Floral Ice Cubes for Summer Drinks

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Ever since buying Fiona Cairns Seasonal Baking Book earlier in the year I have been obsessed with edible flowers.  Some of the prettier and more unusual types are not growing in my garden (yet!) but I do have an abundance of violas which, I think, are super cute.  

I started off with crystalising a few.  I felt squeamish about using egg white for this purpose so I found an egg white substitute in powder form to use.  It was Ok but I expect a bit thicker and stiffer than actual egg white.  I went a bit crazy with the sugar too but was really pleased with the results and the lemon drizzle cake looked very pretty.  (I thought I'd already blogged my cake so here is a quick pic.  I'll share the full post another day.)

Obviously, freezing flowers in ice cubes is even quicker and less fiddly than crystalising them but I did treat myself to a couple of new ice cube trays so that I'd get good, big, square cubes.  Find them here.  (They will be nice with little berries and things in too don't you think?)

My only tip here is to use cooled boiled water so that the ice is clear.  My flowers sat on the top of the ice cube as I filled the tray to the top and dropped the viola in.  If you want to make sure the flower is in the centre of the cube then just fill the tray half full first when putting the flowers in.  Once that part has frozen you can top up with more water and freeze the rest of it.  Easy peasy. 

I have been enjoying my decorative ice cubes with that lovely pre-mixed gin and rose lemonade but they also make my orange and mango cordial look pretty too.  Can't wait to get more flowers and perhaps try some berries too.  Ooh and mint leaves.  Excited!  (I know, I am sad.)

Here's to a sunny summer, right?!

Love

Nicki 

Fair Season has Begun - Come and say hello!

Our stand at Fair in the Square

Our stand at Fair in the Square

Fresh flowers were provided by the lovely Lou at The Little Red Robin 

Fresh flowers were provided by the lovely Lou at The Little Red Robin 

One day I will make a tabletop cover but in the meantime I am using old linen sheets.

One day I will make a tabletop cover but in the meantime I am using old linen sheets.

A stack of notebooks with beautiful handmade paper and my 'Day at the Allotment' embroidery framed with reclaimed wood.

A stack of notebooks with beautiful handmade paper and my 'Day at the Allotment' embroidery framed with reclaimed wood.

Pink hydrangea embroidery in handmade chippy frame.

Pink hydrangea embroidery in handmade chippy frame.

Tiny drawers, velvet flowers, linen string and handmade paper notebooks...  A few of my favourite things.

Tiny drawers, velvet flowers, linen string and handmade paper notebooks...  A few of my favourite things.

Blue hydrangea in handmade chippy frame.

Blue hydrangea in handmade chippy frame.

My 'The Secret Garden' embroidery based on the logo for the Little Green Door.

My 'The Secret Garden' embroidery based on the logo for the Little Green Door.

Labels for my handmade items, artwork by Kate at Oyster Bridge & Co.

Labels for my handmade items, artwork by Kate at Oyster Bridge & Co.

Our conservatory and where I can be found most days, stitching and watching the birds.

Our conservatory and where I can be found most days, stitching and watching the birds.

The conservatory.  The old wooden box houses my painting supplies.  The patchwork cushion was a gift from my mum (it is a Tilda pattern using Tilda fabric).  She made two cushions and a matching quilt for my 40th birthday and I love them!

The conservatory.  The old wooden box houses my painting supplies.  The patchwork cushion was a gift from my mum (it is a Tilda pattern using Tilda fabric).  She made two cushions and a matching quilt for my 40th birthday and I love them!

I keep pretty sweet company when I work.  Here she is, watching watercolour YouTube videos with me on the laptop.  

I keep pretty sweet company when I work.  Here she is, watching watercolour YouTube videos with me on the laptop.  

Brocante season has begun! It was our first fair of the year at the weekend.  We had a stand at The Country Brocante Fair in the Square in Midhurst. I had planned to launch my embroidery pieces online at the end of March but being invited to stand at the Fair in the Square changed my plans a little and I decided it would be nice to use the opportunity to display a few pieces of embroidery and see what sort of feedback I received.

In the weeks leading up to the brocante I had the most nervous tummy.  It is one thing attending an event where you have bought in items to sell but when you've made things yourself it is a whole other thing... It has become personal and I was struggling with my confidence. 

The day of the fair was bright and sunny.  The marketplace was full of gorgeous stands, all decorated with flowers and bunting.  It was beautiful.  We were in the town's Old Library which is a stunning old building and provided the perfect backdrop to our stand.  I couldn't have hoped for a better reception to my embroidery.  I had so much wonderful feedback and I feel inspired to continue.  Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and especially those who gave me a few words of encouragement about my work, it meant such a lot to me.  I sold a few pieces and took a couple more orders but for now I am back in my workroom finishing a few stitcheries to sell at the Larmer Tree Brocante in Dorset this bank holiday Monday. 

It is my first time attending the Larmer Tree Brocante but having followed the team on instagram, I am super excited by the list of exhibitors and the prospect of a ukulele performance in the 'Singing Theatre' during the day.  It sounds wonderful! 

I am lucky to have two rooms in the house that I can use as workrooms.  I am in the conservatory today which is the room I use for painting and stitching because the natural light in here is, obviously, fantastic.  I have a sewing room at the top of the house, in the eaves, where I have a cutting table and a sewing machine.  My sewing room is a terrible mess at the moment as I have bought a few new (old) pieces of furniture and need to have a bit of a sort out in there to declutter.  I am looking forward to getting home next week and having a long overdue tidy up and organisation session but in the meantime I will enjoy watching the birds in the garden, listening to Spotify and embroidering a floral bouquet.  Hopefully see you in Dorset on Monday!

Love

Nicki xx

Flowers in the House....

I have always loved having flowers around the house and it was my new year resolution to treat myself to a bunch each week.  My favourite flowers are roses (particularly the bombastic spray roses in the photos here) but I also love peonies, ranunculus and hydrangea.  

Money is tight since I became self-employed and I have become obsessive about finding the right flowers at the right price.  Good cut flowers are pretty hard to come by here in Northamptonshire.  You simply cannot pop into a florist to buy a few hydrangea heads; they just don't keep them in stock.  Paperwhites in early Spring are an impossibility too.  When buying flowers for gifts, Andrew and I will go to either Frosts Garden Centre near Milton Keynes or - my new favourite - The Flower Boutique in Woburn Sands.  (The large zinc bucket full of flowers was from there for Mother's Day).   For everyday flowers, Aldi is the best supermarket.  Their flowers are fresh and well-priced but most importantly they have a bigger selection than the standard chrysanthemums that you find in the likes of Tesco et al.  I've bought alliums, peonies and small bunches of berries there previously.  Lidl is a close second and their roses last for weeks.

As well as buying flowers I like to pick a few from the garden and have been snipping blossom from the beautiful big tree in my friend's new garden.  My sister has a cherry blossom tree about to bloom and next time I visit her I will take my snips!  A single branch of blossom in a little glass bottle or vase looks stunning and brings a bit of spring into the house.  I use old lemonade and apothecary bottles.

When I can, though, I buy flowers from The Country Brocante Store; Wild Willow Flowers are divine. 

I love to see a big jug full of flowers on a table or counter but when they start to fade I like to split up the bouquets and pop them into smaller vessels that I dot around the house.  Tiny glass bud vases are perfect for little posies next to the bed or in a guest room.  I also like to have a little pot of something pretty by the side of the sink in the bathroom.  I think little touches like that make the place feel more homely and cared for.  

When I buy things for my shop I always buy for myself first which is why you'll find lots of small vessels for flowers and plants around the home.  I have created a special 'for flowers' section where you will find small zinc jugs, hanging glass jam jars (like the one above), glass bud vases and tiny terracotta flower pots.

I am so looking forward to this weekend.  I have been helping my sister move into a new house and as a result ours looks like it has been burgled.  (In fact my MIL popped over to help with the dog when we were out one day and was alarmed at the state of the place - she never usually comments on the house but asked when the bomb had gone off, haha!).  

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.

Love

Nicki xxx 

 

The Sunday Digest

  • Sorted through old, chippy paint frames for the embroideries and samplers I have made (coming to the shop soon!)
  • Spent a small fortune at Sainsbury's on their lovely stationery range. You can take the girl out of a PA role but you can't take the PA out of the girl! 
  • Wrote and sent my first newsletter (sign up here).
  • Laundered piles of antique linen and sorted them into colours - one of my favourite jobs! 
  • Took Lizzie to the vet for dental surgery.  She had a deep clean, two tiny front teeth extracted and they found a 'mass' on her gum.  I have been told to just keep an eye on it but I admit to feeling slightly panicky.
  • Took the Church Walk path at Salcey Forest on a still and sunny morning with mum and dad, followed by tea and sausage sandwiches in the cafe.
  • Started a new painting at art class using a photograph from Packwood House; inspiration for my next piece of embroidery.
  • Posted several mini lanterns, glass bud vases and powder pink candles from the shop. I think that folk are getting organised for Mothering Sunday (in three weeks' time).  I love to see which are the most popular bits and pieces, and I still do a little jig every time an order comes through.  So appreciate every single one.
  • Nursed husband through a few days off work after he got a telling off from the nurse that he hasn't elevated his leg often enough.  As a result am making several cups of tea a day and climbing the stairs approximately 44 times per hour to retrieve forgotten reading glasses [his], books [his] and gadgets [his].   He might have a withered leg come May but I will be positively buff!
  • Started my organisation and planning for the various brocantes I am attending throughout the year (kicking off with the Larmer Tree Brocante in Dorset on 1st May). I have updated our events page here - would love to meet you! 
  • Ate my bodyweight in dolly mixtures.  My snack of choice when stitching.
  • Hosted an after-school tea for my two lovely nieces.  There was paint, glitter and dancing. Tomato soup and soft white bread.  Sent them home with chocolatey faces, gluey hands and an old lipstick each.  Sister was pleased, haha.  
  • Spent a pleasant afternoon creating a collection of gift tags and greetings cards with watercolours and fabric scraps.  There's a teaser pic in the images above... All coming to the shop *very* soon.
  • The postie delivered a gorgeous swap package from the lovely Anna at Gregoria Fibers and I finished making a pretty present for her parcel.  Love swaps and love Anna's feed - check it out for knitting and lifestyle inspiration.

Happiness is.....

spring flowers and jammy dodgers

Fresh, hot, coffee.   Pink roses.  New skeins of embroidery thread.  Old, slubby, linen.  Little bowls of pastel coloured sweets.  Long chats with friends on the telephone.  Giant jammy biscuits.  Taboo on the telly.  Long walks in the winter sunshine.  A niece with glittering eyes and rosy cheeks; happy after her first day at a new school.  Catching up with family over fish, chips and mushy peas.  Thick watercolour paper and little tubes of paint.  Art class.  Bath salts and lavender oil.  Heirloom quilts.  Homemade banana bread, pots of tea and stitching with friends.  Beautiful hand-dyed yarn.  Tiny clay hearts.  Old tins filled with art supplies.  Kindle library books.  Miniature zinc buckets for collecting threads.  

*******

We are a bit out of sorts here.  Andrew has ruptured his achilles tendon which means he is in plaster and on crutches.  Minimum of 8 weeks to recover and months of physio for him.  I am responding every five minutes to requests of "could I have a glass of apple juice" and "would you mind fetching my book for me".  The poor chap can't do anything; he is thoroughly miserable and I feel so sorry for him.  Hope he heals quickly, for both our sakes! 

Love 

Nicki xOx

 

 

 

 

 

Find me on YouTube!

I am really pleased to have finally started my YouTube channel.  I would love for you to have a little look and let me know what you think.  I have been meaning to start a channel for months as I love watching podcasts when I work from home and I thought it would be a nice way to connect with my online friends.  Share what I'm up to, and chat a while.  I work from home on my own every day and have no one to talk to.  I try to involve Lizzie but there's only so much knitting natter she can cope with before she flops to the floor in a bored heap!  

My first video is just a quickie, showcasing the little zinc tags that we have in stock.  I'm going to be doing lots of little videos in future to show the goodies that I'm selling but I'll also be doing some chatty vlogs where I tell you allll about my crafty adventures as well as books I've read, films I've watched and recipes I've tried.  I am going to really bend your ear.  Haha. 

You can find my youtube channel by searching for Nicki Franklin on the YouTube site but there is also a tab here on my website that will direct you straight to it.  It's just in the navigation bar under the website header.

Thanks for being such a kind and lovely bunch, supporting me on my journey as you always do.  Couldn't do it without you.

See you soon 

Nicki 

x0x

Slow Weekend

On Friday evening I cleared the ironing pile, decluttered our bedroom and changed the sheets from brushed cotton floral to my favourite floppy white linen.  I moved my essential oil diffuser into the bedroom and added lavender oil to the water.  I had a long, hot, shower, plastered myself in my favourite thick body cream and got an early night.  It felt so good to properly declutter after Christmas; get everything bright and white again.

I think it set me up for a productive, but slow, weekend.  As I sit here now and reflect, I feel calm, relaxed and happy.  I've slept well.  I think that having a diffuser in the bedroom has helped the dry cough that sometimes wakes me in the night.  The linen sheets are cooler and fresher than the brushed cotton.  

We have been at home for most of the weekend, only going out for walks with Lizzie.  The weather yesterday was beautiful.  It was cold but bright and sunny.  No wind at all. We walked and walked.  I made use of the light and took lots of lovely photographs for the shop.  Worked on my latest embroidery project (an embroidered heart) and sat in the conservatory watching the birds.  Today we had a lazy brunch and I gave the shop a little reshuffle, ready for the spring.  There is definitely a calmness to be gained from having a sort out.  

The conservatory is full of spring flowers.  Rustic pots of tete a tete and muscari, old marmalade jars filled with snowdrops and zinc tubs of hyacinths.  Supermarket flowers are still going strong from last weekend and I cut a few stems shorter to put in my new bud vases and dot around the house.  A little posy of roses sits by the bed.

We are rested and ready for a busy week ahead.

Nicki oXo

Birthday Cakes

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It was Izzie's birthday on Saturday.  She is now 8 years old and very tall (with lots of beautiful dark hair), very intelligent and super-affectionate.  She loves to dance and is always doing little shimmies and dance moves, often absent-mindedly.  Her appetite for reading is huge, her bookshelf is crammed and she devours all kinds of stories.  I am lucky to have a close relationship with her and I adore her.  I would do anything for her.  So when she and my sister asked (at the last minute, natch) if I would make a rainbow cake for Izzie's birthday, of course I said yes.  

Trolls is Izzie's favourite film at the moment (in fact, she saw it today at the cinema for, I think, the fifth time) and if you've seen the film you will know it is allll about the rainbows!  So I promptly ordered a pack of little figurines, a set of rainbow food colour gels and googled the instructions. 

I have had a half-hearted attempt at colouring cake batter previously; I used a ridiculously small amount of food colouring and ended up with a slightly peachy-coloured sponge when I was attempting for Battenberg pink.  This time I was generous with the colouring and got it everywhere . My fingernails have splodges of violet and green, despite multiple scrubbings, and earlier this evening I noticed a drip of red colouring down the kitchen cupboard.  This, my friends, does not make me happy!  The cake ended up really tall and skinny so I added some support by poking a few wooden skewers through it.  It still tilted slightly but what the heck, I knew it would be pulled apart by a pair of kiddos.

I covered the cake all over with buttercream and made some rainbow coloured lettering and stars to decorate the top.  The little troll figurines circled the bottom of the cake.  

I was apprehensive about cutting into the cake.  It looked okay when I was putting the thing together but you never really know how these things are going to work until you cut through them, especially because the outside of the cakes had 'browned' to an odd colour in the oven.  Izzie gave a little gasp of glee as she pulled out the first slice and Ellie's eyes lit up! Such a happy auntie moment.  We all had [giant] skinny slices of it with coffee after our food and it tasted fine too.  Not as delicious as my usual cakes because I followed a recipe that made the cake firmer and less buttery but it was good enough.

I have made nearly all of Izzie's birthday cakes over the years, I have shared them previously on my old blog but as I am about to close it down I thought I'd post them here.  I have never made Ellie, the youngest, a birthday cake and I think it is about time I started.  

For Izzie I have made (based mostly on her TV or toy obsessions) cakes decorated with Waybuloo, teddy bears, Rapunzel, Tinkerbell and monkeys (I think the jungle one was my favourite).  Pics are posted below if you fancy having a look (the Rapunzel and Tinkerbell characters are plastic, I should point out!)

Thanks for popping by.  Have a lovely week.

Nicki xox

How to love Winter

Have you heard that today is 'Blue Monday'?  I am not sure I believe there is any science behind it and I kind of agree with Innocent Drinks that it was made up by someone in Marketing.  However, it does seem plausible.

As someone who has battled with bouts of anxiety and depression (thankfully less often these days than in previous years), I have to be extra kind to myself at this time of year.  I have found lots of tips and tricks to help support my mental health; principally mindfulness and meditation but also yoga, aromatherapy, journalling, knitting and chocolate.  

I used to hate winter.  September through to 31st December was (and still is) my very favourite time of year but as soon as New Year's Day hit I would feel the familiar dread and despondency of the looming winter months.  

I know that I am not alone and many of us feel like this, to varying degrees.  So far this year, though, I am loving winter.  Loving it!  So, I thought I'd share some of the little things that are giving me joy this January.  

  • I prepared well.  My Christmas list consisted of mainly books, craft kits and art supplies.  I chose a few books with winter themes and they were gifted to me by Andrew as a cheering 'bundle of books' to snuggle up with on the dark evenings.
     
  • My new year resolutions are joyful and spoiling.  No strict diets, exercise regimes or money-saving schemes for me just now.  My number one resolution was to buy myself flowers every week.  So far, I've nailed it!  Daffodils were on sale in Aldi for 95p a bunch last week and I bought some hyacinth bulbs in Sainsbury's for the price of a coffee on Saturday.  Although the hyacinths are just shoots at the moment, it is really cheering to have some greenery around the place.
     
  • Andrew and I made up a lovely big watch list on Netflix of all the boxsets and films that we have been meaning to watch.  Every single night we light the fire, cuddle up and watch an episode of something together.  We don't watch an awful lot of television; we don't really bother with the soaps or reality shows so it is nice to make an effort to watch something great on the box every day and means we make time for a smooch too.  (We are currently watching the American version of The Killing and really enjoying it; it is just as good as the Danish original.)
     
  •  I walk every single day.  Lizzie gets dragged out, rain or shine, and at the very least we do a quick circuit of the village.  The fresh air and even the drizzle make me feel alive after a day working indoors.
     
  • Soup!  I am working my way through one of my favourite soup recipe books.  Very little food is more comforting than a hearty bowl of soup and hunk of crusty bread.  Great way to eat more healthily too, as the ones we love most are chock full of veg.
     
  • Something to look forward to helps; I am no artist but have signed up for weekly watercolour classes that start in February.  I took my first lesson in mid-December just before the teacher finished for the year and I am champing at the bit to start properly.  
     
  • Self-care is always important but feels especially good when we have slipped into a habit of being hard on ourselves.  Gabrielle Treanor launched a free seven-day e-course called The Warm Embrace this year.  I have so enjoyed receiving her gentle emails, reminding me to look after myself and be kind.  The course is based on mindfulness and positive thinking - there is still time to sign up if you are interested and Gabrielle's website is packed with uplifting articles and photography.  
     
  • Candlelight... Ah!  We all know how much I love candles and these antique black candlesticks in my shop are my absolute favourite.  I have them dotted around the house and use small pillar candles from Ikea which last ages and melt very prettily.  They make me feel Dickensian and cosy, trick me into thinking I live in simpler times.  They are rustic and old-fashioned and coordinate nicely with our black cast iron woodburners.  Treat yourself here if you fancy; I promise you will love them! 

I hope my approach to winter will help if you struggle at this time of year.  If nothing else, maybe it will be comforting to know that you are not alone.  If you have any other happy little tips it would be great if you could share them here or use my hashtag on instagram and twitter #blues_busting. I also recommend the hashtags #savouringJanuary2017 and #making_winter for some cosy, soul-warming photos. 

With my very best wishes for a joyful and healthy 2017.  Thank you for coming to visit this little webspace of mine, it is so nice to have you here for a virtual cup of tea every now and then.

Love

Nicki 

x0x

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift Wrapping Service

Hi! 

I just popped over to let you know that we have added a gift wrapping service to the shop now, to help you out with your Christmas shopping a little.

For £1.50 we will wrap your gift in cellophane, tie with rustic twine and add a little handmade tag with a stamped festive image.  Pop your gift message in the comments box and we will send it off pretty and pronto! 

Sunday 18th is really the last day for guaranteed Christmas orders but if you are desperate and would like us to ship extra quick then drop me an email or DM on any of our social media platforms.  I will do my very best to help you. 

I cannot believe that Christmas is approaching so quickly.  I have a million and one things to do! 

Happy shopping! 

Nicki X 

 

Making Christmas Memories

These three photos sum up my festive mood at the moment:

1) a pair of ceramic house tea light lanterns bought at the Bath Christmas market last week,

2) a stolen afternoon for Andrew and me in front of the telly with Home Alone 2, tea and mince pies, 

and 3) my adorable little niece at the village Christingle service a couple of weeks ago.  

Things are not quite calm and bright yet but I feel as though we might be getting there. My workroom is finally straight after a thorough sort out on Monday morning - I just have a bundle of thread skeins to wind onto bobbins and then I will feel organised enough to complete the embroidered bookmark commission that I am currently working on.  

We are still eating ready meals, though, so I am planning a whole menu for next week (which I privately refer to as 'Christmas week') so that we can eat lots of seasonal vegetables and comfort food like mashed potato and risotto in the run up to Christmas Day.  We still don't have a tin of Quality Street in the house and I need to rectify that tout de suite! 

I have been out and about over the last couple of days; yesterday was Lizzie's Christmas-hairdo-day and then I went off to a watercolour class that I'll be joining weekly from February.  I have been looking for a good art class for months and finally managed to reserve a space at a Wednesday morning class.  I have got some homework to get started on throughout January and I have put some lovely sable paintbrushes and art supplies on my birthday wish list.   

This morning I went to church for my eldest niece's school advent service.  It was very sweet; there is something about children singing Silent Night or Away in a Manger that tugs hard on my heart strings and puts a lump in my throat.  This morning there was a mishap involving a small boy and his microphone - it gave my sister and I the uncontrollable giggles.  The more we tried to stop ourselves laughing, the worse it got until eventually Sarah erupted in a shout of laughter and fell behind the pew with her shoulders shaking and eyes streaming. My mum and grandma were there too and had no idea what had tickled us; in fact my grandmother looked a bit cross that we were misbehaving in church.  Makes me laugh just thinking about it now. 

After church, when Izzie had gone back to school, we all squished into Mabel (my little fiat), cranked up Feliz Navidad on repeat and navigated the winding country roads to a local garden centre for a full English breakfast.  It really was the most lovely morning; my grandma was in the front of the car with me having a little seat shimmy and sing-along.  It made me happy to see her so cheerful as she was wired up to a pacemaker on Saturday and is feeling a bit sore and sorry for herself.

Tonight Andrew and I are watching the football with a takeout pizza and I am going to give myself the night off with my knitting.  Back to the needle and thread first thing tomorrow morning so I can get my work done before Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a lovely week - thanks for stopping by again :)

Love, Nicki 

xOx

Christmas Preparation

I had hoped to blog much more often than this but time is whizzing by.  I could do with a few slo-mo days to be honest.

There were lots of lovely photographs shared on Instagram and Facebook for my little 30 Days of Hygge challenge and I'll share some of those later in the month.  They will make you feel super cosy; check out the hashtag if you get a chance in the meantime.   I am planning another little challenge for January, to get through the winter months.  Emma at Silver Pebble always has a lovely 'making winter' hashtag on Instagram which I get lots of inspiration from and I can definitely recommend that you take a peek at that too.  

Anyway, we're all busy so I'll keep my news brief and to the point:

  • I had my eyelids flipped inside-out today at the opticians.  Super-glamorous optician was apparently checking the underside of my lids for allergies and irritants.  I was quietly appalled.  It was gross.  Who even knew you could tuck your eyelids inside-out and they'd stay put? Bleurgh.
     
  • I haven't cooked a proper meal since mid-November.  We are living on ready-meals which we never have.  It feels kind of treat-y.  And those packets of ready prepared vegetables; how luxurious!   Marks & Spencer Gastro-pub Shepherd's Pie is my absolute favourite. 
     
  • I have developed a penchant for Whittard's Christmas Tea, a box of which was gifted to me by my lovely friend Laalaa.  It is so refreshing and festive; delicious with a small slice of Christmas cake.
     
  • Speaking of festive bakes, Nigella's gingerbread and Cherry Menlove's buttercream mince pies are at the top of my To Do list next week.
     
  • I always have my eldest niece Izzie in the Christmas holidays and I am enjoying preparing for our day together.  We are going to paint Christmas cards, decorate gingerbread houses and watch a Christmas film. I am so excited! Mum is going to join in too, so we will have a lovely day. 
     
  • I am currently reading The Girl in the Photograph and absolutely loving it.  
     
  • On Tuesday I will be attending my first ever watercolour class.  I am excited and nervous in equal measure.
     
  • My grandmother is preparing to have a pacemaker fitted.  My sister and I had an interesting conversation tonight about what a pacemaker looks like.  I envisioned a kitchen timer, she thought perhaps more like a SIM card.  I was closer to the reality, which surprised me.

My biggest news is that The Little Green Door celebrated its first year of trading this week.  I am so proud that I have made it this far and built a good foundation for a second year of trading.  I haven't taken a salary at all this year so money has been tight but it has been so worth it.  

We are off to Bath this weekend for some quality time together and then I am attending a small local fair on Sunday afternoon before we pack away our stall for the year.  We will be processing website orders and posting them all over the Christmas break but if you are shopping for bits and pieces in time for Christmas then I would recommend ordering by Friday 16th December for guaranteed delivery.

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by.

Nicki X 

 

The Country Brocante Winter Fair

Little scandi-style gnomes, handmade from antique linen.  Small army coming to the brocante.

Little scandi-style gnomes, handmade from antique linen.  Small army coming to the brocante.

Making little wool houses, drinking tea and eating prettily wrapped chocolate.

Making little wool houses, drinking tea and eating prettily wrapped chocolate.

Love little houses.

Love little houses.

Pretty silvered glass votives and distressed metal chamber sticks coming to the brocante.

Pretty silvered glass votives and distressed metal chamber sticks coming to the brocante.

Furry supervisor.

Furry supervisor.

I have got my head down at the moment, rushing around preparing for the Country Brocante Winter Fair which we will be exhibiting at this weekend.  If you are planning to attend, I'd love for you to pop over to say hi.  In the absence of any 'proper' photos I have attached a few iphone snaps which give a flavour of my week.

Andrew, my husband (and head of finance, packaging and logistics for The Little Green Door) is running the stand with me this time.  He has taken some time off work to travel with me, set up the stand and he plans to run the stall each day with me too.  He *says* he wants to meet customers but I think he is going to keep his eye on me; the shopping there is fantastic and last time I came home with a pair of pale pink garden chairs in my friend's already jam-packed car! 

We are staying in a shepherd's hut close to Cowdray and I am so excited.  There is a tiny kitchen area, cute shower room and a little woodburner so we won't miss many home comforts.  I hope it is as romantic as it sounds!  My lovely Mother in Law and her dog Daisy are babysitting Lizzie so she will have a wonderful time too.

The fair is at Cowdray Park in Midhurst this Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November.   Buy tickets and find more information here

Right, I am off to dig out my blackboards, attach noses to gnomes and then I hope to embroider a few hanging hearts in front of The Crown (have you seen it?  It is SO good.  The music gives me goosebumps).  

See you soon! 

Love love

Nicki 

xOx

30 Days of Hygge in November

Being prone to bouts of depression, my friend Lynda and I have embarked on a bit of a personal development journey together this year to maintain our wellness, mindfulness and positivity, and look after each other.  We regularly send each other little gifts in the post, meet up for coffee, and share book and film recommendations.  We both love books about Hygge and in one of the books, 'The Cozy Life' the author recommends a 30 day hygge challenge.  We both loved the idea and as November has just 30 days we thought it would be the perfect month.  Forget the 30 day squat challenge, or the 30 day ab challenge - 30 days of hygge sounds much more nurturing and enjoyable!

We have created a list, taking into account some of the activities suggested by Edberg and made it our own.  If you feel like joining in we'd love to see your hygge photos on instagram, twitter and facebook.  Please use the hashtag #30daysofhygge 

  • Make a proper hot chocolate, with all the trimmings.
  • Read a favourite book from your childhood (mine were The Hundred and One Dalmatians and White Boots.  Lynda's favourites were The Secret Garden and Little Women).
  • Bake bread (make two loaves and deliver one to your neighbour as a random act of kindness).
  • Hang a new string of fairy lights somewhere in the house.
  • Buy and enjoy a new bubble bath.  We like Philosophy Fresh Cream, Origins Ginger Float , Philosophy Cinnamon Buns L'Occitane Lavender Harvest and Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir.
  • Make a breakfast picnic, pack a cosy blanket and watch the sunrise.
  • Go for a walk to gather pretty leaves, twigs, feathers, berries, flowers and nuts then make a nature mandala with them when you get home  - photograph or sketch it then destroy it, making a wish as you do so (taken from How to be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy).
  • Enjoy an outdoor fire; either attend a bonfire party or have drinks and snacks around a fire pit at home.
  • Wear a gifted item of jewellery that you have not worn for a long time.
  • Cosy up with a favourite film from your childhood.  (Lynda loved Swallows & Amazons, I liked The Sound of Music and we both loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).
  • Go for a walk in the woods and kick some golden leaves.
  • Wear some woolly loveliness. 
  • Choose a new novel, grab a blanket, hot drink and a scented candle and spend the afternoon reading.  We have read and enjoyed Florence Grace,  The Lake House and The Girl in the Photograph recently.  On our to read list we have Yellow Crocus , I Remember You , At The Edge of the Orchard and A Memory of Violets.
  • Dress your bed with fresh, clean, brushed cotton linen.
  • Make a homemade gift for a loved one.  
  • Take your book/knitting/sewing/journal/sketch pad to a cosy cafe and spend an hour on your chosen craft with a favourite drink.
  • Bake something new.
  • Give yourself a facial and get an early night.  I am loving this mask at the moment for brighter skin and tighter pores.
  • Get comfy by the window and quietly watch the birds outside.  I love to feed the birds and find they like suet blocks, sunflower hearts and nyger seed best of all.
  • Go and visit a friend or family member you've been meaning to see for a while.  Take some flowers and give them a big hug to let them know how much they mean to you.
  • Blow the dust off your board games and spend an evening away from the TV.  Wine, snacks and a favourite music playlist make for a lovely night in.  We always enjoy a game of Harry Potter Cluedo
  • Have a candlelit bath.
  • Try out a new farm shop cafe for breakfast, cake or lunch.
  • Visit a National Trust property and wander around the gardens.
  • Spend an entire day watching a new boxset.
  • Style your hair differently or accessorise with cute clips, flowers or combs. 
  • Wear a warm sweater with comfy leggings and spend 20 minutes on some candlelight meditation.
  • Treat yourself to a restorative yoga session somewhere beautiful.
  • Sort through your digital photos and print off your favourites for your own hygge journal.
  • Invite family over for Sunday lunch.
  • Light a scented candle.  1803 Candles are our very favourites; we love Weathered Crow, Banana Walnut Cake and Yummy Pumpkin Seeds.  
  • Do some colouring in.  We love the Johanna Basford ones and there is a lovely Christmas version out now too.

These are just suggestions of course - if you have any more you can add then please pop into the comments!  We'd also love to hear the books and films you've loved.  

If you'd like to read more about Hygge and cosy living, we really loved the The Little Book of Hygge, The Art of Hygge and, of course, The Cozy Life.  For mindfulness and positivity reading we love Flow magazine and Breathe

Day one of #30daysofhygge for me was a walk in a local country park with my folks this morning, kicking golden leaves and searching (unsuccessfully) for fairy toadstools.  

Thanks for reading - wishing you a hyggeligt November :)

xOx

The Beehive Embroidery - Beginning

My next embroidery project is in the hoop!  I have spent the last few days pulling together some images and flicking through my vintage books for floral inspiration.  I have also pulled out the fabrics and some of the threads that I think will work with the colour palette I am using.  This piece is going to be a framed picture; an antique style wooden beehive surrounded by flowers in delicate blues, soft whites and poppy red.  I have sketched a (very rough) design just to give me something to work from in terms of sizing and placement but now that the beehive is in situ I can just randomly add flowers and grasses to where I think they look best as I work.  I prefer that my embroidery develops in this way because it means that each piece is unique.

I have cleared my diary to ensure that I have plenty of time to work on the beehive and there are a few films that I've been wanting to watch for ages (Testament of Youth, XandY and Enchanted April) so I'm going to have a really lovely week!  

I joined a restorative yoga class last Tuesday and I'm off to my second session tomorrow.  It is absolutely the most wonderful thing I have treated myself to in ages.  The venue is beautiful, the teacher is hugely inspiring and the practise is just what I need to help calm my busy mind.  The yogi, Lisa, also teaches on the use of essential oils for wellbeing and I went to a workshop on Friday evening.  It was amazing.  Such a warm and nurturing experience.  I am skeptical of the benefits these things claim to bring but also open-minded and wanted to give it a try.  I created a personal blend, with input from Lisa, specifically to help me focus and clear my mind.  I spritz myself every morning before I sit down to a ten-minute guided meditation (I like the app 'Calm' which I use on my phone) and - I am not kidding - I have been so productive every day!  I feel like I have magic fairy dust shooting through my veins, haha!  Next I think I'd like an essential oil blend to stop me eating so much chocolate..... 

Thanks for stopping by; have a great week.

Love

Nicki 

xOx

Hyggeligt

Since reading The Year of Living Danishly last autumn, I have felt more inclined to indulge my natural compulsion to keep my surroundings cosy and make the most of even the most rubbish situations.  Sitting in eye casualty for hours and hours waiting for a doctor?  Wear a snuggly shawl, grab a hazelnut latte on the way and use the time to listen to an audiobook.  Stuck in a rainstorm in your lunch hour?  Hot chocolate and clean, warm socks will fix that.  (This is inspired by my friend Jo who used to pack a pair of thick cashmere socks in her handbag just to pop on under her desk on grim and grotty days. I noticed this one day when we'd been out for lunch together, in the rain, and I was very envious of her pink cashmere toes and hot tea as I shivered away, a few desks across from her, in our soulless office.)

I guess those are pretty obvious examples but you know what I mean... They are situations where you have to do a little prep work and anticipate a potentially grim situation.  As a super-impatient person, it is essential for me to prepare and utilise any time spent waiting.  I hate wasting time and I can get very bad tempered.  As a very bare minimum I make sure that I carry my Kindle with me.  Otherwise, a little stitching or knitting can be a very hygge way to pass the time when on a delayed train (even if you do get the odd bemused look from fellow passengers).

Hygge may be a new-ish word for us here in the UK but the concept is ancient.  My great-grandmother was an expert and I am often inspired by memories of her.  The books that I have read on the subject of hygge don't tell me anything new - of course I get new inspiration for cosiness - but what I have learnt (and ponder often) is that you can amplify the feeling of hygge by being more active.  These days I love to get up early and get outside.  I don't care for running but a good brisk walk through the countryside is the biggest mood booster for me.  A cup of tea and a bit of breakfast outdoors afterwards totally completes the feeling of wellbeing.  And when you can go home to a comfy sofa, cosy socks and paperback novels then there's really nothing more you need in life!  

We went out this morning, bright and early, for a walk in the woods just ten minutes from us.  There were lots of families and dogs out walking too but we took a quiet path through the trees and it was really just us.  The only sound was our feet kicking through the leaves and Lizzie panting happily as she explored.  It was bliss. The ground was littered with yellow leaves, beech nuts, acorns and conkers.  There was a smell of damp earth and foliage in the air.  The sun shone through the canopy of trees yet it was cold enough for scarves and boots.  We had a quick breakfast outdoors before coming home to a nap in the sunny conservatory, football (him) and knitting (me).  The loveliest of days.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on hygge.  Any good tips?  I am preparing for a '30 days of Hygge' personal project in November and would love more inspiration.  Perhaps you might fancy joining in too? 

Love

Nicki 

xOx

Lizzie embraces the hygge lifestyle - like many of us she is a lover of freshly washed linen sheets.... 

Lizzie embraces the hygge lifestyle - like many of us she is a lover of freshly washed linen sheets.... 

The Spooky Month!

pumpkin hollow final.jpg

I am so excited to welcome October and release the final Autumnal scented candles that we have in stock from 1803 Candles.  Hocus Pocus, Yummy Pumpkin Seeds and Pumpkin Hollow are all really gorgeous autumnal fragrances and their jar labels are very festive! Perfect whether you go all out for Halloween decorations or like to give just a subtle nod to the season.  Shop now here

I have lots of plans for October, both from a work perspective and personally.  I had fun updating my Bullet Journal this afternoon with my plans for the month and I have written a blog schedule so that I can blog every day without having writer's block.  

I was given the all-clear to wear contact lenses again on Thursday as my eye has healed.  Hooray! I am taking it steady and only wearing them for short amounts of time at the moment but my mood has improved vastly!  It is so nice to see properly without a thick and heavy pair of glasses on my face that steam up every time I pull something out of the oven or slide down my nose with sweat. It is also brilliant to be wearing make-up again and remember that I do actually have a pair of eyes rather than two tiny raisins squished into my face (which is how I felt in my specs).  

Oh! And I can drive Mabel, my new little car!  My lovely friend Lynda (Laalaa) came to visit me again yesterday - we have managed to get together loads this summer, it has been great - and we had a proper tour of Northamptonshire in my minty pride and joy.  We had such a lovely day fabric shopping, stationery shopping, lunching and drinking coffee.  Although it has to be said, Lynda still gripped the door handle a little too tightly when I was driving, I think I still scare her even though Mabel is much slower than my Mini.   To top off a lovely day I went to an aromatherapy class at a divine yoga studio yesterday evening with Debs.  There's really nothing better than spending time with treasured friends is there.  

We are going to settle in front of the TV now to start Season 3 of The Bridge.  We have boozy drinks, blankets and a bowl of Hula Hoops.  Perfect Saturday night in doncha think.

Love love

Nicki 

xOx

 

An Autumn Evening Walk

It has been all over social media today; the first day of Autumn, officially!  The Autumn Equinox. 

It has been a beautiful day.  The sun has shone but it has been pleasantly cool.  I started the day slowly with my knitting and a cup of coffee, watching the birds feeding in the garden.  It's nice now that the hedges are losing their leaves as the birds are more visible.  The longer I sit, the braver they become; I could spend the whole morning there given half a chance.  

I like to start my mornings slowly and mindfully where possible as I find it a really positive way to begin the day.  I try to get up when Andrew leaves the house at 6:30am so I have a good hour to dedicate to breakfasting, knitting and quiet reflection.  I also use that time to review my bullet journal and the things that need to be done that day.  

These last two weeks have not been ordinary for me at all.  Having damaged my cornea last week I have had to take time out to rest and recover.  With my eye particularly sensitive to light, it has been difficult to watch the television or use my computer screen for any period of time and so I have been mostly listening to audio books, stitching, knitting and snoozing.  I have had lots of (mainly edible) presents delivered from my lovely friends and Debs came to fetch me yesterday to take me to knit club at a cosy cafe.  It was only for a couple of hours but so nice to see the knitting ladies again over tea and crumpets.

Fingers crossed, I am over the worst of it now and feel much better. The sun was shining when Andrew got home from work and so after a hasty snack for dinner we laced up our walking boots and headed for the nature reserve with the dog.  The sun was just setting and the hedgerows were laden with rosehips, berries and crab apples.  The meadows were alive with rabbits and the sky was full of flying, honking geese.  It was, as always, utterly peaceful and I feel content having ended my day in much the same way as it began.  

Earlier today I updated the website with some new arrivals of Autumn candles and soy melters. White Pumpkins, a Little Green Door bestseller (and my personal favourite) is back in stock and I can totally recommend Apple Butter House if you fancy treating your home to a fruity, autumnal feel as the nights draw in.  If you haven't tried 1803 Candles before and you're not sure you will like them, it's worth picking up a couple of packets of melters.  The scent throw is fantastic and they are great value for money as each block breaks into six squares; you use one or two depending on the size of your warming device.  Grandma's Kitchen and Cookie Kitchen are lovely nostalgic baking scents, perfect for the heart of the home.  I have a Lavender Buds melter in the bedroom, Cider Mill for the living room and Nutty Pumpkin Waffles in the kitchen. (It's worth me mentioning that I only have one lit at a time because the scent throw is so good that it lingers around the house and any more would be overkill.)

I am off now to finish writing my Autumn bucket list; I have a cosy blanket, hot tea and fluffy pink slippers waiting for me. Then - excitingly for me - I have new beauty products to try including a pumpkin enzyme face scrub and avocado night cream.  A cheer-up gift from my lovely man.

Love love,

Nicki 

xOx

Right Now...

The time right now, as I start this blog post, is 7.55pm and it is very dark outside.  I have got my woodland lantern burning alongside a new 1803 candle (trialling a Halloween scent - love it) and a big pot of soup bubbling in the Aga.  Andrew is playing football tonight and he'll be home soon.  It is cool outside but not cold (today was a pretty warm day) so as soon as he has showered I will fill two bowls with the soup, top them with shaved parmesan and we will sit outside to eat.  These are late summer days at their best... the glorious slow transition to Autumn.  I am savouring every moment. 

My work tray holds an embroidery commission that is very nearly finished and I am joining a friend tomorrow afternoon to work on it whilst we have a catch-up.  I am spending tomorrow morning with my parents; we are taking a breakfast picnic to watch the sunrise and, hopefully, a few water birds down at the scrape.  I love our mornings at the nature reserve; such a gentle yet energising way to start the day.  

I hope everyone is having a lovely week and not feeling too thrown with the children back at school.  I am sure it takes a while to get back into the flow of a regular day. 

Sending love,

Nicki 

xOx

Yay Autumn! 1803 Candles new scents online

September is my favourite month, without a shadow of a doubt.  Firstly because of the weather.  Although the summer sunshine tends to linger for much of September, the light becomes more golden and the mornings and evenings are considerably cooler.  My favourite weather.  It also, of course, heralds the return to school and reminds me of those exciting first days of newness.  New teachers, new timetables, crisp new exercise books, new pencil cases and shiny new school shoes. Gleaming freshly waxed parquet flooring in the school hall.  

September is a bit of a romantic month in our family; we all chose this month in which to be married.  It is actually my folks' wedding anniversary today(I think 43 years).  Congratulations Mum and Dad!  

I have been birdwatching with my Dad again and Mum joined us yesterday; I think she enjoyed it although Dad has threatened to bring duct tape next time to stop her chatting!  I was just happy to see her happily walk the 2.5 mile route without any pain after operations on her feet last year and a knee replacement this year.  I happen to quite enjoy her chit-chat too! :)

I am looking forward to watching the changing of seasons at the reserve.  In the last few weeks we have already seen the blackberries start to ripen.  Apparently, as the blackberries go over the bull finches enjoy feasting on their seeds.  The starlings in our garden must have moved on because the tray of mealworms on my conservatory window is still full.  Usually the starlings show up like a gang of over-excited teenagers, scrapping and bickering as they eat.  I kind of miss them although I do not miss the mess they make.

I am making plans for Autumn and I'll share them with you next time.  Plans include the embroideries I am going to stitch, films I am going to watch, wristwarmers that I am going to knit and the cakes I am going to bake.  We have taken delivery of some gorgeous 1803 Candles in cosy autumn scents and I've listed some on the website this afternoon.  They launched at lunchtime today and there was an exciting flurry of activity as people stocked up.  Perfect Pumpkin and Apples & Acorns have been the favourite so far; stock of those is almost depleted.  Pop over and have a look - if you haven't tried 1803 before you won't be disappointed.  They are by far the best scented candle I have ever come across.  The scent fills a room without being overpowering; very mellow and gentle.  The fragrance lingers too - we had the bathroom refurbished earlier in the year and one of the workmen told me how lovely and cosy the house always smells.  He took a big breath in and said: "ooh your house always smells lovely; like baking.  Very homely."  He made my day!  

Have a happy September and enjoy the slow transition to Autumn, dear cyber friends!  

Love

Nicki 

xOx

PS The mouse situation has been dealt with.  We have two humane traps in the yard and have caught four mice so far.  I haven't seen any around lately either.  We are used to having mice in the garden at harvest time so it doesn't worry me.  The traps were down for a couple of days and we had failed to catch any of the pesky rodents; I was starting to feel concerned that humane traps were not aggressive enough.  Eventually, as I popped out to grab a coffee last Friday I announced, in the general direction of the garden, that all mice had better surrender themselves immediately or I was bringing the 'snappy traps' out.  Lo and behold upon my return two field mice were ensconced in said plastic boxes, quietly snacking on giant chocolate buttons.  I like to think they recognised my non-nonsense tone!  Of course I had to summon Andrew from his office (thankfully he is based just down the road and was local that day).  He released them in a layby near his office and has felt compelled to release all subsequent mice there "in case they are family and miss each other."  Ha! I totally get that.