Delicious, DIY, Floral & Gardens, Inspiration, Interior Style, Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

A Country Christmas at Hunter’s

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I’m so excited about next months two Inspiration Masterclasses.  The events are a fine opportunity to get in the mood, with friends, for the festive season while gleaning tips and ideas on how to decorate your own home with an emphasis on using Nature & the Garden as your resource.

The afternoon will be filled with creative ideas for decorative detail around your home from myself and this will be followed by a demonstration of creating your own seasonal harvest and tonic drinks with Glenealy based local Courtney Tyler of Hips & Haws Wildcrafts. Courtney will show us how to create our own healthy wildcrafted tonic drinks using foraged wild berries such as elderberries, blackberries and rose hips. She will concentrate on cordials, shrubs, sodas and fruit wines.

The event which is now an annual tradition for many regular attendees, takes place in the cosy, atmospheric surroundings of Ireland’s oldest coaching inn, Hunter’s Hotel, County Wicklow.

My aim is for everyone to leave with a warm glow and full of inspiration for decorating your own home for the festive season and through the Winter until Spring. Ticket price includes Hunter’s renowned homemade afternoon tea (complete with deelish sambos, scones & cake) and a glass of fizz by the fire.

The events take place on Saturday 3rd October & Saturday 10th October

Places are limited so early booking is advisable. You can book on either of the dates here

Niamh Mac Gowan Interior Stylist  http://niamhmacgowan.com/

Courtney Tyler http://www.hipsandhaws.com/

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Delicious, Floral & Gardens, Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

How do you like dem apples?

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Last week, the night before Hallowe’en, I took a walk around a friends farm – the Autumn mists were down so I can’t show you the sea views this handsome new herd has but I am sure you can imagine. When leaving, Teresa handed me a bag of apples – there are only so many apple tarts she can make she said.

I fancied making something that will last, something that doesn’t involve pastry (a moment on the lips….. ) and something I can’t get readily in the supermarket.

I decided an apple jelly was just the thing – I had a feeling it might be trickier than jam but worth it I reckoned. I have a couple of scented geraniums in the garden and thought I might involve them before its too late in the year so looked up a recipe with those combined ingredients. Darina Allen of Ballymaloe came to the rescue as I found her recipe here

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I gathered all my jam jars, the ingredients from the recipe & some fresh clean muslin. (which incidently, you can sterilise by ironing on the hottest setting – who knew)

Right, apples into the water – I used lemon scented geranium leaves here instead of lemon zest. All good so far…..

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A comedy of errors ensued. I tried to create a contraption to house my muslin filter for the scalding hot pulp using an up-turned stool and many many pegs – I needed this to be left overnight in order to get every last drop of sticky juice from the cooked apples. Soon realising that the ginormous bowl I had wedged into the legs to receive this mixture was going to fill up well before the pulp had emptied. I tried to tilt it in to another sterilised bowl, it got jammed, slipped and poured all over my right thigh and kitchen floor. I scream, Dinny decides to come in and check out what the hell is going on, I run upstairs whipping off clothes to get cold water on my leg and then spend the next hour mopping up the sticky mess.

I attempt to try again – there is still plenty of pulp that hasn’t drained, this then spills and another hour is spent mopping the floor over and over again. I then leave the rest of the pulp to drain overnight. I sit down to watch a scary movie – it is Hallowe’en weekend afterall. One of the light bulbs in the kitchen decides to pop. Movie is indeed scary. Everytime I jump, Dinny awakes and starts barking, the light in the stairwell flickers every time I go upstairs, film get scarier, pulp keeps dripping. I am stuck on the couch afraid to put my feet on the floor .

Next morning I manage to make my apple jelly with rose scented geranium leaf – far less than there would have been had most of it not ended up on the floor. It is a little more runny as well as I think the majority of all that pectin didn’t make it to the pot either….

BUT the good news is, it tastes deeeelish. *wipes brow*

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Inspiration, Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

Colourful Copenhagen

I am just home from a busy and inspirational trip to Denmark.

My sister, Alva is based there at the moment living in a very privileged situation 

– right in the centre of the old part of Copenhagen, Nyhavn2016-08-26 10.23.48The exterior of the building is a beautiful pink.2016-08-26 18.43.58But once you are through the doors it leads to courtyard where the walls are an ochre lime render – a colour I have been researching lately for another project. 2016-08-25 10.24.30

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I had the opportunity to meet lots of interesting Danes during the visit. We chatted about the use of the Danish flag in interiors. The Danes see the use of their flag to mean ‘hooray lets party!’ rather than a huge nationalistic pride. You have to admit it is a good looking graphic and makes great bunting.

There were swims to be had around the corner at the newly built Ofelia Plads. Lots of people had the same idea…. sandwiches, chilled Rosé, Danish flag napkins and a towel…sorted.

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We visited the Stunning Rosenborg Castle – a 17th Century Palace in Copenhagen built by Christian IV. It was filled with atmosphere, partly thanks to its very clever lighting akin to candlelight. I think they even had ‘Hygge’ in those days, as my friend Helen Russell will tell you

It reminded us both of Ham House in Surrey.

One of the highlights of the trip was a naughty afternoon spent drinking fizz in the sun in one of my favourite places in the world!  Nyboder is a district Copenhagen made up of rows of purpose built Naval Barracks built in the mid 18th century, currently embarking on full and faithful restoration  – as with most old buildings in Denmark. Henriette, our wonderful host explained that the building would have housed the wives and children of the sailors and they very much shared their homes and gardens and supporting eachother for the months while their husbands were at sea.

It is still mostly inhabited by the Danish navy, army and airforce and their is definitely a distinct feeling there. The colour of the render is known as Nyboder yellow. If ever a colour lifted the soul!

 

On our last day we went sailing in Roskilde Fjord. The reason Alva came to Denmark was to sail on the Sea Stallion, a working replica of a viking longship unearthed in Roskilde, which tests revealed the wood it was built with grew in our own Glendalough in County Wicklow! Read more about Alva’s adventures on the ship here. There is fabulous working museum there – worth a trip.  We went sailing on a replica of a Norwegian fishing boat. It was, shall we say, a very exciting and a bit hairy at times due to unforecast winds that came from nowhere.

Love the colour of the sails  – and the boat was painted white, pink, orange and green.

I have returned home with a heart full of inspiration fueling my love of colour. I met some fantastic people, notedly strong women who work hard and like a good laugh. There was thoughtful design everywhere I looked. Older buildings are cherished and lived in and maintained, therefore are surviving. I am seeing quite a lot of refurbishment on a few of the projects I am working on here in Ireland. I think we are getting better at being faithful to our heritage and being a bit more gutsy in our own use of colour. I would encourage you to consider using it somewhere outside as well as inside. Even on a dull rainy day it can be uplifting!

 

p.s. It is great to come home to this little fellow and race up to the cliffs where it is evident the Season is achanging. I’m ready…

 

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Delicious, Lifestyle

Mum’s lemon drizzle cake

My Mum passed this recipe on to me when I began making my own home, you can make it for a song and its lovely to have to hand when someone calls over. It reminds me of her whenever I make it – which makes it taste all the more sweet!

lemon drizzle

6 oz self raising flour – sieved

4 oz margarine

6 oz caster sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 lemon rind -grated

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Chuck everything in a mixing bowl and mix well

Pour into a greased 2 LB loaf tin and bake for 1 hour at 180C gas mark 4

Make icing with the juice from the lemon and ice the cake when baked before you turn it out to cool.

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Lovely with a pot of tea…

or a cheeky glass of fizz!

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Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

a sweet festival

Our local Summer festival was held in a field by the sea yesterday

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I love going to it as it an uncommercial and back to basics as you can get

Graeme, one of the gardeners from Mount Usher had a table where he was demonstrating propagating 

His wife, animal lover Barbara was judging the dog show

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All my choir ladies were popping up everywhere – selling raffle tickets, making teas, counting money in caravans!

My old friends the Mansons from Ballyrogan had the art stand and were creating masterpieces with the children. 

I had a lovely chat with the gents who run the bee keeping association for Ashford and district

They were telling me all about the hierarchy of bees and showing me the Queen holding court while all her courtiers were cleaning her (she is the one with the green mark below)

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I bought some honey from them. I look forward to it knowing that this honey was made from local oilseed rape, clover and brambles. 

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I also learnt something I never knew, that when your honey granulates, (which is a good sign by the way – it means it is pure honey) it can be brought back by gently heating it – in a saucepan of water or if you are cooling down the oven – you just have to take off the lid while doing so.

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At one stage, as they were doing the raffle I was asked to pick from the tombola (which I couldn’t reach) I was described as they were trying to get my attention – on the mic as “the lady with the little dog and glass of rosé” I thought  “that sounds like me” “oh it is me!”

 

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boys against the girls in the tug-of-war

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with a very strict ref

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the boys – just before they lost….

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Tidy up time….

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all that was left by the evening 

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Interior Style, Lifestyle, Nature & the Coast

In to the West

Last week we embarked on an unexpected adventure. I have been on the lookout for a little dawg for a very long time. There is a fantastic dog rescue centre, Madra located on the West Coast of Ireland, and a little fella arrived there last week and when I saw him  and heard about what he was like, I knew he was the one. After lengthy phone calls & to-ing & fro-ing texts and an accommodating emergency home check to make sure the house and gardens were suitable, we decided to make the trip in the hope that everything would fall into place. When I managed to book a room in one of my favourite hotels, I had a feeling karma was on our side. So we packed the car with lots of picnic stuff and began the long journey feeling apprehensive yet excited.

After Galway City, we were done with motorways and stone walls had begun appearing for a while now and the scenery  was becoming spectacular…..

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Travelling on the Coast road to Án Spidéal, we were nearly there, so we found a gorgeous beach with the Aran Islands in the distance ,so parked up and had the first warm & sunny picnic of the year. My mum always used to say that food tastes nicer when eaten outside how true her words were. Back on the road and we eventually found our destination down a boreen and with my heart in my mouth I was brought to the kennels where all the dogs were wagging their tails saying with their eyes pick me! pick me!!

My little fella was carried out to see me and the lead handed to me and we were encouraged to go and get to know each other so we brought him to a field and sat down on a stone wall and have a chat & a pet .

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He seemed very sad but offered his chin for a tickle and leaned against our knees delighted the affection. Everyone in Madra seemed a little in love with him as he is a gentle little chap just looking for love. My mind was made up and he would come home with us tomorrow.  The adoption papers were signed and I tried to explain to him that I would be back tomorrow to take him. We then headed off to Clifden to take time out and be sure about the decision and to rest after the long journey. We stayed in the very special Quay House in the Harbour. A two hundred year old building that was originally the Harbour Master’s house.

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It is owned and run by Paddy & Julia (also proud owners of two very stylish pugs).

They were there to welcome us when we arrived and had arranged a harbour view room for us.

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The view from the window was spectacular and really made us feel we were on our holidays – all be it a short stay!

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The reason I am telling you about the Quay House is because its interiors are just fabulous, and like my style, it does not have the appearance of having been ‘interior designed’ which for me is too contrived. It is far more relaxed and has stories to tell in ever corner.  There is a mix of Colonial style – with worldly finds dotted about,

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The Nautical influence is apparent also, but in the right way, no twee-ness!

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There are also classic details  – like chequered floors and beautiful original old paintings in crumbly gold frames.

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Then there are the quirky displays dotted about.

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The key with these interiors, as with my own style,  are that although they are stylish & ambient, they do invite you to flop in to a chair and take up a good book.

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Or my favourite – standing by the mantlepiece with a glass of fizz in your hand!

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So we had a gas night out up in the town with the locals and after a walkabout the next morning we headed off back to south Connemara, this time cross country on the narrowest bog roads with all the sheep hanging about in the middle of those very roads.

We pulled up at the dog refuge and my little fella was signed off and his jaunty new colour and lead attached. Into the car and we headed home.

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He was introduced to the front garden first, a bit dazed but very calm and interested.

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Its been intense these last few days, and when he is trying to be independent, every few moments he has to come back to check and see if I am still there. But I think he is beginning to realise he has come home.

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As I sit at my desk and type, he is asleep at my feet snoring away, content. Mission accomplished.

 

 

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Antiques & Antiquing, Delicious, Inspiration, Lifestyle

The easiest recipe in the land

These days I am concentrating (quite) hard on abstaining in an effort to look ‘fabulous at forty’ which is on the horizon. It ain’t easy and I am alway looking for shortcuts while trying to enjoy those simple pleasures in life (like, for example, a cheeky glass of chardonnay in the sunshine )

So I heard rumours about this bread and decided to give it a go last night. It could. not. be. easier.

 

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I took a 500gr tub of low fat natural yoghurt and emptied in a bowl, then filled it twice with organic porridge oats and poured them in, a teaspoon of bread soda and I grated some cinnamon (optional). mixed it all together, poured it into a greased loaf tin and chucked it in the oven at 180 for an hour.

and that is it

have just had a slice with my sister’s gooseberry & elderflower jam and a cup of tea

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Deelish!

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Photographs & Styling by me

Spring blossoms from down the road

butter dish from Industry Design

teaspoon from an antiques shop in the mountains

knife from my Granny

plate by Judith Rowe at Made in Hastings

napkin from Cabbages & Roses

jam dish by Hilary Jenkinson at Crannmor Pottery

metal tray from Avoca Mount Usher

bud vase from Petersham Nurseries

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