Friday, 9 December 2016

The Christmas 2016 Hot Chocolate Station is Now Open!

Every year, my children wait in eager anticipation for the hot chocolate station to open.  It's become a bit of a tradition in our household that our normal comforting mug of bedtime cocoa, becomes an all day, crazed, bulging sweet fest of indulgence which marks the beginning of the Christmas foray into over eating from the first weekend in December.   I'm personally not normally a huge fan of drinking milk - hot or cold, but even I can't resist the excitement of drinking something that really ought to carry the title of 'Pudding'.  


Wednesday, 7 December 2016


...And suddenly it was Christmas!


Monday, 7 November 2016

Autumn Days...Fall, Leaves, Fall!

Admittedly, it could be something to do with the fact that my birthday falls at the start of Autumn, (or perhaps it's the fact that Autumn for me signifies the start of baking season...which means CAKE! ) but it has always been my favourite time of the year.  Who can resist the beautiful russet colours twinkling in the golden Autumn sunlight...

The feel of fallen leaves crunching beneath ones feet on a leisurely walk, and the aromatic smell of logs crackling on an open fire, or perhaps it's the fizzing and sparking of a bonfire that inspires feelings of warmth and cosiness for you at this time of the year?

I mentioned how I enjoyed changing elements of my home decor to suit the seasons in my previous post, but I must admit that I also relish the moment when I can get cosy in a cardigan and a scarf. It's not that I enjoy the cold exactly, but when I am outdoors,  I do love that cocooning feeling of getting cosy whilst being enveloped in luxuriously soft and natural fabrics.  I'm not alone in that thought either - have you ever heard the following Marilyn Monroe quote?
"Designers want me to dress like Spring; In billowing things.  I don't feel like Spring. I feel like a warm, red Autumn."
Well, Marilyn - I totally agree.  I'm not a billowy person either - give me cashmere, tweed, a corduroy trouser and the softest of wool in earthy Autumnal tones any day!

Like Marilyn, my love of Autumn stems from a delight in the amazing earthy colours - at no other time of the year am I so drawn to the colours orange and red!  Nature loves to put on a good show, and even the sunlight joins in to cast a magically enhancing golden glow on everything it touches.   I suspect that Coco enjoys how flattering this seasons natural backdrop is against her conker brown coat too...

Autumn is an eclectic month that can jump from sunshine to mist and from warmth to frost overnight, and so, in keeping with the spirit of Autumnal eclecticism, I'll leave you with a 'jump' from Marilyn Monroe to Emily Bronte's vision of Autumn...  Emily was born just a few years before Hill House was built, and I like to think that the leaves would have fallen around the house in exactly the same way had she visited back then.  Unlikely bedfellows they may be, sexy Marilyn and melancholic Emily, (although we now know that Marilyn was sometimes melancholic - and who knows - perhaps Emily was secretly sexy during her time..!) - but isn't that part of Autumn's changeable beauty, and how differently we perceive the stunning charms of this golden season?

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the Autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;

Emily Bronte (1818 - 1849)

Until next time,


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Styling For The Seasons...Autumn!

When I was growing up, our house was decorated shortly after we moved in, and that was that for the duration of our time there.  My mother certainly considered herself interested in interiors, in fact she regularly bought House and Gardens and Country Life magazines, in order to drool over the houses - a habit that I obviously inherited. However, once a decorating style had been decided upon, that was that for at least the next 10 years.

The only exception to that rule was at Christmas time, when we put up the tree and went to town on decorations such as large paper bells, brightly coloured tinsel and peculiarly shaped balloons.  My mother was also quite partial to any interesting and new kitchen gadgets ... (My mother does love a kitchen gadget - even if it remains untouched in a drawer, shelf or cupboard shorty after being release from it's box) and thus items such as a shiny new food processor fulfilled her need for any household change throughout the year.

The idea of changing or enhancing the decor to suit the seasons (apart from 2 weeks at Christmas) was absolutely unheard of in our household.  In those days Halloween decorations meant making a paper spiders webb to stick on the window at school, and perhaps a rubber snake shoved through my bedroom door to make me scream on waking...yes - I do indeed have an older brother!

Cut to 2016, and you have my mother quietly bewildered at the amount of pumpkins littered about the house and termed as 'decorations' rather than ingredients for soup...

She also wonders why I choose to intentionally revisit the blackout periods of 1970's London by filling the house with candles.  I tell her that these are " Decorative" or "Scented" candles - and therefore "Cosy" and "Atmospheric!"  She replies, "Yes, but you have 'Light Switches' - and they work perfectly well all year round Dear...".

Fuelled in part to the many wonderful American bloggers and instagrammers who style their houses so beautifully, and inspire my desire to have a home that embraces and reflects the changing seasons, I have certainly made up for lost time since my childhood.  Styling my home to suit the seasons has become something that I delight in doing, and enjoy with the same gusto as a child plays with a dolls house.

As well as  Christmas and Easter, Autumn has to be one of the most fun periods of the year for getting into the seasons spirit, and it shows in the choice of colour tones used in the flower selections, cushions and yes, even the choice of vegetables as table decorations!  The best things is that it doesn't necessarily mean having to spend an arm and a leg changing curtains and furniture - unless one wants to of course!  Cushions, throws, flowers, candles and other accessories go a long way in changing the ambience of a room to suit the seasons, and can be changed as quickly as does the English weather...

And I really don't mind if we have to eat pumpkin soup for a fortnight to placate my mother - pretty can also be practical and even tasty!!

Until next time,


Monday, 11 July 2016

Shopping For Antiques At...The HighBoy!

One of the hardest things to pull off when trying to achieve the much copied English Country House interior style, is to achieve that wonderfully eclectic mix of old, new, elegantly shabby and stylishly antique.

Luckily, I adore a mix of periods and styles - give me some vintage throws draped over an overstuffed English Chesterfield sofa, a pair of dainty French Fauteuils antique chairs - and, oh yes - add to that a painted Swedish Mora clock and I'm yours!  (Throw a gin and tonic in there with a twist of lime and I'll stay forever!)

A vignette of antique & vintage treasures in my drawing room.

For my personal interior style to work, it's important to include special pieces that mean a lot to me or my family. Sentimental items such as antique and vintage books owned by my husbands Great Grandmother sit side by side with more fun items from the high street or vintage finds like an ornately carved magnifying glass, but I also love to throw in a high end piece, one which makes more of a statement and has a bit of history attached to it.  This can be something that has been handed down (if I'm lucky), but sometimes, there are those moments when the stars align and the magical three 'F's come together - that's Fate, Finance and Fabulousness!  When the three 'F's come together i.e. Fate - seeing something at the right time; Finance - the money's in the bank - however fleetingly; and Fabulousness - so delicious that you CANNOT get it out of your head - that is the perfect moment when you are able to make THAT special purchase... The one that causes your heart to skip a beat - and you better know where to look when it happens!

An elegantly 'grown up' homework desk bought for my teenage son.

 My mantra has always been from shabby chic to antique and everything in between - I love a rummage at a Brocante fair or a car boot and yard sale as much as anyone, but it's all in the mix, and sometimes it's good to treat yourself to something a little fancier, something with a story and a history.

French tureens and antique candle holders in my dining room.

Moving from London to the English countryside meant that as somebody who loves to shop -  from rummaging around in old antique shops to chic lifestyle and home stores - my ability to just pop in a taxi to achieve my retail fix became somewhat limited.  (Have you ever heard of a Norfolk mile - no?  Well, put it this way, where I live, when someone tells you that something is "Not that far" or "Just down the road", expect to fill your tank up with fuel and give yourself at least 40 minutes driving time..!)

Now, these inconveniences may have made my Husband jump for joy and high foot it to this little bit of rural England faster than you can say "I'll take 4 of those please", but what he hadn't quite anticipated was the fact that our quintessential move to bucolic Norfolk "To live a quieter lifestyle" (husband speak for "as far from shops as I can get her"), would neatly coincide with the advent of a fabulous surge in glamorous and reliable on-line shopping!   Now you can buy almost anything for your home on-line without leaving the comfort of your Victorian tub armchair!

The perfect place for shopping!

However, it's all fair and well buying mugs and bedding on-line, but what about things with a higher value, such as antiques?

I have actually been buying furniture on well known bidding websites for years, but it is often exhausting to have to wade through a lot of nonsense to find something of quality.  I am therefore delighted to have recently discovered an on-line antiques portal called 'The HighBoy' which collaborates with hand-picked antique and fine art dealers across the world, making the experience of discovering and sourcing beautiful antiques, art and great design easy and captivating and dud free!

'The HighBoy' website is an absolute treat with curated collections that are juxtaposed with beautiful imagery as well as captivating stories in an editorial journal called The Weekly, which for those of us obsessed with blogs and on-line magazines already, provides a similar stylish content of art, interiors, antique periods in history, styling ideas and more.

The Weekly is a favourite among readers who come to the site for smart, beautiful stories, that detail both modern-day design trends and the history of art, antiques and design.  I studied History of Art at school, and am now studying for a diploma in Interior Design, so it's particularly interesting to find a useful mix of style and academia rolled into one stylish blog journal.

So, having had a thorough rummage through the website where you can choose by style - Arts & Crafts, Country French or Georgian anyone?  Or if you prefer, by category - Tables & Desks, Seating & Armchairs or Tables & Side-Tables to name a few - what would be on my wish list?

Well,  I am currently planning my own home office, and am looking to create an atmosphere that is both feminine, stylish but practical and comfortable.  My inspiration point comes from the wonderful Brooke Giannetti, an interior designer who writes the blog Velvet & Linen, and who had my absolute dream office (see image beloe) in her previous home.  Isn't her style just perfection?

Brooke Giannetti's old office from Velvet & Linen Blog 

As I am sure you know, I am a huge fan of painted furniture, so in keeping with this style, high on my Highboy wish list is the most beautiful 19th Century painted desk, which would work perfectly for my  functional yet feminine and elegant style.  Isn't it gorgeous?

19thCentury Painted Desk on The HighBoy
...Or how about this one?

Spanish Catalan Desk or Writing Table on The HighBoy

I can imagine the desk flanked by this pair of Directoire Fauteuil chairs reupholstered in a faded rose elephant check or a vintage ticking...perfect for business meetings with clients.

Pair Of Directoire Fauteuils on The HighBoy

...Of course, I need to have my own chair from which to write blog posts, discuss design requirements and negotiate bespoke candle orders, and what better way than whilst seated in the elegant comfort of this 19th Century beauty?

French Louis XV Style Oak Wing Back Arm Chair on Cabriole Legs, 19th Century

But where to place a magazine and a vase of peonies I hear you ask?  Why on this picture of well proportioned elegance of course!  It's actually an English Rosewood Game Table Circa 1840, so it folds open and slides beautifully into a larger flat surface - One never knows when the desire to play a game of Gin Rummy may take hold, and how wonderful to be able to swivel and fold it all back in quickly when the husband pops in to enquire whether his hard working wife needs a break from work, a neck massage or a glass of something fizzy?

English Rosewood Game Table Circa 1840

Well that's my shopping list from The HighBoy completed, and all in all, whether it's art, antique furniture or lighting, The HighBoy is a website filled with something for everyone - even the perfect piece of antique jewellery if that is your desire - and of particular importance to people like me who live next to a field - they ship worldwide!    In fact, the sellers are actually chosen from all over the world, so although the website is American based, the antiques are not necessarily so.

Of course, for those moments when the three 'F's aren't in alignment, the accompanying blog -  The Weekly - is perfect for a spot of 'window shopping' and inspiration that is both entertaining and informative.

When it comes to shopping, the world is becoming so much smaller and I love it. I remember when I was a young girl growing up in London, my parents would often request or send hard to find items to and from our relatives in America (after a carefully timed monthly phone call or hand written letter!)  Now something fabulous can be yours at the click of a button - isn't that just marvellous progress?  Although no doubt my husband would say "Time to move to the North Pole  - it's not that far - and there's no Internet (read shopping) there..!"

Until Next Time,

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with The HighBoy, all words, opinions & views expressed are my own.


Monday, 4 July 2016

English Country Decorating With...Pink!

Have you ever had one of those moments when something glaringly obvious about oneself isn't obvious in the slightest until someone else randomly points it out? 

My complete and utter joyous love and rapture over the colour pink is one of those for me.  

Until fairly recently, when a few Instagrammer friends alluded to my obvious fetish for a rosy hue, I was not aware that I particularly liked or was drawn to the colour at all...  

In fact, if someone had mentioned decorating my home with accents of pink, I would probably have paused for a moment, with a diplomatic but non-commital nod of my head, followed by an ambiguous "Mmmmmm" before politely suggesting alternative colours that were more...well..."Me"...

However, perhaps it's a sympton of seasonal changes and the advent of the Summer (Ha - what Summer you may ask if you're in the UK!!) that some uncontrolled desire from deep within me has cultivated a need for the freshness and lightness of pink accents throughout the house.

Perhaps the pink David Austin roses in the courtyard garden sent some subliminal message to me...

...In truth, most of these pink accents are through the use of flowers - after all, who can resist the allure of blowsy, pink Peonies, and I am also quite partial to the psychadelic pop of a bunch of pink Gerba's.

However, as a self confessed cushion addict, pottery addict and textile addict (CPT Annonymous...) it's become apparent, that my love of pink extends beyond simply flora and forna and encompasses a need for pink to make an appearance in the form of stripes, checks, florals and even spots.

I love the fact that Pink looks wonderful against wood and natural coloured textures and textiles...

...As well as complimenting my many painted pieces by adding a contrasting pop of colour...

As the legendary doyenne of fashion Diana Vreeland once said; "I adore Pink! It's the navy blue of India!" and I totally understand that sentiment.  I don't consider myself to be particualry modern, daring or flashy in how I dress or how I decorate my home.  In fact I am very much a traditionalist and find beauty in the elegant and classic.  In England, navy blue is the epitome of conservative respectability - and yet it hardly appears in my household - it's not light or fresh enough for me. 

However, pink exemplifies tradition and respectability in India, and thus doesn't suffer from the fluffy, unmasculine, Barbie-esqe connotations that it so often can in the West.  Perhaps then,  I veer towards a more South Asian view of traditionalism?   I shall certainly make this claim to my husband when he discovers that I am currently obsessed by the perfect vision of this deliciously vibrant pink George Sherlock sofa which would look perfect in our family room... 

In  fact it would be the perfect spot for him to watch something unwaveringly 'butch' like Formula 1 - If you don't believe me - just ask Diana Vreeland! 

Until Next Time...

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Ten Things Every Ex-Townie Should Know About Moving To The Countryside...!

1) BATS...
I remember the first Spring at Hill House.  After a punishingly cold Winter, the air had begun to turn warm, the blossom was out on the trees, and the leaves were cocooning the garden, providing us with our own private park-like oasis in which to enjoy evening barbecues, G&T moments on the lawn, and evening strolls about the garden.  The heady smell of lilac filled our nostrils as the evening sun began to set against Norfolk's famous "Big Skies".   Life. Was. Good.  These are real 'slap on the back' moments, where one congratulates oneself (with a secret sense of immense relief) for making the move from bustling town to remote country without too many hitches.  You survey your bucolic surroundings, the peace, the quiet, the rolling fields, the magical twilight, the romance of it all...and then - WHOOSH!! - you are suddenly (mid-back slapping) dive bombed by what at first appears to be a small, dark bird... only you are quietly aware that small, dark birds don't tend to come out at twilight, and they certainly don't tend to embark on a sustained and systematic (seemingly choreographed)  episode of dive bombing into your G&T!   That's when the sudden horrific realisation that these 'small birds' are in fact BATS dawns on you - BATS!!!  Yes dear that you are a countryside dweller, you must get used to the fact that bats are no longer simply a feature of atmospheric vampire movies.  They are no longer confined to Transylvania, cute paper cut outs at Halloween or an over active imagination from watching one episode too many of Most Haunted...   Bats are in fact flying mice...and they swoop...and now that you have a house in the countryside,  they are probably living in your roof.

2) EAU DE HOG...
Imagine the picture.  You've invited your friends up to your country abode for the weekend.  They have arrived late at night and subsequently - after a bottle of wine or six - go straight to bed.   They awake the next morning craving some of that good old fresh country air that you've been boasting about for months.  They draw open their curtains, glimpsing the fields through the dappling sunlight speckling the panes of your Georgian windows.  Yes, they think.  This is the life.  NOW we understand why (insert your name) decided to make this move.  They then fling open the window - eager to breathe in all of this natural beauty - it has all of the ingredients of becoming a perfect life defining moment... and then the smell hits them.  PIG MUCK.
Yes, it's another one of the countrysides little quirks - you see, those fields weren't put there for the visual delight of town folk used to staring at concrete buildings.  Oh no - they're there to actual serve an agricultural purpose - they grow things, or they house things, and if it needs muck.  If it is produces muck.  Either way, the smell of animal poo is a countryside staple, and something that surprisingly one does get used to.  It does come and go, and is not a year round constant, but when it does come, the air is so thick and dense that one could almost chew it...  Nice.

Hi. My name is Paula and I talk to my dog. A lot. I also talk to my daughters hamster, the pheasants who roam the garden, pigs, cows and sheep in the fields, chickens, horses, cats, and other assorted wildlife, but particularly other people's dogs.  It never used to be so.  Animals were simply poor conversationalists on four legs before I moved here.  Now that I come into contact with them on an almost constant basis, they have names and personalities, and voices - yes voices.  Well actually, I tend to speak for them and make up accents and personalities on their behalf.   For example, my dog Coco is a Grand Duchess who escaped from Russia during the 1917 revolution, and she sounds like Dame Edith Evans playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of being Earnest.  This really is her 'actual' voice - I know this because she told me so.

There is a law stating that when anyone moves to the countryside, they must begin obsessivley purchasing cookery books and learn to bake from scratch.  I don't care whether (like me) your pre countryside idea of baking meant a) Walking to the Hummingbird Bakery in Notting Hill to gather necessary work supplies, or b) A box where you simply needed to add water - or if it was a particularly sophisticated box - an egg AND water.  However, there is something compelling about a country kitchen no matter how big or small.   It will compel you to actually 'cook stuff' - yummy, stodgy, sweet, heart warming stuff.   Don't get me wrong - I have all of the latest healthy cookery books that cover the realms of clean eating, gluten free eating, Paleo eating, Hollywood actress  style eating and the rest...and I do actually cook a lot from them.  However, cake doesn't count  as unhealthy in the countryside.  In fact, baked goods are termed as one of your five-a-day.  As I said - it's the law.

100 years ago, when my husband was my then boyfriend, and we were in the first months of courting, he would visit me at home in London, and regardless of what time of the year it was, I would answer the door in shorts, bare feet and a vest top.  It become a joke of his that it could be the height of Winter, with ten feet of snow on the ground, communication all over London severed due to hazardous ice and frozen conditions; he could even have had to dig his way through impacted snow to get to my front door, and there I'd be to greet a strappy, billowy Summer dress. This was not me attempting to be carefree and sexy.  This was because I had grown up in a house where the thermostat was always set to 'high' and my house was always scorchingly warm.  My parents were born in the Caribbean (I was born in the less glamorous borough of Croydon, South London!) and so their comfort zone when it came to heating the home was to keep it hot, hot, HOT!

...And then I moved to a two hundred year old house in Norfolk.  Now, unless I sit with my backside on top of a fire, it would be nigh on impossible to feel entirely warm in every corner of this house over the Winter period.    Hence I have developed a hide of thick, draught repelling, leather lined skin.    I can now put up with levels of cold that would have left me bawling 6 years ago. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but at one time I would confine myself trembling to one room in January, with an electric heater tied to my leg, the dog on my feet and a permanent mug of boiling tea warming my gloved hands...but now?  Well let's just say that now as well as aquiring an extra layer of (a-hem...) 'natural  insulation' (see point 4 above) my shorts stay on until mid December.

6) SNAKES...
There are snakes in England - WHO KNEW?!  I most certainly didn't until I moved to the countryside - which probably makes me rather dense, but there you go.  I thought that snakes in England disappeared in medieval times, along with dragons, and were only used to emphasise stories of a moral nature involving knights in shining armour.  How wrong I was.  Snakes like to sun themselves in shameless full view of everyone on hot days in the English countryside.  They also like to scare the bejeesus out of you when you're poking about near the edge of an otherwise beautiful lily pond  - or when you see an oddly shaped pile of wood on a log on your walk and get up close only to find that it's a sleeping snake.   Luckily the dog walks and woods around here are vast and the skies are big, so one can scream and jump to ones hearts content and not disturb anyone.  You should try it some time - I do frequently from May to Septemeber.

Having spent over two decades working in the fashion industry where the highest of designer heels were surgically attached to my feet, I now only wear wellington boots regardless of the occasion.  Walking, shopping, country fairs, school run, weddings, bath name it - they're on.

As a Londoner born and bred, my default setting when out and about used to be 'eyes forward - ignore everyone'. This is all about self preservation when one lives in a large City.  It's not necessarily a safety thing - it's more about being constantly BUSY and having no time to stop!  It's also very easy to remain annonymous in a large town or city.  I have often spoken to friends and discovered that we were in the same shop, restaurant, gallery etc. But due to the 'no eye contact' rule, I could almost walk past my own Mother and not see her, and I wont even begin to dissect the Townie neighbour etiquette - Mumbling good morning to your neighbour for the first time five years after they moved in - acceptable.  Popping round to introduce yourself within the first year - far too needy...

This of course changes the minute one moves to the countryside.  Everyone knows everyone, and says hello to everyone here.  I remember being introduced to a mother at my childrens new village primary school.  Before I could even begin to enter into the usual niceties, she began to admonish me with the words "I saw you driving to Waitrose on Sunday at 3pm and I waved at you and you completely ignored me!"  Now believe me please when I say that I had never seen this woman before in my life.  However, it did dawn on me, that I had recently noticed that I would often catch people waving at each other out of the corner of my eyes as I drove through the village.  I now realised that they had been waving at me.  People in the countryside wave to each other and shout a cheery "Hello!" constantly - even when you only saw one another five minutes ago at school drop off - and woe betide that you don't spot them, wave and shout a cheery "Hello!" back.
I now drive my car with a permanent crowd pleasing grin plastered to my face, whilst waving one hand constantly like the Queen, and hooting out the occasional greeting whether I can see any one or not.  Just to be safe.

Being obsessed with the weather is a particularly British predilection.  However, when one moves to the countryside one learns to actually predcit the weather due to the shape of the cloud, the thickness of the air, the warmth and speed of the wind and the colour of the light.  I used to be amazed at the  casual weather prediction skills of the village school mothers, who would quite confidently warn of approaching storms or sunny spells when the sky seemed to show the complete opposite at the time.  They were always quite correct of course, and although still a relative novice, I too have joined the ranks of weather soothsayers, and can now interpret the signs of a reclining cow, a sheltering pig wearing a bonnet and a pink tinged fluffy cloud with the best of them!

I've spoken before about the new found bravery that I have aquired  since moving to the countryside (see bats and snakes above!). The ability to walk in solitude - apart from a dog -  for miles through wooded areas and country lanes was something that did not come naturally to a townie like me - I fully expected the bogie man to jump out from behind every tree at first.  I have always been happy with my own company, but it's not so scary to be  'alone' in a city when you're constantly surrounded by people and noise.  To spend 'real' time alone and with my own thoughts has been a new and enriching experience for me.  Equally, at the other end of the scale, to be forced out of ones comfort zone and to be a 'known' face in a village, and to be able to chat to anyone who stops me at the post office or comes to the door has been an equally enriching experience.  It takes a bit of bravery to slow down and become accessible to your local community.  I am there for tea tent duty, the annual duck race fundraising event, community frog crossing support (this really exists...) and mixed age group (from new born to 100 - all welcome!) social club kareoke where I cannot be shy, hide my face or be "eyes forward".

So there you have it - a few pointers for those of you who may need some mild guidance on how to survive an imminent move to pastures greeen and new.   It may not sound like much, but it does take a certain level of fearlessness and knowledge to make a move to the countryside work.  It also takes a determined effort to view the many different consistencies of mud on your morning dog walk as a fascinating added bonus -  but believe me, when you do - it's SO incredibly worth it!

Until Next Time,

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