Tuesday, December 23

Holiday Table Decor

Incase you haven't heard, it's Christmas on Thursday. My mother, who I don't get to see nearly enough, arrived on Friday to spend Christmas and New Year with us. She's come all the way from New Zealand, so I want Christmas day to be extra special, and as Christmas day pretty much revolves around food, that means making the table look extra beautiful. It's the least I can do, considering how far she's come for lunch. I want it to feel über cosy, and a little bit glam, but still relaxed and informal.

Styling & Photography Bianca Hall
Chairish asked if I'd like to take a look at their latest collection of vintage table top pieces and design a table scheme around a couple of items. Um, let me think about that. OKAY!

If you're not familiar with Chairish, sort that out pronto. It's a fabulous site that sells a curated selection of vintage goods on commission, ranging from gifts and jewellery, to furniture, rugs and lighting. Browsing Chairish is a bit like falling down a beautifully furnished rabbit hole. On any given day, I fall in love with 95% of what I see, so it's a good job for my bank account then, that I'm not in the states!

As I don't physically have any of the lovely pieces from Chairish to photograph on my Christmas table, this post is half fact and half fantasy...

Styling & Photography Bianca Hall
My colour palette this year is neon pink (no surprises there!), pale flamingo pink, green and gold. Our dining table is stainless steel and can feel rather cold, so I'll be starting to layer the table up with a soft linen table cloth, which instantly adds warmth whilst keeping it casual. On top of this, a hand dyed Shibori style table runner in a beautiful pale flamingo pink. More on this easy DIY soon. I also made a matching set of napkins, which will sit upon simple white plates, tied with gold ribbon and adorned with a sprig of eucalyptus.

Speaking of greenery, no holly or mistletoe for me this year. I've gone for a mix of Eucalyptus, Protea and ornamental Pineapples. The lovely muted green of the Eucalyptus contrasts so well with the neon pink, and works beautifully with the gold and paler pinks too.

It's no secret that I'm a big pineapple fan, so obviously I had to include these on my Christmas table. After all, not only are they brilliant eye-candy, but they're a symbol of hospitality, so perfect for this time of year when welcoming family and friends into your home.

My trip to Columbia Road Flower Market yesterday with my husband, children and mother, was not exactly relaxing - it was heaving - the busiest I've ever seen it, and it was no fun at all being stuck in the hordes of people, often at a complete standstill. However, I came away with everything I went for which is always satisfying (thanks to my daughter who spotted the ornamental pineapples that I'd missed and showed me where they were).

As I'm a glutton for punishment, I also headed for Ikea, which wasn't actually so bad. I arrived 15 minutes before closing time, with a very specific shopping list (for once), which included some of their bargain priced faux sheepskins for throwing over the backs of our school style dining chairs to cosy them up and add a bit of luxe.

I picked up a couple of great gold geometric candle sticks at Habitat a few weeks ago, that look gorgeous (and much more expensive than they were) with neon pink candles in them. These will be nestled amongst the greenery, along with some battery powered fairy lights on copper wire, which are my new favourite thing.

I adore vintage glasses, so my fantasy addition from Chairish, are these stunning Baccarat Crystal Onde Wine Glasses. Mine though, as anyone that knows me knows, will contain a cocktail rather than wine. And there will be edible gold flakes in it. Of course.

Baccarat Crystal Onde Wine Glasses from Chairish
I couldn't just choose the glasses though, because my table setting really needs these too...

Crystal Hostess (that's me!) Flatware Set from Chairish
Saint Louis 'Bizet' Crystal Water Jug from Chairish
Oh, and those stunning agate coasters up there in the pretty collage? They might just be under the Christmas tree waiting for me to tear open and feign surprise at on Christmas morning.

Styling & Photography Bianca Hall
So that's how I'm rolling this Christmas. My husband is worried there's nowhere for the food to go. Duh! That's what the butler is for.

Happy holidays everyone!

P.S In case you're wondering, this is not a sponsored post, just a bit of fun. I do love playing fantasy interiors...

P.P.S Come back soon to see how I made my table runner and napkins. Another very satisfying DIY.


Tuesday, November 4

'It' Sheepskin Stool DIY

I've seen sheepskin covered stools around for a good while now, but I recently saw an image of Jaime King sitting in a dressing room on a particularly beautiful one that I think was from Jonathan Adler, and had that familiar 'I WANT ONE' pang. Well at just under $2000, I don't think I'll be buying one any time soon, so of course I started to think about a DIY version.
I've dubbed these 'It' stools, because they remind me of Cousin It from the Addams Family, but they are also everywhere at the moment, and with good reason. They add a bit of glamour and fun to any room, they don't take up much space, but are great for extra seating when needed. Exactly what I'd decided our living room was lacking. I'm certainly not the first to do this DIY, but this is how I tackled it.

I began my hunt for something to transform on eBay (of course), and found a fab pair of little mid-century side tables for £20.00 (plus, £10 delivery, so let's call it £15 a piece). They were the perfect shape and size to re-purpose as stools.

When they arrived, my intention was to give the legs a quick sand before spray painting them gold. However, much to my surprise, when I started sanding, the black paint quickly turned to dust, revealing the bare wood beneath.

Now I'm not one to shy away from painting wood, but it just didn't seem to be the right thing to do as it was in perfect condition under that bad black paint job, and such a lovely colour. I still can't believe how easily the paint came off - just ten minutes sanding by hand per leg, so I decided to hold off with the spray paint, and give them a few coats of Danish Oil instead.

The cups and feet didn't shine up as much as I'd hoped, so I might give them the gold spray paint treatment instead, but the jury's out on that one, so I'm leaving them for now.
I was lucky that my job was made super easy by the fact that the legs unscrew. I decided not to remove the plates that the legs screw into, because I'm lazy like that. I just didn't want to make the job harder, so I worked around them instead which was pretty easy. Besides, not many people will be inspecting the underside of these - they'll be too busy marvelling at their beauty.
I traced around the tops, and cut foam pieces (about 3cms thick) to size, which I stuck on with spray adhesive. Next I cut the Mongolian Sheepskin - another eBay purchase - to fit. The rectangles need to be large enough to cover the top and sides, leaving a few centimetres over-hang for securing it with staples. I admit I did have second, and possibly third thoughts about cutting the sheepskin up - it was SO beautiful, fluffy and soft! I think I'll have to buy another one soon to help me get over the trauma...
Then I got busy with my staple gun. I knelt on the tops as I went, making sure to pull tightly and evenly - I did the sides first and just trimmed the excess off the corners before securing the edges around the leg plates. This is a super easy upholstery job - the sheepskin hides pretty much everything.

Once both skins were secured, I screwed the legs back on and stood back and marvelled at their beauty. Told you.

I'm super happy with these - a particularly quick, easy and satisfying DIY. They make for great occasional seating and a lovely bit of eye-candy. And eye-candy is something we all need.

The overall cost? £42.50 each. Not bad huh?


Saturday, October 25

Tropica Collection...by me

My new collection of cushions and napkins has just launched. Hooray! The collection, called 'Tropica', has been a long time coming, and I'm particularly proud of it. It's a bit of a departure from anything I've done before - more grown up I guess. I've always designed for me first, as I just can't bring myself to release any products that I wouldn't personally want to have in my own home, so as my tastes continue to evolve, my designs do too. 
Photography & Styling Carole Poirot
The four patterns in this collection started as delicate paper-cuts. Several months ago, I was telling my daughter about the incredible traditional textiles of Hawaii, Mexico and Panama. In particular, the very beautiful Hawaiian Quilts that were on the beds of the Moana Surfrider Hotel on Waikiki Beach that we stayed in when she was very little. We decided to have a play around with some paper-cuts, to come up with some of our own patterns - the kind where you fold a piece of paper into quarters, leave the folded sides intact, cutting a pattern into the outer edges, then reveal a lovely geometric design when you unfold it. I was surprised when our quick little experiments turned out so beautifully - that something so simple could be so striking. I found myself doing more and more in the following weeks, and the idea for my next collection was born. I knew that I wanted the patterns to feel contemporary and fresh, so I started playing around with repeats digitally once I'd scanned them, and then they really came to life.
Photography & Styling Bianca Hall
I love that 'Ipanema' (above) looks lattice-like, though if you look closely you might see a palm tree or two. And a pineapple motif found it's way into my 'Maui' pattern (top and middle cushions in the image below). The 'Bahia' print has a tribal feel to it (the charcoal cushion and lampshade in the first image), whilst 'Panama' has an air of luxury about it (bottom cushion in image below).
Photography & Styling Carole Poirot
The cushions are all available in the shop now, and the napkins will be available soon...
Photography & Styling Carole Poirot 
Photography & Styling Carole Poirot
Photography & Styling Carole Poirot
I'd love to know what you think. What's your favourite pattern? Enjoy the rest of the weekend. I'll be doing some more house painting tomorrow. You know, just for a change...


Sunday, September 7

Gold Pinch Pots

Sometimes I get an overwhelming urge to make something. Something satisfyingly quick and easy. I recently bought my daughter some Fimo, and spotted that they also do a modelling clay. I'm really lucky to have a large, well stocked, craft and haberdashery shop a five minute walk away, so when my 'I need to make something' mood struck, I went and bought some.

I decided to make some little pinch pots for the succulents I've been attempting to propagate. I had about fifteen  leaves that had sprouted roots and the beginnings of new plants that needed to be potted, so these are a great size whilst they're still tiny. If they're successful, I'll have to re-pot them eventually, but for now these are perfect.  These little pots would also be great for rings, and any other tiny bits and pieces, and they're so easy.

I made meat-ball sized balls with the clay once I'd softened it up a bit, and pinched them into various shaped, rough little vessels. Perfectly imperfect. They took about 48 hours to dry (not the 24 that it promises on the pack and which was the selling point for Miss Impatient over here), and once completely dry I sprayed them gold.  I lined them with a double layer of foil and filled them with succulent potting mix before adding my new little plant-babies.  I apologise for the cringe-inducing term plant-babies - I started saying it to annoy my husband and amuse myself, and it's kind of stuck. Besides, I do love them.

Succulents love our bathroom, and the tiny pots are the perfect size to sit on the marble ledge behind the basin, where they will hopefully thrive.  We'll see over the coming weeks, how many of them make it. Fingers crossed!

Its hard to tell from the photograph, but this pot is only about 6 centimetres in diameter. Pretty cute huh?

Friday, August 29

Trend-spotting: Bolster Cushions

I'm going to stick my neck out here and predict that oversized bolster cushions are going to be everywhere over the coming months.  And not just on beds - you'll see them on bench seats and sofas too. They look so comfy and inviting - perfect for snuggling up on during the winter that is nearly upon us.

I spotted one a while back on the ever fabulous DesignLoveFest, in Bri's beautiful bedroom. (That's the light I want for my kitchen. Le sigh...)

Image: Bri Emery / DesignLoveFest
I'd been hanging on to an amazing piece of vintage Chinoiserie Linen that I'd found on eBay for a steal well over a year ago, that I just didn't know what to do with. Cutting it into smaller pieces for standard sized cushions would have wasted the design, but I didn't have enough to do much more with it. So when I saw this image, I instantly knew it was the perfect thing to make with my linen.  I used the entire width of the fabric to incorporate the beautiful lattice border.  I used the linen for the front only, piped it with black velvet, and the back is heavy-weight charcoal cotton.  I love, love, love it.  It looks like a really expensive piece, but in fact cost me less than £10 just for the pad - everything else I already had in my studio.

I think this shape looks more contemporary and relaxed than a traditional cylindrical bolster, but anything goes. Really, it's all about using a great fabric. These are a great way to add pattern to a room without the expense or commitment of wallpaper. Unless you go for über expensive fabric of course, but if you only use your 'good' fabric on the front, you don't need much at all.  My husband is so thrilled that there's another cushion on the bed. Not.


Tuesday, August 26

The 'new' house plants every self-respecting interior obsessive must have!

I know the title is a tad dramatic, and yes, you've seen some of these loads already, BUT I do think that you will start seeing a few house plants popping up online, in the glossies, and yes, even in real life over the coming months, that you just might not have seen before. And I'm excited.

It's feeling decidedly Autumnal in the UK suddenly (Boo! I want more summer!), but let's not let that fact spoil our indoor plant fun. In fact, surely if we surround ourselves with plants that have a tropical feel, and pop the heating on, on the days when the sun graces us with a bit of shine, we can trick ourselves into believing it's still warm out there.  Maybe?

Yes? Let's give it a go then...

We already know that succulents are a 'thing', and that indoor plants have made a huge comeback over the last year or so, having been absent from the interiors hot list for quite some time, but what plants should you buy, once your little succulent collection is nearly complete? Or, god forbid, dead?
Image: Unknown via Pinterest
Ananas comosus chamaca / Ananas comosus variegatus - Dwarf Pineapple/Ivory Pineapple. I was stupidly excited (told you) when I saw these at Ikea the other week. I can't believe that I just didn't have the hands to buy a couple there and then. I'll definitely be making a trip back for some very soon. The Variegatus has a spiky/variegated leaf, the one pictured (Chamaca) doesn't.  They're both great. Instant sunshine in a pot, and a total no-brainer. Get one.

Image: Unknown via Pinterest
Zamioculcas zamifolia or Zamia furfuracea - That's a Zamia Plant to you and me, and also known as a Cardboard Plant, Jamaican Sago and ZZ Plant. It was complete and utter love at first sight for me when I recently saw one of these for the first time. Just beautiful.  I'll be tracking one of these sculptural beauties down pronto. Oops, just did - you can buy one here.

Image: Unknown via Pinterest

Cryptocereus anthonyanus (yes, really) - also known as a Ric Rac Cactus, Fishbone Cactus or Orchid Cactus. It's seemingly impossible to find a great image of one of these to show off it's beauty, so I'll post one once I've procured one, but trust me, these are stunning. I'm going to hang one in my kitchen, and pray it's warm enough for it as we venture into winter.

Image: Kindra Clineff (via countryliving.com)

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora - This one is probably not new to you, but it's new to me. I've decided I need to stop being lazy and calling all succulents, 'succulents', and learn their names (even if I can't pronounce them). We need to know our Aloes and Agaves from our Echeverias and Crassulaceaes, which is the family that this lovely looking specimen falls in to. Commonly known as a Paddle Plant for obvious reasons, and it's totally on my list.

Fiddle Leaf Fig, and if you squint you can see a Zamia peeping out from behind it.
Image: Bianca Hall
And last, but most definitely not least, this one is probably not new to you - we all know and lust after the Fiddle Leaf Fig (or Ficus lyrata if you want to get technical). I actually gasped out loud at the beauty of the one above when I stumbled upon it, having never seen one in the flesh before. How does a plant or tree reach A-list celebrity status? By being incredibly beautiful and photogenic for a start. If ever there was an A-list plant, this is it. Why haven't I got one yet? Because they're not cheap, and I'm terrified of buying one and killing it. This won't stop me from ever getting one, it's Christmas soon after all. Kimberly over at Swoon Worthy discovered an online UK Fiddle Leaf Fig supplier and was kind enough to share back in March. She tells me that hers is doing really well, which fills me with hope for my future as the proud owner of one. Soon, very soon.


Thursday, August 21

Confessions of an eBay addict

I'm an eBay addict. My addiction goes through phases of being 'worse' and 'better', and sometimes lies dormant for a several months, but I'm often in the throes of a buying frenzy, and can sometimes be found listing stuff to sell too. Though it's fun selling, nothing beats the thrill of the last second, adrenalin-rush-inducing, bid. Especially when you win.

Lately I've been on a bit of a bender, which is directly related to my being on a mission to whip our house back into shape, as it's been somewhat neglected over the last few years (which coincides with the arrival of our littlest).

I realised that things were looking rather average in pretty much every room. You know when you're so used to seeing things that you don't notice them anymore? And then when you do notice them you realise that not only do you not like them, but you actually hate them? Yes, that. That's been happening loads, so I'm having a big shakeup round here. You may know I'm currently revamping our kitchen, which is of course taking way longer than anticipated due to a barrage of illness going around in circles in our house. Bear with me though, it will be finished(ish) in about three weeks, then I can finally show you the fruits of my labour.

Most of the things I buy on eBay fall into the decorative, furniture and DIY categories. I often giggle when I see what my husband is looking at as we share the same account, so our watch list is combined, and it couldn't be more varied. Whilst he's looking at Japanese denim, vintage workwear, skateboard paraphernalia, and bicycle wheels, I'm looking at vintage ceramic lamps, brass side tables, tiles, spice racks and wicker chairs. We have an unspoken rule, that neither of us can comment on what the other is currently stalking. And it is a form of stalking.

My friend Kimberly over at Swoon Worthy wrote a great post about how to become an eBay ninja. I proudly put myself firmly in that category already, but if you're not and you want to be, I suggest you study this helpful guide.

People often say, 'you find the best stuff, you're so lucky', or 'I never find anything good on eBay'. I say YOU'RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH. You have to really want to find the good stuff, it won't find you. It's not uncommon for me to look at hundreds and hundreds of listings when I'm looking for something in particular, often over a period of weeks or even months.

I think that for me, a huge part of my eBay obsession is that it serves as a substitute to going to antique shops and markets as I just don't have the time, and couldn't think of anything less relaxing than doing so with two children in tow even if I did have the time.

So, here are a few(!) things I've bought over the last two years, where they are in our house, AND the prices I've paid for everything!

A pair of ceramic Chinese Foo Dogs (or Temple Dogs) - £40.00. They live on a glass and chrome trolley also from eBay in the living room.

A solid brass vintage panther - £5.51. He's a recent addition, and currently hanging out on the new kitchen table (not from eBay!), but he'll most likely move into my studio.

A pair of antique brass Welsh guards coat hooks - £4.99. These will be tea towel hooks in the kitchen.

A pair of ceramic Staffordshire Spaniels - £26.59. They live on the dining room sideboard. I love their ridiculous faces!

A 1.4 metre piece of vintage chinoiserie linen - £11.40. I've just made a huge decorative bolster cushion from this for our bed.  I have some left over, so might make some smaller cushions too.

A grey sheepskin - £22.00. This is new, in fact it just arrived this morning, and it'll cosy up a sofa in our living room. It replaces an old cream one that was a victim of the recent spate of illness in our house.  I won't subject you to the details - it wasn't pretty, but what a brilliant excuse to buy the grey one I'd been wanting.

Oh my god, I'm like the very hungry caterpillar!!

Not pictured, but in the spirit of this confessional post, here goes...

A seventies or eighties lucite side table on castors - £49.99. Love this, a total bargain.  It's in our living room.

A seventies chrome and glass trolley - £51.00. Again, in our living room.

A mini wicker chair - £26.00. May have paid a little too much for this, but it's adorable.  It hangs out in Baxters room, with a teeny green zebra print cushion I made for it.

A pair of lampshades custom made with Sanderson fabric to die for £70. These are so beautiful. I found this woman who just happened to have the perfect amount of Sandersons Rainforest fabric in green to make me two shades. These are on some eBay lamp bases (surprise surprise) on the dining room sideboard.

A wicker side table - £20.00. I spray painted this black, and it's currently my bedside table, but we're switching rooms (again) soon, then it will become a plant stand in the studio or kitchen. I need to get a piece of glass cut (maybe smoked or mirror) for the top as it's a bit wonky.

A huge vintage ceramic Wedgwood lamp base - £20.00. I adore this lamp and it was a complete bargain. It's a golden mustardy colour, and I bought a huge silk turquoise lampshade to go on it. That wasn't a bargain by any stretch. With the shade it stands just shy of 70 centimetres tall (about 27 inches), so it's a real statement piece, and looks great on the lucite side table in our living room.

A vintage ceramic chinoiserie lamp base -  £12.00. This lives in our bedroom.  It's a yellow/mustard colour and currently has a purple shade, which actually works really well, though it was just one I had hanging around.  I may change the shade when we move rooms.

Several other lamps - some more successful than others, so we won't talk about that!!

Most recently, this week in fact, I won a pair of antique bedside cabinets which are ready for a glossy coat (or five) of paint which you'll see in due course, for £51.00 (plus £39 for a courier delivery). That's quite a big spend for me on eBay, but I've been searching on and off for years for something like these.

Oh, and a wicker rocking chair, FOR NINETY-NINE PENCE! Okay, so I haven't laid eyes on it in the flesh yet, as my father-in-law has kindly collected it for me, but it was photographed dreadfully with hideous filthy cushions on it, and I think it might just be a total bargain.

So, am I done on my eBay spree?  Ah, not likely.  I'm currently stalking a piece of furniture for my about to be re-vamped studio, and I'm always on the lookout for a nice but relatively cheap wicker Peacock chair for my daughters bedroom. And a million other things I don't even know about yet.


Saturday, August 2

Golden Numbers

Until a few years ago, I hadn't given a thought to what our house number looked like, or any house number for that matter - they were purely practical things that just existed.

However, I came down with a serious case of Front Of House Envy, when I spotted a house a few streets away, and besides it's gorgeous charcoal exterior, pale teal front door, and perfect hedge, the house number was gilded on the window above the front door, and I LOVED it.

It was the house number that really sealed the deal, and I became ever so slightly obsessed, often going out of my way to walk past that house, just to admire the house number. Again.

Kristen Cutlip is an artist and sign-writer who learned the art of glass gilding under the eye of Sandra Spannan, who is responsible for the gilded sign writing that graces Balthazar in New York, amongst many other Manhattan establishments and homes. Together they worked on the London branch of Balthazar, and Kristen continues to work on both commercial and domestic projects in and around London.

Kristen happens to be a friend of ours, and when she heard that I wanted our house number done, she offered to do it. Ummmm, OKAY!!!!

After six years or so, I was a bit concerned that the old window film I'd put on may have stuck permanently to the window, or be a total nightmare to get off, but it came off cleanly to make way for our very own golden numbers (yes, thanks Mr Hall).

'Transom' is the American term for the window above a door, however, there doesn't really seem to be a specific name for them here in the UK. They're sometimes referred to as a 'Fanlight' (if it's a fan shape), but I think I'll stick with 'the-window-above-the-front-door'. Stop me if I'm getting too technical.

We had previously agreed on the typeface, size and colours - classic engravers font in real gold leaf, with a black outline, so the first step after making sure the window was squeaky clean, was to transfer the outline onto the inside of the window by hand, using black sign-writers enamel.  There's quite a bit of drying time involved after each step, so I plied her with Matcha and croissants (of course).

Next, the inside of the number is prepped with a gelatine mixture, before the gold leaf is applied. Once dry, the edges are cleaned up, and a gold enamel backing is layered on top of the gold-leaf to protect it and make sure no hairline cracks show up.  This is then followed by a black coat (or it can be left as is, or matched to whatever outline colour you've chosen).

Et Voila! A beautiful work of art, hand-painted, Front Of House Envy inducing, house number!

Our beautiful new house number has inspired me to get my act together and sort out the bay window that is in desperate need of some TLC, and finish painting the door surround. When that's done I'll show you a proper before and after of the front of the house, but I wouldn't do the gilding justice revealing it in it's current state. Trust me.

Meantime, you can contact Kristen if you want your 'window-above-the-front-door' number gilded, or any other gilding or sign-writing for that matter.  The cost varies depending on the number and size (obviously a small number 1 won't take as long or as much gold-leaf as a large number 92), so it's best to phone for a quotation. Quick before one of your neighbours beats you to it!

Cutlip Signs kristencutlip@hotmail.com / 07816 577 963
You can also see some of Kristens work by searching #cutlipsigns on Instagram


Thursday, July 31


The minute I finished painting our living room in the most beautiful deep navy blue (which I'll show you one day soon), I started to obsess about what colour to paint the adjoining dining room.  I'd originally wanted to wallpaper it, and perhaps still will one day, but I think my husband and I would be debating which one to use until 2024, and let's face it, it's a much bigger commitment, so paint it was to be, for now at least.  I'd knew I wanted something, well, full-on, and considered an acid yellow, or a lime green, but neither were right, so I took to Pinterest (again) for inspiration.  I was drawn to beautiful sea greens, so off I went to buy another few sample pots from our local paint shop.

The perfect aqua green came in the form of Grecian Spa 3 by Dulux.  It's so bright it glows, and I adore it.  It's a super happy colour, and it's a great backdrop for all my bits and pieces on the sideboard.  Not a colour for the faint hearted, neutral lover, that's for sure...

Speaking of sample pots, I have an obscene amount of them in the cellar. I buy so many that it's become a running joke with all the staff at our local paint shop. I'm not particularly proud of this fact, as they're not cheap, and I often wonder about starting some kind of swap/share scheme. Is it just me??


Sunday, July 13

Kitchen Storage Jars

I debated whether to write this post - it's not the most exciting thing on earth to dedicate a whole post to, but I figured if it was a big enough deal to me, that I'm surely not alone. After all, canisters on the kitchen worktop are on show all the time - like ornaments or jewellery for the kitchen. And they should be pretty, right?

I've been searching the internet high and low, day in and day out, looking for some nice storage jars to replace my eleven year old ones.  I know they're eleven years old because they were wedding gifts.  I loved them for many years, and they suited the kitchen in our old house perfectly (stoneware kilner jars from Nigella Lawsons range, in pale blue and cream).  They don't fit in with the new kitchen design, and as my dream carrara marble worktops are nowhere to be seen in the forseeable future, some lovely new storage jars will go a long way to making me happy.  Yes, I really am that shallow.

I was very surprised when I couldn't find anything I liked straight away.  I was also surprised that so many of them caused me to get rather frustrated and yes, even angry. What I had figured would be a half hour browse and purchase, became an endless, frustrating and time consuming search.  Have I completely imagined the storage jars of my dreams, with brass detail or perhaps a bit of marble?  I feel like I've seen them, yet nothing that remotely fitted the description was anywhere to be found.  All the obvious places disappointed.  Have you seen the storage jars of my dreams??!  WHERE ARE THEY?

So, I had to admit defeat (I stress, that this does NOT happen often), and change the search criteria to this:

A contemporary or classic design, in black, green or neutral colours.

I didn't want anything retro, and I certainly didn't want them personalised.  I don't want anything personalised.  Unless it's a Smythson notebook or a Mulberry handbag (there are of course exceptions to every rule).  I also don't want cute, but yes, there is a cute owl jar below, and I love it.  As I said, there are exceptions to every rule.

Oh, and a note to kitchen ware companies and department store buyers: not everyone wants TEA / COFFEE / SUGAR emblazoned across their storage jars.  Or BREAD written on their bread bin whilst I'm at it.

From the (literally) hundreds of storage jars I've sifted through online, these are the winners.  I wish I'd looked at Habitat much earlier in my search, because they had the best overall selection.  I would quite possibly give my right arm to fill my kitchen with nearly everything from Anthropologie (this is not new news), and I was pleasantly surprised by Debenhams selection too (worth a look, though not included here).  Here are my top six.

1. 'Tira' Large Storage Jar - £20.00 Habitat
2. 'Tira' Medium Storage Jar - £15 Habitat
3. Kahala Large Stoneware Jar - £10 (on sale) Habitat
4. Large Ceramic Pineapple Jar - £35 Mrs Butterworths (I happened to get this for my birthday last week! They only have the small version left, but you can try Graham and Green too)
5. Anchor Jar Medium - £10 (on sale) Habitat
6. A Real Hoot Canister - £48 Anthropologie

I'd really love to hear from you if you've seen any contemporary designs perhaps with brass or marble lids. Seriously, they must be out there somewhere, and I have room for more...


Wednesday, July 2

Matcha Matcha Matcha

I've been boring anyone who will listen with tales of my new found matcha obsession. For those that don't know what it is, matcha is finely ground, premium grade, green tea leaves, so it comes in powdered form and it's a beautiful shade of green. I've bought it in both tins and sachets, and once opened it's best stored in the fridge.

You can find all sorts of information on the internet about it's amazing super powers, and you may want to do some research before you dish out for some, because it's not cheap, but boy, is it tasty!

Speaking of tastes, we have five of them - sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Umami is a Japanese word that translates as 'pleasant savoury taste', and matcha is umami. It has a subtle earthy flavour, but don't let that put you off - it's sooooo good!

Traditionally, you would drink matcha mixed with a small amount of boiled water, like a shot of espresso. But I wanted to share a couple of my less traditional 'recipes' with you, as I've had so many people asking me about it.

Iced Coconut Matcha Milkshake

This is my favourite.  I've been averaging three of these a day lately - when I like something, I REALLY like it.

1/2 - 1 tsp matcha powder
2 tsps pure maple syrup
150 mls coconut water (do your research and don't buy one with any ingredients other than pure coconut water)
150 mls milk / almond milk / soy milk / whatever milk you fancy

I have a tea whisk, so I add my matcha powder to a small bowl first and whisk it up with about a tablespoon of water.  Transfer to a tall glass, add all your other ingredients and stir well.

Hot Matcha Latte

1/4 - 1/2 tsp matcha powder
1 tsp pure maple syrup
200 mls milk / almond milk / soy milk/ whatever milk you fancy

Whisk the powder with a tablespoon of water in a small bowl, then transfer to a mug. Heat milk - don't boil it, who wants a skin on their latte?!  Not me!  Add hot milk and stir well.

Easy Peasy Green Tea Ice-Cream

I know, you really can't call any of these recipes, and this one is stupidly easy...

I made this a few years ago, after I'd promised Edie some Green Tea Ice-Cream for her birthday dessert.  I bought an ice-cream maker and everything, but didn't realise that the inner bowl of the ice-cream maker had to go into the freezer first, and it wouldn't fit in our stupid little freezer. Don't get me started on that.  So in a panic, I thought I'd give this a try and it tastes exactly the same as the stuff you get in Japanese restaurants.  Result!

1 tub good quality vanilla ice cream (I like the Yeo Valley one in an oval tub)
2 tsp matcha powder (add more to taste)

Leave the ice-cream out of the freezer to soften - about 20 minutes.  You don't want it runny, just soft enough to mix.  Transfer the ice-cream into a large mixing bowl, add the matcha powder, and  mix with a metal spoon until the colour is consistent.  You might want to use more or less matcha powder, so taste as you go.  Once you're happy with the flavour, pop it back into it's container and into the freezer to firm up again.  Et Voilà!

You'll notice that you seem to end up with much less ice-cream when you put it back into the tub. Two reasons for this.  One is that you've probably eaten half of it because it's so delicious, and the other is that they tend to whip lots of air into it so it looks like you're getting more than you are, and the air dissipates once it softens.  The cheats.

So that's it for my matcha concoctions for now.  I tried matcha pancakes the other day, but they're not quite there yet, but I'll give you the recipe once I've perfected them.  I can also see a Matcha Martini in my future...

Let me know if you try any of these, I'd love to know what you think.  How do you have your matcha?


Friday, June 27

Succulent Love

Ebay table painted in 'Slipper' acrylic eggshell by Little Greene, and the 'Frankie' rug is from The Plantation Rug Company
Okay, so we all know that succulents are a 'thing'. Some of us are better at keeping them alive and kicking than others. A few weeks ago, I put two of my succulent babies outside on our south facing window ledge where the sun hits all day. I thought I was doing the right thing, especially as one of them was 'stretching' and clearly wasn't happy with the amount of sunlight it had been getting. However, after a few days, I noticed to my horror, that one of them (my favourite, but don't tell the others), was not at all happy - it was singed quite badly, and clearly wasn't enjoying all that full-on sun. I am yet to do the research on which ones like which conditions, but be warned: all succulents are not the same.  Oh the pressure!

Gold glass votives above are from West Elm, re-purposed as succulent pots!
Good job then, that before I half killed it (it's actually recovering really well now that I've put it back in a less sunny spot), that I photographed it. When I was putting an order in for my new Penny Doll brooches, I decided to add a few succulents too - just for me really, and as gifts for my hard to buy for friends. However, I've had so many complements and requests, that I have now added them to the shop, and I've made a necklace version, and über cute stickers too! These ones are much easier to keep alive, and everyone will know that you're in the excluuuuuusive succulent club.

I'm celebrating this new product line, my new blog AND re-branded website, so I'll be including a free mini-sticker sheet with every Succulent Brooch or Necklace order, from now until the end of July. Yay!


Popsicle Pots

I recently saw what I'm pretty sure was a planter made from popsicle sticks in an image on the amazing Emily Hendersons blog.  If you don't know it yet, you must go and have a look - that woman is pretty amazing.  WAIT, NOT YET!  Read this first, okay?

I think it's pretty safe to say that we've all made one of these at some point in our childhood.   If not, then I'm sorry you missed out, and let me assure you, it's not rocket science.  Making one of these is akin to a therapy session.  Not that I'd know.

Anyway, I thought it looked cool (I think that a LOT when looking at her blog), then forgot about it until I randomly saw some popsicle sticks on Amazon whilst looking for something totally unrelated.  It was clearly fate, so I ordered some, deciding to make some pots for my growing collection of succulents, which I've been struggling to find a nice selection of pots for.

They arrived and sat unopened on the dining table, slowly getting buried under a pile of paperwork. Then a few weeks ago, I was at home with my two small people, and it was really awful stormy weather, and I'll be honest - we were driving each other a bit mad.  Then I remembered the sticks. The sticks!!

So out they came, along with some wood glue, and we got to work.  Well, Edie and I got to work, and Baxter did his utmost to sabotage our efforts.  We all had fun though (except the bit when I realised that Baxter was running riot with a highlighter pen all over the living room, and the other bit when I got cross that he was trying to smash my creation).

This is my rather anal neat effort.  I wanted it to be sculptural and simple.  Not too seventies, but maybe just a little bit, which was kind of inevitable.

Some black spray paint was definitely in order to take it from an average crafty thing, to something I actually want to display.  I love it, and I'm pretty sure it will end up on my new kitchen table when it arrives.  I'm also pretty sure I'll be ordering some more sticks for another rainy afternoon, to make a hexagonal one to spray gold.  Yep.  And white, and mint, and pink...

If you're going to use yours as a planter, you'll need to add an inner receptacle like a jar to put your plant into, because obviously these pots aren't going to hold soil or water.

Okay, NOW you can go and visit Style By Emily Henderson, and then you might want to order some popsicle sticks and get gluing.

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