a way of life...

Year: 2016 (Page 1 of 5)

It’s A Wrap

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It’s A Wrap!

Some people love it and some people hate it but for me wrapping presents is a real pleasure.  Finding the time is not always easy but this year I have found it easier as some presents were despatched earlier than others and therefore wrapped in plenty of time.

I guess the other reason some people find it such a chore is due to the cost of the materials required. Having bought a gift it is often a financial burden to spend more money on the requisite wrapping paper, gift tags and ribbon.

Polka dot ribbon from random packaging

Polka dot ribbon from random packaging

This year I found that I had quite a lot of paper leftover from last Christmas so rather than buy new I decided to jazz it up a bit with a variety of bits and pieces that I picked up whilst in and out of shops and fairs.

One of the High Street shops that turned out to be particularly useful was Tiger. For very little money I bought a pack of six miniature brown carrier bags; three rolls of satin ribbon in red, blue and purple; and a pack of tiny wooden Christmas trees. I think each item was about £1 so for £5 I had plenty of choice when it came to jazzing up my parcels.

Last year's paper jazzed up with Waitrose tag & snowflake, and Tiger satin ribbon

Last year’s paper jazzed up with Waitrose tag & snowflake, and Tiger satin ribbon and wooden tree

Next stop Waitrose where I bought a pack of gift tags, ribbon, string, and tiny wooden snowflakes. These were a little more pricey but not outrageous. Lastly, I bought three packs of plain white gift labels and two rolls of embroidered ribbon from The Loseley Rural Crafts Christmas Fair that I had the pleasure of attending in November.

I always re-use the gorgeous gift and bottle bags that I am given as they are far too lovely to throw away. This year I did splash out and buy some new bottle bags from Tesco, purely because they appealed to me. I find gift bags are really handy as it so much easier to put pressies in these, especially if they are an awkward shape, and much less time consuming. I have also found that bottle bags are not just for bottles; they are ideal for wrapping packs of socks which are an absolute must for the man in your life!

Tesco bottle bag

Tesco bottle bag

My final tips, which I’m sure you’ve heard before is to keep ribbon from any random packaging you receive and to use greetings card to make into gift tags. Chocolate boxes often come tied with a ribbon and many boutique carrier bags have ribbon handles. By using the picture, or part of the picture, from last year’s Christmas cards to make gift tags you will not only save a pile of money but give gifts that are truly individual and help save the planet into the bargain! What more could you ask for.

Happy wrapping x

All That Glistens

Christmas has officially started in our house! The tree is up, and adorned as promised, with sparkle and glee. In fact, all that glistens from my collection of Christmas decorations have been placed, with great care, on each of the branches. Miniature reindeer with bells on;  glimmering celestial bodies – moons, suns and stars; bells that really jingle; golden spheres intricately decorated with jewels; and chunky glass stars with glittery edges. The top of the closet has been brought to life with my Gisela Graham glass crystal swag intertwined with glittery fronds of hessian ivy.
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Having reawakened my lust for everything that sparkles, twinkles, glitters, glimmers, shimmers, blinks, winks, and flashes, nowhere was safe. Peaking through the door into the sitting-room the mantlepiece shimmers and glows. Beneath a golden string of lights rests a swag of purple berries amidst a blanket of faux evergreen shrubbery.  mantelpieceOrnate Culinary Concepts silver stag heads, hanging from bright red satin ribbons, were the inspiration for my dining room.  Pops of red were introduced to bring a warmth to this otherwise neutral room. cc-silver-stagLooking out to the garden beautiful bulbous glass hearts and etched glass ornaments are suspended from a wrought iron curtain pole tied with varying lengths of red ribbon.
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A jaunty Joules cushion and furry reindeer brighten an armchair which is cloaked in an Indigo & Rose stag throw.

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These themes are echoed on the dresser where a red and white reverse advent calendar and felt robin redbreast join the party. Below a handsome stag struts his stuff whilst a pair of iron reindeer sit on the shelf above.
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A starry H&M table cloth is brought alive with this tiny red berry wreath and Holly Park Noel linen ribbon used here as a table runner.
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Now that I have exhausted my collection of all that glistens it is time to sit back and really start to enjoy this festive setting. Cheers everyone x

Guest Ready

I love the run up to Christmas and the prospect of decorating the house for the festive season. I’m sure like many, this doesn’t stop at choosing a beautiful tree and adorning it with sparkle and glee, but also ensuring the house is guest ready. We all strive to have our homes looking their best as we open our doors to friends and family.

This year I was eager to put the finishing touches to our guest room which had been freshly painted during the summer months. Unfortunately, I had had a minor accident at the time which prevented me from finishing what I had started. Now, fully recovered, and energised by the onset of the festivities I set aside a weekend to make the curtains which, by now, were long overdue.img_8492

I had bought a new duvet cover and matching pillow cases as well as curtain fabric from the Laura Ashley Runswick Seaspray range. The bed linen is a crisp, white cotton, embroidered with an oversized floral motif in shades of seaspray and yellow. By contrast the curtain fabric is a soft, off-white material with a subtle blue and yellow floral pattern, which hangs beautifully once made up. I retained the valances that I had made previously.img_8499

All of the pine furniture in the room has had an Annie Sloan makeover as featured in my blog of 14 March. The final addition to this light and airy seaspray room was a painting by Haidee-Jo Summer. I’m sure I can hear the waves gently breaking on the shore and smell the sea air as I peer at the view of the Cornish coastline from the window of the fisherman’s shelter. Cheerily decorated with bunting and sunflowers it evokes memories of summer by the seaside at an otherwise dreary time of year.img_8496

A string of fairy lights gently illuminates the bedstead and an Anthropologie Aloha Orchid candle adds a subtle aroma. Lastly, I love to make up small gift bags as a special treat. Filled with goodies such as lip balm and bath bombs, note books and pencils, and perhaps a handmade chocolate and indoor sparkler. I find these go a long way to making our house guests feel really welcome.img_8532

Now that the house is guest ready I am really looking forward to their arrival. Happy Christmas everyone. x

Outside In

I’m sure the expression “bringing the outside in” is familiar to a lot of people. It is used to describe the relationship between a room and its surroundings, often implying that the exterior becomes an extension of the interior. There are varying levels of achieving this dependent on budget and inclination. An example might be to build a deck at the same level as the internal floor and to have bi-folding doors which, when open, increase the size of the living area by encompassing the deck.wm-rear

A much more simple way to bring the outside in is by adopting planting schemes that compliment the interior space. Alternatively, garden furniture, furnishings, and accessories, might adopt a similar colour scheme, or style, to the interior. Once the idea of combining your indoor and outdoor space is adopted the options are only limited by one’s imagination.

As I left home this morning I glanced into my sitting room before turning to lock the front door and I was suddenly struck by an illusion that had been created. Consciously, or not, by placing my lovely wicker armchair in front of the patio doors to create more internal floor space it suddenly improved the room’s relationship with the garden. The simplicity of the chair’s construction, along with the addition of a green velvet cushion, worked in perfect harmony with the lush green grass, fallen leaves, and almost-bare branches of the apple tree. Before leaving the house I quickly took a photograph so that I could share it with you here just to emphasis how something so simple can add an extra dimension to the look and feel of your home by “bringing the outside in”. img_8482

Crunchy Almond & Raspberry Cake

This recipe for Crunchy Almond & Raspberry Cake (with dark chocolate) is my version of a Waitrose recipe card that I picked up whilst shopping several months ago. Spurred on by the Great British Bake Off I have now managed to gather all of the ingredients in the right place at the right time to bake this gorgeous confection.img_8429

INGREDIENTS

  • 175g butter, at room temperature
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 150g Doria Amaretti Biscuits, crumbled
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 200g raspberries
  • Mascarpone, cream or ice cream to serve

METHOD

  1. Grease and base line a 20cm, loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat oven to 160°C, gas mark 3.
  2. Using electric beaters, whisk together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and almonds until smooth and creamy. (In the words of the GBBO don’t overwork the mixture!).
  3. Carefully fold in two-thirds each of the crumbled biscuits, chopped chocolate and raspberries, and spoon into the prepared tin.
  4. Scatter the remaining crumbled biscuits, chopped chocolate and raspberries on top.
  5. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until risen, golden brown and set. (I cooked mine for 65 minutes at 150°C in a fan assisted oven).
  6. Leave to sit in the tin for 5 minutes then lift out and leave to cool completely.
  7. Slice and serve with a spoonful of mascarpone, cream or ice cream.
  8. Any leftovers should be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days and are delicious served chilled. Alternatively, warm in microwave and serve with cream or ice cream and a glass of Disaronno.

TIPS

  • Serves 8
  • Preparation time 20 mins
  • Use a rolling pin to crumble biscuits in a medium/large plastic bag
  • Frozen raspberries can be used but thaw thoroughly and drain excess liquid
  • Use a clean metal skewer to check if cake is cooked; insert in centre of cooked cake and if it comes out clean then cake is ready.
  • Sprinkle cooled cake with a little icing sugar for seasonal look
  • Equally good as a cake or dessert
    Spoon into greased and lined 20cm, loose bottomed cake tin

    Spoon into greased and lined 20cm, loose bottomed cake tin

    Lift cooked cake from tin and leave to cool completely

    Lift cooked cake from tin and leave to cool completely

    Slice and serve as cake or dessert

    Slice and serve as cake or dessert

Serve with mascarpone, cream or ice cream

Serve warm or chilled with mascarpone, cream or ice cream

I loved this cake with its lovely almond flavour, fresh raspberries, and semi-melted chunks of chocolate. Next time I make it I am going to experiment replacing the dark chocolate with white chocolate as I think this will compliment the raspberries even more. Wish me luck and let me know how you think this recipe might be taken to the next level!

For more Waitrose recipes visit http://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes.html

Convivial Cowes

Unless you’re a seasoned sailor I’m not sure that you would venture into Cowes on the Isle of Wight on a particularly wet November afternoon. Not so! Finding myself with time to kill having arrived in East Cowes on Saturday I decided this was too good an opportunity to miss. Leaving the Southampton to East Cowes ferry I zig-zagged along the roads to arrive at the chain ferry in no time at all. Here the “floating bridge” was waiting for vehicles and foot passengers to board, and in no time at all I arrived in Cowes. To my astonishment I found that parking on the road was really easy, and what’s more, was free for up to two hours.img_8371

Umbrella in hand I headed towards the pedestrianised streets and arrived in Shooters Hill. My first stop was Staples & Green where, much to my surprise, I was immediately offered a glass of Prosecco and mince pie to enjoy whilst I browsed their lovely selection of smart furniture, accessories, and lifestyle products.img_8360img_8362

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas spirit now firmly instilled I wandered along the cobbled streets absorbing the atmosphere created by a huge variety of independent vendors who far outweighed the one or two well know brands. As I strolled past a vast selection of pubs, cafés, and artisan food shops, I could only imagine how busy they must be during the heady summer months when the yachties descend.

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Arriving in the High Street my next stop was Shoreline, a gift and stationary shop which also offered an engraving and picture framing service. I was particularly struck by their lovely collection of greetings cards and children’s toys.

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Another retailer which specliased in children’s toys, games, and gifts, was Live Like This which turned out to have a shop on either side of the street. Whilst one was purely aimed at children the other stocked the most amazing collection of decorative accessories. My favourites were the quirky lamps and the vast array of Christmas decorations.

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Leaving the High Street and heading down Bath Road towards the waters edge I had cause to stop at Chocolate Mad Cowes purely because I couldn’t resist the name! Here I bought two sachets of their plain and milk chocolate buttons with which to make myself a very indulgent hot chocolate drink.img_8391

Laden with gifts, and an immense feeling of satisfaction having made a start on my Christmas shopping, I headed back towards the car. My last port of call was a barbers shop, which you may think a little strange. In fact, their window had caught my eye as it was full of gifts and signs which would make ideal stocking fillers. Catching them just as they were closing up I made a couple of small purchases which completed my shopping for the day. Returning to the car within the two hour time allocation I felt that I had had an extremely pleasant and rewarding afternoon, so much so that I may well be tempted to return in the summer.

Despite the sunny days and mild temperature there’s no denying that autumn is in the air as the clocks go back this weekend. The afternoons will be shorter and the evenings longer as sunset is brought forward by an hour. Don’t despair as this is a wonderful time to put the garden to bed and enjoy the cosiness of being indoors.

I have stripped the beds of their summer-weight quilts and aired them in the autumn sunshine before packing them away for the next few months. Winter blankets have been removed from trunks and spread around the house to use as we snuggle up in front of the telly.img_8217

The shorter days needn’t be dreary as I’ve dusted down my favourite lanterns and votives and put in brand new tealights to add a glow to the mantlepiece.img_8209The last of the summer blooms have been cut and brought indoors to add seasonal colour and fragrance. img_8206

I’ve taken great pleasure in editing my wardrobe. A handful of summer items have been kept to one side just in case I manage to get away for a sunshine break this month but on the whole winter woolies have replaced summer t-shirts and my favourite boots are taking centre stage as they have been pulled forward from the depths of the cupboard; reheeled, revived, and ready to go.

I don’t celebrate Halloween in my house but what a magnificent excuse to decorate with spooky cobwebs, oversized spiders, and gloriously carved pumpkins. I know a lot of people will be celebrating this festival this weekend and will enjoy the spectacle that will besiege local homes and businesses.

All in all I love hunkering down for the onslaught of winter and look forward to the start of the preparation for Christmas and making plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations (already!).

This coming month there are a multitude of Christmas fairs offering unusual gifts that are often hard to find on the High Street. Amongst my favourites are The Spirit of Christmas at Olympia, The Christmas Fair at Ascot Race Course, The Medicine Garden Christmas Shopping Evening in Cobham, and The Rural Crafts Association “Crafts For Christmas” at Loseley Park.

For more details visit:

www.spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk

www.ascot.co.uk

www.themedicinegarden.com

www.loseleypark.co.uk

 

Furniture For The Future

img_8177Attending a champagne reception hosted by bespoke furniture maker Silverlining at The National Portrait Gallery in London was an honour. As guest of my business partner you could say it was all in a day’s work but this was a very special occasion. Celebrating 30 years of excellence the event attracted guests from all over the world. img_8174

Based in Wrexham Silverlining have built up an extensive client base. Their passion, commitment, and craftsmanship, ensures each and every piece of furniture they produce is of the highest quality and original design. Their name is derived from the metal cores that are used to prevent woods from distorting and from the use of silver hallmarks to date furniture and to identify its maker.img_8180A cast-iron sculpture by Antony Gormley viewed the proceedings from a void above whilst 4K images of Silverlining’s intricate patterns were projected onto the walls and ceilings.img_8191Guests at this invitation only event had private access to the Picasso Portraits exhibition which runs until February 2017. Over eighty works focus on the artist’s portrayal of family, friends and lovers. These portraits cover all periods of Picasso’s career from his boyhood to his latter years. Some of the works on display are being shown in the UK for the first time.

Sea, Sunflowers & Bunting

img_8097With my invitation in hand I made my way to The Mall Galleries in SW1 to the opening of the Royal Society of Marine Artists’ annual exhibition in London.img_8093Over 400 works of art are on display, ranging from the most fabulous photo montage images, to the most stunning paintings. Bright red sails; children in rock pools; crashing waves; colourful hulls; and lots, lots more seascapes to prolong the feeling of summer.img_8118

My particular favourite was The Fisherman’s Hut by Haidee-Jo Summers. Unlike the majority of works on show it depicted an interior setting with a view of the sea through the window. Contemporary in style, with sunflowers in a vase and union jack bunting in the alcove, it really caught my eye.

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It would seem I wasn’t its only admirer as it has been awarded the Mall Galleries bookshop greetings card award 2016. As such, it has been reproduced as a greetings card to promote the Royal Society of Marine Artists and is available to buy in the gallery’s bookshop.img_8113

President of the RSMA, Elizabeth Smith introduced Elizabeth Meek MBE to officially open the exhibition on Tuesday afternoon. It runs from then until October 8 and is open every day between 10am and 5pm. Painting demonstrations and hands-on workshops tutored by Society Members will be taking place during the exhibition. Full details can be found at www.rsma-web.co.uk

London Design Festival 2016

Historic Syon House grounds

Historic Syon House grounds

Decorex 2016 opened this year’s London Design Festival. Driving to the historic Syon House on a still, warm, autumnal day was not a hardship. Spread across two enormous marquees the show was extremely easy to navigate, and I still had enough time to enjoy the excellent selection of eateries, which ranged from street food stalls to the 1508 designed champagne bar.

Bluebell Grey wallpaper adorning the walls of the café

BluebellGray wallpaper adorning the walls of the show’s café

The recurring theme for the Decorex exhibition, now celebrating 10 years, was the roots of design. 400 exhibitors, some new, some well known, were highlighting their latest work.  Visitors could also attend a variety of seminars and enjoy curated talks.

A place to meet like minded people

A place to meet like minded people

More than anything the London Design Festival is a place to meet like minded people and to view shiny new products and to observe new trends.

ottoline wallpaper and fabric

ottoline wallpaper and fabric

Colourful wallpapers and fabrics were very much in abundance. I loved the SWINGING collection exhibited by ottoline which comprises six designs inspired by work of some of the best pop artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and David Hockney.

BluebellGray's first wallpaper collection

BluebellGray’s first wallpaper collection

BluebellGray were also taking this opportunity to display their stunning new wallpaper collection. With a strap line “spreading happiness and colour” to their brand; what could be more appropriate.

Exquisite collections from far and wide

Exquisite collections from far and wide

Many stands displayed exquisite collections from home and abroad; again adding colour and vibrancy to this amazing event.

Cotswold collection

Cotswold collection

I felt privileged to be in attendance on the very first day of this year’s London Design Festival which includes London Fashion Week. Many events are open to the public as well as the trade and I would highly recommend a visit.  For more details visit London Design Festival.

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