Monday, September 1, 2014

Living Arrows - 34/52

ISO 640, 35mm, f/2.0, 1/250

Theo's birthday weekend did not go as planned after he brought home the lurgy from nursery and passed it round the family. Our guests were cancelled, the heaps of barbecue food we had bought was put in the freezer and only team effort managed to get a cake made and on the table for some ceremonial blowing out of candles.

Childhood birthdays are so few and so special that it's hard not to feel disappointed when things don't go as planned. We had already run up against the traditional hurdle of August birthdays which is scrabbling around for guests who aren't actually on holiday and then having surmounted that our efforts were all in vain.

Still we did still manage a cake and my mother risked infection for a brief well-timed visit to watch as Theo blew out his candles (still holding on to her knee for reassurance!) we will be attempting a rerun for family on Friday and a barbecue for friends in a few weeks. So in a way he will be getting his birthday treats several times over...

living arrows
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Plum and white chocolate fragipane tarts

Last weekend when we had our housewarming, one of the guests brought us a bag full of fresh plums. Or rather to be accurate one of the guests friends who we had never met before, brought us a bag of plums. We live in that sort of place, where strangers turn up at our door with bags of fresh fruit and no one bats an eyelid.

So anyway, as I already have a good stash of plums in the freezer, I thought I should turn the plums into a dessert and this is what I came up with. A sort of combination of everything that was in the cupboard/fridge. The result was rather delicious and that comes from someone who has spent most of the last couple of days not eating.... but that's a whole other story!


Pastry base

250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
1 egg

Fragipane filling

180g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
2 free range eggs
120g ground almonds
50g plain flour
50g white chocolate chips

6 fresh plums

(Makes 6)


Make the pastry by combining the flour, butter and caster sugar in a food processor until they look like breadcrumbs, then add the egg and allow the mixture to come together in a ball.

Next roll the pastry out and cut to fit your tart tins.

Refrigerate tins with pastry cases while you make the frangipane. To do this beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one, then stir in the almonds flour and finally the white chocolate chips.

Fill the pastry case with the fragipane mixture and top with fresh plums cut into thin slices.

Bake at 175c for 25 minutes.


I'm entering my plum tarts recipe into the Rix Aga Inspired Recipes competition for a chance to win a £100 Waitrose voucher...

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A story about looking gift horses in the mouth...

A few weeks ago I was approached by Dormeo and asked if I'd like to review one of their mattresses. A new mattress! Who would say no?

Well dear readers, I very nearly did! This is because I suffer from some rather old-fashioned (and I now realise entirely misplaced) prejudice about foam mattresses. I read up on the mattress saw it had no springs and then dismissed their offer of a superking for us and instead said I would take a single for our spare room, more out of curiosity than anything...

On the day of delivery I loitered around the front door waiting for the two burly delivery men who would presumably arrive carrying this weighty mattress over their heads to my front door. Instead what happened is one man arrived with a parcel the size of Theo. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Jim absolutely incredulous that this tiny box could contain a mattress worth sleeping on.

Then we unboxed it, cut the tight plastic that was wrapped round it and watched as a full size single mattress leapt out of a the tiny wrapping. We lay it on the bed frame and allowed it to come back to life for the required length of time and then very slowly and very cynically I lay down on it, ready at any moment to say "Ha! I told you so foam mattresses are rubbish!"

But then I had a horrible sinking feeling, no not that feeling you get on a memory foam mattress that's a little too soft and swallows you up. The feeling you get when you realise you have just turned away a superking mattress for your own bed and are now lying on its incredibly comfortable smaller sibling.

I admit it, I was wrong! Completely totally damn-this-bed-is-comfortable wrong! Previously the spare room had been occupied by a sprung mattress from a well known national store which wasn't a patch on the Dormeo one. The Memory Deluxe is both firm and soft. The memory foam top gives way just the right amount and the firm core supports it.

My father-in-law was the first to test it out this week when he stayed in the spare room and he was immensely impressed. I don't think he liked to say it, but the one we had before was pretty uncomfortable. Not only did he spend seven very comfortable nights on it last week, but he's coming back for Theo's birthday at the weekend and I have just been told he's coming a day earlier than originally planned. Either that's to sample more of my cooking or it's because the bed is so comfortable. I know what my money is on...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Win a new bed or a glamping holiday!

How do you fancy winning £700 to spend on a new bed? You could treat yourself to this gorgeous King size Isabelle Bed Frame and turn your master bedroom into a romantic boudoir! Or perhaps the runner's up prize is more your kind of thing... A glamping holiday in a super-chic canvas lodge at Mill Farm in Wiltshire.

I know both sound rather appealing to me, especially as our bed seems to be squeaking in a very annoying manner since we moved it into our new bedroom!

So what do you have to do for your chance to win? Well, CarpetRight are looking for photographs of you, a friend or family member sleeping in strange places. Whether its collapsed at their desk, passed out on the stairs or fast asleep in the garden, they want you to share your pictures...

To enter all you need to do is get in touch with them via social media...

Tweet @carpetright
Tag Carpetright in a facebook status update
Or include @carpetrightuk in an Instagram post

And remember to add the hashtag #weirdestplacestosleep

The oddest sleeping place that is revealed will win £700 to put towards a new bed and the runner up will enjoy a family midweek break in the beautiful British countryside with Mill Farm luxury holidays worth up to £380!

Not sure you have a photograph of a strange sleeper in your family? Perhaps look to pets and children for inspiration. I used to like sleeping the wardrobe when I was a kid - I can't be the only one?!

Full details of the competition are here and you have until 3rd September 2014 11:59AM to enter - Good Luck!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Planning our dream bedroom...

Our bedroom is currently a very blank canvas. This is for two reasons, firstly indecision about what we want to do with it and secondly what money we had left at the end of the building work went on the more important areas like the sitting room and Theo's bedroom. It has white walls, a rotating selection of white duvet covers and no curtains or blinds (we are using Theo's old travel blackouts at night!) The boldest design decision that we've made so far was actually made by my sister who chose the fabric for our bedside lights.

So when I saw Heart Home were running a competition in partnership with the newly launched Good To Be Home magazine to design your dream room, my first thought was that it would be a great reason to force me to consider some ideas for our bedroom and to start the process of thinking about how to make the room more homely.

After several hours of browsing for ideas (it's amazing how I can procrastinate when I have university work to do) this is what I came up with. I wanted to incorporate some of the colours of the sea and land near us, but also to use yellow to add a pop of colour. I tried to use materials that suggested the sea through texture and pattern rather than a more explicit nautical bedroom.

(1) Acrylic Seascape by Stuart Roy. £185 from - I have always hankered after owning an acrylic or oil painting as I think there is something quite wonderful about being able to see the brush strokes in the picture. This seascape pulls together the colours of our room and its undulating paintbrush strokes echo the natural shapes the sea carves in the earth.

(2) Hanging chair (various) - Our double doors look out over farmland towards the harbour. It's a lovely view and would be a great spot to relax with a book. As we have a structural beam directly above the doors, I thought it would be the perfect place for a hanging chair.

(3) Sellarsbrook Yellow Rug. £4,548 from The Rug Company - I'd love an extra large yellow geometric rug, as this is a dream bedroom there is no one to stop me spending the price of a small car on one, so this beauty can go on my list!

(4) Indigo Hand Dyed Shibori Cushion, £28 from Rebecca Desnos on Etsy. - Tie Dye is big news right now and the washed out look of this cushion reminded me of the way fabrics on board boats can be faded by sun and salt.

(5) Harris Tweed Herringbone Throw - Personally I cannot think of a fabric that connects more directly with the sea than this one. It's pattern imitates waves and it originates in the windswept Western Isles of Scotland. My Harris Tweed bag came from a lady who made them in a cottage a few feet from the shore, I'm sure she'd make a great throw for our bed too.

(6) Seascape wallpaper by Anthropologie, £31 a roll - A lovely subtle undulating wallpaper which would make a beautiful feature wall. This being my dream bedroom, I'd also like to hire someone in to hang it. Jim's only just got over doing the bathroom last week

(7) Moss Stitch Cushion by John Lewis, £25 - The texture of this cushion reminded me of the thick cream knitted jumpers that fishermen wear. I think it would look great on our bed.

(8) A stack of vintage books - Yes I know most of us have Kindles these days, but there's nothing like the wrinkled pages of a well thumbed novel. In my dream bedroom I'd have hours to read under the covers and no digital distractions, so having a stack of these on hand would be essential.

(9) Reclaimed wood headboard - Top of my list of things to change in our bedroom is to create a headboard for our Ikea Malm bed. There are stacks of ideas and hacks out there and I'd really like to create something similar to this for our room. (original image source)

(10) Upcycled yellow midcentury bedside table - This is a beautiful piece I found online and I'd like to find a similar pair for our room and paint them yellow to add a splash of colour.(original image source)

(11) Linen curtains - If this blog post has achieved one thing it is that I have finally worked out what I want for material for our curtains! I think linen is such a beautiful natural textile and the neutral colour will work well with the other elements in the room. I would make my own to keep costs down.

(12) Beach Hut Style Chest Of Drawers by Camberwood at Not On The High Street, £521 - Our current chest of drawers are very bland. They aren't even Ikea, they are imitation Ikea! (can you believe it!) this chest of drawers with an array of twilight blues, would be an absolute delight to wake up to every morning.

You can see more of my ideas on my Pinterest board here...

Good to be Home Dream Room Competition

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Living Arrows - 34/52

ISO 640, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/50

A week away from turning 3, Theo is interacting with the world in more complex ways every day. He is a spontaneous hugger of strangers, a boy who dances on the spot when he's excited, a chap who likes to eat his breakfast without his shorts on, a fan of the fairer sex, an appreciater of Lego, a compulsive collector of cars. tidy (mostly) happy (nearly always) and already particular about his clothes. His sentences are getting longer, his humour more sophisticated, his appetite for the company of his friends is growing.

The weeks are flying by at the moment we are all so caught up in our own projects that I'm in danger of missing the opportunity to capture him as he grows. Thank heavens for this linky at least to pause once a week...

living arrows

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Homebase bank holiday bargain...

For some strange reason in the seven years we have been married, Jim and I have never bought ourselves a TV unit. Of course we've had lots of things that have served as TV units, like sideboards and tables, but we've never actually had something made for the job, so when Homebase contacted us recently and asked if there was anything we needed for our new home, a tv unit was the first thing I thought of... but could we really get anything decent for a £100 budget?

I did some research online and then yesterday first thing we went along to our local store to take advantage of the 15% off bank holiday promotion. When we arrived everything looked different in the flesh to online. Not better or worse, just different.

I wandered around the display at the front of the store getting more and more confused and then decided to go and find Jim and in doing so stumbled across another totally separate display of tv units with this little gem...

This TV unit was originally selling for £239.99 and had been reduced to £119.99 and then this weekend has an extra 15% off in the Bank Holiday sale, bringing it down to £101.99. It was a smidge over our budget so we paid the extra with our nectar points!

Online it says it is "wood effect" on the box it said it was "solid and veneer." Personally I think it feels very much like a piece of solid oak furniture and it looks like it's worth every bit of the £240 it was originally selling for. All the parts fitted together very well and the doors have a very satisfying firm magnetic pop when you open and close them. I honestly can't believe they are selling something of this quality for nearly £100. The sale is on in store till the end of Monday and there appear to be some codes online (here) offering the discount online till the end of Tuesday, but I bet the stock they have won't stick around...

This is a review post in association with Homebase

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