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Things are looking up

24 May

When we first moved into our house seven years ago, it was a chintz palace. Everything was bright yellow and blue; there were frills everywhere; and the shell-shaped bathroom sink was very special indeed. Slowly, we modernised, but on a shoestring budget, which meant the faux-beamed artexed kitchen ceiling had to stay. I painted the beams black, and replaced the cast-iron chandelier with a row of spots, but frankly, it was still hideous. And gloomy.

So, when we’d finally saved enough to give the kitchen a little facelift, the ceiling was the first thing to get sorted. We couldn’t afford to redo the layout, meaning there was no room for fancy light fittings, so we decided to go for low-fuss spots instead.

But how easy is it to get a whole new ceiling and put in new lights? Surprisingly easy, as it turns out. Here’s how…

First, our friendly builder, Neil, built a frame a few centimetres lower than the old sagging ceiling. New lengths of wiring were joined to the existing central light fitting; then plasterboard was then screwed into the frame to create a new, flat ceiling.

Neil then spread a thin layer of plaster over the board to make it smooth; painted the ceiling; then drilled holes for the spotlights:

Finally, an electrician fitted the spots. We wanted good quality fittings that would look unobtrusive, but which would make bulb-changing easy, so we went for these brilliant recessed White Gloss Twist & Lock Fire Rated Downlights, £5 each, from fitted with long-life LED bulbs (also from First Choice Lighting):

Extra safe (because of the fire rating), you simply twist out the bulbs when you need to change them. We wanted fittings flush with the ceiling, but if you’ve got more room to play with, they have a HUGE selection of modern lighting fittings – for all rooms in the house – that look a million dollars but don’t cost it.

And here’s the finished ceiling! The building work and electrician cost £350, and the light fittings themselves came to just £40 for eight. Honestly, it’s made SUCH a difference. Even my other half, who said he didn’t care about the old ceiling, loves the fact he can now see what he’s cooking. It’s like a light has been switched on (erm, because it has!).

What do you reckon? Have you completed a long wished-for yet simple project that has transformed your home? Let me know in the comments below or email me at – I’d love to see your photos!

Clock this baragin!

31 Aug

Copper clock £4.99 B&M Stores (boxed)

A few weeks ago, I visited one of the country’s biggest B&M stores and wrote about it for the Daily Mail (you can read it here).

I confess, I’d never been to either a B&M Home (huge warehouse-like stores selling thousands of products) or a B&M Bargains (the smaller high street version) before. And I LOVED it! It’s a bargain-hunter’s paradise. You really can buy anything there, from food to furniture – and it’s all an absolute steal.

What I really liked though was the homewares section. Yes, there were the cushions, kitchenware and picture frames you might find in any high street shop, but there were also some brilliant designer-look bits at frankly criminal prices. Think mirrors with straps, copper cutlery, wire storage baskets and several amazing clocks. My favourite was this cool wall clock, above (available with either numerals or lines on the face). Not only does it nail this season’s copper trend, but it costs just £4.99. Yep, a fiver. Unbelievable!

Here’s the numeral version next to an almost identical Karlsson one, which costs £68 from Idyll Home; and an Acctim one, £40, from Debenhams. Can you spot the difference? Tricky, isn’t it?!

bmstores-301329-Copper-Wall-Clock-2 £4.99From L to R: Copper clock £4.99 B&M; Karlsson copper clock £68; Acctim copper clock £40 Debenhams

So, if you haven’t already paid a vist to a B&M Store, I think it’s, ahem, time, you made a special trip! Race you to the tills…


The Friday Find: All the fun of the fair-y cake

5 Aug

Ferris Wheel Cupcake Holder, £4.99 Home Bargains

Why display your cupcakes on a boring old plate or cake stand when you can pop them in a ferris wheel instead?!

Not only does this fairground-inspired cake display gizmo look fun, but it actually turns and what’s more, it’s just £4.99 (nope, that’s not a typo, it really is under a fiver).

Great for a child’s party or, erm, just a treat for yourself. You could even spray paint it a different colour or add ribbons or pompoms if you were feeling particularly fancy.

Available in-store at Home Bargains (




22 Jul

George Home SS15 bright retro kitchen farm fresh range

People can be a bit snooty about shopping for homeware in supermarkets, but quite frankly, they’re missing out. George Home at Asda (and at in particular has some brilliant accessories at the moment that are bright, quirky and absolutely BARGAINOUS.

I’m particularly excited by their Farm Fresh kitchen range (in the photo above). With retro styling, eye-popping colours and purse-friendly price tags, you could go wild in the aisles and still have plenty of change left for your weekly food shop.

My personal favourites? The cockerel tray £5, Rise & Shine mugs £5 for a set of four, Polka dot cake tins £7 for three and the wooden utensils £2 for three:


Also worth popping in your trolley is the Jones Lemonade bottle clock £12 (looks designer but is waaaaay cheaper), and the Milkshake tea towel £2:


Doggy style!

11 Feb

Billie butter dish £15 Cath Kidston

Love or hate Cath Kidston, I defy anyone not to have a soft spot for her new ceramic range. There’s not a flowery pattern in sight – just good quality white china with a cute little white terrier called Billie sitting on top. I’m particularly in love with the butter dish, £15, above; but he also sits proudly on a single tier cake stand (£25) and two sizes of storage jar (starting at £15 for the medium, below):

Billie cake stand £25 Cath Kidston

And while we’re at it, I also have a LOT of time for Cath Kidston’s Cranham range, printed with a bright-coloured ric rac pattern. I’m obsessed with the milk jug, £8, below; and there’s a matching sugar bowl, £7; plus a rectangular plate, mug/saucer, egg cup and cake stand too. Yum!

Cranham milk jug £8.50 Cath Kidston

Retro fabulous

6 Feb

Tesco SS15_052

Tesco Direct have been coming up with some fantastic homewares of late (see my bedroom makeover post from October here) but this season they’ve really outdone themselves. Their new Mid Century range combines two of my favourite things – bright colours and retro style – in one amazing new collection.

And what’s more, because it’s from Tesco, it’s absolutely bargainous!

Stand-out pieces include this designer-look Retro teapot, £10; set of espresso mugs with saucers, £12 for four; and matching sugar bowl and jug, £4 each…

Tesco Miami Coffee Table £79, Espresso Mugs and Saucers £12, Retro Teapot £10, Retro Milk Jug £4, Retro Sugar Pot £4

…the covetable geometric and bird cushions, £8-12 each, plus the Miami occasional table in sulphur yellow, just £29 (the matching white coffee table is £79)…

Tesco Direct Julianne Loveseat Felt Effect Pepple £399, Miami Occasional Table Sulphur Yellow £29, Pasadena Ceramic
…the tweet – sorry, sweet – set of bird cake tins, £10 for two…

Tesco Retro Bird Baking Tins 2 for £10…and the tactile red Palermo stacking chairs, £49 each; matching Palermo dining table (a steal at £149); and cheery yellow Thorpness pendant light £29:

Tesco Direct Palermo Dining Table £149, Palermo Stacking Chair £49, Thorpness Large Metal Electric Pendant £29

It’s all available online at and instore from now onwards. See you at the checkout!



Any excuse to eat cake!

29 Oct

COUNTRY Orla Kiely set of 5 Cake Tins £37

A while ago I blogged about my amazing set of Orla Kiely cake tins – a set so gorgeous that months on, they still sit proudly in a stack on my kitchen worksurface, rather than hiding away in a cupboard.

Well, Orla has just released some new prints – available on everything from mugs to storage – and her cake tins have had a makeover too. What’s more, they’re just as AMAZING. At £37 for a set at John Lewis or Unique & Unity, they’d make a lovely gift and they’re fairly reasonable too, when you consider you get five.

I can’t think of a single better excuse to bake (or just buy) more cakes and biscuits!

PS: Not got room for five cake tins? Try the trio of storage canisters / caddy set instead, £25 from John Lewis (here) or Unique & Unity (here):

pear canisters by orla kiely

Raise your glasses

7 Oct


Why have boring clear wine glasses when you could have these lovely coloured vintage ones instead?

With a pleasingly chunky stem (so you’re less likely to snap them while washing up!) they come in a mix of dusky pastel shades – purple, teal, pink and grey.

A set of four costs £39.50 from Marks & Spencer (, and you can get matching vintage tumblers (for £35) too. Bottoms up!


Vintage Inspired Wine Glasses £39.50 for four Marks and Spencer

Animal magic

27 Feb

Abode by Magpie tins

British brand Magpie ( make some lovely things – from their gift-worthy mugs with different letters of the alphabet on, through to their cushions and tableware with 1950s-inspired bird prints. So I was really excited to see their new range – Abode – featuring four little animals in their natural habitats.

Inspired by geometric patterns as well as African and Scandinavian design, they’re fun, quirky and totally covetable.

Top of my wishlist is the handy set of three tins, £16, above. They’d work equally well in a home office or bedroom as they would in the kitchen. Get them here.

Other items in the range include these sets of two tea towels (£12 for a pair)…

Deer and mouse tea towels Abode by Magpie

…and the individual boxed mugs, which would make great gifts, £8.50 each…

Deer and woods mug Abode by Magpie

… plus a gorgeous boxed espresso set (a perfect wedding gift, £22.50)…

Abode by Magpie espresso set

…and set of four side plates, £20, which you could mix with white tableware:

Set of four side plates Abode by Magpie

PS: keep an eye out too for the fab placemats (£20 for four) and coasters (£10 for four) which are coming soon.

Guess Who’s doing the drying up?

27 Jan

Guess Who tea towel £7.95

If there’s something I love as much as cushions, it’s teatowels (I know, I don’t get out much!). So, when I saw this little beauty, printed with all the faces from fab retro board game Guess Who? for £7.95 at, I just couldn’t resist adding it to my collection.

Why? Maybe it’s because it was the only game I ever beat my little brother at (okay, so I admit I had to cheat…); or maybe it’s because the eight-year-old me used to want a natty green beret like ‘Maria’. Either way, it’s going to look fab in my kitchen.

Perhaps I should buy my brother one too, to rub his face in it – sorry – dishes with it?

The only time it’s good to be shelf-ish!

20 Nov

Kitchen rack 1

If, like me, you have a lot of lovely tins, quirky mugs, fun gadgets and kitsch knick knacks in your kitchen, it can be a shame to hide them away.

However, kitchen storage can be tricky, especially if you’re on a budget. You can fit one of your units with glass doors, but this often looks a bit twee; or you can pop things on shelves, which works fine, but doesn’t look particularly stylish.

This is why there has been a blank wall in my kitchen for over a year now…

blank kitchen wall before storage

Pictures didn’t look right (and got all steamed up); I already had a clock on another wall; and I didn’t want a full-on unit as it would have made the place feel too cluttered. I needed some kind of shelving unit that was both practical and that looked cool; where I could display my fun bits’n’bobs and also reach things when I needed them.

I found some great options online, but they all cost hundreds of pounds. Then, while doing a photoshoot recently, I came across interiors website They sell all kinds of unusual vintage and shabby-chic homes accessories – including doormats, picture frames, tins, jugs, hooks and metal signs – as well as some great, affordable storage options.

It was here I found the answer: the designer-look ‘Large Industrial Wirework Shelf’. It’s big enough to hold a decent amount of stuff; yet the see-thru nature of the wirework means it doesn’t take up too much space visually. It fixes to the wall with just two long screws (simple for even a DIY dunce like myself) and at a reasonable £49.95 it’s way cheaper than anything else similar I’ve seen.

The very kind people at Live Laugh Love gave me a shelf to keep after my shoot and now it has pride of place in my kitchen:

Kitchen rack 3

You wouldn’t just have to use a shelf like this in the kitchen though. It’d work well in a bathroom (see below); and if you wanted to make it blend into the wall even further, you could easily paint it with white radiator paint; or use a coloured spraypaint to make it stand out (try PlastiKote Twist’n’Spray, from DIY shops and which sprays onto almost any surface).

BATHROOM Wirework shelf £49.95

So, a huge thank you to the folks at – I’m definitely adding the site to my list of great Christmas shopping destinations. And if you’re having a browse, here’s my pick of the other fab stuff they sell…

Live laugh love pigeon hole

Above: Rustic Wooden Six-Section Pigeon Holes, £29.95 (a great alternative to the wire shelves)

Live laugh love Merry Christmas grossgrain ribbon

Above: Fabric Ribbon, £2.95 for 3m; Antique Glass Filigree TeaLight Holders, £2.95 each

live laugh love knot doorstop

Above: Rope Knot Doorstop, £14.95 (a BARGAIN for something like this!); Vintage Glass Cake Stand, £9.95

Live laugh love general store storage

Above: General Store Jute Storage Bags, £3.95 – £8.95 depending on size; Days of the Week Decorated Pegs, £3.95

[Disclosure: I was given the wirework shelf  from that appears in this review]

The future’s orange

1 Nov

Lifestyle shot from John Lewis

Pic courtesty of John Lewis (

I recently wrote a trends piece for Closer magazine about Autumn’s hottest shades, as predicted by world colour experts, The Pantone Color Institute. There are some lovely ones – a deep Greek sea blue; a calming sage green; a spicy hot red… but my surprise favourite has to be ‘Koi’, a cheery bright orange.

Pantone colour predictions Autumn Winter 2013

It’s not a colour you’d automatically think of when buying things for your home, but while it can look too kitsch if splashed over an entire room; a few pops of orange in a plainer white or grey colour scheme can look really cool indeed.

To prove the point, I’ve found a whole host of lovely orange accessories that will add instant wow factor to any room, and that won’t break the bank price-wise. Which one is your favourite?!

ORANGE Fox sculpture £18 Littlewoods

Fox sculpture, £15, Littlewoods (; Fan lampshade, £36,; Linnell table lamp, £69 Marks & Spencer (

ORANGE Cushion £18 Next

Shaggy cushion, £18, Next (; Essentials orange pyramid kettle, £25, BHS (; Bonjour! print £35,
orange selection one

Musca table lamp in ‘squirrel’, £19.98 B&Q (; Trimphone, £32,; Orla Kiely pots and jars, £20 – £23 each,; Jasper dining chair, £39, John Lewis (

orange selection two

Digital radio, £49.95, John Lewis (; Mod tealight holder, £10.50, Habitat (; Linea Egyptian cotton towels, from £8, House of Fraser (,default,pd.html)

To dry for

11 Oct

Marks and Spencer new 2013 Autumn Winter tea towels

If there’s one thing you can’t ever have enough of in your house (apart from cushions, of course…), it’s tea towels. They’re a such a quick, inexpensive way to update your kitchen, and what’s more, if your other half keeps using them to dry oily roasting pans like mine does (grr), you’ll find you need new ones on a regular basis.

M&S tea towel bohemian doll £4

You can spend a fortune on posh drying-up clothes (as my mum calls them), but I’ve found a cheap, fab new source for mine – good old M&S Not only do they have some brilliantly bright and cheerful designs, above, but they’re just £4 each; or £9.50 for a co-ordinating set of three.

Don’t mind splashing out for something more quirky? Visit the puntastically-named webshop for a selection of fun, clever designer tea towels – like the selection below, £7.50 to £12 each – that make a thoughtful, envelope-friendly gift.

Cable cars tea towel £8.50 todryfor

Get your colouring pencils out!

7 Oct


I love a good competition – and this one is particularly brilliant. Brabantia, makers of upmarket pedal bins and kitchen accessories, have launched a contest to create a new design for their tea/coffee/sugar canisters.
The prize is a VIP trip for two to the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan (a swanky design show); but even more excitingly, you get to see your design adorning everything from biscuit tins to bread bins all over the world.
To enter, simply follow the instructions at For inspiration, Brabantia ran a competition to design a pedal bin a while ago – the winning patterns are above and below.
Art and design not your forte? You can still have fun browsing the entries and voting for your favourites at the same address.


Tray chic

10 Sep

maria-dahlgren-dolores-colores-tray Howkapow £35

Not only has online store Howkapow ( got a great name, but they’ve also got great taste. They specialise in colourful, fun, quirky, well-designed products – I covet much everything they sell…

The best things in the shop though, in my opinion, are the new trays, £18-£35. Forget boring brown wooden versions, these are bright and cheerful with such pretty patterns you could almost hang them on the wall as art when you’re not using them.

maria-dahlgren-harlekin-tray Howkapow £18

Other goodies worth checking out include their cute fox and cat cushions, £28 each; blowball brooches, £15; retro ‘Bonjour’ print, £35; the sweet acorn-shaped salt’n’pepper set, £25; and the funky Kaleidoscope tablemats, £35 for four.

fox-cushion-orange-robin-mould £28 Howkapow

blowball-brooch-teal-snug £15 Howkapow

eduardo-barba-bonjour-print_1 £35 Howkapow

acorn-salt-pepper-pots-bliss £25 Howkapow

kaleidoscope-tablemat-set-fun-makes-good £35 Howkapow

PS: LIVE OUTSIDE THE UK? Have no fear – Howkapow reassure me they ship internationally! See their site for details.

Foxing clever

29 Aug

Dunelm Mill felt fox cushion £12.99

They might give chickens nightmares and make a nighttime noises that sound like someone being tortured, but this Autumn, foxes are definitely ‘in’.

Of course, the foxes that are popping up on cushions, mugs and prints at the moment are the cute, cosy kind – glossy russet coats, big bushy tails and jaunty little faces. And even though a fox once stole one of my shoes and then pooed in the other, I have to admit, even I’m kind of liking them.

They’re an easy way to bring your home bang-up-to-date. Pop a cushion on an armchair, or a print on an unloved bit of wall and hey presto, you’ll look as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University (one for the Blackadder fans there).

So, in an attempt to make friends with my former foes, here’s a round-up of my favourite foxy finds…

Above: Felt Fox Cushion £12.99 (yes really!), Dunelm Mill

Below: Fox art print £25 Marks & Spencer

M&S Fox frame art £25Cushions (clockwise from LtoR): Fox accent cushion £12, Fox tapestry cushion £14 Next, Linea fox cushion £25 House of Fraser, Fox face cushion £16.99 LS Prints fox accent cushion £12Fox sculpture ornament £15 fox sculpture ornament £15

Midnight Foxes giclee print £30 Culture Label

midnight fox giclee print £30

Friendly Fox cushion £17.99 The Oak Room

The Oak Room fox cushion

Rusty the Fox doormat £19.95 and tin of plasters £3.95 (other products also available in this range)

Rusty the fox doormat £19.95 Dotcomgiftshop

Sew Your Own Fox tea towel £12.50 Culture Label

culturelabel sew your own fox_tea_towel £12.50

Old School Czech label notecard with fox £2.50 Present and Correct (would look great framed!) foxy notecard

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section sponsored by NEXT. voting closes this weekend, 31st August. Thank you!

This Asda be seen to be believed!

27 Aug

Asda modern memories main v2 (RT)

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Asda’? Groceries, supermarket checkouts, or people patting their bottoms suggestively to make the change in their pocket jingle?

Well, now you’d better add ‘gorgeous, bargainous homewares’ to that list, as their new Autumn/Winter collection is, quite frankly, AMAZING.

There are five key looks this season. Winter Mist is shabby chic with a cosy twist (think soft heather and silver, chunky knits and snowy stags); Monochrome is themed around vintage Parisian photographs with classy Georgian house-print bedlinen; Noir is dark and dramatic butterflies and florals shot through with gold; and Bootcamp is reds and neutrals with an industrial feel (think typography, maps, wood and hessian details).

But my absolute favourite trend is Modern Memories. Quirky and fun, it mixes mid-century fifties styling with graphic and animal motifs for a bright, modern take on the retro look.

Asda Modern memories Bedroom MainV3a (RT)

What’s  more, it’s all absolutely as cheap as chips!  In the pic at the start of this entry, the geometric teal rug is £40; the designer-look white geometric vase is £12; the cushions are (LtoR) £11, £9 and £7; the squirrel ornament is £6; and the squirrel mug is £2.

In the bedroom pic above, the origami double duvet set is a mindboggling £11; and in the kitchen pic below, the Tea, Coffee & Sugar canisters are £3.50 each; the Biscuit tin is £4; the Cake tin is £6; the bread bin is £10; the tea towels are £1 each; the pear glass worktop saver is £3.50; the hi-ball glasses are £3 for four (crazy eh?!); and the set of three pear nested canisters is £4.

Race you to the checkout!

Asda Modern memories kitchen v3 (RT)

Asda Modern memories bathroom accs CO (RT)

Origami style soap dispenser £5; tumbler £3; soap dish £3. Milk carton jug £5.

ASDA AW13 Modern Memories Wonderful Life Cushion

Wonderful Life cushion £11.

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section sponsored by NEXT. voting closes on 31st August. Thank you!

One day my prints will come

16 Aug

Visual Philosophy Russian cockerel print

There aren’t enough walls in my house for all the prints I’d love to own, but after discovering a little gem of an online store called Visual Philosophy, I might have to make some space sharpish.

Inspired by “…Mid-Century Modernists, Scandinavian design, typography and retro graphic design”, the Oxford-based designers have created a lovely range of colour-popping prints that are available in various sizes – they’ll even customise them with different shades or words if you ask them nicely. Perfect for present ideas, I’d say.

Everything’s priced individually, with discounts if you buy more than one, but as a guide, you can expect to pay around £16.95 per unframed A3 print, or £23.18 for a trio of A4 prints. The store runs through Etsy at

My absolute favourites are Russian cockerel, above, and the kitchenalia prints (immediately below) – I can just see one of them sitting above my bread bin!

Visual Philosophy on Etsy set of three kitchen prints

Visual Philosophy on Etsy are we having fun yet print

Visual Philosophy on Etsy set of three bird prints

Visual Philosophy on Etsy children's print

Visual Philosophy mid century modern coffee print etsy

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section. Voting closes on 31st August. Thank you!

On your Marks…!

14 Aug

Marks and Spencer boho living room

The new interiors catalogue for Marks & Spencer has just landed with an almighty thump on my desk, and as usual, I want to buy half the stuff in it. M&S might be famous for undies, but their homes stuff is just as good – great quality, designer-look pieces at still affordable prices.

This season, one of their key trends is ‘Boho’, which basically means  flowers, owls and Russian-style patterns in brilliant bright colours. It’s such an easy look to get right because anything goes – the whole idea is to mix up different shades and patterns, so you can simply go crazy with whatever takes your fancy.

My top picks? Pretty much everything in the living room picture above, particularly these colourful cushions (£25 for the floral ‘Saffy’ cushion and £12 for the Russian dolls)…

saffy print cushion £25 M&S

I also love the cute butterfly, Baboushka and owl print kitchenwares (owls are EVERYWHERE this Autumn). The tea towels are £4 each; a set of three storage tins is £9.50; the owl biscuit tin is £12.50; and the set of two cake tins is £15…

Lighter exposure of shot A

Finally, I’d love to snuggle down in this amazing Boho Patchwork Bed Set (£49.50 for a double duvet and pillowcases), below. Sadly, I think it might be one floral too far for my other half though!

Marks and Spencer boho bedding

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section. Voting closes on 31st August. Thank you!

Very pin-teresting

12 Aug

Giant metal safety pin with tea towel

The new catalogue has just popped through my letterbox and it’s a corker. If you’re not familiar with it, the website brings together thousands of different products from individual designers and small independent stores as well as bigger names. I’ve spent many a happy hour just putting different search terms in and seeing what goodies pop up.

Anyhow, my absolute favourite item from the new catalogue is this Giant Display Pin from Gertie & Mabel, top. It would look great in a kitchen with a tea towel on; in a bedroom to display necklaces; in a hallway to hang scarves; or in a craft room with spools of ribbon on. In fact, you can also buy vintage style wooden spools (£3.95 each) also from Gertie & Mabel to wind lovely ribbons on (yes, they sell the ribbons too!).

Giant metal safety pin with ribbon spools

Other standouts include these Industrial Metal Letters, below, from the Letteroom – at £29.50 each, they’re a lot cheaper than most designer ones you can buy…

Industrial metal letters

…and these AMAZING lights shaped like balloons (called Memory Balloon Wall Lights, by designer John Moncrieff). Made of handblown glass, they’re not just things of beauty, but they’re clever too – you attach them to the wall or ceiling, then pull on the string to switch them on. The only reason I haven’t run out and bought a load immediately? They start at £134 each, yikes!

Memory balloon ceiling light

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section. Thank you!

Push (and pull) the button

31 Jul

55550007-Acrylic-Retro- Button Knob-Red -Vera

I’ve long been a fan of changing drawer and door knobs on furniture to give it a whole new lease of life. However, there isn’t actually a huge choice of little knobs around – you can get a few at Ikea, Bombay Duck,  John Lewis and Oliver Bonas, but to be honest, the selection isn’t that great and they’re often fairly expensive.

So, I was excited (and admit I went a little overboard with my online shopping basket) when I found Trinca Ferro,

They sell literally hundreds of different little knobs in a huge variety of shapes and colours (below), for around £2.95 – £3.20 each. Bargain!

My absolute favourites are the chunky Acrylic Retro Button knobs, above. They come in eight shades and are a decent 4cm wide. You could use just one to jazz up chest of drawers; or even change all the handles on your kitchen cupboards for a really quirky look. I’ve got a big white chest of drawers in my bedroom – I reckon a mixture of different colours on each drawer would look amazing!

yellow floral knob

Cuppa load of these tea towels

29 May

Stuart Gardiner tea towels - tea and coffee

Graphic designer Stuart Gardiner makes some lovely tea towels – you might have seen them – with colourful tables showing which fruit and vegetables are in season; handy guides to pairing wine with food; and a cute design covered in flowers that attract bees (you can see some of them at the bottom of this post).

Not only are they incredibly cool, but they’re made of really good quality cotton that wears really well and feels soft and absorbent even after dozens of washes.

Now he’s launched two fab new tea towels, one with tips, recipes and sayings all about coffee, and one all about tea, above. They’d make brilliant, easily-postable gifts (you could even pair one with a box of tea/coffee or a  nice mug?).

All his tea towels cost  £10 each (plus just £1 P&P) from

Like his style? His site sells oven mitts, bags, mugs, prints and even chopping boards too.

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - coffee design

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - tea design

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - seasonal guide to fruit and veg folded

Stuart Gardiner tea towel Bee FriendlyStuart Gardiner tea towels - pairing red and white wine with food

A very nice cream van

15 May

Marks and Spencer ice cream van biscuit tin

As we stared wistfully through a shop window at a set of cake tins the other day, my friend said to me, “The two things you can never have enough of in a house are jugs and tins”. I agreed (but also added cushions to that list).

So, when my mother-in-law visited me the other day and bought the above gift, I was delighted. It’s a re-usable, retro-ish tin in the shape of an ice cream van, which looks great on a kitchen shelf. As a bonus, it’s full of slightly strange strawberry cookies that taste eerily like ice cream in crunchy biscuit form.

The next time you’re popping round to someone’s house for tea, I thoroughly recommend picking one up from Marks & Spencers for just £6. It’d make a very welcome gift,  no matter how many tins your host already has (you can also never  have too many biscuits – yet another thing to add to that list!)

PS: Live outside the UK? You can buy one of these tins for £7.50 from fab website BritStore, who ship all kinds of British goodies anywhere in the world. Visit

Ahoy there, me napkins!

9 Apr napkin holder sail

Nothing says ‘fancy’ like a paper napkin.

Oh okay, lots and lots of things say ‘fancy’ better than a paper napkin, but they do make you look thoughtful. If you’ve got friends round, and you serve them some cake on a plate with a napkin, it looks so much more special than if you just fling a half-opened packet of biscuits in their general direction.

Anyhow, while I’ve got a real soft spot for napkins, I’ve always thought that napkin holders were a bit naff. They’re usually hideous stained wood affairs that look like holiday souvenirs; or very functional see-thru perspex ones that wouldn’t look out of place in a greasy spoon cafe.

Until now, that is. The clever people at hip San Francisco design company Gama-Go have turned their attention to the humble serviette holder and come up with these fun little Anchor’s Away sailboats. They suit any size, colour or pattern of napkin, and would look brilliant ‘sailing’ on your kitchen or dining room table. Who knows, they’re so fun they might even encourage visiting children to wipe their sticky fingers more (note I only said ‘might’!).

They cost £9.95 each from While you’re there, check out the other great Gama-Go items for sale – I defy you not to (ahem) push the boat out and leave the site empty-handed!

PS: Live in the US? You can buy the Sailboat napkin holder from for $14

Gama Go sailboat napkin holder

Home sweet homewares – all under £5

4 Apr

Matalan bamboo coloured mug tree

I’ve written about Matalan’s ( fab homeware design team before, and quite frankly, someone needs to ban me from their stores as their new Spring Summer range is so lovely – and so bargainous – that I’m in danger of buying the whole lot.

My top pick is their multicoloured bamboo mug tree, just £3.50, above. It’s very similar to one John Lewis had last year (inset, above), but which cost about £20. There are matching chopping boards (bamboo wards off bacteria), £4 each, too, edged in either coral, blue or lime – at that price, you could get all three!

Matalan bamboo-chopping-board £4 coral

Then there are the designer-look storage jars, with either a coral, lime or sky blue lid, £5 each, below. The black panel on the front is made of blackboard paint, so you can write the name of the contents on in chalk. Classy!

Matalan large-ceramic-jar £5 blue

I’m also loving the latest addition to Matalan’s china storage jar range, £5, also below. With a retro/Japanese blue wave design, it’d look cool in any kitchen.

Matalan ceramic-storage-canister £5 wave design

Worth a mention too is the owl mug. I cannot believe he’s just £3.50 – again, he looks as if he ought to come from a swanky boutique. He’d make a great gift teamed with a box of fancy teabags.

Matalan owl-design-mug £3

Finally, I’m tempted by the bright doormat, just £5 (I LOVE that it has ‘Yo’ as a greeting); the decal planters, £3 each; the set of six metal hangers, £3.50; the Tasty Tomatoes tea towel, £1.50 and the set of two velour kitchen hand towels, in either the green asparagus or silver spoon print.  I really can’t believe they only cost £3.50 for a pair.

Matalan welcome-brights-doormat-40cm-x-60cm £5

Matalan decal-planter-h-125cm £3

Matalan 6-pack-multicoloured-metal-coat-hangers £3.50

Matalan 2-pack-printed-kitchen-hand-towels

Have your cake and store it!

2 Apr

Orla Kiely cake tins set of 5 £35 John Lewis

It was my birthday the other week, and some of my lovely friends clubbed together and got me John Lewis vouchers, as they know I’m slightly obsessed with pretty much everything they sell.

So, what did I spend them on? Well, I’ve been coveting this set of gorgeous cake and biscuit tins by Orla Kiely for some time, so I treated myself!

There are five tins in total, each in one of Orla’s signature retro-style prints, including a really large tin that’s great for Christmas cakes and other huge items. They look fantastic in my kitchen and match the colours on my blinds brilliantly (not that this matters, but it makes me love them even more). You can stack them inside each other when not in use, but quite frankly, they look far to pretty to hide away.

The whole set of five costs £35, which is actually fairly reasonable considering there are so many of them and they’re a bona fide designer item.

In fact, they’ve already had so many admiring comments, that the next time someone who loves baking (or just eating) cakes gets married, I’ll invest in a set for them too – I reckon they’d make a fantastic and unusual wedding gift.

Orla Kiely cake tins in two piles

Time to buy a new clock

28 Mar

CLOCKS (FUTURISTIC) Lexon Around Clock £21.65

The clocks go forward in the UK by an hour this weekend – midnight on Sunday 31st. Whilst this is a good thing in that it heralds the start of British Summer Time (not that you’d know it with the murky weather we’ve been having recently), it’s not so great in that everyone loses a precious hour in bed.

My solution? Celebrate the time change and cheer yourself up with a new clock. You don’t have to spend a fortune – the one I have my eye on, above, the futuristic-looking Lexon Around clock, is a reasonable £21.65 from

Want some other suggestions? How about the Normann Copenhagen Watch Me clock, £35 from Heal’s (; the  Cuckoo canvas clock, £14.99, Dunelm Mill (; the fabulously retro Jones Strike Mantle clock, £10 from Asda (; the Nextime Disco clock, £29,; or the Ice Cream Cone clock, £35, John Lewis (, all below.

Better be quick though if you want to buy one before Sunday – time’s a ticking!

CLOCKS (COLOUR POP)  Normann Copenhagen Watch Me Wall Clock £35 Heal's

CLOCKS (QUIRKY) Cuckoo canvas clock £14.99 Dunelm MillCLOCKS (RETRO) Jones Strike Mantle Clock £10 Asda

CLOCKS (METALLIC) Nextime Disco Clock £29

CLOCKS (QUIRKY) Ice Cream Cone Clock, £35 John Lewis

Keep your powder dry

15 Mar

Debenhams 2013-02-28

When I did up my kitchen recently, I got a bit obsessed with storage. And one of the things that has particularly revolutionised my life has been putting my washing powder into a special tin (I know, I know – I don’t get out much).

Before I got the tin, I kept my powder in it’s original cardboard box, under the sink or by the washing machine. Aside from the fact it didn’t look that attractive, it always managed to get soggy on the bottom, and the powder inside would get stuck together in big clumps that I’d have to whack the box hard to get out.

Now I have a tin with a scoop inside, I use every last bit of powder as it all stays dry and never goes solid. Plus, the tin sits proudly on my worktop, looking classy. It’s the little things that make a difference, see?!

If you want to be as anal as me, there are some fab tins around at the moment. Designer Ben de Lisi has created a lovely retro one, £18, above, as part of his new range for Debenhams (which also includes  a matching ironing board cover and a laundry organiser tin) out at the end of this month.

On a similar retro theme are these vintage-style tins (the OMO one is my favourite), just £11.50 each, from Amazon (

OMO Adds brightness washing powder tin £11.50

Want something in a calmer colour? These lovely tins are also from Amazon and include a handy scoop (grey, £14.95; cream £13.95):

Vintage washing powder laundry powder tin in slate grey £14.95

This one’s a good present for anyone who’s laundry-phobic (£22.46,

Washing powder tin The Bright Side £22.45

And if you fancy splashing  out, this gorgeous white tin and scoop costs £32 from Cox & Cox (

Washing Powder box £32 Cox and Cox

Finally, if you like the idea of a laundry powder tin but want to spend less than a tenner, this fun washing machine-shaped one is just £6.99, again from Amazon:

Washing powder storage tin Koopman international washing machine shaped £6.99

Tray chic

22 Feb

zinc memoboard 40x20cm £20

I’ve been looking for just the right kind of noticeboard for the wall of my home office for a while. It needs to be useful, yet look stylish too, as my office is really just a grand name for our spare room.

And I think I’ve found just the thing.

This Zinc Memo Board, £20, from Rose and Grey (, looks like a chi-chi zinc tray – the kind you’d get drinks served on in a backstreet Parisian bar – and comes with a hanging rope loop and ten little magnets to hold all those important notes, cards and reciepts in check.

Don’t like the rectangular one? They’ve got round ones too, for the same, very reasonable price.

It had sold out completely, but the nice people at Rose and Grey tell me they’ve just received a new delivery – so they’re all stocked up and ready to go.

Send in the clouds

18 Feb

Cloud eraser and pencil set

I’ve recently started working from home*, and to get myself in the right frame of mind, I’m trying to make my office space (erm, a desk in the spare room!) as welcoming, fun and lovely as possible.

While searching for nice stationery – a favourite pastime of mine – I discovered a new mini trend: clouds. I love their jolly rounded shape, and the fact they’ll bring a bit of the outside in for those times when I’m chained to my computer.

So, here’s my pick of the best cloud-shaped accessories around at the moment. Maybe best to stick to just one or two in a room though – you don’t want things to get too over-cloud-ed, do you?!

Cloud Pencil Eraser Set, £10, – I LOVE this as it includes a rainbow too. The only problem is that the giant cloud-shaped eraser is too pretty to use!

Magnetic keyholder, £20, – keys stick ‘magically’ to this handy keyholder, and look like rain. Genius! It’s stylish and unassuming even when not in use, and would go well in any room in the house.

Cloud magnetic key holder suck uk

Design Ideas Cloud Magnet Memo, £24.95 John Lewis,
This clever write-on/wipe-off memo board is also magnetic and would look particularly lovely on a coloured wall.

cloud memo board john lewis

Luckies Sunnyside Egg Shaper, £7.95, or
Place in your frying pan, then pop a yolk into the ‘sun’ section and the white into the ‘cloud’ – voila! (NB: want a quick way to separate egg whites and yolks? Crack an egg onto a plate, then gently lower the open neck of an empty water bottle over the yolk – it creates a vacuum and sucks it up! Then you can transfer it easily in the bottle to your pan).

Cloud sunnyside in pan

Cloud necklaces, from £6, and
Ok, so these won’t decorate your home, but they’re so sweet I thought I’d include them anyhow! Just seach for ‘cloud necklace’ on Etsy or and there’s a huge range to choose from. Lovely! (on the left is an antique silver finish cloud by thewoodlandburrow on Etsy for £6.64/$10; on the right is Blue Raindrop Silver Cloud necklace by SUNnMOONcafe on Etsy, £21.58/$32.50)

silver cloud necklace thewoodlandburrow on etsy £6.64 or $10

*If you’re interested, you can check out my new ‘professional’ website here:

Valentine’s Day? It’s a mug’s game!

11 Feb

VDay hot lips ceramic mug £5 M&S

V-Day falls on a Thursday this year, which means lie-ins and leisurely romantic breakfasts-in-bed are out the window. Still, you can still show your loved one you care (at least a little bit) by bringing them a nice cup of tea first thing in the morning.

And what better to bring it to them in than a nice new mug? A mug makes a good Valentine’s Day present as it’s not as fattening as chocolates, predictable as red roses or bleurgggggh as a teddy holding a satin heart.

You’ve only got three days to buy one though, so I’d head to trusty Marks and Spencer (, who have some lovely, non-cheesy mugs in at the moment. My picks? The simple ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ script mugs, £6 each, below, that’ll look classy way past the 14th; or the fun ‘hot lips’ mug (top) or ‘love birds’ mug *(below) that both look a lot more expensive than their £5 price tags.

Single? Soften the blow of having to make your own cuppa by treating yourself to a new mug anyway. M&S has a mega cute fondant fancy mug, £6, available in pink or yellow (bottom). If I were you, I’d use it as an excuse to splash out on some real fondant fancies to go with it, too!

VDay Mrs mug £6 M&S

VDay love birds mug £5 M&S

VDay fondant mug £6 M&S yellow

When life gives you lemons… make pancakes!

8 Feb

lemon juicer

Next Tuesday is Pancake Day. It’s one of my favourite days of the year, because it means I have a legitimate reason to pig out!

I love experimenting with different pancake toppings – everything from cherry jam and Nutella to cheese’n’Marmite. But when it comes down to it, you can’t go far wrong with good old traditional lemon and sugar.

And that brings me onto the subject of lemon juicers/squeezers. The picture above is of my lemon juicer, which I’ve owned for 14 (count ’em) years. I bought it on a whim for 99p in a bargain homes shop in Bath. I wish I’d bought a whole box of them, as not only does it look like a friendly cactus on your kitchen shelf, but it’s absolutely brilliant. The pips and pith catch in the rim while the juice filters down into the pot, ready for pouring. It takes very little effort to get every last drop from a lemon or orange, and you simply run it under the tap to clean it.

Being such a simple but effective design, you’d think it’d be sold everywhere, but nope, I’ve never seen in anywhere since. All the other juicer models I’ve tried either lack a pot, result in sticky hands, or involve knuckle-breaking handles.

So, as my aim with this blog is to bring you the best, I’ve done some detective work. An extensive search has unearthed just one similar squeezer to mine, below – the Citrus Fruit Squeezer Juicer £7.49. from (sold through Amazon by The Italian Touch).

It’s by an Italian kitchen ware company (well, they do know a thing or two about cooking after all), and if you want an easy, squeezy gadget for your kitchen, I reckon you can’t go far wrong with this one.

Lemon squeezer main pic

Lemon squeezer from top

Let me know how you get on!

I pity the fool who doesn’t love Mr Tea

6 Feb

Mr Tea in his cup

Say hello to Mr Tea, the cutest tea infuser ever created.

Simply load up his food-safe silicone trousers with loose tea leaves, pull them back on, then pop him in a cup of hot water with his arms over the side, and let him make you a tasty brew.


He costs £7.95 from and comes in a handy presentation box.

Mr Tea resting beside a mug

Mr Tea box

Colour me happy (part three!)

4 Feb

Pantone Spring colour predictions 2013

Last week, I revealed the top ten shades of 2013, as predicted by colour boffins the Pantone Colour Institute.

Today, in my last post on this subject, I’m picking out some great accessories from the  high street in the final three shades – Poppy Red (bright pillar box red); Linen (classy cream) and Monaco Blue (deeper-than-royal blue):

From left to right: Swallow bird cushion £9 Asda Direct (; Jolie table lamp £35 John Lewis (; Linea Nautical Blue glass bathshop pot £8 House of Fraser (; Japanese wave bowl £4.95 Dotcomgiftshop (; Chunky knitted cushion £15 TU at Sainsburys (in store). 

Pantone Monaco blue

From left to right: Owl lamp £10 (bargain!) Asda Direct (; Coin storage box £3.49 Dunelm Mill (; Knitted pouffe Littlewoods £85 (; Jam jar vase £10 Next ( 

Pantone Linen

From left to right: House by John Lewis Tony task lamp £25 John Lewis (; Linea tealight holder £12 House of Fraser (; Retro Skittles alarm clock £20 John Lewis (as before); Large red tagine £35 House of Fraser (as before); Medium traditional lantern £12 John Lewis (as before). 

Pantone poppy red


Colour yourself happy (part two!)

1 Feb

Pantone Spring colour predictions 2013

On Wednesday I introduced you to the hottest ‘it’ hues of the year, as predicted by the experts at the Pantone Color Institute (they’ve got a cool job, haven’t they?!).

Today, I’ve picked out some fab new homes bits in three of my favourite shades – Lemon Zest (fun, sunshine yellow); African Violet (stronger-than-pastel lilac) and Grayed Jade (a lovely minty teal-y green):

From left to right: Bone china scallop mug £10 The Richard Bramble Collection (; Bubble knit throw £40 Next (; Linea Tropical Pineapple lamp £40 House of Fraser; Vintage by Wayne Hemingway coffee storage tin £7 John Lewis (; Linea Urban Tribe Stripe Vase £25 House of Fraser (

Pantone Lemon Zest

From left to right: Gertrude cushion £36 Home and Kids (; Multi photo frame £7.99 Dunelm Mill (; Optic tea light holders £15 for a set of 3 Marks and Spencer (

Pantone African Violet

From left to right: Chunky knit cushion £14.99 Dunelm Mill (; Personalised vintage apple crate £34.99 Getting Personal (; Terracotta jug £15 House of Fraser (; Wooden bird cage £8.99 Dunelm Mill (; Linea Curiosity teacup and saucer set £10 House of Fraser (as before); Big Ben cushion £7 Asda (; LSA Firo carafe and tumbler £16.99 Beautiful Homes Direct (

Pantone Grayed Jade

Colour yourself happy (part one!)

30 Jan

Pantone Spring colour predictions 2013

Every year, colour experts, The Pantone Color Institute, visit all the fashion shows and observe global trends. They use this information to collate their predictions for the next year’s hottest hues. These are the colours that’ll be everywhere – from clothes to homes accessories in the coming months.

For 2013, they’ve predicted a rainbow of stronger-than-pastel shades, above. Aren’t they pretty?!

The high street has already started to catch on, and there are some fab new colourful bits and bobs in the shops. To celebrate, I’m going to show you my picks of the best over the next week or so, starting today with Emerald (the overall ‘it’ colour of the season), Tender Shoots (a lovely fresh green), Nectarine (a peachy orange shade) and Dusk Blue (sky blue)…

From left to right: Apothecary bottle £19.50 Conran for M&S (; Non-slip chopping board £8 M&S (as before); Small glass vase £9 TU at Sainsburys (in store).

Pantone Emerald

From left to right: Ingrid pendant shade £15 Littlewoods (; Hourglass £8.99 Dunelm Mill (; John Lewis Summer Brights tableware £4 – £5 (; Personalised mug £9.99 Getting Personal (; Loop cushion £27 Littlewoods (as before).


From left to right: Orange rustic knit cushion £22 Next (; Ross Lovegrove style Supernatural chair £39 Cult Furniture (; Hummingbird votive candle holder £3 Asda (

Pantone Nectarine

From left to right: Basis jug by LSA £20.50 Beautiful Homes Direct (; Bookend

DUSK BLUE Verona Desk Quarto Week to View (Aqua), £19.29 - Letts

Bargains dot com

18 Jan

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of pantry design cake tins £4.95 was £12.95

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a bit disappointed in the post-Christmas sales. The discounts are fairly measly, there’s only the dregs left, and it’s all a bit of a letdown.

But not with the sale at Oh no. Now that’s what I call a sale!

Dotcomgiftshop is one of my all-time favourite websites. There really is something for everyone, from cool homewares and cute prints, to fun knick knacks and great gift ideas from their talented in-house design team.

While everything they sell is pretty affordable anyhow, their huge sale is absolutely bargainous, with up to 70% off.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite pieces below, but to see the full scale of the sale, you’d better visit the website quick. Happy bargain hunting!

(above) Set of three pantry design cake tins, £4.95 (was £12.95). A great gift for someone who loves baking or just eating cakes!

Midnight blue flower embroidered cushion, £9.95 (was £34.95). Gorgeous designer-look embroidery for under a tenner.

Dotcomgiftshop sale Midnight blue flower embroidered cushion £9.95 was £34.95

Vintage doily paperchain kit, £2.95 (was £6.95). Perfect for parties!

Dotcomgiftshop sale vintage doily paperchain kit £2.95 was £6.95

1950s advent calendar house, £6.95 (was £18.95). Buy now for next Christmas…

Dotcomgiftshop sale 50s advent calendar house £6.95 was £18.95

Set of four vintage leaf design knick knack tins, £4.95 (was £9.95). Organise your desk, sewing kit or man/woman drawer in style.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of four vintage leaf nic nak tins £4.95 was £9.95

Party ribbons, £2.95 (was £6.95). Look great wrapped around plain brown paper.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of ribbons party £2.95 was £6.95

Alphabet magnets, £2.95 (was £6.95). A lovely gift for big and little kids alike – plus it fits in a flat envelope!

Dotcomgiftshop sale Alphabet fridge magnets £2.95 was £6.95

Set of six pantry design spice tins, £3.95 (was £9.95). Too pretty to shut away in a cupboard.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of six vintage pantry design spice tins £3.95 was £9.95

The Next big thing

14 Jan

X51_COVER2_52_cov_rt_v4 copy

Next’s new 2013 Spring/Summer interiors range is on sale now, and there are some LOVELY things in the new homes catalogue.

There are several fab new themed collections – Blossom & Bloom (bright blowsy florals), Boatyard Salvage (blues and driftwood); Pretty Salvage (homespun lace, patchwork and vintage-feel accessories); San Diego (chilli reds and fiery oranges) and my favourite, The Good Life (sunny yellows, grass greens and soft greys, with a modern countryside feel).

Here are my picks from The Good Life range: Ochre bubble knit throw, £40 and knitted pod pouffe, £75 (above); Good Day Sunshine cushion, £14; Lemonade Framed Print, £40;  Jam Jar Vase, £10; wooden Home Calendar, £12; Ceramic Bottle and Holder set, £10; ‘Smile’ word, £10; Bumblebee Water Bottle, £6 and Bee Happy Recycled glass tumblers, £10 for a set of four (all below).


Lemonade framed  print £40 Next


LEMON ZEST Smile word £10 Next


A Different Glass

9 Jan

JL gibraltar hi ball soda glassJL multicoloured soda glasses

I love modern coloured glass (in fact, I love vintage coloured glass, but that’s a whole different story), so I was chuffed to hear it’s a big trend for this year.

High street shelves will be groaning with the stuff this Spring and Summer, and on a recent trip to John Lewis, I’ve already spotted some lovely pieces. My favourites are their multicoloured Gibraltar Hi Ball soda-style glasses in red, yellow, green or teal, for just £2.50 each (above). You could buy four in the same colour, but I think one of each shade would look lovely – like a rainbow on your table.

There are matching water bottles too, with old skool stoppers (below), for just £5 each.

JL bottles

John Lewis is also the place to pick up these rather fabulous Playnation bright cocktail glasses, which are currently on sale for £4 each (below the bottles); and classy LSA Centro tumblers (£15.30 for four) and carafes (£10.50 each) in teal, purple, red or green (also below). They come boxed, so would make great gifts, particularly for a wedding.

JL cocktail glasses

JL LSA glasses

Finally, during my trip, I also spotted these fun retro glasses, £4.50 each. I can’t decide which design I love most – how about you?

JL soda glasses

PS: Live outside the UK? Don’t panic! John Lewis inform me that they will ship abroad. Visit for details.

These radios rock!

14 Dec

John Lewis Spectrum DAB radio £29.95 pink

I can’t decide what I like most about these new Spectrum DAB/FM radios from John Lewis. The fact they come in eight lovely colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, white and black/grey); the fact they’ve got a lovely rubbery exterior; the fact they work with both batteries and from the mains; the fact they’re a cute 15cm x 8cm x 2.7cm; or the fact they’re only £29.95.

That’s right – they look designer, but cost just shy of £30. That’s a bargain in my book! And as they’re made by good old John Lewis, you know they’re going to be good quality (they even come with a two-year guarantee).

I reckon they’d make the perfect present for a brother, sister or friend. I’m going to ask Santa for a yellow one for my kitchen!

John Lewis Spectrum DAB radio £29.95 red

Aunt these lovely presents?!

5 Dec

First to take me up on my Christmas gift buying challenge (see Monday 3rd December’s blog) is Jill from London, who emailed to say:

“Can you give me some ideas for my auntie? She likes luxury! But I don’t have a huge budget this year – I can spend £30 on her. She enjoys gardening, films, food and pampering. Help!”

Jill, your wish is my command. Here are my suggestions for luxury-loving aunties, below.

PS: Don’t forget, if you have someone you need gift ideas for, just email me at

Silver Plated Champagne cork salt and pepper shakers by Culinary Concepts, £27.50
Nothing says luxury like Champagne and these stylish shakers will look great on your auntie’s table for years. They come in a posh presentation box, making them easy to post. Culinary Concepts make several other fancy silver plated table items such as watering can-shaped shakers, mouse detail cheese knives, and a sweet silver honey pot and spoon, all for around £30 too. Check out the full range at John Lewis.

Cmas Jill culinary concepts champagne salt and pepper pots John Lewis

Make mine a mojito set, £32,
This fun set includes a good-sized lime tree and mint plant, each in your choice of pot; a mini bottle of Havana club rum; a muddle and instructions on how to make mojitos. All delivered anywhere in the UK. If your auntie doesn’t like booze, Plants4Presents sell all kinds of other lovely plants in fancy pots, such as a Calamondin dwarf orange tree for £25, which looks great in a conservatory.

Cmas Jill make mine a mojito set plants4presents lime tree

Cheese baker, £14.59
This good quality china covered dish is decorated just like a traditional camembert box. Simply place a whole camembert or brie cheese inside, and pop it in the oven for an amazing melty treat. It comes in a matching box, so makes a great gift, and if you want to make it look even more special, you could always buy a decent camembert or brie cheese to go with it.

Cmas Jill camembert cheese baker from

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion jug and sugar bowl, £14 each,
Designer – tick. Classy and timeless – tick. Posh mint green presentation box – tick. Decent price – tick! This stylish range of tableware from Sophie Conran looks uber expensive but is actually pretty reasonable. A matching jug and sugar bowl would make a great gift for an auntie, or you can also browse the range for pitchers, serving bowls, espresso cups and even candles.

Cmas Jill Sophie Conran for Portmeirion milk jug

The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box, £20, Boots
Your auntie can turn her bathroom into one of London’s top spas with this handy kit that contains everything she’ll need to recreate The Sanctuary’s famous facial at home.

Cmas Jill The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box set from Boots

Dusky pink stud bowling bag, £32.50, Next
Ok, so it’s £2.50 over budget, but this roomy, versatile bag looks far more expensive than it actually is, and works as a classy day bag, work bag or travel bag.

Cmas Jill dusky pink stud bowlling bag £32.50

Black + Blum Candelabra loop, £19.95,
Elegant and expensive-looking, this chrome candle holder should look fab on your auntie’s table, mantlepiece or shelf and comes in a presentation box. You can buy just one, or get a second one for your auntie’s birthday so she can link them together!

Cmas Jill Black and Blum candelabra loop flamingo gifts

Carluccio’s Lui E Lei balsamic vinegar and olive oil set, £22.95,
One of the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil sets that money can buy, in elegant bottles and packaged in a Christmassy box. They not only taste amazing, but they’d also look swanky on display in your auntie’s kitchen. Check out Carluccio’s website for other great foodie gifts too.

Cmas Jill Carluccio's olive oil and balsamic £22.95

Le Creuset Bloom Espresso Mug Set, £30,
If your auntie loves coffee as well as labels, she’ll love this chi-chi set of four petal-coloured stoneware espresso mugs from cuisine experts Le Creuset. They’re almost too pretty to drink from!

Cmas Jill Stoneware_espresso_mugs_bloom Le Creuset

Celia Birtwell Garden Trowel and Fork Set, £19.99, from uk_gifts_and_cards at (search under ‘Birtwell Trowel’)
The classiest way to do the gardening, this good quality fork and trowel have a flower print created by iconic designer Celia Birtwell.

Cmas Jill Celia Birtwell trowel set

Gone With The Wind quotation art, £21.75 by wall envy art at
Wall Envy Art take vintage novel pages (this one is from Gone With the Wind – you can also get a page from the book of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and overprint them with famous quotations from the same book. They then mount the whole lot in a handmade wooden frame. Cute.

Cmas Jill quotation art Gone With The Wind

That’s the Hemingway (I like it)

19 Nov

Designer Wayne Hemingway, who started hugely successful fashion brand Red or Dead and made Doc Martens cool again, has gotten into homes and interiors in a big way (sensible guy). But he’s not just doing it for those with pots of cash – he’s designed a wonderfully retro range of affordable homewares for John Lewis.

What I particularly like about the collection is that it’s so eclectic. It’s as if he came up with each print and then decided which item it would suit, no matter which room in the house it was for. The result is a really random mix of cool bathroom bits, storage tins, sewing supplies, notepads and wall canvases.

To see the full range, search for ‘Hemingway’ at In the meantime, here are some of my favourite pieces to whet your appetite…

Top pic:
Kitchen range, from £6.

Vintage storage tins, £7-£12:

Twiggy and Freida tins, £7 each:

Munchmallows for tea! Canvas wrap print, £25:

Vintage bathroom accessories range, £10-£35:

Hemingway Deco Ladies Sewing and Knitting range, £4-£30:

Vintage Mustard Sauce tray, £20:

Shake it up baby now

16 Nov

Back in July, I told you about a pair of cute black and white bear salt and pepper shakers from that looked like snowglobes. Well, they’ve extended their range recently, and the new products are so cute I had to share them with you…

First up, and my favourite, is the Seasonal Salt and Pepper Shaker, £14.95 (above). You pop pepper in with the cactus (so that it’s like the sand in the desert, see) and salt in with the pine tree (so that it’s like snow). Then when you season your dinner, you create a mini snow or sandstorm. Sweet!

Along the same lines are the brilliant Animal Parade Spice Shakers (below) for salt, pepper and two other condiments. They’re less of a bargain at £29.95, and quite frankly, at that price, you’d really have to love them, but they are amazing and would be a real talking point on any table.

Finally, while they have nothing to do with salt and pepper, Cubic’s  new line of paperclip tidies follow the same snowstorm idea. There’s the Rabbit in the Field paperclip tidy; the Deer in the Forest; and the Polar Bear on Ice. I’m coveting the bunny for my desk at home – the only problem is, I don’t think I could bring myself to use the paperclips!

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 ( 

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,

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 (

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!

It’s a mug’s game

28 Sep

I wish I drank more tea and coffee. That way, I could legitimately buy more mugs. I keep seeing such lovely ones, but as my other half is constantly pointing out, we only tend to use the same two over and over again.

However, on a trip to my local Matalan at the weekend (to buy the amazing Orla Kiely-esque retro storage jars I blogged about earlier this month), I spotted these AMAZING sets of number mugs (above) and retro pattern mugs (below). They cost just £5 (yep, a fiver) for six. That’s less than a pound each (!) and they’re really bright, cheerful and expensive-looking.

I reckon they would look great on a mug tree in my new kitchen. I’m hankering after the John Lewis Rubberwood  one (below, right) which, ridiculously, at £17 costs over three times more than the set of six mugs I’d hang on it; so I’d probably have to make do with painting the branches of Matalan’s bargainous £3 bamboo mug tree (below, left).

So, there’s nothing else for it, I might have to get a bit careless and break a few of my current mugs accidentally-on-purpose to justify the purchase… Only thing is, which set should I buy?!

PS: No Matalan nearby? Everything is available online at and postage is just £1 anywhere in the UK – brilliant!

PPS: while in Matalan, I couldn’t resist this very cool retro Milk Bottle tea towel, for just £1.50 (bottom). Whoever  designed Matalan’s kitchenwares this season is a genius.

Water wonderful bottle

12 Sep

While my kitchen is being redecorated (what was supposed to be a quick repaint/new-sink job has become a month-long and counting total overhaul/replaster/replumb job thanks to rising damp), I’ve been drinking a lot of water out of jugs and bottles.

I’ve read that tap water supposedly tastes nicer from glass bottles because glass is ‘taste neutral’ – a fancy way of saying you get none of the plastic-y taste you get from disposable bottles. While I don’t know if that’s true, water certainly looks a whole lot nicer if it’s served from a pretty container. The problem with jugs is that dust, flies and whatnot can land in it; whereas with a bottle you can take it from fridge to table to fridge again and it’ll stay nice and fresh. So, I’ve been on the hunt for something suitable.

Top of my list is the H2OMG Water Bottle from American website (above). It’s $15.99 (£10) plus $4 (£2.50) shipping to the UK – amazingly reasonable considering how much international postage usually costs. As well as looking funky, there’s the added bonus that for every four sold, the company who make it, Faucet Face, will install a water filtration system for families in need in India.

Alternatively, if you like optical illusions, the Sagaform PET water bottle, immediately below, looks just like a plastic one, but is made of glass. It’s not bargainous at £19.95 from or £20 from either or, but it is incredibly cool.

Want something cheaper? (We are only talking about serving tap water, not Champagne, after all). I like the simple red, teal, green or clear 1L glass water bottles from John Lewis’ new House range, just £5 each (also below).

I also love the metal lidded glass water bottle at the bottom of this post – it’s £8 from John Lewis; or £6.99 from either or There’s one catch though – it’s currently out of stock everywhere. However if you register your interest, all three websites will email you when they get more in. I’ll drink to that!

PS: Since posting this blog entry, one of my lovely readers has drawn my attention to another fab reusable bottle – the Retap bottle, £10.50 from (below). Made of glass with a choice of coloured lids, it’s designed to go in the dishwasher. I love the blue one!

Put a lid on it

24 Aug

Everyone needs some small Tupperware containers in their lives.

Since I was given a set of four cute nesting tubs with lids from Paperchase, I’ve used them constantly – for taking biscuits or snacks to work; holding loose change; taking face cream away in on holiday; storing herbs in the kitchen; and providing hours of entertainment for visiting children (who love stacking them inside each other then taking them apart again). In fact, they’re so useful I’ve bought another pack.

Aside from all this though, they just look cute!

Paperchase bring out new designs all the time, and they cost £7 for a set of four instore or at

My favourites at the mo? The fab London Underground map set “All Change” (above); the abstract creatures of “Cheeky Chops”; the passport stamp-inspired “Stamps” and for kids (both big and little) the lozenge-shaped “Sunshine Holiday” (all below).

PS: If you like these, you’ll also love the Bright Mini Food Boxes by Rice, just £6.25 for a pack of 12 from – perfect for transporting snacks.

Yes We Canister!

20 Aug

I know Orla Kiely’s retro prints are everywhere, but I still like ’em. I’m hankering after the stem duvet set for my bedroom and I love the ceramic storage jars, below – a row would look amazing in my kitchen.

However, as is often the case with things I lust after, they’re not cheap. At £20 minimum for the smaller ceramic jars (at John Lewis and Heals), I’m not likely to realise my dream any time soon.

But that’s okay, cos I’ve just found these new ceramic canisters (above). With a wooden lid and a very Orla kiely-esque retro print, they’re just £5 each from Matalan (instore and online now  from So, you could buy four for the price of one Kiely jar!

I’m planning to do just that – and I won’t just confine them to the kitchen. I reckon they’d look nice in a living room to hold bits and bobs like stamps and keys; or on a bedroom shelf or dressing table to hold hair bobbles, safety pins and buttons. What would you do with yours?

Gorillas in the whisk

15 Aug

As a student, living on cheese toasties, all I needed in the way of kitchen accessories was a knife and my trusty toasted sandwich maker. Since then, I’ve widened my tastes a bit and have slowly gathered a range of handy kitchen gadgets, including the famous Onion Goggles (see my post: ‘Don’t cry for me, onion peeler’ from earlier on in the year).

Weirdly though, a good whisk has been the only thing I haven’t invested in. That might be because as gadgets go, well, they’re a bit on the boring side. But now, thanks to this cheeky little monkey above (I know, I know, as my dad is always telling me, gorillas are officially apes), that’s about to change. How cute is he?!

Called the Kitchen Kong whisk, he’s £12.95 from, £12.99 from Alternatively, Lakeland ( will be selling them from this Autumn.

Bright blue monkeys not your thing? There aren’t many ‘exciting’ whisks out there, but I have found this cleverly designed beater (immediately below) by Ding3000 for Norman Copenhagen, currently £9 (rrp £12) at When it’s not in use, you slide the little coloured cuff to the bottom to keep the whisking bits in check, and to keep your kitchen drawers tidy.

And kitchen gadget gurus Kuhn Rikon make a lovely range of whisks with rainbow coloured silicone wires (below is the Tornado, left, and the Butterfly, right). You can buy them all over the web, but has the Tornado for £10 and the Butterfly for £11. I think you’ll find it hard to, ahem, beat them on price!

Bright here, bright now

13 Aug

My kitchen is having a facelift. We’re chucking out the chintzy tiles and textured yellow wallpaper and going for white and grey instead. Not only will it look bigger and cleaner, but we can accessorise with as many bright colours as we like.

Having said that, we’re on a budget tighter than an Olympic speed cyclist’s shorts since discovering rising damp in the walls. Any leftover cash is now earmarked to pay for a new damp course. How glamorous.

Still, there are plenty of bargains to be had, even when it comes to bigger pieces such as electricals.

My dream kettle and toaster combo, for example, would be from Kenwood’s gorgeous KMix Boutique range, above. Available in colour-popping blue/teal, sunshine yellow, grass green or fuchsia (above; also in orange, magenta/purple, cream and black), they cost £35 to £60 at and John Lewis, depending on size and colour.

However, while they’re not extortionate, they’re not exactly cheap. So, I’ve done some research. And it turns out you can buy some lovely bright electrical kitchen goods for pretty much peanuts.

Dunelm Mill’s great Spectrum range, directly below, for example, includes teal or pinky-purple kettles for £24.99 and toasters for £29.99 each. Sainsbury’s have funky silver and lime or cherry toasters for an impressive £19.99 each; while Wilkinsons ( have a teally unusual teal microwave for £45 and a line kettle for just £15. Finally, Next’s range includes a kettle and toaster combo, £45 for the pair and a microwave for £65, all available in lime (bottom), bright red or plum/purple. Tasty!

Natural Habitat

6 Aug

I have to confess, I haven’t been in Habitat for a while. It’s always had nice stuff, it’s just that it’s fairly expensive stuff, and you guys know me – I’m all about the bargains.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see this fab nest of occasional tables from their new collection. Made of good quality steel and solid oak, the nest includes tables in mustard yellow, sky blue and the brilliantly-named Airforce blue, and are a very reasonable £70 for the set of three. The nest is also available in white or white/greys.

Alternatively, you can buy single Kilo occasional tables in green, white, red, blue, black, wine or orange for £25 each (below).

And while we’re on the subject, I spotted a couple of other little gems too. The retro-look Herbert spice jars (which could hold anything really, from earrings to keys to cotton buds) are £4 each (also below); while the versatile Macadam folding chairs – an original Habitat design from the Seventies – come in hot pink, white, blue, black or silver and cost just £10 each (bottom). Wow. That’s so cheap I think I need to sit down!

That’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat, I really love these Tiger treats!

25 Jul

See these gorgeous bright steel stools, above? You’d think they were at least £20 each, wouldn’t you? Well, they’re A FIVER! I nearly bought one in each colour on the spot!

I’ve written about Tiger Stores on this blog before, but I popped into my local branch the other day and besides these stools, I saw so many fabulous things that I thought I’d update you…

For those who don’t know it, Tiger has come over from Denmark, and is like a Japanese-style version of the Ikea marketplace. They sell so many amazing bits and bobs for the home, and it’s all mega cheap – nothing is over £30. They add new stock regularly and while they don’t sell online (yet), they do have a useful website at which tells you what’s just arrived. There are now 17 stores in the UK and they’re opening more  almost monthly.

Here’s what I spied this week:

Ceramic canisters with spoon on the side, £5 each…

Tile coasters, £1 each…

Letter and number mugs, £1 each…

Multi-coloured coathooks, £4 each…

Flowerpot toilet brushes, £4 each…

Pretty notepads, £2 each…

The Lionel steeps tonight

20 Jul

As you’ll have gathered by now from my blog entries, I absolutely LOVE puns and song titles used in silly ways (check out my “Things Rick Astley Wouldn’t Do” post from 31 October 2011), so this teapot is just, ahem, my cup of tea.

The “Hello, is it tea you’re looking for?” range includes a mug and a tea-for-one set, below, and costs from £10.58. They’re all handmade by Lenny Mud (a lady, not a man as you’d think) – visit her Etsy online shop at She’s churning them out as fast as she can, so if they’re not in stock, don’t panic, she’s working on it…

Once you’ve bought your mug, all you need is a Richie biscuit (ho ho ho) to dunk in it!

Ooh, baby-baby, buh-baby-baby, Salt’n’Pepper’s here!

13 Jul

Salt and Pepper shakers fall into one of two camps. They’re either really plain grinder-style mills like the ones you get in Italian restaurants; or they’re kitsch ones in the shape of something silly. I’m definitely a fan of the latter – I love the pair of china sausage dogs  I got in Florida years ago, and the Alessi Chinamen my brother and his wife got me for Christmas.

But now I might have to add a third set to my collection. These bear salt and pepper shakers (above) are new in at and are just genius. They’re designed to look and work like snowglobes – when you turn them upside down to shake out the salt or pepper, the little black bear and polar bear inside look like they’re in a snowstorm. Brilliant.

At just £10 for the pair, they’re a decently-priced present – or an affordable treat for yourself. Shake it up baby!

Raise your glasses

9 Jul

In the last two weeks, I’ve somehow managed to smash three drinking glasses.

This is not a bad thing necessarily… as it means I have a legitimate reason to buy some more!

However, when I started looking for replacements, I quickly realised that while wine glasses come in all shapes and colours; water glasses, tumblers and high ball glasses are really boring. They’re also usually quite small (so you never get a decent drink out of them) and wafer-thin, so they’re likely to break more easily.

Still, I found what I was after at Next (above). They sell three different sets of chunky American style soda glasses – choose from pastel shades, bright colours, or two-tone red and blue. They look great, hold a decent amount of liquid and are fairly indestructible. They’re also decently-priced, at £8 for four.

The best of the rest?

BHS ( or instore) also sell coloured soda glasses for £2 each in lime, lilac or turquoise; Ikea’s Godis Mix glasses, £4.99 for six small or £5.99 for six big glasses, are smaller but have pretty retro flowers on; and the six glasses in the Leonardo Optic set (one each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple – or you can also buy sets of just one colour), £22.16 from, are classy, sturdy and fit for a dinner table.

Finally, Wilkinsons ( or instore, bottom) have several tall glass tumblers in various colourful designs (spots, stripes, flowers, leaves, retro lemonade labels…) for just £2-£3 for four. So what if you break them? They’re a smashing bargain!

Ice to see you, to see you ice

2 Jul

I don’t know why, but this year seems to be the year of the homemade ice lolly. All my friends seem to be having a go at making them – and ice lolly moulds are on sale everywhere. But none I’ve seen are as cute as the Woodland Bunnies lolly makers, £4.95, from

Fill ’em with pure fruit juice, flavoured squash, milk (for an old skool taste) or even cold tea (!), stick ’em in the freezer and enjoy. The ears are the lolly sticks and the heads stop the melting ice from making your hands all sticky.

If you’re feeling really flash, you can make stripy lollies with different coloured fruit juices – just pour in a small amount of one colour juice, freeze; then add another splash of a different colour and freeze again; and continue ’til you’ve filled the mould. Clever!

Feeling really flash? Make the amazing melon and berry ice pops from the fab Will Cook For Smiles blog, at