Sunday, 11 August 2013

Unplugged and Truly Homespun

Source (This illustration also lives permanently as my desktop background)

Today marks the first day of a well earned week off work. The first chunk of time (apart from standard days off) that I've had since February.

So, to appreciate it to the fullest and truly understand the meaning of a simple homespun lifestyle, I am going offline for the duration. No emails, no blogging, no instagram, no facebook.
I hope to fill my week with lots of cooking and crafting, diving feet first into a good book, and simply slobbing about doing not much else.
I've been particularly inspired by this video discovered on YouTube recently, and urge you to try it too.
Go on, buy yourself an alarm clock and flick your mobile off at night, or leave it to charge in another room. Put a film on, and truly watch the film. No checking Facebook in the ad-breaks. Turn the telly off, and read a book, in silence.

I'll be back in a few days, hopefully fully rested and full of inspiration.

Au Revoir.
Hannah. x

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Myself and Rachel Khoo.

Anyone who knows me well, will know I am a bit of a Francophile. Ok...maybe that's a little bit of an understatement. I love France, and all things French. Even down to the complex personalities of Parisians, and the quirky ways of the locals of the small Vendeen villages I visited as a child.

So, it won't come as a surprise to many, that I have a little bit of a girl crush on the lovely Ms Rachel Khoo. (Which definitely wasn't helped by a recent Twitter interaction). Now, allow me a minute or two to wax lyrical about why I think she is so fab, and to express my excitement about the release of her new book, this coming Autumn.

For myself, and probably many others, I think the initial fascination stemmed from the picture perfect postcard shots she creates of Paris, tottering down cobbled streets in a pair of Swedish Hasbeens and a vintage dress, with a basket slung on her arm with a baguette and a bunch of sun flowers poking out the top.
Next, it's that tiny little kitchen, in all of is crooked and precariously balanced glory. Not to mention the fact that she can create some of the most sumptuous French recipes on a two-burner camping stove and the tiniest oven I've ever seen in my life. This reminds me of fonder memories from my Uni days, when cooking became a way of unwinding in the evenings. A moment of hankering respite from final year deadlines.
I was restricted to two small cupboards in my student kitchen, one of which housed varying sizes of crockery (only ever one of each piece), as well as several sized roasting pans, frying pans and baking tins all so precariously stashed within that lower shelf of the cupboard, that with one false move the whole lot could come tumbling out. And that was just the preparation equipment.
In the cupboard which housed my ingredients, you would find bottles of garlic and truffle oil, mismatched jars of dried herbs and the odd tin of Cassoulet for emergency hearty dinners when heating up the contents of a can was the only culinary venture I could stretch to. I was never one for buying things in bulk, so often you would find the dregs of a bag of pasta, or a handful of roasted almonds waiting patiently for the day when they would finally have a purpose in one of my dishes.

Image Source - Taken by the mighty David Loftus.

And so, this is where another fondness for Ms Khoo comes from. Like she, I also studied Fashion at University. It was a long and stressful 3 years, and by the time I graduated I was so sick of looking at pattern pieces and burning the ends of my fingers on industrial irons, that it was a good 6 months after I returned home that I even un-packed my sewing machine. I guess she learned to stick it out a little longer than I did, having worked in the industry for several years before moving to Paris. But, I like to think that her enrolling at Le Cordon Bleu and moving to Paris, was a way of sticking two fingers up at the Fashion Industry and saying “Sod it! I'm gonna do something that makes me happy!”

I also did this, albeit in a slightly more meagre way, deciding to move back to Wales and set up home with my, then boyfriend (now fiance) and began a job in retail (this being seen as the ultimate short straw amongst fashion industry types).

I like to think I'm not quite there yet though. My dream is to have written my own cookery book by the time I'm 30. (Just over 5 years to go). And like Ms Khoo, I hope to start with a first book BANG!, and continue the winning streak, going on to capture the heart of others with my recipes. Her unique take on classic French recipes has taught me to be more daring in my ingredient choices, and given me the courage to perfect those essential skills worthy of the patisserie masters. (Chouquette, anyone?!)

Like many others, I'm sure, I am highly anticipating the release of her new book 'My Little French Kitchen'. I can't wait to see how she's branched out, exploring the various regions of France and bringing them to my own kitchen table. I'm particularly looking forward to impressing my family and friends, with recipes that will make them think I've been slaving in the kitchen all afternoon, when it actually took less than an hour to rustle up.

Thanks Rachel. You truly are a life saver!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Home Comforts: Fresh Bed Linen

One of my favourite home comforts comes from the simplest of actions which is, changing the bed linen. When life gets a little bit too hectic and you feel like all you do is work, eat and sleep, something as simple as putting a fresh duvet cover and pillow cases on your bed can solve a multitude of ill and exhausted feelings. I often like to do it, to help mark the weekend. A clean duvet cover is often celebrated in our house by a lengthy lie-in and possibly even a quick flick through Country Living or whatever book is currently stashed in my bedside cabinet. I once dared change the bedding mid-week, and was swiftly met with an icy response from the Mr stating how cruel it was the change the sheets on a Wednesday, when he had to get up early for work the next morning.

It's the smell of the clean sheets that gets me every time. That fatal combination of fabric softener, fresh air, and maybe a little bit of Lavender linen water. (That is, if I can be bothered to iron them. Most of the time, I'm simply too excited to just get them on the bed.) It just wreaks of comfort, in one long deep breath.
And everyone's got their favourite duvet cover of course. I don't think anyone would expect any less of me, if I said mine was a Cath Kidston one. Especially with my mix-and-match pillow cases.

For me, a bed needs to be a sanctuary, a place to dream while your both awake and asleep. When I was younger, my cast-iron day bed was surrounded by a white mosquito net hung from the ceiling, which would be drawn round the entire bed every night, to protect me from nightmares. Apparently I used to think it was magic too.

Nowadays, I rest in a hand-me-down bed frame which came with the rental property, as I dream of brass foot-railings a la Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and pretend the noise of freight trains nearby is that of the North York Moors Steam Railway. As I rest my head on mis-matched pillows, I drift off to land where I own a chocolaterie and patisserie combined, and when I awake I am not in Cardiff but in the rolling hills of Liguria, ready to face the day with a heaving a bowl of pasta waiting for me at the end of it. Aaaah... Bliss!