Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Picture postcard - Paris


Paris is one of my favourite places in the world and for me, the Eiffel Tower sums the city up perfectly. I took this photo on a hazy summer’s day a couple of years ago, but I have many other images of the iconic landmark – in summer, spring, winter and autumn. Since I was a little girl when one of my most treasured possessions, a bracelet, featured an engraving of the Eiffel Tower, it has always seemed a place of wonder. My first visit was on a school trip back in the 70s and I cannot remember how many times it has featured in trips since, whether as a destination, climbing to the top or as a backdrop on the city skyline.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Diamond Jubilee at home

As with cosmetics, the home sector has really gone to town over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and boy there is some awful stuff out there. However, there are some pretty good pieces too, and even when they're perhaps not particularly stylish they possess that kitsch quality, which means they will take pride of place in lots of homes.

Here are a few of my favourites from the many cups, linens, decorations and items of furniture I have seen over the past few weeks. That's not to say I would give them all house room, but they do have a certain something...

This Queen chair in 100% merino wool is finished in a Union Jack pattern and was
created by designer Melanie Porter for Natuzzi. It is on display in Natuzzi's Tottenham Court
Road store from 28 May until 10 June, after which time it will be auctioned to raise money for charity
Back view - this chair looks so comfy!

Why is it women like cushions and men don't? what's wrong with them?
Cushions make a room cosy and a sofa squishy. This one will also provide a talking point.
Union Jack cushion in silk, £120, from Moghul Interiors, www.moghulinteriors.com

I don't own a tea pot but if I did this is the tea cosy I would like I think. Tea cosies are so old fashioned and
remind me of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s - back then no self-respecting tea pot would be seen without one.
£49 from Iapetus, www.iapetus.co.uk

Makes a change from the flags and red, white and blue. Linen tea towel, £12.99,
designed by Maria Holmer Dahlgren and available from The Contemporary Home, www.tch.net

That cake looks good. The Alison Gardiner Diamond Jubilee Collection
tarts at £12.95 from Roman At Home, www.romanathome.com

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Living out - update from horseville

Well of course everything was okay. He was happy, it was warm and he had company. This is now the third night they have been out and John doesn't seem to be missing the home comforts of his stable at all. The nosebleeds have stopped - thank goodness - and I am sleeping better.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Living out for the summer

My horse is staying out tonight for the first time this year. I'm worried, of course, that's what I do, worry. He wouldn't be out just yet if it wasn't for the fact that last night we found a load of blood in his field and it turned out he was having nose bleeds. I know that nose bleeds can look a lot worse than they are - my daughter has them, especially in summer - but still the amount of blood in the field was, well, lets just say we were looking for a body, a deer or something quite big, until we realised the blood was coming from John's nose.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Hadleigh Show 2012

As the powerful grey cantered around the show ring I couldn't help but smile. This was turning into a great day. Yesterday I went to the Hadleigh show. It was a day of two firsts, first time at the show and first time visiting the Suffolk village of Hadleigh. I had no idea what to expect before we arrived but as we drove through the narrow main street I thought the show itself wouldn't be too big.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Back in the day....

I was listening to the radio and this came on - I immediately travelled back around 30 years. What a brill song.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Sit on it or eat it?

These seats are weird but individual - they would certainly be a talking point if you had them in your home. I think Dot would like them for her bedroom but starting at £530 for the mini muffin I don't think she'll be getting them.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Friends together

The boys – John and baby – are getting on brilliantly. John loves having company in the field and baby loves the security of being with a grown-up horse. They wander around together, John is teaching the baby how to groom (at the expense of my rugs, which the little one is constantly gnawing on) and they are sublimely happy in one another’s company. I could stand watching them all day, they are so sweet. My boy has had a new lease of life since baby arrived, I swear he looks younger, happier, alert and his eyes are bright. I’m so happy for him and very proud he has taking to being a grandpa the way he has. I took these photos last weekend.

Learning to groom (I took off John’s rug when I saw the baby grooming it!)

A little bit further to the left … a bit more … aaargh, that’s just right

“Right, that’s the end of the grooming,” said John as baby forgot himself and bit a little too hard.

Off they go…

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Self tan, safe tan; fragrance and blush

Melvita has a new self-tan lotion out. I’ve used it and like it as it’s very subtle, giving a golden glow rather than a Tango orange effect. It is also lightly fragranced and doesn’t smell like the usual self tans. If found it went on smoothly, sank into my skin quickly and didn’t leave streak marks or give my yellow hands. A keeper I think.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Jubilee Cafe - a review

Following on the Jublilee theme but nothing to do with the Diamond Jubilee is my favourite local café, The Jubilee at Ardleigh. It used to be a greasy spoon I’m told, but since heavy lorries are no longer allowed on the road that runs past it, it looks for its customers elsewhere. And we are a varied bunch I can tell you: pensioners, couples, families and us horsey gals. 

The food it offers is lovely – I recommend the Quorn lasagne and everybody I know who has tried the fried potatoes loves them. The food ranges from breakfasts (served all day) to Sunday lunch, veggie specials to fish and meat. I don’t know anywhere else that offers so many breakfast variations and there’s no cut off point so you can have it at lunch if you wish. 

All of the food is cooked fresh and prices are good. The owners don’t mind if you just have a cup of tea – a very reasonable 75p – without eating, which is great news when funds are low (which in my case is more often than I like). I think it’s the best kept secret in Colchester. I don’t know if they advertise, I’ve never seen any ads, but they are always busy. I think it’s the combination of home cooking, quality and prices that don’t rip you off that keeps customers coming back for more. And no, I don’t work for them in any way, I’ve never received a free meal there but have always paid for my food; I’ve just been meaning to post about the café for a while and the Jubilee seems as good a time to do so as any. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Grand Designs Live

Oh my feet hurt! I spent the day at Excel in London traipsing up and down the aisles at Grand Designs Live. I think it’s been worth it though – I caught up with a few colleagues, made a few new contacts and saw many beautiful products. I think my favourites were the outdoor petal lights by PetalPod, the glass swirling, two-colour worktop from Southern Counties Glass and the marble pebble/ semi-precious stone-look freestanding basins from Color 1 Design (unfortunately I don't have an image of that). Of course there were also lots of food and drink stands selling hand-made chocolates, confectionery and drinks with a difference – toffee vodka anyone?

One item that really stood out for me was the Wonderbag this is literally a bag you cook in, and it is making a big difference for poor people in Africa, as it cuts down on fuel consumption. The makers - who give a Wonderbag to a family in Africa every time one is sold here - say it cuts fuel usage by around 30%, which makes a big difference to families there. It’s a weird-looking thing but the idea behind it is so simple – an insulated bag that continues cooking food after you take it off the stove, like a very slow cooker. It’s eco friendly as well as a money saver. While I was at the stand the Wonderbag people were cooking a syrup sponge pudding in the bag - they started it off on the hob for 25 minutes, put the pudding pot with lid in the Wonderbag, put the lid on the bag and left it for a couple of hours. Et voila! Lovely looking sponge pudding.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Cool Britannia

Everygone is gearing up to go Diamond Jubilee crazy in June and there's jubilee, royal, Union Jack, Britannia-themed merchandise everywhere. It ranges from the totally tacky to the highly stylised, from chic to tut, and encompasses home wares, toys, wall art, food and make-up. And that's what I'm interested in.

I've spotted some lovely make-up pieces that pay hommage to the upcoming 60th anniversary celebrations that are both pretty, practical and could become treasured keepsakes.

My favourites are:

Jane Iredale limited edition pure pressed mineral foundation Celebration Compact, £29.95 at www.janeiredale.com

Thursday, 3 May 2012

I'm a little horse

Oh my goodness, what a cutie. There's no way you would hurt yourself falling off this little fella (I know he's to small to ride but the idea of having my feet so near the ground after too many times of falling 6ft6 is a nice one).

He is the Miniature Horse Club of Great Britain’s (MHCGB) National Spring Show Supreme Champion for 2012 and National Finals Supreme 2011, which is a big title for such a little horse. His name is Looking Glass Indian Spirit and he is taking part in the Norfolk Show at the end of June with his friends from the Looking Glass stud.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Refreshing fragrances

For years, as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of The Body Shop. These days I don't buy so many of my skincare or makeup products from there, but I do pop in from time to time for old favourites and my daughter shows all the signs of becoming their number one fan also. The sweet scents of strawberry, dewberry and pink grapefruit are still fresh in my mind from a couple of decades ago and it's lovely to see Dot getting excited about the same things I did, though then it was bath bubbles (we didn't have a shower) whereas for her it's shower gels. I also greatly admire The Body Shop's stand on animal testing, natural ingredients and fair trade, which despite now being owned by L'Oreal is still something that is very much at the forefront of its philosophy.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A trend for oils in skincare

As I get older my skin seems to get more dry and lined (you don't say) so I'm extremely interested in facial oils, which seem to be becoming more popular in skin care. I was at a launch a few weeks ago for Trilogy's new rosehip oil that also contains lycopene from tomatoes, known for its anti-cancer properties. I have been using it on and off for a while and it is very moisturising but strangely enough, without leaving a greasy finish. It has a sort of powdery feel, which is a little weird but means your hands aren't all sticky after applying it. Any residue left on my fingers I just rub into my hands as a moisturising boost to my hand cream. The Trilogy oil is formulated for day and evening use, but I find it's not quite rich enough for overnight, my skin needs something more, for daytime thought it's fine and you don't need much of course, being an oil, so it should last ages.

Hey, I've just noticed, the oil goes into shops today! Timing.

John... meet baby

Talk about stress! Saturday was one helluva day for it with two new horses arriving at the yard and one, sadly, leaving. First to arrive in the morning was a 14-month-old gelding who is normally so laid back he's almost horizontal. But not that day. As soon as my friend Clare led him into his field - he jumped out again. An impressive feat from standing and all the more so because the fence has to be four feet tall.