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"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
Purecolour summer
16 July 2015

  I aim for colourful and simple eating on hot summer days. For evening drinks or starters at lunch or dinner I  pass round smoked mackerel, beetroot and horseradish on pieces of soda bread or a huge plate of raw vegetables and beetroot puree .  Carrots, chicory, cucumber, radishes and courgettes are  perfect vegetable  colours in orange,  pink, green, and yellows. Substitute the puree with garlic mayonnaise. These went down a treat at my Pure Colour book launch in June, when the garden was heavy with the scent of  rose blooms .



For the book launch we hung garlands of lights  which gave a  twinkling summer garden party feel to the occasion. Their waterproof qaulity is being tested as we leave them up through the summer cloudbursts to enjoy on warm evenings.



Summer colour in the garden doesn`t stop when the roses are over. I stitch cushions in rose pink  cotton velvet, and purple and yellow linen  by Manuel Canovas to keep the vibe going.





And there`s cake. Cake is best eaten outside  on a winter picnic,  or somewhere shady on a hot afternoon. I make a basic Vctoria sponge and smother it with lemon butter cream.



Tags: purecolour, summer, simpleliving , cake, homemade, linen, cotton, garden


Shots of purple
21 May 2014

When the garden is looking as heavenly as it is at the moment I have no huge  need to spread my wings in search of new excitement. ( Although   I  would rather like to go dancing.......  ) This week it is our clever lodger Jeffrey`s birthday and there is cake for tea and all the gorgeous purples and greens of  early summer to mark the occasion.

 Lucky to have the last fading tulip petals (they`re edible!) to decorate a chocolate  Victoria sponge using the recipe from my cookbook, and  to enjoy it against a garden canvas of alliums and lime green lavender and lemon balm leaves:  one of my favourite colour pairings.








See  how  a purple/green combination works in printed floral  cotton: a remnant used to patch one of my chidren`s jeans pocket.







Tags: purple, lime green, purestylecolour, summer, baking, chocolate, garden


Summer remnants
25 September 2013


Back to blogging post the M4 migration and  university delivery of youngest.  And the  back to the everythings of September  that I would rather not have to deal with, such as the  garden which is  looking, let`s say, autumnal.  But the apples shimmer on laden branches and next post I`ll show you the first of my apple puddings.  It`s no chore, too, to revisit the delicious things I came across this summer.






 Puglia ,via Ryanair to Brindisi (some  say it`s the new Tuscany- hmmm it would be a great loss) was all gnarled olive trees in baked earth fields like rows of ancient chieftains. And  all the  chalk white hill towns , strawberry gelato  and  beehive  Trullis that you could wish for.




Markets like the one at Cisternino  were piled with enough arugala, pommodori,  mozzarella and good bread  for a century of al fresco picnics.







We made fava ( broad bean ) humus with dried beans  bought in plastic bags from the petrol station , and  crunched  small round dried bread snacks,  (the Portugueuse and Spansih do similar)  see below  which encourage to you to sip more and more from your wine glass.  .



 One day we took the coast road  swimming  off rocks and then  to the Taverna da Santos   where we  sprawled  on  fold up blue canvas deck chairs by limpid blue sea like extras from la dolce vita








Tags: olives blue summer


Garden furniture
28 June 2013

In between summer showers  I take a  comfortable seating option with arms into the garden to read a book in.  It sounds middle aged but deckchairs annoy the backs of my legs, and lying flat on the grass invites the dog to drop a constant supply of stones by my face thus getting no further than one or two paragraphs. 

The chair here is an Ikea upholstered model that I bought a couple of years ago with the intention of making a simple loose cover to jolly it up. And so, as with many of my  bright ideas , it sat in my office  unadorned for month upon month.

 What I needed was an incentive, which came my way in the autumn with sewing classes run by Tessa Brown. There`s something about working in a group of people  that is more fun  and less intense than when it is just you and a pair of scissors.  The biscuits were delicious, the chat good,  and Tessa showed me how to make my very own couture chair cover from scratch.




The fabric is Ian Mankin   cotton ticking which I pre washed and pre shrunk. Very useful  for dealing with mud paw prints  now that the dog and cat are making moves to hijack my comfortable chair.







Tags: ticking, stripes, blue, summer, garden


One more look.....
17 June 2013

 I`m  as besotted with my garden as the bees are sated on sweet nectar from the  starry alliums.  It feels almost electric with activity:  bursting glossy pink roses, voluptuous  peonies  shedding  brilliant carpets of petals and crowds of  bees,  enough, if there  were such a thing for a bee club night. I get up close, eye to bee pollen sack with  black and white striped ones,  fat yellow ones,  small bobbly hairy ones,  brown fluffy types as if they`d had a cut and blow dry.

Growing, budding, flowering,  seeding on a still warm  June afternoon the garden seems  more dynamic than the brains in any government think tank. Only joking, but as  George Eliot suggested "If we could hear the squirrel`s heartbeat, the sound of the grass growing, we should die of that roar" .

 The garden soothes, me with its it`s distractions and needs.  What better way than to work off writers block or  parking ticket annoyance with the  physicality and sense of purpose that an hour`s weeding gives.  The fact that  nature is ambiguous, that she is neither all good nor all bad, that she gives as well as takes away, also  puts life outside the garden into perspective.   Contentment with green fly free roses, fury at the  bullet headed snails who strafe the  rocket, it`s all about the ups and downs and the getting on with what is thrown at you.  A dancing in the rain approach., rather than waiting for the storm to pass  I suppose.





 Pink rose love: gorgeous Constance Spry with a scent that almost knocks you out in a perfumed stupor.  I  cut them for a jug on the table and take bundles  tied with string to friends` as a  summer offering.





I`m  glad I ditched climbing beans having lost them to slugs over the last two summers, and went for the sweet pea option to pole dance around  the wigwams of willow sticks.  Snug in their flowerpots in the shed at the bottom of the garden they began to sprout  towards the light way back in the winter. In early may I prepared their summer beds with shovels of home produced compost and set about planting. For the first week so it was touch and go as to whether they would survive - the leaves went pale and flabby as if they were homesick . I think that the energy was going into putting down strong roots and sure enough, they`re leaping skywards now and putting out brilliant bursts of scented colour.





Each summer, my mum`s peonies, lifted from her garden after she died, produce more and more pink memories of her and my
childhood .








On the subject of the colour purple, it`s the most wonderful colour to go with the  greens of the garden.  Purple alliums, as you might have noticed are my latest crush.   I could never have predicted this after been subjected to years of  school uniform in a particularly brash shade of the colour , which topped with a  hideous purple  berets marked us out as targets for ridicule at the wild and untamed  bus stops of South London.



Tags: garden, summer, alliums, purple,


Early morning garden
14 June 2013


There`s so little show of summer,  I`m feeding you  some  visual energy  with these  garden-in-the-early-morning -sunshine snaps.


 7am , camera in hand: My feet  bare on cool brick and the  sweet grass smell give me that  country in the city feeling.   I am accompanied by the cat, who  pads the  frothy chive edged paths  swishing her tail contentedly, caught in the  shafts of light  it looks  like  liquid chocolate flecked with gold.







Heavenly  allium "Gladiator` , a heavenly pit stop for bees.







 I like to think about  morning tulip petals  and shimmering green  lavender  rather than breakfast radio gripes  and  bumper to queues on the South Circular. See below:









Tags: garden, summer, pink, alliums,


Summer scents and sweetpeas
15 August 2010





Packing up for the holsí may be palpitation inducing: thundering down the motorway to take the dog for her summer billet with my sister, racing through a monthís paperwork in the early hours, and making the house ship shape for a magazine Christmas shoot . But boy itís worth it! Exchanging city shorts for beaten up espadrilles and t-shirts is as good for the soul as  the summer diet  based around   grilled sardines and hunks of watermelon.  Just scraping under the 20kg limit as usual, my suitcase is stuffed  with books  for long spells of reading under the beach umbrella.  Favourites include   The Surprising Life of Constance Spry  by Sue Shephard; Outliers Ďthe story of successí by Malcolm Gladwell,  and  The Algarve Fish Book by Nic Boer and Andrea Sieber.  Iím also inspired by  Reinventing  Letter Press by Charlotte Rivers,   a stylish   little book with fabulous printing ideas.



Along with the reading matter, thereís just enough room  to slot in  a few bars of Green and Blacks chocolate bars.   It will head straight to the fridge as soon as possible after we meet the sauna temperatures of Olhao in August.



Iíve also tucked in the  dolls house sized  Indian terracotta pots that the  returning  traveller produced from her mighty backpack. Perfect for salt, pepper, and chopped herbs, they are also  a tangible reminder of just how far my middle born has spread her wings  in the last six months.,   



1ím  counting on the Spanish lodgers to  nurture the courgettes and tomatoes all swelling nicely in the warmth and damp. One of them is a specialist ham carver, so I hope his talents for precision extend to the vegetable patch.  Theyíre  already under instructions to feed and water Miss Bea, the cat   who will lord it over the  sofas,  spreading her black fluff,  with the dog safely out of the way.. One last look around the flowerbeds, to enjoy the sweetly scented  white nicotiana- another unexpected  success from last yearís seeds, which in turn were produced from the previous yearís blooms that i collected. And even the agapanthus managed to defy the winterís ravages and has just put out some glorious blooms. Iíll miss the sweetpeas, too, their delicate soapy fragrance is so much part of an English summer garden. .



 Before I snap the case shut   I  must tell you about  three new finds: Feitoria.com.pt sells a cleverly edited collection of   Portuguese accessories, such as  leather slippers, donkey milk soap,(yes, honestly)  and cork ice buckets -  so much more inspiring than the usual souvenir stuff. Closer to home ther`re  simple  Welsh blankets and other  celtic  home ideas from Blodwen   And molly-meg.co.uk   sells stylish  child sized chairs: a good idea for anyone want ing a nice  bit of  scaled down Ercol in the nursery.

Tags: colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, scent, Simple, summer


The September issue
20 September 2009



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I have had an action packed summer: six teens and me, in Olhao. ( No time to paint my nails, let alone get a new blog post out) The heat, beach and three meals a day keep them out of trouble. There are a few ups and downs: livid red grazes from a failed mission to rescue a smartphone, another you-learn-by-your-mistakes- episode with drinks in pretty colours, bags with keys and money left at shops, and spectacles washed away whilst frolicking in crashing waves.

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The food side of things is more of a challenge Not that the gang are fussy, in fact they lap up everything from crab to clams but the sheer weight of daily supplies is in danger of destroying the Rolly Rolser shopping bag on wheels. This trusty accessory joins the fleet that Olhaons trundle over cobbles to the daily fish and vegetable market. Saturday is best when local farmers bring their own produce and I come home with exquisite olives, sprigs of mint, garlic strings and brilliant zinnias, one euro a bunch. I am keen to get to grips with grilling sardines, and hang around peeling white washed alleys where old ladies and fishermen expertly fuss over their door step bbqs. The story: gray charocoal, not too much of it and a cup of water for damping unruly flames. This ensures light crispy skins, rather than the oily black charred offerings if the charcoal is red hot. As for preparation, the daily catch is so gleaming and rigid with freshness there`s not need to gut them. Salad to go with sardines includes our take on Italian panzanella made with stale bread, chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion , parsley and a dressing with oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Then there are lemon quarters to squeeze over the fish and bring out its flavour.

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The teen gang leave with the exuberance with which they arrived, in a whirlwind of Kate Moss scent, suntans, tangled salt hair and flip flops. The house settles back into itself again, with the air of post party relief that comes from from sending everyone home in one piece. I have a few delicious mornings in bed with Alan Bennett`s witty and self deprecating memoir Untold Stories . Then it is planning the Room on Top project for which, 8 months on, I finally have planning permission. The very last little bureaucratic hurdle is the 3 month licence, which should be through next week. More finger crossing.

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As I pack away t-shirts and cool dresses, I muse that that it`s one thing to have visual records of Olhao`s unmanicured charm, but another to convey the pot pourri of smells: overworked drains, rotting fish, the waft of a honeysuckle in a hidden courtyard; beery fisherman, lingering herb cologne, home cooked stews, the ozone and saltness of the sea air. They`re so evocative, so of the place, it`s hard to conjure them up mentally but London suburbaban street air seems so bland in comparison, even when the foxes have been having a party by the dustbins.

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Back at the ranch in Tulse Hill, the house has been earning its keep and host to shoots, including one for SMA baby milk of feature film proportions (apologies to my neighbours) with baby models, back-up baby models, and crates of plastic flowers; the latter draped all over the garden to make it look more colourful. My son says why can`t it always look like that. I give him the look reserved for similar utterances about things not meeting his exacting standards. Actually, the house is looking a bit bashed up after all the babies, cables, and cameras. So I am planning to do a bit of tidy up: repaint floorboards, and renew floor coverings with simple tactile rush matting, the sort we had at home in the sixties`. I am also debating one of Atlanta Bartlett`s white country tables from her new online store Pale and Interesting. The vegetable garden has survived a month of sporadic watering and nurturing from family members who remained to look after the shoots. The lettuces didn`t stand a chance, but the potatoes (Pink Fir Apple) and (International Kidney) are plump; we eat the first earthy diggings, boiled in mint and tossed in butter.

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Cherry tomatoes, yellow courgettes, garlic and shallots have all performed far better than I`d dared hope, and I shall plait together a bundle of garlic for my friend`s birthday. Thanks, in part, to Lambeth council: it is their free compost bin that is the receptacle for the nicely rotted contents from the kitchen peelings.

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Despite the jolly hard work of nurturing and tending to the nursery of delicate seedlings that started life next my desk, it is pure pleasure to see last year`s bean seeds curling and climbing up the wigwams, heavy with slender green pods.

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Even the temperamental basil, that threatened to expire when I brought it outside too early is keeping us in supplies for pesto. The magical notion of producing so much from so little is exquisitely shown by a border of leggy nicotiana plants, whose delicate white flowers release intoxicating scent at nightfall. Weeks of sensual and visual pleasure from a packet of seeds is truly gratifying.

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London might not have the laid back charms of a Portuguese fishing town, but there are more than enough autumn shows and exhibitions to divert post holiday blues. I am looking forward to the new ceramics gallery at the V&A , settles and benches by Studioilse on show at Leila`s Cafe, part of the London Design Festival , or booking a table at local home dining room the Salad Club. Don`t miss life on planet fashion in the endearing and irreverent documentary, The September issue which chronicles Vogue editor Anna Wintour`s preparations for the September 07 issue. I am agog because I once worked in an office below the Vogue fashion floor, and was terrified by the svelte things that tended the sample rails upstairs.

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It`s the time of year, too, to think about hunkering down with warm blankets and cushions by the fire. I use a mix of calico and cuttings from Liberty floral cottons to make simple patch work covers. See my trusty sewing machine in action on my latest Youtube video which shows you how to make a simple bobbly trimmed tray cloth: an idea that could easily be put in the pipeline for diy christmas presents. And if all you do is go for a walk, take a bag, the trees are heavy with fruit: crab apples, plums, sloes and so on, for a spot of autumnal jam making.

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Tags: autumn, colour, flower power, garden, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, summer


Wild swim
14 July 2009



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Good news! Elle Decoration, July Issue, has voted my blog as one of the best style blogs on the web: " British style journalist Jane Cumberbatch`s blog is a feast of gorgeous photography and inspiring ideas, on everything from Ercol furniture to making shortbread. Her style is simple, relaxed and recession-friendly". I`m in sartorial male blog company too, from Mr Peacock who offers tips on how to customise an Ikea sofa, to James Andrew a NY designer who dresses as hip as his surroundings and Jonathan Adler who`s mad about blue. It`s sweatingly hot and steamy in the city but at Hampstead Ladies pond , spreading trees shade this North London oasis and swimmers become part of nature as they move between floating water lilies and small fleets of ducks with ducklings. It`s my first ever dip here, and it feels like heaven, so peaceful, and even though the dark water seems eerily bottomless, it is fresh and free from tangled weed. Ben and Jerry`s or Haagen Dazs might be what the teenagers prefer to spoon into their wafer cones, but I live in hope that student budgets or even ennui with the packaged stuff, might nudge them towards making their own ice cream. It`s dead easy. See my latest YouTube for proof.

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As all bee experts will testify, the global bee population has recently entered a catastrophic decline, in a syndrome despairingly known as "Colony Collapse Disorder". Thriving bee farms are being turned overnight into ghost towns as workers mysteriously desert their queens and everyone is quoting Albert Einstein to the effect that if the bees go, the human race will perish four years later. Well you wouldn`t think there`s a buzz crisis in Tulse Hill the bees are positively crowding out my pom pom thistles and lavender bushes in their pollinating and honey making efforts. In fact, this year. Nevertheless, I`m going to do my bit and offer up a quiet spot by the shed to host a hive a brilliant initiative for urban beekeepers who need more space.

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I`ve been communing with more bees at Das Kransbach spa where you can get stuck into some serious treatments or idle away the day in buzzing and knee tickling Alpine wild flower meadows. The boxy hives passed on the walk home are the source of sticky golden chunks of honeycomb for breakfast. Just as energising for the soul are the sublime rooms designed by Ilse Crawford and the simple back-to-nature saunas, and pools that lull guests into bliss. No spartan spa this is, either, with delicious cakes on trays at teatime.

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Tags: garden, home cooking, Simple, summer


Brixton beach
03 June 2009



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Gracie says the air smells like a greenhouse after the cloud burst today. The garden steams and drips, soaked in earth, grass, and sweet petal scents. Heads bowed and blousey, in a riot of pinks , the roses are heavenly. The Constance Sprys are doing the best ever: huge pink fluffy musky scented flowers, named after the Fifties` kitchen goddess, whose resourcefulness brought the nation `Coronation chicken` and the mantra that you can be `a millionaire for a few pence` with a packet of seeds. A spirit after my own heart, but thankfully eating habits have come a long way from the curried mainstay of buffets and wedding breakfasts. Talking of resourcefulness, have a look at the latest You Tube video where I have a go at revamping a junk shop dress. Ever since I double rolled the waist of a sensible school skirt to make it look more Mary Quant mini, I have been lopping off hems to give my wardrobe a new lease of life.

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I don`t know about you, but I feel an attachment to the flowers and plants in the garden, not as strong as that for my children, or the dog, or the cat even, but an attachment nevertheless. Don`t send for the white coats yet (Prince Charles talks to his plants). I heard a PHD student on radio 4 discussing a series of case studies which examine the emotional bonds that people have with plants. It makes sense to connect with a living thing that you`ve nurtured and laboured over. Then there is the sense of continuity that growing can bring. When my mum died, I dug up some of her peonies, and planted them here in the garden. Each summer the plants are bigger and put out an even more gorgeous show. Increasing natural beauty with nothing but a spade is one of the most satisfying things in life. The frilly drooping lipstick pink blooms remind me of a hot day at home and `ninety nine ` flake cornets from the ding dong ice cream van.

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Notes from the vegetable patch: I have resorted to pellets to protect the courgettes from snails` fangs. The rocket is taking off and even the little basil plants are filling well - in pots. The basil planted in the ground was a dead loss. It is a such a tender little thing and I put the seedlings in too early. Shallots, garlic, potatoes, and chard all doing nicely. And I`m just about to plant out the seedlings from last year`s beans - a success rate of maybe 30%. Not so bad, but I will need a few more plants to top up. Pulled some radishes, which looked as if they`d been dipped in a wash of deep water colour - so pretty, but maybe a bit woody. Should have eaten when younger, but delicious enough with sea salt and pepper. Next to be potted is the tray of white nicotiana plants, grown from seed, which promise heady scent later in the summer.

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I set myself a deadline of midday to write this, because the sun is now blazing and the glorious Brockwell Park lido beckons, where even the most sensitive creature will want to do a bit of swimming and frolicking in the shimmering blue cool water. How wonderful to be at the `Brixton Beach` where only in February, there were 3metre high snow balls, tobogganists on For Sale signs, and an artist painting in a blizzard!

Tags: colour, flower power, garden, get crafty, homemade, summer


 
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