‘Dwelling Gawking’ (AKA ‘property porn’)

OK, I’ll confess. There are few things I love more than to be nosey and look inside people’s homes. It seems I’m in good company as many people express a weakness for ‘property porn’ and numerous TV programmes are dedicated to it here in the UK. Perhaps it is something you can’t resist, either?

So when I discovered the website http://www.dwellinggawker.com a number of years ago, I was really pleased. It’s basically a site full of links to homes around round the world, most of them beautiful and inspirational. There are various categories you can search in, such as ‘small spaces’, ‘before and after’ or you can search for country names. I suspect I have probably idled away a fair few hours on here over the years.

Since the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, there probably isn’t much that is truly unique to Dwelling Gawker, but I still enjoy using it. The search category options make it easy to search for something new and different.

I appreciate various different types of interior style, though my current favourite is Scandinavian. In particular, the use of natural materials such as wood and leather, the presence of natural light and pale colour tones and simple, uncluttered style appeal to me. The photo above incorporates most of these elements and has a wonderful sense of space, don’t you think?

As we have three young children, our house isn’t quite (or let’s be honest, anywhere near) the uncluttered, minimalist haven it would be if it was inhabited only by my husband and I. Still, I try my hardest to keep on top of the clutter and everything in its proper place. There will be more on home organisation and the tools I use to organise ours in my future blog posts, so please click follow if you haven’t already 🙂 Sign up link to the right hand side ->

Thanks for reading, see you again soon.

 

 

 

Celebrating festivals with a decorative tree

Since childhood, I have enjoyed marking and celebrating numerous festivals. I love the way that they punctuate the year in a fun yet predictable way and mean there is always an occasion to look forward to in the not-too-distant future. Note that we don’t necessarily celebrate in an extravagant way with huge parties or anything- often just in a token way. I prefer to celebrate more in terms of decorating our home in a themed way. More specifically, with a tree.

Of course, when most people think of decorating a tree, Christmas springs to mind. However, decorative trees are ideal for theming the home for multiple festivals and occasions.

Now is probably the time to explain that I wouldn’t dream of using a real, ceiling-height tree at any time of year other than Christmas. Instead, we have a two-foot, white-painted wooden tree to position on top of a table or sideboard. It was purchased from the UK department store John Lewis six or seven years ago and no doubt other stores sell similar ones. For creative types, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make your own from a carefully chosen section of tree branch with plenty of twigs to hang items from. It would be best to let it dry out first at this time of year though (perhaps in an airing cupboard to speed up the process) before spray painting white if desired, or simply left natural wooden coloured.

Halloween never seemed to be widely celebrated when I was growing up in the 1980s. Sure, some kids made an effort to dress up in costume to go trick-or-treating but walking through our local town centre recently I was amazed to see just how many shops had filled their windows with elaborate Halloween displays and were full of costumes and props for adults, children and even pets!

In the year that we bought our decorative tree, I sought out items to hang from it just as each festival approached. The pound shops were useful, particularly Poundland. From there, for Halloween, I bought a small string of battery-powered LED pumpkin lights and black-and-white skull print tinsel, to wrap around the branches. Then I got packs of small, multicoloured plastic skeletons and have added decorations to the collection produced by my children in recent years. I re-use the same decorations year after year, only rarely buying new ones for any occasion. Within the storage box for the decorative tree, I keep plastic bags labelled with the various festivals that we decorate the tree for; at present this includes Halloween, Easter and Valentine’s Day.

Now, I imagine that you are thinking that the mainly plastic type of decorations we hang on the tree for Halloween are anything but chic? I can certainly understand that point of view, and admit that if we didn’t have children living at home who get ridiculously excited about Halloween, I wouldn’t decorate the tree in the same way at this time of year. The Easter and Valentine’s decorations are decidedly more tasteful, I hasten to add! However, there is no reason why the tree couldn’t be decorated with a more general ‘Autumn’ theme if desired. Still, here’s our tree that was decorated earlier this week all ready for Halloween:

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As you’ll realise, Halloween is still almost week away, so it may seem premature to have the decorations up already. I admit to taking a slightly unusual stance in the respect that I always like to put decorations up early, but also take them down early. The anticipation of any upcoming occasion is certainly (a large) part of the pleasure for me. Anyone that knows me will be aware that even the Christmas tree and all other Christmas decs are taken down on the 28th December at the latest! I love being able to enjoy looking at the decorations in the interval before the celebration day arrives.

How about you? Do you decorate your home for different festivals and occasions? Does anyone else have a tree they decorate for anything other than Christmas? Perhaps I can decorate the tree for additional occasions than the ones I’ve mentioned…

Please add your email to the box on the right to follow my blog if you’ve enjoyed my posts so far. There will be new ones coming at least twice a week. Thanks for reading 🙂

Autumn days- inspiring beauty of the ‘fall’

I must admit to being rather a latecomer to the autumn fan club. From a young age, right up until a few years ago, my favourite season by far was summer. Spring was enjoyable, mostly because it signalled the fact that summer was on its way. But autumn (known as ‘Fall’ in many English-speaking countries I believe) was less welcome because it signalled the very opposite: that summer was over.

It is only in recent years that autumn has started to win me over. Funnily enough, this has coincided with a slight depreciation for the joys of summer. Ever since we started a family almost six years ago, I have developed a bit of a paranoia that my children might suffer from ill effects of being in the sun too much. Yes, I appreciate that in temperate England this is far less of an issue than in about 90% of other countries worldwide, yet as my offspring feature alabaster white skin I can’t help but fret a little about keeping them out of the sun as much as possible.

Hence, when nature issues subtle signals that the seasons are shifting, I feel a little relieved. It usually begins in early September when I notice the early morning dew on the grass and the pearlescent quality of light in the mornings is heavenly. Week by week it’s magical to observe the leaves on different types of trees gradually turn myriad shades of red, orange, yellow and brown and accumulate on the ground to become a crunchy carpet. The children find it enormous fun to stamp on the piles of leaves and be rewarded with a satisfying sound. Conkers with their shiny shells are gathered once free of their prickly cages. All of this against a backdrop of (hopefully!) clear blue skies with a chill creeping into the air as the weeks go by. What’s not to love?!

Now that we are well into October, Halloween and Bonfire night will soon be here. Look out for one of my next posts describing how we decorate our home (on a small-scale) for Halloween.

Is Autumn your favourite season? Perhaps you have additional reasons for enjoying it? I would love to hear them. 🙂

Please follow my blog by adding your email to the right -> I intend to add new posts with inspiration on different aspects of living chic and well at least twice a week. Don’t miss out! 🙂

 

 

Jamie Oliver’s new ‘5 Ingredients’ book

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t really enjoy spending a long time in the kitchen to cook meals. Sure, I appreciate good food, but can’t help begrudge buying, preparing and cooking with a multitude of ingredients, only to have it be consumed and gone in about 10 minutes flat. With the only lasting reminder being a mountain of pots, pans and countless other gadgets to be washed up…maybe you feel the same?

In fact, just glancing at a recipe featuring a long list of ingredients stretching down the page is anathema to me. So when a friend mentioned this new recipe book called ‘5 Ingredients’, I had a feeling it would be a winner!

Jamie Oliver is renowned for creating tasty, simple recipes to please the whole family and I’ve enjoyed his other recipe books including ’30 Minute Meals’, but this new one has to be the best so far. True to his word, no recipe contains more than 5 ingredients. There are sections on Salads, Pasta, Chicken and Fish.

I’ve only had the book for a couple of weeks and haven’t had the chance to try out many of the recipes yet. The ‘Lemony Courgette Linguine’ was simple yet delicious with the distinctive flavours of mint and lemon (see pic below). Next on my list to try is Ham and Egg Noodles as this recipe looks a little similar to my Chinese takeaway favourite ‘Singapore Noodles’.

Have you got a copy of this book, too? If so, I’d love to hear recommendations of your tried and tested favourite recipes. Or perhaps you have a favourite recipe book of your own that you would like to share? I would love to hear from you 🙂

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Fresh flowers – a simple luxury

Fresh cut flowers used to be things that I only ever bought for other people, usually to mark special occasions. Likewise, I only received them myself on special occasions, too. Alas, the latter is still mostly the case, but I have begun to buy them more often for myself, or more specifically, for our home.

Since the German budget supermarket stores Aldi and Lidl arrived in the UK, they have each introduced a great range of cut flowers at very reasonable prices. Small bunches start from £2, while increasing the budget to £5 can afford a pretty special looking bouquet. Even our local Co-op has some cut flowers from about £3 per bunch.

My own taste in cut flowers is understated and simple. My dear husband knows I would be a little disappointed if he ever came home with a dozen red roses – I’ve never been a fan and find them a bit cliched. Pink or yellow roses hold far more appeal. Yet even better than roses are…carnations. Yes, didn’t I warn you that my taste was simple?! Carnations have a reputation for being a bit naff and are associated with desperate petrol station purchases but this bothers me not a jot. In Aldi and Lidl small bunches of carnations cost only £2. To me, that’s a complete bargain for the pleasure brought from seeing them countless times each day. The last few bunches I’ve bought have lasted a full fortnight, too. Often I splash out and buy two bunches in different colours, often red and cream or pink and cream.

This weekend I couldn’t resist buying these carnations. I have no idea what this type is called, but the edges of the cream petals are tinged with pink. Simply beautiful. Perhaps you can enlighten me as to what this type are called?

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In the spring, I also adore tulips. It’s on my bucket list to travel to the Netherlands one year and visit the bulb fields in their full splendour of vibrant shades. One year, I will get there during that short window that the outdoor flowering season lasts.

We try to grow some flowers in our garden each year, which can be picked and displayed in vases inside. March-April is always beautiful with a profusion of daffodils and narcissus, followed by tulips. There are always plenty to cut and display inside. A lilac bush produces pretty, fragrant blooms which look lovely in a vase. Sometimes we grow sweet peas in early summer which smell even more heavenly than they look.

I have tried artificial (silk) flowers and do have a couple of vases of them in the house, but while they may look reasonably pleasing from a distance, they don’t provide me with the same uplifting feeling that fresh flowers do. Plus, I can’t resist touching the petals which is always an instant giveaway. The natural silky texture is so pleasing to feel between my fingertips. Few things give such a feeling of pure luxury…even if some flowers have no scent, they are still a feast for the eyes and the natural colours and patterns make me feel inspired and give me a boost.

How about you? What are your favourite type of flowers? Do you treat yourself (or even better, get treated!) to fresh cut flowers often?

A review of the French film ‘Untouchable’

Not everyone can face watching films and TV programmes produced in a foreign language with English subtitles. My husband is one of those people, whereas I have to say that I really enjoy them. Somehow, hearing the foreign language, as well as different architecture and visual cultural details feels a little exotic and almost transports me there. How about you?

We don’t have Netflix or any other film subscription service in our home, but our county’s library service has a pretty decent stock in the World Cinema section.

It was in the local library that I stumbled across this French film ’Untouchable’, (which also seems to be known as ‘Intouchables’) recently.

Untouchable French movie image

It was actually made a few years ago, in 2011. Based on a true story, it follows a budding friendship between a wealthy quadriplegic called Philippe and his carer, an ex-con. The ex-con, Driss, doesn’t really want the job and even steals a Faberge egg during the job interview, but in time the two men find that they have things in common and are able to help each other in life.

Another character is played by Audrey Fleurot, who I recognised from the gritty French crime series ‘Spiral’ (or Engrenages was the original French title). Whenever I’ve seen her, Audrey always presents as the epitome of the chic, stylish French woman and I liked observing her different outfits.

In places the film is heartbreakingly sad, in other places hilariously funny. All in all, a very uplifting watch and I would recommend it to anyone who can tolerate watching subtitled films.

As it happens, a quick google has just revealed that a US remake of the film is currently underway, by Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. To be honest, I don’t think I will be seeking that one out to watch in the future as I’ve generally been disappointed by English language remakes of continental European films. For example with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ I preferred the original Swedish version, even though the US remake wasn’t particularly bad, while the US remake of the Danish ‘The Killing’ series wasn’t a patch on the Danish version. Often, the original version just can’t be beaten!

Do you have any favourite foreign language films you can recommend? I’m always pleased to discover new favourites.

It would be great to hear from you and there is a ‘follow’ this blog option on the right hand side –> 🙂

Use wall art to personalise your home

How to Use Wall Art to Create a Relaxing, Inspirational Home

Home sweet home

Making our home an inspiring, relaxing haven for us to spend time in is important to us, so my husband and I take care when deciding what deserves to furnish and decorate it. That’s not to say that everything we own is expensive; a large percentage of the furniture we own is from IKEA, and we are not averse to purchasing used items if the quality is good. In fact, our living room sofas were bought second-hand well over ten years ago and still going strong.

Wall art to reflect your personality

I must admit that I have a bit of a thing for wall art. Maybe you do, too? It’s often one of the first things I notice in hotel rooms, people’s houses and other places such as cafes and restaurants. I love observing the way that individual hobbies and interests are often reflected by what people display on their walls. So perhaps it’s not surprising that my husband and I have spent more time and consideration into choosing the art which graces our walls than on most of the furniture in our home. To be honest, many of the art pieces could well outlive some of the furniture items.

A personal thing…

Obviously, art is an intensely personal thing. What appears beautiful to one person could appear hideous to the next. Some couples who live together have rather opposing tastes, which must make it challenging to try to agree on what to decorate the walls with. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I met and married a man who happens to share virtually identical taste to me. Honestly, it’s a bit bizarre. On a few occasions, we have taken it in turns to look around small art galleries or shops and reveal our top three favourite works afterwards. They are virtually always the same ones! This is mostly a positive as we never argue about what to buy for the house, but there is the downside that we have on occasions talked ourselves into splashing out on quite high value pieces because we both love them so much!

DIY options…

Not that wall art has to be expensive, of course. Once I cut a small piece from a wallpaper sample to size and framed it as it matched perfectly with fabrics we already had in a room. In the past I’ve enjoyed making some of my own, using a cheap plain canvas, a roll of plaster of Paris and oil paints. Now, I’m by no means a talented artist (I didn’t even take Art to GCSE level!) but I think that anyone can have fun experimenting with a few art materials that take their fancy and may just surprise themselves with what they can produce when their creative juices get flowing. It can be so rewarding and satisfying to produce something yourself and instil a sense of pride when you see it every day. Have you created something yourself? Here is one of my creations:

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Photo canvases are expensive but popular, especially with parents of young children. However, as it’s tempting to replace them with updated ones as the children grow older, we find it makes financial sense to regularly buy cheaper poster prints (rather than canvases) of our children, which can easily replace old posters in simple frames.

Local Art

Once a year there is an event called Art on the Prom in a local coastal town. As the name suggests, it is held all along the sea promenade which makes it a hugely popular event. My husband and I love visiting this as it is packed with (mostly local) artists showcasing their work for sale. It is so inspiring to admire stand after stand packed with beautiful, original pieces of work and if we were rich (as well as having a house with enough empty wall spaces available) we would probably end up filling the car to the brim with multiple pieces. For the moment, we have to make do with just ‘window shopping’ and allowing ourselves to splash out on just one piece per year if that.

Two years ago, we attended the Art on the Prom event and both my husband and I were captivated by the work of a wonderful local artist called Rachel Shohet. Rachel produces art in a rather unique way: by painting with enamel onto metal, typically selecting quite bold colours and she incorporates various types of animals, as well as 1930s Art Deco characters, into her work. Some of her pieces include iconic architecture from our local area (the county of Suffolk), and my husband and I both particularly loved those ones. We decided pretty quickly that we preferred the one depicting the wide-spanning Orwell bridge, well-known to residents of our county, complete with sailing boats in the river and a flock of sheep in the foreground. The photo doesn’t do it justice:

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A year later, we had been discussing the possibility of acquiring an additional piece of wall art for the kitchen. We considered attending Art on the Prom which was only a few weeks away at that point, but then decided that as we both loved Rachel’s designs so much, we would buy another of her pieces.

A Tough decision

When I phoned Rachel to enquire about this, she invited me to her home just a few miles away. Her house was wonderful, because she has filled almost every available piece of wall space in the downstairs rooms and stairway with her works of art, literally dozens of them! This wide selection of course made it more challenging for me to select just one, but after ten or so minutes of pacing through the rooms several times, I whittled the options down. However, in my heart of hearts I hadn’t spotted what I had hoped would feel like ‘the one’ and I think Rachel sensed that. She switched on her PC and showed me a few additional designs that weren’t currently displayed on her walls. When I set my eyes on one of those, I knew immediately it was the one we were meant to take home. The only slight problem was that Rachel remembered it was currently on display in a local café, but was insistent that she was happy to walk the few minutes to the café to fetch it for me. This she did, and Paul was delighted with my choice when he arrived home from work that evening to find this in the kitchen:

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Make your own FREE wall poster

In the run up to Christmas, I may also take advantage of the clever poster maker that the lovely Cass Bailey from ‘The Diary of a Frugal Family’ blog recently wrote about. Her blog is very informative and inspiring so I wasn’t surprised when she shared this great idea. You simply select around 15 phrases, perhaps the favourite things of someone you would like to create the poster as a gift for, select your colour preferences and the poster will be generated ready to print. Cass is very kindly offering the use of the poster generator for free, see it here. Just add a simple frame and this makes a stylish, personalised gift.

Do you have a favourite type of wall art, or artist? Does it reflect any particular interests you have? Do you find it difficult to agree with a partner what to display on your walls? I would love to see your favourite piece of wall art, feel free to add a pic in the comments.

Thanks for reading, see you again soon 🙂