Thursday, 31 December 2009

Always Say Thank You

I have been holed up here, protecting my sensitive skin from the cold winter air and after the many dinners, drinks and parties we have recently attended it was time to sit and write my thank you notes. Being polite and courteous is very high up on my list of correct behaviour, along with an agreeable standard of personal hygiene, it is so easy to write a simple missive of gratitude. If people have been kind enough to invite myself and handsome husband to an event it is only good form for me to write and thank our hosts. I am aware that many people like to send emails or texts, however, I prefer the personal touch and always send a handwritten note.
I sit at my desk with pen in hand and wait for the appropriate words to flow, but today I encountered an obstacle and not of the word variety but of the stationery kind. I had made the terrible error of not re-ordering my note cards when I had used the second from last, and had only one left.
As it is still cold outside I felt the pull of my warm computer beckoning me to explore the many possibilities of stationery choices, so naturally I caved in to the call and began surfing. I knew that I would be safe with Smythsons, and indeed The Wren Press (both by appointment from Her Majesty), then there is the Walton Street Stationery Company which can also be relied upon, but although of the highest quality they are not exactly exciting or fun and I want to emulate my frame of mind for this New Year, in fact, this new decade which I am quite certain will be exciting and I intend to make fun for myself and loved ones, I've had quite enough of the previous years doom and gloom, and a positive outlook is predicted in my world.
Following some relaxing browsing I stumbled upon some fabulous notelets and cards which are witty, elegant, beautiful and offer me a delightful assortment of choice. Prudence Loves has a very fine selection of suitably amusing worded cards to bring a smile to the receivers face, and Fraser and Parsley offers bespoke cards (and gift tags if required) which will brighten any ones day should they open this little envelope over breakfast. I have made my purchases and await their arrival so I can begin my new year as I mean to continue, exuding the highest standards at all times. Happy New Year.....

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My Christmas

One of my favourite bloggers Helena Halme and Life The Universe and all that's in it did this on their blogs and I couldnt resist taking part, as this may well be my final post of the year, I would like to wish you all a very beautiful Christmas and a happy New Year.

What you're supposed to do is to copy this entire post and paste into a new post on your blog. Change all the answers so that they apply to you.This is not a Meme or a Tag. You simply play along if you wish to. Or just read the answers!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper which coordinates with my Christmas theme.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Definitely real and very tall.

3. When do you put up the tree? The weekend before Christmas - infact today, and we all decorate together.

4. When do you take the tree down? 12th Night, I'm a traditionalist.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, oddly.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A Cindy doll with several matching outfits.

7. Hardest person to buy for? Step-dad. What do you buy for the man who has all his heart desires.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My mother, as we love the same things.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No. I find them spooky.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, but haven't done them yet..

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A wrapped up orange, which had gone mouldy - from my ex-mother-in-law, no love loss there.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It's a Wonderful Life.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Mid-december, before panic can set in.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Absolutely not.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I adore bread pudding, but only ever have it on Christmas day.

16. Lights on the tree? Yes, white fairy lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Jingle Bells. So jolly.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? At home, with family and friends.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Rudolph, Vixen, Dancer, that's all I can remember, and they may not even be right, so no.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? An Angel my smallest chap made at school.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning, with wrapping flying and large shouts of joy, followed by a light breakfast of Christmas muffins.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? People rushing about in panic and not enjoying the sparkling lights everywhere.

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color? Candels, traditional theme, white/silver and pastels.

24. Favorite for Christmas Dinner? We have Christmas lunch. Canapes(homemade), turkey, stuffing, crisp roast potatoes, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, sprouts, carrots, parsnips and lots of gravy. Christmas pud, or fruit tart and end with mince pies.

25. What do you want to do for Christmas this year? Something sparkling for my ears.

26. Favorite Christmas tradition growing up? Laying the table on Christmas Eve for the following day for 30!!

27. Favorite tradition now? Making mincemeat and mincepies with my small herd of chaps.

28. Favorite Christmas Memory? Receiving a pet tortoise from my parents.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Party In Silk Pyjamas

Last night opened my eyes to what really goes on in this quiet lane I reside in. We received an invitation for a party where the dress code was white, absolutely anything was acceptable as long as it was white. This has never really been my colour, I do, naturally, have many white shirts, which should be a staple to every woman's personal collection as they can be teamed with a vast variety of clothing and can be dressed up or down, worn alone or underneath garments. My personal favourite is a Jil Sander crisp white shirt worn with jeans, and my faithful Joseph blazer or when I'm a having a rock chic moment my Dolce & Gabbana brown leather jacket (yes I can do rock chic). I do also posses a pair of white earl jeans, but they are just too Liz Hurley to be seen in other than on holiday. I never, ever wear white dresses, they just make me look ill and I find even expensive makes just somehow look nasty, which leads me on to white heels which just have far too many connotations attached to them to ever be worn. Flat white shoes are acceptable, but can only be worn for one season as they just get grubby.

So I found myself in a fix, I couldn't just wear a white shirt, how ever elegant, for a start I'd be far to cold, more importantly I would look ridiculous. I felt I had no choice than to ask handsome husband for advice, something I rarely do when it comes to fashion, let's just say our tastes are different and he just doesn't really get women's clothing at all. He had decided to wear his cricket whites which I thought quite inventive for him. He was sitting in his favourite club chair by the fire in the drawing room, reading The Times sport section when I approached and asked him to just focus for one minute on a problem I was having, he dutifully put down the paper and listened as I explained my dilema, he looked in the burning embers of the fire and said "pyjamas". Brilliant, he always comes up trumps for me when it really matters. I have two pairs of white pyjamas, one super warm flannel pair from The White Company which was a gift from a girlfriend when we moved down here, and a rather slinky silk set bought from Apartment C in Marylebone. I felt, as it was a party it would be the silk ones worn with a pair of magical black silk heels with a diamante buckle from Gina.

We arrived at the already bustling party and were welcomed by the hostess wearing a flirty little tutu number, glasses of champagne were thrust into our hands and we were gathered into the fold of merriment. During the course of the evening I encountered snowflakes, angels, Jack Frost, brides in full bridal wear, a marshmallow (really), a milk bottle, Arabs, a knight in white satin and the most entertaining, the entire troupe of Abba, all four in fabulous white outfits and even wearing the white platforms, who then proceeded to perform for us. Initially I thought they were hired entertainment, but on closer inspection it transpires that two of the group have a child in the same boarding house as our biggest chap, and he is a fighter pilot and quite a serious and intense gentleman (normally), but not this evening, where I he exposed a whole hidden side of his character. He performed on the piano and sang to the roar of the crowd for their great friends, the hosts.

We stumbled back home in the early hours having sung many Abba greats, I didn't realise I knew so many. How fortunate it was that I was already in my pyjamas I just wiped off my make-up, whipped of my knickers and jumped into bed with the tune of Gimme, Gimme a Man After Midnight floating in my head.
For all Abba news take a peek at and for some beautiful pyjamas Apartment-C (site currently under construction).

Saturday, 12 December 2009

It's a Wrap

I have, since my stint on House & Garden, too many years ago to remember, had an obsession with coordinating my gift wrapping, particularly at this festive time of year when presents lay around for a while. It is paramount that there is ascetic harmony under my tree, none of this nasty mishmash of clashing colours, patterns and baubles. I choose to blend colours so they complement each other and are soothing on the eye.

So to ensure artistic balance, I plan ahead and allow myself plenty of time for contemplation to unearth Jewell's of the wrapping world presenting a pleasing theme, and I now have a new and calming place to do my thinking at the newly elegantly restored Grosvenor Hotel in Shaftesbury, where I can sit and read, and think and eat and drink in the kind of luxury and elegance that can only inspire. The charming owners have skillfully designed this once sad looking dilapidated building into a contemporary retreat for comfort seeking visitors.

As I sat eating my Omelet Arnold Bennett and sipping a glass of crisp wine I felt ready to tackle my wrapping project and had brought with me my tools for research, Vogue, World of Interiors, and Tatler, a distinguished and suitable medley of magazines to give me a cross section of ideas.

The overriding topic I gauged from these bibles of style was a strong focus on pastels, and that I have decided will be my theme this year for my Christmas wrapping, which heartens me as I have repeatedly been drawn to pastels over the years, and when I gaze into my knitwear cupboard it does sometimes resemble a sweetshop of pastel goodies.

Finding pastel wrapping at this time year is quite a challenge as most shops are full of red, gold, green and silver wares, which is super if that is your theme, but not helpful to me. Fortunately there must be some like minded people living here as in a boutique which also sells some interesting and unique accessories I found what I was looking for, a mouthwatering selection of pastel wrapping paper and I decided I would favour a lavender and pink combination which I shall tie together with some thick velvet and silk ribbon from an enormous haberdashery shop (actually warehouse) within walking distance of home.

With that job done and another item I can cross of my list, I feel more relaxed and well on the way to Christmas harmony, only 27 more things to cross off and 13 more days to go... If you ever find yourself in the Shaftesbury area and need a boutique place to rest your weary legs visit Hotel Grosvenor.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Love of a Sloegasm

A rather short tale for you today, you will have to forgive me, I am suffering ever so slightly from last nights events.

Our very jolly new friends down the lane invited us for dinner which is delightful for more than one reason, firstly the hostess is a fabulous cook and secondly we can walk, which means we can both have a few tipples. Off we ambled down the lane towards our dinner destination and we marvelled at how refreshing it was to be meeting new people (the other guests), walking, and the lack of fretting in deciding what to wear, as dinner at home in the country is so very different from London, and is a far more relaxed event, the men (mostly) wear cords, or moleskin trousers, check shirts and some form of loafers, handsome husband, being a traditionalist in mens attire is very happy with this, particularly as he owns many pairs of brown suede loafers, which to me all the look the same, but he assures me there are subtle differences. I settled for a pair of navy Marc Jacobs cords and a Gaby Harris navy lightweight sweater, a string of pearls with earrings to match, and a pair of navy suede tods, so handsome husband and I were both in suede shoes.

We arrived punctually at the allotted time and were greeted by our hosts and their guests. The log fire was burning, and tempting smells were wafting from the kitchen. Our jackets were taken and hung in the boot room and we were guided into the drawing room for drinks. Our host offered handsome husband a drink who requested a beer, he then approached me eyes twinkling and asked if I would like a Sloegasm. I am a woman who has lived life to the full, having partied my way through my late teens, and twenties, in various cities around the world and feel that I have experienced all that I have wanted to (let's just leave it at that), so being offered a drink I have never heard of came as a surprise and of course I accepted with some excitement. A few minutes later my host returned with a sparkling jewel coloured gem served in a cool crystal glass, I took a small gulp and was instantly won over by this intriguing liquid, a cocktail of homemade pink sloe gin topped with Champagne.

I really can't tell you anything further about our evening as it is all quite a haze now, but handsome husband swears that I did not misbehave in any way, was not rude to anyone, and was an absolute lady throughout the dinner, what ever happened on our return home has, however, kept a smile on his face all day, thank goodness I would hate to let my standards slip.

To find out how to make your own sloe gin take a peek at Sloe Biz and then top with a little Champagne.

Friday, 4 December 2009

London Calling

I do dash back to London from time to time to see my favourite experts in specialist fields, hair colourist, hair stylist, eyebrow threader, facialist, dermatologist, dentist, hygenist, homeopath, naturopath and of course my favourite friends my partners in crime, my clubbing mates, (yes I can still dance), my gossip accomplices, my girlie friends who I love and adore and share all secrets with, and I usually have a rigid schedule of appointments with the specialist team to keep me gorgeous and groomed, followed by lunch, dinner and tea dates, slotted in between visiting my favoured homes of luxury wear and goods (shops), and this last visit was no different.

On my visits back I'm always asked if I miss living in London and all it has to offer, and being such a lover of all things beautiful, soft, silky, and desirable some of my friends are doubtful of my conversion to country life. It is true that all roads for extravagance and opulence lead to London (when in England), but do those roads lead to happiness, a feeling of well being, calmness and peace, and I must report to you that they do not, certainly on a few weekends before Christmas when actually all the roads in London lead to sheer chaos, misery and frustration. Even in my spirited little clubman where I have a music system to match any nightclub and the interior mood lights to add ambiance, I could feel the familiar twitch of stress in my shoulders as I sat with other motorists along the Marylebone Road, so to pass the time I observed the cars around me, as one would expect a good selection of German motor cars dotted amongst large spotless 4x4's which is quite hilarious as I can't quite see the necessity for these enormous beasts of the road here in London when they are clearly of no use at all unless you were to indulge in a little off road driving along Marylebone High Street or St Johns Wood High Street to avoid the dreadfully parked cars or potholes, and they are immaculate, which with all the rain we've been having is astonishing, perhaps there is no mud in London because every single car in my part of the countryside, whatever the model, is completely mud spattered.

However, road and transport issues aside, London was looking resplendent with the magic of Christmas dust sprinkled all around, twinkly lights, delightful window displays, enticing end of year smells, cinnamon, frankincense, and mir mingled with sausage roll scents from The Ginger Pig(were the three kings lurking nearby) and as I drifted down the streets my senses savoured all the sights, sounds and smells. With my list held firmly in my Hermes gloved clad hand, I entered shops hopeful of purchasing gifts for my loved ones, and full of childlike excitement I smiled at sales girls all lined up waiting for me to make my choices, but they did not smile back, they looked bored and glum. I smiled at some of my fellow shoppers and sadly they did not smile back either. What is wrong with everyone, this is a joyful time of year. My girlfriend I met for lunch at The Providores explained it to me, I was looking at everything through the eyes of a visitor, these jaded shoppers are simply numb to the whole event now, living with it all day in day out, they just don't see it anymore, it has become a habit, a duty, a reflex almost, they just don't appreciate it.

Well I will never allow others gloom to effect me so off I skipped from lunch and continued to smile at everyone, and eventually I found people began to smile back, I hummed Christmas tunes to myself and they smiled more, they probably thought I was off my head, but if it brings a smile, I am delighted. I made some gratifying purchases and even managed to slot in a little trip to Laduree in Burlington Arcade for some Macaroons for my small tribe at home, followed by a quick whirl around the most beautiful shop in the world (really) Fortnum and Mason where I bought myself a small trinket of the shiniest kind for my ears.

I loaded all my goodies into the dinky boot of my car and headed out of London along the A40 towards home, and as the lights of London grew dim behind me I realised I had enjoyed my visit but was so very glad to be heading away from the mayhem of London and towards the harmony of my lovely new home and to my very handsome husband who (secretly) I had missed and my crazy brood of boys, who on arrival did not disappoint me as the eldest had brought home 2 (large) friends for the night who were found delving in the pantry for food, and asking me if we had some beer in. Oh it's good to be home...... If you fancy a bite in Marylebone the Providores wil fill you up nicely, and if you feel the need for a funky little motor I recommend a gorgeous Mini to whiz about in.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Big Stick To Hold On To

The weekends here in the countryside just seem to hurtle by with a great flurry of activity. All unique to us, all fun and all within easy driving distance and without the stress inducing addition of traffic and London parking issues. On Saturday handsome husband took our smallest chap and I for late breakfast in our Ottolenghi equivalent high up in an ancient Saxon hill top town. We were served delectable homemade pastries, my favourite being a croissant stuffed full of cinnamon laced apples, which I wickedly dipped in to my rich and creamy hot chocolate, totally sinful I know but life is for living, and I knew we would be doing some walking to inspect the new boutique that has opened here.

On leaving the town we whizzed down the hill at great speed, hair flying in the breeze, towards our next destination and event, an open day at our favoured Organic Farm where we found novel wares on offer and (more) food. We were particularly taken with the Stick Man who makes the most extraordinary and elegant walking sticks which are exquisitely decorated and other enchanting wooden paraphernalia. Handsome husband likes to have a stick to grasp on our lengthy walks and chose one with a handle shaped as a human thumb, I think every gentleman should have a big stick.
The evening was taken up with a trip to our pub, where we ate heartily and were entertained by tales of a days shooting by some insanely macho chaps dressed in what I consider a rather dandy array of breeks (short trousers), waistcoats, check shirts and ties. Can men be macho and dandy at the same time became the topic of conversation with handsome husband, who explained that the correct dress code was imperative at these country pursuit events and there was nothing dandy about it. I will take his word for it as he can be quite persuasive, and as an avid reader of the Shooting Times is all knowing on issues of country attire.
We rose to the sounds of bells ringing out from the church and discussed while eating berries and warmed brioche in bed from my silver tray, what activities we should participate in. We had several options, the Victorian Christmas Fair with ice rink at the school (chilly), drinks at the pub with some friends (afternoon hangover), or a trip to a local antiques fair (liable to purchase something totally unnecessary). Instead of doing any of the above we opted for something far more earthy and handsome husband, the dog and I went on a winter wonderland walk here on a bright, crisp morning ensuring we put his big stick to good use.
For some naughty treats to eat visit Turnbulls for every gourmet whim.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Teachers Pet

We have reached that time in the school calendar when emails, phone calls and little notes begin to fly around with requests for ideas for the teachers gift. Now for those of you out of the school loop, there are various options here and that will often depend on the 'class rep' which after my first experience many years ago, I vowed never to hold this post again, a truly thankless task, unless you a. have nothing else to do in your life or b. are immune to rejection, needless to say neither of these apply to me.
Here are some of the options which I have witnessed over the years. Vouchers (boring), jewellery (why bother if it's not Cartier), bathing products (a slight suggestion of bad hygene) chocolates (assumption that the receiver doesn't care about her waistline), candles (no imagination). Of course with all these suggestions is the unquestioning acceptance that all class parents will contribute, and therefore will not need buy a gift themselves. Bluntly speaking this leaves no room for individuality, it simply implies that one just can't be bothered, well not me Mrs Class Rep, I'm Little Miss Rebel and I won't sign up to this sheep like mentality, I pride myself on always being able to pick the correct gift for each person, savouring the whole present selection ritual. So I ignore these emails, and suggestions of 'getting together over coffee' to discuss the selection, and I take myself off. I so much prefer shopping alone, it's not that I don't like the company of friends (or handsome husband), it is simply that I take this process seriously and require full focus and concentration on the task at hand, and when I shop with others, I tend to make errors, and that just won't do when choosing something completely exquisite for the teachers.
I began my search locally, just in case the ideal gift might be lurking in one of the little shops here and oh how fortunate as the tiniest shop in the world (really I mean this, handsome husband always says if he was feeling aroused in there he wouldn't be able to get out - show off), had some wonderful trinkets to choose from, and I calculated that as I hadn't had to drive, therefore saving on petrol I might be able to treat myself too.
The glamorous lady who runs the shop informed me that they had searched with great care to ensure they could offer their clientele exceptional and unique gifts and they succeeded. So I cleared my mind of distractions and focused on my mission of finding the correct gift for the teacher and her assistant. I began to delve through all the brightly coloured and sparkling goodies on offer the choice was dazzling, candles, soaps, mugs, earrings, rings, bangles,whisks, t-shirts, gloves, silk eye masks, hair bands, scarves, belts, roller skates, purses, flasks, torches and all divine and totally random, but not suitable for our special teacher. I knew there was something in here for her I had to think outside the box - of course OUTSIDE, and sitting right there in the little courtyard at the back of the shop was the gift of gifts for this teacher, a tiny herb garden all of her own in its own container and comes with matching snipping scissors. Our lovely fairytale teacher is always growing things for the children and on one of our before drop off chats she has told me how she loves to cook and wishes she had some space to grow her own, so now she can. For the teaching assistant who cycles everywhere I found a clever little gift of a bicycle picnic set so now she can cycle and picnic in style and comfort too. I was so delighted with my finds I had to reward myself with a big gold star, a dainty gold star brooch to be precise which will sit with pride on my lapel. What's on your wish list Little Miss Gorgeous?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Something Furry to Keep Me Warm

It has been getting quite chilly down here, now that winter has finally arrived, and I have been keeping myself cosy and warm by layering up with cashmere and silk, and staying close to the Aga. We are also fortunate in having large open fires (in most of the rooms), and handsome husband is quite a dab hand at getting them going, and early every morning he goes out to the woods and soon returns with some logs and kindling, holding his chopper triumphantly (clearly something he learnt at scouts)!

Once outside it is all a very different story and its completely freezing, and although I do have some warm coats, sheepskin lined, tweed and a sumptuous Ralph Lauren camel and cashmere piece, they just aren't keeping me as protected from the chill that I feel they should be, and I certainly don't want to spend the winter months indoors for fear of frostbite every time I step outside.

I was feeling quite disheartened as I stomped into town wearing so many layers of clothing and handsome husbands Loro Piana overcoat, I felt I might topple over with the weight of it all, when I spotted a fox heading towards the bakers. When I say fox, I mean a coat, a glorious specimen of fur. Now I know there may be someone now reading this who thinks it abhorrent to even consider such a thing, wearing a dead animal, but really when a girl is as despondent as this there simply is no choice, and I will be quite bold now and tell you that I completely adore fur, I think it was an introduction at an early age from my Grandmother, who's boyfriend was a furrier and she had what might be considered now quite a scandalous collection of fur attire, and I have been a devotee every since.

So I rushed home (not easy under all that weight) and began my search for the flawless fur. I was a little side-tracked in this quest by the lure of an antiques fair in one of the larger towns close by. At previous fairs I have often examined stalls trading in fur coats, jackets, scarves and hats, and have repeatedly been captivated by the gleaming, sleek assortments on offer, however, this was not one of those occasions, and the furs I did see were a sorry, sad looking limp excuse for the animal/s it had once been. Back in the haven of home, I reached for my bible of hope, and font of all knowledge on things elegant, Vogue. I poked the fire and began to leaf through the glossy pages and was transfixed almost instantly by a magnificent beast from Fendi, aah of course, the Italians always know exactly how to look understated when nobody else can pull it off. They are easily spotted in cities around the world, swishing around in their minks, foxes, sables et all, and with the obligatory sunglasses, suntans and dark swarthy looks and that's only the men.

After a phone call with a delightful Italian chap in Sloane Street, who knew exactly what I desired, I am glad to report that I am no longer remotely chilly when I venture out into the world, and handsome husband is so taken with the fur that he hasn't been in such a hurry to rush out with his chopper recently and prefers to stroke my wild animal.....If you fancy a furry friend seek out Fendi or if English is more your thing there is always Hockley.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Where I seal my fete!

I know I have been accepted here in my tiny town, as I received a personal invitation for the annual charity Coffee Morning, hand delivered by the woman who is the chair of the committee. Naturally, I invited her in for tea and (homemade) biscuits, and took her on a tour of the house, which thankfully had just been polished and scrubbed by my wonderful help here. I could tell she was eyeing up the space to see whether it might be suitable to host next years event, the giveaway was when she whipped out her tape measure, saying she was interested in the size of the sisal rug in our drawing room!
We chatted for a while about the town, the schools, the children, the new interiors shop, and the problems of keeping pets safe when fireworks are exploding, then she sprang it on me, would I consider joining the committee. I didn't want to rush into this as I hate to devote myself to anything until I have checked all avenues, and there may be an alternative charity group that I should be steering towards, so I stalled for time, saying that I was just finishing off with my responsibilities for the various charities I was involved with in London, and as soon as I handed these over, I would certainly be looking to become absorbed locally in charity work. This did the trick, and she left with a smile and wave, and a fistful of my biscuits she said her children would adore at tea-time - likely story.
The day of the coffee morning arrived, and fortunately it wasn't raining, which meant I wouldn't need to wear wellies, although I do possess a rather luxurious leather lined Le Chameau pair, they are not exactly elegant, I've never seen a pair of wellies that are, even my mothers Gucci ones, which do come close, but rubber is rubber and there is only so much you can do with it for your feet. It was important to be dressed correctly, overdressing might be considered ostentatious and jeans, although my current cherished pair are J Brand, might be thought scruffy. This was the ideal opportunity for me to bring out my latest purchase from Joseph, a pair of highly flattering trousers the same colour of my favourite chocolate bar, teamed effortlessly with a super soft Pringle pistachio coloured cable knit long cashmere coatigan (the new word of the season). I appraised my choice and concluded I looked very 'Bond Street on a Monday'.
Off I toddled with my Anya Hindmarch basket and arrived at a very beautiful house at the foot of the lane where the event was being held, hosted by a tall, handsome woman who was completely charming and who very kindly guided me around the rooms, introducing me to so many (mostly) ladies, there was no way I could possibly remember all their names. Her home is enchanting, and this was emphasised by the array of gleaming and sparkling goods on offer, all being sold in aid of charity. I began to make my way around the stalls, filling up my basket as I went with some sensational gifts, food, cards, clothes and jewellery, all of which was quite unexpected as I didn't anticipate that I would actually want to buy anything, and I was terribly impressed. These ladies were not amateur arts and crafters, they were the real deal, and after chatting to a few of the stall holders it transpires that many of these ladies have thriving businesses, and some supply to the very boutiques and stores I left behind in London. I thought it was very clever of the committee to invite all these marvellous traders and expressed this to one of them, whereupon, in hushed tones, she intimated that the hostess had a real struggle with the chair lady who had been completely against introducing items that people would genuinely want to buy, and felt it should remain very much a home made (not very exciting) affair. Does this not defeat the whole point of a coffee morning for charity?
Once I had filled my basket, and my arm was beginning to ache, I set off in search of coffee, this was after all a coffee morning, and sure enough in the hub of the house, the kitchen, I found a place to park my trim bum and plonked my basket down next to me, and there she was, the chair lady, holding court around the kitchen island, tucking in to more biscuits. I listened to the polite chatter and tinkle of laughter and was then asked if I had made any purchases - I began to pull out my acquisitions and told my attentive audience that this was by far the best charity event I had been to since leaving London, and how refreshing to find things that were not only perfect gifts, but were of the highest quality, and how very brilliant the chair lady had been in getting all the sellers on board, and how lovely it would be to do it all again next year, and perhaps she should consider a summer event too.
My fate is now sealed, as after this exchange, several of the ladies agreed with me, and insisted I join them in organising the whole thing, particularly as they had heard how large and beautiful my garden is, and that it might just be the perfect venue for a summer charity fete. Oh dear, how will I explain all this to handsome husband, perhaps if I promise a beer tent it might placate him....

Friday, 23 October 2009

Fun and Games in The Kitchen

We have recently had a pretty packed house here, and at times, I have felt as if I am running a small and efficient B&B, for Londoners wishing to enjoy some country air, and teenage boys looking for a bed to crash in and copious amounts of filling food to cram into their ever open mouths.

I adore having friends to stay and enjoy preparing for their arrival. I have a finely tuned routine to ensure every comfort is considered and each guest feels all their needs are catered for. Firstly I deal with the guest suite, making sure the beds have newly laundered linen, all crisp and fresh smelling. Delicately scented flowers, and an array of magazines to suit all tastes! Soft and fluffy large towels, none of those teeny ones that just about cover your assets. Several divine soaps, shampoos, and oils to soak in or if a shower is more your thing, some delicious fragrant shower gels, Jo Malone or Miller Harris, naturally.

Once I am satisfied with my work in the boudoir, I then begin the real domestic goddess part, in fact, this is my favourite bit. The Food. Oh my goodness, this is where I can really go to town and hone my cooking skills to perfection. This is where (I won't be my normal modest self here) I shine, frankly speaking, and I'm not afraid to say so. I can spend days preparing, beginning with the menu (you know how I love a list), then the shopping and choosing of produce from the fabulous host of gourmet outlets here, which often involves some tasting, and slurping of goods on offer. Then I set to work creating gastronomic ecstasy, total pleasure for the taste buds.

The guests arrive, and are warmly greeted by the dog and are given a tour by the eager kids, settled into their rooms (which I'm thinking of naming after previous owners for ease - that will be The Dashwood Suite, or The Charrington Rooms), and after all that activity are settled into a comfortable chair and given a strong drink, before dinner.

Now, I don't know about you, but I prefer canapes to hors d'oeuvres myself, as although they could be considered quite formal I find the opposite, as food is passed around for people to share, and as we are not seated at the dining table, this allows for free movement to chat to the other guests of choice. Nothing over the top you understand, just a little mouthful of smoked salmon, or my distinctive smoked trout terrine or even (if feeling the need for hearty sustenance) my out of this world sausage rolls (I have references from a Mr Anderson on these).

Dinner is served. This always runs smoothly, as I have timed all parts to perfection, and everything is ready exactly when it needs to be. My guests are all happy where they are seated and nothing gives me any more delight than seeing them all tuck in with gusto. Wines are chosen by handsome husband and he always gets it spot on and they blend rather than interupting the flavours of my beautifully cooked food.

However, I have been aware of a small problem, I suppose you might call it a wardrobe malfunction. Ofcourse I like to dress appropriately for dinner, and always like to maintain a polished appearance, but this has been somewhat thwarted by my very basic apron, which just wasn't adding anything to my look. So I remedied this with a little retail research to find an apron fit for a woman of taste, and I have come up trumps and now I am Miss Glamourous in the kitchen, with a vast confectionery of aprons to choose from, and handsome husband thought they were so sexy he made a suggestion which made me blush the same colour as my strawberry moose! Now you too can get some kitchen action by checking out Haute Hostess Aprons and if you are feeling really outrageous The Modern Courtesan - enjoy!!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I Shall Go To The Ball

What a hoot I have been having, a whirl of social activities that have left me quite frazzled. There have been drinks with some fabulous hearty boozers, dinners with some gourmet experts, lunches with elegant ladies, soiree launches with herds of smiling faces and finally the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top, The Hunt Ball.

It has been years, literally, since I last attend any of event of this nature, though the Tory fundraiser a couple of years back, with the Stones tribute band was, I suppose, quite close though nowhere nearly as formal, and I suspect the dancing was slightly better at the Hunt Ball.

This was to be a major attire logistical nightmare, as two outfit changes were required. Why, I hear you question. Two events in one evening, firstly a function at the school where the invitation stated lounge suit, and then on to the Hunt Ball. Now it may come as a surprise, but I, and as far as I am aware, none of the women I know own such a thing as a 'lounge suit', and even if I did it would certainly not be suitable for the Ball, where the invitation states 'black tie' (far more helpful), that's a longish frock for us ladies.

For the sake of simplicity and ease I felt it sensible to ensure that whatever I chose to wear to each event required the same (close your eyes chaps) lingerie, so all I had to do would be to slip out of one costume and into the other with little fuss. So all there was left to do was to decide which two dresses it would be.

I scrutinized my dresses with care, knowing my decision would be judged by others who were seasoned Ball frequenters, women who had mastered the fine art of Hunt Ball attire. I felt under enormous pressure, but being made of sturdy stuff and feeling secure in the knowledge that I possess an elegant assortment of garments, I began my selection, slowly and calmly discarding (in my mind, not on the floor) anything inappropriate, until I had reached the moment of clarity, two dresses made for each other a perfect fusion. For the school do, a chic clever little dress from Tibi, of green and cream silk, short but not mini, scoop neck and long arms, so not too much flesh on display, and the for ball a dreamy emerald Roberto Cavalli long rich velvet dress, which floats and glides as you move.

So we departed for our evening of fun and frolic in our crystal carriage (the old merc), waving goodbye to our flock. Handsome husband looked gorgeous in his lounge suit and we sauntered into the main hall of the school clutching hands. I glanced about me and felt completely secure knowing that my dress was perfect, perhaps a little fashionable but actually I didn't mind as standards must be maintained. We were entertained with some light music, some extremely palatable canapes, some sensational fireworks, and chatted with various convivial parents. Then it was time for the big change. We had planned to do this in our eldest's dorm, but unfortunately we had lost track of time and the doors to his house had been firmly bolted. I will be honest when I tell you (just between us), this is not the first time I have found myself in this sort of fix, and I knew exactly what action to take. Very simply we would change in the car. This is not as straightforward as one might think and changing in and out of dresses is far easier standing up than sitting down, so I wobbled about outside the car with the door open and handsome husband holding up a jacket to shield me from prying eyes, as I slipped out of one dress and into the other. Gosh, I felt like a teenage part girl all over again as I shimmied myself into my emerald piece of luxury.

It was well worth it, handsome husband said I looked ravishing, and I did dazzle all evening and my dress was much admired and commented on. We met some thoroughly engaging people including a most interesting woman who trades in fine wines, though I did find it difficult to concentrate on everything she was saying as I was so distracted by a thick slick of incredibly shimmering blue eye shadow she was wearing which gave the impression she had been made up by a soho drag queen. I did see some some extraordinary sights, voluptuous ladies squeezed into dresses that left little guessing as to what was underneath, and I am quite sure those groom lads and stable boys explored all the possibilities on offer. Gentlemen with spurs (careful where you tread), and one gentleman that must have been 105 speaking directly to a woman's large breasts. The dancing was spectacular, with legs flying and arms flaying in all directions as people grooved to great 80's classics.

We arrived home in the early hours and I definitely felt as if I had been driven home in a pumpkin, but at least I hadn't lost a glass slipper from Lanvin, and my dress most certainly had not turned into rags, and I had brought my Prince Charming home.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Pain In The Neck

I have always been keen on alternative therapies, and have had regular treatments from my homeopath, reiki healer, reflexologist, cranial osteopath, yoga master and have had aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy and shiatsu (not to be confused with shitsu, a small fluffy dog) and acupuncture.

Now I have a bit of a problem, well actually a large problem, a terrible pain in the neck and shoulders. I think it may have come about from carrying two pairs of fabulous new boots (same pair, in two colours), I just couldn't resist their supple suede texture, so alluring, so sensuous and so impractical for country wear, particularly the gorgeous camel coloured ones. I had found them on a trip to one of the large towns here, about 45 minutes drive away. I was seduced, quite easily, by the sales girl telling me that not everyone had heard of Pierre Hardy in her neck of the woods, well I have, and I know quality when I see it - so that was it, one pair in camel and one pair in black. The problem that arose, was that I hadn't quite realised how far away my car was from where I now found myself, and I would have got a bus back to it had I known which one to get, so I had to trudge my way back through this rather lovely ancient Roman town, and this is when I think I may have injured myself, as they were excessively heavy, and I could feel the tugging on my neck muscles as I walked.

It was when I couldn't turn my head to admire what I thought might be a mink collar on a rather stylish jacket, that I knew I was in trouble, and not yet being familiar with the local alternative therapists here, I had been knocking back my drug of choice, a cocktail of paracetamol and ibrobrufen, which the chemist assured me could be taken together, though I'm not so sure, as I had been feeling quite woozy. Fortunately, I was observed, in obvious discomfort in the butchers, as I strained to reach some fennel crackers, by a lovely lady who kindly asked me if I was in need of assistance. I explained my current predicament and she swiftly directed me to a local chiropractor who has a practice at a nearby organic farm that has very cleverly converted their barns and stables into commercial units, and not just any old units, there is a very smart art gallery run by an elegant woman who guides you expertly around her paintings, a fabulous interiors shop run by a women with a great eye for what works in any smart country home, a farm shop packed full with wonderful produce actually from the farm - you can't get fresher than that, and a little cafe serving delicious food of a very healthy variety.

I found my way to the top hayloft where the practice room is housed, and immediately began to feel the pain receding. I was asked many questions about my general health and well being, and I instantly knew I was in capable hands. Needless to say there was some pain involved with the various manipulations, massage techniques, strange prickling sensations from the ultrasound machine that sends signals to your muscles telling them to chill out, but overall compared to the pain I was already experiencing, it was minor.

I had to make two more visits and each time I could feel myself loosening up, and my lovely practitioner has told me to take it easy and rest-up. Easy to say, but no so easy to do, with handsome husband, big, middle, and little child and of course the dog all to attend to. So I have been quite cunning and have put aside some time for myself and transformed my bathroom into a haven of luxury, a place of peace and contemplation, my very own home spa, and the results are quite fabulous. Handsome husband was quite willing to assist in my recuperation and each evening I choose one oil from the seductive collection of Neal's Yard Essential Oil Blends (made very nearby in their eco-headquarters), which he then massages into my, no longer aching neck, though naturally I haven't told him yet that I'm cured, and may just have to keep up the pretence for a little longer, as I could get used to this.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Life's a Beach

The beach beckoned on a beautiful hot and sunny day, at the end of September. Heavens, if this is global warming, I'm all for it. I felt I should make the perfect picnic, a savoury delicacy such as a quiche (easy to transport), dainty sandwiches with select fillings, and a fruit tart, oh how I love a tart, as does handsome husband, who it transpires does sometimes consider what he should wear, because as I am so annoyingly organised and as I do every year I had packed away the summer wardrobe, except for a few select pieces that can cross over into autumn/winter with the addition of other items. I, along with the rest of the gorgeous people of this crazy island we live on, assume that September is the end of what we Brits call summer, but this year we were all wrong, and those naughty weather men and women didn't even have the courtesy to inform us that autumn was to become summer - oh it is all so confusing.

It was easy for handsome husband, as he, being so hardy, often wears shorts in the cooler weather, although when it's really chilly he will bung a cashmere sweater over his t-shirt. He was all fixed up for the days outing, shorts and t-shirt - no problem. Kids too, were fine and opted for similar outfits so they all looked like mini husbands. What about me, I wailed from the top of the stairs. I was told to pull myself together and look for something suitable in my vast wardrobe. Luck was in my favour, as I skimmed along the rails, there peeking out at me was a jewel of a dress from Allegra Hicks (who incidentally also does some beautiful homewares). I had grabbed it off the rail of a little boutique in a very nearby town, only two weeks ago, from the sale rail (ssshhh don't tell a soul), it was a complete bargain and I felt at the time rather proud to have spotted it, and knew it was not so fashionable to only be worn once or twice (at a push), and that I would get some wear out of it next summer - whenever that may be.

We arrived in what seemed like super quick time, now living so near to the sea what used to take hours is now a breeze of a journey. It was utterly idyllic, picturesque, surprisingly peaceful and very hot. The kids zoomed off for the water, while I laid out our towels, buckets and spades, beach games, balls, water wings, cutlery, glasses, liquid refreshment, picnic and, oh no in my haste to be out of the house and anticipating thousands of other families doing exactly the same thing and going in exactly the same direction, and wanting to be sure of good pitch on the beach I had forgotten the most important item we Brits really do need when the weather is unexpectedly good - suncream - oh hell, it would be ok for the kids as they could keep their t-shirts and sun hats on, and handsome husband goes ruggedly golden without burning and can survive well without suncream, I, however, being fair skinned was in a right fix, and I could already feel my delicate skin beginning to tingle.

As any girl, pushed to the limit would do, I began to cry, I think it was the torment knowing the facial I had only two days previously would now completely go to waste. I felt retched, and was getting hotter and hotter. Handsome husband sat down next to me on our White Company beach towels and began delving into the picnic hamper. My eyes now bleary with tears, I couldn't make out what he was doing until after a few moments he held up a hat made from linen napkins, it was the most beautiful sight, and I placed it on my hot head. He then fiddled around some more with the remainder of the napkins and, hey presto a gorgeous shawl to cover my shoulders. A man of so many talents!

The kids thought I looked very "funky" with my new accessories and began to tuck into the delicious picnic. Yum, yum they all declared and then the little one looked around for something to wipe his sticky chops on, and, just this once I turned a blind eye when he lowered his head and used his t-shirt to remove the messy smear from his mouth, and gave him a big sandy kiss.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Forget Sex In The City - It's definitely better in the Country

Oh thank you god, for creating gorgeous men. This was my Jilly Cooper moment, horse, hounds, and huntsman (not to be confused with the master tailors in Savile Row). It must have been the heady mix of late summer scents, horse poo, wet dog, and pure testosterone fuelled man, that did it. Believe me ladies, when I tell you, there just simply isn't any equivalent in London - or any other city. Picture this; 70 hounds barking (actually they don't bark they speak), tails wagging like they were pitching for a government grant to provide a new tail fuel power. Horses gleaming and steaming, nostrils flaring from the surge of the hunt, and lean, strong outdoor tanned huntsman, piercing blue eyes, white tight jodhpurs and scarlet coat, leaning down towards me breathlessly saying "Care to join me". Oh there is a god, and he loves me. "Oh, yes" I gushed, without hesitation and without thinking. Oh dear, my riding skills are questionable and they certainly don't stretch to flying over hedges and fences at great speed with a large hunter between my legs.

Interestingly, at this point being overcome with flattery from this dashing fellow, my clothing was way down my list of concerns. Along strides handsome husband who had appeared as if by magic. Now he can ride, and ride well, and as ever he became my saviour, rescuing me from this tight spot of having to reveal my riding inadequacies. "Darling, you can't possibly ride out today" he whispered "your kit is all wrong". I looked down, he was correct, no riding boots (note to self - get some immediately), no jodhpurs (another note to self along the same lines). I quickly recovered composure and came to my senses. "Oh I would love to join you, but have no riding gear with me as we are on our way to drinks, and hadn't anticipated staying - so maybe next time". I had been saved from myself by my handsome husband from a hunting caveman. I left the scene of my close encounter of the master huntsman kind feeling a deep desire to buy myself some completly outrageously sexy leather riding boots and oh so tight strides. Do check out Brogini where I shall be making my first firm horsey purchase.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Ben Fogle to the rescue - Indirectly!

I had reached a critical point on the accessory front. All my treasured handbags from, Celine, Vuitton, Hermes (just the one), Anya, Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, Pierre Hardy, Bottega - ok, I'd better stop that list right now, but you get the picture, are just not working here. They are either the wrong shape or wrong size or wrong colour or wrong occasion - just wrong, wrong, wrong. So being resourceful I googled country handbags, this was completely useless and I spent hours looking at saddle bags which was not what I had in mind.

I have recently been to several country fairs, which I hoped would inspire me, but again it was a false hope, as all the women here seem to only possess jute, organic, recycled bags, you know the sort you get from your local butcher or if in London your local Waistrose, and absolutely no good for me. I was beginning to get a little downhearted and was giving my Vuitton Neverfull a bit of a bashing when I chanced upon the perfect item. Hooooray I cried as I gazed through the window of a lovely little boutique I found in a very nearby town. Incidentally parking is 30p for 2 hours - bargain. Back to the bag I hear you shout. I walked in and rather than dive straight for it I took my time, glancing at the spectacular selection and variety of things on offer in this Aladdin's Cave. Home wares mingle in harmony with some tasteful knitwear, candles sit side by side with silk blouses and scented soaps peek out from shoe stands. All very clever, but where are the handbags? I never like to appear keen in shops and was about to approach the perfect and pert sales assistant for help when I saw them, nestled between some suede boots and brightly coloured cashmere jackets.

I sidled over and began to fondle the fabric, hmmmm some sort of heavyweight linen with leather handles, I was enjoying this. The moment of truth - how much - well I was pleasantly surprised and not overwhelmed with the urge to run out and get a night job to pay for this little gem. I needed to know more about these bags, who, what where did they come from. Shock and awe - they emanate indirectly from BEN FOGLE, that explorer chap on the telly. When I say indirectly, what I mean is, his very clever sister TAMARA FOGLE makes them and they are completely gorgeous, and I have fallen in love with all of them, but do feel a particular pull towards the Vintage Hungarian Linen one. So thank you Fogle clan for saving me from hangbag hell and introducing me to the deep pleasures of linen. Do take a look at Tamara Loves Leather.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Time for Tea

A new and intriguing development, and one which I did not anticipate. The Tea dilema. We had invited some new friends over for Tea, and ofcourse my main concern was what to wear for the occassion. Handsome husband just didn't get it, I tried to explain that unlike lunch which can be informal and dinner which is a time when we are allowed the luxury of dressing up a bit, Tea was not in my normal fashion dictionary, and frankly I was stumped, however the weather was helpful, being warm and sunny, and I decided we could definitely vacate to the garden for Tea, which made my decision of attire far easier, a tea dress ofcourse, isn't that why they are called so, were they not invented to help us ladies know exactly what to wear at 4 o'clock in the afternoon? Fortunately, I have a little Chloe dress which I think can definitely be described as a Tea Dress, draping in just the right spots, tiny pearlised buttons down the front, and darling gently puffed sleeves. Completely perfect. Aaah I hear you cry, what about footwear. No problem, sorted, I found some hardy, but elegant footwear on a seaside trip, strangely for me not a known label, but the perfect shape for this sort of occasion, round toed, and slightly wider heel than I normally wear, and definitely not high.
Our guests arrived and I was delighted to see that my clothes choice had been right, and the other ladies all looked equally elegant, in little dresses and one rather divine cashmere cropped cardigan from Marilyn Moore (I spied the label as it was on the back of the chair) and all was going well, I had warmed some scones, made the tea, decanted the cream and my fabulous homemade mulberry jam into bowls, and carried it all out to the garden on my gleaming tray. Every one oohed and aaahed at the sight of the delicious Tea feast. I poured tea into cups, and we all drank. Of course, we were all very polite about being the first to tuck into the grub, so I thought, being the hostess perhaps I should take the first scone. Oh how wonderful I felt as I sliced through the warm piece of perfection, then added a large dollop of thick cream, finished off with an even larger dollop of jam. I was focusing so much on the heavenly ritual of scone spreading I was unaware of anything else, and as I bit into the masterpiece I had created I found myself under attack from a vicious wasp. I lashed out with my right hand, knocking the mulberry jam flying. I watched as jam and bowl flew through the air and landed into the lap of my guest who had just placed her gorgeous pale pink Marilyn Moore cashmere sweater exactly there. The shame, it looked like a murder scene. Next time I will stick to cake and biscuits.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Standing Appointment

I have found a handy little salon, which I can walk to (in the right shoes) in about 2 minutes. I have been spying on it from the little blue cafe I found which sells perfect lattes and delicious pannini. I didn't want to go directly in, as it could have been embarrassing to simply turn round and walk out, if I didn't like what I saw ie. ladies in plastic caps having hair pulled through for highlights, so I watched, while sipping and stuffing, making sure to place myself at the right table for a birds eye view of the exit door of said salon.
I was pleasantly surprised, as ladies were going in looking, well I'll be kind, they looked average, and came out looking really quite lovely, with proper shiny locks, that had obviously been blow dried and had not been sat under some steaming weird drier that pulls out from the wall.
Then a wonderous moment, one of these ladies came out with not only shiny locks, but also that familiar limp wrist we all associate with wet nails needing not to touch anything. Oh hooray, a manicure beckons.
In I dashed, latte in hand, without hesitation to book myself in. I thought it would be wise to have manicure first and then I could spy in more detail at what was going on in the hairdresser section. Oh heaven, they had had a cancellation and could fit me in in 10 minutes.
Well, it was great, a perfectly acceptable manicure, though I insisted on using my own varnish (I always carry a bottle of my favourite Chanel Pink Rose with me, incase of emergencies), as I wasn't keen on any of their limited colours. The manicurist was pleasant, and it transpires she is a fully trained beautician and does facials, waxing etc.. Simply marvelous. We chatted about all the various agricultural shows coming up, and which were the ones to visit and those to give a miss.
Then it was time to pay, no great surprises here, the cost was about the same as in London, fair enough, and then I asked whether it was possible to make a Standing appointment. "Oh no madam, I'm afraid we only do all our appointments sitting down"!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

I've Arrived

I have arrived, and am beginning to feel my way around this town. Ofcourse, my main worry, besides how to use the Aga (I don't seem to be able to get the timings right), is what is the correct footwear. My gorgeous Emma Hope slip ons will just get ruined, if not by mud, then by dust, and that goes for all my beautiful flats and loafers, so I have been wearing converse as I don't care if they get ruined and when it's been wet, I have my Dubarry boots, which I spied several girls wearing at the horse show we went to on Saturday, so I know I've got that right.
There is a huge difference here with regard to attitude on clothes/fashion - as far as I can tell, the women/girls appear to be indifferent to clothes, however, I can definitely sense a real element of a certain style, certain unspoken rules, and it is not something that is discussed.
I shall be investigating further, once kids are back at school I will have much more time to spend on myself.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Bit of a Pong

There are numerous advantages to living in an old Grade II listed house in the country, space, privacy from small demanding people (kids), somewhere warm for the dog to lounge without being moved on, rooms for guests to stay in, spare bathrooms, pantry, boot room, large log fires, lead windows, huge garden to roam around in (look out for the dog poo). There is, naturally, the odd disadvantage, just for the sake of balancing up the ying and yang elements, afterall we can't be too perfect (well not all of us).

Some of the problems encountered so far have been, leaky lead windows (not everywhere I hasten to add), a bit draughty in certain areas (need to find some stylish draught excluders), and most unpleasantly there is, sometimes, a faint pong, a strange dusky, musky, pungent aroma that hits the nasal senses from time to time, and this waft is not coming from the dog. Handsome husband thought adding some sisal rugs would help, and it did in certain passages, however there is still definitely a lingering pong in a couple of the rooms. So being the intrepid little explorer I am, I have hotfotted around the county in search of the perfect room scents. Now let me be quite clear here, I absolutely hate those stinky spray thingys that get squirted around the place, they are a quick fix, and don't last the course, like chocolate at 4pm, and they hit you straight up the snout and down the chest, and leave me gasping for breath (and I don't suffer from asthma) and eyes watering. No, no, I mean those gorgeously, heavenly scented candles, and they work. They definitely do the trick, and I have become quite addicted. Now this is proving a financial problem, as these little glass burning lovelies can be quite pricey, and I had gone down the predictable route of Jo Malone, Diptyque, Molton Brown even Space NK, and handsome husband was beginning to protest at the necessity for such expensive smellies.

I needed to match the quality but not the price, and I do love a challenge, and I am happy to report, I have found two completely perfect alternatives allowing me to still induldge in some elegant nasal sensations. So Diptyque & Co eat your smelly hearts out, as there are some heavenly new kids on the candle block. Firstly the fabulous range from Canova, they cost around £12 (wow I hear you scream with joy) and come in 7 delicious fragrances, my favourites being 25/7 (gives you that extra hour in the day we all need), Brainwave (to give my grey matter an extra boost), and ofcourse Domestic Goddess (no need to comment on that one). The other range I have found is True Grace (made locally here) and equally well priced (though a little higher - but not much), and to be saved for guest visits. I adore these delights and their names tickle me too, these include Library, Log Fire and Seashore, I sit in my George Smith armchair, close my eyes and allow the heady aromas to take me on a delectable perfumed journey, I lay back and think of England.


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