Snape maltings

i love going to my suffolk cottage, even just for a day, and especially if the weather is being kind.   the only thing i dislike is the 2 and half hours drive to get there.  so what i have been doing is breaking the journey with a stop for a cup of tea in one of the many lovely towns along the route – i pick a different one every time.  this time i stopped in snape maltings – the victorian industrial buildings originally used for storing barley – that are now a concert hall, shops, eating places and arts centre all set in a tranquil setting surrounding by reeds and marshes.  I always enjoy seeing the hepworth sculpture set amonst the reeds –  it really is a lovely focus point.   there is also the lettering arts trust with its beautiful carved stones.  i noticed that beggars velvet are stocked there – beautiful gifts all with words and letters.  look out for unusual exhibitions in the beautiful dovecote gallery .  i  have tried all the cafes there and the granary tea shop is the best;  i think that the food hall is probably more interesting for gifts.

my favourite place in suffolk is darsham nurseries – its a smaller version of petersham nurseries – with a lovely cafe/restaurant, gift shop and lots of interesting plants to buy.  the food uses locally sourced  seasonal ingredients- some of them grown at the nursery itself.  the beautiful planting and vegetable garden and summer shed are all inspirational.  they are now selling my book ‘stolen glimpses’ and a selection of my flower cards.   i actually pass it on the way to my cottage, so it makes a good stopping place for a cup of tea and homemade cake plus purchasing a plant for my garden.  i have really taken to succulents, and Laura has made the most amazing tray to cover my water butt container filled with succulents – but they are great plants to put indoors, especially in bathrooms and also if you are not always there to water as they seem to be able to go a couple of weeks without watering.



i can’t believe that my little boy is 23 today –  all those days wishing that the sleepless baby nights would hurry on by and before you know it, they are taller than you and young adults!  happy birthday alfie

the orchid is a symbol of love,  beauty,  innocence ;  alfie has just helped me design my new book ‘floral glimpses’ – a smaller and more craft style book compared to my first book –  it should be ready mid march.


orchid_0045 15Feb2014_0041 orchid_0021


it must be that time of year, spring approaching, the walls looking drab and grubby, the cobwebs need dusting away, but painting and spring cleaning seems to be high on my friends lists.  I just had to repair all the outside windows and paint them after the winters rain, so sadly there is no major change to the inside.  I have not used wallpapers myself, but have always looked at them. wallpapers can totally change your room, you dont even have to paper the whole room, just one wall can be effective.  there are so many different types of wallpapers available at the moment, some are hand made, such as the ones made by Tim Butcher and Lizzie Deshayes, with their company Fromental – a beautiful selection of embroidered and hand painted papers.   i just love the chinoiserie range.  For lovely muted colours and simple classic patterns, see Paint and Paper library.  Farrow and Ball also have a classic range of papers, perfect to combine with their already popular paint colours.   Designers Guild has an unusual, bold and colourful selection of papers.  Cole and Son has an impressive range of papers, including designs by Vivien Westwood and Fornasetti.   you can find gold damask wallpapers from Fabrics and Papers.  John Lewis has an interesting choice too and includes some designs from all the other brands, so gives you a wider choice.

poems and words

if you are an incurable romantic, and looking for a poem to send to your loved one, have a read of some of the poems selected by the guardian – it makes you want to read even more poetry.

here is one of my favourite poems
Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

Carol Ann Duffy


bleeding heart

Because of its characteristic shape, the bleeding heart flower is at the center of many folkloric tales. One of the best known stories – which has many variations – is generally told directly through the anatomy of the plant itself. This story tells of a prince who tries to win the heart of a beautiful maiden by giving her gifts. With each gift, two of the petals are removed. Despite his attempts, the maiden continues to refuse the prince, and so he pierces himself through the heart – the heart having been formed with the discarded petals, the knife with the green stamen. The essence of the bleeding heart flower is said to open up and strengthen the heart chakra, which in turn causes a person to feel emotionally soothed and open to the possibility of new romance. It is thought to be especially useful after a heartbreak. These blossoms are also frequently used in love spells. One such spell includes braiding the flowers into your hair, lighting a white candle in honor of the goddess of love, and reciting a poem or incantation.

Although they may not be as common as other blooms, the bleeding heart flower can make a great romantic gift. These blossoms are almost exclusively considered a symbol of undying love, and are frequently given at weddings and special milestones like anniversaries or birthdays. These flowers make for a unique, stunning bouquet, but can also be given as single-bud tokens of affection.

books and art …..

so how refreshing to hear that there is a demise in the purchase of kindles and a rise in the sales of books – the young are posting Instagram posts with rows of bookshelves behind them – hooray!  I never got round to the idea of reading a book on a screen – it makes sense if you want to declutter, but books somehow don’t add up to clutter, they are beautiful stripes that enhance an interior , they make a space lived in – our house is filled with books…..  we also have filled spain and Suffolk with books – and the feedback from clients is that they love browsing our collection – books are for sharing, for stimulating the brain, for escaping, for aspiring, for understanding, books are as much a part of my life as my family. at present I am just starting ‘My beautiful friend’ by Elena Ferrante which has been recommended to me by several friends.    I often meet friends  at  Foyles cafe on the top floor of the recently refurbished shop on charring cross road – it was quite a surprise to see such a big bookshop with floors of books (and music) with a good cafe.   my friend Lyn alerted it to me and it really is a good sanctuary, pick up any book from the shop, take it to the cafe, get a drink and enjoy the book, then put it back on a trolley to be put back in the shop – its harking back to being in a library.  I remember my youth living in libraries, borrowing the maximum 4 books that you were allowed, trying to read the books before the date of return, or else you would get a fine.  I never bought books as a child, we were encouraged to go the library – the only books I bought were textbooks for my exams.  how different life is for my children now.

this leads me back to my trip to Beijing just over a year ago to visit my daughter who was working there – my favourite shops were the bookshops and art shops – which were usually combined – books about calligraphy, graphic art, painting, classic reads – they were far more interesting than the abundance of souvenir shops that were everywhere.  however, one fun area to spend a day is the art area 798.  based in the east, its an area that is full of industrial buildings built by the germans in the 1950’s and which have gradually turned into art galleries,  bookshops and cafes.  so much so that there must have been a few hundred galleries to visit, some are the renowned names, some are just local artists, some are fake art masquerading as art, which somehow makes the whole thing a bit gimmicky.  but in all honesty, its a big family day out for local Chinese, especially those who are craving a bit of culture or simply to get a great Instagram with one of the many novelty sculptures dotted around the district.  again, its a big area, and you can roam around for hours, so make a list of what you really would like to see;  a lot of the serious art galleries charge about £6, which is expensive, but its to deter the masses, most of the others are free.   the street food is great, but be cautious about food that has not been heated to a high temperature or uses the local water.

its been a weekend of Chinese celebrations in london this weekend – and yesterday I popped along to an interesting talk about Chinese Embroidery at the Cultural centre on Gerrard street – sign up to receive information about all the events that they host, this was £5, but often they are free of charge and you get to learn more about Chinese arts and culture



Cadiz is one of the lesser known spanish cities -built on the atlantic coast, its crumbling buildings are reminiscent of havana.  fishermen line the coastal walls to catch their daily fish;   you must visit the fish and fruit market – slightly spoiled through recent renovation, but still a wonderful sight to see the whole slabs of fish and wonderful array of produce.  wander through the many stalls of locals selling their freshly picked home grown herbs and veg – anything from camomile flowers, chestnuts, sage flowers to wild asparagus.  its great to see that market life is still in abundance, when in many cities, the growth of the supermarkets has killed local trading.  i love the fact that spain still has shops that solely sell one thing – scissors and knives, tobacco and cigarettes, dried fruit and nuts, ribbons and trimmings.   its also a great place to buy the typical flat soled espadrilles – nowadays everyone seems to make them with high wedges.  a lovely square to stop by is plaza de Mina, with its beautiful array of trees.

our favourite restaurant is el faro – faded old school tradition and a bit more sophisticated, its your chance to dress up and leave behind the flip flops.  there is a lovely flamenco restaurant , Pena Flamenca, just through the arch to the San Sebastian castle that is a lovely place to stop and take a sherry and tapas.

on your way out of cadiz, stop at the sister branch of el Faro, el chato – but purely to take a late afternoon swim.

andalucia house