Monday, 5 June 2017

Happy Choices...!

It's an interesting dilemma, the day ones daughter decides that she wants some input into the decoration of her own room.

When you feel that you have a distinct interior style of your own - mine being English country house chic, the idea of relinquishing all authority, and letting a thirteen year old have a free reign over the decor of even one room is a scary prospect!


I can remember designing my children's nurseries, and choosing vintage and retro items so carefully.  Everything was perfectly thought out and co-ordinated in pastels and cream.  A bit of faded chintzy floral, for the girls and muted pastel coloured spots or stripes for my son, all tied together with pastel chippy painted furniture and a few dark wood family heirlooms thrown in.  Their rooms conveyed a sense of vintage nostalgia and harped back to a fantasy past where childhood was quainter, and more innocent, and when girls wore smocked dresses and boys wore shorts until their 16th birthday - or so I imagined in my little fantasy bubble!!

The Girls Original Bedroom 
Decorating an infants bedroom  is one of the most exciting things to focus on during the loooooong wait for baby to arrive - and I relished the job.  Then for pretty much a decade, and with three children, the interior choices remained very much under my domain, with the occasional addition of a requested riding hat or rosette, a few pictures of foxes when one of the twins went through a fox obsession, and 'tastefully' vintage classic car memorabilia for my son  -  which thankfully was all in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the house.

I knew that one day the time would come when I would be hiding my nail varnishes, lipsticks and even my best shoes from my tweenie girls, but for some reason, it hadn't occurred to me that I would be dealing with daughters who had strong ideas on  interiors, and wanted to stamp their own identity on their surroundings...I wonder where they got that from...?


...Yet here we are, currently in the midst of organising and planning one of the girls' bedrooms at her request.  The YouTube generation has brought with it a distinctly modern 'white studio' look, full of neutrals and metalics, and a young girls bedroom must apparently now fulfil the multi functions of film location as well as chic teenage hangout, office/editing suite and luxe sleepover quarters...  The look, apparently,  must be light, airy and slick with a hint of glamour, and despite the fact that I don't tend to do 'slick' - I'm rather more of a lived in and worn sorta gal -  this is the look that my daughter aspires to, and at least she's not asking for black walls and posters of Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden!



Rather than clash heads, we have reached a middle compromise.  We jokingly call it 'Studio Vintage' - although I prefer the idea of Barbarella meets Jane Austen!  There will be lots of white, cream and neutral, with a bit of chippy paint  (hurrah) - in white or cream - (pink NO longer allowed Mummy!) - with metallic accents, which can be changed and moved around as tastes change.  It's still a work in progress, and is actually quite an exciting project for us to embark on together.

So far there have yet to be too many disagreements.  My daughter has seen a metal bed in a copper finish, based on an old fashioned hospital bed shape, while I would prefer for her to have a vintage, white painted upholstered French bed, however, we are both agreed on a white chandelier, and a painted white French armoire wardrobe.

Thankfully something else that we both love, and which adds a modern, yet comfortable touch to the room, is this fabulous Pebble Cushion in pure white from Happy & Co.


Made from recycled materials and a duck feather pad, It works because it adds some much need texture and softness to the flat background of neutral paint and 'harder' metallic accessories.  It is also quirkily individual enough, that my daughter feels it can be unique to her own more modern style... (what she doesn't realise is that I've been trying it out around the house, because I love its huggable, 'squeeze me' tactile appeal! )




Happy & Co are an up and coming homeware and furniture company that are new to me, which again appeals to the 'cool' factor for my daughter, although, we are both attracted to the fact that as well as providing extremely stylish products, they are also a company that believe businesses should be socially responsible.  So for each product they sell, 10% of their profits are invested into their  Happy & Co Farm in Cambodia. This provides much-needed jobs for the young men and women, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables for the whole community.  What's not to love - shopping while giving something back - such a perfect combination.

I also had a typical 'Mummy' response to the beautiful packaging that our cushion was sent in.  It came in it's own hardwearing cotton bag drawstring bag, with the stylish Happy & Co. logo,  which will serve perfectly as a laundry bag for my daughters newly finished room...although I'm sure that she may have a few rather more 'youthful' ideas for it!



Of course, there's still lots to do, paint and finish, but I think that we have a good framework to work with, and this little corner is a 'living mood board' for what's to come.  What's particularly nice is that Happy & Co. represents a wonderful medium where this mother and Daughter can meet in the middle and enjoy an aesthetic that covers both our style needs...and what could be Happier than that!


Until Next Time,



Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Happy & Co. all words, opinions and views expressed are my own.



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Friday, 2 June 2017

Tales From A Country Kitchen - Lemon Buttercream Sponge Cake!

Now, I make no claim to be a master baker, but several of you asked for my Lemon Buttercream Sponge Cake after seeing the image on my Instagram page! Well here it goes - and just to warn you, in my household we like our portions generous and our lemon cake zesty, so do adjust to suit your taste...  


I very rarely follow a strict recipe when baking - my mantra is 3 quantities the same and half as many eggs.  So for instance, if I were making 12 cupcakes I would use 8oz (225g) of each flour, butter and sugar and then 4 eggs.  If I were making a single layer sponge, then it would be 6oz (175g) of flour, butter, sugar, and 3 eggs.   This is purely my own version, and means that I can whip up quick batches of things without having to check recipes.   I am in no way stating that it is the best way - or even the correct way...but I will admit that it is "My" way and perhaps a 'Lazy' way - haha.  Enjoy!! 

FOR THE SPONGE CAKE;

10 oz / 275g Self Raising Flour
10 oz / 275g Softened Butter
10oz / 275g Caster Sugar
5 Eggs (Beaten)
Lemon Zest from 1 fresh Lemon
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Line 2 (20cm) sponge tins with nonstick baking paper.

In a large bowl, blend together the butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the beaten eggs. 

Add the lemon zest and stir in.

Add baking powder to measured out flour.
Sift half the flour into the mixture and fold in with a spoon. Repeat with the remaining flour.

Divide the mixture between the lined and prepared tins.

Bake in the centre of preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer when inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake is springy to touch.

Remove from oven and leave cakes in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


FOR THE FILLING;


  • 500g icing sugar
  • 120g unsalted butter
Juice of 1 fresh lemon (I actually used the juice from 2!!)
Lemon zest from 1 fresh lemon

In a large bowl, beat the icing sugar, unsalted butter, lemon juice and lemon zest together until smooth, light and fluffy.



Take one sponge layer and spread half the lemon filling on it. Place the other sponge layer on top.

Spread the remaining lemon filling on top of the cake. Sprinkle on the left over lemon zest and dust with a little icing sugar.



    Now, make yourself a cup of tea, cut yourself a large slice and enjoy - and if you REALLY need to share - make sure you cut yourself an extra slice before they arrive!!

    Until next time,




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    Tuesday, 30 May 2017

    The Romance of an Outdoor Chandelier!

    I am extremely late to the party when it comes to Pinterest, and to be quite honest, perhaps that has been quite a good thing.  My head is already full of a thousand potential home improvements and prettifying ideas, and adding yet another social media platform for me to feed off and gain inspiration from is simply adding an extra book to the British Library sized pile of research images that already exist in my head!


    But Ho Hum - I firmly believe that one can never have too much knowledge - or inspiration, and Pinterest really is a visual treat to behold and get lost in.  Due to this latest obsession - as well as some inspiration from a friend's Instagram story, I recently decided that I simply HAD to have an outdoor chandelier in order to experience the sort of romantic, candlelit evening feasts that one sees on the pages of wedding magazines - usually  depicting scenes of fabulously chic marriage proposals...

    I naturally ignored the fact that I am already married and have no need for a romantic proposal site - after all, there really doesn't need to be a specific reason to set the scene for romance - regardless of whether the actual reality involves a boisterous chorus of supporting characters including a dog and teenagers who want to dine by candlelight too!

    So, having stared, pondered and scratched my head in confusion at a garish red and gold baroque style chandelier that had been left in the basement by the previous owners of Hill House when we first moved here seven years ago,  I suddenly realised that thanks to the addictive habit of social media giving one reasons to 'need' unnecessary things -  it did in fact have a purpose after all!


    This 'purpose' was helped by the fact that my husband had obviously had enough of my hoarding ways and had recently left the offending chandelier by the dustbin in order to discreetly transport it to the dump when I wasn't looking...


    Having rescued my 'treasure', all it needed was a bit of stripping down, polishing up and spray painting to even out the colour, and convert it back to the original purpose of a chandelier - to hold candles!


    A quick trip to the DIY shop to get a few supplies was necessary, and having pondered over how quickly attaching the chandelier to some lovely rustic rope would cause it to go up in flames and land on my head, I settled on some solid and flame friendly metal chain link...


    Having decided on the perfect branch in the garden, and in the absence of my husband who had hightailed it (one chandelier lighter) to the dump regardless, (I believe that the dump is his 'Happy Place'), there then came the difficult task of getting the chain over said branch and down again without getting it entwined and caught up amongst the leaves.


    After a few failed and rather perilous attempts, where the chain came back hurtling towards me with seemingly more force than I had thrown it, I realised that it would be easier (as well as safer)   to throw a far lighter ball of twine over the branch instead,  then by attaching the heavy chain to it's end I could hoist the chain up with ease.



    Once this epic feat of engineering (as I proudly relayed the experience to my husband upon his return...) had been achieved, it was left to attach the chandelier at the perfect height, and secure it with a heavy duty link.



    This done, and owing to the particularly fine weather over the back holiday weekend, I was able to give the red areas of the chandelier a quick spray of gold metallic paint in situ, which then dried within minutes.




    Five neutral tapered candles completed the look, and all that was left to do was to set the table and wait for sunset!


    I think that a dining area lit by candles is quite fitting for Hill House - a country home that was completed in 1822,  at a time when all lighting would have been either firelight, candlelight or if one were extremely modern - oil lamp!


    If you'd like to see the whole experience in 'live action', please head along over to my YouTube Channel here.

    In the mean time, I shall be sharing a quiet, romantic, candelit supper a deux...plus 2 x 13 year olds, a 15 year old and a dog...Who said that romance was dead...!


    Until next time,






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    Wednesday, 19 April 2017

    An Easter Monday Stroll Through Blakeney, North Norfolk...

    There can be nothing better recommended to blow away the cobwebs of carbohydrate induced inertia,  than a pleasant post lunch stroll through the gorgeous streets of the North Norfolk coastal village of Blakeney.

    Perfectly restored brick and flint houses, tastefully faded old wooden doorways, clusters of what were once fishermans cottages, and a panoramic view over the Blakeney salt marshes provide a picture perfect and genteel backdrop for the traditional Easter pursuit that is known as 'Looking At Other People's Houses'...


    ...It also provides a beautifully co-ordinated colour chart of what I imagine to be Farrow & Balls finest...

    ...It all made me want to immediately bound home and rethink the colour of my front door...

    Mmmmm...a light 'Bone' or perhaps a more dramatic 'Stiffkey Blue'...?

    ...Even the quaint village Stores was picture perfect...

    Such welcoming facades, which I suspect look quite magical lit by lamplight in the evening...

    Some - equally as splendid - faded grandeur...


    ...As well as a few secret doorways...

    ...Small alleyways,  populated by gravel roads and beautiful, neatly kept cottages...

    Each garden beautifully tended...

    ...And many that I'd gladly move into straight away if asked...

    Our impeccably decorated lunch spot...

    The view on the way back to the car...

    ...And if you fancy a longer stroll, there are numerous nearby coastal walks - perfect for a spot of dog walking, crabbing and bird watching, or simply just to walk off the sticky toffee pudding that somehow found itself sitting eagerly on your plate at lunch - begging to be eaten whilst shamelessly lavishing itself in cream right in front of your very eyes...Not all so restrained after all!

    Until next time,

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    Monday, 27 March 2017

    Hurrah For The First Outdoor Lunch of The Year!

    It was certainly a long time in coming, but FINALLY just a week after the first day of Spring, the sun decided to put it's hat on and come outside for an ENTIRE WEEKEND of blue skies and sun rays!

    Now, I for one had been ready and waiting for this moment for weeks...If not months.  I didn't even care that the actual temperature didn't quite live up to the visual spectacle of a cloudless sky, and  golden sun.  What mattered was that it was suddenly time to come out of hibernation, escape the cocooning comfort of being indoors, and start breathing in the fresh air again!

    In celebration of the weather, I decided to enjoy a weekend of gardening and outdoor eating - especially as it gave me the opportunity to make use of my gorgeous new Laura Ashley acrylic serving dishes and picnicware.

    As you know, I'm a huge fan of vintage and decorative antiques, so one of the joys of decorating and accessorising for any occasion is mixing up the old and the new to get my own unique eclectic style.  I particularly love things that have an air of nostalgia or a hint of the retro about them, and this particular line of Laura Ashley home accessories has all of that with it's Murano glass inspired floral shapes.


    Coupled with my chippy painted farmhouse table and mismatched vintage chairs the whole scene looked fabulous against the crispness of the Laura Ashley Whitby check tablecloth and matching garden Whitby seat pads in a seaspray grey/green – the perfect mix of shabby and chic!

    And if you're wondering what we had for lunch, my simple menu and a quick recipe can be found below - Enjoy and HAPPY SPRING!! 

    EASY SPRING LUNCH MENU!

    Prawn & Lime Mayonnaise Sandwiches
    Green Salad topped with sliced pears, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
    Halved peaches with crème Fraîche and honey


    Paula’s Easy Prawn & Lime Mayo Sandwiches
    150g Jumbo King Prawns, chopped into small chunky pieces
    Handful of chopped coriander (or flat leafed Parsley if preferred)
    1 half of a chopped sweet red pepper
    1 half of a chopped sweet yellow pepper
    1 chopped celery stalk
    Half chopped small cucumber
    Salt and Pepper to taste

    4 x Brioche Hotdog buns

    For the Lime Mayo sauce:
    2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
    1 tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
    1 teaspoon runny honey
    Pepper and salt to taste
    Pinch of paprika if you like a spicy ‘kick’ to your filling.

    Method:

    Mix sauce ingredients in a bowl, add chopped prawns and diced vegetables to create a thick and chunky, but not too runny filling and spoon equally into buns. Serve with a leafy salad of your choice – in my case with the addition of sliced pears, walnuts and pomegranate seeds – yum!



















    Until Next Time!


    Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Laura Ashley, all words, opinions and views expressed are my own.

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