Tuesday, 24 December 2013

White and bright

Thank you for all your lovely comments on my home made card post, it was such fun!

So here's my version of a pared down Christmas!  I still have a little bit of bling in the mix, can't help it I'm afraid.  But I've gone with white and silver, and it works.  The elements are simple but effective.  The silver blends in nicely with the birch bark garland which I've twisted into a wreath like shape and hung on the mirror.  My centre piece is a lovely metal ring with 12 tapered candles, a new purchase from Caroline Zoob, which I am ecstatic about and can't wait to light all the candles!  The large white stars are a lovely touch alongside the only green on the scene which is a faux Christmas tree trimmed with tiny lights which I absolutely love!

I'm looking forward to  a relaxed Christmas Eve when we have our have our version of the feast of seven fishes with family and loved ones tonight.  A family tradition passed on through the family and as it features seafood,  it's one meal guaranteed to bring the family together!

Merry Christmas everyone!


Thursday, 19 December 2013


It's a busy time of year and I haven't been blogging or reading other blogs as frequently as I'd like to.  But I've also been busy crafting and creating, and I love nothing better than making my own gifts at this time of year.

Way back in summer I was digging out some lino cuts I did years ago and thought I'd like to try it again, so off to the art shop I went and bought a piece of really soft lino, some tools, a roller and ink.  It took me another couple of weeks to take it out and actually get creative and then when I did, I found myself totally void of inspiration.  I knew I wanted to use letters and had more a less an image in my mind.  I wanted it to be a statement, because the word LOVE encompasses so many things. It's very basic, but I had such a sense of accomplishment after I'd finished them!  These cards are signed and can serve as little artworks if they are framed. I love how they are slightly imperfect and look totally hand printed, which of course they are! These are all going to my friends with a handmade clay Christmas decoration to hang on the tree!

I've also been baking non stop for a few days now and I am slightly sick at the sight of butter and sugar! But more about that later...

Are you finished baking, making and creating?


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

prep work

Are you a list maker at this time of year?  I know I am.  I have lists for the menu, lists for gifts, and lists for everything else as well....   If I don't do that, I end up forgetting something. So far it's worked for me.  So I'm giving you a few of my time saving tips for making the Christmas day meal a little easier:

Two weeks before the time:

Christmas meal:

Buy your meat and freeze if you have sufficient space.  I love a roast leg of lamb, but instead of just roasting one, I roast two, one for the freezer.  Any unexpected guests over Christmas I just pull out the cooked lamb on the bone.  I like to give myself a bit of spare time during the holidays instead of slaving in the kitchen.

Prepare your roast potatoes, what??? Yes!  A friend of mine has been doing this for several years now, it's fool proof and it makes the best roasties you'll taste!  I tried it last year, ever the skeptic but everyone commented on how delicious they were!  So here's how to do it:

Par boil your roast potatoes for about 5-6 minutes.  Drain and give them a bit of a shake so that they are slightly fluffy in appearance and then leave to cool completely.  Make a mixture of flour, salt and black pepper and maybe a hint of cayenne pepper or aromat, tip the cooled potatoes into the mix and shake around a bit, not too much, you don't want to break them up...just so they are all nicely coated.  Take a sheet of greaseproof and line a shelf in your freezer.  Place the potatoes on the shelf  slightly apart, and leave to harden.  Once frozen take them out and place in freezer bag. On Christmas day, take them out and roast them as usual!  I promise you they'll be the best you've ever tasted!

Prep your veggies the day before and keep in tupperware in the fridge.  By prepping I mean, peel and cut, dice or chop what you need in advance.  The dreaded sprout takes ages to prep if you buy fresh on the stalk.  By prepping and blanching them a few days before and then freezing them, you give yourself more time with the family instead of in the kitchen.  Preparing a Christmas meal from scratch on the day takes hours, so this way I get to spend more time with the family.

Last year I made Margarita cheesecakes in martini glasses and it was a huge hit with everyone as my daughters don't like any kind of fruit in desserts!  I prepared them on Christmas Eve and put them in the fridge  ready to serve on Christmas day.  The sparklers added the final touch!

photo mine

I make batches of Christmas shortbread and chocolate brownies and freeze them until they're needed.  It helps to have a few sweet things in the freezer.  Jamie Oliver's Christmas mince pies with the phyllo pastry are a winner.  I froze them in the muffin tins so that they wouldn't break (the phyllo is fragile!) As soon as they are frozen you can remove them from the tin and carefully place them in a freezer container.  Once defrosted, heat up in the oven slightly and dust with icing....and they look so pretty!

photo mine

Table ware:

Make sure your dinner ware is to ready to go and you've got all the pieces you need in one place. The same goes for cutlery and glassware.  It really does help when you're slightly organised.

Get out the table cloths and napkins to make sure they are freshly laundered and ironed and ready for the big day.

Wash all your hurricane lamps and glass tealight holders and clean off any hardened wax by soaking them in hot soapy water.

I also stock up on hundreds of tealight candles and pillar candles.  They add ambiance and atmosphere like nothing else does.  

The night before Christmas:

When it's all quiet and everyone is doing their own thing, I go down and lay my table.  This way I can take my time, decorate and get creative.  I know when I turn out the light, my table is fully prepped and just waiting for me to light those candles the next day and more importantly, I can just relax!
photo mine

Hope this has helped make your preparations a little easier!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Dressing the Mantle

Have you seen the shops, the queues, the frenzy....I suppose it will stay this way until late Christmas Eve!  I love Christmas, but I am really trying my best to stay focused on toning it down....it's proving a little more difficult than I thought because I'm like a Magpie, I love a little bit of glitter!  Have you all put up your Christmas trees yet?  I haven't ...but I'm planning one like this:

plain and simple

Last weekend while my daughter was at work,  I dressed  her mantelpiece in her flat.  She's very girly and feminine and she does like a touch of pink, so going with the general  theme in her lounge, I used my pink Christmas decorations, bought a few candles, added a few mercuried glass candles with a little bit of bling, a wobbly star,  two crystal candlesticks, two reindeer and that was it.  I'm pleased to say I have one happy daughter!  

I tried a different effect on the photos, which I quite like.

The large church candle was a bargain as was the intricate cut out candle both from TKMaxx, the pink Christmas decorations come from Keydells Nursery Christmas shop which I bought a few years ago, the mercuried candles on the top shelf also come from TKMaxx.  I played around with the LOVE sign but I knew I wanted the centrepiece to be the silver Reindeer from John Lewis.

Now I need to sort out my own Christmas decor.
How is your Christmas decorating coming along?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

toned down

Christmas seems to have crept up on me unawares this year.  I am not in the slightest bit prepared.   Are you?  Last year I had everything organised, right down to the table settings, the menu, the colour of the candles, and what cutlery I would use.

I think it's because very early in the year I decided I wanted a more simple Christmas.  Toned down.   Still beautiful, magical and real, but pared down.  In colour and in theme.  Simplistic.  Nothing too glamourous, too glitzy or too shiny.   I'm not sure I'll get it right, but I am aiming for something like this:

Rustic, natural linen, a bit of foliage and some taupe candles and some homemade clay tags

(all pictures via Pinterest)

My style board to make sure I get it all right:
water hyacinth placemats John Lewis, bark candles from Nordic House, and I love the Spode Rural Delamere available at John Lewis, cutlery my own.

My last two Christmas tables were full of bling and glitter!

Have you started decorating the house for Christmas yet?
I think I might have to this weekend!


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Christmas Fair

On Friday my daughters and I took the train up to London to visit the Country Living Christmas Fair.  We were looking forward to seeing what was new for the Christmas festivities. The business design centre in Islington, which is where the event took place, was jam packed with ladies, interspersed with the odd male, looking rather lost and out of place.  There was so much to see, but unfortunately, so busy and so tightly packed, it was almost impossible to stop at a stand and admire the products on display.  We were shuffling along in a sea of ladies, it was very much like being on the underground during peak hours!   So unfortunately I have no lovely photos of the stands to show you.

What I did manage to do was collect cards from a few worthy stalls I stopped at:

Caroline Zoob homewares, collectables and embroidery here - they were all out of stock when we got to the fair, but I've ordered one of these.

Amanda Ross - exquisitely detailed botanical prints.  Amanda prints directly from cuttings and uses a wide variety of plants here

Glover and Smith - silver tableware and gifts here

Welbeck Tiles handmade in Cornwall here  - you know when you stop at a stall and you just know you should buy something, but think you'll have a quick look first and come back again...regrettably I didn't find it the second time round!

Roxana de Rond Illustrator here

Emma Hardicker here , contemporary artist makes beautiful fabrics made into lampshades, limited edition prints, commissions etc

Terry Macey Clothing here

The painted House here - rollers with patterns for painting on fabric and walls.  I managed to stop at this stall and have a lovely chat to the stall holder.  The rollers can be used to paint fabric and walls.  This is another one of those 'wish I had bought it' thoughts.

I did manage to buy a lovely piece of vintage floral fabric which I'll turn into tiny cushions for my bedroom and a country living diary...

There were many more lovely stands full of delightful things to buy, but it was just too busy to see anything properly, which was a real shame.  I hope the other fairs in Glasgow and Harrogate are at larger centres.  A link where you can see the list of exhibitors here

Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


With the wet weather these past few weeks, I've had my mind on my carpets which are taking a beating with young adults up and down and in and out.  It's a constant battle to keep carpets clean...so I'm on the look out for alternatives.

So today I'm talking flooring, once again it's all down to personal choice and how you like to live.  There are so many choices out there we don't just have to choose wall to wall fitted carpets anymore.

In climates where you don't have so much rain, it's much easier to keep carpets clean.  In rainy, muddy England, however, where it rains on average 109 days out of 365, having a fitted carpet in your entrance hall seems impractical.

And if you have children and dogs, the necessity for practical flooring is even more important.

Some older homes tend to have original wooden floor boards, which is lovely and tactile but can be a little bit cold underfoot.   I'd still choose bare wood floors over a fitted carpet any day of the week, but I would cozy it up with a rug under the bed or dotted around the room for extra warmth!  Bedrooms are after all, about getting cozy and intimate.

I sort of have my own rule about carpets - anything above the stairs can be carpeted ie. bedrooms/studies etc. but below stairs (sounds like Downton Abbey) should be practical and easy to clean, so for me that means rubber, ceramic tiles or wooden flooring or you might be lucky enough to have original limestone flooring.   I love the feel of sisal or coir flooring, which is both practical and great looking.  Unfortunately you can't use these natural products on staircases as they give off a natural oil which makes the steps slippery.   Carpets in bathrooms are a no-no, stick to wooden flooring, rubber or tiles.  

So I'm leaning towards bare wooden staircases as well.  They are easy to clean when you only have to wipe them down.  You can paint them crazy colours, add wallpaper, add some fun script, there is so much you can do.

Think about the traffic that comes across your front door.  Most entrances, hallways and kitchens see more foot work than any other space in the home, so it makes perfect sense to lay practical flooring. Rubber flooring is another option and comes in a variety of designs.  Ceramic tiles are cold in winter, so perhaps you want to think about installing underfloor heating.  Wooden floors are much more tactile and warmer in winter, but keep a space cool in summer, so you have the best of both worlds.  If you don't have the option of laying underfloor heating, you can always add runners and rugs to the ceramic tiles to soften up the look and give the space the cozy factor.  Any spills and drips can always be rubbed out with a little elbow grease.

The possibilities are endless.  It's about choosing the right flooring for your family circumstances.
Think outside the box, wall to wall carpets aren't the only option available.

Until next time!