Sweetly feasting.

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I know Christmas is over, but I just remembered I haven’t shown these to you! One weekend in December, Xin, from Pudding Pie Lane, baked up a storm and we spent all of Saturday catching up, giggling, getting far too sugar high, and playing with Christmas decorations. So much fun! If only we could do this all the time?? Sadly, I am back to work on Tuesday (I know lots of you are too, so we shall be mournful together!), and so no more feasting and lazing. Christmas season is, alas, over (although technically speaking, it’s not over until 12 days from December 25, no?)… for me at least. Until 2016.

Hang in there folks… 3 more working days until the new year.

 

Images and styling: Courage & Dash; Food: Pudding Pie Lane

Winter is coming…

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If I have spoken to you recently, you will know that I have been desperate to use the phrase “Winter is coming” legitimately, either as a title to something or in conversation about the weather. I am not well-acquainted with Game of Thrones (either the books or the television series), much to my embarrassment (everyone seems to have seen/read it!), but I just really rather like the motto. I tried to explain it to my boss last week, but as you already know, I don’t actually know the plot of the series at all, and so failed pretty much as I started.

On a cold and rainy day during our Scottish holiday, the husband and I decided to have a really lazy and slow day. When we woke up, the sky was grey, and light rain was pattering against the skylight. I cannot tell you enough how much I love rain whilst indoors, tucked under a warm duvet with fluffy pillows I can sink into. It was fab. After a hot brunch, we decided we really ought to get the fire going, and so the husband was dispatched to make some kindling, which I duly built a fire with.

By a stroke of luck, a couple of Produce candles landed on our doorstep that morning, courtesy of I Love Produce Candles – perfect timing for a cosy day in! In fact, it was exactly the right candle for our pastoral, farmyard surroundings. I first discovered Produce candles at Top Drawer, a home+gifts trade show – they smelled divine, like freshly grated vegetables or gently frying herbs (they are also aptly named things like “rosemary”, “honey”, “sage” and “radish”). These beautiful candles are hand-poured in Charleston, South Carolina (possibly one of my favourite southern cities, and where Frank Underwood from House of Cards went to university) – and now they are being sold in the UK by I Love Produce Candles. Hurrah. I think I want to try Wildflower next (I was sent Rosemary and Fig), and possibly Coriander.

We spent the rest of the day lazing by the fire, eating cake, reading, and dozing. I think I am a true champion when it comes to sitting around and not doing anything!

 

Images: Courage & Dash

Beautiful Living

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How beautifully set up is this home? The first time I saw Natalie’s photos on her Instagram account, Laid Back Farmhouse, I fell in love with her style. It’s so airy and light and calm. You can imagine how delighted I was that Nat agreed to let us peek into her home – it’s impressive how uncluttered the space is, despite Nat’s large collection of vintage things – there is yet hope, despite my husband’s insistence that mess is synonymous with vintage hoarding. Over to you, Natalie!

“I’m Natalie Woods, I’m 34 and work in travel – you’ll often find me in either Covent Garden or Southampton.

“Five years ago, my husband and I moved back into the country, this time to West Sussex to a little converted barn that needed (and still does) some love. I grew up on the Shotley peninsular in Suffolk, so country living is deep in my bones.

“My whole life I’ve loved vintage items and very little in my house is new. My favourite pieces are Provence farmhouse inspired, as I aspire to live in rural France one day!

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“I’m still collecting and my favourite places to go are Hill & Co Grayshott and Haus Haslemere. In fact, I go there all the time. Annie & Bill @ Hill & Co often travel over to France and source the most fantastic items. I could spend hours in their lovely shop (and often do). They are incredibly friendly and passionate about antiques and also source from all over the UK. The shop has a French farmhouse feel and I know I will always find something quirky and original – my signs, apothecary drawers and glassware are all from there.

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“Stephanie @ Haus Haslemere has impeccable taste and her shop is incredibly chic. One half is a bright, Scandi/French look and through the door to the other half is an industrial/utility feel. There’s lots of beautiful vintage items and I guarantee you will want to buy everything.

“I love visiting France’s flea markets and Brocantes. My absolute favourite is Villneuve Les Avignon. It’s full of provincial items and is reasonably priced. The market setting is very beautiful.”

 

Images and styling: Natalie Wood

An Indian Summer with Jennifer’s Paper

Ok, everyone. It’d mid-week, you’re tired, you’re wondering where on earth Friday is and if this week could have gone any slower. And why is it so dark?? What’s that about? Is it October already? I mean… COME ON LONDON!

Well, I’ve got just the cure for you… a Courage & Dash bespoke party suite from Jennifer’s Paper! It’s so beautiful, bright, lively, vibrant… I just can’t stop staring.

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Jennifer Curulli hopped across the pond to our lovely isles, and founded Jennifer’s Paper. She gets a buzz from telling each person’s story through stationery design, and loves details from font to colour to envelope style to pattern. You can tell from this beautiful set she designed!!

When Jen is not busy being featured by Style Me Pretty, she’s working with soon-to-be brides and parents, or designing colourful, tropical soiree suites for Courage & Dash. Aren’t we lucky?? We are so lucky Jen agreed to work with us when I reached out to her. Check it out…

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When Jen and I were discussing this party, we went through different ideas from Portuguese-inspired afternoon lunch, to American BBQ, to girls’ French-inspired brunch. Jen sent over her initial thoughts and an early inspiration sketch, before we narrowed down her ideas. I knew that I wanted something fun and almost frivolous, so Jen took our discussions and put them into a mood board with objects (naturally there were pineapples) and shades (BRIGHT) that would ultimately find their way into this suite. Jen knew that having a cohesive ‘brand’ for the event would be important, so she worked on details from the invitation, to the placecard, to the  menu, and even the little straw flags. LOVE!

Sadly, we don’t have any upcoming weddings or birth announcements or christenings, but if you do, check out Jennifer’s Paper. Jen was absolute dream to work with (this is not a sponsored post!) and so fun and collaborative – not intimidating at all.

For more, visit Jennifer’s Paper at http://jenniferspaper.com/.

 

Images and styling: Jennifer Curulli (Jennifer’s Paper)

Memphis: Backstage, Costumes, and Some Thoughts

It has been a while since the husband and I have been able to do date night. What with work and travels and seeing friends… And we don’t even have children! I’m not sure how parents cope, but big respect. For our first date in ages, we went to see Memphis The Musical at Shaftsbury Theatre. We were given review tickets to see the show, so it was all terribly exciting. I love rock and roll (lol), and couldn’t really say no to hearing Beverley Knight and Matt Cardle in the flesh. Thankfully even though the tube strike foiled our first attempt at going into town, we were able to catch it a few days later.

Before watching Memphis, I had expected to write a review focused on the set and the costumes. It’s a 1950s drama set in Tennessee – I couldn’t not write about clothes (+this is supposed to be a design blog, right?)! Swingy dresses, little purses and red lips for the girls, jacket+tie and buttoned up collars for the boys… I soon realised, though, that behind the catchy tunes and sparkly dresses were the very pertinent and topical themes of race in society and cultural (mis)appropriation. Now is not the place or time to share my views about those topics, but with the latest Nicki/Taylor re VMA-gate, Sandra Bland, Rachel Dolezal… they are clearly themes that haven’t seen much resolution. It is so sad to see that racism is very much alive today (have we learned anything in the past 100 years??), and I appreciated how Memphis attempted to deal with those divisive themes through the universal languages of dance and music.

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On top of it all, we got to enjoy roof-raising, power singing by Beverley Knight and hilarious + charming (although sometimes frustrating) scenes by Matt Cardle, as well as steady to flow of catchy songs (a lot of people were bopping along in their seats!). I thought about writing a synopsis, but given that we went into the musical cold and were very positively surprised, I changed my mind! Go watch it and tell us what you think.

Memphis The Musical
210 SHAFTESBURY AVENUE, LONDON, WC2H 8DP
http://memphisthemusical.com/

 

Images: Johan Persson (Memphis 2014)

Disclosure: We received review tickets, but all thoughts + opinions are entirely my own. I am always honest and authentic in my commentary – if I wouldn’t say the same in real life, I wouldn’t do so here! (See FAQ/Disclosure for more.)

Sarah Moore & Friends Vintage Barn Sale

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I love Sarah Moore’s vintage style, which often features colourful floral prints. Sarah Moore is an interior and homewares designer, and the winner of BBC2’s 1st Great Interior Design Challenge. She organised a barn sale at Hill Lands Farm,PO18 9JY, at the end of June, and I was gutted not to be able to attend. Look at what we missed out on! The sale was created/curated by Sarah Moore Vintage, Goose Home & Garden, Found Country Antiques, Primrose Lane, Sea Thrift Interiors, and Simply Country – it looked like such a fun day out in the countryside with scrummy tea+cake, and stacks gorgeous vintage fabrics and homewares!

Lucky for us, the wonderful Sacco & Sacco Photography were one location to document the day – and what beautiful photographs. If you are tempted, there is another barn sale on September 12 and 13 this year, which I have already blocked out in my diary. Cannot wait!

Images: Sacco & Sacco Phorography

(Please let me know if you were involved in the sale and you were not mentioned or  your website has not been linked.)

Drinking it all in…

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“I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation on its virtues. It comforts and enlivens without the risks attendant on spirituous liquors. Gentle herb! Let the florid grape yield to thee. Thy soft influence is a more safe inspirer of social joy.”
― James Boswell, London Journal, 1762-1763

I love tea – tea on its own, or with scones and cake and buttered toasts; tea on a summery evening or on a cold, winter morning. Today I visited Best of Britannia (you should definitely go have a look – it’s a market stocked full of all types of British designer-makers), and discovered the wonderful Comins Tea House, in Dorset (more on them next time!). Rob, the co-owner/founder of the teahouse, has such respect for Oriental tea-drinking ceremonies and traditions. It reminded me of tea drinking as a child with my father – his Chinese roots had instilled in him a real reverence for and delight in taking tea properly, and he loved to share those traditions.

When Dragonfly Tea (a family-owned British company with over 100 years experience) gave us a copy of their new guidebook, Brewed With a View, we were really intrigued. I rather love taking my tea in bed or while lounging on a sofa, but this guide book paired tea with locations, and encouraged the reader to connect the flavours of the tea with the scenery. I guess tea drinking is supposed to be a public and communal experience! Think of all the poetry reading and calligraphy that must have happened under moonlit pavilions in China…

I chose Pu’er, a fermented black tea with a slightly earthy taste. As you can see, I still take my loose leaf tea without straining – a Chinese habit! Brewed with a view paired my choice of tea with Glengoyne Distillery in Strathclyde (I think the connection is smokey whisky?) – imagine drinking tea in a distillery! Would love to try that. 

Of course, I paired my tea with a chocolate chip cookie, because, really, if we are thinking of tea as a comfort, cookies definitely fall under that definition! We do intend, however, to give the guidebook a whirl – wouldn’t it be fun to sip tea that evoked connections with your surroundings?

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A limited first-run of the Brewed With a View guidebook (which comes with tea samples) is available at the following visitor centres and on dragonflytea.com:

–       Liverpool Tourist Information Centre, Albert Dock
–       Tatton Park Visitor Centre
–       Kibble Palace Shop
–       Glengoyne Distillery Shop
–       Roman Baths Tourist Shop
–       Glamis Castle Visitors Office

Let us know if you do manage to pick one up and use it!

For more information, visit http://dragonflytea.com.

 

Images & Styling: Courage & Dash