Tuesday, 20 October 2020

kew a new favourite place...

Just like old times, Mel and I found ourselves footloose and fancy free on a Thursday so we made last minute plans to visit Kew Gardens. Ian bought me membership for our first wedding anniversary so what better way to spend our day together than outside enjoying the last rays of sunshine, surrounded by nature. Strangely this was my first visit to the floral institute (for someone as obsessed with gardens and flowers as me I find this hard to believe!), and I was completely taken by the grounds. 

We met on the far side by the river and meandered around the quiet grounds catching up on each others news. Mel had a blessed day off from boarding school dramas and was quite glad to have an adult conversation once again (oh how I miss those days, despite the unrelenting tiredness I felt!). In between laughs and a bit of gossip we dipped and dived into the various glass houses. The palm house was sweaty but beautiful, the water lily house like a Monet painting and the temperate house like the balmy forests of a far away land. We both got a bit snap happy and vowed to return again together to explore all the many other ares we didn't even get to. 

Ian has a day off coming up so I think we'll go over and take a walk along the oak-lined avenue before warming up over pots of tea and freshly baked cake. 


Monday, 5 October 2020

girls in cambridge

Last Sunday I found myself in cold, autumnal Cambridge. It's not a city I am overly familiar with and so after some drinks a few weeks ago myself and two friends decided to do a last minute stay in the university town. And aren't I glad I took them up on the offer! 

We stayed at The University Arms Hotel, a hotel that I actually know very well because my now old company designed its interiors. But, it was so nice to visit and not in a work capacity. With Covid still the hot topic, the experience was a little different (mask wearing was compulsory and there were neither cushions nor anything tactile in the rooms because of contamination nerves..) however, it was still a gorgeous little stay. We arrived in time for baked goods and hot cups of tea at Fitzbillies before picking up bikes and scooting through the streets to Kettle's Yard. 

Kettle's Yard is my idea of absolute heaven. It was the home of Jim and Helen Ede, art enthusiasts and firm believers that art should be accessible to all. During the 1950s and 60s the Ede's opened up their home to art scholars at Cambridge, allowing them to drop into their home for tea and drinks and enjoy their vast Modern British art collection. Students could even borrow a piece of artwork to keep in their dorms - I can't help but feel this was a risky move but perhaps that is just a reflection on my university days... 

Anyway, the house is brimming with Ben Nicholson's, Winifred Nicholson's (they were married), Henri Guadier-Brzeska's, Brancusi's, David Jones'... the list is endless and I just couldn't contain myself. The way the home is curated is a style I like to think I have been honing for years. As a child I loved creating little vignettes in my room - some shells on a table, a painting resting on my bookcase etc. At Kettle's Yard, pebbles lie casually next to sculptures, a vase of dahlia's next to a maquette or simply a painting leaning against a window pane. It was such an inspiring home to walk around; if I could have moved in that day I would have! 

Finally tearing ourselves away from the home (the girls loved it too but I think I was being especially gushy) we hopped on our bikes once more and headed back to the hotel to catch up on the weekend papers, enjoy baths and get ready for dinner. After months of lockdown and not really going out for dinner, it felt so lovely to get dressed up, enjoy a glass of bubbly and enjoy a proper meal out. We started with fresh bread with plenty of salty butter before enjoying seared lamb with autumn ratatouille and buttery mashed potatoes, panfried sole with leafy greens and the ultimate spag bol. Pudding was a haze of strawberries and cream, ices and a cheese board (Ellen was still grazing on it come the 10pm curfew and very nearly took up the waiter's kind offer of having it boxed up so she could carry on enjoying it in her room!).

Monday morning came by in the blink of an eye. After a hearty breakfast we took a quick spin into town to visit a second hand book shop before enjoying one last baked treat at Fitzbillies and heading back to the smoke on the train. 

After a stressful few months, it was such a treat to enjoy a staycation with girlfriends and really kickback and relax. I spied so many places I wanted to go back to (the wine merchant looked amazing!) so I think I'll have to book myself and Ian in to University Arms once more in the spring. 


Thursday, 24 September 2020


Change is in the air. We've experienced the last few days of a truly beautiful Indian Summer and are now heading into cooler autumn. The harvest at home is finally in (a huge sigh of relief all round) and the country is waiting with baited breath news of new restrictions and how our lives will change for the future. 

Change is also in the air for me. I found myself redundant at the beginning of the month but as I am not one to wallow I am in the process of setting up my own business. I'll still be heavily involved in the interior design world and am excited to take on my next adventure. If I have any interior designer friends or readers... please do get in touch! 

As it is with everyone, this year has not been how we thought it would end up being however, I feel excited and energised. I guess it's like that new school year feeling you used to get as a child! 


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

august in the garden

I've really got into my stride this year with the garden. Thankfully, Ian and I came back to London after a few weeks away to a garden bursting with life and produce. Despite batteries going in our sprinkler system, our friends had saved the day with regular visits with the watering can. Thank you!

It's amazing to see how much we've been able to do in pots on a really rather tiny patio area. Most things have been grown from seed (all of the vegetables and cosmos) and just a few plants have been bought. I've learnt from mistakes made last year; the courgette has been given its own large pot to grow in, with plenty of space around it and ventilation and the results seem to be good so far. I'm still getting a lot of male flowers but there are some female ones finally coming through bearing fruit. The tomatoes are much better than last year and I think the recent heatwave is to thank for that. I've read that some people have experienced tough skins with their crops but mine seem to have escaped this and are ripening nicely.

^^ Everything is bunched up because of the sprinkler system but now it's all back to normal - though I rather liked the jungle effect! 

My first foray into cucumbers has been exciting. The fruits are spiky and despite a few early bitter fruits, the rest are sweet and tasty. They are very very odd in shape (I'm not sure if that's down to me or growing conditions) but who cares once they're chopped up into a salad! They have grown like billy-oh so i've spent a lot of time with Ian tying them up canes and supporting the heavier branches with twine. Currently I have a bit of a glut so I'm making fresh raita to go with tonight's curry. 

The beans were late in and are producing but we haven't been able to taste test them just yet. I'm hoping in the next few days or so if we get some sunnier weather. Next to the beans is an abundance of basil. Truly, it is a jungle which wafts fragrant air in the evenings, making the patio a very nice place to sit in during the evenings. I find it extraordinary that just two plants grown from seed have been able to produce this much basil. I'm giving it to friends whenever I have the opportunity and will be making pesto later this week.

^^ Can you spot that bush of basil?! 

A shishito pepper is ready to pick as are a few Redbor kale leaves - the beginnings of a simple stir fry I think! 

Finally, the plants are all growing well and my cosmos as just beginning to flower. The packet said mixed cosmos but so far they only seem to be white. Regardless, they are very pretty and are growing quick enough for me to be able to pick them and enjoy them without taking too many away from the bees and butterflies. 

I'll be sad once the garden goes over when we head into autumn but at least then I'll be able to start planning next year's harvest! My plans are big! 


Tuesday, 11 August 2020

hidcote manor

I feel somewhat reluctant to share this garden with you. It has been my most favourite place for many years and often one does not feel like sharing one's favourite place in order to protect it from being engulfed by the masses. But, seeing as my readership is very small, I don't think this will have too adverse an effect!

Hidcote Manor is perched high up in the Cotswolds above Chipping Campden with views out across to Warwickshire in one direction, Oxfordshire in another and back home towards Worcestershire in the other. My first memory of visiting Hidcote was when I was very little. Mum, my brother and I explored the gardens, raced up the grassy, hornbeam-lined avenue and dipped our fingers into the cool water fountain. My brother leapt across the Ha-ha, almost giving my mum and her friend a heart attack as we didn't know if there were spikes in its bottom but thankfully he emerged safe and unharmed. After, we picked raspberries in the next door PYO farm. Since that visit we have gone back every summer; I adore it. 

This summer I pre-booked some tickets (as this is the new norm now) and Mum, Ian and I headed over in the searing heat for this year's visit. Though a little wilder than previous years (the gardeners were all furloughed), it is still as magical and beautiful. My interest in gardens has grown tenfold in recent years and now I often wonder whether I missed my vocation as a gardener. Perhaps one day I can give it a go, once I've learnt a few more plant names. 

^^ Beautiful dahlias smiling up at us

Does anyone know what this is? Mum wasn't sure but they were like big clouds of bubblegum in the softest pink. 

Sunning ourselves in the heatwave!

^^ These phlox flowers were everywhere in all kinds of colours; lilac, as above, whites and hot pinks. We have some at home called Laura, which is very apt for Mum.

^^ This beautiful rambling plant was growing on the facade of the house - is it a clematis? The flowers were huge and trumpet like in both purple and cream. We had never seen it before so if you recognise it, please let me know! 

Another successful visit, despite the strange circumstances!