Monday 24 August 2015

Brit Decor: Travels/ Vienna

 All images / Copyright Mike Ahern

How many times must I get caught out by a pre-booked trip sneaking up on me? Or maybe I am just in denial that I am finally travelling to Vienna? Either way, I'm hopping onto a British Airways plane today, with or without everything I intended to pack, but at least I have Brit Decor with me.

Speaking of packing - I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the items I will be taking with me (see 'above'). One of my travel essentials, wherever the destination, is a pair of chinos for comfort and style. I picked this particular pair up in a grey flex from newbie on the block; Spoke menswear, London.

Lately I haven't been anywhere without my new favourite 'Spicebomb' scent by Viktor & Rolf, and for my weary traveller's skin, I'm taking along Dr Jart+ BB cream to keep those dark circles concealed - after all, first impressions count, right?

Vienna, Austria's capital, has been on my wish-list of must-see cities for as long as I can remember, not least because of my penchant for fine cakes and pastries. But the sweet culinary delights of the glamorous cafes won't be the only rich ingredient sampled during my time there. At the heart of Europe, Vienna has one of the world's most beautiful ensembles of architectural styles, which I can't wait to lap up like a cat who has discovered the cream!

For those of you instagrammers amongst us, I'll be posting as many pics as I can of my trip so please do come and join me!

Wishing you all a great week,

Friday 21 August 2015

Brit Decor: Updates/ Ikea Vaggis Pinboard

All Images / Copyright Mike Ahern

Last year whilst on a trip to Rome, I picked up a fun and rather striking cork pot stand with white geo-pattern detailing, from a Tiger store, as a little gift for my wonderful Sister. Nearly a year later  this stylish cork cutie was such a hit in my Sister's home, that she really wanted a larger pin-board version to stand above her desk.

With her birthday fast approaching, and in a light-bulb moment of inspiration, I thought I had decided on the perfect gift. Despite my initial confidence in sourcing such a pin-board, with cork being very much in the limelight right now, it quickly became apparent that this early buoyancy was a little premature. There were one or two 'nearly' finds but nothing delivered the specific brief of white detailing on cork, so it was time to draw upon my own creative skills...

Unsurprisingly, plain cork pin-boards are far easier to source - I opted for Ikea's 'Vaggis' board because I liked the plain white frame, which I knew would match perfectly with my design. The next part was so simple to achieve, it was unreal! I used masking tape to achieve the desired pattern leaving a 2mm gap between each piece of tape. Finally I applied bright white emulsion to the masked-off areas (taking care not to overload the brush) and waited for the paint to dry.

As always, the big reveal was both exciting and a little tense, but the end result was just what I had hoped for!

Will you be getting creative this weekend...?

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Brit Decor: Powers-up/ Banana & the Gang Smoothie

Images / Copyright Mike Ahern

Midweek slump? I suffer from these most weeks, in fact, probably most days. I attribute this frequent occurrence to a theory that I am burning off so much creative energy, it's leaving me drained! However, I think I may have found the perfect antidote after re-discovering the merits of smoothies, following an impulse purchase of a Nutribullet. Since then I have noticed a distinct boost in my energy levels and a greater sense of feeling good about myself.

I want to be clear, this is not a promotional post and there are other brilliant smoothie-makers available, but I just happened to choose this brand because of its incredibly straightforward function. Having seen my amazing Sister demonstrate just how easy it is to clean after use (my old smoothie machine literally required complete dismantling) - I knew that a Nutribullet was the right brand for me.

I have been through countless phases of obsessing about my 5-a-day intake for as long as I can remember, with varying degrees of success. The bottom line is that I don't always enjoy munching on a piece of fruit, and ashamedly, there are occasions where fruit & vegetables, still edible, have been confined to the composter for early retirement because I have simply lacked the inspiration to eat them!

However, onto a new chapter of healthy intakes, and I've not only cut-out the wastage of fruit & veg, I have even bought additional ingredients that I wouldn't normally eat on their own, such as nuts and seeds.

So I thought today would be a good day to share one of my favourite pick-me-up smoothie recipes - brilliant for that mid-week or mid-afternoon dip in energy levels and perfect for staving off those niggling urges for a naughty snack. This is also a vitamin powerhouse with the addition of the Vitamin C-oozing Kiwi fruit!

I've called this particular concoction 'Banana + the Gang' because there are too many ingredients to fit into one name and, you've guessed it, Bananas are the predominant fruit here. I also like the sound of any name that has a hint of a 1980's pop group about it!

2 Bananas
1 Kiwi
1 apple (cored)
4 Raspberries
4 Grapes
1 Date
6 walnuts
1tsp honey (Manuka)
1tsp mixed seeds
Add water or Almond milk



Monday 10 August 2015

Brit Decor: Creates/ Mono-Planter

All Images / Copyright Mike Ahern

I recently picked up this cute little Astrophytum Myriostigma or more commonly known as Bishop's Mitre - can you see the resemblance to the symbolic religious head gear? Native to the highlands of northeastern and central Mexico, I figure this cactus is going to need some warmth, so it's currently sitting in our south-facing lounge where it should be comfortable (am I writing as though this is a new family member??). A measure of just how well I manage to nurture this plant will be, I guess, if it produces a beautiful satin-yellow flower. Watch this space...

There is something highly therapeutic about the entire process of buying new houseplants - firstly selecting a healthy looking plant from the local garden centre and then choosing the right kind of planter, and finally, deciding where to place it. In this instance I was feeling particularly creative at the weekend and so out came the paints and letter stamp for today's 'Brit Decor Creates'.

Fortunately, I like to keep a stockpile of old and new terracotta pots at the cottage, because they are always so useful. Here I chose to use a new pot for its smooth surface, which makes for slightly easier painting. After priming the pot and then painting it with a pure white base coat, I opted for Farrow & Ball's Downpipe Grey as my contrasting colour, and this was the fun part - I just loaded the brush with paint, placed this on the rim of the pot and applied a little pressure as I ran the length of the brush across the rim. Then I just sat back and let the paint do the rest of the work as it ran down the pot. I repeated this process with the saucer.

To finish off, and purely for fun, I wanted to add a tiny graphic element to this design, so I used my little letter stamping set and printed an 'M' on the side of the planter. I love the contrast between the fresh white and the dark grey, complimented perfectly by the frosted sage green colour of the cactus.

Here's hoping for growth for all of us this week, including our houseplants!

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Brit Decor: Loves/ Essence + Alchemy

Images / Copyright Mike Ahern

Midweek has arrived; time to take a minute and reflect upon the madness of the first half of the week and anticipate the remainder of it. Okay so this is a typical week for me in a nutshell and, thankfully, I am slowly kicking my to-do list into touch, but how to unwind in the midst of a manic schedule, especially when a portion of my week is spent working from home?

I have discovered that one solution to this conundrum is my new penchant for scented candles. I've long been a huge fan of these waxy wonders, largely as handy accessories for interior styling, and as a source of soothing ambient lighting. However, in more recent months I experienced somewhat of an epiphany when it comes to the scented variety, albeit rather late in the day!

I'm not 100% sure when or where my enlightened discovery first took place but I do recall visiting a client's house in June, and charming Victorian hallway tiles aside, the first thing that truly struck me on entering the house was the heavenly scent of 'Oranger' or, Orange tree, by Diptyque. It is amazing how one small candle can completely change the experience of a room - I was immediately transported to somewhere beautiful and Summery, which made the house in question feel all the more inviting, and first impressions count for everything.

So which scented candle am I currently swooning for back at the cottage? You guessed it, 'Tranquility' by Sheffield based Essence + Alchemy. My choice wasn't based upon scent alone, although the alluring smokey Vetiver and the heavenly Patchouli and Gernaium oils, undoubtedly transport my mind to somewhere incredibly relaxing and peaceful, but there's a whole lot more thought behind this carefully created range, which only adds to its curb appeal.

The brand's owner, Lesley, shuns synthetic materials and, instead hand blends all of the natural ingredients in small batches, using plant wax, essential oils and natural wooden wicks, which gently crackle when lit. The seductive amber glass not only makes a strong visual statement, but it also protects the aromatic properties of the essential oils from sunlight, and then there's the simple but oh-so stylish cork lids! Did I mention that the packaging is made from 100% recycled card too? Style, aesthetics, and ethics - tick, tick, and tick.

This isn't a sponsored post but one that I just had to share with you in case you are looking for that perfect scent to bring into your home, or maybe you are already a fan of this particular brand?

Thanks to Essence + Alchemy for the inspiration #Scentilicious

Happy 'hump day' folks.

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