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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Monday, 7 November 2016

Autumn Days...Fall, Leaves, Fall!

Admittedly, it could be something to do with the fact that my birthday falls at the start of Autumn, (or perhaps it's the fact that Autumn for me signifies the start of baking season...which means CAKE! ) but it has always been my favourite time of the year.  Who can resist the beautiful russet colours twinkling in the golden Autumn sunlight...


The feel of fallen leaves crunching beneath ones feet on a leisurely walk, and the aromatic smell of logs crackling on an open fire, or perhaps it's the fizzing and sparking of a bonfire that inspires feelings of warmth and cosiness for you at this time of the year?


I mentioned how I enjoyed changing elements of my home decor to suit the seasons in my previous post, but I must admit that I also relish the moment when I can get cosy in a cardigan and a scarf. It's not that I enjoy the cold exactly, but when I am outdoors,  I do love that cocooning feeling of getting cosy whilst being enveloped in luxuriously soft and natural fabrics.  I'm not alone in that thought either - have you ever heard the following Marilyn Monroe quote?
"Designers want me to dress like Spring; In billowing things.  I don't feel like Spring. I feel like a warm, red Autumn."
Well, Marilyn - I totally agree.  I'm not a billowy person either - give me cashmere, tweed, a corduroy trouser and the softest of wool in earthy Autumnal tones any day!


Like Marilyn, my love of Autumn stems from a delight in the amazing earthy colours - at no other time of the year am I so drawn to the colours orange and red!  Nature loves to put on a good show, and even the sunlight joins in to cast a magically enhancing golden glow on everything it touches.   I suspect that Coco enjoys how flattering this seasons natural backdrop is against her conker brown coat too...


Autumn is an eclectic month that can jump from sunshine to mist and from warmth to frost overnight, and so, in keeping with the spirit of Autumnal eclecticism, I'll leave you with a 'jump' from Marilyn Monroe to Emily Bronte's vision of Autumn...  Emily was born just a few years before Hill House was built, and I like to think that the leaves would have fallen around the house in exactly the same way had she visited back then.  Unlikely bedfellows they may be, sexy Marilyn and melancholic Emily, (although we now know that Marilyn was sometimes melancholic - and who knows - perhaps Emily was secretly sexy during her time..!) - but isn't that part of Autumn's changeable beauty, and how differently we perceive the stunning charms of this golden season?

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the Autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;

Emily Bronte (1818 - 1849)

Until next time,

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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Styling For The Seasons...Autumn!


When I was growing up, our house was decorated shortly after we moved in, and that was that for the duration of our time there.  My mother certainly considered herself interested in interiors, in fact she regularly bought House and Gardens and Country Life magazines, in order to drool over the houses - a habit that I obviously inherited. However, once a decorating style had been decided upon, that was that for at least the next 10 years.


The only exception to that rule was at Christmas time, when we put up the tree and went to town on decorations such as large paper bells, brightly coloured tinsel and peculiarly shaped balloons.  My mother was also quite partial to any interesting and new kitchen gadgets ... (My mother does love a kitchen gadget - even if it remains untouched in a drawer, shelf or cupboard shorty after being release from it's box) and thus items such as a shiny new food processor fulfilled her need for any household change throughout the year.



The idea of changing or enhancing the decor to suit the seasons (apart from 2 weeks at Christmas) was absolutely unheard of in our household.  In those days Halloween decorations meant making a paper spiders webb to stick on the window at school, and perhaps a rubber snake shoved through my bedroom door to make me scream on waking...yes - I do indeed have an older brother!



Cut to 2016, and you have my mother quietly bewildered at the amount of pumpkins littered about the house and termed as 'decorations' rather than ingredients for soup...




She also wonders why I choose to intentionally revisit the blackout periods of 1970's London by filling the house with candles.  I tell her that these are " Decorative" or "Scented" candles - and therefore "Cosy" and "Atmospheric!"  She replies, "Yes, but you have 'Light Switches' - and they work perfectly well all year round Dear...".



Fuelled in part to the many wonderful American bloggers and instagrammers who style their houses so beautifully, and inspire my desire to have a home that embraces and reflects the changing seasons, I have certainly made up for lost time since my childhood.  Styling my home to suit the seasons has become something that I delight in doing, and enjoy with the same gusto as a child plays with a dolls house.



As well as  Christmas and Easter, Autumn has to be one of the most fun periods of the year for getting into the seasons spirit, and it shows in the choice of colour tones used in the flower selections, cushions and yes, even the choice of vegetables as table decorations!  The best things is that it doesn't necessarily mean having to spend an arm and a leg changing curtains and furniture - unless one wants to of course!  Cushions, throws, flowers, candles and other accessories go a long way in changing the ambience of a room to suit the seasons, and can be changed as quickly as does the English weather...


And I really don't mind if we have to eat pumpkin soup for a fortnight to placate my mother - pretty can also be practical and even tasty!!

Until next time,







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Monday, 11 July 2016

Shopping For Antiques At...The HighBoy!

One of the hardest things to pull off when trying to achieve the much copied English Country House interior style, is to achieve that wonderfully eclectic mix of old, new, elegantly shabby and stylishly antique.

Luckily, I adore a mix of periods and styles - give me some vintage throws draped over an overstuffed English Chesterfield sofa, a pair of dainty French Fauteuils antique chairs - and, oh yes - add to that a painted Swedish Mora clock and I'm yours!  (Throw a gin and tonic in there with a twist of lime and I'll stay forever!)

A vignette of antique & vintage treasures in my drawing room.

For my personal interior style to work, it's important to include special pieces that mean a lot to me or my family. Sentimental items such as antique and vintage books owned by my husbands Great Grandmother sit side by side with more fun items from the high street or vintage finds like an ornately carved magnifying glass, but I also love to throw in a high end piece, one which makes more of a statement and has a bit of history attached to it.  This can be something that has been handed down (if I'm lucky), but sometimes, there are those moments when the stars align and the magical three 'F's come together - that's Fate, Finance and Fabulousness!  When the three 'F's come together i.e. Fate - seeing something at the right time; Finance - the money's in the bank - however fleetingly; and Fabulousness - so delicious that you CANNOT get it out of your head - that is the perfect moment when you are able to make THAT special purchase... The one that causes your heart to skip a beat - and you better know where to look when it happens!


An elegantly 'grown up' homework desk bought for my teenage son.

 My mantra has always been from shabby chic to antique and everything in between - I love a rummage at a Brocante fair or a car boot and yard sale as much as anyone, but it's all in the mix, and sometimes it's good to treat yourself to something a little fancier, something with a story and a history.

French tureens and antique candle holders in my dining room.

Moving from London to the English countryside meant that as somebody who loves to shop -  from rummaging around in old antique shops to chic lifestyle and home stores - my ability to just pop in a taxi to achieve my retail fix became somewhat limited.  (Have you ever heard of a Norfolk mile - no?  Well, put it this way, where I live, when someone tells you that something is "Not that far" or "Just down the road", expect to fill your tank up with fuel and give yourself at least 40 minutes driving time..!)

Now, these inconveniences may have made my Husband jump for joy and high foot it to this little bit of rural England faster than you can say "I'll take 4 of those please", but what he hadn't quite anticipated was the fact that our quintessential move to bucolic Norfolk "To live a quieter lifestyle" (husband speak for "as far from shops as I can get her"), would neatly coincide with the advent of a fabulous surge in glamorous and reliable on-line shopping!   Now you can buy almost anything for your home on-line without leaving the comfort of your Victorian tub armchair!

The perfect place for shopping!

However, it's all fair and well buying mugs and bedding on-line, but what about things with a higher value, such as antiques?

I have actually been buying furniture on well known bidding websites for years, but it is often exhausting to have to wade through a lot of nonsense to find something of quality.  I am therefore delighted to have recently discovered an on-line antiques portal called 'The HighBoy' which collaborates with hand-picked antique and fine art dealers across the world, making the experience of discovering and sourcing beautiful antiques, art and great design easy and captivating and dud free!

'The HighBoy' website is an absolute treat with curated collections that are juxtaposed with beautiful imagery as well as captivating stories in an editorial journal called The Weekly, which for those of us obsessed with blogs and on-line magazines already, provides a similar stylish content of art, interiors, antique periods in history, styling ideas and more.

The Weekly is a favourite among readers who come to the site for smart, beautiful stories, that detail both modern-day design trends and the history of art, antiques and design.  I studied History of Art at school, and am now studying for a diploma in Interior Design, so it's particularly interesting to find a useful mix of style and academia rolled into one stylish blog journal.

So, having had a thorough rummage through the website where you can choose by style - Arts & Crafts, Country French or Georgian anyone?  Or if you prefer, by category - Tables & Desks, Seating & Armchairs or Tables & Side-Tables to name a few - what would be on my wish list?

Well,  I am currently planning my own home office, and am looking to create an atmosphere that is both feminine, stylish but practical and comfortable.  My inspiration point comes from the wonderful Brooke Giannetti, an interior designer who writes the blog Velvet & Linen, and who had my absolute dream office (see image beloe) in her previous home.  Isn't her style just perfection?

Brooke Giannetti's old office from Velvet & Linen Blog 

As I am sure you know, I am a huge fan of painted furniture, so in keeping with this style, high on my Highboy wish list is the most beautiful 19th Century painted desk, which would work perfectly for my  functional yet feminine and elegant style.  Isn't it gorgeous?

19thCentury Painted Desk on The HighBoy
...Or how about this one?

Spanish Catalan Desk or Writing Table on The HighBoy

I can imagine the desk flanked by this pair of Directoire Fauteuil chairs reupholstered in a faded rose elephant check or a vintage ticking...perfect for business meetings with clients.

Pair Of Directoire Fauteuils on The HighBoy

...Of course, I need to have my own chair from which to write blog posts, discuss design requirements and negotiate bespoke candle orders, and what better way than whilst seated in the elegant comfort of this 19th Century beauty?

French Louis XV Style Oak Wing Back Arm Chair on Cabriole Legs, 19th Century

But where to place a magazine and a vase of peonies I hear you ask?  Why on this picture of well proportioned elegance of course!  It's actually an English Rosewood Game Table Circa 1840, so it folds open and slides beautifully into a larger flat surface - One never knows when the desire to play a game of Gin Rummy may take hold, and how wonderful to be able to swivel and fold it all back in quickly when the husband pops in to enquire whether his hard working wife needs a break from work, a neck massage or a glass of something fizzy?

English Rosewood Game Table Circa 1840

Well that's my shopping list from The HighBoy completed, and all in all, whether it's art, antique furniture or lighting, The HighBoy is a website filled with something for everyone - even the perfect piece of antique jewellery if that is your desire - and of particular importance to people like me who live next to a field - they ship worldwide!    In fact, the sellers are actually chosen from all over the world, so although the website is American based, the antiques are not necessarily so.

Of course, for those moments when the three 'F's aren't in alignment, the accompanying blog -  The Weekly - is perfect for a spot of 'window shopping' and inspiration that is both entertaining and informative.

When it comes to shopping, the world is becoming so much smaller and I love it. I remember when I was a young girl growing up in London, my parents would often request or send hard to find items to and from our relatives in America (after a carefully timed monthly phone call or hand written letter!)  Now something fabulous can be yours at the click of a button - isn't that just marvellous progress?  Although no doubt my husband would say "Time to move to the North Pole  - it's not that far - and there's no Internet (read shopping) there..!"

Until Next Time,



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



















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Monday, 4 July 2016

English Country Decorating With...Pink!

Have you ever had one of those moments when something glaringly obvious about oneself isn't obvious in the slightest until someone else randomly points it out? 


My complete and utter joyous love and rapture over the colour pink is one of those for me.  



Until fairly recently, when a few Instagrammer friends alluded to my obvious fetish for a rosy hue, I was not aware that I particularly liked or was drawn to the colour at all...  


In fact, if someone had mentioned decorating my home with accents of pink, I would probably have paused for a moment, with a diplomatic but non-commital nod of my head, followed by an ambiguous "Mmmmmm" before politely suggesting alternative colours that were more...well..."Me"...


However, perhaps it's a sympton of seasonal changes and the advent of the Summer (Ha - what Summer you may ask if you're in the UK!!) that some uncontrolled desire from deep within me has cultivated a need for the freshness and lightness of pink accents throughout the house.


Perhaps the pink David Austin roses in the courtyard garden sent some subliminal message to me...


...In truth, most of these pink accents are through the use of flowers - after all, who can resist the allure of blowsy, pink Peonies, and I am also quite partial to the psychadelic pop of a bunch of pink Gerba's.


However, as a self confessed cushion addict, pottery addict and textile addict (CPT Annonymous...) it's become apparent, that my love of pink extends beyond simply flora and forna and encompasses a need for pink to make an appearance in the form of stripes, checks, florals and even spots.


I love the fact that Pink looks wonderful against wood and natural coloured textures and textiles...


...As well as complimenting my many painted pieces by adding a contrasting pop of colour...


As the legendary doyenne of fashion Diana Vreeland once said; "I adore Pink! It's the navy blue of India!" and I totally understand that sentiment.  I don't consider myself to be particualry modern, daring or flashy in how I dress or how I decorate my home.  In fact I am very much a traditionalist and find beauty in the elegant and classic.  In England, navy blue is the epitome of conservative respectability - and yet it hardly appears in my household - it's not light or fresh enough for me. 


However, pink exemplifies tradition and respectability in India, and thus doesn't suffer from the fluffy, unmasculine, Barbie-esqe connotations that it so often can in the West.  Perhaps then,  I veer towards a more South Asian view of traditionalism?   I shall certainly make this claim to my husband when he discovers that I am currently obsessed by the perfect vision of this deliciously vibrant pink George Sherlock sofa which would look perfect in our family room... 


In  fact it would be the perfect spot for him to watch something unwaveringly 'butch' like Formula 1 - If you don't believe me - just ask Diana Vreeland! 


Until Next Time...


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