Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Fun and a run in the sun!

I sat blogging outside again today! Bliss. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The car registered 23 degrees as the outside temperature today. It can't have been far off that as I sat there. My ideal office environment! It's amazing how much better a little bit of sunshine and some warmth makes you feel.

Mad really, that in March, I was discussing with a friend earlier in the day, the fact that the children needed suntan cream on before they went to school! We were running at the time and in true Brit style having a bit of a moan (well....I was, at least!) that it was too hot for running. We are running in a 10k race at the weekend and hoping that the weather cools down a bit for that!! No pleasing some folk! I expect that our wishes will be granted. My husband has reliably informed me that the temperature will be back to the seasonal average by Sunday. Only 3 days to go. Just enough time to get some last minute pre-race preparation in............ensure legs are smooth (below the knee, at least!)....apply fake tan (below the knee).....paint (running) up or down?...that sort of dedicated runner prep!

I'm flashing a photo of my bistro table and bench in my back garden today just to prove that I do practise what I preach. You will notice the H20 bottle that I recommended yesterday along with a pink and green water glasses that were a Christmas present from my Mum. (John Lewis) I was going to put a jug with some flowers on the table but decided that was just a little bit too staged! I'm keeping it real!! The cushions on the bench are from The White Company.  
The bistro table and 2 chairs were a purchase from a couple of years ago and they stay out all year round and are still in tip top condition. They were from the Garden Trading Co. priced at £125. Next Home do a similar version for £99 (cream table and 2 chairs). (
For any spring/summer parties/BBQ's there's nothing like a bit of bunting to pretty up the garden. The bunting pictured is from Dibor, a French country living inspired website,  ( and is £14.95 for an 8m double sided run. I've put my order through already.

Now, 'Mum talk' in the playground is very much about arranging parties for the Jubilee and any other excuses we can find to party the summer away (!) I'll definitely be investing in this bunting and probably some colourful paper lanterns such as the ones below. I've used paper lanterns hung from tree branches and around the edge of Gazebos in the past. They are a simple yet effective way of partying-up the garden. For a wide range of different colours, shapes and sizes have a look at Party Delights website. ( The lanterns below cost £7.95 for a pack of 5.

For the table, I love this glassware from the Honey Bee collection available from various stockists. The Honey Bee Carafe is £24.95 from Dibor and the salad bowl below is £19.60 (30% off) again, from Dibor. The salad bowl makes it onto my summer shopping list. Although, for a more vintage feel, I love the Dibor 23cm 'Princess Rose' salad dish below which comes in grey or pink and has been discounted by 70% making it a bargain at £5.10! May have to sneak that one on too. Lots of healthy salad this summer.......

The children (girls, at least) will love these pink acrylic sundae dishes from Laura Ashley. We have a set of these in our cupboard. They are used on a regular basis. For an adult version J by Jasper Conran has this clear glass sundae dish for £4.80 at Debenhams. 

If you like vintage, then a great website to check out is This is an online retailer jam packed with vintage home wares....antique and retro....from tea sets to kitchen items, crockery, clothes, name it, they can supply it. An absolute must if vintage is your thing.

These are just a few finds to whet your appetite for the summer ahead. More to come..... 

Monday, 26 March 2012

A few spiders and a hint of summer!

It's been a day or two since my last blog. I've been busy painting the front room (yes....AGAIN!). This time I've plumped for Farrow and Ball's 'Stoney Ground'. I thought about posting a pic but then thought better of it. No one really wants to see continual pictures of my front room as it undergoes one transformation after another. I decided it might be a bit like having to look through someone's endless holiday snaps on slide show charting their trek through Guatemala, complete with running commentary....or listening to a husband taking you through his round of golf....particularly the brilliant 9th hole that he played, complete with a demonstration of how the shot was played.....Or re-telling the moment that he landed the worlds biggest carp on the end of his line! "It was this big!" No. For now, I will spare you.

What I have done though, is post this pic of my husband's birthday cake! Really easy to make! The children insisted that we make a spider cake. He hates spiders. In fact I would go as far as to say that he reacts like a small child at the sight of a spider....the squealing, jumping onto the nearest chair type of reaction, not the rounding it into a corner and squashing it reaction! I will not allow that. Nothing to do with interiors, although black and white would look great against Stoney Ground! I was pretty pleased with our efforts though so please forgive me for showing it off here! 

candlesticks from £20

A friend of mine tipped me off about the fashion chain, French Connection, moving into the homewares market. Poor old French Connection have been struggling with pre-tax profits plummeting and so, like so many other fashion brands, have decided to expand into the lucrative homewares market. French Connection's premium home and lifestyle range will be launched in April, starting in 10 of its main stores first and online, of course. I've had a sneak preview and quite like what I see. The collection is being billed as "....bringing sophistication and sleekness to any home environment by introducing a clean fusion where minimal sits with rustic antique." I love these marketing descriptions. Basically then, we can expect lots of muted colours, neutral tones, wood etc. I don't object to this in principle. I like muted and neutral. Let's hope that the pricing is 'minimal' (the clothes, in my opinion, are a little on the pricey side for what they are...) and helps to turn French Connection's fortunes around!

We've had some great weather over the weekend and it was fab being able to get out into the garden. With a hint of summer (ever the optimist!) in the air, I will be taking a look at some lovely summer picnic and outdoor living ideas over the course of the next few blogs. Here's just a sneak preview of a few things I've spotted so far....

For beautiful table coverings look no further than Zara Home. ( I am a big fan of Zara Home. It is affordable and crammed with homewares to suit all styles and pockets. These are just two of a fairly extensive range of tablecloths on their site. I look at these and picture lunching outdoors in the 'jardin' of my French home! I'm not and it wont happen.....but that is how I like to think! I'll just have to re create in my own garden here in Le Midlands! 
For a more retro feel, I point you in the direction of another of my favourites, Scandiliving. ( 
I like the lively, funky retro design of this table runner and cushion from the Linum & Elle Decoration collection available online. Perfect for Spring/Summer. There is currently a 20% discount available on this collection by entering the code ElleDecco when you checkout. 

For glassware, look no further than John Lewis. I bought this Maxwell and Williams H20 bottle in both green and berry last year. They are £3.95 each and I had so many comments about how nice they looked on the table.  

My next purchase may be the La Rochere water tumblers from John Lewis. Oozing French living....£5 each.

I've plenty more snaps to show you....but for now, I will let you escape and enjoy this wonderful British weather...........while it lasts!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Kreativ Blogger (Award)

What a lovely surprise! A fellow blogger has awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award today. Big thank you to Beth Goodrham, a fellow blogger and Fashion Stylist-extraordinaire! Check Beth out at for fabulous fashion and an insight into the life of busy stylist. I love to see how I ought to look each day as I stand there staring into my wardrobe in my pj's and slippers looking like the woman out of Tom and Jerry (according to my darling husband!)

I now have to post 7 things about myself. Not an easy task, I can tell you! Right. Here goes:

1. I spent a couple of years living in Munich. Great city. Visit if you can!

2. I am a grade 8 (with distinction!!) violinist.

3. Whilst at junior school, my father was my headmaster! Fortunately, for both of us, I was a well behaved pupil!

4. I am a big Boris Johnson fan. I find his intelligent yet bumbling foolishness somehow attractive! (Though his morals are somewhat dubious!)

5. I like to re decorate my living room on a weekly basis....and indeed, interrupted my painting to post this blog!

6. Italy would be my favourite holiday destination.

7. I credit my parents, my wonderful husband and 2 children with everything that is good about me. Life is peachy!

I would like to nominate the following fellow bloggers for this award :

Right. Must get back to the painting!


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Style versus Styles. Gifts from the heart.....not necessarily the pocket!

Not in a million years did I ever think I would be featuring Harry Styles of 'One Direction' fame in my writing! Not that I have anything against Harry. I am sure he is a lovely young man! My 8 year old daughter certainly seems to think so. So much so, and against my better judgement, I succumbed to her pressure and bought her this 'beautiful' Harry doll for her birthday quite recently. I did have to laugh at myself. I didn't think it would be that hard (both mentally.....what happened to Holly Hobbie??.... and physically!) to buy a doll...but oh no...clearly every other young girl across the UK wanted a Harry doll too. I managed to get my hands on the last one. Fortunately I didn't have to wrestle with anyone or traipse around a dozen stores to lay my hands on him (why does that not sound quite right?!!) but it was not easy nevertheless. I did have to sprint across the shop floor to make a grab before some other (youngish, very disappointed) girl got her mits on him! Ruthless, I was! He cost £12.99 and frankly was worth every penny even if I did have to don a disguise in case I saw anyone I knew whilst purchasing! My daughter was overjoyed and has since spent hours gazing at Harry, who now stands pride of place next to the second worst doll collection in the world......Monster High dolls! (Actually, I am not sure which order of hideousness I would rank them in.....)

Let me introduce you to Harry , readers! Don't you think he looks a little like Laurence Llewelyn Bowen? That's what I tell myself...and anyone who knows no better! According to a totally unreliable source, he is now a collectors item and I should treasure him. Mmmm. Don't expect to see me on Antiques Roadshow any time soon!! I've thrown his box away anyway. Doesn't that render him worthless?

Harry doll got me thinking though. Some of the best presents I have bought have been those that have not cost a bomb, hence my blog title, from the heart not necessarily from the pocket. OK. I won't win any prizes for interior styling with this one, but I did start thinking about other presents I have given people and what is possible with a little imagination and a bit of effort.

I'll be featuring some easy to do ideas over the forthcoming blogs, but thought I would post a couple of examples. The 'E' (E for daughter), was one such idea. I had seen, as with all of these, the same thing in a popular online retailer's catalogue which popped through the door, and decided it would be easy and a fraction of the price to do this myself! My daughter chose some wrapping paper, in this case an Orla Kiely paper for £2.50. I made a cardboard stencil and then cut out the letter 'E' from the wrapping paper. The frame is from Ikea...approximately £15. So, less than £20 for the finished product. Bargain!

The heart picture below is a similar idea. My daughter was born in Edinburgh and is extremely proud of the fact, even though she has not been back to Edinburgh since she was 4 months old!! She loves showing people this map whilst doing her mad impression of a Scotswoman! (Slightly Indian, slightly Welsh...with a bit of East Midlands thrown in for good measure!). Very simple. Buy an OS map from any decent stationers, cut out the relevant city, town etc into desired shape and frame! Again, £20 there or thereabouts for a finished product that I have seen retailing for more than 3 times this cost! OK. The finish may not be as perfect as something put together professionally in a factory...but isn't that the point? It's certainly not £60 less 'finished' than the online version and I made it!

Moving onto a slightly more adventurous project, a very old (as in, we have known each other from infant school...) friend of mine hit a milestone birthday a couple of years back and requested that friends give her something for her birthday that meant something to the friendship or something that she would be able to treasure.

What a lovely idea, I thought, whilst inwardly slightly freaking out as to what I could do. After a number of aborted ideas I decided to make her a cushion and not only did I surprise myself with the result (and her, probably!) but I really enjoyed the whole process. I don't need to go into chapter and verse about how I did this. The pictures show that. The cushion was made from a natural linen fabric and then the other materials sewn together separately...using velvet ribbon, natural linen, purple gingham and some pretty mother of pearl buttons. To finish the cushion, and to add an extra special touch, I stitched a separate square of linen and embroidered a little quote on the back. I didn't make the quote up myself, but I did make the cushion and hand embroidered the words so decided I could get away with putting my initials on the back! Again, it is not the most perfect piece of needlework ever produced but I am pretty sure that my friend appreciated the thought and effort that went into it and to the sentiment behind the idea. It felt as special to me making it as it did giving it to my friend. 

Anyway, I'll be looking out for other such 'DIY' projects along these lines and sharing them with you from time to time. Please let me know should you come across any ideas worth sharing.

All that remains is for me to wish any Mums out there a Happy Mother's Day! Mine started out with the central heating breaking down and the electricity cutting out! My daughter saved the day by making me a number of Mother's Day cards, one which had a poem. I'll let you decide how befitting a tribute to Mother's Day it is! It made me laugh.

Spaghetti, Spaghetti, you wonderful stuff
I love you, Spaghetti, I can't get enough.
You're covered with sauce and sprinkled with cheese,
Spaghetti, Spaghetti, oh..give me some, please! 

(Extract from a  Jack Prelutsky poem) 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sitting pretty. My choice of the prettiest, funkiest cushions for Spring/Summer 2012.

Day Birger at Mikelson at House of Fraser £35

When it comes to choosing one of my favourite things to buy for the home, I have to say, cushions come near, if not top, of my list. You can update or refresh a room by adding or changing cushions for a relatively small cost....compared to the cost of totally re vamping a room! (That is the argument I use to convince my husband, at least!)

I possibly have what is verging on an unnecessary penchant for buying new cushions. Where our cellar is crammed full of paint pots, our roof space resembles some kind rescue home for abandoned cushions! My poor husband trembles at the very mention of the word, 'cushion'.
It seems to be a common complaint amongst men. I have shared many a cuppa with my girl friends debating the whole issue of men, cushions and candles and how they 'just don't get it'! I am sure, across the world, there must be thousands, possibly millions of men that have uttered the words... "Just how many cushions and candles do we need?" 
It's not an argument worth entering in! We like cushions and we like candles. Accept it. It's that nesting instinct we are born with. I tell myself that I am benefitting the energy performance of the house in that the cushion mountain in the roof actually acts as loft insulation. Candles are a different subject, but all I would say is that in my defence, I have a 2 year old with a bottom possibly worthy of being labelled a WMD and scented candles and room sprays are an absolute must! 

So, with spring in the air and the promise of summer around the corner, here is my pick of the prettiest, funkiest, most stylish cushions around at the moment. I have picked from a range of classic floral prints, retro designs and smart stripes. Obviously, the choices are endless and I have hand picked just a few from different stockists. I would strongly recommend that you check out the sites featured for more fabulous designs!

Voyage'Charlotte-blush' Graham Sanderson Interiors £48.50

Above: Bluebellgray 'Liz cushion' for John Lewis £80

Above: Voyage 'Poppy' linen cushion £50 John Lewis
Floral prints are very 'on trend' this year and these are some very pretty examples. These prints would work well in a classic or modern setting without looking fuddy duddy. The colours are bright, but not garish.
Above: Bluebellgray for John Lewis £80.

Some of these choices may be slightly more expensive than many 0ther versions available on the high street, but you could easily get away with a single print cushion amongst otherwise monotone cushions for a striking effect. Less is definitely more when it comes to florals! 

 The heart cushion to the left is by Jan Constantine and is priced at £79.50. Again, a little on the pricey side, but one JC cushion can go a long way!  Hearts, Union flags and 'love' feature heavily in her designs. Whilst I love the designs, it would be easy to over do it. Probably a good thing that they are priced as they are!

The 'Mum' cushion below, also by Jan Constantine, is £43.50 and comes in 6 colour options.
A lovely Mother's Day present if your budget is an exceptionally healthy one!

'Butterfly' £22

Moving slightly away from florals into prints, I rather liked the yellow butterfly cushion below from Hunkydory Home. It costs a very reasonable £22 and would add a lovely citrus burst to any spring/summer scheme. As with many of these cushions, it would work equally well on a garden bench or patio chair than on a sofa indoors.

The cushions below right are from the Moti Ari range at, a Fair Trade furniture company I love the fact that they are all made from recycled wedding saris! They come in a range of stunning jewel colours and are adorned with beads. They cost £29.95 each. 

Moti Ari -

Harlequin 'Etienne' cushion from John Lewis £50

On to the retro section now! The 'Badger' cushion is from a fabulous range by Donna Wilson (, is 100% pure wool and comes in 3 colour ways. Slightly more pricey at £70 but a real statement piece. Donna has some really funky designs on her website and I would urge you to have a look. There are some great cushions for a kids bedroom. The 'Bird' cushion in lime is a Linum and Elle Decoration collaboration and is priced at £40.

The 'Gerbera' cushions (right) are also by Linum and are £40 for the pair.

The 'Green Elephant' cushion is from a fun collection at

And finally on to my favourite striped cushion selection. 

'Camargue' 100% cotton £34 Scandiliving.
All of the cushions below are by Linum. These can be sourced via one of my favourite online retailers, Scandiliving at
It will come as no surprise that my love of this website stems from the fact that it features Scandinavian design! I urge you to take a look at the soft furnishings. I know this is a cushion feature, but click on the wall stickers. The Velo wall sticker in black is great! When I have my modern passive house, this will grace one of the walls!
Grey linen Linum cushion from Scandiliving £39
'Bob' Linum cushion in bay leaf green
 at Scandiliving £39
I particularly like Linum cushion covers. The linen fabric is good quality and the button fastenings add an extra design element. The colour choice is always good. The design, simple yet classic and again, ideal for outdoor or indoor use.
'Lassie' in herringbone -
Linum at Scandiliving £39

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A-fjord-able Scandinavian style! Ouch!

If there is an after life, and I sure hope there is, and we are able to come back as something else then, please, I would like to come back as a Scandinavian!

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am hooked on the current wave of Scandinavian TV dramas that have hit our screens recently. Apparently it is 'trendy' viewing. I don't know about that. I just know that I can't wait for the new series of Borgen....or the next series of The Killing ('Forbrydelsen' to all those that speak Danish!). Wallendar started me off. I watched the Kenneth Branagh version...all dark, brooding, slightly depressing. I thought that was good until I watched the real deal Danish version, subtitled of course. That was me hooked. My journey towards becoming a Scandinavian had begun! My husband is the same. We chuckle childishly when we sit down to watch our current 'must see' - Those That Kill ('Den som dræber' to those in the know!) - ITV3 Thursday nights! We like to think that we are learning a new language. Not only is it brilliant drama but it is also educational! We are almost fluent in Danish! We no longer leave the house with a 'Goodbye'. We now spout forth 'Hej Hej' in a mad Danish accent! (Or 'farvel' if we are being formal.) 'Let's go' has become  'Lad os gå' said as if we have a mouthful of popcorn! Our 'Borgen' viewing has taught us Justice Minister - Justitsminister and Prime Minister - Statsminister. The only problem with our language lessons is that we are very much restricted to phrases involving the Police or Politics. I worry as and when we actually visit a Scandinavian country. It doesn't bode at all well!! We perhaps need to learn some legal jargon next!

I am a big fan of the Scandinavians. They always seem so  über cool. Stereotyping maybe, but the women all seem to be leggy blondes but with brains and the men, brooding, moody, slightly dishevelled but in a way that is oh so attractive! I spent four years at University in Glasgow and Glasgow had an unusually high quota of Scandinavian students, particularly Swedes and Norwegians. Partly down to Geography and partly down to the generous student grants awarded to study across the water. For the latter three years my friend and I shared a flat with a Norwegian guy. It helped that he vaguely resembled Kiefer Sutherland. He was moody, dishevelled, existed mostly on a diet of cigarettes (actually, the majority of my Scandinavian friends were non smokers) and  Jägermeister but was strangely cool and very intelligent. Anyone else may have thought him just slightly strange. He refused to wear deodorant, believing that his natural body oils were all that was needed to keep him clean. He did shower daily and I have to say, we never had cause to complain about his bodily hygiene! Would a British man get away with that? I don't think so! He also, somehow, managed to make stone-washed jeans Or maybe that was just the Jägermeister at work! Naturally, my reincarnation would be as a tall, fair haired Nordic beauty (female) with brains and oozing understated style, glamorously riding about town on my push bike. Fashionable but not too 'try hard'......with a fantastic Scandinavian timber framed passive house by a lake.....lots of glass and clean lines and exceptionally environmentally friendly. Yes. That'll do nicely. 

The Scandinavians also exude style when it comes to interiors, in my opinion. Scandinavian style is based on three main principles. That of functionality, convenience and affordability. Scandinavian style is simple, understated yet sophisticated and, dare I use the word again, cool!

White, more often than not, forms the platform colour with accents of colour thrown in. When we think of Scandinavian style, we think minimalism, functionality, texture - often natural wood. 

This style is very much dominated by clean lines and non-fussy room dressings. This is how I live in my dreams! The dominance of white and the need for light comes from necessity and practicality. Living in a part of Europe where long days with endless daylight hours are limited very much dictates the need for making the most of light when they have it and creating the illusion of light during those dark days and nights.

 Scandinavian style is not for everyone. I think you have to have the right kind of house to carry it off. It wouldn't work so well in my cottage, for example. The rooms are too small, unfortunately. The ideal stage for this style is large rooms preferably with high ceilings and big windows. Anyone lucky enough to live in a Victorian semi or detached villa or an Edwardian villa could easily incorporate Nordic minimalism.

Take a look at for some stylish, affordable pieces. The Edgar side table below caught my eye. It has that understated feel yet would look very stylish and at £69 is a real steal. The Bourbon chair below adds that typically Gustavian feel. Just one or two pieces in an otherwise modern setting looks fantastic. This particular chair is priced at £169. I also absolutely love the Kitsch dining chairs as seen right. These are amazing value for money, at £49 for 2! The ones pictured are in oak but they also come in meadow green, willow grey and walnut.

We are hoping to visit one of the Scandinavian countries in the next year or so.......We may not come back! Hej hej!