Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Rushing by

Time seems to be rushing by for me just now. At the end of November my Mum and Dad came to stay and tested out our garden room. We went to see D'elisir d'amore at the Royal Opera House and had dinner in the Crush room which was amazing. I took Mum to Libertys which unfortunately coincided with Black Friday so Regent's Street and Oxford Street were heaving which was quite a shock for Mum! We met up with some friends and went to see the Wildlife Photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum and lost ourselves in the wonderful Jewellery section of the V&A.

I also managed to fit in a trip with Mum to the Winter Brocante in the grounds of Petworth House which we though was lovely. It was just as well Dad and my husband decided to stay at home as I'm not sure we would have been able to fit them back in the car as there were so many bags!

The day after the fair I then got back on the train with Mum and Dad to Carlisle, and from there we drove to their farmhouse near Kirkcudbright and stayed the night there. Followed by a mammoth eight hour drive the next day up the road to their home in the Highlands! They have recently sold their property there so I went to go and help with their computer and have a quickly rifle through my old room. Since it hadn't really been touched since I left for university more than 10 years ago there was a lot to go through!
I only managed to get a short time off work for that trip, so I was up in the Highlands for only a day catching the evening flight from Inverness and getting home quite late in the evening ready to fall into bed for work the next day!


In a few days we will be on the move again, as my husband and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary so we will be rushing off to Paris for 5 nights for a romantic break before Christmas. Phew!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Papery promises

I do love bulb planting time. So much so that I tend to start thinking about it around mid-summer, when I realise, all too late, that I should have bought double the amount of drumstick alliums and begin putting together rather ambitious bulb lists in my head. It's at times like these that I am glad I only have a small garden and that I can think in numbers of 20 or 30 rather than 500 or 1000! Kinder to my trowel and my bank balance too!

With the building work this spring, I ended up losing most of the bulbs I had planted. A few Rip Van Winkle daffodils were salvaged and potted up (they should have really been in pots anyway as they always looked a bit lost in the flower beds). But only one of my Purple Sensation and Violet Beauty alliums survived the transplantation process and went on to flower last year. I planted the other sad looking, straggly things back in the beds anyway but I've ordered some back-ups just in case. The Purple Sensations had all sold out at Peter Nyssen and since I wasn't won over by Violet Beauty (which I purchased a few years ago in place on Purple Sensation) I ordered some Allium Aflatuense instead.

Image from Peter Nyssen
I've also ordered some pretty little Katherine Hodgkin irises which have very delicate sky blue and yellow colouring. I tend to forget about making potting up spring displays for the garden so hopefully I will at least now have something for when the weather gets a bit warmer. I may even use them in our window box. It's lovely to think that I have these little bulbs full of the spring to come tucked up in their beds of compost, so that on the darkest days of winter I can turn my mind to those little papery-cased promises that I have planted in our garden.

Friday, 7 November 2014

All the small things

Sometimes, usually on Sunday mornings while I'm listening to the Archers omnibus and finishing my cleaning with a quick dust and polish. I like to take a moment to look at the little details on certain pieces in our home. The delicate brush strokes on a hand painted plate or the pretty moulding on a French mirror.

Noticing these small things and appreciating them in new lights certainly makes that household chore less onorous! On closer inspection, I find myself identifying certain things; those pretty blossoms are actually Forget-me-knots, or the border of another plate is trimmed by Lily of the Valley.

I used to be much more frivolous on my buying forrays to antique shops and fairs. Procuring anything I remotely liked the look of without really thinking about where I was going to put it. Now I am much more restrained and only buy something which I really love. Occasionally, I walk away from something that I should have really bought and regretted it later. But at least I no longer have a horde of items that I bought without really thinking about how they would fit it.

I find that now without the clutter of things that I only kind of liked, I can see the small delicate details of the things that I love. They give me a little bit of joy when they catch my eye, whether it is while cleaning or while I am heading out of the door on a Monday morning.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Autumnal October

This month seems to have whizzed by in a riot of autumn colours and falling leaves. Earlier this month I managed to get the morning off work to go to the closing down sale of the Langton Street store of Cabbages & Roses (they have moved to a new shop on Sydney Street). I got to King's Road early and was among the first customers queueing outside in the mild weather as we squinted through the shop window to see the Cabbages & Roses staff dashing around with the last finishing touches to get the store ready for milieu of customers who would no doubt be paying a visit.
I managed to come away with a lovely cream fisherman's jumper, Jacqueline dress in soft Blackwatch tartan and a pretty smocked white summer top.

A quite of few of my October weekends have been spent out in the garden, cutting blooms from my dahlias which have to be my star performer from the garden this year and they seemed determined to carry on providing ruffled flowers until the first frost. I also purchased a locally made besom broom to sweep up the falling leaves which were starting to lie thick on the gravel path beside the garden room. I was hoping that the spindly tines of the besom would pull the leaves together without taking masses of gravel with them and it worked wonderfully well. I will no doubt have some more leaf sweeping to do later on in early November but for now I have two large bags of leaves beginning the process of slowly mouldering down into leave mulch to be spread on the garden later on next year.

Now that the nights are drawing in it is almost dark by the time I get home from work, I took this photo of the garden this morning before I left for work, hence the strange reflections of my phone in the glass! Finally, it seems that the time of caramel covered apples and pumpkins is suddenly here. I've already stocked up on sweets and goodies for the trick or treaters that come along our road, and who are always very appreciative of my pumpkin carving skills! Last year was the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, this year I can't decide between a witch on a broomstick or a cat. 

I've also been enjoying my new cushion in the Constance print by Cabbages & Roses that I bought from Sugar and Spice Furnishings. It goes really week with my large mossy green cushions that I bought a year ago from Caroline Zoob. I can't believe I used to have 7 cushions on this sofa, I much prefer my pared back number much more simple and easier to get comfy!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Long Melford

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took advantage of the lovely mild September weather and headed off for a day out to Suffolk. A friend of mine recently described the county as "creamy" and I can't think of a better word to describe this lovely corner of our Island. It looked beautiful and quintessentially English in the warm September sunlight with the tree leaves just starting to turn to their autumn colours.

We decided to go to Long Melford as although it is somewhere I have visited a few times, my visits have always been in much colder weather and when the beautiful Melford Hall was closed for the winter. This also allowed me to squeeze in a quick trip to my favourite shop in Suffolk, Rosehip in the Country. I bought a very pretty white metal chandelier with toleware rose rambling through it's arms destined for our dining room as well as a nicely detailed glass vinegar or oil decanter.

As we were walking back up the road towards Melford Hall we passed a little antique/vintage fair in the town hall opposite so we popped in for a quick look around. It was well worth it as I found two pretty Victorian lockets and a little hand painted dish in a pretty spriggy pattern.

After leaving the fair we turned up the road and walked towards Melford Hall, it is sheltered from the road by a high brick wall over which I could just see the tops of the towers. As we walked through the entrance and along the drive through the landscaped grounds we were presented with this beautiful view which looked particularly moody and atmospheric with the grey cloudy sky which the sun was trying to pierce through. I can't help but try to imagine how visitors from the period must have felt when approaching these grand homes. 

The grand and imposing entrance must have seemed very impressive for the gentry bumping along the drive in their wooden carriages, but rather awe-inspiring and foreboding for the humble peasant or farmer come to pay their due to their lord. The pretty gardens round the other side of the hall have the effect of softening this imposing building, I could imagine ladies from all eras walking around and taking the air outside in this feminine space.

In fact, one particular lady who enjoyed this past time very much was none other than Beatrix Potter who was a cousin of the family and regularly came to stay. Apparently she gained inspiration for the Jeremy Fisher tale from the pretty little pond in the gardens of Melford Hall and sketched various pieces of furniture and architectural details for use in her books. (One of the fireplaces features in the Tailor of Gloucester).

It was a lovely day out and reminded me that we have only seen the very tip of the iceberg with Lavenham, Bury St Edmunds, Framlingham and so many other tempting places left unexplored for another free weekend!

Friday, 3 October 2014

A day in Chelsea

I was lucky enough to win some tickets from the generous Kate at Oyster Bridge & Co for the Decorative Living Fair held once a year in the Old Chelsea Town Hall. It is a lovely setting on Kings Road in a rather grand town hall with marble columns, painted ceilings and chandeliers. The fair is expertly curated by Caroline Zoob who hand selects a mix of vintage and antique dealers with hand-crafted items.
Chloe Antiques was there with her pretty selection of handmade cushions, vintage items, scented lavender sachets and the loveliest pair of tole wall lights entwined with pretty French pears.

Walking around I also came across Emma whose stall was brimming with pretty china, as I was chatting to her she was quickly tying up fresh, crisp linens with pretty grey ribbon ready for their prospective purchaser.

Then I saw Teresa from Cherub Antiques, who I had bought my pretty silver watch fob charm from a year or so ago at one of Chloe's open house events. Her case of pretty trinkets and fripperies brought out the magpie in me. I spotted a little silver anchor charm which ended up coming home with me and she showed me a beautiful turquoise morning ring from the 1800s which is no doubt adorning some lucky lady's finger by now!

I finally found Simon from Rosehip in the Country with his daughter Kate - the very talented Oysterbridge & Co on their beautiful rustic French stand. Kate's hand drawn and embroidered pictures were so pretty, I almost couldn't stop taking photos of them!

I also met Jo from Hesta Nesta who I had not met face to face before. We had a nice chat and it was lovely to be able to put a face to the name! Heather from Hellish Designs was nearby also with her pretty handmade lampshades and French country antiques.

Hopefully I'll be meeting most of them again at the Midwinter Fair in Petworth - I'm very excited about this one as both my Mum and Dad will be staying with me so I'll be able to bring them along too!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Changing seasons

I noticed it yesterday, while brushing my teeth and looking out of the bathroom window. The tips of the leaves on the old lime tree at the bottom of our garden had a distinct toffee tinge. The blueberry bush is already flushed with crimson and the nights have started to draw in. I can feel my body clock slowly shifting gear to adjust for autumn as my weekly fare changes. I hardly notice as salads and sorbets are slowly replaced by hearty warming dishes like braised duck and pear and almond cobbler.

I feel sad about the end of summer as I pack pretty summer dresses to the back of the wardrobe but know that I will be greeting them again in a matter of months. Now I feel the need to start hunkering down to the autumnal rhythm. I look forward to the carved pumpkins and excited childrens' faces of Halloween, the crisp smell of bonfire smoke and sparklers of Guy Fawke's Night and the family gathering of yuletide.

The following months are always harder, but pretty Spring is not far away and after she has greeted us with bouquets of snowdrops and daffodils Summer begins her dance again. I look forward meeting those warm endless nights filled with honeysuckle and laughter again next year.