Monday, 21 May 2018

Making A Puzzle Feeder For Coco With Perfect Fit +!

It has to be said that my dog Coco would be the first one to admit to her own capacity for genius and ingenuity in the canine intelligence stakes - No - she's never been one for false modesty and I am not at all biased..!  

However, when we were approached by the people at Perfect Fit +, even she welcomed the idea of a new challenge in the form of a puzzle feeder as part of their 5 Step Perfect Fit Programme.

A puzzle feeder is to put it simply, a food dispensing toy.  The main aim of which is for your pet to work out the necessary movement needed to reach the delicious treat enclosed within.  It's a wonderful aid to mental stimulation for both dog and - if I'm really honest - the owner...  

Of course, you can go out and buy a perfectly adequate puzzle feeder from your local pet store, but the challenge for me was to build one out of everyday household supplies.

I started with three empty plastic water bottles of a similar size.

Coco giving me a look that says that she would have had this finished hours ago...
I then found a bag of bamboo garden supports in the potting shed, and chose the thinnest one...

I knew that these would come in handy one day!
Hurry up Mummy!
It was then time to measure a place to pierce 2 identical holes on either side of each bottle in order to allow the bamboo cane to pass through...

Measuring up...
All set to drill a hole, although a sharp pen could also be used.
Lining up the holes.
...Now push the bamboo through the holes.

The holes were made slightly higher than centre and at the thinnest end, in order to maximise 'swing potential' when filled with treats...

All three bottles threaded through.
I then needed to create a holding structure to attach the canes so that Coco could confidently attempt to reach her 'prize' without everything collapsing on her!

Patiently waiting for Mummy to secure the bamboo cane at either end.
Something to secure the cane to the stools.
Tying the canes to the stools.
All Set...
Just the treats needed now!
"Waiting until we're allowed to start..."
"We'll try this end one first..."
"No - I think that this middle one is the weakest link!"
"There you go - I knew I'd get there in the end!"

"Rather delicious, and definitely worth the wait!"
"Kibble?  What kibble?"

Well, the whole exercise was a wonderful success.  Coco found the 'challenge' highly entertaining and was happy to keep challenging herself over and over - and over - again...

I was left confident in the fact that I had done something special and creative for my dog, and Coco in turn was encouraged to 'think' and stay mentally challenged, whilst indulging in a little light exercise and boredom busting activity.

It was a win win situation all round, and as I have since read that Puzzle Feeders can actually aid in weight control, as well as encouraging your pet to eat slowly, I am wondering whether the same concept may work with me and my predilection for frosted donuts - although finding a bottle with a mouth wide enough to fit a donut through may be challenge enough in itself!

Until Next Time!

Thank you to Perfect Fit + for sponsoring this blog post and inviting Coco to be part of their 5 Step Perfect Fit Programme.


Monday, 26 March 2018

My Easter Table With Colourful Folk Inspired Textiles by Julia Brendel!

I've never been one to pass up the opportunity to dress my table for a seasonal event, so when textile designer, Julia Brendel approached me and asked me whether I would like to style an Easter table using textiles from her collection of luxurious soft furnishings, I naturally jumped at the chance...

Julia's crisp and timeless pieces are based on traditional folk embroidery, quality and craftsmanship and her use of strong colour is just a vision of pure joy to my maximalist colour and pattern loving eyes!

Linen in both pure linen and cotton/linen composition give off the most beautiful sheen and are heavy, thick and reassuringly luxurious.  As I was styling an Easter table, I chose an egg yolk yellow tablecloth featuring the most incredibly detailed white contrasting embroidery, coupled with matching napkins in plain egg yolk linen.  Julia describes the tablecloth as being "an elegantly rustic Jacquard woven Hungarica tablecloth, with playful bird motifs in a Hungarian style incorporated into a  timeless design."  It sounds like something that one would wish to have as part of an old fashioned wedding troussau doesn't it - even more so when you realise that although Julia Brendel is a British based company, as with much of her fabric, this particular design is manufactured in Poland using historic looms - like something out of a fairytale!

As so much of the table was based around the colour yellow, and to inject some extra contrast, I chose to accessorise with Juia's raspberry cushions, with a pom pom trim.  I felt that the contrast of these two warm and sunshiny colours were a particularly joyful way to welcome in Spring after months of gloom and grey weather, and looked particularly fetching alongside - not only my new multicoloured carpet runner - but also sat upon my recently re-covered grain sack seat covers...(which I had tentatively attempted myself a few weeks previously...)

White dishes from Dibor were the perfect accompaniment to place against the yellow of the tablecloth, and with the addition of traditional Spring flowers such as daffodils, pink tulips and purple mascari, the entire setting was crisp, colourful and elegant.

My chunky French glasses from Catesby's, with their strong footed stems sat amongst the more feminine elements beautifully, and were in keeping with the rustic & folksy theme...

I always like to mix old elements with the new in all of my home styling, and so I used vintage aged brass napkin rings which worked beautifully against the stark white of the dinner plates - and whose metallic tone was a feature that was also picked up in the vintage candlesticks...

Alongside the traditional linen used for the tablecloth, there are also the softly lush  Hungarica throw made from a heavy wool/cotton mix  - seen here on the chair - and heavy damask velvet cushion covers which add a fabulous new texture and regal charm into the setting...This one is called the India Cushion in Peela/Gold.

I hope that you will agree the finished result with its beautiful colours, textures and rustic elegance was a treat for the senses and will be the prefect Easter table setting - Coco certainly thinks so!  

As a special treat, Julia is also offering readers of my blog a discount code that gives an incredibly generous 50% discount on all of her products (apart from fabric).   The Code is SPRINGFUN2018 and will be available to use on her website until the 7th April 2018.   Happy Easter All!

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

A Few Pre-Spring Discoveries in Time For Mother's Day!

As much as I absolutely adore a crisp, cool Autumn day, or even the cold and frosty brightness of an early Winter morning - it is the dreariness of the post New Year period between mid January and March that has me climbing the walls for signs of Spring to emerge!

However, it is these weather hardened early days of the year, where the ground is far too solid for garden work, and the lure of the log burner proves a tad too enticing, that provide the perfect backdrop for new discoveries made from the cosy comfort of ones own armchair.

The fact that this enforced period of home based discovery - also known as 'shopping' -  coincides with thoughts of Mother's Day gifts in the UK, is an extremely happy coincidence, and one that has ensured that my own dear Mother's gifts are not of the last minute variety (unlike the usual frantic panic buys at Christmas!)   So here are a few suggestions of things I have enjoyed over the past few weeks -  just in case you are in need a bit of inspiration.  After all, to quote Miguel de Cervantes (the 16th Century Spanish Novelist) - "To be Prepared is Half The Victory!" ...and shopping for gifts is a war worth winning!

My First Suggestion are these absolutely darling books from the Macmillan Collector's Library - a series of reissues of over 206 classic book titles, that are petite, beautiful, gold edge and hard backed editions which are perfect for collection and display.

As a prolific reader myself, these have been the perfect addition to my ever growing book collection - owing to the fact that their tiny size is completely justifiable to squeeze into even the smallest of libraries - or large ones where there are limited shelves left to house more books!

Me Pretending To Be An Able Game Show Hostess!
As an added bonus, booksellers, WATERSTONES are offering an exclusive on-line discount of £2 off any title in the Macmillan Collectors Library range until 11th March 2018.  The offer code is LIBRARY and you can find the collection to buy HERE.

Staying on the subject of books, I also recently received the lastest  book in Ros Byam Shaw's 'Perfect English' series of coffee table books.  This latest gorgeous offering is entitled "Perfect English Townhouse', and the description reads that it 'examines the timeless English style of decoration in a variety of Georgian, Victorian and contemporary townhouses.' Which sums it up perfectly.  However, what I particularly love about Ros's choice of houses is that they always come across as truly and honestly  'lived in' and loved.  In fact, it's rare that I see a house in her carefully edited series of Perfect English books that I couldn't imagine myself actually living in - which is a testament to her eye for what make a house...well - as it says in the title - 'Perfect'!  You can purchase a copy of this particular title HERE.

Ros Byam Shaw's Latest book in her 'Perfect English' interiors collection.

Coco Enjoying The Coffee Table Book Collection Including Ros Byam Shaw's 'Perfect English Townhouse'
Moving on from books, getting organised is always something that is at the very top of my list for a New Year, and there is no pursuit that gives me greater pleasure than the purchasing of a crisp new, multi faceted diary on which to scribble down those well thought out, and world changing plans and intentions.  Yes, yes, forget the fact that it may be a few months into the year, but it is better to be late than never, as someone possibly great once said - Perhaps it was the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland?  Well, whoever it was, it's quite true, and I shall add to that that the act of purchasing and using a diary three months into the year, completely negates the first 11 weeks of disorganisation and all you will remember at the end of the year, are the remaining nine months of pure, unadulterated logistical excellence and time management...(Here's hoping..)

Well, that is what I believe my new 'Hello Day Planner' will give me.  I'll let you know how that goes in December...but in the mean time, behold the sophistication and beauty of this glamorous organiser.
You can purchase one HERE.

The Beautiful 'Carrara' Version
A Few Wise Words of Encouragement from the Hello Day Planner!

So, now that our planner has us organised, we shall be able to remember everybody's birthdays, anniversary's and all other important dates...  We shall also be able to remember to write those often forgotten 'Thank You' letters that seem to get caught up in the quick burst of an e-mail or 'tweet' these days.  Remember, when the receipt of a (non brown) envelope though the post was a heady and joyfully regular occurrence?  I remember during my childhood, that all direct correspondence from Aunts, Grandmothers and kindly retired teachers came via hand written letter or card - usually along with an oversized and well handled one pound note (this WAS the 1970's...).  Well, thanks to incredibly talented artists and designers like Isla Simpson, who has started her own 'Letter Writing Campaign', we can start hand writing meaningful and traditional correspondence on beautiful hand printed envelopes and cards - reinvigorating (as Isla herself says) the 18th & 19th Century tradition for illustrated envelopes.  You can see more HERE.

Isla Simpson's beautifully Illustrated Envelopes based on an 18th & 19th Century tradition.

Well, I hope that you've enjoyed these little snippets of Mother's Day inspiration.  Like William Morris, I endeavour to only have in my home what I truly believe to be beautiful and know to be useful, and I am sure you will agree that this little round up falls happily into both categories at once!

Until Next Time!


Monday, 5 February 2018

Fishley Hall - A Modern Country House!

One of the loveliest things about the world of 'Social Media', is the ability it has to bring like-minded people together though the tap of message.

The Lovely Natali In Norfolk (L) and Tamsyn Morgans (R) with me in the middle! 
A couple of decades ago, my move from London to the wilds of rural Norfolk would possibly have been an isolating adventure too far.  I  have always been somewhat of a 'Sociable Recluse' i.e. A person who can be the life and soul of the party when out, but who is also comfortable enough in their own company that days can go by without the need to venture far from home or speak to anyone that they aren't married to, gave birth too, or who delivers the post...

In fact, before the age of Blogging, Instagram and Twitter, and thus without the ability to connect with people who share the same interests and live within 100 miles of me (most of my old friends are still in London or dispersed to all ends of the country), I may literally have turned into the hermit woman who lives in a cave, and offers a few cursory grunts to those who dare to venture near!

As it happens, through the magic of Instagram and blogging, I have managed over the past few years to meet a variety of wonderful people who not only share my love of interiors, creative pursuits and country life, but who are also totally attuned to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of happily guffawing over posh coffee and cake in a fancy cafe one moment and standing knee deep in mud watching a dog run riot the next...

Even better when guffawing over the posh coffee and cake happens in the picturesque surroundings of a country home, where I can immerse myself in one of my favourite pursuits - an activity that I call 'DOOPHing'  - more commonly known as Drooling Over Other People's Houses...

I had one such day a couple of weeks before Christmas, when I was invited to this gorgeous country house owned by Candice, a lovely lady whom I first got chatting to on Instagram, after I fell in love with images of her incredible home and garden and funny snapshots of her characterful pups...

Now Fishley Hall is not actually Candice's main residence.  For that you'll have to see her instagram account here.  Fishley Hall is in fact home to a licensed wedding venue, retreat and working farm on the Norfolk Broads. It consists of a beautiful restored farmhouse (Her husband Phil, did most of the work), a church where Candice herself was married, and a party barn all set in a glorious 350 acres.  Candice and her husband restored Fishley Hall (which has been in his family since 1953) for the sole purpose of offering it as a venue for weddings, weekend retreats and wholesome family holidays...

The Original Servants Bells in The Kitchen.
...And what a wonderful venue it is too!  In fact, if I hadn't already been married for 18 years, I would definitely have this on my potential list of reception locations...

The Remarkable Table Top made From One Plank of Wood!
The styling is a clever mix of vintage and contemporary, classic with a cool edge...

Beautiful Original Flagstones Adorn the Kitchen Floor.
There is a large modern kitchen complete with original flagstone floors, which opens out into a beautiful large dining hall with original brick flooring and a wishing well!  The dining area is mainly taken up by one HUGE refectory table with a stunning top honed from a single piece of wood (once again made by Candice's clever husband Phil) and flanked on either side by painted church pews and farmhouse chairs...

The choice of furniture throughout is a mixture of vintage originals and a modern take on traditional styles, which gives the house a very relaxed boutique hotel vibe...

Luckily, both the high street as well as designer furniture stores have cottoned on to this fabulous 'time worn' and deconstructed style, and whatever your budget, the ability to adapt this 'shabby chic to antique', boutique hotel way of furnishing to one's own home is now everyone's for the taking...

Of course, it's not all in the furnishings.  Accessories play a big part with this style. Collections of old items is a good and economical way to start when attempting the 'look'...

Clever use of Decorative Vintage Accessories Can brighten up an Otherwise Awkward Corner. 
Here Candice grouped together a selection of vintage tiles and mirrors to great effect.  You can find similar mirrors like these in most antique and thrift shops, and where one hung on it's own is a thing of beauty...a group of them hung together is a thing of 'Design'!

Twinning In An En-Suite.
My favourite areas are the beautifully appointed en-suite bathrooms with the signature mix of new and vintage items and a few faux retro design elements thrown in such as the beautiful light fittings...

A Mirror Image Of Washroom Chic!
Nothing shouts glamour like a twin sink and vanity area...

Act out your Inner Napoleon in an Empire Style Bath Tub! 
...And of course, no country house is complete without an oversized tub...

                                                                                                                        ...Or two!
Every Bathtime becomes a Glamorous Occassion in a Claw Footed Tub!

Characterful Bare Brick with Contemporary Sectional Sofa in The Snug.

An oversized angle poise lamp in the snug.

Once again, the use of traditional and vintage style with modern accessories adds to the individual, boutique look in a cosy snug.

Charming use of vintage pieces in the Conservatory. 
...And the conservatory, where receptions, gatherings and dance parties are held has the dual benefit of being an open and airy blank canvas - in fact quite perfect for an art exhibition, and yet is also a beautiful space for larger and more statement pieces of furniture should Candice every wish to fill it and create a series of more intimate areas...

So there you have it - a modern and contemporary country house, that hasn't sacrificed character, beauty or individuality.  I personally think that Candice has got it spot on - wouldn't you agree?

Until Next Time...

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