Through the round window at Copnservatory of Flowers

San Francisco’s glass house of dreams

I’ve always had a hankering for a grand Victorian glass house. Growing up in England, the idea of having a sultry, fern-filled room attached to the side of my house seemed rather wonderful. Somewhere I could grow my own supply of lemons, keep hummingbirds and spend winter mornings in a cane armchair reading newspapers. Until I magically acquire a rambling old mansion, I will have to make do with trips to San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers. First opened to the public in 1879, it’s the oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America. Last Thursday afternoon I had a spare hour between appointments, so decided to pop…

Pacific Grove: a family travel guide.

A family road trip to bohemian Pacific Grove

Two of the grandparents came to visit us from England a few weeks ago. The intrepid pair had never experienced the magnificent beauty of Highway 1, the coastal road that connects San Francisco with Los Angeles, via the Big Sur.  Or at least not since 1972. So we piled in the car for a road trip to Pacific Grove, a beach town three hours south of San Francisco on the Monterey Peninsula. It’s an enchanting place, well-heeled with a whiff of Californian eccentricity. It’s not as well-known as its neighbours Carmel or Monterey, but it’s my favourite of the three. It has old-fashioned charm,…

Cobbled Alley in Spitalfields, London. Photo by Daniel Roberts

How to take a wonder walk

One of my favourite ways to slow down and experience the city anew is to set out on what I call a wonder walk – a mindful exploration of the city’s streets. Aimless strolls are great for those days when you just need to get some fresh air and let your mind wander, while your feet do the same. I’ve often returned to my desk from a quick lunchtime walk with the solution to a knotty problem I’d spent the morning grappling with. But ask me what I’ve seen along the way and I could tell you very little. Our minds become so engrossed in the past or…

Charles Dickens house

Literary homes, photographing fireworks & avoiding polluted complexions

A weekly round-up of interesting reads from around the internet.  Following on from last week’s writing rooms, here are some literary abodes. I’m particularly enamored of Mark Twain’s Victorian Gothic  mansion. Love the wintry feel of this dark and dramatic house in East London, aptly described by Apartment Therapy ‘as if Vermeer and Rousseau got to share a canvas I missed celebrating Guy Fawkes Night – that strange English tradition – here in California this year. I’ve always wondered how one goes about photographing fireworks without creating a blurry mess. And now I know. Is street artist Banksy a woman? I do hope so. New research…

4 great books to read this winter

5 great novels to read this winter

‘Tis the season of bonfires, pumpkin soup and hot chocolate here in the Northern Hemisphere. Time to hibernate with a good novel. Here are my recommended reads to see you through the dark evenings ahead.  1.) Me Before You, Jojo Moyes I love Jojo Moyes’ books. So much so I’ve been rationing the few I haven’t read yet – saving them for flights and holidays (not that I’ll be doing much reading with a baby in tow, but a girl can dream). Moyes writes page-turners which are far from lightweight.  Me Before You is no exception. Its heroine Louisa Clarke is a small town girl who takes on a…

Dylan Thomas writer's shed

Writers’ sheds, Stoicism & deseeding a pomegranate

A weekly round-up of interesting reads from around the internet.  10 amazing libraries, including Nigella Lawson’s private hoard of cookery books. And here are five writers’ sheds, including Dylan Thomas’ ‘word-splashed hut’ in Wales. Mindfulness may be having a moment, but let’s not forget the benefits of zoning out. “The Brutalist car park…is matter-of-fact, prosaic architecture – but its acoustics are as pure and beautiful as those of any cathedral.” Disused car parks are being transformed into cultural centres. It’s pomegranate season. Hurrah! Here’s Hither and Thither with a mess-free method for seeding a pomegranate. Superfood-laden breakfast bowl recipes, courtesy of the Breakfast Criminals. Become a Stoic…

9 cushions to gladden the heart on a chill autumn night

  I have two beautiful old embroidered silk cushions, a gift from my dear godmother, which have travelled with me from home to home for more than a decade. Over the years the pale blue silk faded in the sunlight and now one has finally disintegrated into tatters. It’s sadly beyond repair and the other is not far behind.

here be dragons

Note-taking, 7-minute workouts & missing maps

A weekly round-up of interesting reads from around the internet.  Brainpickings creator Maria Popova discusses her workflows, workarounds and workouts in this podcast with Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t time to listen to the whole thing, here’s a summary of her nifty note-taking methodology. Australian Matt Kulesza has decided to meet every one of his 1000+ Facebook friends in person for a coffee – and is documenting each encounter. No need to hire a personal trainer. The New York Times has released a free mobile web app demonstrating its Scientific 7-Minute Workouts. Two fascinating articles profiling people affected by homelessness in New York and San Francisco,…

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How to have a good day after a bad night’s sleep

It’s been nine weeks since my baby daughter came roaring into the world and I haven’t slept for more than four hours in a row since. Some days my brain’s foggier than the Golden Gate Bridge. I forget words, drop things (not the baby, thankfully) and am ready for bed by 9pm most nights.  A few tricks have helped me adapt to this new state of zombification and I thought I’d share them with you. Whether it’s a baby, social commitments or noisy neighbours keeping you up all night, here are five tips to power you through the next day. 1. Plan the…

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Thriving on wonder

In her new book ‘Thrive’, Arianna Huffington talks about the need for a third metric in life besides the usual measures of money and power. The Huffington Post founder believes we should gauge our success not merely by how far we’ve climbed the job ladder or how much salary we’re raking in, but by whether we’re thriving – with well-nourished connections to our selves, our community and our loved ones. By being fully present in your life and in the lives of those you love, you’re not just writing your own eulogy; you’re creating a very real version of your afterlife…The good news is that each and…