Winter Warmer – Cardamom Coffee Recipe

During this past chilly week I have discovered a lovely way to make coffee, and it makes me feel like I am sitting in an exotic bedouin tent as opposed to being freezing in a drafty old house mid-winter.  Being a coffee fanatic, I drink coffee according to mood.  Latte usually in the day as a norm.   But I also love those little strong numbers, from gritty thick Turkish coffee served in weeny cups to brutally strong espresso which could put hairs on your chest.

I was at a meeting last week and was served coffee in this way, and it is LOVELY.  It smells and tastes heavenly, a bit spiced and moorish.  You can have it black or white, and serve it as a strong small coffee or as a base for latte’s and cappucino’s.

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The magic ingredient is cardamom.

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An aromatic spice indigenous to south India and Sri Lanka, cardamom seeds come from a plant belonging to the ginger family. They are contained in small pods about the size of a cranberry. Cardamom has a wonderful aroma and an enticing warm, spicy-sweet flavour.

To Make:

  • You can use either a stove-top coffee maker or a cafetiere.
  • Use one seed per cup.  Using the back of spoon, crush it so it splits.
  • Add to your normal ground coffee and brew.
  • Leave to stand for 5 minutes and the flavour and scent is released into the coffee.
  • Add milk and sugar if desired.

I already have used dried cinnamon in coffee at Christmas before, but this cardamom version scales way higher on the yummy scale.  The next trial will be star anise….

Wardrobe Crisis… and Storage Solution

Fact:  I have too many clothes.  These are dotted all over the house as storage is tricky for the amount I have.

Fact:  I have too many shoes.  I could well give Imelda Marcos a run for her money.

Fact:  It felt so crowded in the bedroom with clothes, shoes etc that it was a pain to keep it organised.

Fact: A lot of my clothes are quite old, but very well made so I am loathe to chuck them as they do come in useful randomly from time to time.  Need a fab fitted Armani suit for a meeting; got one.  Feeling like chanelling Chanel at the races in a pink tweed suit; done.  Wedding on the horizon;  Dozens of outfits to chose from….  Dinner dance; loads to choose from.  But these were stored all over the place so I had to hunt for them.

Fact: I otherwise wear pretty much the same uniform of clothes most days.  I have trusty Uniglo trousers in one cut (but with lots of pairs in black or grey), a lot of Cos black dresses and huge swaddling roll-necked jumpers.  Add my Converse hi-tops or biker boots, and I am ready to go.

Fiction:  I really need all of these clothes.

So this week I decided to finally gather all items together from all over the house to see how much I actually could lose/keep/use more.  Pretty much most rooms had a cupboard or two groaning with clothes/shoes/out of season stored items.  When all together, and reader I am a bit ashamed when I admit this, they filled a whole room.  30 years worth of clothes and shoes stared back at me. Continue reading

Dream Living Room Plans

I have been looking at a fabulous website called Arhaus who are based in the USA, and am seriously wishing they would open a shop in the UK, (hint, hint….).  Their collections are really beautiful, very classic, and I would snap up a lot of their items, especially the furniture, in a flash to use in interiors.

I have based the room around artwork by Fin DAC, who produces huge scale street mural artwork around the globe.  I love this image, and used it as the inspiration for the room.  It would look amazing as a huge piece on one wall, and he sells via online galleries so I am after one now… although I may have to save up a bit….

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Having recently completed a grey, black and orange dining room, I am still slightly obsessed with these colours and was immediately drawn to the sofa and daybed in the Clancy range, they are both traditional with the buttoning but have lovely sleek modern lines as well.  Plus, (and this is key for me), I really hate plumping up base cushions of sofas, so this is a dream design for me!

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How to make your own scented soy candles

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Scented candles are incredibly popular at the moment, but can also be very expensive for long-lasted, heavily scented soy versions.  I love ones by True Grace, Diptyque, Tom Dixon, Kenneth Turner and the Cowshed -but they come at a hefty price tag, especially as I burn them constantly.

So I decided to make my own for a change, and have discovered it is REALLY SIMPLE and they smell AMAZING!!!

I wanted to make a variety of candles in both rich floral and then more musky scents, and they have come out very well.  They also work out so much cheaper than buying ready made scented candles. 1kg of wax costs approximately £7, and from that I made 5 candles, and reused old candle pots and a cup and saucer set.  I had a few bottles of essential oils lying around already, and you can get 5 bottle of candle fragrance oil for £5 roughly online.  Wicks are about £1 for 10.  have worked it out to be around £2.60 per candle, a lot better than the £28 upwards costs of my usual candle purchases!

Here is what you will need:

  1. 1kg soy wax flakes.  I used Kerawax 4015 as it has a good scent throw and adheres well to glass containers.
  2. Essential Oils or specific Fragrance Oil for candle making.  I like to mix my scents up as I am making the candles, so have a variety of both.
  3. Candle wicks with metal bases
  4. Glue Dots
  5. Wooden sticks
  6. Metal container
  7. Large Saucepan
  8. Glass Containers (but china also works well).

Instructions:

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Most Hit Posts of 2016

Today I have been looking back at last years blogging, sometimes done a bit intermittently I must admit, and noticed that the most popular posts always seem to be the DIY ones, so here is a round up of the ones that still get the most hits, and I only hope that as a result there are many Ikea hacks, Plaster Flowers and No-sew curtain pelmets floating out there now!  More DIY ideas coming soon as I tackle a spare bedroom in the coming  months.

Click on the photos to take you to the posts and tutorials…

DIY Plaster of Paris Flowers

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No-Sew Curtain pelmets

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Ikea Hack Bookcase

 

 

Slate Effect Painted Fireplace

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Moppe Drawer Makeovers

 

 

Christmas Decoration Storage

TOP TIPS FOR STORING CHRISTMAS DECOR

As Christmas draws to an end, it is all too easy to take decorations down, shove them into various bags and secrete them in attics, garages, under beds, and even in random places where space can be found, (I am guilty of the last one, for years my faux tree has been stored in an airing cupboard).

This is all very well until 11 months later, when you need to get things out and find them twisted, smashed, crumpled or just gone!  Fairy lights are particularly good at getting lost in our house, sometimes not turning up for a couple of years by which time replacements have been bought and then there are strings of them lying around everywhere.

So this year I am have a New Year resolution; packing away Christmas efficiently.

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Decorating for Christmas

Fa la la la la, la la la la….

I LOVE Christmas decorating!  I had a photo shoot last month in the house for a Christmas decorating feature to go out next year in a magazine, and as it was not quite December it didn’t feel ‘christmassy,’ (although the photos I saw looked beautiful). Plus everything came down again at the end of the shoot.  It was quite mind-blowing how fast the stylist and photographer worked.  So it was like a Christmas-for-8-hours in a mind altering day!

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A lovely fresh berry and evergreen wreath sets the scene on the front door

But come the 1st December I get everything out of the attic and from stashes all over the house. Boxes of baubles, lights, garlands and more.  This is just some of the stash I have, it has grown over the years and I can see lots of things my children liked when they were small like little gingerbread men garlands… actually I have FAR TOO MUCH STUFF!

DINING ROOM

This year my children are 18 and 15, and I decided that for the first time we would not be doing the usual fir tree which always stands in the Dining Room, but an alternative version instead on a tabletop.  I asked the girls if this was all right, as they are the ones that the tree is usually aimed at with decorations collected over the years that they remember and coo over.  This idea went down OK-ish!  I found this really cute 3D  wooden tree at Hobbycraft, and it was a snip at £10.

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Given that dining room had a recent overhaul, we did not use a lot of the existing tree decorations and stuck to gold and silver ones with accents of oranges (literally) around the room:

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A brief note about IKEA

Just a quick note today about the Swedish giant emporium that is IKEA.  I am preparing the house for an interior shoot this week, and thought I would pop by IKEA to pick up some spare tapered candles.  Just candles, don’t need anything else….


Am I the type of person in the world who enters the shop with such a simple intention, and leaves with what I came for? I am not.  By the time I had reached the checkout I had a trolley groaning with the following items, rationale had left me.  But I did that thing that all TRUE AND GREAT SHOPPERS DO… I made up some excellent reasons as to why I needed them:

  • Candles – what I came for.  A box of white tapered ones
  • Candles – nice big huge chunky ones, 4 of them, might be good at Christmas
  • Hallway sisal runner – mine is looking a bit jaded so a smart replacement
  • 3m long velvet orange curtains – great for the recently overhauled dining room
  • Plastic food bags – 2 boxes, useful for crafts, kids lunches and so on
  • Plastic food bag clips – to tie up the above
  • Tea towels- linen, very pretty and no doubt a bugger to iron so they will end up in a drawer and only be used once
  • King size bed sheet, they finally do UK sized fitted sheets, and in dark aubergine…
  • Two wool throws in charcoal, just snuggly and useful, but excess on top of the other 5/6 throws I already have…
  • Copper tray to put all the candles on, on trend as they say
  • Cream tin canister set for the kitchen- to hide things like cat medicine
  • Two small artificial Christmas trees – most lifelike and useful for Christmas
  • Boxes of Christmas decorations made from 3D brown paper – no time to make my own this year
  • Boxes of black Christmas tree baubles – great for the new dining room scheme
  • Black storage boxes to put things in, not sure what yet but I am sure they will be very practical
  • Table runners x 2 to sew together to make one long one for the Christmas table, but I forgot that my sewing machine is broken so they will no doubt end up in a drawer with the tea towels
  • A wad of paper napkins, to go with all the other ones I forgot I already had
  • Christmas wrapping paper – I don’t begrudge this as their lines are really nice and come with lots of different papers, ribbons and bags at a very good price.  Mind you I probably just blew the present budget for several people buying all the above.

IKEA is just one of those places where you grab things as you walk through it as they seem by cheap.  It is only at the till that you realise that you have spent a fortune on lots of things that will ultimately and probably end up in a drawer.

Does anyone else out there do this too, or am I just a retailers delight?!

Ta-ta for now…..

Retro Bedspread Repurpose

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Not quite sure what is going on with me, but my recent redecoration of the dining room with pinging accents of orange, has created a need for hunting out more orange bits and pieces ready for the festive season.  Tablecloths, candles, candles and so on.  This is quite a hard colour to source, especially with good quality table linens.  I never even liked orange much before I did this room, so finding things is quite hard as I don’t even have a mental stash of where I have seen things in the past that are appropriate.  With Christmas approaching I also wanted to spend as little as possible as there is lots of other shopping ahead to do.

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Some serious hunting for a table cloth online resulted in either horrible poly cotton banquet plain tablecloths which headed into neon territory, or 100% Irish linen dyed to order at eye watering prices.  I also looked at buying fabric directly, but I kept choosing the most expensive fabrics and £120 a meter is not really budget-friendly.   I also need an ENORMOUS tablecloth, as at Christmas I have my cunning extra large tabletop that comes out of storage and sits on top of the existing table.  It seat 14 easily, and in the past I have had to either make cloths for it or adapt king size bedspreads.  All were tastefully neutral, and not at all suitable for the colours in the room now.

I needed something to ping, and this is the sort of orange colour I needed.  Really pumpkin-like.

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And lo, along came ebay.  I have not used it for a while, mainly as postage has got so expensive in the UK that people seem to have stopped selling on it so much.  But I started to hunt for anything orange, and then this original 1970’s St Michael (M&S) bedspread appeared tucked away in the bedding section.  It is woven damask in shades of orange, perfect for a pop of colour, and looks like something from dressing a 70’s TV sitcom.  And Reader, I bid immediately.  In fact no-one else bid on what looked frankly pretty awful in the picture, so I got it for a song. Here it is, looking a bit grim and dated on ebay.

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It turned up yesterday, and actually it really works in the room!

It is really bright orange and yellow with lovely fat bullion fringing.  It works with all the other soft furnishings in the room.  And it is massive and will easily fit the Christmas table top.

img_3962Until then, I have used it in the corner of the room on a round table, replacing a ‘tastefully beige’ one.  It would not work anywhere else in the house at all, but it does suit the dining room scheme.  Job done, total cost £8.50.

Creating a Gallery Wall

Once Upon a time…

I used to help out at an Art Gallery where the positioning and hanging of the art was as important as the pictures themselves.  I think that apart from basic hanging ‘rules’ about eye levels not being too high, hanging pictures is a very personal thing.  However some people get very nervous about putting up art, so here is hopefully a helping hand…

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Here is my latest area where I am going to create a gallery wall, a finishing-off part of a dining room makeover.  You can read about the main bulk of work doing the room here.  After finishing the room I was left with a really large wall which has a mirror and two very large formal prints on it placed very formally.  I do like them, but wanted to create more interest and jazz it up a bit.  In fact, I noticed that when I was trying to find photos of that wall, I had hardly any as it was never that inspiring, so that is a bit telling!

I want to create a gallery wall that is much more contemporary, and uses a variety of artwork and interesting pieces.  I find I always lean towards hanging art very symmetrically and I suppose that is my comfort zone, but this time I am intentionally going to offset the pieces and push the boundaries for myself.

Can I apologise in advance for glare on the photos, the wall faces a large french window and the reflections were murder in my pictures!

So you can sort of see the wall in the back of the pictures, and it is definitely time to make it more interesting.  It is nearly 4 metres wide and has 1.7 metres clear vertically in the dado to picture rail space  There is a radiator below the dado rail bang in the middle, and I might have get a cover made for it as it does stick our like a sore thumb, but that can be a later project.  I know some people paint their radiators in the same colour and paint as the wall behind, so that could be an option…

STEP ONE

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