Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home etc: Sitting Room Plans



It's been a while since I've linked up with Home Etc, which is a shame because I always enjoy writing about our home. Right now it's a swirl of chaos as we get ready for Christmas visits, are putting up trees and wrapping dozens of gifts for friends and family, as well as trying to get everything spick and span and organised before I return to full-time work in the New Year! In between packing and sorting and wrapping, however, I'm having a very jolly time planning for how we are going to rearrange our sitting room in the early part of next year.

Our sitting room is currently made up of two parts - a front section with sofas, shelves, TV and a back section with a 'home gym' we rather optimistically installed when we first moved in. Four years on and the use it gets is so minimal we've decided to donate or sell the equipment in order to make one big sitting room with space for TV watching, book reading, and light work.

Matthew and I both have our own offices/studies too (both our careers require a healthy amount of take-home work, and it's lovely to have space to do this without impacting the others space) but I'm looking forward to having a little space in the sitting room where we can work alongside each other too. When I first moved down to London we both shared the cutest little study (it was less than 6 foot by 7 foot), and while we had to take turns moving our chairs out (we sat back to back, meaning negotiations if you wanted to stand up and get to the door), I loved have a little hub together. Having workspace downstairs also means that if we decide we'd like to repurpose a study at any point as a spare room / nursery / extra bathroom, we'd have that option. I'm also super excited to have more space for books!

We'll be planning in depth over the Christmas break (yep, this is our idea of fun - a notebook and a tape measure!), then saving up towards the project in the first few months of 2017, but in the meantime I'm enjoying browsing online and thinking up ideas. Now we've lived here four and a half years we know the house, we know what gets cluttered (him: shoes left in the middle of floors. Me: magazines and catalogues) and I'm having great fun thinking up methods for storing things and making it a space we can enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

Picture taken from the book's own site because my high-def pic didn't save correctly. Ah, the perils of blogging at pace.
I make no bones about the fact I like to read widely. I'm happy to pick up most books, bar a couple of genres that just don't thrill me (gory horror and really out-there sci-fi/fantasy, if you're wondering, and even in those cases I'm always willing to have a go for an exceptional book that's been recommended to me). I like literary fiction, self-help, YA, thrillers, non-fiction (of a bazillion different ilks), historical fiction, classics, autobiographies, mysteries, children's books, comedy, romance, 'man-goes-on-a-quest' tomes. If there's a book in my immediate vicinity, I'll give it a read.

That being said, there are two genres which are probably my comfort zone. The two kinds of book that I've always got time for, and can read whatever my mood or situation is. The first group is chicklit. Like or loathe the term, by employing it you will know exactly what I'm talking about, and I love a good escape with Cecelia Aherne or Jojo Moyes or Sophie Kinsella. 

The second group of books I really enjoy? Is the ever-growing genre of books by intelligent, talented women in the public eye and/or the entertainment business. I adored Bossypants. Yes Please genuinely made me think and changed my life for the better. Both Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me? entertained me greatly, as well as cementing my opinion that if Mindy Kaling ever needs a fat, less-famous, British wingwoman (it's a niche role, but let's go with it), I clearly have to make the shortlist. And recently I thoroughly enjoyed The Year of Yes, by the force of nature that is Shonda Rhimes.

So when I discovered that Anna Kendrick was penning a memoir, I was excited. I've always enjoyed her acting, whether it's in Up In The Air, or the Pitch Perfect franchise, or Into The Woods. The real selling point for me, however, was Kendrick's twitter, because the woman gives amazing tweet - they are dark, funny, witty, sharp and often a little R-rated. Which I love! In a world where a lot of famous folk seem content to tweet fairly beige content or avoid the platform entirely, celebrities like Anna Kendrick and Chrissy Teigen offer a refreshing realness.

Book Review: A Christmas Cornucopia


Now that Advent Sunday has passed, I am transitioning well and truly into Christmas mode. Trees are being trimmed, jollity abounds, and the strains of Christmas music can be heard as I busy myself writing cards, running errands, and planning fun. I truly adore this season, as Advent moves towards Christmas proper, and have been accused more than once of being a little bit of a Christmas geek.

How perfect, then, that Penguin sent me a copy of Mark Forsyth's A Christmas Cornucopia to review in the lead up to the festive season. I'm a big fan of Forsyth's other books (being an English teacher I've been gifted other books of his in the past and particularly enjoyed The Etymologicon) and was happy to hear he'd turned his talents to the delights of Christmas.

Forsyth's tone is a unique one - it always reminds me of a brilliant professor holding forth on a subject they know well. Whatever twists and turns the narrative may take, you never doubt that you are in expert hands and are quite happy to follow along with Forsyth as he traverses eras, traditions and cultures. Rather than employing a dull list format, this is a book where the prose flows, taking you on a journey, and the whole book is suffused with humour. It really was a treat to sit down and read a chapter or two after lunch or before bed.

The content of the book is fascinating. Despite being a bit of a Christmas nut I was delighted to discover that there was much contained within that I did not know already. Each chapter brings plenty of information and charm, but I think chapter 5 (entitled Santa Claus: The Biography) is my favourite; I feel I am quite the expert on Saint Nick now.

This is a sweet and illuminating book and I think it would make a lovely gift. I think I'll be sending copies to a couple of friends who love this season too, and I think it would be appreciated by fans of Christmas, history and culture alike.







Disclaimer: As mentioned above, I was gifted a copy of the book. All opinions and Christmassy glee are my own.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Food: Cooking up a storm with KitchenAid

 

We all have the brands we love.

It could be a car brand. A shoe brand. A...pen brand (I don't know, you do you).

For me, the pages I keep bookmarked are invariably home and kitchen brands. I love our home and buying things to make it even more cosier and lovelier is something I really enjoy saving for and looking forward to. I've got out of the habit about writing about home stuff on the blog in recent months but I will be sharing more and more going into 2017 - I have me some projects planned.

But I digress. All the above to say, there are several brands whose sites I know well and whose products are very much on my wishlist. One such brand is KitchenAid. Ever since I first saw Ina Garten (who by the way, is goals) use one of their stand mixers, I knew they were a brand I'd love to use and have in my own home.

Imagine my delight, then, when a PR from KitchenAid emailed to see if I'd like to join the brand for a cookery lesson at their showroom in Wigmore Street, a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.

I had a wee look at the classes available and when I noted that there was a steak option, so the deal was done. I was so impressed with the class format - for £25 you get a great kitchen to work in (full to the brim with KitchenAid appliances, of course), a chef tutoring you, and all your ingredients. We were a merry group and had great time cooking chips, making rocket pesto and bearnaise sauce, and of course, learning all about steak and the various ways to get the most from it!



I kept on getting distracted by the beautiful stand mixers. I mean...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gift Guide Bonanza - a gift guide for everyone!


I'm going to be doing my gift guides a little differently this year. By nature a planner, I really enjoy having a good think about what to gift and for me the months of October and November are a fun season of thinking about presents and planning what to give. Add in all the fun that I had at various 'Christmas in July' events earlier in the year and I am just full to bursting with inspiration!

Rather than doing gifts guides for him, or gifts guides for her, this year I set out to arrange my guides around themes, so I set up boards to address a certain interest, area or passion. I've really enjoyed sharing the posts I've written so far, but as we've galloped through the month of November I've come to realise I won't have time to do a post per board - with 21 still to go I wouldn't be able to write about anything else! 


So today this is my bonanza post with links to all the boards I've created. Whether you're looking for a gift for a Harry Potter fan, a baker, a child or a puppy - I've got you. Clicking on each title will take you to the board full of gift ideas. 
















Gift Guide: For Pets (Cats and Dogs)





I'll be adding to all of these boards as we approach the big day - I hope you might find at least one of them useful. Happy shopping!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #17

It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. I didn't do a happy Monday last week, as other responsibilities and general busy-ness got in the way but there's been plenty of happy going on, no fear!

1. Hibernating

While I've still been getting out and about, the rest of the time I've been embracing to cosy in full. What a lovely thing it is to be curled up inside a warm house as the rain lashes down outside. Such a simple, wholesome pleasure.

2. Brunch with some lovely ladies



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Theatre: The Last Five Years

Photo by Scott Rylander
One of the best things about living in London is the sheer amount of awesome theatre available to see. All across the city on a given night there are marvellous shows to watch, from big budget musicals to experimental theatre, one-woman shows to inventive interpretations of a classic play. Truly we are blessed with a surfeit of theatrical riches.

The downside of this can be that sometimes you'll miss shows, or they will simply not hit your radar. That's a great shame, as sometimes smaller, more intimate pieces can lose audiences simply due to budget, big name Hollywood or Broadway stars, or name recognition. But when we are willing to do a little hunting, to take a chance, there are some amazing gems to be discovered.

One such show is The Last Five Years, currently playing at the St James Theatre, down near Victoria. I love this venue (the last time I'd attended was to see the divine Miss Katie Brennan kill it in her show) and they always have great, vibrant productions. However, I must confess that I hadn't heard much about the show, and that's on me, much due to the reasons above. But when my main theatre buddy Shona said she had a spare ticket, I very happily trotted along.

And man, am I glad I did.

Me

Me

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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