a way of life...

Month: November 2016

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


  • 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


  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.


  • 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.











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.


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.


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.

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