Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Nudging Myself Out Of My Comfort Zone...!

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I don't really tend to believe in making firm New Years resolutions any more.  I can remember writing lists and lists of them when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, and they all more or less amounted to the same thing...that this DEFINITELY was the year that I became the best of everything that I could be.  That this DEFINITELY was the year that I became truly fabulous, truly successful doing this, that and the other....That this DEFINITELY would be the year that I achieved my hearts desire, dream job, best grades etc.

I think that hoping to end each year on a level of excellence that I never quite achieved (or at least the goal posts kept moving further and further away..!) made me realise that there was no point in beating myself up each year about having to achieve or commiting to the near impossible.  Life and our desires are fluid and ever changing.  We need to bend with the ebb and flow of our ambitions and perhaps try a few new things, do the best we can and hopefully end each year on a happy note.  Who knows how we will feel in 365 days, let alone, who we may have met, or what experiences we will have been through that may change the goals we gave ourselves a year ago...

That being said, this year, I decided that there was one thing that I would like to 'loosely' achieve.  I want to nudge myself out of my comfort zone a little...  to perhaps make a few baby steps towards another - possibly short-lived - string to my shabbily put together bow!

I'm not going to hold myself ransom to it, but I will put it out there in order to see where it leads.

This year readers, I'm aiming to start my own YouTube channel!  My children have been bugging me to do it for over a year, but I've always felt that it was a 'young persons' game.  I've worried that I haven't got much to film or say - you see - I simply like old things, pretty things...and lots of red check...and well - that's about it...

But then I thought about it.  Some of you may already know that I absolutely love taking pictures, styling and documenting my home and country life on instagram.  Perhaps you would like to see the pretty things that I like 'in motion' too - and even if you don't - it might be a little bit of fun to try my hand at filming stuff - I may appreciate looking back over it if I reach to be 100 if nothing else!

So here it is.  My fledgling  YouTube channel trailer.  I haven't even got any content for it yet, (so subscribe if you wish to be alerted when stuff appears.)  Just a mountain of ideas, thoughts and dreams and a hopeful attitude.  Who knows whether it'll be something that I enjoy doing or can even commit to long time, but hey - THIS is the year that I say - perhaps not definitely...but Let's just wait and see!

Until next time,



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Monday, 8 February 2016

Did You Hear The One About The TIme I Asked My Husband to Buy A Few Eggs...?



There's actually no punch line to this 'joke'.  Well actually, there is, but it's a visual one.  If any of you follow me on Instagram, you'll already know that a couple of weeks ago, I asked my husband to buy me a few eggs on his way home from work.  I guess, my error lay in using the phrase 'a few'.  As the image above is what my husband considers to be 'a few'...which is considerably more than my own far more modest definition!

This numerical confusion, left me with a slight dilemma.  What does one do when faced with 36 eggs, and the annual enthusiasm (i.e. mass hysteria that I gladly succumb to) for baking 'Great British Bake Off' style hasn't quite entered the collective consciousness as yet for 2016..?


I must admit that my baking mojo comes and goes in waves.  There are weeks, when the thought of baking anything is as enticing as bathing in a tub full of mud - which I feel I do on my daily walks with Coco anyway...


There are other weeks, however, where you simply cannot get me out of the kitchen or indeed, away from the oven.  Those are the days when I gaily dance around the kitchen, wooden spoon (aka microphone) in hand, belting out show tunes from The King and I, Grease or Les Miserables, or perhaps, when I'm feeling slightly more 'youthful' I'll shake my 'booty' and pretend that I know the words to the latest Beyonce song on Radio 1, all the while beating my eggs, butter and sugar into fluffy submission.  (Rather than use an electric mixer, I prefer to whip or beat by hand in time to music in most instances - a great tension reliever!!)



These 'baking splurges' where the house is awaft with the scent of vanilla and cinnamon are the weeks when the first words of greeting from my childrens' lips on their return home from school are a gleeful and Enid Blyton-esque "What have you baked today Mummy!" - as opposed to the usual mumbled "Hello" or "He Did / She did...!" wail before reaching for the ipad and disappearing up to their rooms...


I'm ashamed to to say that before I moved to the countryside, I was more inclined to use a boxed cake mix to make even the simplest of cup cakes.  The idea of actually measuring out and weighing ingredients was far too much of a time consuming faff for the high heel wearing, fashion shoot  producing version of me...


The actual act of baking didn't faze me,  but my theory was that why on earth would I want to encourage a floury mess and create kitchen disorder by making my own, when I could purchase a perfectly good version 'off the shelf'.  This period of baking denial coincided with the rise of the designer cup cake emporium in London.   Suddenly meeting for 'cupcakes' (as opposed to just coffee) at £5 a pop was a normal thing to do. This was swiftly followed by the beautifully presented cup cakes books,  encouraging the world to actually make these deliciously glamorous versions of what I had previously known as the humble (and 50% smaller in size)  'fairy cake',  and which every self respecting 'yummy mummy' kept as a coffee table book to 'imply' that one was domesticated and capable, without actually having to 'prove' the fact by actually getting ones hands dirty...


Cut to six years after the 'Big Move' into bucolic countryside bliss, and I am now able to whip up a three tiered victoria sponge without once opening a book.  This has been encouraged by the fact that I live in the middle of nowhere, and am at least 15 minutes away from the nearest supermarket - 'popping' out to get a treat for the childrens tea time isn't a straightforward endeavour.  Thus necessity has proven once more to be the mother of invention - or in my case 'you've run out of time to go shopping'.



But with this act of necessity, came waves of joy, confidence and satisfaction.  I enjoy baking things and I enjoy watching people eat what I bake even more.  Yes, I have most definitely and indisputably caught the baking bug, and i'm not ashamed to admit it.  Why hanker after the latest pair of Chanel pumps, when you can have a pastel coloured measuring jug - It's bakeware all the way for me now!

However, while I certainly have learned to revel in such simple pleasures, the next time I ask my husband to collect a little something on the way home, I may send him via Tiffany or  Cartier - perhaps if I ask for a ring with just "a few carats"  he may come home with a diamond the size of a potato!

Until next time,



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Monday, 1 February 2016

English Country Decorating With...The Decorative Cushion!

If I ever felt the need to join a self help group to cure me of an addiction, it would have to be to cure me of my addiction to cushions.  Although, I must admit that the idea of sitting in a circle discussing  my passionate love for cushions with those as equally as obsessed, is an idea SO beyond heavenly, that perhaps it would defeat the ultimate purpose...

The fact is, that I simply cannot have enough of them, and there is not one corner, surface or chair in my household that is safe from the onslaught of the overstuffed cushion.


Be they frilled, flouncy or floral, they are all fabulous...to me.  My husband often complains that there are too many cushions and not enough places to actually sit, but even I have spotted the Cheshire Cat grin of satisfaction that inadvertantly crosses his face when the days tensions are released as he sinks down amongst them.


...And so in my defence, whilst cushions are gorgeous to look at and feed my raging need for pattern and colour, in addition, they are 'Oh' so comfortable - and who can argue with that.  Who can fail to be enticed by the cocoon like feeling that comes from submerging oneself into the middle of a pile of padded comfort on a cold Winter evening.  They go hand in hand with English country decorating in much the same way as a roaring open fire, a book covered ottoman...and an Aga loving dog.

Not only are they a relatively inexpensive way to update the look of a room, but ('joy of joys!') as they are portable, they can be moved around with ease to change the look, feel and tone of any room in the house.   Comfortable AND practical!


They also work beautifully to break up the lack of pattern or to add a contrasting colour to a plain covered sofa...



...and are a superb tool to dilute the strength of a boldly patterned chair, adding an extra pop of colour or interest.






But mostly, they are quite simply - fun.  I enjoy them - and that is what decorating should really be about.


Until next time,




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Monday, 25 January 2016

GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER?...ABSOLUTELY NO-ONE!

I may have mentioned this before, but when I went searching for a country home for my family six years ago, apart from the more serious boxes that needed to be ticked (school, distance from station, does it have a roof etc.) - there were also the boxes that came under the banner of "my ideal fantasy life in the English countryside"!  Does everyone have a wish list like that or is it just me?    For example, we may not actually own a pony...but we certainly want a paddock to put the fantasy one in;  We may not actually know how to grow a sprout from seed...but we jolly well require a greenhouse and raised bed vegetable garden (based on an 19thC formal potager) to grow that fantasy prize marrow in - all the better to display at the 'fantasy' country show; We may not ever actually have the courage to get the chickens - but that stunningly attractive hen house painted in Farrow & Ball...you see how it goes.  

I think that we all have a fantasy image of how we would like to live our lives regardless of whether that life takes place in the city or the countryside.



One of my particular prerequisites for our 'then' new house was that it absolutely had to have a separate dining room.  You see, I was going to have a weekly dinner party, where my friends both old from the city and newly acquired from the country, would converge and enjoy splendidly stimulating conversation, food and wine whilst congratulating their hostess - me - for putting together such a beautifully presented table etc. etc. etc.   Of course, (so my then naive and optimistic self imagined)  it would be entirely possible to sustain this bight sparkle of sociability once a week for 52 weeks of the year - rather like n 18thC 'salon' at the court of Versailles.  Oh what fun.  Oh what a delight.  Oh what rubbish!



Dear reader, I did indeed get my house with a dedicated dining room, and a delight it is too.  However, do I host lively dinner parties on a weekly basis?  Well of course I don't - who on earth has the time to organise - let alone wishes to cook for a dinner party on a weekly basis when there are three children, a crazed dog, a hamster and a commuter husband to cater to.  I realised quite quickly that I do not live on the set of Downton Abbey and neither am I Marie- Antoinette!





Despite it's irregular use for it's intended purpose, my dining room does, however, remain a constant delight, that I do use - although not always for dining - on a daily basis, so all is most certainly not lost or wasted.




I try to insist that my husband and I dine a tete-a-tete at the table as often as we can - I do like to do the starched napkins and candles thing, and we do actually have friends over for 'smart' dinners every now and then.

But mainly it's simply a joy to dine with the whole family or friends in the family room adjoining the kitchen, where we can sit 10-12 quite comfortably, everyone can muck in and there is no need to stand on ceremony - oh yes - and the dog can join in.

The dining room has also thus become a temporary study for me and my budding interiors business.  And a very nice 'study' it is too.  As it's still a work in progress, it's a great room to style, photograph and generally 'play around in' with vignettes and potential product shots and colour schemes.


But mainly (while it awaits it's paintings and sparkling guests) it looks like this.  Unless of course, you would like to join me for dinner sometime?





Until next time,



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Monday, 18 January 2016

English Country Decorating With...The Vintage Blanket!

As a history lover, I cannot deny that it is an absolute joy to live in a Georgian house that was built around 200 years ago.   Living with windows that were constructed 200 years ago?  Not so much.  Of course they are quite beautiful to look at, and the ripples and imperfections that are a testament to their single glazed heritage are a complete pleasure that I wouldn't change for all of the 'Everest' windows in the world...during the Summertime.   Thankfully, I am a great fan of open fires and chunky (and clunky)Victorian cast iron radiators - both of which we have in abundance.  





However, during the season when the need to cocoon and hibernate preoccupies even the thickest skinned and hardiest of those of us living in draughty country houses, my thoughts also turn to one of the easiest and most cost effective decorative solutions for avoiding the Winter chill.  The humble blanket.





I use them anywhere and everywhere throughout the house.  You will find them on the end of beds, draped over chairs and sofas, protecting ones back from the cold wood panelling of an old bench, and even as part of the many 'princess and the pea' mattresses belonging to the four legged member of the family.


A particularly good thing about decorating with blankets, is that one can never have too many.  They are far too useful for Mr. Sutton to complain along the lines of "Do we really "need' another jug, vase, cushion, occasional chair etc."  You see - of COURSE we need another blanket, because it gets terribly COLD in the Winter dear.  Not to mention that they can be terribly pretty and colourful additions to ones decorating scheme whilst remaing practical.  Delightfully, they are tactile, comforting, enveloping, cosy and all of the other words that make you imagine that you are living in a giant pudding.

Above all, they can be incredibly reasonably priced depending on your taste.  My particular preference is for vintage wool blankets from the 1950's, 60's & 70's.  The sort of thick, hard wearing blanket that I used to have on my bed when I was a child.  The very same style of blanket that I then turned my nose up at during my teens and early twenties, and then fell back in love with as a discerning adult whose tastes had evolved from fad to trad(itional!).



Although I not averse to a newly woven example among my collection, I usually tend to look for old fashioned, vintage labels, where I know that the quality will be superior and hardwearing.  Some of them are incredibly dense and heavy - all the better for achieving that straight jacket effect when battening down the hatches, and hunkering down in front of a Sunday evenings viewing session of a bodice ripping BBC period drama...(clearly i'm obsessed.)




I hate to sound as though I am the same vintage as my house, but they really don't make them (for the price) like they used to.  We still have the tartan blanket that my husband took away to boarding school at the tender age of 7 - complete with sewn on name tape.  Now, whilst one may wish to question the idea of boarding school at 7...one cannot possibly question the durability of this particular blanket.  It is as pristine, unfrayed, and impeccable as the day he left home, chubby kneed and gripping on to it forty years ago, and it is still brought out from the blanket box year after year as the nights draw in.  The chubby knees have most certainly left us, but I can safely say that the resilience of a comfort inducing vintage blanket goes on, and on, and on...



Until next time!




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Monday, 11 January 2016

Finding The Romance in A Foggy Day...





Isn't it funny how the first thing that many people say to you when returning from a holiday in the sun is "How awful - you must be finding it dreadful to be back home!" or perhaps you get something along the lines of "Gosh - it must be so hard adjusting back to this depressing weather"?

Well, allow me let you into a little secret - apart from being a complete and utter homebody, where no matter how fabulous the holiday may have been, I am always delighted to arrive back home to be surrounded by my own things.   I also (now some of you may find this unusual) find something endlessly romantic about the English countryside in Winter time - especially when I am surrounded by a mysterious, deep fog - the thicker and more opaque, the better!

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not a complete Pollyanna when it comes to all of the weather conditions that Winter can throw at us.  I hate a torrential downpour whislt wading though claggy mud as much as the next person, but is it just me, or is there something rather romantic about walking through the countryside in a dense, foggy, mist?

I mentioned on instagram a few days ago, that having been born and brought up in London,  it had taken me quite a while to get used to walking about through deserted fields and wooded areas with simply a dog for company, when I first moved to Norfolk.

Those first few years of solitary dog walking were filled with goulish thoughts of caped abductors hiding behind trees, and scenes of  phantom raspberry blowers (The Two Ronnies anyone?) that could happily have graced the pages of a Victorian gothic novella.   However, as time has passed, the utter romance of walking in such beautifully atmospheric conditions has totally gripped and charmed me.  Just as with clear bright sunshine, a cloak of undulating, writhing mist will often enhance and beautify even the most mundane of vistas or buildings.   The adventure level of my usual walk takes on a new thrill when a previously familiar, but now visually distorted tree adopts an air of fairytale enchantment, or when the eerie silence that often comes with low, heavy cloud is suddenly broken by the frantic dash of a muntjack deer or a startled rabbit bounding out of the hedgerows.

Of course, my love of a foggy field has absolutely nothing to do with the thought of a ruggedly handsome and bare chested Mr. Darcy exploding into my line of vision through the mist wearing only riding breeches and tall boots. Nothing at all...

Actor Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy with his shirt firmly on!
Image from Pride & Prejudice (2005 film) Working Title Films in Association with StudioCanal.

Until next time,



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Friday, 8 January 2016

The Returned...




Why return to blogging after an absence of three years you may ask?  It's a good question, and the simple answer is that it just feels right.  I've always been a bit of a social animal, and so blogging always held an appeal for me as it combined several of my favourite things - writing, photography, styling and chattering on about the world of interior design and country living, but quite frankly, the move to rural isolation and suddenly not having work colleagues to 'bounce' ideas off on a daily basis meant that I eventually lost my 'voice' for a while.  My children had settled into their new surroundings with perfect ease, my husband was busy commuting to London, and my friends and family only required the occasional chat and visit once the initial novelty of our 'Big Move' had worn off.  Suddenly, I needed to swap sitting at a computer and 'chatting' into the ether, for actually 'getting out there', meeting people and actually doing stuff that stopped me becoming a hermit!



And so, in the past three years, I have started an interior design course at KLC School of Design; I've rented a unit at a local 'Shabby chic to Antique' emporium where I sell painted furniture along with vintage and decorative items; I've plotted and planned various ideas for an on-line business (more of which soon) and I've discovered Instagram - which I absolutely ADORE - and where I have 'met' some of the most wonderfully supportive and like minded people who have given me the confidence - and the 'voice' - to start blogging again.   So here I am - full circle  - and I am incredibly excited to get nattering on again - be warned!  

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