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"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
New year, new plans
15 January 2016

I fly south to Olhao and the glorious vegetable colours and textures of the Saturday market. Beans pods flecked with pink like a painter`s abstract  are a joy to look at let alone eat .

 More building is in progress at the house to open up the living/ eating space. I am moving a bathroom to what I call the monk`s cell, a poky inner room with a glass brick in the ceiling as the only light source; a not altogether unreasonable Olhao detail, as it is the coolest room in summer and warmest in winter. The new L shaped space has an open hatch to the kitchen. We couldn`t knock all the way through because the giant chimney on the roof above  would have no support, and I didn`t want to lose this traditional and  distinctive Algarve feature. I am looking forward to the delivery of blue and white  floor  tiles, in a simple checked pattern that are being made in the traditional way by Artevida  near Lisbon.

Tags: winter, olhao, simple, interiors. decoration, pink, tiles

A christmas rose
15 December 2015

 Against the drab died-back look of winter the last few roses (see here, a John Clare specimen) decorate the garden in defiant shots of frivolous summer pink. I cut some blooms for the table to join candles and a bowl of aromatic  clementines in a simple festive still life.

 In the season for boxes of delights, I find particular pleasure in unpacking after a year`s rest in the attic  irisdescent baubles and a peg doll fairy for the tree.  And, there is all the hope and spring potential in the tulip and allium bulbs.  Arriving in boxes by mail order, they are tucked amongst  newspaper bedding, in net sacks and brown paper bags with special holes to keep the bulbs cool and dry. It is worth noting that most bulbs should be planted at a depth that allows twice their own height of soil above them.  Shallower planting is ok but the bulbs are unlikely to perform well after their first year, and  there is the added danger of being easier to be scavenged by squirrels. I have just finished planting about 300 pink tulips (including Blue Heron and Recreado) purple giant fluffy alliums (Gladiator and Globemaster). Do hope  the  rain and sogginess  will dry up for spring or I fear the consequent snail plague will be not only a threat to the young foliage but an unwelcome preoccupation.

Hooray, the last bulb is in. Time for a warm up by the fire!

Tags: christmas, roses, pink, winter, bulbs, garden

Pure Colour Olhao
19 November 2015

London`s autumn streets swarm with black ant-like  crowds  dodging and diving from shop to shop as if buying has become as serious as life itself  Of course my well over 50  perspective is skewed but no way is my city as rough and exciting around the edges as it was in the 80s` when my dodgy Molton Brown bob and frilly white New Romantic shirt were cool. No Boris bikes to take me to our broken down Georgian wreck in rather grubby Spitalfields . Our youthful optimism and passion for rescuing beautiful architecture also unwittingly  prepared the scene for  the influx of the current hipster generation; you can hardly move between the foodie pop ups and designer handbag displays.  Thankfully Olhao, remains a  source of  solace and visual inspiration and the Saturday market with its life,  understatement,  colour and fabulous fresh produce beats any West End/East End foray. 

Glossy olives

Figs from the flat capped  owner`s garden - all shapes and sizes none of which would pass the supermarket test for shape and uniformity

Bees wax from a stall with honey, and honeycombs

Piri piri chillies, hot red and firey.

Sweet potatoes

Garlic in light and shade

Tags: autumn, Olhao, market, simple, colour

Melbourne details
19 October 2015

  Last month, on a trip to visit my son,  I was bowled over by Victorian and Edwardian architecture in South Yarra`s blossom scented streets    A kind of Melbourne`s Notting Hill with hipster overtones (plenty of beards and foodie haunts), South Yarra would be a place I would happily do up (quick not many left) a pretty unmodernised weatherboard villa.

Filigree detailing in an Italianate style decorates the balconies and verandas built to provide shade from hot summer sun.

I haven`t seen so much picket fencing  since  my forays to Long Island in the US.

Simple  door furniture detail

Corrugated iron roof: classic and practical Australian  style

Victorian bench seating at the Botannical Gardens.

Victorian style beach huts at Dendy Street Beach, Brighton.

Tags: Melbourne, simpledetail, spring

Pure Colour: autumn
16 September 2015

As I write the rain spatters on  the glassy pavements and  the  main view from my desk is monotone grey. The horse chestnut across the road is drooping with ever yellowing leaves and the grass on the front lawn is lush iridescent green from late summer downpours. Autumn is here and  it is time to unfold the blankets from the cupboard on the landing.

  Golden yellow and orange  pumpkins are  seasonal colours cues for room details.

 A cornfield harvesthome  look in  linen by Angie Lewin

 PS Lots more colour inspiration in my book Pure Colour !

Tags: autumn, pumpkins, orange, yellow, blankets

Purecolour summer
16 July 2015

  I aim for colourful and simple eating on hot summer days. For evening drinks or starters at lunch or dinner I  pass round smoked mackerel, beetroot and horseradish on pieces of soda bread or a huge plate of raw vegetables and beetroot puree .  Carrots, chicory, cucumber, radishes and courgettes are  perfect vegetable  colours in orange,  pink, green, and yellows. Substitute the puree with garlic mayonnaise. These went down a treat at my Pure Colour book launch in June, when the garden was heavy with the scent of  rose blooms .

For the book launch we hung garlands of lights  which gave a  twinkling summer garden party feel to the occasion. Their waterproof qaulity is being tested as we leave them up through the summer cloudbursts to enjoy on warm evenings.

Summer colour in the garden doesn`t stop when the roses are over. I stitch cushions in rose pink  cotton velvet, and purple and yellow linen  by Manuel Canovas to keep the vibe going.

And there`s cake. Cake is best eaten outside  on a winter picnic,  or somewhere shady on a hot afternoon. I make a basic Vctoria sponge and smother it with lemon butter cream.

Tags: purecolour, summer, simpleliving , cake, homemade, linen, cotton, garden

More of my pink passions
03 May 2015

Last week while I was feeling the breeze in  Barbados  and reconnecting with  long lost Bajan Cumberbatches  (an extraordinary story of which I will write later ) the garden was busily bursting forth in an explosion of tulip colours.  On the plane home, I was yearning for the Bajan sea colours which are of unspeakable beauty: gazing from the verandah each day at a glassy expanse of  dark blues  on the horizon,  then ultramarine, and in the shallows, luminous turquoise flecked with white froth.  But  after  battling  against the  early morning commuter flow at Clapham Junction and dragging  my  wheelie bag up  and down the hill,  my mood  lifted as soon as I saw the floral  beauty by my very own back door .

NB  I planted the bulbs randomly and so not quite sure what is what, but know that that the varieties include: Lilac Perfection, Violet beauty, Fringed fancy frills,  Lily flowering China Pink, Triumph ( the white and beetroot coloured ones) and blue parrot tulips, from Dejager
Crocus and Rose Cottage .

Tags: spring, tulips, garden, simple, pink,

Tip toe through the tulips
17 April 2015

The week in December that I spent almost double  pushing  several hundred tulips and alliums far into the ground to prevent squirrel digging was all so worth it.  Each morning, coffee in hand, I`m outside inspecting the day`s new blooms.  The tulips are first , and I can almost see them growing as vivid pink and raspberry rippled flower cups unfold in the sun on smooth lime green elegant stems .

Tags: spring, tulips, garden, purecolour, alliums,

Market couture
17 March 2015

The Saturday Olhao market is in itself a wondrous gem. Yet amongst the  makeshift counters and shady awnings it`s the one-offs ,a simple woven  basket of glossy fresh white  eggs  or  a bundle of roughly tied  herbs from the seller`s garden that are the most special, at least, for me. A posy of wild flowers, dunked haphazardly in a  plastic washing up bowl is  everyday, yet artful and intimate,  far from the  supermarket `mixed seasonal  bunch` .  The creators of Olhao`s  market couture tend to be the beady eyed older ladies  whose stock is less plentiful, and bountiful  then some  others, but they sure know how to make a few oranges rock on a bed of shiny green leaves.

Daisies, and snails.

Buy a bundle of bay leaves - so good for flavouring meat and fish stews.

Petite piri piri peppers are packed with fiery energy. Be prepared. NB And are even more dangerous if you  buy them in  jars  dried and crushed.

Tags: Olhao, spring, market,

Fuschia pink birthday
19 February 2015

I still use the Elna  sewing machine my parents gave me for my 21st birthday many moons ago. And now my own daughter is 21,  it feels good to   run up a birthday cushion.  I use remnants of vibrant fuschia pink cotton velvet by Manuel Canovas   left over from a shoot. This should  make a glamorous shot of colour in Gracie`s attic student house bedroom, I think. My skills at embroidery are wanting, but I can do simple running stitch  to make a  personalised label.  And it`s good to know that I`m passing on the sewing bug because her friends have  clubbed together to give her a sewing machine, too.

And as with every birthday in our household there`s chocolate cake . NB  21  Candles were lit  and blown out later.

Tags: home cooking, pink, spring, homesewing,

Pure colour 2015
06 January 2015

Pure Style colours 2015 via a  day glow yellow t shirt  and pink string from my present pile. You`ll see more inspiration  when my new Colour book comes out in April!

Frosted rose bud  is almost the very very last one before I take the secateurs and prune the rose bushes in time  for spring.

All the way from the balmy fields of the Scilly Isles : scented narcissi arrive packed in folds of tissue paper .

Lime green  paperwhite bulb shoots and moss bedding make me feel that there`s life and vibrancy even in early January grey gloom

There`s the promise of more pink scented  blousy rose blooms with 2  St Swithins  climbers  that I will train up the metal arches in the garden..

Tags: winter, colour, pink, yellow, garden, roses,

21 December 2014

 Festive greetings and wishes for a healthy and happy  New Year  to all my blog readers .
 I haven`t forgotten the recipe for the cheesiest biscuits ( in the taste sense )to rustle up over the holiday. Adapted via Prue Leith`s Cookery Bible (every kitchen should have one) the recipe is easy on kitchen skills.  If made a couple of days in advance and stored in a tin, it is useful to  crisp the biscuits in a warm oven for a few minutes to bring out the flavour . Or chill the  biscuit dough in the fridge, ready for  rolling out and baking  some  tasty  snacks for a last minute get together.
225g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
225g butter
225 gruyere , pecorino, or  strong cheddar, grated
2 tablespoons English mustard
beaten egg
3 teaspoons paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Put the flour and into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
Add the cheese, salt, pepper, mustard, paprika and egg to bind. Make a paste and roll into a ball.
Roll out on a floured board, or, for less mess,  between two sheets of greaseproof paper to a 5mm thickness. Cut into squares, ( or rounds, or rectangles or whatever shape you want)  and brush the remaining egg.

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tags: winter , homecooking, christmas, white,

Pure Style out and about in winter
08 December 2014

Two hours in the seething crowds on Oxford Street and its environs: I`m spent.  The frisson of buy- it -now mania has brought on shopper`s block . Gimme a pink  rose from the garden and a box of Chocolate Bendicks  mints  for sanity.

Wake up in Somerset  to the first frost whites. Spend a happy half hour at Kimber`s farm shop  stocking up with current  cheese  passion Godminster  organic cheddar and a  food parcel with local minced lamb for student daughter, who later posts the moussaka she has rustled up. Tres resouceful of her.

An uplifting  shoot at the house with  beautiful crafted made-in-Britain pieces.  I would so very much like to kidnap the ash and chestnut   Shake cabinet by Sebastian Cox  and keep  it in  my bedroom for ever.

Thinking about christmas baking which will include the usual  chocolate and chestnut cake, and my new favourite savoury: crispy gouda biscuits from a recipe in Prue Leith. I will post a shot next week from an up and coming batch if they haven`t been gobbled up.
Chocolate and chestnut cake
400g peeled chestnuts chopped;125g caster sufar; 125g chocolate min 70% cocoa solids; 100g butter
for icing: 125g chocolate as above; 15g butter; 15ml fresh orange juice; 15m; grated orange rind
Process peeled chestnuts and sugar until smooth. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan. Add chestnut/sugar paste and mix until smooth. Turn into a greased cake tin and chill in the fridge overnight.

Tags: winter, frost, homecooking,

Autumn and corduroy colours
24 November 2014

Like unclogging bristle brushes under the  tap, a 12  hour deluge flushes the last  leaves from the trees. They  join a golden tide coursing through the roads and gardens of Tulse Hill.  Bulb planting is  an unpopular option for the moment and I escape to  Emily Carr`s   rhythmical brush strokes of the Canadian forest at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.  I also visit   RIBA and  Edwin Smith`s black and white photographs of the beauty in ordinary subjects:  a bench overtaken by a nettles or the graphic ridges and furrows of a Norfolk field .

Autumn fashion: the corduroy trousers of childhood with elastic waistbands, and, later on earnest student males in sagging corduroy jackets turned me off the material for years. I now appreciate its comfortable sensible  qualities and find it amusing that my new cords for autumn are   `sexy boyfriend` ones.  If only.

Like dividing a bag of of pic n mix  sweets I sort the tulip and allium bulbs, from Unwins , Rose Cottage Plants and de Jager  into  16 piles for the 16 beds in the garden.

 More autumn garden things: stray rose blooms; dried spikes of  nut brown cardoons;  busy robins and blackbirds stabbing at  worms,  and  the country in the city earth rot smells of sopping grass and moulding leaves. .

Tags: autumn, bulbs, garden, golden, yellow,

Coffee cake and saving Olhao
13 November 2014

My mother’s coffee cake was as much a part of childhood as the roast on Sunday.   She died fifteen years ago   and I haven’t been able to pin down the coffee-flavoured memories and textures  until last weekend when I downloaded   Felicity Cloake’s Perfect coffee and walnut cake. Apart from my mum`s touch,  I think the light brown sugar element is what was missing in my  previous attempts.    Here is the recipe with a few tweaks, and sans walnuts because I prefer my coffee cake without . It  was the  pudding queen at a family get-together  in my `secret shed` glowing with candlelight at the bottom of the garden.  Basically I dressed up  the garden shed with candles and tea lights in jam jars,  spread the table with  a white cloth  and  unwound a cable from the house for a heater.  It was snug and good to  be semi-outsde on a dark autumn evening.

The cake

Heat oven to 180C and grease and line the bases of 2x20cm cake tins

Mix the coffee with ltbsp boiling water and leave to cool.  

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture. Once incorporated  sift in the flour , baking powder and salt and fold in with a large metal spoon, adding the coffee, too.

Divide the batter between the tins, if very stiff add a little mili. Bake for 25minutes . Cool for 10 minutes in the tins and put on a wire rack to finish cooling.

 The Icing

Mix 2tbsp coffee with ltbsp boiling water and leave to cool.

Beat the butter until soft, sift in the sugar, salt and add the coffee and cream. Stir until fluffy and smooth.   Spread one cake with   just under  half of the icing, and place the other cake on top. Spread the remaining icing on top.

Save Olhao
Olhao council has some grim proposals for  `modernisation`  including the removal of calcada cobbles, see below, in  favour of shopping mall style smooth grey  slabs and  seafront lighting all football floodlight bright. It is easy to destroy centuries worth of beautiful  detailing when there`re millions in the bank combined with inappropriate architectural  plans and ill-informed Council types.  I have sent my objections together with everyone in the Olhao community who  wishes to keep it`s visual spirit  which is what  makes this little town so  human and special.

Tags: autumn, homecooking, shed, olhao,


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