Subscribe     Basket(0)     Terms
"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
New year, new plans
15 January 2016


I fly south to Olhao and the glorious vegetable colours and textures of the Saturday market. Beans pods flecked with pink like a painter`s abstract  are a joy to look at let alone eat .

 More building is in progress at the house to open up the living/ eating space. I am moving a bathroom to what I call the monk`s cell, a poky inner room with a glass brick in the ceiling as the only light source; a not altogether unreasonable Olhao detail, as it is the coolest room in summer and warmest in winter. The new L shaped space has an open hatch to the kitchen. We couldn`t knock all the way through because the giant chimney on the roof above  would have no support, and I didn`t want to lose this traditional and  distinctive Algarve feature. I am looking forward to the delivery of blue and white  floor  tiles, in a simple checked pattern that are being made in the traditional way by Artevida  near Lisbon.















Tags: winter, olhao, simple, interiors. decoration, pink, tiles


A christmas rose
15 December 2015


 Against the drab died-back look of winter the last few roses (see here, a John Clare specimen) decorate the garden in defiant shots of frivolous summer pink. I cut some blooms for the table to join candles and a bowl of aromatic  clementines in a simple festive still life.

 In the season for boxes of delights, I find particular pleasure in unpacking after a year`s rest in the attic  irisdescent baubles and a peg doll fairy for the tree.  And, there is all the hope and spring potential in the tulip and allium bulbs.  Arriving in boxes by mail order, they are tucked amongst  newspaper bedding, in net sacks and brown paper bags with special holes to keep the bulbs cool and dry. It is worth noting that most bulbs should be planted at a depth that allows twice their own height of soil above them.  Shallower planting is ok but the bulbs are unlikely to perform well after their first year, and  there is the added danger of being easier to be scavenged by squirrels. I have just finished planting about 300 pink tulips (including Blue Heron and Recreado) purple giant fluffy alliums (Gladiator and Globemaster). Do hope  the  rain and sogginess  will dry up for spring or I fear the consequent snail plague will be not only a threat to the young foliage but an unwelcome preoccupation.









Hooray, the last bulb is in. Time for a warm up by the fire!


Tags: christmas, roses, pink, winter, bulbs, garden


Pure colour 2015
06 January 2015


Pure Style colours 2015 via a  day glow yellow t shirt  and pink string from my present pile. You`ll see more inspiration  when my new Colour book comes out in April!




Frosted rose bud  is almost the very very last one before I take the secateurs and prune the rose bushes in time  for spring.




All the way from the balmy fields of the Scilly Isles : scented narcissi arrive packed in folds of tissue paper .




Lime green  paperwhite bulb shoots and moss bedding make me feel that there`s life and vibrancy even in early January grey gloom



There`s the promise of more pink scented  blousy rose blooms with 2  St Swithins  climbers  that I will train up the metal arches in the garden..

Tags: winter, colour, pink, yellow, garden, roses,


Tinseltime
21 December 2014

 Festive greetings and wishes for a healthy and happy  New Year  to all my blog readers .
 I haven`t forgotten the recipe for the cheesiest biscuits ( in the taste sense )to rustle up over the holiday. Adapted via Prue Leith`s Cookery Bible (every kitchen should have one) the recipe is easy on kitchen skills.  If made a couple of days in advance and stored in a tin, it is useful to  crisp the biscuits in a warm oven for a few minutes to bring out the flavour . Or chill the  biscuit dough in the fridge, ready for  rolling out and baking  some  tasty  snacks for a last minute get together.
Ingredients
225g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
225g butter
225 gruyere , pecorino, or  strong cheddar, grated
2 tablespoons English mustard
beaten egg
3 teaspoons paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Put the flour and into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
Add the cheese, salt, pepper, mustard, paprika and egg to bind. Make a paste and roll into a ball.
Roll out on a floured board, or, for less mess,  between two sheets of greaseproof paper to a 5mm thickness. Cut into squares, ( or rounds, or rectangles or whatever shape you want)  and brush the remaining egg.

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.






Tags: winter , homecooking, christmas, white,


Pure Style out and about in winter
08 December 2014


Two hours in the seething crowds on Oxford Street and its environs: I`m spent.  The frisson of buy- it -now mania has brought on shopper`s block . Gimme a pink  rose from the garden and a box of Chocolate Bendicks  mints  for sanity.



Wake up in Somerset  to the first frost whites. Spend a happy half hour at Kimber`s farm shop  stocking up with current  cheese  passion Godminster  organic cheddar and a  food parcel with local minced lamb for student daughter, who later posts the moussaka she has rustled up. Tres resouceful of her.




An uplifting  shoot at the house with  beautiful crafted made-in-Britain pieces.  I would so very much like to kidnap the ash and chestnut   Shake cabinet by Sebastian Cox  and keep  it in  my bedroom for ever.




Thinking about christmas baking which will include the usual  chocolate and chestnut cake, and my new favourite savoury: crispy gouda biscuits from a recipe in Prue Leith. I will post a shot next week from an up and coming batch if they haven`t been gobbled up.
Chocolate and chestnut cake
400g peeled chestnuts chopped;125g caster sufar; 125g chocolate min 70% cocoa solids; 100g butter
for icing: 125g chocolate as above; 15g butter; 15ml fresh orange juice; 15m; grated orange rind
Process peeled chestnuts and sugar until smooth. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan. Add chestnut/sugar paste and mix until smooth. Turn into a greased cake tin and chill in the fridge overnight.


Tags: winter, frost, homecooking,


The garden beckons
25 February 2014


There`s fun in a workout  with  fork and spade in the fresh air . As good as a punch bag (it has been one of those weeks) .Happily ,weeds growing super fast in the warmth, and infesting snails are at the receiving end of my energies.
 I  dig and  thoughts come, like how there is sanity in the unpredictability  of nature.  Give me this  violet (above) pinging with unseasonal  colour and  vigour over a mush diet of commercial uniformity.  Bring on the super green alliums bursting with early green shoots  and,  over there , a  radical  forget met not,  glowing with delicate  cobalt blue flowers  And even though  I canít tame nature  I can attempt to work with her.





 The hazel hurdles are up. Easy to mount the stakes in the boggy soil and they should  make a good backdrop  for  garden shoots this spring.  Iíve recycled the worn out willows ones and put them in the vegetable patch (see below).   Theyíll look good with sweet peas curling up  in summer.





  I am planning a new shoot bathroom in the attic and to line the downstairs bathroom in  tongue and groove mdf cladding.  Iíve my eye on a cast iron bath with feet for the top room  and  Pigeon  dark grey  to give it warmth and contrast  to my mostly white house. 

 On the fabric side of things, I  have recently seen luscious  colours in sleek contract textures  designed by  fashion designer Raf  Simons for   Kvadrat . And there  are interesting retro prints   in Heals` first fabric collection since the seventies`.




I seem to need more raw food at this time of year, something to do with winter depleting our bodiesí stocks of nutrients maybe, or simply a desire for crunch and colour. Here Ďs a simple winter salad, from my  recipe book that you might like to put together
2 or three carrots, peeled and sliced into thin sticks.
200g red cabbage finely sliced
1 head of chicory finely sliced
handful of pomegranate seeds
handful of chopped mixed nuts
few mints leaves, to garnish ( my local Turkish shop has a steady supply all through the year)
for the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp Seville orange juice or lemon juice
 1garlic clove finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the vegetables, pomegranate seeds and nuts in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the olive oil and orange or lemon juice until amalgamated. Add the garlic and season. Add the dressing to the salad, mix and garnish with mint.

Tags: winter. home cooking, garden, colour,


A rose, cake and colour
05 February 2014

Daughter can`t get to job and  assistant stuck on bus for two hours. Poor show, striking Tube people and your big brother  boss B.Crow last seen sunning hairy belly on Rio Beach.  But this, and ongoing flood/mud/rain/wind/gloom story  brightened by lone survivor of my  roses, a brilliant John Clare bloom. Also, cheering thoughts of  the  toasted pistachio gorgonzola tagliatelle taste sensation at Zucca a few weeks ago and, look here, chocolate brownies baked by middle daughter for her younger sister`s` birthday tomorrow.  (From Felicity Cloak`s Perfect, and they do taste, just that).




  Inspired by a yellow  Habitat chair on a shoot a couple of months ago , I  thought you`d like to see my  paint update on a chipped and worn chair in my office.    Off I  go  to the paint shop to see if I  can recreate the same  lime green/acid yellow colour  that reminds me of  all things springlike  e.g see  the   angelica flower head I  shot in an Algarve meadow last year. I pick `Tarragon Glory` from Dulux  and it works well. I cheated and bought quick drying emulsion  which, of course won`t wear as well as an oil based eggshell, but I do rather prefer matt painted finishes all round.

















Tags: roses, , winter, paint, spring, yellow , home cooking


Winter whites
21 January 2014


The cat and dog  look at me hard  as I shut the door to the kitchen.   I read their  stares as  `what is she doing,  denying us access to  FOOD ? ` But  I don`t want them decorating the freshly painted white floor which is wet and drying  slowly slowly because it is oil based . The long drying time is worth it because the result is hard wearing, like enamel. And this is good for repelling the assault by the heavy  boot wearers and furniture draggers of the shoot world.  The  chalk-on-blackboard screech as a bed or sofa is grated  across the boards  propels me out of my hidey office hole like nothing else. Thankfully most people are brilliant and careful when they come to use the house.

It`s as if I`ve gone on holiday to a fresh new space . I`m inspired to invest in a a new steam cleaner to keep it looking that way. Quite sceptical about housey gadgets but this is rather wonderful like a steam iron-with-pad on astick.  The thing works well if I apply a firm pressure - in the manner of mowing the lawn. Rather meditative, too,  as  no interruptions for rinsing like you have to do with a traditional mop and bucket.
 PS Cat and dog food bowls  relocated so they don`t go hungry.




I also update the central island units with a coat of  water based  `diamond` eggshell,  which does do what it says on the tin but obviously wouldn`t be up to  something like a floor painting job.




Number one unreliable gadget, the car won`t start.  Into garage and the blissful engine hands of Panos.  Bicycle main form of transport  and so I wobble off with dog on lead tied to handlebars.  I am multitasking:dog gets walk in park and I can get to the market to load up with birthday party ingredients for son turning 25.

 As ever, Herne Hill Market is a  treasure trove of edible delights : rock oysters from Poole in Dorset and leafy greens to start with. Bicycle basket filling up , but I can`t resist retro jug above, and green retro Pyrex glass below.  Makes up for the vintage olive oil  jugs I backed out of  at Fuseta market the other week. The last stop turns out to be the west country cheese man, whose extra mature cheddar is mouthwatering. I feel the dog  tugging and sniffing , trying to get under the stall. Bike , dog and me, almost a heap on ground, when west country cheese man shouts,`  `Oi its  got my lunch`  and bends down to retrieve a  half finished carton of curry. Wishing I wasn`t there, I offer replacement  and buy an extra slice of goats` cheese . Time to leave.





Incident free on the ride home.   I bake  a birthday cake  involving much chocolate and caramel sauce.  The canine,  not chastened of course , lurks by my feet waiting for a tasty crumb to drop.  .... I  have to  admire  her dogged persistence.



Tags: winter simple decoration white retro vintage, white paint,


Winter recipe from my book
13 January 2014

I`m warding off the incursion of the 5:2 diet in our household with a hearty steamed pudding from Pure Style Recipes for Everyday.
You, blog readers will enjoy it too, if you`re faint from more  New Year  diet nonsense.

Marmalade steamed pudding
(makes 4 small puddings)

This is a delicous combination of the bitter flavour of the orange and the sweetness of the sponge. Substitute the marmalade with golden syrup for an even stickier and sweet comfort pudding.

100g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs beaten
100g self-raising flour
8 tbsp marmalade

Inn a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour. Grease 4 individual pudding moulds and put a tablespoon of marmalade at the bottom of each.
Add the mixture and cover with greaseproof paper lids tied with string, or a piece of foil fitted tightly. Stand in 2.5cm of water in a roasting tin and place in an oven preheated to 180C for 50 minutes , until risen. Turn out the puddings into serving bowls.

Heat the remaining marmalade in a pan, pour a tablespoonful over the top of each pudding and serve.

Tags: winter, home cooking, orange,


New colour new year
06 January 2014

 Today I will squeeze into trainers and have a quick jog to the seafront and back.   New year, new promises and fabulous colour in Christmas earrings and new green cotton t shirt.   Small splashes of colour can be as dramatic as an all out colour assault whether it`s in the wardrobe or for decorating a room.



  A trip along the coast. Down cobbled steps fringed by tumbling purple convovulus  and  cactus plants with paddle  shaped limbs  green succulent, and deadly spiked.  Eating springy bread  buns with hunks of sweet  tomato and  goats`s cheese on the  grey  wind and rain  spattered  beach is more  Bognor regis than the Eastern Algarve, but  we are  also feeling  the whirling effects of the UK`s fierce winter storm.

  I am glad to be off major cooking duties for a few days. But it was hugely satsifying over Christmas to produce  Elizabeth David`s, Carbonade Nimoise and La Daube de Boeuf Provencale from  French Provinical Cooking.  Both essentially hearty stews cooked long and slow, the former involves  lamb  and potatoes with a typical southern taste and smell , and the latter  beef with more  rich  southern  juices  flavoured with orange peel and herbs .







At the Saturday market  there are mounds of cabbages and greens -  rich in winter nutrients and fibre for little more than a few centimos. Wish I could carry back furry quinces for membrillo,  but would be at expense of reading matter . No I don`t have a Kindle, but maybe I should for  the
quince`s  sake.













Sunday, and it`s Fuzeta  fleamarket.  No I don`t want a bucket of golf balls or a  bobbled polyester dressing gown,  but I do have my eye on a couple of retro aluminium jugs for olive oil. Five euros each. Not bad I think, but do I really need them?  But do we really need most of the stuff we have.  Buy them,  says the daughter  and dedicated shopper of her generation in my head   I go back and have a another shifty  look. No. I`ll save my money.  In  the car on the way home. Regret. I  should have bought them. So useful and such great shapes.





Anyone for a hammer?




Pots , pans , simple china and utilitarian junk like these mesh filing trays  are what make Fuzeta a rich source of pickings  on a sunny Sunday morning.





Tags: winter, colour, Olhao


Some ideas for christmas
14 December 2013

 I have escaped  the Christmas hysteria for a long weekend in Olhao. Bathed in  warm sun the Saturday market is a rich source of edible seasonal goodies. I can only look  and sigh at the honey- it wouldn`t make it past the xray scanner  but I load up on  piri piri peppers, nuts and figs for simple stocking fillers.




Two small girls are selling chestnuts  with their brothers from a barrow with a basic charcoal oven and a box of sea salt for flavouring.  They keep their wares   tucked up  like dolls in  a blanket of  sacking. I buy a bag for 2 euros and the nutty burnt flavours  evoke the  Christmases  we spent in  the Andalucian sierra.






Over coffee and a pastel de nata I consider more ideas, some practical, some  fanciful for my Pure Style Christmas wish list:

A scented rambling rose for summer blooms.
A pile of warm wool welsh blankets
 Cashmere socks
A cataplana for making Portuguese fish and rice stew.
Anything from Labour and Wait, especially a pot mat a stout work apron and a shiny new saucepan;
More kitchen knives.
A substantial linen tablecloth
Something simple in pottery
Just about any Aesop products but especially my favourite moisturiser
A new project like this one
The true version of this table rather than my Ikea rip off
A subscription to  visual inspiration at the Royal Academy.
A year`s supply of Bendicks  bittermints

Tags: Christmas, natural, colour, winter


Things I like this week...sources of deliciousness
12 March 2013


 Aromatic and comforting, toast and marmalade is good for perusing the first printed issue of  The Foodie Bugle  .  Thus I`m inspired by Charlie Lee Potter`s  piece on  book and food pairing,  fruitcake with Sense and Sensibility,  don`t you know?  Other rich pickings in this ,matt look, beautifully illustrated  foodieodical  include  truffle hunting in Dorset,  the pleasures of Yorkshire  cider, and how to cook outside on something called a Kotlich.



Can`t miss my Sunday morning amble round Brixton Farmers` Market. "Yes, you do talk about it rather"  you probably think.  I  never tire of the  wholesome market visuals, the chorus and clapping from The church of Divine Light above the Halifax, and my shopping bag laden with deliciousness: plump cabbages, glistening scallops, proper bread.  This is my kind of down to earth heaven.







   I  taste samples of the sweetest  biodynamic apple juice from Brambletye Fruit Farm  and  can`t resist a bottle for the fridge.









Good to  know that the eggs come from the hens that peck under the  trees from which the apples are pressed to make the juice. 





  And  see how golden  and yellow the apple nutrient infused  yolks are for lunchtime scrambled eggs.




Tags: winter , home cooking, simple,


Things I like this week ....
19 February 2013

Email with  Silvana of the Foodie Bugle who`s finding it hard to track down artisan kitchenware made in Britain; too much manufacturing  has gone East. I`m also on the case for home grown products such as this simple, functional pouring bowl I  picked up at Herne Hill Farmer`s market by local  potter Jan Pateman. (website coming but I have an email contact)  Sheer beauty for 8.00, far too cheap really. Definitely, one for your shop Silvana!




The first snowdrops, on dogwalk at Lyte`s Cary, Somerset





Simple faux tongue and groove panelling painted with white emulsion knocked up by  Keith the builder for a new bedroom at my location house.




Emma Prentice is the girl to go to if you want hip   sari silk shirts in great colours.





Since  writing a  recent piece for Elle Decoration on Danish architect Pernille Arends`  home with its` covetable retro Danish look I wouldn`t say no to eating my daily  toast and jam beneath a classic PH Snowball lamp by Paul Henningsen from Louis Poulsen  





Another family birthday, and therefore no excuse for buying flowers and making coffee cake.



Tags: winter , colour, danish design , simple, functional,


Rhubarb Salad
08 February 2013



`I Like a nice bit of rhubarb`  says the barrow lady  stuffing a handful of pink and crimson stalks into my shopping bag.  I do, too. Especially these vibrant and tender stems- see below -  from the `Yorkshire Triangle `. Roughly  bordered by Leeds, Wakefield ,and Rothwell,  this is an area of long established forced rhubarb growers. Unlike outdoor varieties, forced roots are grown in fields for two years where they store energy and are moved into forcing sheds after November frosts.  They are then grown in darkness, and even harvested by candlelight to avoid photosynthesis which would turn them green.
.




We  think of crumbles and fools and other sweet rhubarb puddings, but in Niki Segnit`s Flavour Thesaurus she writes about an Iranian recipe for thinly sliced cucumber and rhubarb tossed and left to stand for a while in salt, and then mixed with rocket, lemon juice and a little mint.  I tried it, see, first pic  above, sans mint and rocket , and it`s delicious. Segnit also describes how rhubarb might work in the sweetly spiced, fatty tagines of north Africa.

Last night I had one of the prettiest fish dishes ever   under the railyway arches at    Maltby Street : a row of diced rhubarb perched on a fillet of smoked mackerel. Pink on amber/brown fish skin a beautiful colour combination, and the tartness of the rhubarb goes so well with the rich oily fish.










Here`s my favourite take on rhubarb: baked in the oven at 150C  with sugar and orange zest for about 20 minutes . Delicious with cream.










Tags: colour, winter, simple, home cooking, rhubarb


A splash of colour
29 January 2013

I feel starved of colour . The tide mark of mud on my shoes is the perfect shade of  Drab for January. Varifocals magnify the general dreariness: consumptive shoppers under supermarket glare,  greasy pavements spattered oil slick black. But a fifteen minute dog trot from home, the florist  is an oasis. Dog pokes her nose hungrily amongst cheery buckets of tulips and and I choose bunches of cut hyacinths in brilliant Yves Klein blue.






There`s birthday cake for tea. A chocolate and coffee layered Victoria sponge that looks suitably partyish dressed in day glow orange ribbon. Now that`s  a good splash of colour on a depth of winter day  The cake stand is one of our best buys declares my son not usually known for  complimenting his mother`s choice of purchase. Bought from a shoot, I have to say, said cake stand elevates even a pile of currant buns to greater  visual pleasure.



















Tags: winter, colour, simple, home cooking, chocolate


Home produce: things I like this week
22 January 2013


 Simple country inspired  chair and geometric  rug from British designer Matthew Hilton`s new collection.





 Sourdough and other good bread for winter toast by The Old Post Office Bakery, from my  local Sunday morning  Brixton Farmers` Market





The New Craftsmen  curates  brilliant craftsmanship from the British Isles. Above, contemporary Orkney chair made by  Dalston based furniture maker Gareth Neal, and traditional Orkney chair maker Kevin Gauld. Below, Gold plated dressmaking scissors from Ernest Wright
Photos by Tif Hunter




Below, Simple cotton prints from Fermoie by the duo behind Farrow & Ball








Yum!  Malden oysters from Essex : a Saturday treat from Whittakers  my local fishmonger,





Ceramic tealights  from   Maud and Mabel  , pint sized Hampstead emporium where 99% of the stock is British





Tags: winter, simple, country style, colour


Eggs and leeks
03 January 2013


 The rain has taken a bank holiday. New year, new sky so blue, a  sense of optimism in the lst January air.  I trek across the sparkling park and the view is hyper clear. A crowís eye vision of London: swooping  past the  glowing needle points of the Shard, and onwards to the hills of northern Thameslink land.  

 

My Christmas was as over indulgent and wine embellished as usual. From rolling out sweet pastry for mince pies and tending slow roast pork, we were never away for long from kitchen activities.  Highlights were my sisterís hensí eggs with glorious yellow yolks and the sweet baby leeks she pulled, mud caked, from the garden on Christmas morning.





No seasonal frost,  more a nuclear winter grey to accompany the cloudbursts and floods.  And the mud persisted.  Should have  treated myself to  those shortie Hunter wellies ). There was constant hosing down of the-dog-fromĖthe- trenches and my housewifely mopping of floors decorated with paw mud prints . More than timely, though, was the  recent purchase of a  retro wooden airer with rope and pulleys.  Draped over the wood slats  like an aerial souk  the washing actually gets a chance to dry like toast.

A relief to come across some colour, see lichen on Somerset tree trunk below




And  hens` eggs:  pure, white (decorated with mud) and simple.





Plans, and  more plans for the months ahead: to grow a rambling scented jasmine in Portugal, to get my Colour Bands out there and on your walls, to paint pictures in bold washes of colour,  to cook more paellas, to rein in daydreaming at my desk.

PS I hope that Iíve ironed out all the new website   stuff. The comments page is up and running again. I look forward to hearing from you all in 2013. J
 

Tags: winter, home cooking, garden


Saturday market
19 December 2012


 

The frosted 05.30 from Liverpool Street to the small scale experience of Southend airport gets me in the mood for the simple pleasures of Olhao. We even take off over the same  silvery mudflat coastline that meets our descent two and a half hours later.


The house is dry but needs a fire. We stoke up the woodburning stove, a dumpy cylinder on legs and  traditional feature in old houses throughout Spain and Portugal. It soon pushes out heat. We sit beside it, like contented

cats, eating bo wls of sweet steaming clams in garlic.


 



Shops are closed, or down to minimum stock supplies. The down beat, empty feel of  Portugal`s recession is even more apparent in an out of season Algarve seaside town. There are no christmas lights in Olhao this year, but somehow the token nativity with live donkey and sheep in pen with crib and star, is  more charming than streets of blazing illuminations.


The Saturday market seems recession proof, people, colours, produce. life, as visually intoxicating as ever. A vivid canvas of lemons, golden wedges of pumpkin, the new season`s olives, plump greens, and eggs like white opaque jewels. 




We hit the road to tour some reclamation yards - basically a field or two strewn with smashed and broken  pillars, porticos,  old sinks, and tiled floors. Torn, or rescued, depends on which way you see it from Portugal`s  architectural heritage to make way for developers` concrete and glass boxes.





Any one for worn and weathered  pantiles ? So much more beautiful than prefabricated modern ones.




On the last night we drive up an avenue of palms to eat  with Detlev von Rosen - whose extra virgin olive oil is some of the smoothest I have tried in these parts.

Goodbye Olhao, until next month when I will embark on the big spring clean to make the house ready for rentals.
I miss the sea salt air and cobalt blue sky, but nature is here to grip me in suburbia with her continuing frost and ice beauty.





Frosted verbena, above and allium seed head, below.




Tags: winter, portugal, garden


Ice Ice Ice
05 December 2012

White crunch outside. Crystalised petals and leaves piped with ice. Wouldnít mind a pair of fur lined boots to go with digging in the last bulbs. Frozen toes, frozen ground, not fun to hack at with spade but good for strength.

As was Ö.boogying, Yes I Can, to Seventiesí band ĎKool and the Gangí. Played at every rubbish wedding disco Iíve been to it was a revelation to hear the authentic Live beats of ĎCelebrationí and ĎLadies Nightí. Found very odd that many people viewed the stage through smart phones, arms stuck up in the air and blocking the view. But rubber beer bottles v. good idea.

In town and eyeing Christmas presents Iíd like to give: Rococo sea salt chocolate; striped cotton pyjamas from Toast;  Diptyque  woody scented Feu du Bois candles. And, if no limits, a Hans Wegner oak and corded seat armchair,  inspired by the story I have written about Danish architect Pernille Arends, in this monthís Elle Decoration. You will love the retro Scandinavian  white and wood features  of her fiftiesí home.

Going local I think a hyacinth vase with bulb is a perfect present, see this from Alleyn Park garden It comes in clear, green, and lilac, too.



On the homemade front Iím giving jars of quince jelly boiled up from fruit I picked from a friendís tree in Somerset. I have an open pot which as well as dolloping on toast with butter I spooned into gravy with white wine and juices from the pheasants I roasted on Sunday. Only a fiver for the brace from Brixton farmersí market Ė brilliant value and tasty.



Tags: winter, homecooking, garden


Long Island light and shade
06 December 2011





  I feel the air miles  when a man with a festive beer in a plastic cup offers a seat on the packed late train  to Ronkonkoma  and questions with some incredulity  " You`ve come all the way from England for Thanksgiving ?"  I have  and  it`s my first.  The  blazing fire,   turkey with a turkey flavour  from a North Fork organic  farm and the warmth of the Foley family to whose  Long Island Thanksgiving I am invited the next day will  meet all of my expectations and more.  



  With my body clock somewhere after lunch, I wake   rather suddenly   to the crack of  gun shots from the  duck hunters across the lake. ( It is never wise to think the countryside is peaceful)  But it`s tranquil enough, absolutely blissful in fact,  drinking hot coffee on the  porch ,watching  the  melting  pale pink early morning sky  and all around the earthy woodiness  of damp leaves.  I`m at  the white house, the  simple white  wood clad home (and location space) of  Trish Foley the American  queen of white and  natural  decorating. Her first book the Natural Home published in 1995  was  ahead of its time, and is as inspirational today.  



  Trish`s 3rd  pop up shop event for her New General Store takes   place  with soup  cider and cookies over the Thanksgiving weekend. It  features  white and natural home ideas on sale in Trish`s  studio and white cabin tucked amongst the surrounding  winter thin woods.  



  There`s a gang of us  to pull the  last minute threads  together:  stirring the spicy pumpkin soup (cumin, coriander, chilli,  toasted pine nuts and croutons make this a particularly delectable pumpkin idea),  wiping down the thick glassy beads of  overnight dew from the  outdoor  benches and  sweeping leaves off the  huge outdoor  plank table.  The sun feels warm again on my face, a remnant of summer  and as in London, everyone is saying how unseasonable the temperatures are.  



  Matthew Mead sets up his stall in the  White Shop,  and signs copies of Holiday magazine- his  brilliant and  visually  inspiring  take on crafting and making that comes out quarterly.  







    I have my eyes, on white pots filled  with bulbs and moss,  but can`t exactly see getting past airport  security  A narcissus- scented candle will do very nicely instead.  And there is a gorgeous collection of  vintage white Ironstone china,  platters, cups and bowls, that I could also happily pack to take home - if only.  



  We say clothes pegs you say clothes pins.  



  As well as delicious flavoured vinegars and olive oils, there`s  flowery and scented Rugosa Rose jelly  made by The Taste of the North Fork.  I have some  dollops of it  on toast with butter  for breakfast to keep me going.  



 



  I am on duty  signing books in the studio, suffused with the scent of flowering  paper white narcissi, and bathed in the  long low sunlight pouring  through the  south facing wall of glass window panes. It`s  good to meet  the New York/Long Island crowd and find that there`s  common ground - simpler living is as much on the agenda in the economic  downturn as it is at home.  I`m glad that all my favourite things:  parrot tulips,  rhubarb,  roses,  chestnuts and lemon meringue pie seem to be  appreciated across the pond.  The books are a sell out and  so I celebrate with walnut shortbread baked by Michael Jones.  



  The next day I`m 0n the road again, heading to my next signing at Loaves and Fishes, in Bridgehampton.  This is a wonderful treasure trove of a cook shop with the best of its type,  from  coffee making machine and  shellfish picker to sharp knife and dinner plate.  Run by the charming and welcoming Sybille van Kempen  Loaves and Fishes is also noted for its food shop and cookery school and is  as much a  Hamptons  landmark as all the gorgeous beach houses*.  It`s Sunday lunchtime, and so my samples of  chocolate and chestnut cake are a great crowd drawer,  and another of the book`s recipes that seems to travel rather well. *   Ralph Lauren  designer, Ellen O`Neill`s  heavenly red and white house  ( American country house style meets Bloomsbury ) is another Long Island   location shoot`s dream.  



  Time for some  R and R and I head off to the City via the Long Island Rail Road  ( it`s all so American-  the toot tooting  of the train when it passes  the  unmanned barriers reminds me of every cowboy  movie I`ve ever seen)  and Penn Station. The avenues of Manhattan await me and my wheelie bag.

Tags: Christmas, colour, home cooking, scent, Simple, white rooms, winter


Spitalfields,rhubarb and tulips
25 February 2011





I am looking at pictures of the crumbling brick walls and rotten timbers of the early Georgian house (1726 to be precise) that we restored over 20 years ago in Spitalfields,  East London. There it is, our old home on the Spitalfields Life blog - just as we bought it, in its decrepidness, in Fournier Street opposite the soaring, glorious and soot stained Christchurch by Hawksmoor. The whole  place was derelict then a part of forgotten and run down London. The fruit and vegetable market though, hummed with life from midnight.  I remember the tramps who gathered at the crypt for soup ,  the hawks flying around the church spire  and the  rotten but aromatic smells of coriander and old potatoes, that lay crushed outside on the street And thereís the house again, itís classic beauty tentatively re-emerging, with bare wood shutters and new simple wood panelling. I supposed we needed true grit, and passion to restore one of these beautiful old houses built for Huguenot silk merchants. I remember a collapsing back wall, countless skips to take away debris, errant builders I had to fish out of the pub, and the joy of finding Bohdan the brilliant carpenter who reconstructed the panelling, and Jim who made our shutters and simple wooden bed. There are pictures too, of our home after the last piles of dust and blow torched paint flakes have been swept away. Itís good to see these `after shots`, of the light bright panelled rooms that I painted in sludgy creams, whites and greens. And there am I, pictured outside the house as it is today. I look quite cheerful but inside I was feeling, well,  rather  homesick   standing outside my old front door.  



  I need to get back to the present, and to dwell on the more immediate matter of baking some very seasonal rhubarb for pudding.  I chop the pinkest of pink stems into small chunks and lay them in a dish with a good sprinkling of sugar, orange peel, and orange juice.  I turn the oven to 150C and bake for about 25 minutes. This is delicious with crŤme fraiche, or  cream, or vanilla ice-cream.



And then there are the tulips - a half price bargain because they are going over, but thatís the way I like them all, floppy flailing petals. They also brighten my  reflective mood - which is as much from house moping as the effects of being late night taxi service at 1.30am - "mum I missed the last train". I must fly as cardboard packs of kitchen units are coming through the front door . All part of my budget revamp of the kitchen. Wish me luck. NB Before signing off, look at Ghost furnitureís great ideas for rescuing furniture and Wallace Sewellís ideas for more brilliant colour in shawls, scarves and other textiles.    

Tags: colour, home cooking, interiors, thrifty decoration, winter


Airing the beds
04 February 2011





Iím in Olhao. Bliss. Itís winter, but the sun is blazing and I am blinking like a mole.  The house has the heavy cold and dampness that comes from being not only just about at sea level, but also having been shut up for weeks.  I sleep the first night, socks on and hugging a hot water bottle. First thing, after watching the slow red sunrise over towards the fishing port, I hang the musty bedclothes outside to air.



Other signs of the  Algarve in winter are  women chatting  on their doorsteps in thick dressing gowns.  And  grass  growing between the cobbles which are opaque and clean after months of rain. They have been stripped of the smooth, high shine that comes with the heat and dust and grease of summer. Itís a dry day and fleets of washing flap in the breeze on the white azoteca roof top terraces. From our flat roof I can see the white curved bell tower, and a pink fizz of almond blossom in a secret courtyard below. The blue as-far-as-you-can-see sky is filling with voluptuous and towering cumulus clouds.  From all around my panoramic view comes a chorus of dog barks, the trilling of sparrows, and odd, but so completely right because itís Olhao, the clanging squealing and wheezing of the coastal train, that sounds more like a New York Subway service.



With basket in hand and my thick fishermanís sweater for insulation, I walk seawards. The gorgeous peeling paint in so many shades of  faded green, and rose and cobalt blue is as much a part of Olhao as the sardines, but it is also a sign of neglect and decay.  I do hope that architectural types will come to rescue more of the crumbling facades so much in need of love and attention. There arenít so many people about now. I like it. The old men by the fish market still play dominoes in a thick huddle and there are the usual weather beaten yaghties` in fleeces who drink long into the afternoon sunshine, but generally the streets are quiet. At six they are almost deserted as everyone goes home, to keep warm I should think.



In the market there are fat leafy cabbages, bursting it seems with iron and goodness, and plump oranges with a flat matt finish that is so much earthier and more appealing than the spray shined ones in the supermarket. With few tourists about, a necklace of red piri piri peppers is only a  euro. And similarly pleasing, because the fish market is less frenzied than during the summer, there is more time to admire the simple yet beautiful displays of rigid mackerel, tuna, octopus and so on, all laid out on the gleaming and utilitarian flat stainless steel counters.



My mission is to sweep and refresh the house and to plan new awnings in heavy calico for the summer. At Pagapoco in the Avenida thereís fabric for a few euros a metre that will do very well. Some good news on the marvellous iPhone, which allows me to escape from a desktop HQ yet still keep operations ticking far away. It is Pete from Thames Water who is not only going to pay me the subsidy for repairing it, but almost as an afterthought he tells me that the  wretched leak is officially noted as fixed. (Yes, their man with the special water leak detecting device,  has obviously been loitering by the gate again.).  Relief. One  domestic drama that can leave my brain space and be forgotten about.

Tags: colour, holiday, home cooking, Simple, winter


Cake and cabbage
28 January 2011





If I think too hard about writing I canít write, and similarly at the Zumba Latin beat dance class I part company with the group rhythm when I concentrate too hard on getting arms, legs, and body to co-ordinate. When I relax and let the beat take over I may not look like an extra from Dirty Dancing, but boy do I feel like it. Shaking oneís booty is a good way to dissipate the stress after talking with Pete from Thames Water who calls to let me know, a touch triumphantly perhaps?, that I still have a leaking water pipe. In as even a tone as I can muster, (Pete has the mildly pompous and intimidating air of a customs official so it is hard not to feel ruffled) I say Iíve spent nearly £1,000 for 20 metres of shiny blue plastic pipe, (and a mud strewn garden) to rectify the problem. The workman returns and confirms a miniscule drip where the new pipe meets the stopcock. I call Pete who says heís going to send out another engineer, to test the repaired repair. What happens, I wonder, if our waterís running when he does his secret testing by the front gate? Wonít this show up as leakage? Thames Water, you see, donít seem to Do appointments and check with the householder that their water supply is actually turned offÖÖ.. Not all is utterly frustrating. My successful domestic repairs are a replacement tile, cut perfectly to size by Adorn Tiling, for our Victorian tiled hall floor. And my daughterís Spanish riding boots, battered more by life on campus than anything horsey, which have been given a completely new lease of life with a new stitched sole and heels thanks to our local branch of Timpsons.



Happily itís time to bake a cake for my sonís birthday. I use my default Victoria  sponge recipe of equal parts of self-raising flour, (some of the flour substituted with cocoa powder), caster sugar, eggs and butter.) I use an electric hand mixer for the sugar, butter and eggs, and then fold in the flour with a metal tablespoon for lightness. When the mixture is a gloopy paste I dollop it into three well greased round sandwich tins.



After half an hour or so I turn out the steaming and springy cakes and leave them to cool on my mumís wobbly pre war metal rack. I make chocolate butter icing Ė after sifting the icing sugar and combining it with sifted cocoa powder and softened  unsalted butter. I add a little water and beat it with a fork to make it light and fluffy. I use a palette knife to smooth it over the cake. And then decorate it with silver balls. (NB Check out my definitive recipe for a good cake in my forthcoming new book.)



Nature is inspiring a kind of natural decoration guru all of her own. The cabbage is a case in point, all beautiful glowing green and purple frilling leaves Ė the chicest interior decorator couldnít do better. If you want your cabbage to retain its colour and texture remember to steam it lightly and only for a few minutes.



I hope to be buying my cabbages and other fresh-from-the-farm veg at our proposed new street market in West Norwood, which is following hard on the heels of the fabulous Sunday morning farmers market in Brixton. This is an uplifting project and positive stuff when all the papers are saturated with comment and data about Britainís increasing irrelevance on the world stage. I think about the future for my children. Eerily, these stories echo those that framed my teenage world Ė one in five young people unemployed, and lives strained to breaking point by shrinking state support Ė in the national decline that so gripped 1970s and early 1980ís Britain.



 

Tags: books, colour, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, interiors, Simple, winter


Junk chairs and blanket stitch
20 January 2011





When people ask, how do you know what to chose when youíre putting together a new room or buying a piece of furniture ? I say that going with my instinct of what feels and looks right is usually successful. This is all very well, but if I am fussing or thinking about something else I may not always be properly alert to some wonderful new prospect that is staring me in the face. This is exactly what happens when I am cruising around the Brixton branch of the British Heart Foundationís chain of second-hand furniture and electrical shops.  There it is, a magnificent upright and elegant wing chair. A touch elderly-aunt-like in its plush velvet cover but this can soon be sorted out with an update in a simple blue and white ticking. And my goodness itís only 20 quid. I clock it as Ďbrilliant, should buy it, a great piece for the location houseí but the detail is  all made foggier in the domestic thought jumble. I am oblivious to precious minutes being lost as I fiddle with the messages on my iPhone. Too late! An eagle eyed young mum with child and a buggy also knows its potential value and snaps it up before Iíve even had the chance to press back to Menu.



You win some, you lose some. Happily, I return to form when I spot  a pair of  pretty  armchairs (see above and below) lined up on the pavement outside the junk shop in Streatham Hill.  Like the lost wing chair, they have promise  in spite of unappealing covers.  A quick barter with the fag-in- hand, peroxide blonde attendant and the chairs are  mine for under 40.00. Their new home is the blue room where I think I have made them look a little more dashing with linen shawls from Volga linens.  I find the use of a throw is a very handy trick to cover up ugly prints or threadbare seats, and to protect a more precious fabric from muddy paws or childrenís feet.



Also related to a too fast, too multi-tasking existence  (as seen with wing chair experience above) I read in the newspaper that the emphasis on knowledge in our culture, is taking us further away from using our hands. Too right. I think itís so important to feel the physicality and satisfaction of creating something oneself.  My main proviso is that nothing should be too complicated. One of the best ways, for example, to update a simple dining chair, is to give it a lick of paint. (For those who are like my friend Marjorie and think that being handy is an anathema, look at Howe London to see some clever ways with old-fashioned Windsor chairs.) My favourite colours for sprucing old chairs are duck egg blues or plain whites. This is how you do it: Sand the chair with a medium grain sand paper, and then again with a fine one. Remove all loose bits of old varnish or flakes of old paint to leave a smooth surface. Apply one coat of wood-primer or undercoat as evenly as possible. Allow to dry. Apply one layer of eggshell paint. Allow to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat of paint.



I also love the idea of rescuing worn out linen and blankets with the needles and thread from my desktop sewing kit. Itís a wonderful and practical distraction from the screen to repair a favourite blue and white check blanket that has lost some of its blanket stitch edging. (You can see lots more simple sewing examples in my book Sew Easy). It feels productive, and calms me. Just as an afternoon digging in the garden does, or stirring the aromatic golden marmalade which is on the list for this weekend. Oh yes, one other good thing is that although the garden has been left looking like a rugby pitch on a wet Saturday afternoon, the leak is mended and I no longer live in fear of Thames Water  spying on our pipes in the early hours.

Tags: colour, garden, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, interiors, Simple, thrifty decoration, winter


Winter figs
14 January 2011





I squelch around the soggy garden mentally choosing new planting ideas for spring.  Smooth red rosehips and little purple figs, relics of last summer, on the tree in a frost-cracked pot are just about the only other colours in a palette of greens and earth browns. In the long, low illuminating rays of a sunny winter`s  afternoon it is clear that the house is in need of a good scrub. My tools are thick gloves, bucket of hot water, mild detergent, a good wooden scrubbing brush and elbow grease. With the Radio 4 play for company itís not too long before the white floorboards look less dingy and the bare pine boards in the kitchen feel smoother, and cleaner underfoot.



I would not describe myself as house-proud - always fussing and tweaking the cushions in a Stepford Wives kind of way. But I do feel  a certain self-consciousness on behalf of my home in its role as a location house - like the protective mother of a willowy model daughter at the mercy of fickle art directors. The other day, it was turned down because our beds were too ĎEuropeaní. I would be the wrong person for the job if I took this as a personal insult. All it means is that the space isnít right for that particular job. Getting the detail up to scratch is all-important. I overhear a comment about a clientís visit to a location, that was so shabby chic, the door handles were stuck on with sellotape. Feeling slightly like a child about to be caught in the act, I make a note to remedy our interior malfunctions. Preparation for photography means an enormous session with the washing machine. I love the dog and cat but not their muddy paws that decorate the white cotton sheets and covers as soon as Iíve made up fresh beds. So I am very strict and un-dog-and-cat-lover-like and banish them from the bedrooms until a shoot is over. All of the folding, ironing, and hot water and bucket work is not in vain, when the first client of the year announces that they would like to come and live here.



When the thigh-high reflective waders are pulled out I know the ongoing water leak situation is not so rosy. Soon the front garden is looking like a floodlit crime scene from a Henning Menkell thriller as Carl the plumber digs down in search of an elusive and broken water pipe.  Neighbours pass by and look pityingly at our muddy excavations.  Several more holes and mounds of earth later, the verdict is a whole run of replacement tubing and great expense. At least larder supplies are stable as the older two have returned to university. And I am no longer burning my fortune away in gas after discovering that the house was unbearably hot not because of the wonderful capabilities of the new boiler, which of course are undeniable, but because the thermostat had been turned up to 75C in order to quick dry a load of washing over radiators before the return to penniless student life. In between everything domestic, I am back at my desk writing Christmas thank yous with beautiful black and white cards Ė photographs of long gone North Devon rural life by James Ravilious from the Beaford Archive. (I must also tell you about the inspiring pictures on show at the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery.) With many more evenings, and afternoons, of electric light before the clocks change, I am thinking of trying out what must be the first, and only stylish looking low energy light bulb: the Plumen bulb uses 80% less energy and lasts 8 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Meanwhile, it is good to see spring is advancing with my indoor pots of sprouting amaryllis and hyacinth bulbs.



Tags: books, colour, flower power, homemade, interiors, Simple, thrifty decoration, white rooms, winter


Everyday inspiration
06 January 2011





I am woken in the ink of night by a rumbling on the stairs. The adrenalin washes away as I see the cat careering downwards in pursuit of a mouse. Next morning there are five blood spots where she has exercised the law of the suburban jungle.  Sleep disturbances (there has been a teenage party, too) donít go well with my new year plans for super organisation and lists of things to get down. However, it is worth the numbing experience of a trip to Ikea to stock up on new white box files. Just lining them up on the office shelves, freshly folded and empty is enough to make me feel strong enough to tackle almost anything. Even the rather alarming threat from the water company that they will pursue legal action if I donít mend the small leak outside on the pavement within the new few days. Heavens, Iíve only just got over the drama of my boiler and British Gas.



This is the bother of long festive breaks, you have a wonderful time being cocooned with chocolates, fairy lights and going out to eat (Vietnamese noodles, seafood and mint at Battersea based Mientay) and a refreshing tapa of fennel, feta, and pomegranate seeds at Camberwellís Angels and Gipsies). Then, itís over, like the proverbial rug stripped from under your thick socks, and back to the grind to pay for it all. Still, thereís something rather appealing about returning to everyday duties. And even if it means sharing our house with the new seasonís sofas, a cotful of model babies, and photographers with caravans of staff and equipment, it is all part of an industrious rhythm that I seem to thrive on. Well, as long as it doesnít get too hectic....



With the pompoms back in the Christmas box stored up in the attic and the tree dismembered into aromatic kindling for the fire, the house returns to a feeling of calm simplicity that is really welcome after all the festive stuff.  I know that white is my passion - white walls, white plates, white you-name -it - but I also couldnít live without the simple everyday qualities of blue and white striped ticking cotton (charcoal-coloured, seen here) much of it from Ian Mankin that I use as cushion and chair covers, and assorted tablecloths. Similarly visitors to the house will find all sorts of blue and white checks, for wool throws, for more cushions, and my favourite blue and white check mesh shopping bag from an old-fashioned Spanish hardware shop. This is the sort of everydayness that is as important to me as cloves of garlic and good olive oil for a simple salad dressing or a thick piece of buttered toast and tea. And  I mustnít forget a good book too. Reading a Sunday review where publishers mope about the ones that got away, I can see thereís some rich material. The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips (Virago), and Deceptions by Rebecca Frayn (Simon&Schuster) look to be just two beguiling novels that will distract me from the new year paper piles and form filling.



Tags: books, colour, interiors, Simple, white rooms, winter


A thriller and the garden
30 December 2010





From almost-hysterical queues to silhouettes of trees and church towers against white fields: this contrast from urban shopping frenzy to rural peace has been one of the best things about our Christmas, spent in the depths of Somerset. Charades, a melee of dogs plopped in front of the fire, and Blackadder on the TV are pretty good festive ingredients, too.



Thereís a feeling of relief that all the present searching and sorting is over. I am using the post Christmas calm to get stuck in to Before I Go To Sleep With a bizarre form of memory loss as its key theme, the story is a gripping psychological thriller which kept me up all night, because it was too tantalising to close the pages and not get to the clever ending. But enough of the adrenaline. I am thrilled with my copy of Second Nature: A Gardener`s Education by Michael Pollen who brilliantly promotes the garden rather than the wild as the most appropriate place for rethinking our relationship with nature. He says that a garden is the place for being in, rather than looking at. Lawns, for example are not part of Pollenís landscape: ďThe more serious about gardening I became, the more dubious lawns seemedĒ he writes and goes on to say ďFor however democratic a lawn may be with respect to oneís neighbours, with respect to nature it is authoritarianĒ. I know what he means, but you do have to tough it with nature too - Iím thinking of the groundelder and lemon balm that engulfs my summer garden, of which I have no qualms at hacking down to maintain order.



With more musing on my unseasonal train of thought I do so miss the summer herby lavender scents of my garden which is looking so spare and flattened now that there is a bit of a thaw in progress. The closest I can seem to get to a summer sensory experience at the moment is the gorgeous Primrose Facial Hydrating Cream with lavender, sage and rosemary from Aesop. I donít usually find huge words of praise for beauty treatments (having worked as a beauty editor some years ago and tried out products that came with extraordinary claims, even more extraordinary prices and yet didnít seem to be any better than E45 cream from the chemist) but this cream is delicious in fragrance and good to my frazzled winter skin. Whilst Iím on the subject of beautifying I shall keep you posted with the effects, if any, (who me, sounding a touch cynical?) of my Yuroll which bills itself as a jade facial massager Ė not unlike a small rolling pin on a long handle Ė and is supposed to ensure a ďlean re-contoured wonderfully unlined face: thoroughly toned and with improved elasticityĒ. I canít see anything, apart from a very large dose of Botox improving my Ďlaughterí lines and general wear and tear, much of which occurred when I sunbathed furiously in my teens. But, hey Iím going to give it a go!



Weíre all nursing extremely full stomachs, and yearning for something lighter and more fragrant than Christmas turkey fare. My sister in law gave me a jar of her preserved lemons, which I canít wait to add to a spicy tagine with some fluffy hot couscous. I must also pay a visit to Persepolis our local taste of Persia in Peckham, where there are many aromatic middle eastern delights. After an extremely bracing walk across Hampstead Heath, it wonít be over indulgent in this season of indulgency, to enjoy some ice cream at Marine Ices in Camden, a family tradition that goes back to when my children were small and seemed to disappear behind their two huge scoops of chocolate tottering on wafer cones.

Tags: books, Christmas, colour, flower power, garden, home cooking, homemade, scent, Simple, winter


Hot puddings and warm cardigans
21 December 2010





Tobogganing at great speed in the park (well it seems like it to me as I am given a rather alarming shove to get going) is one way of getting rid of excess adrenalin brought on by the run up to Christmas. Itís Alpine conditions here still in south London and I seem to be permanently dressed in bobble hat and my very thick hand knitted granddad style cardigan from the Brixton branch of Traid, the brilliant charitable organisation set up by Wayne Hemmingway that recycles clothes and textiles. On the subject of all things sub zero it seems rather typically dotty and British if not plain mad that itís the annual open-air cold water swimming championships at the local lido in a few weeks time. Weíre keeping warm too with a spot of mince pie making. There is readymade flaked and short crust pastry in the fridge to get them out in double quick time. And Iíve stocked up on jars of shop bought mincemeat which can be customised with more flaked almonds, orange and lemon zest and slugs of brandy.



Thereís absolutely every excuse in our draughty house to make a log fire and sit beside it with a slim volume of Ten Poems about Puddings which arrives by post complete with a lucky sixpence to stuff in the Christmas pudding. If Iím on a lap top itís always worth a quick visit to see whatís new in interiors on the decor8 blog . My log baskets are Spanish and made from plaited esparto grass, but if I didnít have these I think Iíd go for something English and traditional in woven willow. I prefer the elemental feeling and flickering heat of an open fire but am considering a wood burning stove because theyíre a more efficient way of storing heat. Weíll see. War is waging in the garden as the big birds - crows, magpies and fat woodpigeons scare the little birds Ė robins, sparrow, and bluetits away from the survival rations of seeds and nuts that I have scattered across the garden table. We must try and keep the robins alive, especially as their numbers were depleted in last yearís hard winter. A squirrel has hidden a boiled potato in the rose standard. I know because I went and checked it out this morning, hoping it wasnít one of the tulip bulbs. The snow shows up the gaps in the lavender planting and I make a mental note to go to my favourite catalogue and order more for the spring.



Slip sliding my way around the West End crush in search of very specific make up requirements for the sixteen year old, I think about the beauty of online shopping. But because mother nature is holding up deliveries during this mad freeze I can see I will be out hunting and gathering right up to the big day. At Liberty there are the most gorgeous Liberty print scarves, investment buys, yes, but brilliant colours in timeless style. And even if it didnít arrive until after Christmas it would be worth waiting for one of Volga Linenís lightweight woven shawls in olive or duck egg blue that is half price, and as good to look at thrown across a chair, as it is wrapped around you. If I could have a new set of cutlery for the Christmas feast I would go for the classic sixties stainless steel knives and forks from Robert Welch - really beautiful and streamlined. It would be good too, to fill a large white bowl with the fat juicy oranges that are now in season in the market in Olhao.



Tags: books, Christmas, garden, home cooking, homemade, interiors, winter


Christmas roses
16 December 2010





The snow comes and the last roses are topped with fairy queen ice bonnets. I embrace the way the snow, the hoar frost, the cold, slows everything down: idling in front of a blazing fire to thaw out, or the ridiculously slow driving speeds needed to avoid the neighbourís brand new Fiat are all rather welcome. I crunch around the garden in Wellingtons and think it timely to invest in a pair of the recycled cashmere gloves that I spied on the nydesign room site. The dog loves the new white world and takes up goal post positions saving the snow balls we chuck in the air. ďLook at that dog jumpingĒ squeals a boy in the park and I feel the sort of maternal pride normally reserved for my children when they were young and doing some sort of athletic trick.  I think she deserves a Liberty print collar even if itís not quite the butch streetwise look that most dogs sport around here.



The extreme weather conditions have encouraged the squirrels to excel at survival tactics.  They line up on the garden fence, tails juddering, twitching and eyes greedily fixed as I attempt to plant the bulbs that didnít get dug in before the blizzard. I am not taking chances and put down barricades of wire netting to stop their mining efforts.



The shoots are tramping in slush and so I rush round laying down covers hoping it doesnít seem too unfriendly. It is not a little disorientating to be watching TV on Monday in the sitting room painted in Duluxís aubergine vision for winter 2011, and then by Wednesday, itís spring again and all pale walls, tulips, and hyacinths for a magazine feature that includes a gorgeous arm chair upholstered in olive green from Laura Ashley. Another theme on all things British, includes very simple white jugs from Burleigh that are ideal for a Pure Style kitchen, and simple block printed fabrics from Tobias and the Angel.



This Christmas I am stocking up on Spanish fig and almond slices from Brindisa and more membrillo as book writing meant that I didnít get round to making it this autumn. For more Iberian pleasures such as simple woven Portuguese shopping baskets try Feitoria. For a present of simple everyday drinking glasses you canít beat the dumpy French Duralex ones from Labour and Wait. And any lover of English food history will have their head happily buried all over the festive period in a copy of Dorothy Hartleyís classic Food in England: A Complete Guide to the Food That Makes Us Who We are

I might think the moment for scented room candles could come and go forever if it werenít for Diptyque who make ones with authentic smells. My favourite is Oranger, and almost as aromatic as the real thing. The Christmas tree is going up tomorrow and with it woolly pom poms that are very satisfying to make with children because the effect is very quick to achieve. I also make rag balls with fabric strips from my remnants bag that are pinned to floral oasis.  The look is simple and homespun.

Tags: colour, flower power, garden, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, scent, Simple, thrifty decoration, winter


Porridge and blankets
13 January 2010



dsc_0025.jpg

The snow woman is limbo dancing in the garden (her structure undermined in a temporary thaw) and the skiers have returned from the Brockwell Park slopes. Welcome to 2010 and the weird world of weather. For the last two weeks we Londoners, together with the rest of the country have been grappling with the biggest freeze-up for years. This one is maybe not as punishing as the winter of 1947 when people were using pneumatic drills to dig up frozen parsnips and 20 foot snowdrifts cut off thousands, but it is bad enough to inflict an itchy collection of chilblains upon my 15 year oldāńŲ?—?•s toes. The red and swollen effects have been hastened by her unenthusiasm for sensible (ie uncool) walking boots. I explain (the without judgement style of explaining) that Top Shop pumps are probably not the best option for negociating ankle height slush, grit and skating rink pavements.

dsc_0064porride-jan-10.jpg

Even if the footwear advice is not exactly welcomed at least the suggestion that everyone keeps warm with hot bowls of porridge at breakfast is met with approval; not only comforting but the ideal vehicle for large amounts of dark muscovado sugar or golden syrup. I make it with roughly one cup of oats to three cups of water. Bring the ingredients to the boil in a saucepan and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until creamy. Honey, butter, cream, creme fraiche or chopped dates are other delights to eat with porridge.

dsc_0049hyacinth-jan-10.jpg

The hyacinth bulbs I potted some weeks ago are throwing delicious scent around the room, and this, combined with the wood smoke from the fire gives the house the feeling of a rural oasis........ I can almost hear the sheep bleating. Reading in bed at night, swathed in an array of colourful wraps and blankets to keep warm, I`m told I look like an eccentric aunt. How romantic. One of my favourites is a cotton cellular example that I dyed lilac to pep up its hospital look. I`d like to add one of Donna Wilson`s takes on traditional Scottish blankets to the pile. And if I was to introduce some colour to my bedding themes, then Dorma`s new duck egg blue cotton sheets would be perfect.

dsc_0051blankets-jan-10.jpg

I`m the first to bang on about the false economy of buying cheap gadgets. But when my iron was lost on one of the shoots a few months ago, as a stop gap I nipped down to the electrical shop and bought the cheapest one I could find. In short, a mistake highlighted when I swished, rather than sweated, through the creases with the new Phillips model that has replaced the bad buy. With the windows steamy, a cup of Earl Grey, and the afternoon play going in the background, I soon got through the stack of pre-washed tea towels to be made up into linen tablecloths, orders for which are flying out of my online shop.

dsc_0040teatowel-jan-10.jpg

Tags: colour, flower power, get crafty, home cooking, homemade, thrifty decoration, winter


Linen sheets and peppermint creams
17 December 2009



dsc_0005rose-dec-09.jpg

8.00am: a fairy tale encounter with iced petals and snow flakes when I venture into the garden this morning to prod a blocked drain. A mucky distraction from the business of Christmas shopping which is something that I always intend to get done without getting stressed over, but never quite manage to pull off. It would be wise not read all those Christmas gift guides which swamp the reader with choices and possibilities that make decision making even more problematic. At least they`re not all about solid gold teapots these days, and hey, the Rolser (shopping on wheels vehicle of choice in Olhao) was even in the Eco Gift part of the Observer magazine. The shop floors of the Nation, though, continue to be choked with over packaged Starbucks gift boxes and pile `em high towers of celebrity memoirs. And talking of books, real ones, I have just ordered several copies of the Little Stranger by Sarah Waters . It`s supposed to be a good eerie read - perfect for a snug holiday afternoon. I know that all the mags are telling us to make our own presents, but it`s not quite as simple as that. You need time to create a handsewn bag for Aunt Olive or a knitted mohair scarf for your nearest and dearest. I know it`s all about the thought but setting yourself the task of homemade gifts for everyone can induce similar palpitating stress to battling through Oxford Street department stores. The way I do it is to do a bit of shop bought and a bit of homemade, and try to give appropriately. I can`t see my 20 year old wowing over a box of peppermint creams but know that if they`re prettily wrapped in tissue, will really please a girl friend or grandparent.

dsc_0009peppermint-creams-dec-09.jpg

HOME MADE PEPPERMINT CREAMS: 1 egg white 450g icing sugar, juice of half a lemon, 5 or 6 drops of peppermint flavouring, the mere driplet of green colouring (or they`ll look gruesome and lurid). Beat the egg white until fluffy, and add all the other ingredients to make a ball of green paste. Roll out to half an inch thick and cut out shapes. I like mine round, but stars and hearts would be good for christmas too. Decorate with silver balls and leave the creams to dry on greaseproof paper overnight Christmas biscuits are also a winner, and can be thrown together in half an hour, left to cool and either eaten for tea or wrapped up as a gift. Watch me making a batch on my latest YouTube I have in mind, a `present to myself` set of Volga linen sheets. But the car needs to be fixed and what sort of parent lets their children drive off in a dodgy vehicle? This business of feeling responsible for your offspring, doesn`t diminish as they get older, quite honestly you feel even more protective towards them as they hurl themselves around the world on gap year travels and hit party nights in drink sodden University cities.

xmas-biscuit-dec-09.jpg

Another way of giving beautiful presents without spending a fortune is to have a rummage around charity shops for someone elses old glass. I set myself a visual style guide: no crystal glass, nothing coloured and always simple in shape. In this way it makes the hunt easier and defines the `look`.

dsc_glasses-dec.jpg

Seagulls patterned like Fairisle jumpers swoop over the house in Olhao, where the ` room on top` is emerging from piles of rubble and bricks. I`m not going to post the `works in progress` pictures because they don`t look much fun, only to me. I will wait for a `before` and `after` show. Dare I say it, but it might take less time than we thought because Mr Martinho got off to a roaring start when a violent storm was forecast. It didn`t appear but, because there were more hands on the job in anticipation, the men were able to take down the old roof, and construct the building`s cement platform in just a few days. I like the way they have put all the old tiles to one side for reuse. I`ll leave you at the end of the year, with a plate of plump aromatic lemons, as typical an element of winter, as the rickety wagons of roasting chestnuts in the twinkly Olhao cobbled streets.

dsc_0012lemons-dec09.jpg

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


Snowfall
09 February 2009



dsc_0013.jpg

Last week a white `Narnia` descended upon London and suspended the daily grind. Snow! The headlines said ``-5C and we`re all going snowwhere". I pulled on the layers and walked through mounds of fluffy powder. Our road had become a heavenly avenue with snowladen branches bejewelling my steps. That sound snow makes as it packs under your boots! The velvety swish of car tyres on untreated streets! And instead of fussing about interest rates we found ourselves asking how do you roll a snowman, what have you done with the sledge, can I build an igloo in the garden? At the park I heard whoops and cheers, as if it were a blazing day at the beach. Monday had been cancelled along with school and all of London`s buses. The entire city surrendered to delight. It`s a scene one barely witnesses in London, one of innocence, of snow in a city that doesn`t do extremes of weather. Families were out in force with young children and dogs. People slithered downhill on anything from professional snowboarding kit to an estate agent`s For Sale board (very apt in the property downturn don`t you think?). A modern day Bruegel had happened before my eyes.

dsc_00512.jpg

It wasn`t a day for bicycles either. On the subject, this weekend I`m visiting a man in Norfolk, who, according to my friend Fiona, has a shed of secondhand models going for reasonable sums. Exciting. Maybe this time next week I`ll be pitching up at the post office and getting the thighs in trim on my own pair of wheels. Thankfully the ice didn`t deter the shoots. Stylists, photographers and set builders are a hardy crew: one poor boy spent the morning getting bluer and bluer sawing chipboard amongst the drifts in the back garden, and the heavily laden props` van negociated the Alpine conditions of Tulse Hill with aplomb. The Earthborn paint gang arrived with beautiful environmentally friendly rich chalky colours. I have my eyes on a soft mint green that would suit the garden shed which is need of a tart up for spring. Good news. Garden experts predict the freezing weather will encourage an explosion of colour as the blanket of snow has put back the flowering of daffodils, crocuses, and snowdrops. For the past decade, spring flowers have come up early meaning the impact of the traditional spring bloom has been barely noticeable. Particularly pleasing to know, is that garden pests like aphids and white fly which survived the milder winters of the past few years are also expected to have been decimated in greater numbers.

dsc_0073.jpg

Log fires, thermal leggings, and ginger and lemon tea are keeping me warm, plus the blue and white check blankets I bought over a decade ago from Welsh manufacturer Melin Tregwynt. Lux soap flakes and a quick spin on the wool cycle have maintained their fluffiness. It is also of no little importance, too, that the blankets are of top notch quality.

dsc_01072.jpg

When fingers are swollen, after throwing snowballs while wearing under-performing woolly gloves, it`s time for tomato soup. 1litre stock ( I use a cube of dried organic vegetable stock if there`s no chicken stock in freezer or fridge) 2x 500g cans tinned tomatoes l tablespoon tomato paste 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 onions 4 cloves garlic 4 teaspoons of dried oregano or three or four sprigs of fresh and chopped salt and pepper to taste cr?¨∆me fraiche to stir in Peel and chop the onions and garlic and sweat for 10 minutes or so in pan with the olive oil and oregano, Add the tinned tomatoes, puree ,and stock and simmer gently for 15 minutes, Pulverise in a mixer or with a hand blender. Add salt and pepper. Serves 4-6

dsc_b60012.jpg

Tags: garden, home cooking, winter


Iced gems
14 January 2009



dsc_0075rose1.jpg

Just a few lines: I`ve been working on a presentation, tidying up after the teenage occupation over Christmas, and getting organised for a short trip to Olhao. In other words multi-tasking operations are in full swing. Not without rising levels of stress. I get so agitated when the server goes down or I can`t find my black felt tip. A stint in the garden always clears the head, even if there are piles of dead matter that I didn`t quite get rid off before the big freeze began. Iced sugar plums come to mind as I cut the very last rose buds to put on the table. For the last month I have been delaying, but I must not put off the pruning any longer even for the sight of these pink gems.

dsc_0035.jpg

It is grim to learn that Waterford Wedgwood has gone into administration - even though it looks as if there is a buyer for the 250 year old company. This isn`t just another casualty of the recession ( the long ailing Woolworths chain was hardly a great blow ) it is the erosion of a three hundred year old Potteries craft tradition. I have a great fondness for white Wedgwood porcelain plates, which not look beautiful but feel pleasing to handle. Let`s hope the new buyers can re-energise this great English name. In anticipation of some grilled Olhao fishes I think I shall make some smoked salmon on bread. I could live on the combination of smoked salmon (try to use wild) cream cheese and a proper bread like sourdough. What makes it complete though is black pepper and good squeezes of lemon juice. This my family`s default treat for parties, picnics and weekend feasts.

dsc_02482.jpg

Tags: flower power, home cooking, winter


Looking ahead
01 January 2009



dsc_00623.jpg

The new year feels like a fresh start as I walk through silvery streets in the early hours to meet daughter number two off the free New Year`s Eve night bus. The garden is preserved in ice like frozen aspic. And the late rose I snip before breakfast, in thermal socks and clogs, is a frosted powder puff of petals. The earth is hard, but I`m not unhappy the squirrels find it challenging to dig up the tulip bulbs. I will be generous though and put out nuts and seeds for the undeserving beasts. I don`t compile lists of new year`s resolutions because there are too many elements of my life that could do with fine tuning and better application. I am going to settle for just one: a bicycle. It will keep me fit and get me from A to B in a slow and carbon friendly way. The bike must be the sit up and beg variety, even though it`s more the maiden aunt going out for a sedate pedal-look, rather than the groovy young thing on fast and smart alloy wheels. I`m going the secondhand route, but if I had the funds, I`d be on a spanking new Pashley Princess, complete with gold lined mudguards, ding-dong bell, leather sprung saddle, skirt guards and a wicker basket.

dsc_0070.jpg

Dodging the sales crowds, and ten deep queues outside Yves st Laurent, on a trip into town the other day, it seems that Londoners are heeding mayor Boris Johnson`s declaration that it is our patriotic duty to keep shopping throughout the recession. I`m not so sure if it means yet another designer handbag. Even if it`s 75% off, what`s the point when there are already three more clogging up the wardrobe? I think it`s the small luxuries, that cheer you up in hard times. Indeed, recent sales figures from the world`s big cosmetic companies, L`oreal, Beiersdof and Shiseido, confirm the so-called lipstick effect has returned with consumers increasing their spending on cosmetics even while economising on everything else. Barry M, No52, lip paint (shocking pink) and a good read are favourite pick-me-ups. I am gripped by Wendy Moore`s Wedlock an intricately researched tale about the terrible marriage made by the Countess of Strathmore. It lives up to the blurb on the jacket `how Georgian Britain`s worst husband met his match` with bloody duels, great hairstyles, abduction, deception and betrayal in every paragraph. The Maurice Sendak inspired drawing is fabulous in An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton who encourages children and adults to follow their dreams of rocket powered unicorns, and magic watermelon boats rather than mobiles and matching sets of silverware.

pear-06.jpg

There is pear and ginger cake for pudding: CAKE 125g softened butter 125g caster sugar 125g self raising flour 2 large eggs 4 tbsps ginger syrup 4 knobs preserved ginger, chopped 9-16 inch cake tin SYRUP 90g butter 90g sugar 2 tbsps ginger syrup 4 large pears juice 1 lemon 1 Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the syrup and sugar. Beat until creamy and a pale toffee colour. Pour into the cake tin lined with grease proof paper. 2 Peel, core and slice the pears, turning them in the lemon juice. Arrange the slices around the base of the tin . 3 Pour all of the cake ingredients, except the ginger, into a mixer and whizz until smooth. Add the chopped ginger and spread the mixture over the pear slices. 4 Bake at 190C for 45 minutes (approximate, as this will depend upon your oven). If the top browns reduce the heat. A skewer plunged into the middle will emerge clean if the sponge is ready. Remove from the heat and cool on a rack. Serve with lashings of cream , creme fraiche, or ice cream.

Tags: flower power, garden, home cooking, winter


Simple details
18 December 2008



dsc_0058.jpg

It`s a week before the big day and there`s masses to do. I`m metaphorically chasing my tail. What a production it is: travel plans, the lemon and sage stuffing my dad likes, last minute shopping, and so on. But I treasure my Blue Peter moments, making a festive herb wreath , and painting simple designs for cards. Even though it requires time and effort, it`s a kind of Crafty stand off with all that is crass and commercial about christmas.

christmas.jpg

These are some of my favourite elements for a simple christmas: a blazing log fire; an aromatic Norwegian spruce tree, homemade heart or star shaped biscuits; white tissue, brown paper, and garden twine for wrapping presents; homemade cards with potato cuts or watercolours; as many flickering candles as I have holders for, plus jam jars for tea lights; bowls of hyacinths, amaryllis or white narcissi, natural scent and colour which lasts for ages; mounds of clementines,orbs of orange that taste as good as they look; and ice cold Spanish cava (Sainsbury`s vintage is on special offer) to kick start christmas morning.

dec_3_colour.jpg

Tags: get crafty, homemade, thrifty decoration, winter


The sweet taste of oranges
10 December 2008



dsc_0015.jpg

Typing in six layers, including a substantial wool coat, isn`t a peach as sudden movements are restricted (leaping to stop the dog swiping my chocolate biscuit, for example ) but it`s good to feel so wrapped up and cossetted. I suppose I`m being frightfully eco and saving on heating bills by being my own living radiator. But we have to go a lot further in this hot-bath-and-shower-addicted household to make a decent dent in costs. I swoon with motherly pride at the 17 seventeen year old`s top notes, soaring upwards from the shower, but accompanied by fifteen minutes of steaming and pelting water sounds makes it a pricey performance. I`m wondering where to find an automatic shower time-out like the ones in the gym, where just as you start to feel properly soaked, it cuts out. Curmudgeonly? I hope it`s not some sort of lingering vibe from the grumpy old man persona that comedian Jack Dee plays in Lead Balloon, the series filmed in our house last summer.

oranges2.jpg

Meanwhile, I`m making up the beds with all the blankets I can lay my hands on including the special no-dog-and-cat-allowed velvet ribbon- edged one. This reminds me that adding a trim to something like a plain tea towel or cushion cover is a simple way to customise a Christmas present. And on this subject, my head is spinning. You`d think that being a stylist and professional shopper, I would be resistant to the frisson of panic induced by the beguiling and glossy gift lists in the magazines. Well, I`m not. I am pleased though with my more humble DIY Christmas hamper idea: small wooden crates, which clementines come in, lined with tissue and filled with goodies like homemade membrillo; a bar of Green and Black`s chocolate; a packet of frilly white parrot tulip bulbs; or a good read, perhaps Francois Sagan`s classic coming of age Bonjour,Tristesse, for one of the teenagers, or Zoe Heller`s, The Believers. I shan`t forget some gorgeous Christmas delicious scents too, like the intoxicating sweetness of a pot of paperwhite narcissi, or for complete indulgence, a tuberose candle from Diptyque.

dsc_0051.jpg

AROMATIC ORANGES Oranges remind me of Christmas in Andalucia: the bulging nets of `navelinas` (they`re the ones without pips) sold at the roadside on the way out of Seville, and the sweet heady blossomed air floating in the half-opened car window as we swept by neat sunlit orange groves. I learned that a tree can fruit and flower at the same time, and that an unwaxed orange is so much more appealing than the artificially shined and waxed ones in Tesco. I also learned how to carefully slice the peel off with a perfectly sharp little knife, cut the orange into wafer thin discs, and chill in the fridge with a little lemon juice, a tablespoon or two of cointreau and a few fresh mint leaves. At Christmas lunch and the meals to come we continue to enjoy the clean fresh taste of sliced oranges, against the stodge factor of the pudding and mince pies.

nov_3_eat2.jpg

Tags: colour, homemade, thrifty decoration, winter


Frost and hot pies
01 December 2008



dsc_0144.jpg

An icing sugar layer of frost on the last roses looks fairy-like but, bother, the plunge in temperatures has sent the boiler into decline. A great unbeliever in the general obsession with insuring everything, I have to say that boiler insurance is probably the most worthwhile considering the machine has conked out at least 10 times, just as a shoot with mothers and babies or a frail relative arrives. It`s a relief then to sign the paper detailing the extremely expensive new part, knowing that because it`s covered we`re not going to be on soup rations. I can`t see the point though, of insuring every small appliance like an iron, or a kettle: sometimes you have to take the risk of things failing. It`s a question of working out what you can live without. I know I`d rather go around in creased attire than live without hot water. WINTER GREENS

_0010.jpg

It`s time for some festive greenery, and I`ve been stocking up on white hyacinth bulbs, bedded down with moss from a friend`s lawn- she`s delighted I`m digging it up as she`s one of those picky gardeners who fret if the grass doesn`t look like the Centre Court at Wimbledon. CHRISTMAS SHOPPING What`s even more weird about the weird economic situation is that suddenly we`re being encouraged to spend, and knockdown offers for cameras, bicycles, and computers are plastered across the newspapers and the net. With three acquisitive teenagers breathing down my neck, I`m not sure I approve, but we`ve all got to do our bit to keep the economy moving. I`m aiming to find presents from young designers and craftsmen, like Katrin Moye`s Fifties-style jugs inspired by her dad`s blue and white striped shirt. THE HOME FIRE IS BURNING

91.jpg

The logs were dumped in two vast cubic metre sacks in the middle of the garden path. It was urgent to clear the way for the day`s booking, but the only strong arms around to wheelbarrow 40 loads were my rather puny ones. It was quite fun, actually, like being a Tulse hill version of Laura from The Little House on the Prairie, as I stacked a vast pile outside the back door. No need to go off to the gym now. MINCE PIES

dsc_0021.jpg

l`ve made a batch of mince pies. They`re extremely useful to feed up visiting children and adults. I make sweet pastry and use my friend Emma`s mincemeat but when it`s all used up, make do with ready made pastry and mincemeat in jars from Waitrose, which is rather good.

Tags: flower power, home cooking, winter


 
Categories
 

autumn
frost
garden
homecooking
recipes for every day
scent
simple
simpleliving
spring
valentine
winter
alliums
apples
archtiecture
autumn
autumn crabapple jelly resourceful
baking
barbados
blankets
blankets colour texture roses
blue
books
bulb
bulbs
cak
cake
chocolate
christmas
coast
colour
colour
colour band
comfort
competition
cotton
country style
crabapple jelly
danish design
decoration
domestic bliss
e home cooking
fabric
fabrics
floral fabrics
flower power
flowerpower
flowers
frost
functional
garden
garden
garlic
get crafty
golden
green
holiday
home cooking
home cooking
homecooking
homemade
homesewing
interiors
interiors. decoration
lido
lime green
linen
market
market
marmalade
melbourne
natural
natural fabrics
olhao
olives blue summer
onions
orange
paint
paper borders
pink
portugal
pumpkins
pure style borders
purecolour
purestylecolour
purple
rhubarb
rio
roses
scent
sewing
shed
simple
simple decoration
simple decoration
simple design
simple update
simpledetail
simplestyle
simplestyle
spain
spring
stockholm
stripes
summer
sweden
swimmming
thrifty decoration
ticking
tiles
tulips
tulips. japan. location shoots
wallpaper
white
white paint
white rooms
winter
winter
winter simple decoration white retro vintage
winter. home cooking
yellow
yellow

Archives
 

I like
 
Website design by ph9