Let’s Tour Harrods in London

We went to London a few years ago, and since PBS is starting a new season of Mr. Selfridge’s this weekend, and since I’ve spent this week blogging about London-related things, I thought I’d blog today about another famous London retailer–Harrods. This multi-floored upscale London department store is  located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. Oh, and a note, there are doormen who will turn visitors away who arrive in disreputable clothing. We saw a couple get turned away when he was clad in raggedy-cut baggy shorts, and she was in a tube top and way too tight jeans with holey knees.

But we were allowed to pass without incident, so thanks to my trusty camera you’ll find pictures below that I took during our shopping excursion. Everything about the store was carefully decorated, and lovely care was taken with even the smallest purchase. For example, after wrapping a £7.95 key ring for me, the clerk asked if I would like a small sack to carry the purchase in–no “you want to put this in your purse” at Harrods.

At the time of our visit, Harrods was still owned by Mohammed Al Fayed, father of Dodi Fayed, who was linked with Princess Diana at the time of their deaths. The store was subsequently sold in 2010 for £1.5 billion to the Qatari royal family, and the press reported in September 2013 the store would be transformed with a multi-million-dollar refurbishment program. All of these photos were taken prior to this refurbishment, and still hark back to the Fayed family’s Egyptian roots and tastes.

Since we’d been running around London hours before we got to the store, we first felt we needed to freshen up from our travels. Of course, the “wash rooms” or “toilets” (never bathrooms) are something one must really search for, and even once the sign was found to direct us the journey was not over. On the first floor, one is directed through a food court to the back wall, where another sign says “lift to LG washrooms” On the “lift,” the LG (lower ground) button sends the bronzed walled elevator down to the lowest floor. Get off there, and walk down a short hallway, around an escalator, by one shop, and enter the “Urban Health” shop to find “washrooms” on the back wall. No line for the men’s, but a rather lengthy one (of course) for the women’s.

Harrolds decorationn along the ceilingNow, we’ll leave the tour hunt for the washrooms and return to the first floor. Isn’t this a lovely visual display along the ceiling? But all phases of the decor reflect the Egyptian touch.

 

 

 

Harrods view of the balcony & elevatorCheck out the lovely way elevator riders debarked the cars, and stood on the lovely balcony to get a birds eye view of the displays and visitors browsing in the lower floors. Here’s a more expansive view of the ceiling from the 4th floor elevator balcony.Harrods above the 4th floor elevator

 

Harrods escalator

Notice to the left what shoppers encountered when riding the escalator at Harrods. Quite the non-typical escalator view with the lovely columns and top lights that made me think of fanned leaves. And if you’re into shoe shopping, here’s the way Harrods displayed their upscale foot ware. Harrods shoe display
Below, see some of the themed lighting options utilized in the store.

 

Harrods floral lightingHarrods ceiling

Harrods light sconceSo while PBS will be giving viewers a new look at long ago Selfridge’s again this season, Harrods will always hold the chief place in my heart as London landmark shopping.

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Baker Street Underground Station – London

As a continuation in what I’ve now begun casually calling “London Week” for this blog, thought I’d look closer at a couple of places we found interesting when we visited London a few years ago. Today, I’m posting about the tube station for Baker Street. We’ve all heard about Sherlock Holmes’s residence at 221B Baker Street, but there’s a whole world underneath. And this station has a lot of history. First opened in January 1863, the station was almost 25 years old when the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887. The station has had extensions and renovations completed several times in the early 1900s, and an additional southbound platform and connecting tube tunnels between Baker Street and Finchley Road stations in late-November, 1939. They even had a bomb scare in 1973, but the device was luckily defused in time. Baker Street tube iconic sign

Instead of listing all the trains that come and go out of this station, and sounding like some kind of school tour guide, let me explain why I’m blogging on this station today. This was probably the most complex station we found in London. Maybe it was just us, maybe it was all those different renovations I discussed in the opening paragraph, but this was a station that kept us hopping to simply find which way we really needed to go at all times.

Here are just a few of the notes I made after trying to get back to our flat after one day’s wanderings. I’d scribbled the musings as I rode the return train to my family’s vacation home-away-from-home stop, as I didn’t want to forget my impressions of this station.

Baker Street Underground Station II Arriving from Jubilee line from Bond Street, then crossing to Hammersmith (line) to return to Ladbroke Grove (where our flat was located). Begin at one end of the station and take the Way Out (exit) to Hammersmith. Take a flight of stairs up after finding must go to Platform 6. At top of those stairs, however, it is Platform 4, and another sign directs us up another flight of stairs to Platform 6–so remember to never believe first instructions 🙂  At the top of these stairs, walk a long hallway that is actually a bridge over both sets of Hammersmith tracks. Find Platform 6 is the Eastbound–and farthest–platform. At the end of this hallway, a set of steps lead down to the Platform 6 area to catch the Eastbound train.

I took some photos from the boarding level on Platform 6, showing some of the upper balcony and different halls. While the iconic sign at above right is full light for a good shot with the Baker Street name, I took the more underground shots with a fast film and no flash, in an effort to give it that late-1890s to early-1920s time frame feel for when contemporary Sherlock fans would have been reading the newly published stories and using the station whose name was made famous by the books.  Baker Street Underground Station

Tomorrow I’ll post on another London site. Have any memories of traveling in London or England that you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment.

Save Those Things You Could Use for Years

We get so busy that sometimes we forget to hang on to things we should–things that could help us avoid stressful situation, buy additional items we shouldn’t, or even keep family members from serious medical issues.

Without getting into some of the first arguments hubby and I had, here’s a couple of tips that could save your life and definitely save budget and your relationship.

Anytime you buy anything with a manual or a written warranty, file it. Stapling the receipt that shows where and when it was purchased helps even more, but definitely file the item’s paperwork. Here’s why — it will break. Your spouse may be able to fix it, or you can order replacement parts, or one of you realize the kids shoved a plastic piece of toy where it doesn’t belong because the schematic in the manual doesn’t show that piece of plastic ever being a part of the design. If it can’t be repaired, that written warranty may prove you deserve a free replacement!

Save stress and expense by organizing ALL manuals together. If just starting out, get a three-ring notebook, and either punch holes in your manuals/warranties or buy those clear sleeves at Office Depot to slide the paperwork into, then clip the sleeves into the binder. You can sort these in sections, or not, but the big thing is to have them in one place.

We outgrew the notebook, so I have a portable Rubbermaid file box with a carry-handle that holds letter-sized hanging folders, one for each appliance. I drop each manual/warranty inside. I can easily shift hanging folders so all the paperwork from each room gets grouped together.

Best of all, whenever hubby asks for the millionth time where a manual is, I just point to the box. He never files the manual back, that’s too much to hope, but he does drop the manual back on top of the box when done. That’s a win in my book.

When I mentioned ‘save your life organizing,’ it wasn’t to keep from killing my spouse because he used to drive me nuts about product manuals. What I meant referred to those informational medicine pages received with prescription drugs.

Even if it’s a prescription you never expect to use again, keep the paperwork. When you’re ill, or starting a new prescription, you think you’ve paid attention what your doctor said, but if your symptoms change or become worse you may be having side effects from the very thing supposed to be making you better.

When we receive the written info from the pharmacist, I look it over, then file in a notebook holding all other paperwork like this our family has received.

If an unexpected side effect occurs, I make notes on the paper, and flag it in the notebook. If that family member is prescribed this medication again, we know what to tell the next doctor. Even if nothing bad happens, I keep the paperwork without adding notes to know the medication worked fine. We always think we’re going to remember, but even best intentions can fall short. A quick note now may save future health complications and stress.

Make It Easy and Organized in the Kitchen — and Save Money, too

Again, these are tips I first posted on my publisher’s FB page a couple of weeks ago when we were gearing up for the launch of ORGANIZED FOR MURDER. If you didn’t catch them then, here’s your second chance 🙂

We have a deep pantry with bi-fold doors, and things can get easily hidden in the shadows of all the other containers. Food can easily go bad if it’s there too long, or I don’t realize I have something and buy more when I don’t need it. For these reasons, keeping the pantry organized helps me save money and time.

To combat the design issues, I use box flats or the lids for file boxes – so there’s only an inch or so lip around the cardboard. Then I put all my cans on these flats. I can stand at the pantry opening and slide out a whole flat at one time, and quickly see all the cans that would normally cower in the back.

I also make sure one section is for tall boxes, like cereal, so all those big containers are together and don’t hide the pasta I need for dinner.

I have always separated bananas as soon as I bring them home from the store, and placed them in a bowl on the counter. I learned early on that keeping fruit in the plastic bags makes everything ripen faster than I like. This is due to the naturally occurring gases. Since bananas grow so close together, separating the fruit from each other helped even more.

I always did the same with apples and oranges and pears and grapes, too. I washed the fruit and set pieces out in a bowl on the table, or in the case of grapes and oranges, kept them in a refrigerated bowl on one of the middle shelves of the fridge.

In the case of bananas, I realized my family ate that fruit much more readily when a bunch was separated and placed in a bowl on the counter, right in the busiest line of traffic, and all they had to do was grab one out of the bowl and peel. That realization was driven home in a funny way recently when my mid-20s daughter moved home for a week while waiting for her new apartment to get final renovations completed.

She grabbed a banana each day and on the third day said, “I wonder why I quit eating bananas? I love bananas. I’ve been eating them every day I’ve been here. They always went bad at my place.”

“It’s because I separate them and you don’t have to do anything but grab them.”

Her eyes grew wide, and she replied, “Omigod, you’re right. I’m sooo lazy.”

So, laugh with your kids, and save yourself some money by thinking how to make cheap & healthy snacks easy to eat, and your fruit will never go bad again.

Easy Way to Organize Bed Linens

In preparation for the launch of my book ORGANIZED FOR MURDER, my publisher invited me to post a few days of organization tips on her Facebook site. I’m going to repeat those tips here for the next few days, in case some fans missed the FB postings. These are not tips I included in the cozy mystery novel, but ones I like will add to future editions to this series. So you’re getting the scoop now, maybe years ahead of time.

Read on how I–and Kate McKenzie–keep easy order for our families’ bed linens.

What to Do with Linens – 
One of my oldest and most favorite tips is how to have an organized linen closet even if you aren’t a “neat freak.” I told a friend about this a couple of decades ago, when I still had little kids in the house, and my friend still remarks on the idea and has told all her friends, so I know it’s a winner.

Flat sheets and pillowcases can be easy, but folding fitted sheets neatly can try anyone’s patience. Yes, I know there are tips and techniques to do so, but even if I learned, I know I’d never get everyone else in the family to fold the sheet to Bed Bath & Beyond specifications. Worse, unless you carefully stack all the matching pieces together, kids (and spouses) tend to just grab the first right-sized items they can find, leaving matching sheets to not always “wear” evenly as some are used more often than their mates.

To combat these problems, I always just fold matching sheets into roughly the same-sized squares/rectangles and slide them into the matching pillowcases. Makes my linen closet look neat whether I’ve folded the fitted sheet neatly or not, and it’s easy for the youngest (or oldest) family member to grab one pillowcase with everything inside – that’s, of course, if I can con anyone into making a bed so I don’t have to.

This also allows the youngest kids to help without feeling like theirs doesn’t look right. They can fold as best they can, then smash it down. Once everything is in the pillowcase, even smashed down clean sheets it looks the same as everything else, and each group is easy to stack.

Another good thing about this method is that if you have limited linen closet space, you don’t have to use the closet for sheets. When my daughter moved into her first apartment, what passed for a linen closet really needed to be used as a pantry (she didn’t have one of those, either). So, I suggested she do like hotels do when they leave extra pillows and blankets on the upper closet shelves. She used the space up-high, just inside the bedroom closet door, to stack her sheets and blankets. Problem solved and premium closet space in the apartment was then allocated to the kitchen.

One final idea for storing sheets and bed linens is to use the old blanket chest approach. People used to keep chests at the foot of their beds to store quilts and blankets until they needed them on cold nights. You can store bed linens that way, too. If you don’t have room for a chest at the end of the bed, or your family has an old set or unused set of chest of drawers you want to use instead, the larger drawers are perfect for linen storage. Once all the sheets are folded and inserted into their matching pillow cases, it’s a breeze to stack them in the drawer, and later quickly pull out the necessary linens when beds are changed.

Easy!

More Great Reads, Contest Fun and Prizes

A lot of great new contests and giveaways have started up lately, and this is the third blog I’ve written on this subject in the past week. If you didn’t read the other blog posts, scroll down to look them over as some of the contests mentioned have long entry periods, and the book blogs mentioned have new contests all the time. But in the spirit of new opportunity, here are a few more sites to check out, and these links are the kind that have giveaways pretty regularly.

Dru’s Book Musing is a great reading site that offers unique and fun info for fans, and giveaways as well. Features include A Day in the Life, that lets secondary characters in books take the spotlight to reveal more of their personality and voice, cover reveals of new and upcoming books, book reviews, and giveaways provided by authors and/or publishers. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on the blog page–but these contests are quick to close, only open until noon the following day, so move quickly to get your chance at a favorite author’s book.

Shelley Giusti  started her blog almost two years ago, and she’s ready to celebrate. She posted first thing Monday, March 10th saying, “I will be promoting this early — On Saturday Lorna Barrett will be hosting the Book Trivia on my blog. Guess what book she is talking about and you will receive an ARC copy of the book!”  Here’s the link to that blog if you want to check it out  www.shelleyreadsandreviews.blogspot.com Shelly also schedules a Saturday Book Trivia, with last week’s contest hosted by Joyce Lavene. Don’t miss it!

 

There are a number of other bloggers who host blog tours, and not only give readers opportunities to learn more about favorite authors and their books but also win new books by those favorite authors. Most of the contests are quick, however, to get your entry in as soon as you can, and the best way to do that is to subscribe to your favorite blogs. Here are a few more to check out:

Cozy Up with Kathy , Melina’s Book Blog , Thoughts in Progress , and Socrates Book Review

And don’t forget group author pages like The Stiletto Gang and Jungle Red Writers. You win with great blogs to read several times each week, plus know right away when one or more of the authors decides to run a new contest for fans.

Happy Reading!

More Ongoing Giveaways

I love when the seasons start to change, and new books come out, and new contests crop up on the horizon. Here are just a few contests going on right now. Some of these sites, like Lori’s Reading Corner, have book giveaways almost every day of every week, so keep these web addresses in mind when you want to check back later.

From March 7-21 to Nancy Cohen is offering chances to win one of four signed ARCs of Hanging By A Hair in her Goodreads Giveaway. Here’s the link for that giveaway, http://bit.ly/15SmIi0 or you can to the contest page on her website at  http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/ and click the Enter To Win button there.

Lori’s Reading Corner offers a great place for readers to read guest posts by their favorite authors, and get the chance to win a copy of a new release, too. I guest posted on this site last week and offered a giveaway of my latest book Organized for Murder with the contest giveaway running until March 18th  Organized for Murder giveaway ). But I’m far from the only author who does this. Right now, on the main page at  http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/  are links for guest posts with giveaways to Laura Bradford’s newest Amish mystery, Peg Cochran’s gourmet cozy, a new fantasy by Barbara Kloss, and a frightening new tale, Above by Isla Morley.

Regency author Ella Quinn is offering a terrific prize today on her blog — but you only have today and tomorrow to enter. Win a ticket for a seat at Eileen Dryer’s table at the Barbara Vey Luncheon and a copy of Quinn’s The Temptation of Lady Serena. All you have to do is leave a comment on the contest page  http://ellaquinnauthor.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/sunday-news-36/ saying why you want this prize. Easy, huh?

The Escape with Dollycas site also offers regular guest posts and giveaways. The current is The Winter Ghosts by Kate Moss, but that’s not the only book promotion going on right now. This site offers a wonderful assortment of blog tours, with schedules posted, so readers can not only follow favorite authors from one blog stop to the next, but enter to win copies of newly released books all along the way. Check out this link  Great Escapes Book Blog Tours  for all current and upcoming book/blog tours. Page down to find interesting blog tours and click the book cover to get more details.

Finally, Wendy H. Jones is giving away a Kindle Fire preloaded with 26 books at her blog site. The URL on this site does show it’s a U.K. site, so this may be just for British readers, but you never know. Check it out yourself and enter at  http://wendyhjones-bookaholic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/kindle-fire-giveaway.html.

Good Luck, and Happy Reading!