Thankful to be wild and free

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Often, when the husband and I sit down to a meal and remember our favourite people, we feel frustrated that our friends are now so spread out across the world. Even within London, they seem to live across the length and breadth of our (massive) city. It’s fun to have the excuse to travel and see people, but it’s also quite sad not to be able to spend as much time together now as we did when younger. 

We recently headed for the north of Edinburgh, to a place called Fife where our friends Stuart and Imo live. The husband was best man for Stuart, and Stuart composed my wedding entrance music, so they are terribly dear and special to us! It was a gorgeous weekend of eating haggis, meeting Percy (their new dachshund puppy), endless walks through fields and woods, and sitting by the wood-burning stove sipping whisky, laughing about everything and nothing.

Quality time with such wonderful people is priceless – we have so much to be thankful for. It’s a shame Fife and London are on quite the opposite ends of the country! Do you have close friends who live far away from you? How do you manage to keep in touch? Hopefully it won’t be too long before we are back in bonny Scotland! Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating – what are you thankful for this week?

 

Images: Courage & Dash

Breathing slowly.

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Last week, we had the pleasure of staying at Kirnan Estate, a set of cottages+B&B in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, which is surrounded by acres and acres of land and 6miles of salmon fishing. There were sheep and donkeys and goats and geese and free range chickens that produced eggs with brightest orange yolks the size of my fist.

One drizzly day, the husband and I thought to take a walk around the estate, in particular to the woods behind our cottage – it looked like something out of the Lord of the Rings or Snow White. We wandered over that misty afternoon and were transported hundreds of years back. Wild and eerily quiet and seemingly untouched, the forest was cloaked with furry lichen and soft moss which had grown over uprooted trees and across untrodden paths.

It was so quiet.

Everything was dark and grey-green; raindrops hung from every pine needle and fallen branch. It was so strangely satisfying to get lost amongst the stillness of nature. We splashed across streams and trudged through boggy ground and felt delighted! City life sometimes makes you forget the simple things.

 

Images: Courage & Dash

Colourful crockery in a medieval town on a cliff…

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Rocamadour, in the Dordogne region in France, is listed with 4 stars on the AA map, and noted as an area of impressive natural beauty. I was truly blown away as I first laid eyes on the beautiful medieval village built into the side of a mountain. At Overlooking the village and the surrounding valley is a cluster of Christian buildings (shrines/chapels) called the Cité Religieuse, at the top of the mountain. The site is a destination for Christian pilgrimages, and remains a key attraction. Famous pilgrims include Henry II of England and Louis XI of France. There were signs explaining the different points of reflection for the pilgrims, and if I read correctly, the journey to the top of the cliffs was often done on one’s knees! It was a fairly long way to the top – today there is a funicular and lift to take visitors up to the site.

The village is small enough to spend a day wandering through, although there are other prehistoric/Gallo-Roman sites just beyond. We were lucky to have such beautiful weather when we went, so we were able to enjoy ice creams in the sunshine and escape into the cool of the chapels. It felt very much like the village portrayed in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! As Rocamadour is now a tourist destination, there were many shops selling soaps, pottery and various souvenirs. They were fun, but the main attraction for me was a shop selling colourful, patterned crockery in all styles – from Japanese tea cups to Polish plates. It was called Petit Pot, but there sadly isn’t a website or anything like that at all.

Have you been to Rocamadour or its surrounding region?

Images: Courage & Dash

Table Styling with Suitcase Susie

Remember Suitcase Susie from our Makegood festival favourites? We loved her travel-inspired collection of dining wares so, that we asked her to pop back in and say hello!

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There’s something wonderful about alfresco dining in the summer that makes you feel like you’re on holiday when you’ve never left home. I always associate it with having friends around for some good food, maybe a glass of wine or two, great conversation and definitely a few laughs.

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It’s not as constrained as a formal dinner party and that lovely casual feel often means your friends enjoy themselves more because they’re more relaxed. Of course it’s helpful if the sun’s shining as that always makes people smile, but I’ve had some great ‘alfresco’ dining moments when we’ve had to rush indoors to escape a summer ‘shower’ (for shower read downpour – ah the great British summer)…

Now I was lucky when I styled the first image because someone had left behind that fabulous piece of wood in my garden when I moved into my home. But the rest of the photos demonstrate how you can still achieve the right feel even with a standard wooden dining table. You may not have a garden, or the weather might have changed – but you can recreate the alfresco feel indoors too.

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The key thing about styling your alfresco dining table is to retain a casual feel. That doesn’t mean it can’t still be beautiful. It’s just a lot simpler. The bottle (used as a vase) is a small port bottle that came with a Christmas hamper, but even a jam jar with a ribbon tied around it would do. Wildflowers or even dandelions (as I’ve used in the image at the top) are perfect to retain that impulsive feel.

A rustic basket for that just-baked loaf of bread and fresh fruit sets off elements of your table with a touch of colour and a warm friendly feel. You may have a wooden board to lay out some antipasti or use a wooden salad bowl. Natural materials are what you’re looking for where possible. Keep it slightly random – no need for perfect symmetry here!

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Because you’re eating outdoors it doesn’t mean you have to eat from paper plates. Suitcase Susie’s Koru tableware is fine bone china, but perfect for this setting. The wave pattern makes you feel like your at the beach (maybe you are!) and just knowing it was inspired by New Zealand whisks you off to another part of the world, even if it’s only in your dreams. Notice I’ve set out lemon slices for everyone’s gin and tonics…

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I’ve tied the pretty napkin with some suede thong I had at home – no need for fancy napkin rings. You could use some coloured ribbon or raffia twine – the kind that’s popular for gift-wrapping these days. Just a simple knot gives it all the detail it needs.

So I hope you enjoy lots of lovely days in the sun this summer, but even if the skies are grey, you can still recreate the alfresco experience under cover and pretend you’re by the sea in New Zealand – at least you won’t have the 24-hour flight to endure!

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Thank you Suitcase Susie!

All of Suitcase Susie’s designs are screen printed in small runs and hand-decorated onto fine bone china in Staffordshire, while her screen-printed textiles are made from 100% cotton also in small quantities in Lincolnshire. 

Visit Suicase Susie at http://www.suitcasesusie.com.

Images by Suitcase Susie unless otherwise credited.

Chelsea Flower Show Series: The Cut Flower Project at West Elm London

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Photos by Emily Quinton

I love flowers. I don’t know many people that don’t, but I REALLY love them. As in, they make my insides turn to treacle, make my heart trill like a canary, kind of thing. Something about the colours and the shapes of cut flowers in whatever container just beams intrinsic pretty. And we love pretty!

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Which is why this week, I am in the Best Mood Ever – not just because the sun is out, but because it’s the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the harbinger of Summer! Plenty of events and beautiful blooms everywhere. Tomorrow, West Elm London joins in the festivities by turning their store into a floral delight with help of The Cut Flower Project. What a great idea! We kick off the Flower Show feature with the lovely Saima Ishaq of The Cut Flower Project and her journey through floristry.

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The Cut Flower Project is based in South London, and was founded by the energetic and creative Saima. After years of working in the media industry, Saima discovered that her passions lay with floral arrangements, and left to learn the art of floristry.

“I practised and practised,” Saima recalls, “I enrolled on a college course, attended many flower workshops, watched online tutorials.” She documented the hours of hard work and her progress on Instagram.

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The effort clearly paid off, because The Cut Flower Project is growing (like a weed!). “Friends and family began asking me to do their wedding flowers, and the Southwark Arts Forum invited me to host a workshop at the Bermondsey Street Festival.” The Cut Flower Project also recently hosted workshops for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day at Boxpark, Shoreditch.

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Top photo courtesy of Emily Quinton; bottom two images by Saima Ishaq (The Cut Flower Project)

The success is clearly spurring Saima on to greater things. “There’s so much I want to learn,” Saima enthuses. Besides being booked up for various weddings this summer, The Cut Flower Project is busy preparing for their first pop-up store at West Elm London. Inspired by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014, West Elm have asked Saima to take over their London store with her flowers,  from 20th to 24th May – a challenge which she is grasping with both hands.

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The Event 

The Cut Flower Project will be at West Elm all day from 20th to 24th May, selling pre-arranged bouquets. There will be a focus area by the front of the store, with Saima’s beautiful creations dotted around the rest of the store
(sigh, sounds great already!).

What’s even better, on Saturday, 24th May, between 12pm and 5pm, The Cut Flower Project will be hosting a flower workshop. You can either buy a vase/pot/vessel from the store and create an arrangement or create an arrangement in a repurposed food tin. How fun does that sound? SO FUN. We can’t wait!

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West Elm London is at 209 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7PN, UK 

Details of workshop, 24th May

Tickets are £25 (covers flowers, tools, tins, etc.)

Ticket-holders can drop-in anytime between 12pm and 5pm

Purchase tickets from: https://thecutflowerproject-westelm-flowerworkshop-may2014.eventbrite.co.uk/

Visit the Facebook event page: ‪bit.ly/cutflrprjct

Hashtags: #WEflowershop #westelmevents #TCFPflowershop

All photos by Emily Quinton, courtesy of West Elm London and The Cut Flower Project