a way of life...

Month: March 2020

Seeds Of Optimism

It strikes me that gardeners are an optimistic bunch. We plant seeds and bulbs with an air of expectation not knowing what the coming weeks or months will bring. We presume that as we sow we are creating a “thing”. Be it a flower, or a vegetable, we have the end result to look forward to.

In the Autumn, when I planted the bulbs to create my “Plant Theatre”, I, like the rest of the world, had no idea of what was round the corner.

The tulips, grape hyacinth, and Ipheion, are oblivious to the ensuing chaos. They soak up the warmth of the sun, and shelter from the wintry breeze, bringing joy at these uncertain times.

During this period of social distancing I have had the benefit of having a garden to enjoy. Being out in the fresh air, working hard prepping for the coming months, has provided me with a distraction from the media.

More by coincidence, then foresight, I had made plans for my allotment well in advance of the current lockdown. This allowed me time to acquire seeds, compost, and fertiliser to start the whole process of growing vegetables for the coming months.

As such, I was delighted when my parcel arrived from Sarah Raven last week. Duly isolating it for 72 hours, today I had the pleasure of unpacking, and cataloguing, the contents.

24 packs of seeds to plant between now and October, and the prospect of harvesting the produce over the next 12 months. If that’s not optimism I’m not sure what is!

My hope is that as my seeds turn to shoots, and the shoots turn to plants, that we will have a fantastic summer to embrace.

Guess I better get digging…

It’s Not All Bad

So, like the majority of mums, I didn’t get to celebrate Mothers Day in the conventional sense this year, nor go to the cinema to see Peter Rabbit II with my boys.

Nevertheless, the sun is shining and I am lucky enough to have a garden that is beckoning to me to start work. In return it provides me with a source of physical exercise and an excuse to be out in the fresh air.

It’s not all bad.

Day one in the garden required an element of digging over and clearing the débris from last year. That in itself proved profitable as beneath the surface I found sufficient carrots to make a soup.

My first thought turned to carrot and coriander but whilst searching through my saved recipes I found one for curried carrot soup. I quickly scanned the list of ingredients. On the whole they were kitchen cupboard staples, and those not on hand, I decided to research an alternative as shopping is currently only for absolute essentials.

The recipe I had saved appeared to have been published in a Waitrose magazine back in October 2017. Writing about Duchy carrot-grower Joe Rolfe from Norfolk the recipe was an addendum to the article.

I must admit I modified it to suit my means but have copied it here for your reference.

My Version Of Curried Carrot Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 10g fresh root ginger, grated (I substituted with 1.5 tsp ground ginger)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 400g Waitrose Duchy Organic bunched carrots, finely sliced (I substituted these with my own organically grown heritage carrots)
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of crushed chilli flakes
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp caster sugar
  • 0.5 lemon, juice
  • 3 tbs creme fraiche (I substituted this with Greek yoghurt)

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, celery, and salt and sweat over a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the carrots to the saucepan and stir for a few minutes, then stir in the spices and sugar. Pour in 850ml water. Simmer until carrots are soft.
  • Remove from the heat and , using a stick blender, whizz until smooth.
  • I put through a sieve as well as I prefer a smoother blend.
  • Stir through the lemon juice and 3 tbsp of creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt.
  • Divide the soup between bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6

The cinemas may not have been broadcasting the new Peter Rabbit movie this past weekend but my carrot soup certainly reminded me of Peter’s cheeky antics.

I know its difficult times but I try to see the positives in everything. In doing so I hope I bring a little light into your life.

London Design Week 2020

London Design Week 2020 took place last week at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Commencing on Sunday 8th March it ran until Friday 13th March. Initially open for a trade preview, it was later open to the public.

On Wednesday I took an extremely empty train to Clapham Junction before going one stop on the tube to Imperial Wharf.

I opted for this day as there were two specific talks that I wanted to attend. The first was hosted by Ben Spriggs who interviewed Martin Hulbert and Jay Grierson of Martin Hulbert Design. The conversation touched on how Martin and Jay had come together and how they had grown their practice since. Witty, charming, and enlightening, it was a joy to attend as they described projects such as Cliveden Spring Cottage and Chewton Glen Treeshouse Suites.

Before I attended the second talk I visited some of the showrooms that were participating in LDW.

After an extensive wander I attended the second “Conversation In Design”. This time it was hosted by Giles Kime who was chatting to Rita Konig about her career in design, and later about her recent farmhouse renovation. I had an insight into this particular subject as it had been serialised in House & Garden magazine. It was, however, far more insightful listening to Rita give a first hand description of the process, whilst viewing photographs of the finished project. A précise of this project can be viewed on the House & Garden website.

My next stop was Porta Romana.

By coincidence, I had encountered this delightful company at a Design Discovery Day at The Post House in East Horsley. Here they demonstrated how a Decayed Gold finish was applied to create an exquisitely quirky piece.

Design duo, StephensonWright, opened the doors of their lifestyle studio to host the event. In collaboration with Future Light Design they have created a unique environment in which to entertain their clients and suppliers.

Aside from Porta Romana there were talks on garden design, bespoke furniture, layered lighting, and table styling.

All in all a busy time of the year for the design community but it is always a pleasure to learn new skills and to pick up tips from the experts.

On that note, a tip that I picked up from Natalie and Juliette on the day was how to tie a napkin in a knot. This is a great way to present your napkins should they be in need of being ironed!

Vegetables Allotment

This week saw the delivery of my Vegetable Allotment lampshades. Two 20cm shades for the mantlepiece, and one 30cm for the sideboard.

Not only decorative but they provide a lovely soft light source for cosy nights in.

Having spotted these in the November edition of Country Living magazine I thought that they would be perfect for my sitting room.

They are manufactured in the UK by Cream Cornwall . Each shade features beautiful line drawings of vegetables paired with traditional Victorian garden tools.

To create the look I desired I bought two antique black Stork lamp bases from OKA for the smaller shades.

For the 30cm shade I sourced this gorgeous Shaftsbury base from Neptune in Weybridge.

Currently celebrating the launch of their new season’s colour, Saffron, it was a delight to attend this weekend’s event.

This joyous hue is the perfect antidote for the solemn times that are currently engulfing mankind.

Leaving the store with my new lamp base, a complimentary Saffron coloured shopper, and a bunch of daffs brightened my day.

The good news is that this Spring event now runs until April 14th.

and breathe…

7 o’clock Sunday evening and at last I can take a breath and just breathe…

My epic weekend commenced yesterday at 9am when I decided it would be a really good idea to change the colour of two cabinets that I have in my Sitting Room.

Originally sourced from The Cotswold Company a number of years ago they have moved around the house several times.

Finally arriving in the lounge they fitted perfectly and housed all sorts of Stuff. Spare lightbulbs, DVD’s, vases, throws – so much Stuff that I could not be without them.

Sadly, their colour never sat very comfortably with the scheme that I had in mind. As such these past few weeks/months have been spent trying to find a suitable alternative. Nothing. Well, all sorts actually, but nothing that would tie in with the existing space and furniture.

Hence my desire to reform them into useful storage items that would at last add a little bit of zest to the room rather than gloom.

I did a quick bit of revision by watching an Annie Sloan™ recording. She made it look so easy, and so fast. Surely, I would be able to have both units painted and waxed by teatime.

Not so. The preparation seemed to take forever as the handles were not only screwed to the drawers, but glued as well. I’m sure that was the most time consuming part of the exercise, masking all of the metal work.

Next, getting the paint to the right consistency was a challenge. I have always found chalk paint difficult to work with but well worth the effort as it can be painted directly onto the surface of your choice without any rubbing down.

Day One – Cabinet One

I chose the smaller of the two units to start with.

Using Annie Sloan Antibes Green Chalk Paint™ I applied the first coat. This took about an hour after which time I left it for an hour to dry. The second coat took about the same amount of time to apply but I left it a little longer to dry before applying the wax.

I chose Annie Sloan™ Soft Dark Wax to apply as the final coat. This was probably the hardest part of all. Not only is it very physical but also quite hard to get the desired finish. Needless to say I had only managed one cabinet by the end of day one, but at least it was a success.

Day Two – Cabinet Two

I forget to mention the time that it took me to empty the first cabinet, but it took as much time, if not more to empty the second. Certainly, something else that I hadn’t considered before embarking on this epic task.

Once free of Cabinet Two’s contents I set about masking the handles of which there were seven this time. Once done I quickly applied the first coat of paint to the drawers and frame and left to dry.

I repeated this step once more and then applied the soft dark wax to seal and protect. Job done.

I am now the proud owner of a matching pair of storage units. Once cured, between 5-21 days, I will return them to their respective homes in my Sitting Room.

Good work!

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