Monday, 1 September 2014

The hissing of summer lawns

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Cambridge university botanical gardens

Where did the summer go? Back in spring, when the sun began to warm the cockles, buds peeped out among the dry branches and Londoners hesitantly slipped off their winter coats, I made plans. Plans to while away balmy summer evenings in the park with a good book. Plans to visit the seaside, paddle in the cool water and hunt for crabs in rock pools. Plans to devour my weight in pistachio ice cream, laughing as I raced against the drips. Plans to walk along the river at dusk, arm-in-arm with a friend, gossiping about the latest thrills and spills that life inevitably casts our way.

There’s been a little of this and that, but not a lot it seems, and now the leaves are starting to turn underfoot, and I find myself slipping on an extra layer in the mornings, a hot mug of tea perched on the coffee table. I can’t complain. Autumn is one of my favourite seasons (along with spring): the bright colours, crisp air and mounds of crunchy leaves. And even if I’m not quite ready to let go of summer, I still have a holiday in Croatia tomorrow that will (hopefully) see me visiting warmer climes (even if the forecast doesn't quite agree).

A couple of weeks ago I visited Cambridge, and popped into the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens. This little treasure trove of colour, smell and sound is my new favourite playground. Bees zipping between the lavender flowers, the water fountains tinkling and gurgling while children splash and shriek, the damp hot air of the glasshouse gardens and the pleasant hissing off the summer lawns.

I can’t wait to go back.

What are you planning to do with the fading summer days?

sally

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In Collaboration

Friday, 29 August 2014

I'm loving: Uniche interiors

I think 'home' means different things to different people. Even in my own three decades of life I’ve thought of it in different ways from time to time. In my early years as an editor, ‘home’ felt like a desk with a computer screen as I stayed in the office until 1am to meet my print deadlines. When I moved to London, home was a cocoon that protected me from the outside world, that I guarded and felt reluctant to share. Later on, as a lodger, home felt absent, and what I came to realise was that feeling like you have no sense of home is one of the saddest feelings of all. Now, home is warmth, laughter, kitten cuddles, memories and quirky objects collected along the way.

Surrounding myself with my favourite possessions isn’t just a ritual, it’s a lifeline to me. That’s not to say I’m particularly materialistic (in the negative sense of the word), but certain possessions hold so much meaning to me, like the painting of the cliff I grew up on, which was given to me by my sister for my 30th birthday, or the tobacco box that reminds me of my long-absent father.

Recently I’ve been itching to have a little bit of a spruce, so I hopped online to scour the Uniche Interior Furnishings. There were so many goodies I had to share. Here are some of my favourites...

Uniche interior furnishings
Ladder Box Shelves - £125

If you're a city-dweller like me you've probably perfected the art of cramming as much 'stuff' as possible into the smallest possible space. I thought this ladder shelving unit takes up virtually no space and oozes rustic charm. I think I'd turn it into a herb garden - it would be so useful to have all my fresh herbs at arm's reach, plus the wafting smell of basil and rosemary each day would be divine!

Uniche interior furnishings
Mason Jar Pendant Light - £65

I'm fond of upcycling in moderation (I feel sad when I see beautiful antique furniture doused in white paint), and these quirky mason jar lights hit the mark perfectly for me.

Uniche interior furnishings
Calorie tea towel - £7

I recently adopted this little mantra when I posted it on Instagram. It may not be the most motivating phrase when it comes to my recent health and fitness regime, but it still never fails to make me smile (and hope!)

Uniche interior furnishings
Street Vendor Market Cart Console Table - £600

If anyone were in need of a statement piece in their home, then surely this would have to be it. Wow. Just wow.

Uniche interior furnishings
Cluster of baubles - £20

I'm a firm believer that baubles aren't just for Christmas. I've seen numerous little touches like this on my Pinterest travels, and think they'd look so lovely dangling from a stark, dull ceiling.

Uniche interior furnishings
Cream and Duck Egg Reproduction Tolix Stool - £75

Being a person of somewhat limited stature, a kitchen stool is essential for me to clamber onto and reach into cupboards while cooking. I love this distressed duck egg stool. Plus it's functional. Hurrah!

If you're a fan of all things homely I heartily suggest hopping onto the website to take a peek. There were so many pretties on there it was hard to choose!

sally

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Post written in collaboration with brand

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Transitional vintage florals

This may sound like a strange way to begin, but recently I have to confess to wincing slightly as I hover over the 'publish' button for my outfit posts. I’ve put on quite a bit of weight over the past couple of years and I’m so cross with myself for not taking better care of my body. Alongside this, I seem to have lost motivation in my personal style, opting for jeans and baggy jumpers and throwing my hair back into a ponytail or bun.

This gorgeous midi dress however, which is from the new Julia range at Tesco, got me out of that rut this week, and I can already tell it will be a firm friend all year round. It’s the perfect transitional frock between summer and autumn (or spring and summer if you like), being quite a fine material with a deep floral pattern. I think it would look equally great with flat pointy slingbacks and a floppy hat, or else with thick tights and a chunky cardigan. Tesco never fail to impress me with their womenswear, and the new Julia range exudes vintage whimsy. I’ve had my eye on a couple of other dresses in the range – I really hope they drift into tops, skirts and accessories too.

Julia dress by Tesco

Julia dress by Tesco

New Look cardigan (old)
New Look necklace (not currently on site)
George at Asda chelsea boots* (old)

Working at a charity means things are a little more forgiving for me on the personal style front in the office. My sister works in a much more corporate atmosphere, where it’s black skirt suits all the way. In some ways I feel it’s both a blessing and a curse not having a formalised dress code. I can express myself though my clothes but at the same time it’s easy to get lazy and throw on something comfy and basic. I wonder sometimes whether it would be better to have had jobs in transport, the NHS or the City, where there's less choice. You simply reach into your wardrobe each day, pull out your uniform and off you go. It would definitely mean more time for musing over what to have for breakfast, or what colour eyeshadow to wear. Morning routines are and endless rigmarole of decisions, and I think sometimes it's easier to have fewer things on the menu so to speak.

Last night I had the girls round for tea. Frank was banished to the local pub (I sound cruel, but he offered), and I whipped up my favourite lamb pilaf recipe. We slurped on red wine, nattered to our hearts’ content and swapped gossip. I don’t often invite people round, but nights like these make me wish I did it more often. It’s so lovely to share your space with new people, without having to compete with the overwhelming din of a frantic London pub.

sally

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Partnered post

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Red carnations and steamed lobster

Montague on the Gardens

A couple of weekends ago I spent the night in Bloomsbury, just across the square from where I work. It might seem strange to stay in a hotel just a few miles from my flat (and practically next door to my office), but I was lucky enough to be taking part in Compare the Market's The Cars are the Stars campaign. Our itinerary, which included a hotel night and dinner, was inspired by Herbie the Love Bug - favourite film in my household while growing up (and also the name of our beloved first Burmese cat!).

I was also slightly intrigued to stay in Montague on the Gardens (incidentally, Monty was the name of our second Burmese cat. I see a theme coming on...), having walked past this beautiful row of Georgian houses most days on my commute, particularly at Christmas when they wind magical red fairy lights around the railings along the front of the hotel.

Sure enough, we weren't disappointed, and were immediately swept into a whirlwind of elegance and glamour (feeling slightly out of place in my worn trainers and shaggy hair).

Montague on the Gardens

The staff very sweetly upgraded us to a deluxe king room, which had me cursing (bear with me - I'm not that ungrateful!) because I'd only brought my fixed focal lens to take snapshots of the room. The room itself, as Frank worded it, was nearly as big as our flat, with a seating area, three windows (I counted), a beautiful draped bed canopy, two TVs and an en suite with a bath and walk-in shower. I hardly knew what to do with myself! My favourite quote of the weekend was when Frank said "Sally! We could play a game of hide and seek in here and it would last for ages!"

Plans to go for a long walk around the local area soon flew out of the window, and we decided instead to hang out in the room for as long as possible, soaking up the calm and delectably ostentatious decor. Sadly my photos of the room don't do it justice. It was bloomin' massive.

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

After a long bubble bath and a couple of hours wrapped up in the most enormous fluffy bathrobe (it felt like being wrapped in a cloud), I managed to muster the energy to get dressed and visit some of the other rooms in the hotel (of which there were many): a dining room, garden room, lounge area, bar, conservatory and terrace. Seeing as it was such a lovely day, Frank and I decided to sit outside with a glass of wine and some (complimentary) snacks.

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

Perhaps what impressed me most about Montague on the Gardens was the genuine kindness and hospitality of its staff. For example, we were given a handwritten note from the General Manager, along with some yummy handmade biscuits, which lasted all of five seconds.

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

Our evening meal was spent a short walk away at Steak and Lobster, which is as simple as it sounds - they only have two mains on the menu (with unlimited chips and garden salad, much to Frank's delight). Having polished off two rounds of chips and a knickerbocker glory, we were suitably stuffed and waddled our way back to the hotel for a nightcap in the bar before bed.

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

Montague on the Gardens

This little blog post can't end without a special mention of our new friend Kendra (pictured in the middle here alongside Mark on the left and Declan on the right). Kendra served our wine on the terrace in the afternoon, and was working the bar in the evening. We got chatting to him about his job and his home country of Nepal, and I told him how much I'd always wanted to visit Nepal and climb Mount Anapurna. On our way to bed that night, we found, slipped under the hotel door, a letter written by Kendra, congratulating us on our engagement and detailing all kinds of recommendations should we want to visit Nepal, including towns, restaurants and videos to watch on You Tube.

IMG_1255

It goes without saying that this level of care and attention from the Montague staff goes far beyond the call of duty, making  it a very magical place indeed, and one which now has a very special place in our hearts. Sometimes it takes the kindness of a stranger to remind you that the world is indeed a wonderful place.

sally

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This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.
Our hotel stay and restaurant meal were kindly given to us by Compare the Market

Monday, 25 August 2014

How to make a sock monkey

I'm not sure I can remember the last time I dug out my sewing kit and did something crafty, but a rainy bank holiday Monday seems like the perfect day to thread my needle and whip up something fun. My dear mum has been asking for one of these little chaps for quite some time, so I thought it was high time I shared a tutorial for how to make a sock monkey. Sock monkey's make a lovely gift, and no two monkeys every seem to look the same. I love finding exciting socks and seeing how they come out. Brian (on the far right here) even wound up with a bow on his foot. Bless him.

How to make a sock monkey instructions

What you'll need
  • A pair of socks
  • Thread (in a colour that won't be easily seen)
  • A needle
  • A pen
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Two buttons (in a matching or contrasting colour, for eyes)
  • Stuffing (easily bought on eBay)
How to make a sock monkey instructions

Turn your socks inside out as seen below. One pointing straight down, and the other so it looks like a Christmas stocking.

How to make a sock monkey instructions

Using a pen and the diagram below, mark on your socks where to cut and sew. Using either a sewing machine or by hand, you'll need to sew along the dotted lines and snip along the solid lines. The body will look like the picture above right.
How to make a sock monkey instructions

Your arms, ears and mouth will look as below.

How to make a sock monkey instructions

Turn the body the right way and stuff your monkey, trying as best you can to even out the stuffing so it doesn't look too lumpy (which mine is a bit below!). Similarly, stuff your monkey's arms and tail. I find a chopstick or stuffy end of a knitting needle can be helpful for stuffing the long tail.

How to make a sock monkey instructions

Sew your arms onto the sids of the monkey. Then, stuff your mouth and ears and sew onto the monkey's face. Sew on the eyes and you're done!

How to make a sock monkey instructions

How to make a sock monkey instructions

And there you have it! Sock monkeys do take a bit of patience I find, especially when sewing on the facial features, but they make a lovely gift and are bound to make someone smile!

Have you ever made a sock monkey?

sally

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This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.