Awright, crumpet?

November 20, 2009

It’s Friday. We’re all tired. It’s raining in London, and flooding in other parts of the UK. It’s very GREY. For some unknown reason, our office air con is set to somewhere in the region of freezing, so it’s also COLD. It’s the kind of day when you’d give anything to be wrapped up in a snuggly woollen blanket, wearing soft cashmere socks, sipping hot chocolate (or even better, a mulled wine!), beside a roaring fire, playing Scrabble and toasting crumpets. In fact, I just want to climb into our lovely November issue cover shot:

Crumpet toasting is an art which requires proper toasting tools – check out this lovely traditional extendable toasting fork, just £6 at Cox and Cox – perfect for toasting crumpets in the winter, and also useful for cooking sausages over a campfire in the summer months.

I’ve also got a few Grandpa’s Fireforks from Light My Fire – they just clip onto a fire poker or a stick, so you can easily store them and carry them. They came in handy recently when I dragged the OH to a forest for a bushcraft week of wild camping without civilisation (well, except for an Aero Bed, and a trip to Tesco, SIGH). Cox and Cox also sell a chestnut roasting pan, for £15:

We always roast chestnuts at Christmas by burying them in the ashes below the grate, but I suppose using a pan is much less messy! Are you feeling cosy yet? Thanks to these pictures and the steaming coffee that Ros has just delivered to my desk, I’m warming up slightly now! Check out this snug Scottish-style bedroom from our November issue and these cosy shots from our archives:

That’s all for this week, folks. I’ve signed up for a tray-making class with Ella Doran on Sunday to make some personalised Christmas presents, so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m slightly concerned that everybody else there will be under 10 years old, having seen lots of photos of little kids making trays on the website, but surely, like pottery painting, there is no age limit (!?). My plan is to basically rip-off a Charlene Mullen design, but since drawing is required (not my strong point) it could go either way. Have a lovely – and hopefully a warm – weekend! – Ellie

Toast launches a recipe book

November 10, 2009

Fans of Toast will be pleased to hear there’s a gorgeous new Toast recipe book out. Toast founders Jessica and Jamie Seaton first met cooking expert Pamela Hunter Brown while they were in Ireland doing a three-week photo shoot for their AW09 ranges. Pamela cooked for the whole team and become a close friend – a Toast recipe book collaboration was soon underway, to be filled with Pam’s recipes for nourishing, heart-warming food. Sadly, Pam died unexpectedly in August, but Toast has continued with the project and created a charity book in her honour – Pam’s Recipe Book.

toast pam's bookThe recipes are all from Pam’s notes, a real A-Z of rustic, soul-food – perfect for this time of year. From roast pumpkin soup and ‘mum’s flapjacks’, to Irish brown soda bread and winter vegetable broth, it’s all designed to make you feel, well, Toast-y warm! The rest of the pages are filled with stunning photographs of the rugged Irish landscape, taken by Jenny Zarins, which conjure up the wild spirit of the countryside and make you feel as though you’re in need of a piping hot mug of soup! It’s a lovely book, £5.95, from Toast. All profits go towards medical charity. – Ellie

Sally and Mark Bailey‘s 26-year-old son Ben has just launched his own business, Curious Chocolate. I’m salivating over the lovely website already – it basically combines two of my favourite things…old letterpress printing and chocolate!

curious chocNow, we rarely talk about food here, but the Baileys connection and the gorgeous packaging means I’m willing to sneak this in! Inspired by a trip to an old Amsterdam letterpress workshop, Ben Bailey’s chocolate bars come wrapped in graph paper covered with fabulous fonts – a typography lover’s dream come true! My favourite has got to be the ‘Mouthful’ mint bar – how appropriate for me.

curious chocolate3The drinking chocolate in a rustic preserving jar would make a fabulous stocking filler, but it’s the jars of pretty chocolate-coated nuts and raisins that have caught my eye…they look like pebbles, eggs and olives! Very curious indeed!

curious chocolate2All this talk of chocolate, and nothing but a lousy, dry and slightly squashed satsuma on my desk, which I have been ignoring for about a week now. Sigh. – Ellie

The big day…

October 9, 2009

Everyone needs an extra splash of inspiration on a Friday, so with Ellie on holiday for her birthday, your daily dose of loveliness comes courtesy of me! It’s eerily quiet in at Ideal Home HQ today and I’m slinking off this afternoon too to help my lovely friend Emma choose a dress for her New Forest wedding next summer. Since she announced her engagement I have taken the liberty of bestowing upon myself the role of Chief Styling and Prettiness Consultant and have been emailing her links to wedding blogs for inspiration. In the past, I would have considered myself something of a mood board master, but no more! These wedding bloggers must certainly take that title – just check out some of these amazing offerings from three of my favourites…

Snippet 3

Snippet 1Snippet & Ink

100 layer 3

100 layer 2100 Layer Cake

Style me 1

Style me 2Style Me Pretty

Have you ever seen so many lovely images in one place? I can’t wait! – Bethan

Yesterday I popped into Mitsukoshi on London’s Regent Street to pick up some pretty origami papers and a tin of my favourite Kusmi tea. The tea is delicious, of course. But the real treat is the tin…

Picture 9This is author and stylist Selina Lake’s kitchen – she’s clearly a Kusmi fan – and no issue of Livingetc magazine is complete without a Kusmi Tea tin prop in at least one photo shoot. The brand was founded in 1867, and today has over 700 followers on Twitter – it’s thriving!


kusmi_tea_packaging_design_3With Baroque-style funky-coloured tins, and delicious tea, it’s no wonder the Kusmi Tea collection is considered a style statement all over the world.


Last night I went to the launch party of a new Homesense store in north London. We were taken there on a vintage Routemaster bus, sipping champagne – it was all very decadent! I have to say that I was REALLY impressed. I’ve never been to Homesense before, and I was kind of expecting it to be a bit like TK Maxx, but it was much better. There was loads of really beautiful furniture at tiny prices – I bought a fantastic, retro anglepoise chrome floor lamp for £69.99. I’ve just found the same model online for £225, so I’m pretty chuffed with my bargain buy! I also spotted Missoni blankets and Cath Kidston bedding at low, low prices so I’ll be back! – Ellie

The ‘hot off the press’ autumn/winter Jme catalogue has just landed on my desk… let’s have a peek!

jme_kitchen_linensOooh! I love these quirky kitchen linens. I’m definitely an all-white kitchen kind of a girl so I’m always on the look out for accessories to brighten things up. I reckon the ‘don’t forget to eat your greens’ teatowel is my favourite – I might buy a couple and staple one onto a cheap artists’ canvas for a bit of budget wall art.

jme_mixing_bowlsThese mixing bowls are a real bargain t00 – the smaller one is only £8, and by the look of all the eggs the stylist has crammed into it, it’s plenty big enough for whipping up a batch cupcakes!

jme_storage_jarsI’m a big fan of open shelves in kitchens – mainly because it gives me one more place I can accessorise! And how cute are these candy-topped storage jars? Yum! If Jamie really did have something to do with choosing this stuff, the boy’s got taste! Some of these bits are available to buy now via the website or by hosting a Jamie at Home ‘Pukkaware’ party (as a host you’ll get a nice discount on your order too) – but you’ll have to hold out until 2nd September for the newest items in the range – Bethan

Are you a domestic goddess with a sweet tooth? Shopping Spy’s secret sources have revealed that the owners of retro sweet shop Hope and Greenwood are working on a recipe book, which will be released this autumn, possibly in October.

Picture 18

Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood are writing a book

The ‘purveyors of splendid confectionary’ will be packing the book full of treats such as sticky toffee apples – yum! If this book is as gorgeous as the lovely Hope and Greenwood shop and website, we think it will be one to watch out for! – Ellie

It’s not a hard job…and nobody had to do it…but we did it anyway.

The Ideal Home team has been testing Easter eggs today from all the top brands, and believe me, it’s been one of our most challenging assignments to date. HO HO. (Or should that be CLUCK CLUCK?) Anyway…check out our top ten so you’re in-the-know when you hit the shops:


Tesco Finest Triple Belgian Chocolate Egg

1: Gorgeous packaging, and top quality chocolate, we think Tesco’s egg looks posh but it’s great value for money at just £8.99.


Green & Black's organic thick shelled milk chocolate egg

2: Organic is the way forward – and this delicious, ethical egg is a sure winner. It’s rich and luxurious – and we love the dragonfly gift tag. It’s £4.99 at Fresh & Wild.


'Le Caneton' chocolate duckling and eggs, Galler

3: Not strictly an Easter egg, but this is the cutest Easter gift we’ve seen in years. Somehow it’s impossible to resist biting the duckling’s head off  though (!) It’s £8.95, from Galler.


No.1 Milk Easter Egg, Godiva

4: Gorgeously presented in a lime and aqua box, this chocolate egg is top notch. Hardly credit-crunch fodder at £25, but it’s great if you’re looking for an extra-special treat. It’s available at Godiva.


Dr. Oetker Easter Egg Moulding Kit

5: Do It Yourself with this fun egg kit, £1.99,  Supercook. Kids will love this creative kit, and we had a lot of fun with it, too!


Dark chocolate egg filled with crystallized ginger, Prestat

6: Everything about this egg oozes sophistication, and we think it’s eggs-cellent (sorry). With ginger and dark chocolate, it’s not too sweet – perfect for a dinner party, but not one for the kids or those with a sweet tooth. Find it at Prestat for £22.


Chocolate tiles, House of Dorchester

7: Again, not really eggs as such, but we couldn’t resist these chocolate ’tiles’, £4.95 each, from House of Dorchester. Not the kind of tiles we normally feature in Ideal Home, but tastier!


Valrhone Grand Cru and Single Origin eggs, Rococo

8: This pretty pink vintage-look box caused a sensation in the office, and the little ganache-filled mini eggs inside went down a treat, too. An 80g box is £9.25, Rococo.


Extra Special Easter eggs, ASDA

9: Bargainous and glamorous – these massive eggs look like designer gifts, but they’re just £6.85 each, from ASDA. The white chocolate and berry one is our personal favourite in the range!


Easter nests, Morrison's

10: Last but not least, these chocolate cornflake nests and mini eggs, just £1 for a pack of two from Morrison’s. We think these are great value for money, and handy if you’ve no time to make your own.

We’re all feeling a little sick now, so it’s probably best to wish you all a very Happy Easter and sign off! We’ll be back on Tuesday with more news and stories…  – Emily and Ellie


Good news for children under 12 who can get a free Cadbury’s Creme Egg when they say Happy Easter to Sainsbury’s staff at the Customer Service desk. Each store has a set allocation of Creme Eggs, which won’t be replenished, so get in quickly if you want one! The promotion’s on while stocks last or until Thursday 9 April 09.


'Well Doc, children keep eating me...'

'Well Doc, children keep eating me...'

Make sure children are accompanied by an adult. If your child wants a healthy alternative (really?) they can choose an apple or orange instead, although once stocks of Creme Eggs have run out the fresh fruit alternative will no longer be available. Find your nearest Sainsbury’s here  and check back to Ideal Home’s HomeShoppingSpy for more Easter news – Emily  

Yesterday I went to Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons for the launch of chef Raymond Blanc’s new cookware collection, designed with Anolon.


The range, which is due to hit the shops in August, consists of new Anodized Clad cookware with a special sandwich-style construction (an aluminium core with a stainless steel interior and a hard anodized exterior) for excellent durability and cooking performance. Another highlight from the new ‘Raymond Blanc by Anolon’ collection is a cast iron range – elegant deep casserole pots and grill pans which, we were told by an Anolon rep, are ‘set to rival Le Creuset’.


Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons – Blanc's heavenly hotel in Oxfordshire

Raymond’s passion for his range was clear – he is certainly not just slapping his signature on a product. He described how he has been involved with the design process at every stage and even mentioned a few ‘minor alterations’ he wanted to make to a new knife collection they’re still working on.

Raymond revealed that he has several exciting projects in the pipeline – he’s about to start filming a new cookery TV show for the BBC, and he’s planning to open two ‘Maison Blanc’ hotel restaurants, one in Winchester and one in Henley. When asked about the future of food in the UK, Blanc was passionate.

‘We need to reconnect with home cooking,’ he said. ‘There are so many cookery shows on TV, but the British still cook very little as it’s seen as too much effort.’

‘I think the economic situation will mean that knowledge and ethics will drive our consumer decisions,’ he predicted. ‘Over the past few years we have been shallow about many things, including food. People cared about what it looked like, not where it came from or the ethics behind its production.’

He believes that over the next few years, quality and ethical values will become more and more important. ‘We will be making decisions about food based on environmental issues, and there will be more emphasis than ever before on farming and organic standards. This can only be a good thing,’ he concluded. – Ellie