Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bathing Beauties

Romantic and calming

When it's cold outside, and it's dark at 5pm, I just don't want to go out at all.  It's a struggle to even stay awake on the sofa!  One of my favourite things to do to banish the winter blues is to have a bath: hot, bubbly, candles, the works.  It's about one of the only times I really relax (although sometimes, unbeknownst to the recipients, I do make phone calls from my watery office)and having a gorgeous bathroom is high on my list of priorities.  The only thing I really don't like in my bathroom are towels that are so soft that they don't actually dry you (just feels as if the water is being smeared over you) and I also really dislike those HUGE bath towels - I just trip over them and feel smothered.  Here are some of the bathing-rooms I'm currently eying up...

Perfect for reading in the bath!

French Chic


Italian marble

His and Hers

 LOVE this huge basin and tailors dummy
Pictures courtesy of Maison et Jardin/Compagne Decoration  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Salted brown butter crispy treats!

One of the things I like to do at the weekends, if I can make the time, is to be a bit creative in the kitchen.  As you all know, sweet things are not really my forte but now and then I do indulge.  So this last weekend, along with the gardening and gym my lovely daughter and I had a go at making these Rice Krispy treats.  Now this isn't a new idea, however, the addition of salt and allowing the butter to brown, transforms these bites into something else, giving a salty, nutty flavour that is pretty near heaven (especially if you like the sweet/salt thing as I do - I can't get enough of Nigella's Salted Caramel Sauce).

So here's what you do:

Makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars
4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)
Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

1. In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

2. As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

3. Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I used a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I'd sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners, though a silicone spatula works almost as well.

4. Let cool, (we put ours in the fridge because we were impatient!) cut into squares and get ready to make some new best friends!

Packaged up with greaseproof paper and twine

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homely Things

After my mad week rushing around I desperately wanted (needed) some r&r time.  For me that generally means pottering about doing 'nice' things that normally I push to the bottom of the list of things to do, usually because they're not necessities like grocery shopping, laundry etc.  So Saturday morning saw me at the gym trying to get back to some level of fitness and boy was it hard!!! I then countered the hard work with a blissful facial by Dermalogica which left my skin baby soft and plumped up, and me feeling very drowsy after the massage that went with it. I spent the rest of the day pottering in the garden, planting up bulbs and although my hands were numb with cold by the time I finished I was quite pleased with the result.
Old copper kettle and jam pan from my Grannies loft - second-hand books by my Granda Sid

Grape hyacinths planted up in kettle lid    
We finished the day with a curry with friends and a chilled glass of white wine

I love weekends like this; where the agenda is set as you go along and you choose to do as you wish, even changing plans at the last moment, like today.  I was meant to be going to Ikea to get some 'storage solutions' but after another trip to the gym this morning I just couldn't face it.  So instead I'm catching up on some blog posts and my squashy sofa is calling loudly for an afternoon nap!! 

Enjoy what's left of your weekend - I know I'm going to..

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

It's been a really hectic week - getting myself back into work mode after my dash up north last week; lots of deadlines at work and then a two day conference at the end of it all.  Although a bit of me was dreading the drive down to Worthing and the thought of all that intensity that goes with 'inspirational speakers', I was also relishing the thought of being away from home with some time to reflect on my job and it's pressures and the  direction I want to go in.  In this it didn't disappoint and I even got some time to walk along the beach and just breathe in the air and not think about anything in particular - my idea of bliss.Here are some of my 'moments'.
8am Worthing Beach

Art Deco Pier seen when the tide is out

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

'Lust Haves'

It's January and pretty much everyone has overspent at Christmas; it's dark and cold(ish) outside, plus we're all on diets, or at least detoxing and trying to be 'good' and I'm left wondering what there is to look forward to!!!  When I feel like that I 'window shop' on line and I've been eying up a few beauties over the last few days, including some pieces from designers that I have bought from in the past.  I can't add to my collection at the moment, but I can dream...

I first saw these rings in Coast Magazine a couple of years ago and just thought they were lovely.  The two halves represent the line of a coast of your choosing. So romantic and with Valentine's Day coming up, take heed...So,  having seen the rings, I commissioned these...

Cufflinks with the same idea - these are a replica of the Lizard Penninsula in Cornwall. You can see more of Hannah Louise Lamb's watery take on jewellery on her website.

One of my other loves is the designer Hannah Bedford, especially her granulated collection.  A while ago I was given one of her granulated rings for a present and I adore it.  She combines silver and gold in a graceful and innovative way, creating pieces that stand out from the crowd. 

Granulated Pendants

Fine granule rings

Granulated Ring

Granulated Cuff
I'm saving for the cuff - it may take me some time, but it's worth the sacrifice!!!
Stacking Daisy rings by Ana Verdun
 I'd love a few of these, I can't lie!  Sigh...back to reality...have a good rest of the week everyone!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

River of Small Stones

We are constantly being exhorted, reminded and chivied into living 'in the moment'.  Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now (which I did actually find quite hard going - albeit good stuff) tells us that nothing exists outside this present moment.  It made me wonder how much time I actually spent experiencing the here and now and I set myself a little experiment.  Over just one hour I wrote down everytime I became aware of drifting away from what I was doing/thinking at the present moment.  So, for example, when I was meant to be writing a lesson plan and instead of thinking about the children and their academic needs, my brain wandered to what I needed to buy for dinner that evening; or when I went for my swim, instead of focusing on how my body was feeling as I swam I was already planning ahead to the weekend - and I realised that I was actually missing out on life as it happened.  This book did actually have quite an impact on how I try to experience things in the here and now and I'm sure it's been mostly a positive impact.  So, when I came across this wonderful site Writing Our Way Home I immediately linked in with something called 'The River' and 'Small Stones'. 'Small Stones' are present moments captured in words; they are the feelings that bubble up as you watch the sunrise; the smell of freshly baked bread; the sound of a brook as it laughs it's way over the pebbles.  Small stones are exactly that - words that precisely capture a moment.  I'm really excited to be starting my own 'Small Stones' anthology and will share them with you from time to time.  A reminder to us all to find the joy in the small stuff around us..

To find your own small stones:

1. Keep your eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, ears and your mind open.
2. Notice something.
3. Write it down.

That's it. Extremely simple, and extraordinarily powerful. Try it and have fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fab Foods

There are some foods that I go back to time and again, either because they're staples or, because they add a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish.  I enjoy cooking but truthfully rarely find the time these days to experiment and I'm definitely a 'savoury' cook rather than a baker or a 'sweet' chef.  Maybe that's because I don't really have a sweet tooth, but show me a packet of crisps or a cheese scone and I'm done for!  Here are some of my current favourite ingredients and some of the recipes I'm using:
                                                 Oranges for easy Morrocan Orange Cake
I love this cake, despite not having a sweet tooth!  It's dense and flavoursome and goes way too well with a cup of tea and a good book on the side!
This makes a breakfast to die for - try it!
I LOVE eggs!  Scrambled, fried, omelettes, souffles - you make it and I'll eat it!  These Welsh Rarebit Muffins hit the spot and combine one of my other favourite foods - Cheese!
Sage! Wrap it around sausages and bake; use it in stews; fry in a pan for crisps or make this Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto with Pinenuts.  Risotto is always my standby food whether it be for a family supper or a speedy supper for friends, you can't go wrong with this.  The sage adds a smoky depth to the dish that can't be replicated by any other herb.

Sprouts! Now, I'll admit to even surprising myself with this one.  They're a bit like Marmite, you love them or hate them but I've come to rather love them.  Not boiled to death til they're soggy and taste of sweaty socks; but gently steamed, then sauted in garlic oil with some pancetta and a spritz of lemon juice right at the end; or thinly sliced and mixed with bacon, double cream and parmesan to make this Sprout Gratin.  Try it with grilled meats, it's absolutely delicious.

What are your favourite ingredients/recipes?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outdoor Living

I hate January.  The dark; the penury; the Christmas pounds to shed, when the days are short, tempers shorter and the promise of warmth and sunshine are too far away to console.  Today London is grey with a haze of drizzle and I'm half-heartedly thinking about where I should go for a summer break but can't quite muster the enthusiasm to research it.  Instead I'm dreaming about it and gazing at beautiful pictures in impossibly gorgeous locations so I'm going to share them with you...happy dreaming...

I want to have my morning coffee and my evening glass of wine sitting here!

Reading magazines in the warmth of the sun - bliss...

This couldn't get much closer to heaven on earth


I have a thing about outdoor showers - I love them

Another one

Sitting in the shade of an olive tree after lunch

Breakfast and the promise of the day ahead

Relaxing watching the waves
What do you do to banish the January blues?

*Pictures courtesy of Compagne de Maison

Monday, January 16, 2012


As any parent knows, there are certain birthdays that are milestones not just for their offspring but for their parents too; their first, fifth, going into double figures at ten, becoming a teenager at thirteen and so on.  This weekend saw one of those milestones for our family as our youngest was sixteen.  It's such a cliche but I spent most of the day reminiscing about the day that I had her, what I was doing, how I was feeling and especially the moments after she was born.  I know that every mother thinks their children are beautiful, but she really was...white skin and tiny tiny golden eyebrows and the biggest blue eyes.  Now as a sixteen-year old she has long tresses of auburn hair that curls at the ends (naturally); limbs as long and slim as a colt and a wit and approach to life that makes her a pleasure to be around (most of the time!!!).  We decided to mark the occasion by a visit to a smart restaurant and chose this as our venue.  It was everything we'd hoped it would be; smart enough to feel special but no snobbery involved; food to die for without being pretentiously played about with.  We began with cocktails in the bar - Whiskey Sour, Poporina  which was a combination of prosecco, violet liqueur (I'm now on the hunt for this - it was amazing!) and a lemon twist and a non-alcoholic drink featuring passion fruit and ginger ale.

 A chorizo and squid salad went down well with most of our party (I can't eat shellfish, so was the odd one out), followed by Fish and Chips with the crispiest batter I've ever heard, Shepherds Pie (complete with tomato ketchup) and Sausage and Mash.  Our sides included Sprouts with bacon and chestnuts and parmesan courgettes - mmmn mnnnn!!  Pudding was forced down by two of the party - Caramelised Pear Tart with Salted Caramel Ice-Cream and a selection of cheeses.  A truly memorable meal, and I hope a treasured milestone memory.

A rose for Rose