a way of life...

Author: Carolyn (Page 1 of 23)

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Bench Press

In February last year I carried out some extensive research with regards to dining room seating. https://langdonhyde.com/benchmark/

I really favoured the idea of bench seating as, I felt, that a bench provided a more relaxed feel than a formal dining chair. They also create a more spacious feeling.

Despite my findings I decided to invest in six formal charcoal coloured velvet chairs from OKA. I also chose to buy six natural coloured linen covers so that I could change the look and feel of the room at will. On the whole this proved to be a wise decision.

This acquisition, however, did not quell my desire for a bench. I revisited the Angel and Boho website to review the many options that they had on offer. I finally bit the bullet and decided to buy a 120mm bench upholstered in an ebony coloured woven linen-look fabric.

My decision was made on the basis that a bench might still provide a more elegant dining solution in some circumstances. In the meantime I told myself that I could put it to good use either in the master bedroom or in my studio.

Since I took delivery of this lovely piece of furniture it has proved very useful. On the whole it provides a comfortable seat for me to pore over new scheme designs or alternatively as a comfy seat for when I am working at my sewing machine.

Today I decided for the first time to see how it would work in alternative locations.

The master bedroom was the first excursion. Placed at the end of the queen sized bed it provided a versatile seat to either aid dressing or for enjoying an early morning cuppa.

Satisfied that this was an option I took the bench downstairs to the dining room.

Fitting neatly beneath the table it gave a clearer route to the garden both visibly and physically. It also added an extra place setting.

All in all I would consider this a wise buy due to its versatility.

For the time being it is back in the studio providing a sociable and practical solution for myself and any visitors.

Stay Ahead Of The Curve

With their voluptuous form curved sofas are an up and coming trend. I have encountered several different styles at the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour but have yet to see any on the High Street.

Photographed in the Julian Chichester showroom at DCCH the Parrot Sofa with its brass wrapped feet is a stunning example of this style.

Flicking through the pages of glossy magazines, such as House & Garden, curved sofas such as these are definitely catching on.

Generally upholstered in a luxurious velvet they are certainly statement pieces. Perfect for curling up on to watch a movie or cuddle up with a close companion.

I love the fact that they do not follow the lines of a conventional room and therefore have to take centre stage. Ideal for a home cinema, music room or a substantial anteroom.

One of my favourites is the Eternal Dreamer by Ochre. The height and depth of the seats can be ordered to bespoke dimensions to ensure a perfect fit.

A more conservative style might take the form of a curved wooden frame with a neatly upholstered seat like the D.R.D.P. for the Ceccotti Collezioni.

This elegant two seater in solid American walnut comes with an upholstered plywood seat and a silver finished sandblasted glass top tray. Simply stunning.

So if you want to stay ahead of the curve maybe explore the idea of a curvaceous silhouette.

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

Like so many of you, I have used the government enforced “lockdown” period to catch up with some long overdue chores. One of those on my list that didn’t manage until last weekend was cleaning the family’s silver.

Several years ago my step-grandmother passed away. The task of clearing her house fell on my parents. It was immense. They spun on the spot.

Fortunately, they had the good sense to enlist help and it wasn’t long before I helped bring order to the chaos. Black bin bags were filled and taken to the local amenity tip. A whole collection of shopping trolleys taken to the nearby charity shop.

Anything that appeared to have value, be it monetary or sentimental, was put on one side.

My grandparents, if nothing else, certainly enjoyed the finer things in life. Once retired they sold their home to an insurance company to finance a series of luxury cruises.

When they weren’t cruising they appeared to replicate the high-sea lifestyle in their 2 bed-semi. A drinks cabinet housed an assortment of alcoholic beverages and a whole host of highball Martini glasses.

Then there was the silver. Cake forks; salad servers; teaspoons; egg spoons; a teapot; tea-leaf strainer; milk jug; sugar bowl and tongs; and a sandwich platter. I’m not sure if they ever entertained royalty but they certainly had the where with all to do so!

So last Sunday I set about bathing the silverware in a Quickshine solution. The manufacturer claimed that “dirt and tarnish float away right before your eyes – and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty”.

That sounded like my sort of work.

The tea-set seemed an obvious place to start. I put the Quickshine sachet into a plastic bowl and added the individual pieces. I took care to ensure that they were connected to the sachet, either directly, or via each other.

I added sufficient boiling water to cover the pieces as instructed.

I left for it for 5 minutes as instructed and then rinsed with warm soapy water. A quick wipe dry and, like magic, the tea-set shone like new.

Without further ado we set-up a table in the sunshine and enjoyed a high tea to celebrate the fact that every cloud has a silver lining.

HACK

There is also a Quickshine product for jewellery that works in a similar fashion. I used it with really good results. I did find however, that for more tarnished items, it was necessary to use a silver polish to add the final shine. This was also true of the decorated silver cutlery after it had been bathed.

Sewing Bee

I arose early this morning, around 6am, so that I could set about some sewing before my working day began.

Duvet covers and pillowcases are hitting the headlines lately due to Coronavirus and the necessity to sew face masks and scrubs. I can proudly say that I have made a number of masks from a patterned quilt cover for myself, my immediate family, and key workers.

Today, however, I wanted to make some cushion covers from a candy stripe pink and white quilt cover. I had had the idea that I could incorporate the fastenings already incorporated in the cover to act as popper fastenings on the cushions, thus saving myself some work.

I had in stock some 16″ square feather filled cushion pads that would be ideal for my plan.

I didn’t use a pattern as such as the stripes on the fabric made marking out the size with a tape measure really easy.

I decided to use pinking shears to cut out the covers as this would mitigate the necessity to oversew the raw edges.

By 7.30am I was the proud owner of two new scatter cushions which matched my recently painted bistro chairs beautifully.

As an added bonus the size of the finished cushion fitted the swing precisely too.

And all that achieved before breakfast.

I might make a matching table cloth next.

Happy days!

Star Shaped Flowers

Springtime has arrived in the garden big time over these past few days. The bees are buzzing around the blue and purple garden where the alliums are at their best.

As these plants are so easy to grow there is always an abundance in the borders and in the cutting garden as well. It’s no wonder the bees are attracted to them with their dozens of star shape flowers forming a single bloom.

I’m not a fan of formal flower arrangements, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but I can’t resist a few freshly cut stems from the garden.

Currently, I have a gorgeous storm lantern in my dining room which doubles as a vase. It sits on a little Ikea table which I painted and crackle-glazed with Annie Sloan products a couple of years ago now.

The alliums were an absolute gift as both their height and colour suited the room perfectly.

Since Christmas time this particular vessel has been filled with a mix of faux and fresh florals. I interchange these as the seasons change and tie them in with whatever colour scheme I have chosen for the dining table.

I wonder if you can tell which of the eucalyptus, pussy willow, and alliums are real and which are faux?

HACK

Use seasonal blooms when combining fresh and faux flowers to carry off the illusion.

No Cook Low Cal Tiramisu Recipe

No Cook Low Cal Tiramisu recipe – what’s not to like?

This recipe originates from a Pinch of Nom, who claim to be the UK’s most visited food blog. I actually bought their first book which includes 100 slimming home style recipes. This is definitely one of my favourites as it is really simple to make and only has 108 Kcal per serving.

There’s no cooking involved but you should allow 10 minutes chilling time before serving. The end result is a really tasty dessert which could easily be served at a dinner party.

Tiramisu

Ingredients for Tiramisu recipe

  • 150g ricotta
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 2 tsp granulated sweetener
  • 8 sponge fingers, each broken into 3 pieces
  • 100ml strong espresso, cooled
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
Ingredients

Method for Tiramisu recipe

  1. Put the ricotta, vanilla bean paste and granulated sweetener in a bowl and mix with a fork until smooth.
  2. Place three sponge finger pieces into the base of four 125ml ramekins.
  3. Add a couple of teaspoons of espresso to each ramekin and crush the sponge fingers down to cover the base of the ramekins.
  4. Top this layer with a layer of ricotta mix, then add three more sponge finger pieces, placing them towards the edges of the ramekin. There is no need to crush these down.
  5. Add another little drizzle of espresso and top with the remaining ricotta mix.
  6. Place the cocoa powder in a sieve and generously dust it over each tiramisu.
  7. Chill for around 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

HACK

If calories aren’t an issue then I would suggest using the whole of a 250g pot of ricotta rather than have any leftover. I also found that swapping the espresso for regular instant coffee doesn’t make a noticeable difference. You could also add a measure of Tia Maria to the coffee to ensure that the sponge fingers are lovely and moist. Top with a lovely sweet strawberry.

Delicious!

A Different Perspective

I imagine the COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in one way or another and forced as to look at everything with a different perspective.

Instead of going for a run last night I went for a leisurely stroll. No longer rushing due to time constraints I was able to amble through my local village and enjoy the peace and quiet that the reduced amount of road traffic has created.

I smiled as a saw a number of skips on people’s drives as only last week our dustcart drove past as it was full to overflowing. It did return a while later explaining that as so many people were clearing out their garages there was a lot more refuse than normal.

I also raised a grin when I saw a lady jet washing her paving and a gentleman painting his fence. Oh my, what lovely clean and tidy homes we will have by the time the lockdown comes to an end.

There was another chap hacking at a hedge. I’m not sure if this was out of sheer frustration as there didn’t appear to be any rhythm to his attack on the innocent leafy bystander.

With our beauty salons closed for business, manicuring has a whole new meaning, as I witnessed endless lawns mown and strimmed to within an inch of their lives.

I have to admit that Staying Home has provided endless opportunities for me to titivate our house and garden. There is barely a weed to be seen in the allotment and my tatty garden furniture has been given a whole new lease of life with a coat of Neptune Old Rose eggshell.

Similarly, paint that I bought for the garage at the end of last summer has suddenly emerged from the depths of the cupboard. The wooden exterior is now a lovely rich barn black whilst the window frames are F&B’s Light Blue gloss. Even the garden gates and picket fence that I had condemned look brand new after a lick of black paint.

I have taken delight in the fact that I no longer plan according to the day of the week but more according to the weather forecast. So here I am today back in my “she shed” catching up with paperwork as the raindrops lightly water the newly planted beans and sit proud on the freshly painted chairs.

Stay Home – Stay Safe

HACK

Now that our local recycling centre is closed I have not been able to dispose of my grass cuttings. I learnt recently that these can be used as a mulch around trees, shrubs, roses and even amongst some vegetables. Apply in thin layers and top-up weekly to suppress weeds.

It’s Black & White

Social distancing – self-isolation – staying at home.

Terms that we had rarely considered before are now everyday expressions.

The message is clear – it’s black and white – we have to put into practice these disciplines when required, to keep ourselves, and our fellow human beings safe.

With Easter looming we would normally be looking forward to family gatherings or trips away. This year, however, there has never been such a good excuse to stay at home and eat chocolate!

There’s always an upside!

With my spirits lifted I restyled this dining room to accommodate the change in season. The longer days and mild weather inspired me to take down the heavy interlined curtains and replace them with unlined grey linen ones.

A similar colour table cloth from Sainsbury’s Home adorns the dining table whilst a matching runner, cut from the generous width, dresses the sideboard.

Citrine napkins from Also Home add a splash of sunshine, as do the freshly cut tulips and daffodils. Maize table mats, old-white plates, and cream coloured handled cutlery, keeps the scheme light and pared back.

The occasional pop of deep red provided by the Hellebores adds warmth to the scheme whilst hessian bunting and crackled glazed egg shape candles provide this year’s Easter decorations.

So whilst there won’t be an Egg Hunt for the children, nor a massive Sunday lunch to honour this holiday weekend, we will take comfort in the fact that we remain safe.

Surely that in itself is reason enough to raise a glass and celebrate life?

Happy Easter!

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.

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