Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Decorations. AUSTRALIAN style...

So, any guessing where I am again?!  
Yes, back again in Melbourne with dear Mr NT and my daughter is here too.  Perfect. So it's a warm Christmas for us this year. Today the mercury hit 39.2 degrees C.  Phew. A little too warm for my liking but I believe it will be down again to the 20's for 'the' actual day.  I know I have said it before, but Christmas here is a much more relaxed and colourful affair. Well, I guess it does fall right in the middle of the Australian Summer and everyone is in party mode. Or so it seems....
Take a look at these lovely Christmas decorations I have snapped over the last few days... 

Bright twinkly silver wreath
Colourful table decorations at a special Christmas breakfast I attended last week at the Head office at work

Christmas tree in a local homewares shop

Rather like this table... all colours and lots of baubles

Again, that lovely 'tablescape'

What do you go for on the decoration front?  All white or a riot of colour, a la Aussie style?
Both are good.. 
Like Christmas in each country; both have their unique style and I love being in either UK or in Australia - so long as you are with loved ones it doesn't matter where you are really.

Wishing you all a fabulous and happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Twinkle, twinkle. Sparkle, arkle....

Tour d'Eiffel by Poppy
I love this photograph of the Eiffel tower taken by my daughter recently.. Now that really is some BIG and gorgeous twinkle, twinkle wouldn't you say?

And the next 2 photographs show a bit of twinkle at the cottage now that the nights are drawing in :

I love a few white lights around the mirror and to top it all off I have been burning this new gorgeous candle - heavenly....

Recent purchase in Paris - DELISH

Last but not least look at these for a bit of 'sparkle, arkle' for the holiday season.. my new twinkly loafers from Russell & Bromley... These will add serious glam factor to all manner of outfits I think....

The photograph doesn't really show just how much they catch the light and shine though.. Sometimes  they look silvery and then a sort of gold - very versatile indeed so therefore will pass the cost per wear criteria on many levels for sure! 

Bought anything recently for the sparkling season ahead?  

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Preparing a cosy guest room

As you probably noticed from the post before,  I have had a lovely couple of weeks with a friend from America staying here with me for the past 2 weeks.  Our friendship began over 30 years ago and although we have always kept in touch we have not spent more than a long weekend with each other over the last 3 decades. That long weekend was when Mr NT and I went to Los Angeles 3 years ago for Thanksgiving (I wrote about this visit in my previous blog - Semi Expat in Oz).

Anyway, I digress.  This post is about how to (or how I) prepare for guests.

First and foremost - the bedroom.....  If you are lucky enough to have a designated guest room then that is wonderful (however, I would recommend trying out a night in the room though just to make sure all is comfy and as you would like it to be).  Our cottage is teeny weeny - I gave my friend my bedroom to use for her duration with me and for the 2 weeks I moved to my daughter's bedroom (she, is as you know, is away at University).

You need to give some thought as to what would suit your guest, male or female, old school or modern.  The bed is the obvious place to begin and you can make it comfortable with layers, (I use white linen and cotton sheets and a duvet) and a blanket at the end of the bed that can be pulled up in case of of falling temperatures. Key things in a guest bedroom I always think are plenty of pillows and a bedside lamp and of course a waste bin.  Reading material (magazines to suit the guest) and some books too are good... Little treats as well always go down well - a small box of chocolates or biscuits to ward off midnight munchies and a tiny vase of flowers always looks pretty.

Flowers for my guest

Goes without saying that plenty of towels are a necessity.  I like large white fluffy white ones and provide 2 -  a large bath towel a smaller one for hair and also a face flannel - also if you are sharing the bathroom with your guest giving them their own bath mat is a nice touch.

I  also like to set up a little basket of 'bits and bobs' in case they have forgotten any bathroom necessity or in the case of my friend from USA so that she did not have to take up valuable (shopping!) space in her suitcase.  In the basket I placed :

  • Face wipes
  • Moisturiser
  • Tissues
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Bath gel
  • Cotton wool
  • Ear buds
  • Tweezers
  • Small tube toothpaste
  • Body lotion
  • Nail file
  • Little scissors
  • Headache tablets
Oh and I put out a spare hairdryer for her use too.

So, this is how I like to prepare a cosy room for guests staying with me....   I am sure you all have lots of little tips and tricks to share too.   Do tell all!

Monday, 19 November 2012

2 trips to PARIS in one month?!

Yes, guilty as charged....!
And sorry, I have not been around visiting blogs as much as I would have liked. Mr NT has been over from Australia and whilst he was here we went on a 36 hour trip to Paris which was absolutely wonderful. He's now back in Melbourne but here are a few photographs from that little visit. And tomorrow I board the Eurostar to the City of Light again as I have a friend staying for 2 weeks from California.  She and I knew each other when I lived in USA around 30 years ago - cannot believe how time flies however, it seems like only yesterday.....

Place des Vosges
Window shopping
Outside wonderful bakery Poilane
Restaurant I rather liked the look of
Looking down into the courtyard of our hotel - Jules et Jim - highly recommended
Back again at St Pancras railway station in London

Oh and one more photograph - my American friend G and myself... about to have  a celebration glass of fizz!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

New Brogues/Oxfords/Lace-ups

I promised that I would show you my lovely new shoes so here are a few photographs... 
From English firm Barkers - beautifully crafted and very comfortable too. I am also wearing my new pants/trousers from TOAST - remember I stopped at their sale shop on the way home from our little holiday in Wales?  Turn ups and with a very slight check and the fabric is a linen and wool mix.  You can see them more clearly in the second photograph.

Happy Weekend to one and all! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Transforming a piece of brown furniture

In a former life I worked for a wonderful pair of guys who owned an antique shop in East Sussex.  I ran the shop for them whilst they were on buying trips in deepest France and they also taught me how to restore and paint (and carefully 'distress') pieces of worn out dark, unloved furniture.
I have written about these lovely guys before and they now own a company called FONTAINE based in Margate, Kent - they have gone from strength to strength and now 'hob-nob' with the great and the good at places such as the Battersea Decorative Antiques Fair 4 times a year - a far cry from when it was all hands on deck in the little shop in Hurst Green.
So, just to prove to myself that I've still got what it takes to make a little piece of furniture stand out from the crowd (and because I was sick and tired of looking at this next to my side of the bed) I set myself un petit project and turned this....

Lovely shape, rather dull colour

Into this rather nice looking bedside cabinet below....  My (or rather their) method of adding that certain 'je ne sais quoi' to such pieces is to :
A : Slap on (fairly carefully) 2 coats of EMULSION paint - easier to use than a gloss or satin finish and the brushes clean up very easily too.
B. Take very fine wire wool and some Briwax clear polish and apply all over the painted surfaces working over one area at a time.  Some parts you apply more pressure with the wire wool in order to get the paint to look more worn (or distressed as they say in the trade!).
C. Then you get some clean lint free fabric and buff up the surfaces to get a nice protective sheen on the piece.

See... easy peasy - one pretty little cabinet.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Welsh Adventure

St Bride's Castle, Wales
 Last week I spent a wonderful few days with my parents in a castle on the coast of Wales. To be strictly correct it was actually in an apartment within the castle where they were holidaying.
Wonderful scenery, good food and lots of walks. Oh and of course a little retail therapy too thrown in for good measure.
What's not to love?
Fantastic beaches
Dinner in our apartment

The cook for that evening... my Mother.  I cooked another evening.

View from the window

Corner of the library in the castle
Uninvited guest.. every time I walked by this suit of armour I kept thinking it was a person standing there!

Walking along the coastal paths - my parents

Dad trying on a Welsh tweed jacket - he felt the arms were too short though. I thought he looked great!

Our friendly local fishmonger - we bought some of the most delicious fish I have tasted in a long time.

Pretty shops

Beautiful countryside
Georgian architecture - my favourite

 So all in all a wonderful time was had by all...
Oh and on the way back I stopped at a place called Llandeilo where there just happened to be a Toast outlet sale shop.  (Now, how did I know that?) A little retail therapy always does you good and I picked up a great pair of very 'of the minute' man-ish trousers.  They will be great with my white shirt and new brogues (which I must show you next post). Promise.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Exterior Neutrals - Trying to pick a colour

Our cottage is in desperate need of a face lift... Several windows need to be replaced too which is rather painful $$-wise and the whole house needs a new coat of paint.  I have been trying my level best to pick the right colour - a neutral, naturally.
As you can see, definitely needs a spruce up
The wall with all my 'daubings' showing different neutral shades

Our painter and decorator Mr RL - has to be extremely patient with me
I have to admit that I am drawn to these kind of shades like a moth to a flame but at the moment after yet another day of spending more than I would care to admit on tester pots I feel like tearing my hair out..
However, I think (well nearly 100% sure) that I have cracked it and we are going for the left hand block, halfway down the picture.  Not the background - that's what's there now, of course - sorry if it all looks a little confusing.
More neutral shades - these are all from Farrow and Ball and  look gorgeous together I  think.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

English tea time treat


  • 175g butter
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125g dark coarse cut marmalade
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • juice of half of above orange
  • 175g wholemeal self raising flour

Butter and base- line a 2lb loaf tin (or use one of those liners you can buy - I did - far easier).  Beat the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy. Add each egg a little at a time beating well after each addition then beat in the marmalade, and zest and juice of the orange. Then fold in the flour with a metal spoon. 
Scrape batter into the tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C deg/ 350 deg F for 35 mins or so. A skewer inserted into cake should come out clean.
ENJOY with a cup of tea......

I made this today after finding the recipe last night and realising that yes, I had ALL the ingredients.  It is so easy and definitely worth baking - absolutely delicious.  Oh, and use the best quality marmalade you can find - homemade preferably if you are lucky enough to have a jar or two lurking......

Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday Fashion Feature

So far on my new blog I have done posts on the home, elevating a pot plant to something a little more special and food in the way of a farm shop find so I really think it's about time I did a post on one of my real favourites - clothing and style....

Not that I'm any great fashion expert I hasten to add but I do know what I like and that's an easy relaxed style with a smattering of classic items mixed with High Street finds and more expensive pieces thrown in too for good measure.  Looks like these....
This I would say is one of my favourite looks from Pinterest and I have just bought a pair of shoes very similar to the ones in the  above pic.
Again, relaxed and casual with those  'boyfriend' jeans
Elevating jeans  to smarter wear - not sure I'd wear the hat, but love the whole look
 Have all the components for above outfit but I would give the gold hardware a miss
What can I say? Chic and yes, think I could re-create this one with pieces from my wardrobe.  I 'd  do flat shoes though.
All the images above are a selection taken from my board - 'Inspiring Style - Clothes'  from Pinterest.

Oh how I love Pinterest - way too addictive though. Do you 'do' Pinterest?
And have you worked out your style and are you, as the French say, one of those who are 'bien dans sa peau' ? (happy in your skin, literally!)....  What do you like?

Happy weekend to one and all.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Small Pleasures

I have just returned from the cutest (read, expensive) farm shop near me.  Wasn't going to indulge but I just could not help myself.  For a start the box was too beautiful - here, take a peek :

Tasteful packaging. Reels me in every time.
And then just look - WHITE eggs - love them.  So amazingly pretty I had to have them. Never mind the novelty factor too; ordinary brown eggs are usually the norm round here.
Sometimes all it takes are the smallest of things to bring the greatest of pleasures.