Monday, 24 November 2014

Stir-up Sunday

We're hosting Christmas for the first time this year. I'm so excited, but we have some big shoes to fill. My folks are a little hesitant - it's the first time in 35 years that they haven't hosted, so we're busy making plans to ensure that everyone has a lovely time. I love a tradition, and I know that by having it at ours it means that the usual rituals will happen in a different location, that present opening will be a little odd, that there won't be a wood burning stove crackling in the background (we'll have to improvise), that seating will be a little haphazard in the unfinished sitting room and that it will mean a drive rather than a driveway wave, but I really, really hope that everyone enjoys themselves. Now that we have the kitchen, the Christmas traditions we started in the old flat are now back on the agenda. I joined the masses on stir-up Sunday by making Hettie Potter's mincemeat recipe in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess - it's the best peel- and suet-free mincemeat I've come across and is done and dusted in an hour. It did lead to a discussion about suet and its future. In 15 years, the only time we've bought suet was to make authentic dumplings in a beef stew. We never make steamed puds, or suet pastry and we rarely have dumplings in a stew… Do you use suet? What do you use it for?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Long time no see

Hello - how are you? Where has the last month gone? There have been work things - Grayson Perry at The National Portrait Gallery, a quick jaunt to The Arts Club on Dover Street, long days, late nights - and house things - the wall has been planted, the skirting boards are finished, the walls have had their umpteenth coat, the upstand has been restuck (ahem) and the splashback is currently being sprayed with Cornforth White. Once that's in, it's just the larder to be done and for me to make the blinds…oh yes, I'm going to have a go at making two roman blinds. The last time the sewing machine saw daylight was in 2010. And, nope, have never made a roman blind before. No pressure then. We had a jaunt to Shoreditch for the Sister In Law's 40th birthday do which made me feel ancient despite being the youngest in the room. We nipped to Brindisa for supper first (best Spanish omelette we've ever eaten - hands down, and a stonking cava that was up there with a nifty glass of proper bubbles) and cajoled our taxi driver on the way home to stop at the Tower of London to see the poppies before taking us to Waterloo. 

Grayson Perry at The National Portrait Gallery - it's poignant, insightful and free. London dwellers, don't miss out. 
Sue Perkins in the Mekong Valley - catch her on iPlayer. My inner-traveller has thoroughly enjoyed every episode. 
My Persephone subscription - finally finished book one: To Bed with Grand Music by Marghanita Laski, two more waiting in the wings while I finish my current non-Persephone read - The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies.
My new work do dress from M&S.
Taylor Swift's 1989 - my commuting soundtrack, love it.  
Re-connecting with friends and family. My sister visited me for lunch in the City which was lovely. We're going to try and do it each time she has holiday - she's a teacher, you know the score. I'm slowly getting back in touch with close friends having been a hermit for a while, and it feels good. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A stitch in time

This beautiful piece of embroidery can be found on display in Florence, tucked away in Santa Maria Novella. We stumbled across it as we sheltered from an incredible storm back in June. There were others, all equally resplendent with their ode to nature and detailed lace work. They must have been quite a sight for those attending Mass back in the day.

Alice, for you. With thanks.

Monday, 20 October 2014


October has simply whizzed by. Weekends have been spent reacquainting ourselves with family and friends as we show off the kitchen, the gym has been ignored, the snood has been finished but I need to find a tapestry needle (and we do live in a haystack), the wallpaper has been delivered (and parked) and I've spent far too much of my time on Instagram and twitter.  Miss P has discovered her official cupboard and offered two mice to say thanks, she does not however thank the spaniel that lolloped into the garden or the big, brown bear-cat who has been sniffing about. I have been enjoying the slow pace of home, a joyous antidote to work. And it really does now feel like home. Breakfast each morning at the table as the sun rises gently lighting the room. Steaming coffee, weekend newspapers, evening discussions. It's all how it should be.

The before and after will be shared soon, I promise - we've still got things to finish - blinds, splashback, noticeboard, the final coat of paint. Furniture proper will have to wait.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

I love local food festivals

I love food and I love local, so what's not to love about a local food festival. A couple of weekends ago (the proper sunny one) we popped along to the food festival at Painshill Park. Free (marvellous) and wonderfully local, 20 or so stands, a local radio station, a demonstration tent and lots of tastings. Local restaurants, local producers and local suppliers, all touting their wares. I particularly enjoyed the cheese from The French Comte (Borough Market/Kingston Market), melt in the mouth marshmallows and macarons, and oh - the smoked salmon and crab from Loch Fyne. Ding. A Routemaster converted into a bar almost topped it off, until we came across Chaatit. We just couldn't resist - lunch took place at 11:40. Run by the loveliest family team, Mr M had a Mumbai sandwich (spiced potato, cucumber, chutneys and chilli, then toasted), and I had a samosa wrap, with a side of Masala fries. Oh my goodness. It was a truly delightful sensory overload, topped off with a hay bale seat. Seriously - we were making so many nom-nom-nom sounds, a family stopped to enquire what on earth it was that we were eating. If you stumble across these guys, you must try them. Even if you've already savoured a gourmet burger or a chimney cake (so odd), squeeze in the fries - they are just so very good.

And for Painshill, I really hope they saw an increase in footfall and membership. An independent charity set up to restore the 18th century gardens designed by the Honourable Charles Hamilton, there are sweeps of lawn to the lake, a beautifully restored grotto, a tower and a hermit's house, not to mention the mill and Victorian folly. Perfect for a picnic, room for children to run around and exhaust themselves or simply for a crisp, Autumnal walk with layers, finishing up with a cup of tea and slice of cake in the cafe.

Full to the brim with delightful food, we meandered to The Medicine Garden to polish off our macarons with refreshments from their airstream cafe. Oh and met the furry guardian of the olive tree. A truly heavenly way to spend a Saturday.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A snuggly box of loveliness

I came home to a treat the other day.
A box of snuggliness tucked under some brown tissue paper.
Three huge balls of wonderfulness to play with.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that my fabulous mother works with Erika Knight. And Erika designs beautiful things. And now she has created a range of yarn and patterns for John Lewis. And it being Wool Week right now, you can pop along to her free workshop (and get to meet my mum!) at John Lewis on Oxford Street, London this Friday - Cable Mitts at 11am, Bramble Snood (I'm attempting that!) at 1pm and Slouchy Hats at 4pm. And given the weather this week - all three are necessary. If you can't make it (I'm probably going to be stuck at work), shall we have a knit along? First things first - need to find some 12mm needles. Have lots of 10's (why?) and some unidentifiable wooden ones which look a little bit bigger and could possibly be 12's…

Who's in?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

A final hint of purple

It's been a tad quiet on the blog of late. Living in chaos and the onset of Autumn seems to have pushed me deep into the folds of the sofa, eating copious amounts of chocolate and wasting hours flicking through pinterest, instagram, twitter, blogs, websites - a visual overload - anything to procrastinate from the 'do' and from completing my current book. To restore productivity, I've quietly turned to my crochet project from two years ago - it took a couple of false starts, some unravelling, YouTube films and guidance, but I've finally got the hang of it. I thought it would put strain on my poorly wrist, but it's been fine. I'm down to my last few balls and it is definitely more handkerchief than blanket in size, but goodness - it's great to be making again.

These blooms are the final purple hooray in the garden - despite being trampled on, covered in all types of dust and grot, they have quietly persevered. The scabious were grown from seed and have flowered despite the neglect on my part. The chives were a sad shop bought pot past its best that were stuck outside 18 months ago and have thrived. And the sweet peas survived the storms and aphids, continuing to bloom despite me forgetting to keep up the cut and come again method.