Sunday, 26 August 2012

I'm a little teapot.

I heart vintage crockery. I have done from the tender age of seven, when I literally begged my parents for a china tea set for my eighth birthday. Much to my delight, they obliged with a breathtakingly beautiful, handmade miniature porcelain tea set. It was white, with delicate hand-painted flowers in deep shades of purple scrolling across it. From that time forward, my teddies had actual tea parties with real tea and coffee and homemade fairy cakes. My mum even lent me a special gold tray to lay it all out on, on display, as it were in the playroom. I dusted it weekly with great pride and pleasure, until one sad day when I became a habitual tea drinker and the teddies were no longer invited down from my bedroom to play.

As an adult, I still collect vintage crockery, teacups in particular ~ I feel the desire to state at this point that I've been doing so since long before it became trendy! ~ and I love teapots too. Mum and Dad bought me a lovely teapot for my birthday this year, new, hand-painted, with a nod to the Cath Kidston school of design, and since I already have a few teapots, Mum suggested I use this one as a vase, which I thought was a great idea. Here are the results...

A few of my favourite cups and saucers :-)
Any tips for original ways to display vintage chinaware or flowers..? Do share!

 pp x

Sunday Smörgåsbord

I'm sorry that my promise of four posts was shamefully unfulfilled; I think I knew it would be even as I typed the words, to be honest! It did occur to me that it might not in fact be sensible to post so much all at once anyway, as you lovely people might not actually have time to wade your way through it all in one hit! No excuses though. Needless to say, it's been another busy week, on the positive side of which means I do have a few tidbits to share with you this evening...

Top row, from left to right:

1. Truly scrumptious ~ Dragon Rolls and a Gigolo Martini (one of several...) courtesy of the amazing kitchen and bar staff @ Wabi.

2. I cannot believe this is only the second outing my favourite Banana Republic shorts have had all summer. Roll on the honeymoon!

3 & 4. I have been experimenting with hairstyles all summer thanks to the utterly fabulous Lilith Moon and her easy-to-follow tutorials on YouTube. On the left is my sister ~ I had a field day with her gorgeous, thick hair!

Middle row:

1. My new notebook from Paperchase. Super cute. I even have a ridiculous fluffy rabbit pen to match (photos next time...).

2. A sandwich?! Really..? This is not just a sandwich. This is the best darn sandwich I have made in quite some time: honey roast ham, mature cheddar, beef tomato, sweet pickled cucumber slices, a (very) little salt, a lot of freshly ground black pepper and a thin spread of mayo and american mustard. Not for the every day, granted, but very tasty!

3. Hello Kitty tissues from Tesco. Love. So pretty are they in all their pink glory that I can hardly bare to blow my nose on them. Couldn't find them online :-(

Bottom row:

1. His Lordship and I were very excited to spot this NY cab approaching the M25 earlier today. Just managed to snap it as we nipped past. Simple pleasures.

2. The stunning Art Deco bar @ Wentworth Club, our incredible wedding venue, where we enjoyed our feast of a menu tasting last week, and where we cannot wait to hold our wedding reception in December. Only three and a half months to go ~ eek! SO excited!

I hope you've all had a lovely week, and are making the most of the bank holiday weekend ~ I'd love to hear what you've been up to!

Next week: two irresistible sweet treats to salivate over ~ Coconut meringue cake from the Hummingbird Bakery and Rachel Khoo's Moelleux au chocolat coeur fondant au caramel salé (Chocolate lava cake with salted caramel centres).

Coconut meringue cake

Moelleux au chocolat

pp x

Credit: The beautiful fonts and doodles on this week's Smörgåsbord are free downloads (excluding commercial use) from the incredibly talented Kimberley Geswein. If you love quirky, whimsical fonts, I recommend you head over to her website asap!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

All the world is birthday cake...

In my world, one of the fundamental criteria for a happy life is to celebrate at every opportunity. The days are long, but the years are short (Gretchen Ruben, The Happiness Project ~ a great read by the way, I recommend it!), so in my view, any excuse to spend time having fun with family and friends is a good one. Aside from the fact that it's exciting to have things in your diary to look forward to: birthdays, weddings, Christmas etc, it forces you to set aside sacred time for relaxing, indulging, being a little extravagant perhaps, and (hopefully!) feeling happy, uplifted and loved. Christmas is my absolute favourite of these events in the year, because it's a time when everyone who celebrates it gets to share equally in the joy of the festivities, but birthdays are certainly fun too. I have to confess that a part of me simply revels in being the centre of attention for the day (I can't help it, I'm a Leo!), and who doesn't enjoy receiving gifts (?!), but most importantly for me, birthdays are the perfect excuse to catch up with the friends I haven't seen for a while. So it is that every year on my birthday, I make a point of inviting my nearest and dearest to eat, drink and be merry with me, and this year was no exception.

On my birthday itself, His Lordship and I went to my parents' home with my sister and brother-in-law. It was such a relaxed evening, spent eating, drinking and putting the world to rights, outside in the garden enjoying the balmy summer evening. The Saturday that followed, we had a great time rock 'n' bowling 50s style with a handful of close friends at All Star Lanes in Holborn. I was eager to dress the part, though I can't say the not-so-sexy velcro bowling shoes complimented my outfit... I am always so touched by the messages, calls, cards and presents I receive on my birthday, and was overwhelmed this year by the thoughtfulness and generosity of the people I am fortunate to count among those dearest to me. Those of you reading this who know you are one of those people, thank you again so very much.

Each year, my birthday coming around prompts me to reflect on the year gone by, reminiscing the highlights and recalling the life lessons learned, and also to look forward to the many things I hope to enjoy and achieve before I'm another year older. This past year has gone by in a whirlwind of work and wedding preparations; this year, I am so excited to be getting married and possibly looking for a new home. Life is good, and as the montage of images below undoubtedly shows, I am one exceptionally lucky lady to have such a wonderful future husband, fantastic family and great friends ~ I love you all.

Just a few of my birthday highlights in pictures before signing off...

Top row, from left to right:

1. Gorgeous little bracelets (which I've worn most days since receiving them ~ thanks, H! x)  from Silverado, Brighton.
2. Mentioned in previous post, my 'happy birthday to me' treat: Philosophy's Vanilla Birthday Cake. You can purchase a really cute gift set including this and some matching lip shine beautifully packaged from Boots, linked here.
3. Gwyneth's cookery book (courtesy of the lovely F ~ thank you, for the gift of course, but mostly for likening me to the utterly fabulous Gwynnie! x), can't wait to get my apron on!

4. Sulley, who has finally arrived to keep Mikey company...
5. The amazing Muppets bag that Sulley came home in. If you haven't seen the film yet, do make a point of watching it ~ it's very sweet and full of laughs.

Middle row:

1. More culinary delights! I love French food, but it can be rather too involved for the everyday. Rachel Khoo's modern approach to French classics is supposed to be fresh, fun and simple, so I'm quite excited to try these out (thanks very much, J&G! x).
2. A gift from my future sister and brother-in-law (thank you x); a highly amusing read!
3. Love my new handbag (love you for giving it to me, H! x) from M&S.
4. No birthday is complete without a balloon, and Hello Kitty is mega cute. I am very grateful to my two year old niece who chose this one for me herself, having been steered away from her first choice, a 'Congratulations on your retirement' number.
5. Amazing. In addition to dessert on my birthday, my mum made these tiny trial wedding cakes for His Lordship and I to sample - they were delicious! I won't tell you what we chose... I know she would want me to point out that these were just rough drafts, as it were, to test the flavours, not her usual masterpieces with handcrafted sugar flowers etc...

Bottom row:

1 & 2. I was, quite simply, beside myself when I spotted these awesome giant biscuits in Costa - they are just so fun! I really wasn't especially hungry but ordered them anyway just to be able to photograph them. Aside from looking cool, they were pretty tasty too.
3. All Star Lanes, Holborn.
4. My Johnny Loves Rosie headband purchased at half price from Ollie & Nic in the sale ~ a really easy way to jazz up a simple outfit with a retro twist.
5. I was so thrilled when I (reluctantly) tore open the pink spotty paper to reveal these beautiful place mats. I'd seen them in Maison while out one day with His Lordship, and I was so touched that he had not only taken note of me saying how much I liked them, but also remembered and made a point of going back on a separate occasion to buy them (xXx). It's worth mentioning that I would happily furnish and accessorise our entire home with the stunning things they sell in these shops. Well worth a visit if you live in/near Tunbridge Wells, Richmond or Dorking.

Another year, another candle. Can't wait to celebrate next year as a Mrs! What do you like to do for your birthday..?

pp x

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bath & beauty bests.

Good evening, one and all! The first of four (yes, four!) posts to share with you over the next 24 hours... As promised a couple of weeks ago, here are some of my all time favourite products for looking, feeling, and smelling my best! These products really have become essentials for me, some everyday must-haves, others weekly treats. I hope you'll love them too if you're inspired to try them out for yourselves...

1. Cleanse, tone, moisturise.

'Liz Earle Naturally Active Skincare is a Great British beauty brand, founded in 1995. We are passionate about all that we do and create products that really work on every skin type by harnessing the potent powers of the finest quality naturally active ingredients.' [Source]

Love, love, LOVE. These three products constitute my daily skincare routine. I always remove my make-up at night and follow up with these. They are recommended for all skin types, feel lovely to apply and smell divine! I also use the Liz Earle tinted moisturiser as a base as I very rarely wear foundation. It gives better coverage than your average tinted moisturiser and is a dream to apply. It also has mineral UV SPF15 protection, which is reassuring for me with my fair skin.

2. Make-up removal.

Now I know this may seem really boring, but I believe I've tried out a lot of different brands of face wipes over the years, and these, for me, are by far the best. They're super soft, don't dry out in the packet and the cucumber scent is really refreshing ~ just what you need at the end of a long day. Another bonus is that they're often on offer in Boots at 3 for £3 - bargain!
3. Exfoliate.

For silky smooth arms and legs, this body scrub from Soap & Glory cannot be beaten (especially when teamed with their Exfoliating Scrub Gloves)! I must confess to being something of a sucker for their branding - I love the pink, and the quirky quotes to be found in the blurb on their packaging.

4. Make-up bits & bobs.

If you fancy a bit of a make-up splurge, I have a few recommendations for you! 

Too Faced's eye shadow palettes are just so pretty and come in a wide range of beautiful, subtle shades to suit most every taste and colouring. They last well, staying put on your eyelid as intended, rather than accumulating in creases or unhelpfully migrating to your cheek bones!

Much to my dear mother's dismay, I have never been a lipstick fan as I am a total fusspot when it comes to finding the right texture and shade ~ many colours I feel make teeth look yellowing, and I much prefer a glossy shine on lips to a matte finish. However, at a recent bridal trial at a Bobbi Brown counter on Oxford Street, I discovered Creamy Lip Color in Hibiscus (not the colour shown below). It is fabulous; that is all.

For mascara, I only ever buy Max Factor, as I think their rubbery brushes are the best for achieving an even application.The Masterpiece and False Lash Effect mascaras are my favourites.

5. Bubbles.

As I've mentioned in the past, I love a good bath! I find though that the level of pleasure and relaxation a bath affords is directly proportional to the quality of the bubble bath and shower gel you use. I'm a bit of a princess ~ I need sudsy bubbles, satisfactory lather and, perhaps most importantly, delicious fragrance. As someone with a bit of a sweet tooth, I tend to favour sweet scents such as vanilla and coconut. This last beauty best is a recent discovery ~ a little birthday gift to myself last week! ~ Philosophy's Vanilla Birthday Cake can be used as bubble bath, shower gel and shampoo! I haven't tried it on my hair yet, but it smells temptingly edible, produces plenty of bubbles and feels great on my skin. Also, I've found a little goes a long way, so although this is an extravagance for me on the cost front, it's definitely good value.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you decide to try any of these out! Also, don't be shy, please feel free to comment and share your own favourite beauty buys below...

pp x

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Confessions of an Olympic cynic: I was not excited. I wasn't even apathetic; I was one of the haters, you might say. I thought it was sure to be a logistical flop and a target for terrorists. I believed it to be an indisputable waste of money at an especially inappropriate time, and a tactless and insensitive extravagance in the face of redundancies, rising unemployment figures and the double dip recession. What a little ray of sunshine I was in the lead up to London 2012!

But that all changed in a heartbeat. Why? Because from the very first moments of the Opening Ceremony and throughout the past fortnight, I have witnessed my country rise from the ashes of last year's riots, to become once more a nation that can feel proud of its collective endeavours and achievements, its identity and, specifically, its sporting elite. I have marvelled at the creativity, skills and organisation of the people behind the Games, the warm reception each and every amazing volunteer has given visitors from all over the world, and the enthusiasm and pride of our nation for the accomplishments of all the Olympic contributors, from cleaners, vendors and builders, through BoJo and Beckham, to our own British Olympians and Gold medalists themselves.

I cannot pretend that London 2012 was flawless; it wasn't. There were frustrations and disappointments, Paul McCartney's omnipresence, for one! The empty seats were a real bone of contention for most, though this particular issue was dealt with fairly swiftly, and I do believe that the cost of tickets priced many people out of having the opportunity to attend ~ I was disheartened to note that the vast majority of spectators were middle class Caucasians... Possibly the most unjust thing though, I felt, was that many people had tickets for several events, whilst others had none, which could very easily have been avoided.

Negatives aside, I really want to emphasise my personal turnaround from cynicism to awe of the London 2012 Olympic Games. I was incredibly lucky to be taken along by His Lordship, who managed to buy tickets fairly late in the day from the Czech ticket agency, having picked up on a tweet by a BBC reporter who vouched for their authenticity. We loved every minute of our time in the Olympic Park, impressed by the construction, cleanliness, organisation, reception, security and atmosphere of the place. We were fortunate enough to have tickets to the athletics in the Olympic Stadium, and saw Blake and Bolt (No. 1! <doing the arms...>) run in the semi-final of the 200m, along with some other great track and field events. Aside from our trip to the Games, we have been captivated by excellent BBC coverage of the Olympics, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been moved to tears numerous times, witnessing both the elation and heartbreak of the world's finest sportsmen and women. Particular highlights for me ~ along with most other Brits, I'm sure ~ were Jess Ennis's and Mo Farrah's victories, but I have thoroughly enjoyed a wide variety of the events, from rowing and diving, to gymnastics and dressage, and this from someone who is not an inherent sports fan.

So, shame on me for ever having doubted; thank you to anyone and everyone who played a part in bringing these wonderful Games to life; well done Britain for creating the atmosphere, supporting London 2012 and generating the contagious spirit to encourage our home-grown contenders; and lastly, a huge congratulations to this year's British Olympians for all your hard work and achievements, and for inspiring a generation ~ I've no doubt you will all live to see your legacy increase our medal count in years to come.

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

In what can all too often feel like a dog eat dog world, I think we'd all do well to bear Coubertin's noble Olympic creed in mind from time to time...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Chocolate Truffle Filo Tulips

I featured a photo of these little beauties a couple of Smörgåsbords ago, promising the recipe at a later date. Well, here it is!

Ingredients (makes approx. 15 cups)

For the filo cups:
3-6 sheets filo pastry
45g/1.5oz unsalted butter, melted
caster sugar

For the truffle mixture:
250ml/8fl oz double cream
225g/8oz good quality chocolate (I like to use Green & Black's, 125g 70% dark chocolate and 100g milk)
55g/2oz unsalted butter
30ml/2tbsp amaretto or other liqueur


1. Prepare the truffle mixture. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to the boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until melted. Beat in butter and add amaretto. Pour into a bowl, straining if necessary. Refridgerate for one hour (approx.) until thick enough to pipe.

2. Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6. Grease a bun tray(/s) with indents c.4cm/1.5" deep. Place filo sheets on a work surface. Cut each sheet into 6cm/2.5" squares. Cover with a damp tea towel. Keeping filo sheets covered, place one square on a work surface. Brush lightly with melted butter, turn over and brush reverse. Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Butter another square, and place it over the first at an angle; sprinkle with sugar. Butter a third square and place over the first two, unevenly, so that the three squares form a star shape. Press the layered filo squares into the tray. Continue in this way until you have around 15 filo cups (I made 12, but had truffle mixture to spare at the end).

3. Bake the filo cups for 4-6 minutes until golden. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack whilst still in the tray. Remove from tray to cool completely.

4. Stir the chocolate mixture. It should be just thick enough to pipe. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a medium star tip, and pipe a swirl into each cup.

5. Decorate to your taste. I used raspberries, but you may prefer a twist of orange zest, a shaving of contrasting white chocolate, or a sugar flower, for example. Finish off with a dusting of icing sugar and enjoy!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday Smörgåsbord

Well, again this week my good intentions were insufficient ~ I haven't yet posted my beauty bests. Shame on me <hangs head>. I will do my very best to get that out soon! In the meantime, here is a brief round up of what I've been up to recently, besides watching the Olympics that is (Team GB!!), over the last week or so.

A glorious summer's day spent in Littlehampton ~ paddling in the sea, fish & chip lunch, fun in the arcades....

...and crazy golf! Perfect summer holiday fun in the sunshine.

Stunning war memorial, also in Littlehampton.

Recent hot weather = perfect excuse for ice-cream! Love, love, love Kelly's Clotted Cream.

I had so much fun taking may gorgeous two year old niece to Bocketts Farm this week. We saw five day old baby goats - astonishingly cute and small!

His Lordship and I had a lovely, impromptu evening with friends on Thursday. I made a Thai salmon and prawn curry with sticky rice, and a very berry pavlova for dessert. We washed this all down with two delicious bottles of red. Best wine I've had in a while - certainly worth a mention.

Apologies if you have already seen this on Twitter, but I had to share again on the blog. Incredible clouds the other day - spot the giraffe...

AMAZING new nail stamper set I bought from Konad Nails UK. I can thoroughly recommend these. A little fiddly, but this was only my first attempt, and I hope you'll agree these lace effect stamps turned out really well! NB the lace stamp is on an additional image plate I purchased, number M71, not included in the set.

That's all for now, folks, but I've lots of posts in the pipeline that I hope to publish next week - stop by again soon, and don't forget to like, comment and follow!

pp x

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


And so another week of the summer holidays has disappeared before my very eyes. For the most part, I've been tied up with wedmin and domesticity, but I've also been idly glued to the TV watching the Olympics since Friday evening, and we've managed to squeeze in the odd excursion here and there with friends and family. All in all, I'm in holiday heaven, especially since the Sun's been out, albeit sporadically. More on fun in the Sun at a later date, on to tonight's post...

One day last week, I was in the bathroom, post shower, painting my nails - pink skin, fluffy towel, warm perfumed steam hanging in the air, cool tiles beneath my feet - and it occurred to me for the first time how vitally important that space is to me. I love nothing more than wallowing in the tub, scrubbing up for a night out or just slathering on lotions and potions in the vain hope that they might actually do what it says on the tin. Ultimately, it is a place of solace, contemplation and catharsis. Very fortunately, His Lordship and I have separate bathrooms, which allows us both the time and space to perform our ablutions in peace and quiet and at our leisure. This evening, I thought I would express my love of la salle de bains by sharing some of my tips for bathroom bliss.

Seven heavenly virtues for a sanitary sanctuary

In order for your bathroom to be truly relaxing, I can thoroughly recommend the following:

1. Cleanliness is next to godliness.
It is impossible to relax if you are surrounded by clutter and or grime, or if your throne room smells akin to The Bog of Eternal Stench.. Have a regular clean and tidy up, throwing out any products you find unused/unloved/congealed beyond sanitary usage, and don't forget: no one likes to dry their hands on a wet towel.

2. In the mood (for scrub).
Lighting is key in any space, indoor or out, and can be used to great effect to create a calming atmosphere. Your bathroom should not be some bizarre exception to this rule. You need good light for applying make-up/de-fuzzing etc, yes, but that does not mean blinding halogens are welcome 24/7. We all know electricity and water don't mix well, which is where candles come in. Soaking in the bath is lovely in itself, but candlelight will take your relaxation to a whole new level... (Ice-cream and/or wine are welcome additions to this scenario if you're going for all-out indulgence)

3. Bathroom baubles.
I often find bathrooms can be a bit, well, clinical. Now, whilst clinical is ideal when it comes to sanitation, not so with regards interior design. Popping a few trinkets/objets d'art here and there will warm up a bland space instantly, and it's a simple way of adding personality and colour if your bathroom is scarily white. NB All white can look fantastic and is über chic if your bathroom is well styled.

4. Banish bathtime boredom.
Reading material/music/Matey colour changing bubble bath/rubber ducky, whatever floats your little plastic boat. Might I recommend these fab foam alphabet tubs from Sainsbury's - so much juvenile fun to be had leaving amusing messages on the tiles!

5. As soft as an Andrex puppy.
In this day and age there is no excuse for a) toilet paper that chafes, or b) towels as stiff as cardboard and abrasive like a cheese grater. Buy better loo roll! And some fabric softener.

6. Put it away!
Bathrooms require storage. With ever more cunning designs for space-saving vessels on the market, even the smallest bathroom has the odd nook or cranny to stow away your 'feminine hygiene' products at the very least. Let's face it, no matter how fancy the packaging they might come in, we all know they're tampons.

7. Ladies.
Don't let a man in. Without express permission. And supervision. With disinfectant and rubber gloves on standby.

So, are you feeling virtuous, or are you a sinner in the bathroom department..? I'd love to hear your thoughts - please comment below! Tomorrow, I'll be posting a few of my favourite beauty products, from everyday essentials to make-up must haves, so do stop by again soon. Just to finish off, a few snaps of my own beloved bathroom:



Bonne nuit,

pp x