The Mercure Grange Hotel, Bristol.

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During the summer I spent a long time deciding where I wanted to spend the night before my wedding. I knew that I wanted my three lovely bridesmaids to stay with me, so that we could do all of those last minute preparations (eating McDonald’s, gossiping about boys and watching Don’t Tell The Bride) together, and I felt that my flat would just be too small to do this in ultimate comfort. I looked into various local hotels and also renting an apartment for the four of us, but most just didn’t cut the mustard and didn’t seem quite special enough. Unfortunately, the odd few that looked tempting were waaay out of my budget!

Luckily, I didn’t need to fret for too long, as the lovely folks from Mercure offered me a little pre-wedding present in the form of a discount for The Grange Hotel, near Winterbourne in Bristol. Eeeeeek! After having a look at their webpage, I could not have been happier. With 18 acres of gorgeous grounds, and a bevy of charming, quirkily decorated and beautiful rooms, it really did tick every box! After booking the rooms, I was so excited about telling my bridesmaids, and I think they were equally as thrilled as I was to be having a night of luxury. What a delight! We all agreed that one major highlight of the stay was the incredible breakfast. Now, the photo above may make it look like we were quite tame, but alas, the fruit and pastries were just our first course. Well, it would have been pretty rude not to try it all, right?

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I had a such a peaceful night’s sleep and woke up feeling refreshed and ready to face the Best Day Ever. Luckily, my bridesmaids managed to persuade me to change out of my incredible cat pyjamas. Thank you for the wonderful stay Mercure!

Vx

The Secret Garden

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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: The Orangery Part II

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You may remember that before Christmas, I (Jo) discovered the wonderful Orangery. Well, I fell in love with it so much that on returning home I promptly booked it again for James’ 30th (THIRTY) birthday. A special occasion deserves a special venue after all!

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And so it was, a couple of weeks ago that six of us traveled the short distance to Frampton-on-Severn in Gloucestershire for a weekend of unadulterated indulgence. And Monopoly, obvs.  I had arranged an extra surprise in the form of a massive crate of goodies from James’ favourite bakery, Harts. Laura and her team put together the most delightful selection of bread, pastries and sweet treats for us. As you can imagine, I was a very popular lady that weekend! If you live in Bristol and you haven’t visited Harts, sort it out.

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We were rather lucky with the weather, in that it stopped raining long enough for us to potter about the village buying fresh food and picking out which houses we would most like to own. Victoria was rather taken with the bird hedge, whilst I would like my own welly rack someday. CK3CK9

By complete coincidence Ellie, Victoria and I had all packed our favourite Cath Kidston dresses! This provided us with the perfect opportunity for a country walk girly photo. Although, as always seems to be the way, the photos we like most are the ones taken after we had stopped posing!

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The Cath Kidston theme continued (obsessed, much) with the cake, which I decorated with lots of their colourful flags in a gallant attempt to cover up that I didn’t have thirty candles. They were a bit of an impulse buy but they actually really made the cake look special! I am all about flags on cakes now.

Jx

She and Home: Blogclub

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On Saturday we gathered with a bunch of fellow bloggers for the the very first Bristol Blogclub. Run by the wonderful Hayley from Bonjour Blogger and Ceriselle, the aim of Blogclub is to discuss, improve and share our various blogging experiences and tribulations. Whilst surrounded by cake. And sweets. And more cake. Sorry, you were saying something about blogging? I got distracted.

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Looks pretty yum, right? Seriously, there was SO much scrumptious food on offer. The above treats were made by Hayley and Josephine (Style by Josephine) and we are hoping to spot some recipes on their blogs soon!

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She and Home: Autumnal Bath

Bath12Today I (Jo) ventured the very short distance to Bath for a wonderful day with my BFF Fiona. I’ve known Fi since we were at school here in 1996(!), a simpler time when the Spice Girls and Britney Spears were only just beginning and where my Kickers were my most coveted possession. Now that we are all grown up (insert hysterical tears), it isn’t often that we get to mooch around the beautiful city in which we grew up. So when we do get one of these hallowed days, we sure do make the most of it!

DSC_0003 DSC_0005We started by visiting the Bath Spa, Britain’s only natural thermal spa dontachknow. It’s SO relaxing and I have to admit that it has become a bit of a favourite pastime among my circle of girlfriends, albeit one we can’t afford to do that often! It’s the rooftop pool with its beautiful view over the Bath skyline that does it. It’s just such a treat to catch up with your friends whilst surrounded by hot water, bubbles and a spectacular view. Sadly they don’t allow cameras but this should give you the gist. Pretty great huh?

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After three hours of pure unadulterated relaxation, we began a little exploration of Bath’s many cobbled side streets. It was lovely to be reacquainted with old haunts, discussing new additions and reminiscing about things that have long since disappeared. Continue reading She and Home: Autumnal Bath

Hem and Away: Seattle Day #8

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RECAP: I (Jo) am currently* on vacation in Seattle! I thought it might be fun to try and keep a little holiday diary of sorts, a travelog if you will. Need a refresher? You can read about Day 1 here Day 2 here Days 3/4/5 here and Day 6 here and Day 7 here! So sit back and grab a cup of coffee, She and Hem is going Stateside.

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Day 8 contained a mini adventure , as we decided to walk from our base in Queen Anne all the way to the neighborhood of Fremont. What better way to kick off an incredible walk? With an incredible breakfast, of course! This particular restaurant had been recommended in guide books, on twitter and by friends and just happened to be on the way. You might say that the 5 Spot Cafe had a reputation to uphold!

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The 5 Spot has ever changing themes, the current one being San Franscisco, and the cafe (and its menu) is fully decked out to reflect this. There’s even a replica Golden Gate Bridge! It’s all completely brilliant, as is the extensive menu! We both went for the lightweight lumberjack, which was a red flannel hash with poached eggs & fancy toast! Toast aficionado’s will appreciate knowing that the fancy toast appeared to be some sort of sour dough. I can confirm it was not only fancy, but also delicious. It was also a bargain at $5.75 and the never ending cups of coffee fueled us for the rest of the day. Reputation: upheld.

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With that, it was off to the wonderful land of Fremont for us! Often referred to as ‘The People’s Republic of Fremont’, it’s all rather quirky and fun! We had found a suggested walking tour of Fremont in one of our guide books and decided to give it a shot! The first site of interest, Rapunzel, came just as we crossed the bridge into Fremont. Poor old Rapunzel is locked up in one of the towers and is the work of local resident, Rodman Miller.

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Next up was ‘waiting for the interurban’, a sculpture created in 1979 by Richard Beyer as a way to commemorate the now defunct light rail interurban that use to run into downtown Seattle. The sculpture is often dressed up, in fact when we visited the would be passengers were ready for a birthday party, and residents are encouraged to commit ‘art attacks’ to keep interest in the artwork alive.

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A short walk away, under the Aurora bridge, lives the Fremont Troll! He is GINORMOUS and appears to be devouring some poor sap’s Volkswagen Beetle, giving the impression that those driving above are running a serious risk! The Troll came into fruition after a competition to design something to improve the space under the bridge (which is also ginormous). This, the winning design, was entered by a team led by Steve Badness. Visitors are welcome to climb all over the troll but I kept my feet safely on the ground.

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Fremont considers itself to be the very center of the universe, so it makes complete sense that there should be a sign post to make this official. The sign is on a tiny little slab of concrete in the middle of a busy road, making the center of the universe quite a difficult place to visit. As you can see though, it’s pretty wonderful.

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Next on the tour was a rocket mounted to the side of a shop! OF COURSE! It was built using a 1950’s Cold War rocket fuselage and now sits loud and proud complete with the Fremont crest, which bares the motto ‘De Libertas Quirkas”, also known as Freedom to be Peculiar. Perfect.

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And what tour would be complete without a 15 foot high statue of Lenin? Not this one, that’s for sure. This controversial statue originally ended up in Seattle thanks to a local English teacher, Lewis Carpenter, who imported it when he discovered it was being sold for scrap. This was not a popular move with his neighbours who fiercely protested against the impulse buy. Unfortunately for Lewis, less than a year after signing a deal with the local Mayor that would allow him to have the statue, he was killed in a car accident in 1994. This left old Lenin flying solo in Carpenter’s back garden until he was moved to a corner of Fremont. It’s fair to say that the statue is not popular with the residents, who are very opinionated on the matter and will gladly come and talk to tourists about why they don’t approve of a gigantic Lenin towering over their neighbourhood.

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We then trundled on to the beautiful Gas Works park, where I got to release my inner steam-punk princess. This park is way cool, and as it’s in Fremont, a bit strange too. It’s built on a former gas works park (you don’t say!) and still contains many elements of the old plant, either as ruins or as regenerated pieces of the park. The former exhauster-compressor building is now a giant play area for children who can clamber all over the machinery! The park also gives you a beautiful view over to downtown Seattle and we spent a lovely afternoon sitting on the hill watching the sea planes taking off.

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I wore my yellow polka dot dress from Primark with my Topshop geek shoes and my Cath Kidston sail print bag!

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Not technically a part of the tour but after all that walking it was definitely time for a nice cold beer! Luckily for us the Fremont Brewing just happened to be on the walk back so we popped inside for one of their taster boards. James had already been in earlier in the week to try their ‘pizza ale’ and was waxing lyrical about their selection. I didn’t manage to try the pizza but I did have a delicious grapefruit and lavender beer that was so good I was half tempted to try and fit a growler in my suitcase.

That’s it for my Seattle travelog! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Jx

*OK so I’m actually home now but let’s just suspend our disbelief for a few minutes.

Hem and Away: Seattle Day #7

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RECAP: I (Jo) am currently on vacation in Seattle! I thought it might be fun to try and keep a little holiday diary of sorts, a travelog if you will. Need a refresher? You can read about Day 1 here Day 2 here Days 3/4/5 here and Day 6 here! So sit back and grab a cup of coffee, She and Hem is going Stateside.

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After getting back from Redmond on Sunday, we decided to use a couple more of our City Pass vouchers and visit two of the museums that are based at the Seattle Centre. First up was the Pacific Science Center, which is (you guessed it) a Science museum! It’s a super interactive (aka fun) museum, with a beautiful outside space filled with fountains and water-based Science action! A lot of the exhibits are designed to teach children but we weren’t the only adults to be found playing (and learning!) around the museum. There is yet more fun to be found inside with a dinosaur exhibit, Imax theater and a laser dome, just to name a few!

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Rather bizarrely, Victoria and I both managed to sit on giant novelty chairs on Sunday, despite being on opposite sides of the world. We often joke about the weird similarities in our lives but I think this one takes the biscuit!

Outfit wise, the dress is Cath Kidston, the satchel is Zatchels and the shoes (I’ve nearly worn them out now) are Topshop.

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My personal favourite part of the museum was the Tropical Butterfly House! It was so wonderful to be able to stand and watch so many different species of butterfly! It was a beautiful experience and excellent fun when they decided to land on you! I could have stayed in there all day but at a cool 80 degrees, it wasn’t to be.

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Next on the itinerary was the EMP Museum, housed in the shy and retiring building you see above, designed by Frank O Gehry.

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It’s a museum for music, sci-fi and popular culture. As you can imagine, it’s pretty darn cool and I had been champing at the bit to visit!

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We had a great time exploring the Nirvana and Jimmy Hendrix exhibits. As a Nirvana fan, James was very impressed with the memorabilia on show. We then moved onto the exhibits for Sci Fi, Horror and Fantasy. There was a LOT of cool stuff to see, including The axe from the Shining, original costumes from Harry Potter and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, as well as J.R.R Tolkein’s original hand-edited manuscript pages for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! It’s fair to say I was *quite* happy here.

20130813-210652.jpg20130813-105713.jpg20130813-214530.jpgMy favorite exhibit was dedicated to ‘Women who Rock’ and featured a huge amount of artifacts, costumes and even Lady Gaga’s piano in order to pay homage to the women who have ‘propelled rock and roll into uncharted territories’. There were so many beautiful costumes on display from such greats as The Supremes, Tina Turner, Madonna and OMG TAYLOR SWIFT. It was so strange to see outfits worn by Britney Spears and Shakira compared to those worn by artists like Aretha Franklin and Ruth Brown. I know whose wardrobe I would rather own!

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That’s all for now!

Jx

Hem and Away: Seattle Day #6

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RECAP: I (Jo) am currently on vacation in Seattle! I thought it might be fun to try and keep a little holiday diary of sorts, a travelog if you will. You can read about Day 1 here and Day 2 here and Days 3/4/5 here! So sit back and grab a cup of coffee, She and Hem is going Stateside.

Over the weekend we headed to Redmond, which is just to the East of Seattle. It’s most famously known as the home of global conglomerate, Microsoft, whose presence is most definitely felt throughout! It really feels like the entire town center exists purely for its employees and is almost Disneyesque in its cleanliness and neatness. Anyway, as much as we would have loved to discuss Windows with Bill, our purpose for being in Redmond was to attend The End 107.7′s Summer Camp!

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Our hotel was a fair walk to the venue but luckily for us we stumbled across the Redmond Saturday Fair. We may or may not have bought a massive slice of cake. Tasty.

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Set in the glorious surroundings of Marymoor Park, The End 107.7’s Summer Camp was a real treat. Marymoor is an absolutely stunning place to have concerts!  It is, after all, a 640 acre park that boasts  its own velodrome amongst the recreational activities on offer. The part in which they put on concerts is not only beautiful, but very practical too. The stage is surrounded by a grassy bank, meaning families, picnic goers and people who aren’t teenagers anymore can take in all the action from a comfortable position. Not having brought the family, or having the foresight to pack a picnic, we fell into the final of those categories and perched ourselves atop the grassy knoll.  Just as we had bought ourselves some beer and a steak baguette, we were beginning to think that it was all a bit too perfect….

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………and then a familiar sight to any British festival goer appeared, as the umbrellas which had been used for sun protection, suddenly became the defense against a much damper entity. The good news however was that this sinister shower was short lived, didn’t result in copious amounts of mud and, truth be told, was actually rather refreshing! Despite our lack of umbrella we stayed put and soon dried out once the rain had receded.

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The highlight of the day for me was undeniably Surfer Blood, pictured above. Apologies if you were sat anywhere near me and my bad singing! The line up was pretty stellar throughout though, with Wavves, Family of the Year, Hey Marseilles and MS MR all sounding great in the sunshine. New Politics proved very entertaining with their extremely energetic performance! We did appear to be the only people present who hadn’t heard of them. Cold War Kids had the privilege of closing the night out during a rather beautiful sunset,

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I wore a Gap vest top with my Cath Kidston train skirt and my Topshop shoes. My bag is also from Cath Kidston and I bought a new hat in Redmond Town Centre from a shop called REI. I was certainty grateful for the extra bit of sun protection!

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Jx