Friday, 31 December 2010

Organising for 2011

Instead of deleting a thousand emails yesterday
I did something much more fun ...
 I created a pinboard on Pinterest to inspire me ... called "Organise".

Remember how I fell in love back in August?

Maybe now is the time for you to try collecting your online inspirations together
 in a beautiful visual method.

Why not create a board with your word of 2011 
and use it as a place to inspire 
and look back to 
when you need motivation later in the year?

Pinterest is a place to catalogue the things that you love.
Click here to request an invite.

Happy to help if you need more info.

See you next year ... it'll be here sooner than you think!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

One word for 2011

Image: Ingrid Duffy
Making 2011 my best year yet.
Inspired by Kim Klassen's post today and Beth's yesterday,
I started thinking what my word for 2011 should be.

I like the idea of choosing one word for the new year, instead of making many resolutions which become more of a burden and less of an inspiration. This is an opportunity to create resolutions but with many possibilities to make it more than you ever dreamt of on this cold late-December day. 
Why not pair your word with a photograph and make it something to catch your eye in your home, on your laptop or in your wallet?

My word is Organise

I need to bring order to the chaos muddle of many areas of my life.
For starters: 
~ Reducing my email inbox from today's 9505 messages
~ My iPhoto library- similarly out of control
~ My work room - which I left as a material maze of fabric, felt and fluff when I flew off for Christmas.
~ The book that I am writing 
~ A house move to plan and make happen!
~ Hundreds of metres of fabric to turn into beautiful products for the home
~ A dog to repatriate
~ This blog!

My photo of Canada geese flying overhead this week is just right for my form of organisation - not perfectly symmetrical but with definite direction. 

It really is clear that 2011 will be an amazing year if I just start to organise myself -- my thoughts, my things and my life.

I feel so excited I might just go and delete a 1000 emails right now.

Do share what your word will be for 2011 and in Kim's words
"Let's make 2011 the Best Year yet"
 I can't wait to see your words...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas was a journey!!!

The journey to Christmas was fun.

A few moments from our first Christmas in our new home:
We managed to beat snow and ice and arrived in the Uk
 from Texas, Beijing and Norwich (just up the road!)

First job was to assemble a couple of tables (IKEA of course!) so we could all sit down together.
The house has none of our furniture yet.

Elements of the table include:
 linen table cloths from Beijing
tulips from Amsterdam
wine from the Virgin wine bank
company from round the world

Just a glimpse of our table, set for our meal on Christmas Eve: 
Jul candles - present from Linda in Denmark, keeping our Danish traditions alive
red linen table runners, sewn by me in Beijing
silver crackers - individually made for us by Gemma & Jesper in Norwich
glasses etc from IKEA

A Christmas we will always remember.
Hope yours was too.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Home is where the Hyggelig happens

Kathryn at the The Pickled Herring kindly invited me to contribute to her Scandinavian Christmas series on her lovely blog.
Do hop over if you have time today and see if HYGGELIG is a new part of your vocabulary!
There are nine other interesting posts on making a Scandinavian Christmas, so be sure to read them too.

Adding lights in the window sill and warm, colourful quilts were a starting point.

Pop back tomorrow if you have time to see more from a country Christmas in Suffolk.

Friday, 17 December 2010

How are you feeling today?

Poster: Moodgadget

Seeing this poster this morning reminded me about what is important.
I'm worrying about the house not being decorated before the family arrive.
Is there enough food in the pantry?
Will it snow too much for them to arrive ... etc etc.

But if I start my day flowing through this chart I feel grounded and remember it's not about getting it all done, it's about being happy today and everyday.

I need to read my own advice...

Take two minutes to remind yourself of the Eight Shots of Wisdom too. 

Have a great day wherever you are 
make sure you don't waste it worrying.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Home at last

Back soon ...

Just taking a short break to make an empty house a new home.

Will have lots to show you by the weekend.

Remember to invite the Nisse folk into your home this winter. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas inspiration - Baroque meets modern

 Jette Froehlich is synonymous with Christmas in Denmark.
She has been delighting Danes for over twenty-five years with her Christmas displays.
I was lucky to be in Copenhagen for the last day of her annual December exhibition this year (first time in ten years).
Her breathtaking room layouts in a beautiful old, baroque manor house just north of Copenhagen are worth a trip if you can manage it next year. Sorry you're too late this year. The warmth and Jul tide atmosphere are infectious.
 Her designs are both simple and elegant and inspire me with nordic spirit. Whether is delicate white paper stars on a large circle of twiggy branches or an oversized, three-layered 'cake stand' in elegantly vintaged iron; the rooms display a blend of baroque and modern style which I am totally in love with.

The grey metal garland, pictured below, would be perfect to hang in my window.
Initially disappointed that the garlands were sold out - I was so happy when Jette herself, kindly snipped a display circle down for me to carry home with my other Danish treasures today. (I am praying for a friendly SAS check in attendant today, as my suitcases are slightly heavier than when I arrived two days ago)

I can't wait to lay out a white linen table cloth, 
add some lichened branches from the larch tree, 
light some candles 
and together with some of the small collectables I came away with today,
create my Christmas table look. 
Scandinavian baroque with a modern twist is just right for me.

To get more inspiration for this look try Tine K

Adventures with Griselda, a pig of distinction

I came to Copenhagen in search of Griselda.
(Gris is the Danish name for pig.)

The pig of my dreams was waiting for me in one of my favourite shops -
 H. Skjalm P. on Nikolaj Plads. 
Full to brimming with their own unique take on textiles, cookware and interior decorating, 
it was only my limiting suitcase allowance that stopped me from being tempted more.

With Griselda tucked underneath my arm 
and two fab friends, Linda and Gerd, at my side ...
we set off to explore the streets of Copenhagen. 

Malene Birger, the Queen of Copenhagen fashion, had a window display that caught our eye.
 It was the four white swans swimming ...
not the dresses, that had us entranced.
These elegant fowl were not for sale, so our menagerie stayed at one. 
But as soon as I am reunited with my sewing machine 
these are top of my list to create. 
Expect a flock by Christmas 2011.

Next stop: Marimekko - the concept store!
I would have loved to fill this cart with their beautiful fabrics, bed linen and tableware. 
Restraint is not my strongest quality ...
 but 2 beautiful tea towels were my limit.

In need of refreshment we took Griselda to Amokka in Gronnegade. 
Frothy, spicy hot Chai tea and nutty flapjacks were just what the doctor ordered. 
We could shop amok for gifts here but resisted the chocolate body paint this time 
and indulged in chocolate dipsticks, 
to create the ultimate hot chocolate drinks this Christmas.

After six hours strolling the streets, even we three shopaholics retail enthusiasts 
had to retreat to put our feet up. 

Griselda is ready for her next adventure.
We leave on Sunday for the UK.
Who said 'Pigs can't fly"?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Winter, Wonderful Copenhagen

Two fun packed days in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen for a cool two days.
The perfect place to breathe in some Christmas spirit.
Danes have a word for it -hyggelig. 
Unpronounceable until you have had a few sips of snaps, this word means cosy, snug, a warm feeling and togetherness.
Danes really embrace this time of year with infinite style and in the best possible taste.
You cannot fail to be caught up in the moment.
Get planning!
Nyhavn, 4pm!

Copenhagen, by day and night.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A Tall story - Nisse folk

You may have noticed some Nisse folk popping up in my photos.

Maybe these little red hatted fellows are new to you - 
if so I hope you will find time to invite one into your home this winter.
Our home wouldn't feel the same without a Nisse or two.

We love to have Nisse folk around, whether it is the large Advent girl who has presents for Alice or the little felt ones who pop up round the home. This Nisse girl is over 1 metre tall and arrives every year on December 1 with 24 presents for Alice, our daughter. Some fit in pockets and some presents are attached by strings! 

Nisse (Denmark and Norway) or Tomte (Sweden) were believed to help protect the farmer 
and his family from misfortune. 
In the 1840's they became the Julenisse (Christmas Nisse) 
and brought presents to the children on Christmas Eve. 
You need to keep on the right side of the Nisse, they are temperamental and easy to offend 
and can then make mischief about the house. 
With this in mind we keep up the tradition of leaving a bowl of rice pudding out
 for the Nisse and his family on Christmas Eve. Not wise to take chances!
(The bowl is always empty on Christmas morning.)
Learn more about Nisse folk here

Find more here

Some of my favourites can be bought online.  
Image: Maileg

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cookies and Cocktails

What do Cosmopolitans and Terracotta Warriors have in common?

They were both key ingredients of Katia's Cocktails and Cookies party last Friday.

Here is a recipe for you to try a Cookies and Cocktails party:

1. Invite friends, as few or as many as you and your house can take.

2. Ask the friends to bring 36 cookies biscuits (gotta to keep the British biscuit alive) to share.

3. You, as the host, provide appetisers/ savoury tasters/  and cocktails (Katia served delicious Cosmopolitans and Mojitos).
4. When guests arrive, take one biscuit from their plate and add to the tasting station you have set up.

5. Ask 3 or 4 willing helpers to taste all the cookies and decide on winners.You choose the categories, they could be: best appearance, most creative, most unique, healthiest, most decadent? Have fun and maybe give your guests a hint in the invite, so they know how to play cook it.

6. Arrange  everyones dishes of biscuits on a table - large if you have lots of guests.

7. When everyone has had a chance to mingle, sip a cocktail or two and nibble something savoury, gather together and starting with yourself - recount something that was difficult about your baking.
(This was the funniest collection of stories ever and ranged from Fanny burning 8 of her 36 and having to make a new mix, to others whose baking skills were nonexistent and resorted to the local french bakery for beautiful macaroons)

8. Before leaving, everyone is invited to take or one two biscuits to take home. So at the end of the evening you have a delicious mix of Christmas cookies to enjoy over the coming week. As the host, you could provide a little bag for guests or they just use the plate they brought with them.

9. The evening was so much fun because it was not focussed on trying to outdo each other with culinary skills. Let's face it, Katia had made over 50 impeccably iced Terracotta Warriors - so not even going to try to go there. (Why terracotta warriors, you ask? We live in China!)
 It didn't matter whether you had never baked before or were a Cordon Bleu pastry chef, the atmosphere was relaxed and full of laughter.

Back story:
Katia is someone who never does things by halves and there was a feeling of trepidation before I arrived.  When I laid my amateurishly iced christmas trees next to the Terracotta Army I wished I had not done gingerbread. (I actually brought Pfefferkuchen and Lebkuchen, making both as I was not sure which recipe would turn out well!)
There's nothing like a Cosmopolitan and a funny story to help you relax. Hearing how some people had never baked before today, googled "Cookie recipe" and couldn't understand how they could cream butter and sugar when there was no cream in the recipe. Or Tamara's description when she had come to Katia's for the first time, having used a packet mix and passed it off as a recipe of "Great, Great Grandma Betty Crocker." It may have had the non-bakers fooled but  the rest rolling with laughter at her quick thinking and inventiveness.
Gina had started 3 days early, knowing of Katia's high standards. The first batch of gingerbread she baked was too hard, the second was even harder but the third batch was just perfect ... because she bought them from the bakery!
Being Asian, "So I can't bake," was the start of several friends stories, one had persuaded her husband to bake for her and another had coaxed a friend to help out. This gingerbread family impressed me and many others - but the neat icing was soon recognised as coming from the local bagel shop. We are a small community, so no one could really hoodwink anyone else by buying them.

Have you been to any christmas cooke exchanges this year? I would love to hear your backstory.
Bet there weren't any Terracotta Warriors!

Getting together with friends in the weeks before Christmas is such a treat, 
don't let 2010 go by without inviting someone round -
doesn't matter whether it's baked or bought - 
connecting is what is important.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Pfefferkuchen - the backstory

Pfefferkuchen update:
Made my very first batch of Pfefferkuchen on Friday.
The recipe was a blend of two I found online, adjusted in light of my having no hazelnuts and tons of ground almonds. They are were delicious, definitely worth making and not difficult.

Top tips:
1. Toast the whole almonds in a frying pan till lightly browned, then grind in the food processor. The aroma is unbelievable.
2. Take whole cardamoms, remove the outer husk and grind the little seeds in a pestle and mortar. Again the aroma released  - amazing.
3. Have Rufus on hand to do quality control. (My friend Anne is administering the test!)
4. Bake plenty, they keep well and they taste good - so you'll need lots.


  • 1 cup whole almonds, toasted and ground (6 oz)
  • 1 cup ground almonds  (I should have used 6 oz of hazelnuts roasted - but squirrels got there first)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (5 oz)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp ground cardamon (grind it yourself)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg - freshly grated
  • 3 TBsp grated zest of orange
  • 2  TBsp grated zest of lemon
  • 1&1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2  TBsp cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 TBsp unsalted butter, softened  (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (5 oz)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups icing sugar (confectioners sugar) (7 oz)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
1. Heat oven to 350F, 180 C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
2. Add toasted almonds, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cardamom & nutmeg to a food processor and grind to a fine meal (30-60 secs).
Add fruit zest and process for 15 seconds more.
3. Whisk together flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
4. In large bowl beat together softened butter and brown sugar at medium speed for 2 mins, till light and fluffy 
 Add eggs one by one and beat. Add vanilla extract.
 Add flour mixture and continue to beat for 1 minute, till mixed.
5. Add ground nut mixture from processor and mix evenly.
6. Make small mounds of the mixture and place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart. (About 1-2 tbsp of mixture). Form small balls and then flatten slightly when on the sheet, approx 10 Pfefferkuchen per sheet.
7. Bake till the Pfefferkuchen have small cracks on top and the sides are firm. Takes 12 -18 minutes,  depending on size of them. Switch the two baking sheets half way through cooking.
8. Allow Pfefferkuchen to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring them to a cooling rack.
9. When the Pfefferkuchen are cool, whisk the icing sugar and milk together till smooth. Brush or spoon a thin layer of glaze over the cookies and allow it to set. The glaze is a little runny, which allows it to flow over the top and soak in a little.

Enjoy baking together this Christmas.

Remember to play this whilst you are baking!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The winner is ......

A huge 'Thank you'  to everyone who joined in the fun for my festive giveaway. 
I am excited to say that it was number 17 of my email subscribers 
who was picked by the Random number  maker.

The winner is Patty Armstrong
 so bunting, chocolate and gift tags will be winging their way across the globe, 
hopefully in time to be useful this Christmas.

Thanks everyone for subscribing and stay tuned - there will be something new for you in January 
and the great news is you are already subscribed, 
so you won't need to do anything else to be entered!
(Except stay subscribed.)

Back soon with Cookies and Cocktails - 
a great way to start the Festivities, 
in my opinion!

Friday, 3 December 2010

I have so much to do ...

Seen here

Well in a few hours maybe....
Been baking Pfefferkuchen all day and would like to be off to bed now, but got to go to a Cocktails and Christmas Cookie evening first - it's a hard life, but I like it!
See you tomorrow for the winner and to share a Pfefferkuchen or two. (Are you still singing the song? I am).

But don't miss a last chance to win some chocolate bunting gift tags - add a few commas to make sense.

All you have to do to win this package is subscribe by email to this blog in the box below. 
(You need to subscribe even if you are a fabulous Google Follower to be eligible)

Enter your email address:

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Closes at Beijing's bedtime tonight - Friday 3rd December

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bunting Giveaway, one day left.

Back with more bunting ideas for you today and to remind you it's not too late to sew up and sign up for a string of bunting.
Hanging here above my fireplace in Beijing is the simplest one to knock up ~ IKEA wrapping paper glued together and white pompoms sewn onto contrasting fabric. All held together with red cotton ribbon (gross grain, if we're getting technical).

Take a look here for easy to follow instructions on how to make it yourself. 

But it is even easier to win yourself a string of fabric bunting when you enter my Giveaway at the end of this post. (There's chocolate involved in the giveaway too!)
Image: Ingrid in Beijing

The snowball effect!

Sign up below to enter my festive Giveaway . 
I have extended the date to Friday December 3rd.
 Closing time = Beijing Bedtime

Winner announced here on Saturday.

This is the tasty Advent package I am going to send one of my subscribers ~ 
to say "Thanks for joining me at my table".
Bunting, chocolate, gift tag pack all posted to you from China.

All you have to do to win this package is subscribe by email to this blog in the box below. 
(You need to subscribe even if you are a fabulous Google Follower to be eligible)
Enter your email address:

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Feeling creative today? 
Then check out Kirsty's blog for more creative ideas from bloggers round the world.

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