Archive | October, 2012

Time for a new clock

31 Oct

The clocks went back at the weekend (if you live in the UK, that is) and to celebrate, I’m thinking of treating my new kitchen to a new clock. The forerunner at the moment? This fun Newgate Milk Bottle Wall Clock, above, £35 from John Lewis (

Fancy doing the same? There are LOADS of cool clocks out there at the moment. Here’s my pick of the best – let me know which one you have the most, ahem, time for!

Lexon Around clock, £28, Heals (

Canvas Cuckoo clock, £14.99, Dunelm Mill (

Multi-coloured Photo Frame clock, £29.99, The Contemporary Home (

Retro Aylesford wall clock, £19.50, M&S (

Silver Star Wall Clock, £30, John Lewis (

Jones & Co Dover Wall Clock, £19.92, Tesco Direct (

Mini [working!] metal alarm clocks, £4.99 each, The Contemporary Home (

Sunburst Gold Wall Clock, £25,  M&S ( 

Fantastic Mr Fox

29 Oct

Donna Wilson ( designs lovely stuff – beautifully soft cashmere cushions, throws and home accessories with friendly-looking animal motifs (check out the fox cushion above). The only thing that’s vixen – sorry, vexing – is the price, as we’re talking £72.50 for one cushion. Ah.

So, if like me, you love her quirky designs, but need to save up first, you can save yourself a whopping £62.50 in the meantime by buying this uncannily similar Basil fox cushion (below) from Asda and (below).

It’s only £10 (bargain!) and looks even nicer in real life than it does in pictures. It’s new in, but has already sold out once online already, so you’ll have to be quick if you want to lay your paws on one…

PS: You can see more designer vs high street lookalikes in the feature I’ve written for the current issue of LOOK magazine – but be quick, it’s only on sale for one more day (today)!

‘Witch’ decorations to choose?

26 Oct

Call me a wuss, but I’ve never really liked gruesome/scary Hallowe’en decorations. Ugly witches, Scream masks, gloopy fake blood – ugh. I prefer something classier/cuter, like a well-carved pumpkin, a traditional ghost-made-out-of-a-sheet, or a plain black pointy witches hat.

So, this year, I’m loving the range of Hallowe’en decs from Wilkinson (

Yes, they have all the scary, icky stuff, but they also have some really nice (if you can use that word about Halloween!), fun stuff, too. And what ‘s more, it’s all a total bargain.

For example, there’s a black, white and orange felt ‘Happy Hallowe’en banner (£3, top); sweet little black metal spider cupcake holders and packs of cupcake cases (£1 each); friendly Munsters-style felt masks (£1 each); clever reflective vampire stickers to help keep kids of all ages safe in the dark (£2 for four); black cardboard candelabras for the table (£1.50 each);  kitsch foil pumpkin/bat bunting (£1); and pumpkin- shaped orange fairylights (£4).

So why not join me in upgrading to a classier kind of spooky stuff? Go on,  trick or treat yourself!

Lip service

24 Oct

I love a good lipbalm, and I’ve sung the praises of Vaseline’s handy little tins on this blog before, but this is something special.

Pink Bubbly is a limited edition tin of Vaseline containing Champagne grape extract. Yum. Not only does it taste of Champers, but it’s got a pleasing pale pink hue and it’ll tart up your lips in seconds on those days when you can’t be bothered with lippie.

When it first launched last month, it was only available at Selfridges (dahling), but now us mere mortals can buy it for £3.49 from Superdrug (and or Boots ( I’m off to get mine now, chin chin!

How do you like them apples?

22 Oct

Every time I get a letter from my local garden centre, I smile. Not because I’m pleased to receive the birthday voucher they send all customers, or the news that they’ve just stocked up on Christmas trees (although those things are good too), but because the guy who runs the garden centre is called Roger Cocks.

Before you tell me off for being juvenile, I’m not laughing because it sounds rude (honest). What makes me smile is that he must have had a LIFETIME of abuse and mickey-taking, and he could just sign off as ‘Roger’, but no. He gives us his full name every time. Good for him.

Anyhow, the point of this long story is that the latest news from Mr Cocks is that it was National Apple Day yesterday (21 Oct).

And I LOVE apples. They smell amazing, they taste delicious, they look pretty, and on top of that, they’re good for you.

So, to celebrate, here’s some of my favourite apple-y things…

(Top) Apple tea towel, £10.95,, which would look fab framed in a kitchen.

(Below) Apple prints, from £15.99  – available in several sizes and colours –

Apple mugs by Swedish designer Lotta Kuhlhorn, on sale at £5 each (they’re £10-12 elsewhere, so this is a bargain!) at

Apples lunch box/ nic mac tin, £8.50 (also available in red/purple),

Kitchen timer apple, £5.99,

Apple doorstop, £17 (in red, yellow or green),

Typhoon’s Apple Heart range (includes tea towels, tins, utensil holders, aprons and chopping boards), all currently on sale at

Joseph Joseph ‘An Apple a Day’ worktop saver, £13,

Taking a stand

19 Oct

Shopping in one of my favourite stores, Tiger, the other day, I spotted this fantastic black tree-shaped coat stand (top) for just £20. It’s not just great-looking, but usually this kind of thing costs hundreds of pounds.

It got me thinking – maybe there are other bargainous coat stands out there. While most are mega expensive, the high street is finally catching on, and even Ikea has gotten in on the act. It’s stylish Knippe hat and coat stand is just £22:

And that’s kind of it! The only others in the vaguely reasonable price range are from Dwell, below, who have a good selection. They’re riced from £69 to £129, and come in various colours and finishes. The only downside is that they’re almost too nice to cover in bulky winter coats…!

Reach for the stars

17 Oct

Shopping in Boots  the other day (buying shower gel, moisturiser and an eyebrow comb, if you’re interested!) I spotted these sweet little star keyrings.

Not only can you choose from on-trend metallic pink, gold or silver, but they’re being sold – for a suggested £1 donation each – in aid of a very worthwhile charity, Macmillan Cancer Support (

I opted for the gold one, and it’s going to look fab hanging from my bright green handbag. Which one will you choose?

Mixing it up

15 Oct

It’s National Baking Week this week (and the final of The Great British Bake Off on TV). One of my earliest memories of baking – in fact, one of my earliest memories full stop – is of helping  my mum make cakes in our kitchen in Scotland (we moved to England when I was six), using her Mason Cash traditional cane-coloured earthenware mixing bowl (top). She still has it now – the inside is marked with thousands of spoon marks made over the years, but it’s still as functional and great at it’s job as it was back in the Seventies.

So, when I got my own house, one of the first things I put on my Christmas list was my very own bowl. It’s ace. The size and shape have been the same for over 100 years – it’s heavy, to stop it moving while you’re mixing; and the round shape and raised pattern on the outside helps you grip it. The best thing about it is the ‘chink chink’ noise your wooden spoon makes when you stir. Lovely.

But now, after all this time, Mason Cash have decided to modernise – just a tiny bit – by bringing out several fab new bowls. The size, shape and white interior (designed so that cooks can tell if their mixture is the right shade) are the same, but the new bowls have different colours and patterns on the outside.

There’s the Zest collection (my favourite, above), which includes a red bowl with a strawberry pattern, a green bowl with an apple pattern, and a yellow bowl with a lemon pattern; the Hearts collection, which includes red, cream and pink bowls with a heart pattern on the outside (which were used on TGBBO); the Flour Power collection, which includes pink and cream bowls with Seventies motifs on; and the Jubilee collection (below), which includes red, white and blue bowls with crowns on and fun sayings such as ‘God Save The Cream’,  ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ and ‘Off With Her Bread’ (er, not so patriotic that last one!).

The Jublilee collection also includes a fab matching red  jug (which, if my Mum is reading this for Christmas present ideas, would go very nicely in my new kitchen, hint, hint!)

I know I don’t NEED another bowl, after all, Mum has had hers for over 30 years. But still, I’m coveting the strawberry or the apple version. Would it be too extravagant to buy one and use it as a fruit bowl, I wonder..?!

You can view the full range of bowls at, and buy your bowl from http://www.dunelm-mill,, Sainsburys, or They cost around £15-£22, depending on where you shop.

Kimono-ver to my place

12 Oct

As a big fan of all things Japanese, I was properly excited to discover it’s a big trend for Autumn/Winter this year.

In fact, it’s so huge that John Lewis are theming a whole range of Christmas decorations, wrapping paper and ornaments around it. I got a sneak preview the other day and it’s all GORGEOUS!

I’ll bring you pictures and details nearer December, but for now, a whole host of Japanese-inspired home goodies have just hit the shops.

Here are my favourites:

Origami crane light, £8, (main pic, above).

Nanako duvet cover, £60, John Lewis (

Japanese blossom bowls, £4.95 each,

Origami cushions, £6 each (bargain!), Colours at B&Q (

White ceramic origami bear, £8, Ben de Lisi at Debenhams (

O is for Origami alphabet mug, £8,

Silver and gold origami necklaces – triceratops, swan, rabbit and parrot – £110 each, I know these are so NOT a bargain, but a girl can dream!

Colours Norland pendant lightshade, £40, B&Q (

Nice and Sloe

10 Oct

For years I’ve tried – and failed – to like gin. It’s just too flowery/peppery/bleurgh for me. However I love homemade sloe gin, which, if done properly, tastes more like syrupy port. It’s amazing to sip neat after a long winter walk or if you have a sore throat.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who makes it, but this year, I’m going to try my hand at creating my own, thanks to the new Kilner Sloe Gin Kit, £29.99 from Lakeland (

It contains everything you need (including muslin, a funnel and a recipe card) to make four bottles – one to keep and three to give as Christmas presents.

Sloe season lasts from now till mid November (although my dad says  sloes are best picked after the first frost, which hasn’t happened yet) so there’s plenty of time to drive to the countryside and go for a fruit-picking ramble. Farmers love planting spiky sloe trees as natural fences to stop cows running amok, so hopefully it shouldn’t be too hard to fill up a basket. I found a few trees (below) on a trip to Warwickshire this weekend – if you’re not sure what to hunt for, sloes look like big fat blueberries.

There’s a dead easy sloe gin recipe below.  No previous booze- making experience or cooking skills required. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!


You’ll need:
1L airtight jar and some glass bottles, all sterilised (fill with boiling water; empty; then pop it in a warm oven to dry)
400g sloes, cut or pricked to break the skin
150g Granulated sugar
Approx 500g gin (cheap as you like)

1) Place the sloes and sugar in the jar and top up with the gin, leaving a little space at the top for air.
2) Shake the jar once or twice a day for the first week; then leave in a cool place for at least two months, shaking once a week (the longer you leave the sloes to infuse, the tastier your gin will be).
3) Strain the gin through a piece of muslin into sterilised bottles.

And that’s it. See? Easy!

Mice to see you

8 Oct

Mice are the last thing you’d usually want in your home (I should know, I’ve just spent £15 on a sonic mouse-scarer, as next door have seen them in their kitchen); however you might want to make an exception for these fellas.

Rather than chewing electrical cables, this pair of helpful little critters exist to help keep them neat and tidy. I can’t believe I’m saying this about mice, but they’re actually quite sweet…!

Mouse Tail cable organisers, £4 per pair,

Block party

5 Oct

The great thing about Tetris – and the reason it’s still as popular today as it was when it became available on Nintendo Gameboys in 1989 (yep, I had to look that up on Wikipedia!) – is that anyone and everyone can play it. You don’t have to be a computer geek; you don’t have to speak any particular language; and you don’t have to master any complicated rules. Perfect!

That’s why so many people – including myself – grew up playing it. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons I didn’t do as well in my exams at school as predicted: instead of knuckling down to revise, I gave my knuckles a workout playing Tetris. For hours (sorry, Mum!). It was – and still is – brilliantly addictive.

Anyhow, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the game has a special place in my heart. So, I just had to tell you about this genius Tetris lamp, £29.99 from

It comes in seven parts, each shaped like a Tetris block. You plug in the bottom block, then stack the others on top any way you like – and as you stack them, each block lights up  like magic. Brilliant! There are loads of different combinations and it’s a guaranteed conversation starter.

One of the few people who don’t care much for Tetris? Buy it for someone who does – I guarantee they’ll be de-light-ed!

PS: If you’re really Tetris-mad, and good with knitting needles, a crochet hook or a sewing machine; how about making some fun Tetris cushions to go with your lamp, like these, below, from…!  (Guttingly, they’re no longer available to buy)

Stick ’em up!

3 Oct

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Top Drawer, a trade show for people who own gift shops and homeware stores, where I met some brilliant designers including the lovely Adele from Nutmeg Wall Art ( who makes removable wall stickers/decals.

I’d first stumbled upon her website when I was looking for a way to brighten up my son Sam’s nursery. I emailed her a picture of his room, which has very tasteful, but not very kid-friendly tree wallpaper on the walls. She came up with the idea of making brightly coloured parrot wall stickers to perch in and fly around the trees. Cute! She even superimposed the parrots on the picture I’d emailed her (above), so that I could see what the stickers would look like before I commited to buy them.

So, I thought I’d share her site with you. She sells ‘normal’ wall stickers like these:

But what is particularly fab – and what sets her apart from many of the other wall decal companies out there – is her bespoke service.

If you drop her a line at, Adele will make you a personalised sticker for a very reasonable price. For example, a personalised London street sign sticker (immediately below – you can make up your own street name and postcode) is £30; a bespoke kitchen sticker (below, middle) is £26; and a personalised script sticker (below, bottom) is £19. But of course you don’t have to, erm, ‘stick’ to words and text – you can copy me and pick anything you like, as apparently Adele likes a challenge!

A nice bit of crumpet

1 Oct

I don’t write about recipes that often on this blog (my slightly rubbish attempt at food photography/styling above probably illustrates why), but yesterday I stumbled upon something so simple and tasty I had to share it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Black Forest Crumpet!

It is, quite simply, the most delicious thing I’ve eaten for breakfast in ages.

To make it, you toast a crumpet; spread it with Nutella; spread a layer of black cherry jam over the Nutella; then dollop some creme fraiche (or cream or yoghurt) on top to finish. Voila!

Seriously, it tastes AMAZING. And you  don’t have to use a crumpet – toast or muffins or bagels would work just as well. The nearest thing to it that I’ve found is Black Forest filled French toast (pic below) at, but that involves actual cooking, whereas this recipe (I know, I know, you can hardly call it a recipe…) takes two minutes. I can’t believe no-one has thought of it before.

If you’ve invented an unusual yet yummy breakfast, email me at I’d love to hear about (and try) it!

%d bloggers like this: