You know that I’m a complete Halloween addict. I love all the little bits and bobs that come out around this time of year, and yesterday I was nosing around John Lewis, intending to buy a few baking bits to make my spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men (more of these in a second). They have some absolutely gorgeous gifts, decorations and treats for Halloween this year and I ended up buying rather a lot of that stuff too (I mean, mini pumpkin fairy lights, come on!).
Since arriving back from Orlando on Thursday, we’ve really noticed how autumnal it seems to have become in just that short period. Our gorgeous parrotia tree, experiencing its first autumn in the garden, is now aflame with orange, coral and red, showing off its glorious, glowing colours every time I’m at the kitchen sink, and there’s a new nip in the air that I’m certain wasn’t there when we left. Still, I’m happy to be spending a few days snuggling at home before I jet off on my next adventure, and top of my weekend wishlist are some delicious, autumnal interiors: scented candles, soft throws, plump cushions and more (I need all the comfort after the trauma of waving Charlie off to university). Here are a few bits I’m loving right now:
You all know I love Anthropologie: I love the quirky collections of kitchenware (I have far too many Anthro mugs), and the ranges of clothes that will almost guarantee you’ve got something great quality and original in your wardrobe. As far as I know, apart from the lovely kitchen things, bed linen, and towels, etc, Anthro has never really ventured into the realms of furniture, but oh, they’ve done it now and it is spectacular, with the introduction of their brand new partnership with none other than Liberty: they of the fabulous floral print and the beautiful, must-visit mock-Tudor store on Great Marlborough Street (built from the wreckage of HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable – I don’t know why I retain useless information – I just do). Anyhoo, Liberty’s iconic prints have now found a new home in this wonderful collaboration with Anthropologie. And oh, it’s breathtaking. Dive in to Liberty for Anthropologie:
Since we’ve knocked through the kitchen/dining room, my kitchen is one of our favourite spaces. It’s not flashy (we couldn’t afford new units so we just changed the worktop, tiles and – finally this year – the flooring), but it’s so light and bright now, and along with our brightly painted, upcycled kitchen table, chairs and wall units (thanks to Mr E) it’s happy and homely too. I’m always on the lookout for cheerful, quirky things, so here’s my summer kitchen roundup, including some really rather lovely sale items!
I’m currently obsessed with everything pineapple and I fear my fever is getting worse, not better. Everywhere I look (mostly on Instagram, admittedly), pineapple symbols and patterns are adorning everything from swimwear (see the evidence here) to sofas and most things in between. I’ve seen pineapple earrings, pineapple lip balms and of course, I love my pineapple trainers. Yes, friends, pineapples are no longer just for pizzas (I never did that, honestly) and it’s time to put your hands up and admit that you’re a bit of a devotee of pineapple perfection. It’s not just me, surely?
So remember a while ago (actually about a year ago) I talked about the positive life plan? It stemmed from a lovely conversation with my friend Erica, and was a bit of a life-affirming exercise in which we discussed aspects of our life and added our thoughts about them (adding the rule that everything had to be positive). I now have a notebook especially for the plan, and update and add bits to it all the time (I’m pretty much a notebook nut – my whole life revolves around notes and to do lists and little snippets of things I’ve copied down).
You all know I love a bright colour – there’s something about being surrounded by brights that constantly lifts your mood. Although I love a minimalist wardrobe, I don’t think I could ever have a minimalist home: for one thing, we’re too messy, and for another I love my bright blue kitchen table too much! This week I’ve been delighted to discover a new range, Tribal Treasures at Homesense and T K Maxx, which is both beautiful and inspiring.
I’ve had a think about it, and I’ve decided that having Mother’s Day and my birthday on the same day is the way to go. I appreciate it’s not something I can dictate, but it made for such a wonderful weekend – full of my favourite people, some delicious food, and many laughs – that I think I’m going to try and swing it from now on. We started the Mother’s Day/birthday weekend (or should that be the Motherbirthday weekend?) with a trip to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast. Oh, I loved it – I adore Emma Watson anyway and Beauty and the Beast has long been my favourite Disney movie, so the combination of the two of them, along with my three favourite men plus being able to sip a glass of wine (the Odeon MK has a gallery area where you can order a drink before your film) while I was watching was possibly the best thing ever.
Honestly, it feels like we’ve been refurbishing this house for years. But now, with the flooring done, it really feels like we’re getting somewhere. Our last two big projects to tackle are the two bathrooms: the main bathroom which the boys share, and our own en-suite, which we’ve lived with in a right old state since the shower developed a leak over a year ago. The problem with bathrooms are that they’re expensive. Even if you find all the ‘furniture’ at the very budget end (which we did), you need someone skilled to come and do things like tiling and plumbing, so we waited until we could just about afford it all, and made savings wherever possible. Here’s a bit of en suite inspo for you, should you be considering doing the same:
Here at number one, we say everything with cake. Passed an exam? Congratulations, here’s a cake. Miserable because it’s cold and rainy? Have some cake. Birthday? Christmas? Just because? It’s always cake. So when the lovely people at Denby asked me to create something special to celebrate their latest collection, Natural Canvas, and, as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, well, it had to be a cake, right? A romantic one. And you can’t honestly get more romantic than this strawberry and Cointreau layer cake with coconut cream: it’s light, fluffy, fruity and sweet, whilst managing to be just a teeny bit intoxicating, a bit squishy, and more than a tad eat-with-your-fingers messy . The perfect match.
Okay, if you’re not on Instagram you probably won’t know what on earth I’m talking about when I mention jungalow style, so I’ll explain. One of my favourite websites, The Jungalow, is home to the gorgeous Justina Blakeney, a designer who lives in LA at her heavenly, stylish home, The Jungalow. Justina’s designs are full of bright colours and beautiful patterns, and The Jungalow is a mine of fabulous inspiration: quirky hand made pieces, loads of plants, colour and lush prints. I adore everything about Justina’s ‘new Bohemian’ Jungalow style, and although Bedfordshire’s a pretty long way from LA, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all bring a little bit of jungaliciousness (that’s a word, right?) into our lives, is there? With The Jungalow as my inspiration, I set out on a mission to find a few bright accessories to give our kitchen a bit of a spring update.
I’m addicted to succulents. So much so that it’s getting a bit ridiculous. If, like me, you’re one of those people that always kills house plants, then succulents might be for you. They take barely any looking after, and they’re quite happy for me to go on trips and don’t require anyone to look after them while I’m away (which is just as well as my lot can barely manage to feed themselves, let alone look after anything else). Just a disclaimer here: I’m no expert (many look very similar – I can’t, for example, tell my Echeveria from my Pachyveria) but this is just my trial and error, learned over time method. Yes, there have been some casualties along the way – but hey, that’s another thing about succulents – the small ones are really cheap, so it’s not the end of the word. My succulents all seem pretty happy and none of them die any more, so I must be doing something right. Here’s my easy guide on how to look after indoor succulents, including how to repot, water, and care for them long term. Onwards!
I’ve always thought that music and food go hand in hand, but that could just be because we’re all huge music lovers in this house and, with the boys both studying music production, you can imagine there’s always a pretty strong baseline booming out of one room or other here at number one. If I’m in the kitchen, the radio will always be on. For me, the kitchen is the warmth and heart of our home, and it’s important to me that it’s filled with fun, bright colours and delicious treats, and there’s often someone having a little boogie around, so you can imagine how much we’re loving the new Sainsbury’s #fooddancing ad – it was basically just made for us – food and music are both just simple pleasures, and the kitchen’s the perfect place for a bit of dancing! If you haven’t seen it yet, the advert features families dancing around their kitchens while cooking and comes with a pretty catchy tune too:
I think when the weather is cold and bleak (let’s face it, January’s not the greatest month is it?), it’s even more important that there’s fun, laughter, music and good food all around, so to warm us up, I cooked up a delicious, warming spiced berry, rhubarb and lime crumble from the Sainsbury’s website:
Berry, rhubarb and lime crumble
You will need:
50g porridge oats
50g golden caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced
125g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g rhubarb, roughly chopped
500g frozen black forest fruits, defrosted
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Firstly, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Weigh out the oats, caster sugar, butter, flour (I used a tiny bit more than the recipe suggests as I made one large crumble rather than four small ones), then rub them together, adding the vanilla in as well, until you get a breadcrumby texture.
Then just slice the rhubarb and add to the defrosted fruit along with the lime zest and juice and the cinnamon. Either pile into a large bowl, or divide into four smaller bowls, and sprinkle with the crumble topping.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with custard or double cream.
Now isn’t that worth dancing for?!
2016 has been wonderful and awful all at once. For us as a family, the beginning of 2016 was really just spent thanking our lucky stars that Mr E finally got a job after quite a few months of being unemployed, and was also the year we finally started to get things finished around the house. We’ve had the usual teenage ups and downs: a (minor) car accident, drunken evenings, arguments and girl troubles… but nothing too terrible, thank goodness. In the big wide world, however, and outside of my lovely family, 2016 has been a year of tragedy, sadness and some shocking moments, culminating in the death of the voice of my teenage years, George Michael, and the fabulous Carrie Fisher, making us all pretty keen to wave it goodbye. It has, though, as this fabulous article in The Pool recently pointed out, had the strange side effect of making us all care a little more; it made us a bit more aware of the suffering of others and increased our capacity for empathy. And for that, I guess, we have to be grateful.
So here it is, my very last post before Christmas! I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years now (I know!) and every year, I say the same thing: if you’re cooking the Christmas lunch – and getting stressed about it – remember it’s your Christmas too. I’ve got loads of tips here to make the day as stress free and laid back as possible for you, so you can enjoy your Christmas day with your family and friends. So find a quiet corner, Treat yourself to my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate, grab a notebook, have a read through and take few minutes to make a plan. And remember, it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and this guide will help you do most of the work on Christmas Eve so you can spend as much time as possible with the family, and as little as possible in the kitchen on the big day!
I seem to have left all my Christmas shopping until the last minute this year. I think it’s because I’ve been having such good fun baking. Thank goodness for the interwebz where you can still find loads of last minute gifts for teenagers, with something to suit even the pickiest teen. And if, like me, you’re going to struggle to afford a brand new PlayStation 4 Pro (basically the only thing on Sam’s Christmas list this year, but at £350 not going to happen, unfortunately), I’ve hunted down some great gifts that will keep any type of teenager happy.
- Weekend wishlist: snuggly autumn knitwear October 21, 2017
- My Breast Cancer Awareness Month roundup October 19, 2017
- My guide to dining at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida October 17, 2017
- Baja fish tacos with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole October 14, 2017
- Creamy fish pie with sweet potato mash October 12, 2017