Thursday, 16 March 2017

Kelmscott Manor

I know, it’s been simply ages since I last posted and I have absolutely no excuse to offer up and it seems a little late to wish you all a happy new year seeing as it's March already!

I’m enjoying Spring, the daffodils have come up again, bright and sunny against a backdrop of the dullest grey skies, the tulips are all about to burst open with lovely pastel colours which I bought from Sarah Raven and for the first time ever I bought some dahlias which I will plant soon. I’m all about container gardening having a minuscule space in which to grow. I pruned my roses quite harshly this year but there’s some new growth and lovely leaves unfurling with the promise of beautiful pink David Austin roses later in the year.

I love the change in seasons, and I don’t wish them away for any amount of sunshine. As I write the mist outside is thick and there is a silence that comes with that fog that is quite ethereal and beautiful.

Last year we visited Kelmscott Manor, the holiday home of William and Jane Morris. I first saw this house on Penelope Keith’s secret villages while I was ironing one evening ( yes I iron don't you!) and when I saw it I knew I had to visit. It is so beautiful, so picturesque that one can just imagine how wonderful it must have been for them to travel from London to this lovely quiet village, to enjoy the peace and serenity of country life and the gentle lapping of the Thames nearby.

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know
 to be useful or believe to be beautiful’

The famous quote by William Morris is so true when you enter this lovely home. Surely this is something we can all aspire to live by.  Everyday objects were made and designed with a great deal of attention to craftsmanship because they had the luxury of time and a world without too much industry. Imagine having the time to shape your butter with butter  pats? I wonder what Morris would have made of the 21st century?

The house looks so well loved. It has been decorated and furnished with simple but beautiful items. The tapestries and bed covers must have taken months to embroider – perhaps even years – but then there were no distractions like today; internet, television and mobile phones with an overload of social media apps to keep one’s hands busy.

I love visiting historical properties and as far as interiors go, I seem to fluctuate between the nostalgia of years gone by and the more contemporary interiors with elements of brass and glass. I love the whimsy of years gone by but I also love the energy and wit of new designs. There’s been a steady movement over a good number of years towards all things handmade with integrity and a simpler greener way of living much like Morris and his followers and this is already visible in the way we decorate our interiors. I predict our interiors will become more honest and less contrived. Lots of greenery indoors has now become the norm. A few years ago I introduced some big green plants into my dining room and the effect they’ve had on how it looks and how they make you feel when you enter the room is something I wasn’t expecting. With their big sprawling leaves, they give off calm feeling, but also make a room look less formal.  

A few photos from our trip. My memory card was full and I ended up taking photos of the bedrooms and most of the interiors on my iphone, and I've yet to load these up to my computer so I'll show you the rest of the photos in another post.

This is how William Morris described Kelmscott Manor in his book News from Nowhere:

Yes, friend, this is what I came out for to see; this many-gabled old house built by the simple country-folk of the long-past times, regardless of all the turmoil that was going on it cities and courts, is lovely still amidst all the beauty which these latter days have created; and I do not wonder at our friends tending it carefully and making much of it.

 The back garden gate, lined with roses.

 William De Morgan lustreware

Chaucer's The Legend of Goode Wimmen designed by Edward Burne-Jones

The back of the house, near the privvy

Behind a wall is the original privvy, hidden behind a wall in a tiny building...this is one thing I'm not nostalgic about!

The view from just outside the privvy, a small enclosed garden... filled no doubt with sweet smelling plants!

Take a walk up the country path to the river

A guesthouse in the village.

Enjoy your week!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Christmas table

Dear friends, thank you for comments on my last post and for following throughout the year.
2016 went by in what seemed like the blink of an eye. I do hope 2017 slows down for all of us so we get the chance to enjoy the small things in life which give so much pleasure.

Christmas was a joyful time for our family. It takes careful planning to get two adult daughters together when they each have their own lives and partners and even more so when they live on the other side of the world. Tears of joy flowed as we spoke of what our hearts were full of, the love of family and spending happy times together. Next Christmas might be entirely different, but at least we have the memories of this wonderful time spent together.

I was totally unprepared for Christmas this year.  I had no plans, no vision at all, except for our visit to William Morris’s holiday home at Kelmscott Manor in the summer (which I’ll blog about next year) so I created my own version of a William Morris inspired table. A kind of vintage, Christmas in the country table, with a little contemporary thrown in for good measure.

I wanted green to be the main colour with pops of gold and a hint of red in the candles and the crackers, which is more in keeping with the traditional colours of Christmas. I didn't want to use white on white, so I bought the Copeland Spode ‘Byron’ dinner plates, side plates and gravy boat from Ebay. I loved the leaves and the green trim on the plates. Gold chargers ground the plates and give them more substance. I used my Burano lace tablecloth hubby bought me on our trip to Venice and used a deep green taffeta as an underlay.  Two contemporary green glass candlesticks from the Hambledon in Winchester added more green and I unpacked my crystal candlelabra that’s been boxed up for a few years. I wanted to mix various elements together and not use too many vintage or antique items, but keep it light and bright with more modern glassware. The square footed cocktail dishes are vintage. I used gold cutlery mixed with vintage for an informal feel. I kept the centre decoration quite plain, with just the addition of a few baubles as I didn't want to hide the beautiful tablecloth.

Last year's table was a favourite, that is until I created this one, which is entirely different, simple and more refined than Last year and if you'd like to see 2014 here it is and here, and remember 2013 when I pared it right down and created a more neutral look and then my pink table 2012

It's New Year's Eve, time to wind down and relax, reflect on the last 12 months of the year, the changes which have influenced our world, both pleasant and terrifying and look forward with anticipation to new stories and adventures with hope and faith.

I wish you and your families a blessed, loving and kind 2017 with good health and plenty of laughter.


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas candles

Apologies for the long silence.  It’s almost time for Christmas lunch and I haven’t written since September.  In between it’s all been a bit of a fog.  Where did the time go?

A week ago, Honeybee arrived home for the holidays and we’ve been making and baking the entire week. We have nothing to show for it though since we’ve already eaten one batch of mince pies laced with dark chocolate shards and pistachio nuts and we’re about to start on the next dozen!

Last year we made candles together which we used in and around the home and the smell was divine and so this year Honeybee wanted to make some for her girlfriends as gifts so we used amber glass jars and added hand written labels for a personal touch.  I also used recycled glass jars as well as a few vintage marmalade pots I bought at a vintage fair recently.

So here’s what you’ll need:

  • Soy Wax Flakes
  • Candle wicks
  • Glue dots to secure the wicks - I didn't add a link because you can buy these at any stationery store.
  • Glass jars/stone pots – make sure they are able to take the heat.

  • Essential oils for candle making - I tried linking the oils I bought but unfortunately they are out of stock.
  • A double boiler for melting the wax or use a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
  • Wooden skewers to stabilise the wicks while the wax hardens.

You will need to measure two lots of wax flakes for each of your containers.Take one glue dot and press the bottom of the wick into the glue dot. Now press this into the bottom of your jar.  Do this with all your containers.Melt the wax in a double boiler or a bowl over simmering water.When it’s melted remove from the heat and add your essential oils. I always remove the little stopper on the bottles and pour into a teaspoon. It’s much easier and you’ll need a good few teaspoons for a decent scent in your candles. We used Christmas Spice and Cinnamon and Orange. Transfer the melted wax into a jug for easy pouring. Hold the wick steady while you pour in the wax. You need to work fairly quickly because the wax starts to cool and harden.To steady the wick, use wooden skewers or two knives propped each side of the wick to keep it in the middle of the candle. Leave to set for several hours or overnight. 



Happy candlemaking!
Merry Christmas to you all and a healthy happy and prosperous 2017.