Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Fiction - Citadel

Way back in 2005 I read Labyrinthe by Kate Mosse.  It turned into a book-fest that I couldn't leave; a real page-turner.  Labyrinthe is the first book in the Langoudoc trilogy, as the name suggests set in the region of that name in France.  Since then she has gone on to write the second book Sepulchre, The Winter Ghosts and the final book in the Langoudoc trilogy Citadel.  I can't tell you my excitement when Wimbledon Bookfest managed to snap her up to give a talk, just before it's release.  I went along and was completely in awe of the dedication and work that went into writing this trilogy.  The research is painstaking, the characters plentiful and the end result is a novel that captures you from the very first sentence...throwing you deep into the underworld of the Resistance.  The beauty of Mosse's prose, is that she makes her characters so 3-dimensional that they pretty much get up off the page and follow you around as you get on with your day to day life.  So, to Citadel...

The novel takes place mainly between 1940 and 1942, between the occupation and liberation of Southern France.  As always there is a large cast of characters, but the main protagonist is the young heroine, Sandrine Vidal, an orphan who lives with her older sister Marianne.  Sandrine lives a life of innocence until one summer day she is nearly killed as she chances upon an escaped resistance fighter and his hot-on-his-heels captors.  There is another narrative running throughout the book, that of an ancient codex that is smuggled to safety by a young French monk in the 4th century; the very codex that becomes the core of the story for the Resistance fighters and Sandrine centuries later.  It's a story of courage, bravery and daring, bringing to life in vivid historical detail, the lives and trauma's suffered by people fighting for what they believe. 

I didn't want the story to end.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Morrocan Moment

I've always been drawn to the Mediterranean lifestyle; the food, culture, way of life and that includes the way they decorate.  It's always been a dream of mine to have a little bolt-hole in my home that is just for me; a place to dream, relax, create and re-charge and in my dreams it has a Morrocan feel to it; big floor cushions, lanterns, rich colours...but then I remember I love the spaciousness of white surroundings and wonder if I can ever marry both sides of myself!  Then I came across these photographs and I realised that YES! I can have it all; Morroco in white...I'm dreaming on...

 What styles are you inexplicably drawn to and why?  I'd love to hear...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Five Friday Faves!

Sometimes it's the little things in life that bring the greater pleasure; a smile on a Monday morning; a fresh cup of coffee; a thoughtful note from a friend; a good book or a chilled glass of wine (or even better, the last two together!).  This week has been so busy; lots on at work and a birthday celebration for me.  In the midst of it all I've taken some time to just appreciate the small things around me.

Everyone knows my penchant for hearts and this is a new addition that I've draped round my sparkly birdcage...

More new additions - to my bathroom...a cross-looking blusher brush and cute tweezers.  They are fun and quirky and I'm never going to lose them in my make-up bag as they're stuck to the mirror.  You can buy these and a whole host of other cutees like this from here.

We all need to dream, and a lovely friend gave me this to help my dreams come true.  The question is, which dream do I save for?

A beautiful Begonia, a present to cheer up my office window-ledge.

Last, but very much not least...this beautiful hand-painted fresco.  Another birthday gift.  Isn't it beautiful.  The colours are far more vibrant than this photo shows and I absolutely love it.  It's by Sarah Hocombe and she has painted a series of beautiful fresco's on small pieces of reclaimed brick. Many of the brick fragments have been salvaged from the river Thames, some date from the 17th century. The frescoes have different subject matter: hands, faces, buildings, wings and landscape. These small pieces have backgrounds painted in fresco (mineral pigment painted onto damp lime plaster) and details painted in egg tempera (egg yolk mixed with water and pigment).  I keep staring at this beautiful scene and can just imagine myself sailing away into my dreams...

Have a wonderful, whimsy weekend...xox

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wonderful Weekends

Well, my birthday celebrations began a little early this year and mainly revolved around food!  So often I get to the end of the weekend feeling a bit dissatisfied with what I've achieved - or not!  Not this time, as my weekend was full of the things I like doing the best; some me time with a bit of pampering, dinner with friends, a class at the gym, a walk in the countryside followed by the BEST sunday roast I've had in a long, long time and finished off with drinks with friends that I haven't seen for aaaages!

Here's a few snapshots (mainly of the food!)

Beautiful foliage and colours en-route to the hairdresser...

Baked Camembert and crudites (20 mins in hot oven. Done.)

Blackberry ice-cream cake.  I'm not a pudding kind of gal - either eating or making but when I saw this, the colours were so beautiful and it was so simple, even I could manage it.  Here's how:

You'll need.
100g of almond and chocolate biscotti
200g blackberries
1litre of good quality vanilla ice-cream
40g butter
23" springform cake tin

Let the ice-cream soften while you make the base.  Put the biscotti in the blender until they resemble fine crumbs.  Melt 40g butter and mix with crumbs before patting into a 23" springform cake tin.  Chill for ten minutes.

Lightly smash the blackberries (reserve some for decorating) with the back of a fork until you have a beautiful black puree.  Fold through the soft ice-cream and place on biscuit base.  Place in freezer for approximately five hours or overnight.

There are a myriad of fruits you could do this with, from summer berries through to pomegranates and blueberries.  I loved the colours of the blackberries however, a wonderful nod to autumn.

Blackberries were obviously a theme this weekend...after eating the best roast  (here) that I've had for some time, I finished off with a dessert that I haven't eaten since I was about ten years old! Baked Alaska.It was heaven on a plate.  Crisp hot meringue on the outside, gooey soft meringue on the inside, the cold ice-cream making it a taste and texture dream, and then the blackberry and fruit topping, just tart enough to off-set the sweetness of the other ingredients.  If you live in London, The Mulberry should be on your hit list.  It's about a 40 minute drive away, just outside the beautiful village of Chiddingfold.  The staff are helpful and knowledgeable, it has a small garden which we enjoyed with the last of the autumnal sunshine and a glass of wine; but most importantly, the food was amazing.  I've had so many roast dinners that have disappointed.  Not so at the Mulberry Inn.  The lamb was tender and cooked to pefection, pink in the middle and meltingly aromatic. All the vegetables were just the right side of al-dente and there is a good wine list with a range of prices for different budgets.  Make that booking. Now.


Here's hoping your weekend was as full of fun and friends as mine! x

Thursday, November 08, 2012


After all the introspection of the last few weeks, it's definitely time for some frivolous frippery.  As Christmas rapidly approaches and party season pokes it's head round the festive mantel, the perennial question "what am I going to wear" is overheard in almost every gathering where there is more than one woman present.  I've had my eye on a few things and here are some that I'm currently coveting...

Heels from Dune (I've had my eye on these for a while!)
Two-tone rose bracelet from Michael Kors

LBD with lace sleeves from LK Bennett

Beaded box clutch from Zara

What's on your list for party season?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Heavy Load

How often do we cling to things that make us unhappy, worried or stressed.  We worry at them, clawing apart the fabric of their dark bulk, shredding the little unhappy fibres deep into our being.  It doesn't help; we know it doesn't help, but we just keep on picking at the source.  We might seek professional help, or build in a few extra sessions at the gym; we may talk to a friend, or seethe and worry silently, losing weight and snapping at those closest to us.  It seems too complicated to sort out, too painful, too confrontational;  But mostly if we approach it from a different perspective we can see it for what it is.  It's actually more simple to resolve than we thought; a simple thought can be all it takes; a wilful decision to just. let. go.

How do you let go when you're worrying or cross?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Getting a perspective

I know! I've been very quiet on the blogging front - apologies!  Just been a bit overwhelmed with other stuff and it's taken up so much time that there's not been much energy or inspiration for anything I took a week off and went up north; partly to see family and partly to get away from the day-to-dayness of 'stuff'; I really wanted some time to recharge and re-think plans for the next year or so...

Well, I'm not sure I got too far on the planning front, but I definitely got my life into perspective; I mean, who wouldn't when you're on top of a fell, and there's all that majestic beauty around's a glimpse of what I've been up to over the last week or so and what put life into perspective for me.

A wonderful walk up Simonside, past Dove Crag to the top of the escarpment

 A walk from Embleton to Low Newton by the Sea with a fantastic view of Dunstanburgh Castle

'Natural' art beach-style!

There's nothing quite like an amazing sunset to get things into perspective

The top of Dove Crag, Simonside

Bleak moorland

Bony silhouettes

A hopeful foxglove, bravely fighting the winds on the fellside

It was a fantastic week away - if you've never been to Northumberland, off you go and book yourself a holiday; you won't regret it!