Monthly Archives: April 2014

In love with Niche Living


I am a true believer of the saying ‘home is where the heart is.’ I love, live and breathe this phrase. It’s at the very core of me, so when I find people or companies who share the same ethos, I can’t help but adore them a little bit.  Beautiful home furnishings fairy godmother, ‘Niche Living‘ have recently launched their brand new webby site, which means that folk like you and me, who don’t live anywhere near their store in Barnard Castle, County Durham, can still shop their gorgeous wares and deck out our pretty nests while benefiting from their magic touch..

Niche Living carefully stock their store, as though they are curating a beautiful exhibition. The most aromatic of luxurious candles, the softest of woollen blankets and throws, beautiful glassware, crockery, soft furnishings and ornaments.. all with a gorgeously rustic styling, a warmth and a unique luxe quality, which leaves you feeling that you have found something really very special…

Niche Living offer delights from a few of the most gorgeous homeware brands around, including Fired Earth, Chalk, India Jane and Lene Bjerre, who are offering loveliness for every little bit of your house. The kitchen, bathroom, bedroom… every little corner can be magicked into a beautiful space.

The site is bursting with pretty things that I want. I don’t think I’ve seen anything I don’t want. Which is a problem. *Destroys credit card*

And, for one lucky person I have this absolutely lovely The Braided Rug Company Heart Door Mat to give away…

If you’d like to enter, just have a wee looksie at the bottom of this post.

Niche Living uses the word ‘inspired’ a lot. And I think it’s perfectly apt. Their website (and I’m sure their shop too) does inspire you to live in a beautiful way. Cosy, warm, happy, peaceful.

What’s not to love.



Niche Living

42 Galgate, Barnard Castle,
County Durham,
DL12 8BH


Dinner at the Devonshire Arms
(and a heavenly Sticky Toffee Pudding)

Devonshire Arms

I’m still dreaming about this Sticky Toffee Pudding. It was magnificent. Sticky and toffee-ish and gooey and quite frankly, a miracle on a plate. On MY plate. It was mine. (Kind of – I shared it with the very lovely chap I was with,  but luckily for me, he was pretty full by the time we got to this bit.)

Devonshire Arms

These pics are taken from their website, as it was dark when I was there.. thought you might like to actually SEE it.

These pics are taken from their website, as it was dark when I was there.. thought you might like to actually SEE it.

The Devonshire Arms is a gorgeous pub, carefully tucked within the pretty streets behind bustling South Kensington. I’d have never known it was there.. it’s like a secret. You also can’t really see it until you’re upon it, which is odd, because it’s rather large with a big front-facing-heated-fairy-lit-couldn’t-be-more-Poppy-ish beer garden.

Devonshire Arms IMG_9257 Devonshire Arms Devonshire Arms Devonshire Arms Devonshire Arms

The pub itself has oodles of rustic character and a lovely quirky vintage style. We tucked ourselves into a corner and perused the menu… I dribbled.

Devonshire Arms

One (large) glass of Malbec (Him,) one gin and tonic (me) and some delicious bar snacks (salt and pepper squid, mixed olives with sun dried tomatoes and chorizo) were promptly ordered. The Malbec was apparently very good indeed. I’m not a big drinker so it would mean nothing if I told you. So take it from Him. T’was the bees knees.

Devonshire Arms Devonshire Arms

And for our mains, I ordered the Southern fried chicken with fries, apple slaw & a house pickle dip (uh huh) and He chose gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted squash, spinach & cannellini beans…

Southern fried chicken with fries, apple slaw & a house pickle dip

Southern fried chicken with fries, apple slaw & a house pickle dip

Devonshire Arms Devonshire Arms

gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted squash, spinach & cannellini beans

Gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted squash, spinach & cannellini beans

Delicious delicious delicious. It was such a lovely meal and a wonderfully cosy evening – all I could hear above our conversation was lots of laughing, clinking of glasses and other happy sounds. ‘People love it here’ I thought. And then, because I’d had one gin and tonic, I started to laugh at a cheese joke I’d told the day before, but was still in my head. (Q: What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? A: Halloumi)

Devonshire Arms

They love their beer at The Devonshire Arms – there’s a carefully curated range on tap and in bottle – from real ales made by small local brewers to innovative craft beers from the masters and well-known lagers and pilsners from around the globe… and their wine list is pretty impressive too.

Dessert was DELICIOUS. (I am completely aware that I have used this word a lot here, but I just don’t care. It’s the only one that will do. That and HEAVENLY.)

Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla pod ice cream

Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla pod ice cream

LOOK HOW AMAZING IT IS!! We shared it as we were so full… and it was GOOD.

The food at the Devonshire Arms is absolutely scrumptious and if you are looking for somewhere to kick back for a lazy Saturday brunch, a Sunday roast (legendary) or a cosy supper after a long day of mooching around the pretty boutiques of South Ken, then look no further

It’s a treat.



The Devonshire Arms
37 Marloes Road
London, W8 6LA



Hay Ho

HAY3 Ahhhh Hay. Hay Hay Hay. I love the Hay Festival – have you been? Think sunshiny hazy days, the inevitable pouring rain, deck chairs, more deck chairs, books, cups of tea, books, talks, lectures, discussions, more tea, music, conversation, books and cake. Lots of cake. It’s a Poppy dream. HAY6 HAY1 HAY2

Hay Festival was founded around a kitchen table in 1987 and for 27 years Hay Festival has brought together writers from around the world to debate and share stories at its festival amidst the beauty of the Welsh Borders. Hay celebrates great writing from poets and scientists, lyricists and comedians, novelists and environmentalists, and the power of great ideas to transform our way of thinking… as Bill Clinton so eloquently put: ‘The Hay Festival is the Woodstock of the mind’. HAY5 HAY8 HAY4

Hay loves stories. Hay loves big ideas. Hay celebrates the power of language and the pleasure of debate. It encourages us to have conversations about new thinking,  to engage with other people and revel in dreams for the future.

Hay Festival 2011

Hay Festival 2011


This year, Hay runs from the 22nd May – 1st June 2014 and is welcoming a host of amazing folk, including Carrie Fisher, Steve Coogan, Siri Hustvedt (LOVED ‘What I Loved’) Sebastian Faulks, Bill Bailey, Frank Skinner, (breathe..) Antonio Carluccio, Mary Berry (Mary Berry!!) Henry Winkler (The Fonz!) Julia Donalaldson… the list is practically endless.. I’m not even an eighth of the way through… you can whizz over to the Hay website to see the full line up. Hay Festival 2011

Hay Festival 2011

Hay Festival 2011


Hay continues to attract the most exciting writers, filmmakers, comedians, politicians and musicians to inspire, delight and entertain… and I shall be seeing you there!


Hay Festival
22nd May – 1st June

Photographs by Finn Beales




Music, Mohitos, Magic…and Mexico

Switzerland Festival

Weekend at The Edge of The Lake Festival, Switzerland

I don’t know about you.. but I am thinking about Summer. I’m not just thinking about it, I’m dreaming in Magnums and bikinis.. and in my dream I also look like a super model in my bikini… even if I’m eating 7 Magnums a day.

Even though I love my city, getting out of London for a little bit during the Summer months is fairly normal for me, and if I can combine this with friends, food, sunshine and music.. so much the better.

Last year I was lucky enough to get to Wilderness and this year I will be there again with bells on. Actual bells.  And recently, there have also been some other twinkly festivals which have made themselves known to me.. slightly off the beaten track.. and perhaps not ones you would usually consider… Ready?

Pic pilfered from Yukatan

Pic pilfered from Yukatan

CANCUN MUSIC FESTIVAL – Aug 28th – Sept 1st


Cancun? Yes, Cancun. Cancun in Mexico. Did you know they have an annual music festival? Well they do. The Cancun Music Festival hosts thousands of guests from around the world, who all converge in one of the world’s arguably, most beautiful and tranquil destinations. The music includes nationally recognized artists from around the world as well as local musicians from the Cancun area, which I love. I’ve never been to Cancun myself, but after a wee bit of research it appears that First Choice will whizz you over there (in a plane and everything) and you can choose your humble dwellings from their selection of STUNNING hotels.

Bulgaria, June 13th – 15th

Completely unlike any festival in the world, Meadows is nestled high up in the stunning Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria, very proud of its quirky and different attitude that doesn’t follow trends and other festivals’ concepts.
I love this – look at these ridiculously happy festival highlights:“Dance in the ethereal half-light of dawn and dusk as the sunrise and sunset stages provide some of the best un-signed, underground artists spanning eclectic musical genres from across the world”
“Watch the morning mist cascade over the mountain range as shadowy forms convulse and glide to the rhythmic beats of house and techno…”
“Dwell at the forefront of sound as jazz, folk and disco float through the intricacies of melody.”
“Indulge your primordial appetites with hearty food to feed the soul; all locally grown and locally produced.”
Wowee. And if you need more convincing – have a little looksie at this video…

Switzerland, June 27th – 29th

Visual art, live painting, ‘Groove Music’, beach animations and balloon modelling. Who would not want to go? Set in the heart of the Alps and on the stunning Geronde Lake in Switzerland, this boutique festival is in its 8th year of fabulousness.

On their website they rave about their beach volleyball, lake pedaloes, petangue, local vineyards & hill walks and oodles more family friendly activities… it’s also fully sustainable and eco friendly.

So, there you have it. Three magical getaways for you to explore… and if you go, please tell me! I’ll be the one with a Magnum.

Or seven.



Sleepover at
Cheval Three Quays

Cheval Three Quays

Last week I was invited to spend the night at the gorgeous new luxury serviced apartments, Cheval Three Quays, situated smack bang next to the Tower of London. And when I say smack bang.. I mean SMACK BANG. (Click play and watch this little 12 second video to the end…)

Continue Reading…


‘The Cut Flower Patch’
by Louise Curley

The Cut Flower Patch I have a lovely new book to share with you all – ‘The Cut Flower Patch‘ by Louise Curley is now one of the prettiest books on my bookshelf and is also my new bible. The Cut Flower Patch The Cut Flower Patch

Louise Curley, as many of you may already know, is a green fingered wizard. She is a trained horticulturist and writes for the Guardian, Grow your Own, The Simple Things and Gardens Illustrated Magazine – columns and articles packed with oodles of tips and tricks that only a gardening guru would know. She also has a well loved blog called Wellywoman, which keeps her busy when she’s not skipping about in the garden.

The Cut Flower Patch

Sowing and planting calendar

From the off, the book lets us know that having a cut flower patch is the most economical and eco-friendly way to enjoy cut flowers, and that even if you have the weeniest of spaces (me!) you can grow flowers and plants to give you gorgeous blooms throughout the year.

As you already know, I love cut flowers. However I haven’t a clue when it comes to gardening… but I love getting muddy (it seems to happen a lot) and I want to learn, so this book is perfect for me.

The chapters are as follows:

Planning a cutting patch
Annuals & biennials
Bulbs, corms & tubers
Foliage & fillers
Making your cutting patch
Caring for your patch
Cutting time
Showing off
Rich pickings
A year on the patch

In the very first chapter, ‘Planning a Cutting Patch’ there are some beautifully illustrated pages, which lay everything out simply and clearly…

The Cut Flower Patch

Planning a cutting patch

The Cut Flower Patch (I really like the word patch) also includes techniques on how to grow more than 35 different cut flowers.. including Snapdragons, Sweet William (I LOVE this flower) Zinnia, Cornflower, Tulips and Sweet pea… (Lathyrus odoratus. Apparently.) The Cut Flower Patch

I also love the ‘Showing Off’ chapter – I can’t wait to make things look pretty (I am always icing cakes too quickly as I just can’t wait… then feel sad when I look at my dribbly melty mess…) as Louise shows us tips on arranging, how to select a vase and there are some gorgeous photos for inspiration…

The Cut Flower Patch The Cut Flower Patch The Cut Flower Patch

Louise’s first book, published by Francis Lincoln, hits the mark on so many levels. It’s photographed beautifully by Jason Ingram, it’s stacked with brilliant advice and it’s not at all preachy or smug (which can really put me off a gardening book, when I’m already feeling useless.)  Instead, Louise just takes you by the hand and leads you through the joyful process of creating and enjoying your very own cut flower patch.

It’s bloomin’ marvellous.



The Cut Flower Patch
Louise Curley
Photography: Jason Curley



I have a copy of this delicious book to giveaway. Just enter below, pop your wellies on and keep your fingers crossed.. good luck!

The Cut Flower Patch


Cushion Making
at A Handmade Cottage

Cushion making I love a bit of craft, me. But I’m the first to hold my hands up and say I that I am NOT an expert. By any stretch. I’m barely a beginner… but I have caught the crafty bug and decided to recruit my lovely friend Jodie May at A Handmade Cottage to teach me how to make a cushion cover.  And as luck would have it, she was just as excited about it as me.

Continue Reading…


– Cheese and Beer Tasting –
Paxton and Whitfield

Paxton and Whitfield Cheese and beer? CHEESE AND BEER? Yes. Cheese and beer.

ACHICA recently held a Cheese and Beer pairing event at the oldest cheesemonger in London; Paxton and Whitfield on Jermyn Street, in the heart of St James’s. Originally a cheese stall in Aldwych Market, Paxton and Whitfield dates back to 1742… so that’s a lot of cheese knowledge and experience… and rather a large amount of cheese eaten too. (Turns out I’m really very good at this bit.)

Continue Reading…


April 2014

honey oat bread

Honey Oat Bread for National Bread Day

Getting inspiration for new blog posts can be tricky – we’ve all been there… staring at the wall… gazing glumly into a mug of tea

I find having a hook in the calendar, to anchor my writing can be extremely helpful –  if you’ve never tried it, may I recommend it. It’s good. (Not as good as Gingernuts in tea, but still good.) (Nothing is as good as Gingernuts in tea.)

Here are my UK calendar hooks for April, for you to grab onto, be inspired by and enjoy writing about… please feel free to comment with any others you know of and I’ll add them on.

Oh, and while I have you here,  I have recently started my own calendar here on my blog. If you have any events you’d like to add, (classes, gigs, workshops etc) then please do so here. It’s free, you know.

Pip pip.





April 2014


31st March – 6th April


2nd April


3rd – 6th April


11th – 13th April


12th April


14th – 20th April


19th April


16th-22nd April


19th April


30th April