definitely go back the next time I am in Cardiff, as the food was absolutely delicious. Later in the day, they even provided a seemingly endless parade of cakes, presumably just to counterbalance the high caffeine intake with a healthy dose of sugar. Definitely my cup of tea!

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As if that wasn’t enough, the main event was saved for the afternoon, and it was certainly a case of last but not least. Two contests, requiring all the skills, knowledge and intellectual guile that we, naturally of course, had picked up throughout the day. First, the coffee cupping contest, a fierce battle of taste buds, brain cells and who could pull off the most dignified slurp (not me). Representatives from each group were called forward and asked to blind taste test a selection of coffees, matching them in turn to a list of brews, based on flavour profile alone. Challenging, but oh so tasty! The techniques we learned earlier were especially useful in tasting the coffees and picking out certain tastes and styles, and it helped that we were guided along by the dutiful, knowledgeable baristas. Contestants submitted their cards, with the winner being the person with the most correctly matched coffees.

Then, the latte art contest. Latte art is always something I’ve wanted to have a crack at, and while I very much enjoyed my first attempt earlier in the day, I’ll be the first to admit that the end product wasn’t the most sophisticated of art ever seen. More broken jigsaw piece than a cute balloon unfortunately…

Again, representatives from all teams were called forward and tasked with producing a latte art heart. The end results were displayed before the crowd, with the winner determined using the tried and tested “applause” scale. A bottle of champers to the winner, whose foam heart made me swoon with delight! Generous to the last, Currys also offered up a Nespresso machine to the attendant who posted the best Instagram pic, using the #coffeewithcurrys tag. Can we do this every weekend please?

All that remains is to say thanks a latte to Currys, Nespresso and the team at Joe Blogs Blogger Network! I had a great time, and have been on a coffee high ever since. I hope to get some sleep in again in the next two to three weeks.

Vx

Hem and Away: Cup North

Hem and Away : Cup North

As a coffee lover, pun appreciator and willing frequenter of The North, I was pretty excited when a Kickstarter page for the spectacularly named Cup North was put under my nose a few months ago. A two day extravaganza of coffee you say? I’m IN. Thankfully I wasn’t alone in this caffeinated enthusiasm and so it was that last weekend that I went on a pilgrimage up the M6 to indulge in the very best the coffee industry has to offer (and visit the family but they don’t get their own blog post. Soz guys).

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This party for the fully awake was held at ArtWork, a fantastic arts production hub which was the perfect space to host the individual coffee stands. It was amazing, and slightly weird, to see so many of my fellow Bristolians in attendance with the wonderful Extract Coffee, Full Court Press and Clifton Coffee all flying the flag. GO TEAM! Naturally I homed straight in on them, firstly because I am a hideous creature of habit and, because seriously, that’s some damn good Bristol coffee. Observe how happy I am!

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I did manage to break out of my comfort zone and ventured to nearly all of the stands for a chat,  sample and the occasional cheeky purchase. It was all excellent fun and I may have even ended up with something that isn’t coffee (SOUND THE ALARM) in the form of the dreamiest hot chocolate I have ever tasted from Kokoa Collection!

Hem and Away : Cup North Hem and Away : Cup North

The highlight for me was probably watching Howey Gill of Counter Roastery demonstrate how to make their experimental “pearled coffee”. He gave such a fascinating talk and watching him create his little jelly balls of coffee was pretty darn cool. The result was described as a deconstructed latte and tasted incredible! He also showed us how to make our own coffee filled balloons. PARTAY.

Jx

Hem and Away: Bluestone

Hem and Away: Bluestone
Victoria wears a Lace Prom Dress from Yumi* with a mustard slip underneath, Big Spot Tights from Gipsy at UKTights* and shoes and sunglasses from Topshop. Jo wears a prom dress from Topshop (old), Sally Tights from Pierre Mantoux at UKTights*, sunglasses from Dahlia and heart shoes from Topshop.

When we first started She and Hem we certainly didn’t think about the many unexpected opportunities that would come our way. We didn’t think about the friends we’d make or the brands we’d work with and we definitely didn’t think we’d be dressed up to the nines on the back of a golf buggy in Wales. However, that’s exactly what happened after we received a letter (an actual physical letter!) from Bluestone National Park Resort inviting us to come try out their ‘adult packages’. Because, dear reader, WE are adults. Totally responsible grown up women. We at no point drove around in the aforementioned golf buggy blaring out Taylor Swift and giggling uncontrollably. At no point did that happen.

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Bluestone, which you’ll find nestled within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, opened in 2008. It has nearly 300 (we didn’t count them so we’ll take their word for it) luxury lodges, cottages and studio apartments which are all set within their 500 acres (we didn’t measure it so we’ll take their word for it) of countryside. We felt rather jammy indeed living it up in our stylish upside down lodge. We couldn’t quite get over the novelty of having our living room and kitchen area upstairs!

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As you can see, it’s pretty darn pretty and is naturally a haven for families making use of the many activities on offer. We, however, were there as ADULTS doing ADULT type stuff such as drinking beer, climbing walls and eating delicious pasties for breakfast. In your face, small children.

Bluestone offers four adult only packages, neatly known as Four Play. They aim to appeal in four different ways: Taste, Excite, Amuse and Relax. Luckily for you, we’ve tried them all out so you don’t have to. We’re good like that.

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For Relax we went to the resort’s Well Spa Retreat and spent a glorious sunny morning relaxing in the hydro pool, hopping from steam room to sauna and lying around checking Twitter relaxing in the relaxation room. We left feeling very refreshed!

As part of the Taste package we were treated to an absolutely delicious meal from their well posh finest restaurant, Carreg Las. We honestly didn’t really know how to contain ourselves when dish after dish of outrageously beautiful food was put before us. Even our bread looked delighted! We would like to publicly thank our waiters Bryony and James for coping with us totally freaking out about how great it is to be bloggers. They were lovely!

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The other two packages, Amuse and Excite, weren’t quite our cup of tea. But then, the Four Play packages are designed so that you can pick and choose which activities you do! Excite came in the form of the adrenaline filled High Ropes course through the woodland. Between us we had one dodgy knee and a fear of heights so it was never going to be one for us. It is, however, very impressive and was definitely being very much enjoyed by the other guests!

Finally, Amuse came in the form of a right royal knees up down at the beautiful Camp Smokey, reached via a boardwalk and hidden among the trees. It really is quite a scene! We were treated to hot cider, a banger filled BBQ and a live band. All of this was rather splendid but unfortunately we weren’t quite as on board with the enforced entertainment of dancing on the tables, party games and a wandering man with a microphone as some of the other guests. Again, this is purely a personal thing but we would have been very content with our jar of cider and a few marshmallows around the fire.

Hem and Away: Bluestone

Those minor qualms aside, we of course had an absolutely fabulous weekend! As well as experiencing the Four Play packages, we also so enjoyed being able to hire our golf buggy and drive around pretending to be a low budget Thelma and Louise. It was excellent fun. We also found time to venture to their flume filled, wave-machine enabled, hot tub containing pool of wonder! See you guys at the adult swim, yeah?

J&V

A massive massive thank you to Bluestone for inviting us. Although they really did spoil us rotten this review is 100% honest and 100% ADULT, obvs. 

 

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden | She and Hem | Devon

Whenever I get the opportunity, I love to spend a long weekend exploring areas of the UK that I’ve never visited. Even better, I like re-visiting places I travelled to as a child on a jolly family jaunt, seeing what has changed and what hasn’t. Although Devon is somewhere I’ve frequented many times before, I always love going back, as it holds very special memories and well, it’s just such a beautiful place. Whilst I was there visiting Bovey Castle recently, I found the most glorious country garden. It definitely wasn’t seedy!

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As luck (read: much planning) would have it, I was dressed in my finest florals. I bought this Zara dress for the Vogue Festival in March and think that it’s got some real staying power! I’m sure it’ll be a staple for several summers to come. I can also see it creeping into my winter wardrobe, perhaps frolicking with a cable knit jumper, thick tights and boots. As I was popping into Exeter to enjoy all it has to offer, I wore my trusty and super comfortable humble oak brogues from Clarks teamed with fun yellow New Look sunglasses, my Boden bag* and a tan belt from ASOSYou could perhaps say that my choice was outstanding in it’s field (I hope that one wasn’t funnier in my head!). 

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I hope you enjoyed weeding about my own secret garden party!

Vx

Hem and Away: Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia.

Hem and Away | Sidi Bou Said | Tunisia | She and Hem

Last month during a family holiday to Tunisia I took full advantage of the incredibly cheap public transport and headed north from Tunis by taxi, coach and train, to sample the blue and white (and yellow!) delights of Sidi Bou Said. With it’s picturesque cobbled streets dotted with delicately decorated doors and clusters of delicious evergreen jasmine flowers, it was certainly a highlight of the holiday. 

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Sidi Bou Said is a dreamy labyrinth of steep pathways leading to magnificent views of the bay reaching out to the Med, with a wealth of pretty cafes serving traditional Arabic coffee, tempting mint tea and sticky sweet baklava. Even though we were battling against near 40 degree heat, the scenery was reward enough for climbing the hefty hill below. Half way up I discovered the most enchanting yellow door (see above). This beauty definitely won a place in my Top 5 Tunisian Doors of 2014, which also includes this gem. Like the decor? Stay tuned for more delightful Tunisian architecture on the blog soon. It won’t be too much to handle, I promise!

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Hem and Away | Sidi Bou Said | Tunisia | She and Hem
Dress – House of Fraser | Hat – Pull and Bear via ASOS | Sunglasses – ASOS | Shoes (seen above) – Solillas

Hem and Away | Sidi Bou Said | Tunisia | She and Hem

Have you ever visited Tunisia? If so, what did you think? More Tunisian posts to come next week!

Victoria x

Hem and Away : Brighton

Hem and Away : Brighton
Train, Safari and Stop Thief! dresses all from Cath Kidston

During the Summer holidays (ah, remember those?) we managed to get away for a few days of quality girl time in good ol’ Brighton. It turned out to be exactly what the three of us needed and we spent a fine few days being blown around the beach, winning back our two pence pieces on the pier and getting joyously lost in the shops of The Lanes. We also ate a lot of top notch food.

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We struggled initially to find a room that a) didn’t cost a fortune and b) would sleep three adults but eventually stumbled across the Five Hotel. It fit the bill perfectly and came with the triple bonus of having a sea view, an OC box set to watch and a breakfast hamper delivered to our room every morning! What a find!

Hem and Away : Brighton

Dresses from Cath Kidston and homemade (by Victoria's lovely Mum Carol)
Bus Dress from Cath Kidston and a magnificent homemade  seaside print dress (made by Victoria’s lovely Mum Carol)

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Dresses from Orla Kiely for People Tree and Cath Kidston
Bird print dress from Orla Kiely for People Tree
Bunting necklaces from Tatty Devine
Bunting necklaces from Tatty Devine

As you can see, we were pretty cheerfully dressed for our mini holiday and we like to think Brighton appreciated the effort. Despite having not spoken about outfits beforehand we all managed to wear a lot of Cath Kidston. So much so in fact that we were too embarrassed to go in the shop. What can I say, we like to co-ordinate.

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It really was a wonderful time and we are already planning a repeat girly trip away for next year! Any suggestions?

Oh and as we indulged in so much fantastic food and drink I shall leave you with our own little list of recommendations!

Moshimo for sushi on a boat!

The Marwood for an Extreme Affogate (picture above). It had brownie in it!

Fishy Fishy for some tasty seafood courtesy of Dermot o’Leary (pictured above)

Small Batch Coffee Company for, errm, coffee!

Choccywoccydoodah for alllllll of the chocolate (pictured above)

Jx

Pins and Needles

Hem and Away | Isle of Wight| Pins and Needles

I have just returned home from a rather splendid week on the jolly ol’ Isle of Wight. I hadn’t been for a good 12 years so it was nice to see that other than the odd lick of paint and the occasional WiFi hotspot, nothing has really changed at all!

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Sunshine was a bit of a hot commodity during my time on the Isle, so the first chance I got I headed straight for The Needles Park at Alum Bay, home of the iconic chairlifts! I’m pretty sure I used to get on these without a care in the world but old age has brought with it an unwanted fear of heights! It was worth it though as the view down to the sea and over to The Needles was as spectacular as ever.

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In keeping with She and Hem tradition, I made sure to dress accordingly to my surroundings and broke out this delightful lighthouse print dress from Yumi*. I adore all of the little nautical details on the print and I think the little blue lighthouses are just so pretty. I teamed it with the world’s most comfortable gladiator sandals from New Look*, Topshop sunglasses and my ‘Jo’ necklace from Tatty Devine.

Hem and Away | Isle of Wight| Pins and NeedlesHem and Away | Isle of Wight| Pins and Needles

After embracing my inner Ariel on my new favourite rock, it was time for a little hike to get an even better view of those Needles. Pretty darn sassy, aren’t they? Although they’ll always look like big teeth to me.

Jx