“Game over, man! Game over.” – RIP Bill Paxton

Hollywood says goodbye to another acting legend today.  

Bill Paxton featured in some of the great 80s movies of my childhood, including The Terminator, Aliens and Weird Science.  His stardom exploded in the 90s, as he starred in many blockbuster classics, such as Twister, Titanic, True Lies, Tombstone and Apollo 13. 

His lasting legacy will be that he was the only actor to face all three of sci-fi’s most feared adversaries: the terminator, zenomorphs and the predator.  What a guy! 

RIP Bill Paxton 

May 17 1955 – February 25 2017

#RBS6Nations 2017 #Round1 round up 

It was another exhilarating first round of the RBS6Nations! 

#SCOvIRE FT27-22

It kicked off with what turned out to be a classic Celtic clash at BT Murrayfield, with Scotland’s electric start leaving Ireland temporarily stunned. Despite a ferocious fight back by the Irish, Scotland survived, leaving Ireland with only a losing bonus point as consolation. Hogg was sensational, and the Scots will be looking to utilise this newly discovered momentum as they progress through the tournament. 

#ENGvFRA FT19-16

It was another close contest at Twickenham as England hosted France for their opener, and the French took an early lead and threatened England’s hopes of securing a second consecutive Grand Slam. But Te’o’s substitution proved decisive, giving England its record 15th back-to-back win. 


After a fierce first half Azzuri performance, Italy crumbled in the second to give Wales their first win of the championship. Although narrowly missing out on one of the tournament’s bonus points, Wales find themselves sitting at the top of the RBS6Nations table. However, Wales will have to play with far more conviction next week if they have any hope of taking on the English at the Principality a Stadium next weekend. 

RBS6Nations Table Round1

1. Wales 4pts

2. Scotland 4pts

3. England 4pts

4. France 1 pt

5. Ireland 1pt

6. Italy 0pts 

Do or do not. There is no try – DIY Star Wars Room


Since discovering the Star Wars range at Pottery Barn Kids a few years ago, I have aspired to have a Star Wars room of my own.  This only became a possibility for us when we moved from our small apartment to a four bedroom house back in March;  We finally had the extra rooms to have a little fun with our decor choices!

The timing of our move couldn’t have been better, as we had a scheduled trip to the US for a wedding in May (thanks Dara & Adam;)), meaning we could stop by a PBK to pick up the crucial bedding sets that would be the platform for our new room.

It took a couple of months to pull together, but it’s finally ready for little Padawans to visit (Jedi Masters also welcome!).

Here’s how we did it…

She’s the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy

Pottery Barn Kids has a fabulous collection of Star Wars bedding.  We chose the Millennium Falcom range.  The collection features the Millennium Falcon being chaperoned by a squadron of X-Wings as they look to take down the Galactic Empire’s “ultimate weapon”, the Death Star.  The stars themselves are made from reflective fabric, making them shine with flashes of light in a darkened room.  We also bought the matching sheet set and one of the Shams.   Overall the quality is fantastic, with most of the product having been hand-stitched.  The bed is a practical trundle design, which can be used either as two single beds or as a double.

Millennium Falcons bedding – http://www.potterybarnkids.com 
Millennium Falcons cup – http://www.disneystore.co.uk
Woodstock trundle bed – http://www.johnlewis.com

Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?

Storm troopers have to be one of the most iconic of the franchise.   Whilst they have evolved over time, their striking design were a must for inclusion in the room.  The life size cut out is one I’ve had since the 1990’s, I think, a Christmas gift from my dad.  A more recent Star Wars icon, BB8, acts as timekeeper and night watch man (available from multiple retailers).


Storm trooper – vintage, but now available in Argos
Storm trooper cushion – Morrisons Supermarket

A weapon for a more civilised age

I had seen some other Star Wars rooms including the legendary lightsabers, but I didn’t want to get toy or replica ones if possible.   I was pleased to discover the Seletti neon strip lights on Amara, which came in a selection of different colours.  We opted for a Anakin/Luke/Rey blue version, and a plain white version to match the decor.  My trusted Anglepoise lamps look to give the bed x-wings…


Lightsabers – http://www.amara.com 
Anglepoise – available from different retailers and in different colours

That’s no moon!

The Pottery Barn Kids range included a wonderfully quirky Death Star bean bag – also showcasing some fabulous reflective accents.  It is just AWESOME!  We also decided to include our photographic print of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the (real) Moon, just to mix things up a bit!


Bean bag – http://www.potterybarnkids.com
Light – http://www.amazon.co.uk
Moon print – Local art dealer – print made up of CapCom transcript from Apollo 11 mission

In a Galaxy far, far away…

And it wouldn’t be a Star Wars room without some stars to set the scene.  There was a great selection of funky wall art on the internet, and we sourced some galaxy wall stickers for the MF cockpit library (which was also painted using Rustoleum Furniture Paint, Anthracite) and a Star Wars title transfer from eBay and Amazon respectively. Soft furnishings supplied by John Lewis and M&S.  The little cute planet plushes are from Celestial Buddies.


Galaxy wall sticker – The Stickers Wall, eBay
A Star Wars wall decal – Ciaras Cool Graphics, Amazon
Star rug – http://www.johnlewis.com
Star curtains – http://www.marksandspencers.com

*Update! New Hyperdrive wall mural purchased recently from the Pottery Barn range!*

In the future, I am hoping to source a vintage AT-AT toy and possibly some other vintage pieces.  But for now, it’s ready to welcome its first visitors!  

May the force be with you.



Team Wales #TogetherStonger

Wales’ motto, “Gorau Chwarae, Cyd Chwarae”, transposed into the social media hashtag, #togetherstronger epitomised the dragons’ approach to their Euro 2016 campaign. 

The debutants were underdogs from the start, but exceeded all expectations by defeating all odds firstly by toppings their group and then pulling off a miraculous victory against second ranked, Belgium, at the quarter finals, finding themselves just 90 minutes away from a place in the final.   But Wales’ dream was cut just short of the line by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and an invigorated Portugal team at the semis. With the final score set at 2-0 it could have been worse, but Wales didn’t manage to find the spark that they had shown in previous games and were unable to write themselves the fairy tale ending we were all hoping for.

Oh how nice the title of “finalists” would have been, but Chris Coleman’s men exit the tournament a unified and proud collective and returned home to an unprecedented heroes welcome.  
The unity that this team has brought to our small nation eclipses anything I have ever witnessed or experience before, and not even Wales’ rugby endeavours has ever come anywhere close.  

We are all so very proud of them and there is no question that an entirely new generation of sports men and women will be inspired by what this exceptional group of players have achieved on our behalf.   

#TogetherStronger #YmaOHyd #CymruAmByth

Highlights of Wales’ Euro2016 campaign through the medium of gingerbread: 

Group B 




 Last 16 #WALNIR FT1-0
  Quarter Final #WALBEL FT3-1

  Semi Final #PORWAL FT2-0 


Home coming parade, Cardiff

Incredible scenes on the streets of Cardiff, topped off with a celebratory event at Cardiff City Stadium.  Fans and players relived the 2016 campaign and were serenaded by the Manic Street Preachers.   

Good luck for the forthcoming Russia 2018 qualifiers!!

“Once a man has seen a dragon in flight, let him stay home and tend his garden in content… for this wide world has no greater wonder.” Tyrion Lannister 

Wales had already exceeded all expectations at the Euro2016 Finals by playing at the quarter finals against Northern Ireland last week but have now just gone and and surpassed their previous record of reaching the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup by securing their place at this tournament’s Semi Finals.  
With Belgium ranked as number 2 in the world, no-one was truly expecting Wales to win the game. But the fates were on the Dragons’side on Friday evening, as Wales put in a spellbinding performance to beat the Belgiums decisively by three goals to one. 

Hearts across the nation sank as Wales conceded an early goal, but Wales fought back with vigour and pizazz, determined not to let the early set back ruin their night. The equalizer came from captain, Ashley Williams (his first international goal) before half time, keeping Wales’ progression hopes alive. Wales’ fortunes then turned most spectacularly, as Hal Robson-Kanu was elevated to legendary status with what has to be a contender for goal of the tournament, as he befuddled three defenders with his incredible evasive turn to give Wales the lead. 

Belgium just couldn’t seem to convert their continued attack on Wales’ goal into points, and the nail was finally hammered into Belgium’s tournament coffin as substitute, Sam Vokes, headed in another spectacular goal.

 Wales are now set to take on football’s tournament pros, Portugal, in Lyon on Wednesday with a place at the final at stake. On an individual level, it will be a clash between two giants, Bale and Ronaldo, but everyone in the land of our fathers and indeed across the British Isles will be eager to cheer on the the collective Celtic underdogs in this unlikely of all showdowns.


Whatever the result on Wednesday, Coleman’s Dragons are already heroes, and have served to inspire a a nation with their team spirit and resolute determination against the most impossible odds.

The semi final kicks off at 8pm on Wednesday.  
#TogetherStronger #CmonCymru

Independence Day 2016 – “There is nothing so American as our national parks”, Franklin D. Roosevelt

History of the National Park Service

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst” – Wallace StegnerDSC_7598

With the National Park Service commemorating its centennial in August, it seemed like an excellent opportunity for us to celebrate all things “national park” for this year’s July 4th weekend festivities.

The National Park Service was established to manage an increasing number of public parkland areas, and a corresponding increase in the people wanting to visit and enjoy them. By 1916, there were already 37 of these areas, including some of the most well known of the parks, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and Mount Rainier, run by different organizations including the US Cavalry.  The legacy of the National Park Service owed a lot to the conservationist, John Muir, who rallied like minded folk to ensure the future survival and preservation of the US’ most precious wilderness lands. He played a significant part in the establishment of the very first national parks, and Yellowstone National Park lays claim to being the first of the 59, having been established in 1872 by Ulysses S Grant.

The National Park Service was finally established by Congress on August 25 1916, on the signature of the National Park Service organic Act by President Woodrow Wilson.

Today, there are over 400 National Park Service run sites across 85 million acres, with 59 main large parks. The other sites include National Historic Parks and Historic Sites, National Seashores and Lakeshores, National Battlefields and Military Parks, National Recreation Areas and Parkways and National Memorials and National Monuments.


The Backdrop & Décor

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness” – John Muir

I was keen to capture the spirit of the national park estate across the different elements of the party, ranging from the décor to the food to the activities.


We were fortunate enough to visit Shenandoah NP about a month ago, and were able to source some key supplies during our visit as it can often be a challenge to get the necessary American products here in the UK, although it is getting better with many UK supermarkets now stocking American food and drinks (albeit often at a premium) and the increase in the efficiencies of trans-Atlantic shipping!

It started with a fabulously vintage-esq invitation created by the lovely Katie Barnes Studio on Etsy, with matching craft envelopes.



The colour scheme was inspired by the National Park Service’s arrowhead crest, which is made up of brown, orange and green. The use of logs and wood grain serve wear a tribute to the ancient forests of the National Park estate.



The small coasters are ancient bristlecone pine purchased from the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite, and a selection of pinecones collected from our California and Washington trips (but not taken from within the national parks or national forests, of course!). The light box highlighted the centennial hashtags, #NPS100 and #FindYourPark.DSC_7620

But my favorite addition to the décor was my National Park tree, made up of fabulously vivid and colourful vintage felt tourist pennants from a section of the parks and monuments we have visited over the years. (NB: If anyone sees one for Yosemite, North Cascades or Olympic, please do let me know!). 


Sack Lunch

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – John Muir


The sack lunch station was inspired by the wonderful tradition at many National Park lodges for preparing sack lunches for intrepid hikers.   The best, I think, was the one we had at Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen National Park, California.  It made the trek up the Cinder Cone volcano all worth while!


It wouldn’t be an Independence Day Party without the now legendary three cheese Mac ‘n Cheese courtesy of Martha Stewart and whatsgabbycooking.com’s pulled pork sliders. These All American classic dishes were supplemented by a Southern Pimemto cheese dip and a glorious flower salad (made with flowers from Greens of Devon) inspired by the spectacular wildflower meadows of Mount Rainier’s Paradise, Washington State.


For pudding, we had baked pistachio cheesecake and key lime pie cupcakes representing the Everglades and made with real imported key lime pie juice, no less.


Our favourite national park activity was recognised in our colour co-ordinated trail mix, which contained, peanuts, almonds, pretzels, raisins and peanut M&Ms.  The caramel and apple taffy was another timely purchase from Shenandoah NP.


And despite the heat of the afternoon, we all enjoyed the task of perfecting our s’mores techniques over the cast iron fire bowl, with a varying degree of success across the guests.

DSC_0978DSC_0972DSC_1062DSC_1069The chocolate graham crackers were bought in New York last month, along with the Ghirardelli chocolate squares, and this time introduced to home made caramel marshmallows. This activity in particular made me feel as though I was back at Quinault Lodge, where we enjoyed a few nights sat beside the lakeside bonfire. 

DSC_8422A Swiss Miss hot chocolate was then enjoyed in a tin cup just before bedtime.


It wouldn’t have been a party, of course, without a well-stocked bar, and this time we kept up the American theme with a selection of imported beverages.


I manage to source the aptly named, Crater Lake American craft gin from the Bend Distillery in Oregon, from which we made some wonderfully refreshing Basil Greyhounds with a mix of basil leaves and grapefruit juice. Goose IPA and Brooklyn larger added to the mix, as did the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a tipple we first discovered during our California Road Trip back in 2014.   One of our thoughtful guests brought with them a bottle of Riesling from Walla Wall in Washington.



“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” – William Shakespeare

Hiking trail signage led guests to the garden area where activities awaited!


One of James’ favorite part of visiting the parks is the sheer wealth and diversity of the flora and fauna living there.  Sadly in the UK, our native species were decimated sometime in the middle ages, where ancient forests were logged to extinction, along with many of our larger mammals. Not so in the US, where it is a pleasure to behold the multiple squirrel species, chipmunks, marmots, elk and of course, the bears!


To incorporate this passion for nature, the kids were given vintage style bear masks and enjoyed running around the garden play fighting. Here is the most recent picture of our bear sightings – this fine specimen was sighted along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, Virginia:DSC_0755

I also found these fantastic nature activity backpacks from the local National Trust site, and these also proved very popular with the little ‘uns. The use of a retro-inspired Fuji-Film camera and a vintage monkey bean toss game was also enjoyed by guests.



“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it” – Lyndon B. Johnson

People always ask us why we love visiting the US so much, and our answer is always the same: Because of the National Parks. And here are just a couple of our favourites, having now visited 10 (Yosemite, Lassen, Death Valley, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic, Everglades, Grand Canyon (and got engaged here), Zion and Shenandoah).

DSC_1685DSC_1778DSC_2998Las Vegas Part 3 080DSC_7462DSC_0703DSC_0311DSC_6905DSC_0212DSC_1995DSC_7985DSC_3263DSC_7109

Their scenery is magnificent, often otherworldly, their vastness incomprehensible to the extreme. But above all else, they give you a feeling that can’t be experienced anywhere else, and that is a difficult feeling to describe. Whether you find yourself in the scorched desolation of the desert, or whether you wind along the wild and rugged coastland of the West coast, you find yourself at one with nature and entirely free from the stressful bussle of our modern lives if only for a moment. You find yourself lost amongst the ancient forests, amongst nature’s oldest living giants and realize how tiny and insignificant we humans really are.  

It makes you realize and understand above all else, that we have a duty to preserve our planets most beautiful and awe-inspiring landscapes. And it is at times like this that you truly appreciate the service that the Park Rangers and advocates of the National Park Service have given, not only for the United States, but in acting as the standard for the rest of the world.




A debutant’s dream: Wales kicks off its Euro2016 campaign with style

I didn’t exist the last time the Welsh football team competed in a major tournament.  Indeed, esquires Neil and Buzz hadn’t even set foot on the moon when Wales last competed on the world stage at football.  Wales’ last appearance was, in fact, at the 1958 World Cup, where they were knocked out of the championship in the quarter finals, by the boot of a young Pele and the ultimate 1958 World Cup champions, Brazil.

It has been a disappointing and frustrating period since then for Welsh football, which is probably why the nation has generally gravitated towards its national rugby team for international sporting glory, which has, over the past half century played a prominent role on the world sporting stage. 

And so, the nation was, to put it mildly, increadibly excited to find itself qualifying for the European championship to be hosted by France in 2016. 

 And here we are.  Summer 2016. The first match played, and the result was more than any of us could have imagined or ever thought possible.  A decisive win over fellow debutants, Slovakia, with World legend Gareth Bale and team mate Robson-Kanu both scoring Wales’ goals.   It is an interesting fact that Bale’s first international goal for Wales was against Slovakia back in 2006. Maybe it was meant to be. 

Not only did Chris Coleman’s men manage to secure the coveted full 3 points, England’s draw with Russia has meant that Wales sits atop Group B’s table at the end of first weekend, putting them in pole position for progressing through the tournament.  

Not a bad start at all for the Dragons. Not bad at all. 

Next up a derby clash against ancient foes, England!