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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Monday, 27 February 2017

Bringing The Spring In!

Well, I for one have felt like January was the longest month on record, with February coming a close second - and despite what my husbands says - No - I have never said that before, and certainly not on an annual basis, at precisely this time of the year....


Obviously, it's simply the weather that causes this feeling of time dragging on, as in England we long for Spring days filled with sunshine, longer daylight and a garden that suddenly comes alive.  I actually look forward to the first days of January, where the promise of exciting new beginnings and the potential for a fabulous new year are at their height, so I know that it's not the months of January or February per se that are at fault...

In fact if both of those months were filled with a constant stream of crisp Winter sunlight, then they would be  an absolute dream...

...And so, in order to combat this (Okay - I admit it - yearly...) feeling of Winter ennui, I like to inject a bit of Springtime magic into the house a few weeks early, and plant up some vintage post with Spring bulbs and flowers...


I adore filling the house with cut flowers, but at this time of the year, they can prove to be expensive and/or hard to find on an ongoing bases, so I find that Spring bulbs fill the gap quite nicely until the country blooms of choice are back in abundance...

I am a quite the planter addict and the vintage variety are naturally my pot of choice.  Unusual vintage vessels are a particular love of mine and they sit beautifully alongside my more conventional original Constance Spry vases and various other antique planters...


Victorian Jelly molds are a delightful option in lieu of a conventional planter, as they tend to have the most beautifully sculpted shapes, ridges and designs that are often equally as pretty as the flowers inside...

...And so a day of planting ensued at the weekend...





...and as a result, I now have a house filled with happy flowers, soon to open buds, and a feeling of Spring promise... Have I ever told you how much I LOVE this time of the year?



...And if you'd like to see me actually buying the vintage jelly molds and the planting up in action, please take a look on my YouTube Channel Here!


Until Next Time!































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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

My St. Valentine's Day Table!

I must admit, that after many, many overpriced, forced romantic, sleeping sitting up, hour and a half slot allocated, table placed in overspill tent out back, unsatisfactory Valentine's meals at fancy restaurant...


...In recent years, we've tended to leave the £150 'Romantic' Set menu's based around a heart shaped chocolate souffle to the younger crowd....

Now, if this makes me sound a bit "Bah Humbug" about romance, really I'm not...

I LOVE the idea of celebrating St. Valentines day, I just prefer to make it a family and friends occasion, and to leave the romantic dinners for the other 364 days of the year...

So here is my pre-prepared St. Valentine's table for a family supper this evening...


The plates are the gorgeous Schiap style that I found in the sale at OKA.  They're bolder than my normal choice of white, cream or pastels, but I think that they add interest and are a sophisticated change to my usual French creamware.


My trusty hand blown, Dee Puddy green glasses are out again in force, and you can't go wrong with a vintage French soupier full of roses and  a regiment of vintage brass candlesticks - candlelight is a good choice for ANY occasion.


So there it is, and if you'd like to see me actually setting the table in 'live' action, then you can see it on my YouTube channel HERE!


...And finally, in this high pressured day and age of "50 Shades of All Things Romantic" and in keeping with my aversion to all things that are too 'forced' romantic on Valentine's Day, the only thing trussed up in stockings tonight will be the of Paupiette of chicken in a wild mushroom sauce that I shall be serving for dinner tonight...sorry Darling!!


Until Next Time,






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Monday, 23 January 2017

A Cheerful January Lunch Table!

I have to admit to the fact that January is not exactly my favourite month....

After weeks of over excited preparation and planning for Christmas - covering precise details from everything to how the decorations will look, and carefully co-ordinating the wrapping paper so that it looks beautiful under the tree, to the most giddy project of all - deciding how the Christmas lunch table should be presented....   (Including making sure that the turkey has an all over tan, is dressed beautifully, and complete with enviable, albeit edible, accessories -   I used to work at a fashion magazine - I look at everything in this way!)   All of which brings with it such a euphoric sense of urgency and purpose, that when the season has passed, I'm often left longing for another event or sense of occasion to plan for.

And so...Bring on the post Christmas Great British Sunday lunch!


Now, call me obsessed, but apart from the fact that I absolutely love a delicious and traditional Sunday roast - be it chicken, beef, pork or lamb - I'm not picky - I also love the whole pomp and ceremony surrounding setting the table for this very British of Sunday traditions...

I love knowing that the children see it as more than a grab and run meal...after all, who can grab and run with three courses, unless of course the plan is to run to the nearest sofa for a snooze...

...The weather may be miserable and freezing cold outside, and the sun hardly hits the sky before it starts to set again, but whilst everyone feels the need to snuggle up and make the most of staying indoors, these slow and leisurely Sunday lunches will be celebrated and enjoyed with friends and family at the end of each Wintery week.


We'll sit at the less formal family room table (where we can seat more people) and we'll chatter away, have a laugh, and tell bad jokes, and basically, catch up with each others lives in a way that doesn't often happen during the rather more hectic mid week...

The New Year is also an opportunity to use my cheerful and colourful china from places such as Susie Watson and Emma Bridgewater.  Less grand than my formal settings at Christmas, in pretty, fresh, pastel shades that hint at the promise of Spring...




Of course in my opinion, no table is complete without candles being included somewhere - regardless of the time of day.  Hence, I am a serial candlestick buyer, and this time I used my clear glass column ones, which apart from looking elegant, also give the illusion of semi transparency, so that we don't feel the need to dip, dive or look around them in order to speak to each all of the time...


I also love to add some flowers or greenery as a centrepiece if possible... 


...And although, these will usually leave the table when the hot dishes are placed down, it still makes everyone happy to see the dressed table before being seated and while we're enjoying our pre-lunch drinks and nibbles...


These images were taken just before we sat down to eat...I'm afraid that once the food appears, my stomach takes over and the camera gets put down in favour of wielding a knife and fork.

And for those of you who might be wondering, roast beef was the order of the day - dressed in a seductively flavoursome gravy and accessorised by some frivolously puffy yorkshire puddings!


Until Next Time...








Thanks to www.arhaus.com for inviting me to show a post Christmas tablescape.  This is NOT a sponsored post.



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Friday, 9 December 2016

The Christmas 2016 Hot Chocolate Station is Now Open!

Every year, my children wait in eager anticipation for the hot chocolate station to open.  It's become a bit of a tradition in our household that our normal comforting mug of bedtime cocoa, becomes an all day, crazed, bulging sweet fest of indulgence which marks the beginning of the Christmas foray into over eating from the first weekend in December.   I'm personally not normally a huge fan of drinking milk - hot or cold, but even I can't resist the excitement of drinking something that really ought to carry the title of 'Pudding'.  
            

I'm sure that you all have your own way of making hot chocolate.  Perhaps some of you even make it from scratch with cocoa powder or like my parents in Grenada, where they use pure cocoa balls made from cocoa beans grown in pods on their own land - you can't get more organic than that...  
However, my version (sorry Mum) comes straight out of a tin.  Easy Peasy and no recipe needed, however, for those who wish to know - this is what I do.

Hill House Easy Peasy Chocolate Hottie
4 Heaped teaspoons of Hot Chocolate granules per mug (I'm partial to Green & Blacks organic Hot Chocolate, but whatever brand floats your boat), pour over 250ml of hot semi-skimmed milk and stir to make a thick, creamy mug of yumminess.  (If I'm making a larger batch, I make it in a saucepan with 4 heaped tablespoons of chocolate and 1L semi skimmed milk) Squirt a huge dollop of cream in a swirl on top, add mixed chocolate sprinkles (mine are cake curl toppings from Tesco), a cinnamon stick and mini marshmallows.  Pop in a minted candy cane for added deliciousness.
For the luxury, (as in adult - children have gone upstairs to bed) - version, add a shot of brandy and throw on a pinch of grated nutmeg.

Sit back. Enjoy. You're Welcome. 








Until Next Time...




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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A CHRISTMAS CRACKER!

...And suddenly it was Christmas!


There I was, in my own comfortable way, preparing a blog post for Halloween, and then I looked up after a quick sip of tea...and the Christmas season had arrived!  Well, perhaps it didn't quite go like that, but it really does feel like it...


Not that I'm complaining, because I must admit to Christmas being one of my favourite times of the year. ( I have realised begrudgingly since moving to the English countryside, that my preferred months all fall during times when there is either a high chance of the weather necessitating that I wear wellington boots, or a high chance that I must put logs on the fire - usually both... and there I was thinking that I was a warm weather person! )

Although I believe strongly in the deeper religious meaning behind Christmas, and the joy of bringing family together,  I can't deny the fact that it also brings with it the joy of being able to decorate and theme everything at Hill House with the frenzied and unadulterated vigour of a madwoman without having to explain myself...


Christmas decorating for us starts relatively late it seems.  We usually start on the second week of December when we bundle into the car and drive to the nearby Elveden Estate to pick our tree and drink mulled wine (me) while the children ride the carousel, my husband orders the Turkey and we choose new decorations for the tree...


I've noticed on instagram and on other blogs that there are many who start their festive decorating in November - lucky them!  With an important member of our family being an inquisitive and rambunctious dog (the nicest description I can think of for a pooch who assumes that everything we do or bring through the door at Hill House is solely for her own amusement and pleasure - precious Christmas trinkets included...) we are forced to think carefully and strategically plan our course of action when it comes to decorations.  I also enjoy the delayed gratification and anticipation that comes with waiting a while to join in the fun...although my children may not agree with this sentiment...

This year I did cave in slightly early and set to with decorating the front door...


...which has made it a pleasure to leave and return home each day - after all, who can resist smiling when confronted with twinkly, flashing lights on the doorstep!


I settled on a white theme this year, with matching white wreaths and white faux foliage with berries tucked into the urns.  The addition of a vintage sledge that has been handed down in my husband family adds the necessary vintage touch that is a signature of my home, along with galvanised tin buckets filled with mini Christmas trees, which adds a salvage chic appeal to the whole ensemble I think...


However, the most exciting excuse that I have had to kick-start the decorating delirium is the delivery of a very special box of Christmas Crackers from one of my favourite independent small British businesses - Fraser & Parsley!  Now, for those of you who don't know them, Fraser & Parsley comprise of Rachel and Josie, who are a two woman design team of quintessentially English stationary of the highest quality.  I stumbled across them a while ago in the happy world that is instagram - primarily drawn towards Josie's incredible kitchen which wins a prize for being one of the most lustworthy English country kitchens on instagram - take a look at it Here!  Please also take a look at their website if you get a second, as they have the most beautiful range of personalised gifts and stationary items that are as beautiful as they are functional...swoon!

So, back to the Christmas Crackers...


I decided to have a little play around with them in order to gather some ideas for my Christmas table - as one does...


They are some of the most elegantly beautiful Crackers that I have ever seen, and the surprises inside are absolutely genius! (I won't spoil what they are - particularly as my children read my blog!)

I thought that I'd pair set them against some French inspired white plates with silver cutlery, with my green hand blown glasses, and traditional champagne flutes on the side.


A vintage French soupier makes a lovely centrepiece filled with white roses, and as I am a great lover (and maker) of candles, my tea light holders and antique silver candlesticks provide a bit of extra faded glamour.  Striped cotton napkins from Susie Watson add a subtle bit of extra colour, topped with vintage fruit knife and forks which will be used for one of the courses - perhaps a pear, walnut and stilton combo...yum!


I think that the crackers look gorgeous at the table - wouldn't you agree, and I am giddy with excitement to get cracking them open.  However, like the tree, delayed gratification is the name of the game, and I shall therefore tie my hands behind my back to avoid pulling one before December 25th...  However, if a certain Ms. Coco decided to steal one prematurely, and, being decidedly lacking in dexterity skills, needed assistance with pulling it, (enabling me to enjoy the contents guilt free) - then who am I to stop her!


Until Next Time...


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