"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
18 April 2014
Up with the lark. 4.30am actually. Ring at the door bell. Dog barks loudly and wakes me from dream where a shoot is submerging the house in folds of paper. Stagger downstairs and peer through the knobbly glass door panel. Vague outline of man in motorbike helmet. Panic. It`s a smash and grab raid? "Who is it ?". ``Pizza". "Pizza, pizza who? " I say. "It`s paid for " he says, and hands over a box from a thermal bag. " "
It`s 4.30, I didn`t order this, and it`s stone cold" I say, and stagger upstairs. Someone has messed up at pizza HQ.
Wish the `instant` of nocturnal fast food delivery , could be applied to building work. One thing leading to another is what building is all about. The attic bathroom project would have been done and dusted but for this week`s discovery of a wasps` nest, parts missing, and paint colour mixed with the wrong base. Plus the soggy fallout from the unfortunate incident in the downstairs bathroom when X and X removed the lavatory as part of the panelling job, and flooded the ceiling below. `You`ll have to get in your plumber` they try. Hmmmm. "You did say X and X were competent at removing bathroom fittings" I remind the contractor. And on, and on it goes.
Oh well. There`s always the garden. My touchstone of sanity. Spring is at least a month earlier than last year and we are soaking up the scents of bluebells and frothy blossom like parched drinkers. Best job of the week has been raking bag of grave in the relining of the pathways between the parterre beds. They look refreshed, almost like clean linen.
Unsurprisingly, I`m longing for the weekend. I think that spring lamb will be on the menu for our Easter feast. This recipe with roasted artichokes and spring greens is from my book .
Spring is springing and the first tulips are blasting colour in the garden. The snail and slugs are in retreat and all is well.
Party of the year in Battersea Park for Bertie`s sweet 16 walk and birthday tea.
Everyone was there. Regrets were sent from Khan who was sad because the vet said he must rest his leg. He sent love. The weather was perfect. There was much frolicking and ball playing. For the most part the guests behaved impeccably, apart from Rosie who slurped melting ice from the champagne bucket and Lola the black pug who ate too much birthday cake and delivered it back on the rug. The party boy managed to stay the course and tottered home happily across the grass as the sun dipped beneath the great chimneys of Battersea Power Station .
Much to be inspired by in the coming season of blossom and light evenings. I have my eyes on Gallery Libby sellers for eye provoking design in a curated environment; Ben and Winifred Nicholson`s very domestic take on early 20C art and life at Kettles Yard ; creamy Welsh goats` cheese logs from Mootown sold at Sunday market in Herne Hill; and my first bath in the new attic bathroom which will be opened for shoots as soon as the last lick of paint has dried.
Here are pictures of the latest blasts of colour in my garden, shot this morning soon after the fairy mist had lifted and the sun had broken through.
This is a brief Pure Style update as much sorting and clearing for new bathroom in the attic. And I`ve been weed bashing outside for many a happy hour in the soft bird twittering spring air.
Colour combination of the week is a bedside gorgeous pink rose left over from shoot in a turquoise coffee cup.
And look, more fabulous pink in a floaty wrap around dream skirt made for me from birthday present fabric by Tessa Brown.
Daughter, Georgie is taking over the kitchen in a very pleasing way with delicacies like this Paul Young sea salt chocolate and pecan tart. A comforting slice or two much needed after car break down on the M3 and subsequent lightening of purse .
There`s fun in a
workout with fork and spade in the fresh air . As good as
a punch bag (it has been one of those weeks) .Happily ,weeds growing super fast in the warmth, and infesting
snails are at the receiving end of my energies.
I dig and thoughts come, like how there is sanity in the unpredictability
of nature. Give me this
violet (above) pinging with unseasonal colour and
vigour over a mush diet of commercial uniformity. Bring on the super green alliums bursting
with early green shoots and, over there , a
radical forget met not, glowing with delicate cobalt blue flowers And even though I canít tame nature I can attempt to work
The hazel hurdles are
up. Easy to mount the stakes in the boggy soil and they should make a good backdrop for
garden shoots this spring. Iíve
recycled the worn out willows ones and put them in the vegetable patch (see
below). Theyíll look good with sweet
peas curling up in summer.
I am planning a new shoot bathroom in the attic and to line the downstairs bathroom in tongue
and groove mdf cladding. Iíve my eye on
a cast iron bath with feet for the top room and Pigeon dark grey to give it warmth and
contrast to my mostly white house.
On the fabric side of
things, I have recently seen luscious colours in sleek contract textures
designed by fashion designer Raf Simons for Kvadrat . And there are interesting retro prints in Heals` first fabric collection since the seventies`.
I seem to need more
raw food at this time of year, something to do with winter depleting our
bodiesí stocks of nutrients maybe, or simply a desire for crunch and colour.
Here Ďs a simple winter salad, from my recipe book that you might like to put
2 or three carrots,
peeled and sliced into thin sticks.
200g red cabbage
1 head of chicory
handful of pomegranate
handful of chopped
few mints leaves, to
garnish ( my local Turkish shop has a steady supply all through the year)
for the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp Seville orange
juice or lemon juice
1garlic clove finely
salt and freshly
ground black pepper
vegetables, pomegranate seeds and nuts in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk
the olive oil and orange or lemon juice until amalgamated. Add the garlic and
season. Add the dressing to the salad, mix and garnish with mint.
I am still married to my rubber boots even though the sun is spilling through the windows on a rare dry break in the deluge.
Cat and dog laid out in the warming rays as they spread across the newly made bed and decorate it with the finest of cat and dog fur.
After my rant last week, I must say that the upsides of shoots outweigh the occasional down moments. This week we feasted on leftovers: coffee and walnut cake.etc., made by a young, and starting out cook Charlotte Gardelis, who expertly fed and watered the team in the main shoot space.
Munching the last slice of cake and reading Vogue, I see that my investment in a lightweight mint coloured puffa from Uniclo has been given the fashion bible`s stamp of approval, too. I`m not a puffa person but this is a great colour to go with my pink bits and is really warm which is what really counts.
Dodged the showers and tube strike to see Beckett`s Happy Days at the Young Vic. It wasn`t the most uplifting play to go to with a young person at the start of life and full of fluttery hopes, but Juliet Stephenson `s Winnie showed the female capacity for looking on the bright side when it isn`t ,and she has great hand movements.
Happier days, are spent fielding packets of lovely fabric samples, that drop through the letter box for the new book I`m working on. My heart sings when I come across colours in embroidery like this from Pierre Frey , above. Must tell you too that I`m pleased my borders are part of the collection curated by Silvanna de Soissons in her new foodie bugle online shop.
Days getting a little longer... the garden is beginning to beckon for spring. I am looking forward to replacing worn out and wind damaged willow fences at the bottom of the garden with 3 freshly woven hazel ones that arrived by courier yesterday.
Daughter can`t get to job and assistant stuck on bus for two hours. Poor show, striking Tube people and your big brother boss B.Crow last seen sunning hairy belly on Rio Beach. But this, and ongoing flood/mud/rain/wind/gloom story brightened by lone survivor of my roses, a brilliant John Clare bloom. Also, cheering thoughts of the toasted pistachio gorgonzola tagliatelle taste sensation at Zucca a few weeks ago and, look here, chocolate brownies baked by middle daughter for her younger sister`s` birthday tomorrow. (From Felicity Cloak`s Perfect, and they do taste, just that).
Inspired by a yellow Habitat chair on a shoot a couple of months ago , I thought you`d like to see my paint update on a chipped and worn chair in my office. Off I go to the paint shop to see if I can recreate the same lime green/acid yellow colour that reminds me of all things springlike e.g see the angelica flower head I shot in an Algarve meadow last year. I pick `Tarragon Glory` from Dulux and it works well. I cheated and bought quick drying emulsion which, of course won`t wear as well as an oil based eggshell, but I do rather prefer matt painted finishes all round.
The cat and dog look at me hard as I shut the door to the kitchen. I read their stares as `what is she doing, denying us access to FOOD ? ` But I don`t want them decorating the freshly painted white floor which is wet and drying slowly slowly because it is oil based . The long drying time is worth it because the result is hard wearing, like enamel. And this is good for repelling the assault by the heavy boot wearers and furniture draggers of the shoot world. The chalk-on-blackboard screech as a bed or sofa is grated across the boards propels me out of my hidey office hole like nothing else. Thankfully most people are brilliant and careful when they come to use the house.
It`s as if I`ve gone on holiday to a fresh new space . I`m inspired to invest in a a new steam cleaner to keep it looking that way. Quite sceptical about housey gadgets but this is rather wonderful like a steam iron-with-pad on astick. The thing works well if I apply a firm pressure - in the manner of mowing the lawn. Rather meditative, too, as no interruptions for rinsing like you have to do with a traditional mop and bucket.
PS Cat and dog food bowls relocated so they don`t go hungry.
I also update the central island units with a coat of water based `diamond` eggshell, which does do what it says on the tin but obviously wouldn`t be up to something like a floor painting job.
Number one unreliable gadget, the car won`t start. Into garage and the blissful engine hands of Panos. Bicycle main form of transport and so I wobble off with dog on lead tied to handlebars. I am multitasking:dog gets walk in park and I can get to the market to load up with birthday party ingredients for son turning 25.
As ever, Herne Hill Market is a treasure trove of edible delights : rock oysters from Poole in Dorset and leafy greens to start with. Bicycle basket filling up , but I can`t resist retro jug above, and green retro Pyrex glass below. Makes up for the vintage olive oil jugs I backed out of at Fuseta market the other week. The last stop turns out to be the west country cheese man, whose extra mature cheddar is mouthwatering. I feel the dog tugging and sniffing , trying to get under the stall. Bike , dog and me, almost a heap on ground, when west country cheese man shouts,` `Oi its got my lunch` and bends down to retrieve a half finished carton of curry. Wishing I wasn`t there, I offer replacement and buy an extra slice of goats` cheese . Time to leave.
Incident free on the ride home. I bake a birthday cake involving much chocolate and caramel sauce. The canine, not chastened of course , lurks by my feet waiting for a tasty crumb to drop. .... I have to admire her dogged persistence.
I`m warding off the incursion of the 5:2 diet in our household with a hearty steamed pudding from Pure Style Recipes for Everyday.
You, blog readers will enjoy it too, if you`re faint from more New Year diet nonsense.
Marmalade steamed pudding
(makes 4 small puddings)
This is a delicous combination of the bitter flavour of the orange and the sweetness of the sponge. Substitute the marmalade with golden syrup for an even stickier and sweet comfort pudding.
Inn a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour. Grease 4 individual pudding moulds and put a tablespoon of marmalade at the bottom of each.
Add the mixture and cover with greaseproof paper lids tied with string, or a piece of foil fitted tightly. Stand in 2.5cm of water in a roasting tin and place in an oven preheated to 180C for 50 minutes , until risen. Turn out the puddings into serving bowls.
Heat the remaining marmalade in a pan, pour a tablespoonful over the top of each pudding and serve.
Today I will squeeze into trainers and have a quick jog to the seafront and back. New year, new promises and fabulous colour in Christmas earrings and new green cotton t shirt. Small splashes of colour can be as dramatic as an all out colour assault whether it`s in the wardrobe or for decorating a room.
A trip along the coast. Down cobbled steps fringed by tumbling purple convovulus and cactus plants with paddle shaped limbs green succulent, and deadly spiked. Eating springy bread buns with hunks of sweet tomato and goats`s cheese on the grey wind and rain spattered beach is more Bognor regis than the Eastern Algarve, but we are also feeling the whirling effects of the UK`s fierce winter storm.
I am glad to be off major cooking duties for a few days. But it was hugely satsifying over Christmas to produce Elizabeth David`s, Carbonade Nimoise and La Daube de Boeuf Provencale from French Provinical Cooking. Both essentially hearty stews cooked long and slow, the former involves lamb and potatoes with a typical southern taste and smell , and the latter beef with more rich southern juices flavoured with orange peel and herbs .
At the Saturday market there are mounds of cabbages and greens - rich in winter nutrients and fibre for little more than a few centimos. Wish I could carry back furry quinces for membrillo, but would be at expense of reading matter . No I don`t have a Kindle, but maybe I should for the
Sunday, and it`s Fuzeta fleamarket. No I don`t want a bucket of golf balls or a bobbled polyester dressing gown, but I do have my eye on a couple of retro aluminium jugs for olive oil. Five euros each. Not bad I think, but do I really need them? But do we really need most of the stuff we have. Buy them, says the daughter and dedicated shopper of her generation in my head I go back and have a another shifty look. No. I`ll save my money. In the car on the way home. Regret. I should have bought them. So useful and such great shapes.
Anyone for a hammer?
Pots , pans , simple china and utilitarian junk like these mesh filing trays are what make Fuzeta a rich source of pickings on a sunny Sunday morning.
I have escaped the Christmas hysteria for a long weekend in Olhao. Bathed in warm sun the Saturday market is a rich source of edible seasonal goodies. I can only look and sigh at the honey- it wouldn`t make it past the xray scanner but I load up on piri piri peppers, nuts and figs for simple stocking fillers.
Two small girls are selling chestnuts with their brothers from a barrow with a basic charcoal oven and a box of sea salt for flavouring. They keep their wares tucked up like dolls in a blanket of sacking. I buy a bag for 2 euros and the nutty burnt flavours evoke the Christmases we spent in the Andalucian sierra.
Over coffee and a
pastel de nata I consider more ideas, some practical, some
fanciful for my Pure Style Christmas wish list:
A scented rambling rose for summer blooms.
A pile of warm wool welsh blankets Cashmere socks
A cataplana for making Portuguese fish and rice stew.
Anything from Labour and Wait, especially a pot mat a stout work apron and a shiny new saucepan;
A substantial linen tablecloth
Something simple in pottery
Just about any Aesop products but especially my favourite moisturiser
A new project like this one
The true version of this
rather than my Ikea rip off
A subscription to visual inspiration at the Royal Academy.
A year`s supply of Bendicks bittermints
Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting. Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done. So I take his advice and do it . He does the heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other local flowering spots neat and under control.
You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon grey Hunters at TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to £79 up the road at Morleys. I don`t even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and as with my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.
Away from the screen, solicitor`s letters , leaking sink pipe, and the general impermanence of things, I feel contentment digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips. The afternoon is quiet , blue wash sky going into pink and a blackbird on the fence.
Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think optimistic pleasing thoughts. I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls, a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass warm and herby and the sun setting behind the apple tree
The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family but what I do rage over is the commercial relentlessness which began somewhere back in September with cut price chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op. Out in the garden there`s none of that and I am grateful to all the growing things for that
Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for pork pies. Herne Hill market saved the day when there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham. She worked from the recipe in Pie a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the classroom staff bake off. I`ve been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.
One red onion is beauty in itself don`t you think? It should should be called purple , deep mauve , fuschia even, anything but red. I bring a paper bagful home from the market to make an edible autumn display on the table. This depletes over the week with glossy fried onions for gravy with sausage and mash, stirfry with crunchy sticks of carrot and white cabbage and Sunday`s last beef slivers. I`m addicted to Sharpham Park pearled spelt, and it is just the thing for making a risotto with chopped red onion, beetroot and goats cheese.
Lido blue sky, Jerk chicken on the breeze , and through the park gates a fluttering gold
horizon on the hill , Sunday in Brixton is just
as freeing and refreshing as a walk in country woods. I am a country
girl in my heart but for all the delights of rural beauty and peace my head
soon tires of petrol hikes to the shops and sinister ice on winter
lanes. Give me the people life of urban encounters: a late night war
story from an Eritrean minicab driver, fellow dog walkers
smiling in four legged connection; a close friend and glass of fizz
one road crossing away; or Antonia and Casey at Beamish and Mcglue
who dispense good coffee and local chat. And from the spreading rash of
betting shops in the high street to a potential feast of films in a
new Picture House cinema, these are all elements of my village life in the city.
It`s been a good week for exhibitions: : Whistler`s fog scenes on the river at Battersea; more colour at Tate Modern with Paul Klee and then to Albermarle Street and Tim Wright`s powerful painted figures .
GARDEN NOTE : Apart from a few floppy pink rose heads. colour is leaching from the
garden beds. But the sycamore is flaming and the grass thick and rich
green, a last growth spurt before winter draws it back into the earth
to wait for Spring. Boxes of tulip and allium bulbs are packed in the cool of the larder.I have a weekend earmarked for planting them and putting the garden to bed. NB see great pictures by Caroline Arbour`s in a new book on Virginia Wolf`s garden .
Inspirational autumn colours in the park above, and pink Cosmos, below, growing in the Community greenhouses, below.
QUINCE JELLY: I simmer the dentist`s quinces in water for a couple of hours and let the cooked fruit drip pink juice through muslin into the pan. I add 500ml juice to 600ml of sugar and stir the mixture over the heat until setting point .The hot jelly cools and sets in jars by the fridge. The dog sniffs but doesn`t touch, too hot. I plan to share the jelly out to foodies at Christmas. It`s so good to eat with roast meat or to stir into gravies.
Our Pure Style paper borders are the best things to decorate your life inside, and out. They come in 8 modern colourways and to fix, require little more than a spirit level and a few dabs with the glue brush. We`re selling to clients who want to cheer up kitchens and hallways or give a new look to a bedroom. Great for more temporary nests, too: students can get away with decorating their Cell Block X accommodation, just as easily as any other renter, since the borders can be stripped off at the end of term or lease. Buy one... or two or three... NOW!
See Fennel border , above
Duck Egg border
Rose Petal border
Pure Style borders are available online in our shop
More local finds at Herne Hill market on Sunday: hand dyed green vintage Witney blanket from a stall laden with blankets and throws (every other week )in great colours; a flagon of cider delicious. aromatic and alcoholic from Core Fruits 01227 730589 to go with a brace of pheasants I roasted from the next door but one stall; just round the corner is Lowie, with great handknits and vintage rails amused to see Lady Di -style frilled high - neck Laura Ashley frocks
Cheered by vibrant pink, whether its lipstick or roses (see the last of the John Clares in the garden ) I like the idea that warm coats in pink sorbet colours are fashion themes this winter. Which reminds me, you should go to Vanessa de Lisle`s blog for some of the best fashion wisdom in the business.
It`s good to see the Pure Style borders featured in this month`s copy of the World of Interiors
Simple idea: nature lamps from Dan, who`s looking for stockists. Contact Danartland@yahoo.co.uk.
Simple pleasures: the dentist`s quinces look so beautiful I don`t want to cook them. And I`m reading Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells where the `fundamental question ` of wellbeing is happiness equals reality minus expectations. Cool!