Monthly Archives: December 2011

My Family Salmon Hankering

When my Grandpa was alive he took great pride each Christmas in sourcing a nice smoked Scottish salmon and each year would tell us, in some depth, why this was not the same thing as a Scottish smoked salmon. It’s been fifteen years since his last smoked salmon monologue and I hope he would be pleased that we’ve kept his traditional salmon starter each Christmas.

Instead of smoked salmon though I cure a salmon. It’s cheaper than buying smoked and is ideal at Christmas as it takes ten minutes to prepare and then you can just forget about it in the fridge until you serve it.

I originally got this recipe from a Donna Hay Christmas magazine that came free with Living Etc. five or six years ago and due to my family’s hankering have made it each year since. Five of the twelve family members joining us for Christmas dinner on Sunday have made a point of double checking with me in advance that it will be served again this year.

  • 1kg side of salmon, pin boned (or ask the fishmonger to do that bit)
  • Bunch of dill
  • 500g rock salt
  • 1 tbsp white peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp water

Cover a dish or tray with enough clingfilm to wrap the salmon in, I recommend using one with sides as it can get quite juicy. Lay the salmon in the centre and rub the chopped dill into the flesh.

Rub dill into salmon

In a food processor (or large pestle and mortar if you’re in need of some stress relief) combine the rest of the ingredients and then pack the mixture around the salmon, making sure all the flesh is covered.

 Pack the salty mixture around the salmon

Wrap the salmon as tightly as you can in the clingfilm, using another layer for security.

 Wrap the salmon in clingfilm

Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours with a tray on top and something heavy on top of that to compress it (the turkey is good or wine bottles).

Put in the fridge for 24 hours

When you’re ready to serve remove the salt and finely slice the salmon. I normally have this with rye bread, horseradish mayonnaise and the obligatory lemon quarters.

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In Search of Christmas Spirit

I am hankering after some Christmas spirit. Last year I had it in abundance, this year it’s yet to appear…So I did what Nigella might do and made the most Christmassy thing I could think of. It worked! Well, I’m at least 50% more Christmassy than I was before I made these mini Christmas puddings, aka Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Puddini Bonbons from her ‘Nigella Christmas’ book.

Christmas Puddini Bonbons


  • 125g melted dark chocolate
  • 350g cooked and cooled Christmas pudding
  • 60ml sherry (Nigella recommends Pedro Ximenez but I couldn’t fit it so used Waitrose Rich Cream sherry instead)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g melted white chocolate
  • red glace cherries cut into small pieces
  • green glace cherries or angelica cut into short lengths

They are so easy to make, just mix all the ingredients together (adding the melted chocolate last) then roll lumps of the mixture between your palms to form small balls and pop in the fridge to firm up.

When they’re less gooey decorate with melted white chocolate and the red and green glace cherries. I couldn’t find green glace cherries or angelica so I bought some of those red gummy strawberry penny sweets and used the green for the holly leaves and the red for the berries.

Maybe I should have this Nigella sampler on my kitchen wall for inspiration?

What food gets you in the Christmas spirit?

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Vintage Seasonal Cheer

With Christmas and New Year only days away I’m hankering after something special to wear. These gorgeous vintage numbers from Mela Mela Vintage would provide some much needed seasonal cheer.

They say if you wait long enough trends come back around and these two 1950s felt skirts prove this to be true and fit in beautifully with the animal adorned clothes filling the high street. But these are far nicer than anything on the high street. Imagine the twirls you could do in these skirts…

1950s Vintage Red Felt Full Circle Skirt - Mela Mela1950s Vintage Pink Felt Full Skirt - Mela Mela

Christmassy red or baby pink? I’m really hankering after the pink one, that fluffly poodle and silver lead are gorgeous…

Why not really embrace Christmas and dress as Mrs Claus in this red 1940s suit? It’s smart enough to double up as work-wear afterwards and I bet you won’t find a suit as nice for the price… brand new or vintage.

1940s Vintage Red Suit - Mela Mela

The shape of this festive green and gold 1950s wiggle dress is so classic and so flattering. It would be perfect for seeing in the New Year and best teamed with a glass of matching gold bubbly in one hand.

1950s Vintage Wiggle Dress- Mela Mela

Mela Mela really do vintage well. If like me, you prefer to try before you buy you can visit the lovely Mela Mela ladies at the shop in Teddington, Middlesex. They are very passionate about vintage clothes, their infectious excitement rubs off on everyone who enters the shop and all the customers join in and chat about the clothes so there is a really friendly atmosphere. I challenge you to leave without a smile on your face, whether you make a purchase or not.

Just a warning though… you could lose hours looking through their accessories; there’s everything from shoes and hats to lingerie and swimsuits, with trays and trays of gorgeous jewellery in between.

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Beautiful Bell Jars

Following on from my last post on the book ‘The Bell Jar’ I move onto my next hanker, actual bell jars. Or, as I’ve nothing I need to keep in a vacuum, decorative bell jars.

For our wedding table centrepieces I had the idea to name each table the traditional anniversary materials and put a little something made of that material within a bell jar.

Table one was going to be a paper rose, table two a wooden heart, table three – well you get the picture. This was a great idea until I added the cost up and factored in setting it up in the morning and packing it all away at the end of the evening.

In the end we went with dahlias within upturned bowl vases that we could hire from the florist.

Our Wedding Table Centrepieces

They were nice, but in hindsight I wish we’d gone with our original idea and saved the money elsewhere.

So now I’m looking for a bell jar to display some little reminders of our wedding in. This one from Cox & Cox is one of the more reasonably priced ones that I’ve seen.

Cox & Cox Bell Jar

The bell jars at Brighton Pod are also reasonably priced and include a base.

Brighton Pod Bell Jar

I really like this one with the mirrored base by I Love Retro.

Bell Jar with Mirrored Base - I Love Retro

What would you put in your bell jar?

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I Heart Sylvia Plath

I’m reading Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel ‘The Bell Jar’ about Esther Greenwood’s year when she finds herself under a metaphorical bell jar suffering from a mental breakdown. The description of depression as “struggling for breath under a bell jar” really resonates with me. Unable to make people hear her soundless screams from within the vacuum of the bell jar Esther is driven to act out her feelings to communicate them.

Earlier this year I heard a recording of Plath reading her poem ‘Lady Lazarus’ and her voice, both staccato and drawn out in turn seduced me with a wonderful tone that I associate with a time gone by. While reading, I can hear this voice coming out of the pages of ‘The Bell Jar’, drawing me into the story.

There is a remake of the 1979 film coming out next year starring Julia Stiles and Rosie McGowan which I’m interested to see. I hope I won’t be disappointed by it, which is so often the case with film versions of books I’ve read (‘The Golden Compass’ was a particular let-down in contrast to Philip Pullman’s amazing ‘Northern Lights’).

The imagery on the original front cover of The Bell Jar, published in 1963 under pseudonym Victoria Lucas, is so perfect for the book and if you were to judge the book by its cover, gives a real sense of the story within. In fact, I’m hankering after this first edition available at Abe Books so much that if I had a spare £7000 I would surely make it mine (is there such a thing as a ‘spare’ £7k?).

The Bell Jar - Victoria Lucas, 1963 First Edition

I may have to make do with this £10.95 poster of the 1966 cover design instead from The Literary Gift Company.

The Bell Jar Poster - The Literary Gift Company

I’ll leave you to be hypnotised by Sylvia Plath’s wonderful voice reading her amazing poetry.

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Coat attack!

Now winter is well and truly here, coats have been reproducing on our newel post to the extent that when we go up or down the stairs we have a choice. Either turn sideways against the wall and squeeze past the mass of coats or knock them all on the floor. Of course any teenagers in the house knock them on the floor without thinking… and leave them there. Not annoying at all.

A near miss this morning involving an armful of washing, two cats and a jumble of coats on the floor got me online looking at coat stands.

The first one I’m hankering after is of course way out of my budget at nearly a thousand AU dollars, and in Australia. The Stoby Pole designed by David Potts was inspired by stencil graffiti.

How about making your own more affordable 2D version of the above with this Power Pole wall sticker from Rockett St. George and some black hooks? At almost a tenth of the cost you might be left with something to pay your power bills with.

Power Pole Wallsticker -Rockett St George

The genius of this ceiling-hung Wardrope Coat Rack by Authentics is its simplicity, you can move the hooks to the height you want and the weight of the coat fixes them in position. Perfect if you’re short on space.

Wardrope Coat Rack - Authentics

If you’ve already got coat hooks and just have too many coats, quadruple the capacity of your existing coat hooks by adding this leather ball Coat Stand by Eno. I bet these smell nice too…

Coat Stand by Eno

This Tree Coat Stand from The Holding Company looks so smooth and strokeable and has plenty of capacity, but will also stand around looking pretty when it’s got nothing to do.

Tree Coat Stand - The Holding Company

For a classic bentwood coat stand the HND Cafe Coat Stand has been brought up to date in red, white or black and there’s even space for an umbrella or two.

HND Cafe Coat Stand - John Lewis

Which do you like best? Have you got any coat stand recommendations?

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Rainbow Styling

I’ve mentioned Mixko before and their dreamy cloud necklace but the item that first drew me to their Etsy shop was this unique and smile inducing Here Comes the Sun necklace.

Here Comes the Sun necklace - Mixko

I wasn’t sure if in the flesh the quirky plastic dove would look tacky and the delicate ribbon rainbow too delicate. But when it arrived (very speedily) the classy packaging reassured me that Mixko know design. Their necklace is delicate and light but very well made, the dove elegantly flies across your neck and the ribbons sit perfectly one underneath the other. The final piece of wonderful design is the ‘last drop of rain’, a single blue Czech crystal bead that hangs down the back of your neck from the clasp.

Here Comes the Sun necklace - Mixko

This necklace brings a splash of colour and character when worn and has been admired by everyone I’ve seen when I’ve worn it, even my goth daughter!

When I ordered this it was supposed to be a present but I guiltily kept it for myself. I’ll have to order another for the original recipient, but at less than £20 it’s affordable and as Mixko give 20% of their profits to victims of the Japanese earthquake I can feel that by nicking someone else’s present, I am in fact doing good.

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Ice, Ice Baby

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to spend a couple of nights at the Burgh Island Hotel during our honeymoon courtesy of our friends and family. It was stunningly beautiful.

While we were there my new husband fell in love again… with this champagne ice bucket.

Champagne Bucket at Burgh Island Hotel

I couldn’t be jealous, it is beautiful. The curvy shape reminds me of an old fashioned pram. I think it was designed by Eric Berthes and probably not in production anymore. There is a similar-shaped more modern looking one to hanker after with an equally stunning price.

Nick Munro’s Octagon Ice Bucket designed for John Lewis is more affordable and you could add to your collection over time with some of the matching barware. It would be a fitting present for Mr H as we have a history of giving each other octagonal gifts.

Nick Munro Octagon Champagne Bucket

Mr H really likes top hats. I wonder if he would like a Top Hat Ice Bucket from Graham and Green. Or perhaps this Eros Champagne Cooler designed for Magppie that looks like it’s beautifully melting into the counter.

Magppie Eros Ice Bucket

A bit pricier and more traditional is the Champagne Bath by Whisk Hampers. It has leather handles, is silver plated and look how many bottles it can hold! Although what I really like about this is its dimples.

Champagne bath Whisk Hamper

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Animals Stampede

Our spare bedroom was in need of some love. The brown and yellow patterned carpet had seen better days, the peach vertical office blinds were a) peach and b) not in an office and there was scary 1970s doll wallpaper in one corner where we had taken out the built-in wardrobe to make more space. It needed to be de-uglyed.

We currently use it as a spare room but at some point in the future we might want to put a little person in there. Given that decorating makes me quite angry (a case of big ideas coupled with inadequate decorating skills) I didn’t want to decorate it twice, so wanted something that would work as a spare bedroom or as a nursery.

I have been hankering after the Florence Broadhurst wallpaper design ‘Horses Stampede’ from Places & Spaces for about eight years now.

Stampeding Horses by Florence Broadhurst

It comes in quite a few different colour ways and coordinating fabric (John Lewis sells cushions) but when I saw the £220 price tag I realised I’ll probably still be hankering after it in another eight years.

Instead we settled on stampeding cows.

Iltavilli wallpaper by Brewers

This wallpaper from Brewers Marimekko 2 collection is still not cheap but we only needed one roll as it’s a wider width than normal. It’s good quality and thick enough that the edges don’t tear when wet with paste. My dad is a Wallpapering Master but even with his help we took some time lining up the design as it’s so busy, but it was worth it as you can’t see any of the joins. Each cow is slightly different and the hand-drawn feeling is really nice. It also comes with a bright background in either pink or green if you’re feeling bold.

Once the cows were on the wall I felt the urge to paint some of the cow’s noses pale pink to add a bit of colour, but instead of ruining the new wallpaper bought a bright yellow throw in the sale and added some bright cushions.

Our Spare Bedroom

To save some money we decided I’d try my hand at fitting the carpet. A carpet offcut cost us £50 from our local carpet shop and after some You Tube tutorials I got stuck in. It was much easier than I expected. Considering this was a first attempt and I did it on my own, although not perfect, I am quite proud! It probaly saved us around £100, which paid for the wallpaper, paste and tools.

We just need some curtains now…

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Hear the Birdy!

Smoke alarms are such a necessity but why are they so ugly? That is, until now.

Please enter the Chick-A-Dee Smoke Alarm.

Chick A Dee Smoke Alarm

This lovely chick conforms to current European Union smoke alarm regulations and is available in pink, blue or white. When she detects smoke she emits an 85db song reminiscent of the American Black-Capped Chickadee and has all the usual features such as a blinking control light, test button and an alarm when her battery is running out.

She isn’t cheep (sorry, I couldn’t resist!); Dutch by Design sell her for £42.50 which is nearly nine times more expensive than a traditional smoke alarm. But if you wanted her in white only, Firebox sell her for almost a tenner cheaper.

Because of the price it probably wouldn’t be practical to replace all your smoke alarms with the Chick-A-Dee, but maybe one or two for particularly visible areas. I think she may have found a new home in our birdy hallway.

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