The Garden in Winter…

Waking up on a cold, frosty and foggy morning here reminded me I had some frosty shots of our garden that I took a few weeks ago to share with you all. One of the reasons I chose the style of planting that we went for in our garden is that part of the intention when planning is to choose plants that have striking form in the winter months. They might have fabulous seed pods or just hold their shape in the early winter and I happen to think that there is nothing more beautiful than frost coated flower heads in the depths of winter, with the low sunlight streaming across the garden. I was fascinated to see how my planting turned out in this respect and I’m pretty happy!



In fact it’s actually time now to start chopping down the old dead stalks and seed heads ready for the new growth to come through and generally tidy up the garden. It’s also a great time to prune your shrubs if they are getting out of hand. (You can’t really go wrong doing it now but if you prune them hard and they are the kind of plants that flower early on last years wood, you might sacrifice this years flowers.) If you want to be really brutal and reclaim your garden you can chop them by 2/3!


If you would like some winter form in your Garden, here are some plants to look out for that have featured in these pictures:

  • Rudbeckia and Echinacea
  • Sedum
  • Monarda
  • Verbena
  • Verbascum

And of course grasses :) (the pale floaty one you can see here is called Stipa Tenuissima – plant it in swathes of 5 or more for a mass effect.)

It’s also a good time to look at your garden and see where the bare patches are. Now is the time to think about putting something there that would look good at this time of year – something with berries, an early flowering blossom or shrub, or with interesting coloured branches. And if you (like me) are wishing you had got around to planting some bulbs last autumn, go and pick a few up at the local garden centre, ready potted and put them in for instant colour.

Happy gardening readers!

Rebecca x

#JanuaryJoy – Take a Walk

Today’s prompt is especially for the coming weekend. So many of you yesterday mentioned the perfect date involving taking a walk with your other half, whether it’s pounding the streets of a new city, or ambling through the countryside to a new pub. It’s the perfect chance to talk but if you fancy a bit of me time it’s a great way to do some thinking too and burn off extra calories – if you make it long and brisk you’re burning almost as many as jogging. Win/Win!

Pete and I try to get out to new country walks as often as we can but we’re also lucky to have the Mersey Valley right on our doorstep and miles of woodland and waterside paths that make you feel worlds away from the city. It takes us ten minutes to walk to the start of the paths which is around the corner from Chorlton Green where the Horse and Jockey is – our favourite local pub. It’s got low ceilings, real fires, guest ales and good wine, perfect for stopping off at the end of a walk. It also happens to be super dog and baby friendly.

I’d love to hear about your favourite walk – tell us where it is in the comments box and maybe we’ll all find a new local walk and bump into each other one day!

Happy weekend readers,

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Found: Winter Cushions

Just recently, I’ve been thinking about switching our usual sofa cushions for some more seasonally appropriate textiles. There are so many graphic prints and luxurious textures around to nod to the colder weather approaching that it’s really hard not to be tempted, so I thought I’d do a little round up of my favourites.

In an effort to stay stylish and keep away from a Christmas theme, I’ve stayed away from reds, choosing natural tones, rustic knits and plush velvets or fur and a bit of the seasons interiors colour, moody blues.

  • Reindeer, Fox and Grey/White Argyle knit, Marks and Spencer.
  • Grey velvet and Linen cushion, Cox and Cox
  • Kissing Stags, Anorak at John Lewis
  • Teal watercolour, Bluebellgray
  • Donna Wilson Tree cloud cushion, Heals
  • Pale Velvet with black design, and Black Thistle on white background, Timorous Beasties forJohn Lewis
  • Reindeer stitch, Nordic House
  • Bambi print cushion, Graham and Green
  • Fur cushion, John Lewis

Will you be changing your decor for winter at all?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Destination Guide: Sestriere, Italy

As you’ll know from my snowy outfit pictures yesterday, last week I was in Sestriere, one of the Italian resorts that make up the Milky Way (or Via Lattea) ski area. I’m always on the look out for a good ski area so I thought I’d share and hopefully you guys can tell me your favourites, although I think I’d be hard pushed not to return to this one someday!

I’ve skied twice in France (Les Arcs) and more recently twice in St Anton, (Austria) better known as St Lash-ton for the apres ski, which I didn’t really take much note of until contrasted with Sestriere. Sestriere is definitely a much quieter resort but the slopes were nothing short of fabulous.

From the top: The pistes down into resort, quiet runs in Sansicario and looking back down onto Sestriere.

Both Pete and I could not believe how quiet the pistes were. Of course it helped that the snow was great, but there were times when you could be literally the only two people on a particular part of the slope. The runs are super wide and over all, I’d say the grading of the runs was on the generous side. It’s a great resort for intermediates and has plenty of off piste to challenge more advanced skiers.

My Ski instructor, Davide, our boozy lunch with Pete’s instructor too, and the view from our hotel balcony.

For the first time in years I went back to ski school. I’ve only ever had 3 mornings of lessons after a rather traumatic experience of being left behind by my instructor on my first ever trip! Thereafter, it was Pete’s job and as a result, although I can tackle the majority of slopes, it wasn’t with any great finesse or elegance! I have to say, the instructors were a world away from any others I’ve met, being very relaxed and super friendly, despite my inability to lean forwards! Pete was ridiculously lucky and was the only advanced boarder in the ski-school, so basically got his own guide for the week and spent the whole time off piste in the expert hands of Andreas. We also had one day where they charged an extra 15 euros and spent the whole day with the group taking us to a mountain restaurant for lunch, even liaising between themselves so Pete could join us!

Ah, the food! My reason for wanting to try Italy was the food, I love ski-ing, I love Italian food, and as that’s usually the main gripe in ski resorts I figured we couldn’t go wrong. Our hotel was half board so we ate a four course meal of anti-pasti, pasta, then meat or fish followed by dessert EVERY evening. The absolute highlight though? The Chocolatta – Italian hot chocolate that resembles more of a pudding it’s sooooo thick and gorgeous. I had far too many, but you only live once, right?

My only complaint about Sestriere would be the Apres Ski – it was really unusual in that there wasn’t a stream of people off the slopes at 4 hitting the bars. However, we found that if we went back to the hotel and showered first, then went out, the bars were busier, perhaps to do with the later start to the evening in general in Italy. Once we found the right places (the Napapijri cafe and Pinkys,) we stuffed our faces a little bit more with all the delicious bar snacks they put out during the happy hour. Nom Nom Nom.

We stayed at the Hotel Biancaneve, a clean but basic hotel with rather too much yellow paint in the interior for my liking. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for style or atmosphere but we ended up meeting some great people and you wouldn’t go hungry. The best local hotel is reportedly the Cristallo, directly overlooking the piste, but I also heard good things about the Du Col. We chose a bargain deal with Neilson (who were great when it came to arranging trips etc) as we plan to take more holidays than usual this year, fingers crossed and figured you spent a limited amount of time in the room on a ski holiday if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be ;) which was certainly true.

Top right: The olympic downhill ladies run (you could also ski the downhill mens) and me before tackling it, and a view over ‘the bowl’ in Montgnevre, France.

Ski-area wise, Sestriere hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006 producing a purpose built resort, originally created for the Fiat employees in the 1930′s. On your lift pass you can access Sauze D’Oulz, Sansicario, Cesana, Claviere and you get one day on the pass in which you can go to Montgenevre in France, just across the border. We skied all of them apart from Claviere and went on a ‘ski-away day’ on the bus to Montgenevre, as although you can ski there, there’s a lot of wasted ski time on gondolas etc and we wanted to enjoy ‘the bowl’ – a massive area of runs with great vistas.

Over all? I would definitely go back. The ski-ing couldn’t be faulted for the wide empty pistes and we were blessed with great snow and off piste conditions too. Apres ski-wise was a little quiet but when we made friends it was anything but, and the food was immense!

Have you skied in Italy and what was you experience of it? Or have you got any other great resorts to recommend?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

What to Wear: In the Snow

So, as you might know, I spent last week in Sestriere, Italy, ski-ing. Today’s What to Wear is really more of a ‘winter brights’ post, but hey, you can’t blame me for using the amazing natural backdrop to add a bit of contrast to this super bright ensemble, right?

Last week, I shared the GAP SS12 collection, (and psst! They currently have a 30% off denim promo!) and might have hinted that I was in love with the brights they’re all over for this season. I hot footed it off down there when I needed an extra jumper for ski-ing and pounced on this egg yolk bright, Yellow and Grey Broad Stripe number.


Jumper: Gap, Jeans: Warehouse, Striped Top: A&F, Hat: UGG boots. Sunglasses: Ray ban

It’s actually a cotton jumper, so perhaps not the best for ski-ing, but layered up with an older A&F stripe top also in grey then my bright blue jeans (see them here too) plus bright pink accessories, I was feeling pretty cheerful. That and first day of holiday and all ;)

Ah yes, the UGG boots. Are they still cool? I don’t know. What I do know is that despite appearances, mine are still WARM, and I love them. After three years hard wear (I did my home visits in them all through the snow last year and as long as it’s not slushy, they never get wet) the sheepskin lining is getting a little less soft and fat so I’m ready for a replacement, BUT they’re perfect for messing around in when it’s chilly.

Are you getting into brights yet?

And what’s your essential super cold weather item?

Lots of Sunshine yellow love,
Rebecca
xo

What to Wear: Colour block trousers

I’m really excited to share today’s outfit – when the weather turned colder last weekend I needed to bring my winter coat out of hibernation but after submerging myself in spring/summer trends I was craving colour, not wintery darker shades. the Reiss trousers throughout this post were a sale purchase – I always try to shop smart in the sales and I had an inkling these would work right through to the summer ahead. I’ve been desperate to get them out since, so decided they could work with my winter coat.

I actually bought this pale swing coat from Reiss in the sale last year but haven’t worn it much for fear of getting it dirty – I’m finally feeling less precious/more sensible about it now! It’s very warm and I love the swing shape to it. Although admittedly better with heels, I wore this shopping and needed flats for walking.


Coat: Reiss

Reason number 2 for loving this outfit? This lipstick. Can we all just take a moment to enjoy its fiery red colour? I’ve been fancying myself an orange toned red (New Years resolution #2 – Experiment more with lipstick) for a while now. I bought this only the day before with the trousers in mind and it is fabulous – it stays on all day too without drying my lips out which is a major feat in my book.


Lipstick: MAC Matte lipstick in ‘Lady Danger’, Earrings: Monica Vinader at Astley Clarke

The ankle length trousers felt quite chic and I couldn’t imagine them with heavy winter shoes so opted for last summers nude ballet flats from Dune.


Leopard spot belt: Banana Republic, Red Trousers: Reiss, Jumper: Warehouse, Ballet Flats: Dune.

I’m seeing a lot of chunky knits paired with more tailored bottom halves this season, like pencil skirts, so I thought the slim tapered trousers would work well with a Warehouse jumper that I love the shape of and lends the wintery edge to the pants.


Bracelet: Odille, Smokey Quartz Cocktail ring from Santorini

I should give a shout out here to Michelle from Pocketful of Dreams. I have her to thank for introducing me to coloured trousers – when she wore a blue pair to my house last season and prompted me to buy some similar jeans. I’m often inspired by women’s style that I see around me so I hope you guys reading gain some inspiration from my outfit posts too.

Let me know if you liked it as always :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Pots of Winter Colour

This morning I thought I’d share a little project I decided to get around to 5 years in to living in our house, although it’s more specifically a garden project.

Every year, there’s so much effort put into dressing up the summer garden with pots of colour and things can get quite drab and lifeless come the winter months, so I decided to make a winter pot. It wouldn’t make much sense (I don’t think) to do this on the scale you might do with summer colour, as you won’t be in the garden to enjoy the end results, and for that reason this pot was made for my front door step. Now it brightens every morning up for me as I leave the house and smartens up the entrance for visitors.

I headed to my local B&Q for the plants for this project and actually picked a couple up in the bargain department looking slightly below par. Once any dead leaves are picked off and they’ve had a good soak, they’re right as rain.

I chose 2 cyclamens (the flowers above, one pink and one white) one ornamental winter cabbage and some ivy. Look for a mix of plants with toning colours – my theme here was the fabulous shades of pinks, purple and silvery foliage. Also look for a variety of heights of plant to give interest. One of my Cyclamens was taller than the other and the trailing ivy helps with this, but you could also choose a mini-conifer or evergreen bush for height, depending on how big your pot is.

You’ll also need a pot ( – I recycled one which held some pretty sad looking geraniums after this years terrible summer) and some compost to fill it with if your pot is new.

After that it’s really easy….

Fill the pot with compost, or if it’s being reused, remove enough soil so that when the plants are placed into the pot, their soil is level with about an inch below the rim of your pot.

Remove the plants from their pots and arrange them, switching them around and trying different positions until you like the effect. It always looks better when they’re quite tightly packed in together.

Now add the rest of your compost. Make sure you really stuff it down the sides of the pot with your fingers, around the edges and in-between the plants so there are no air pockets which the roots of the plants won’t like.

Then give it a thorough soaking with your watering can and enjoy.

Cyclamens don’t like damp, so water thoroughly if it hasn’t rained in a week or so but don’t over-water – you need good drainage from the bottom of the pot so they don’t get waterlogged. They will keep flowering all the way through the winter if you remove the dead flowers every few days. I also purchased the hanging basket shown above from B&Q to add to the effect :)

So will you be making any additions to your garden this year or brightening up the front step?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Friday Food… Phoebe’s Coq Au Vin

For this morning’s Friday Food, we have Phoebe Miller of So You’re getting Married, sharing a recipe that I think is perfect for Bonfire Night – stick it in the oven, enjoy the fireworks and get back to a gorgeous smelling house and hearty food to share.

Take it away Phoebe!

With winter nights drawing in, you really can’t beat wrapping up and eating warm, comforting food. Simple to make, it can be prepared and left to marinade for hours whilst you are out romping in the countryside.

A classic dish that every aspiring domestic goddess should have under her culinary belt is ‘Coq Au Vin’. There are so many recipes for this famous dish – the following is an amalgamation of various.


*Image credit – Martha Stewart

Ingredients
(Serves 4)

4 Chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks, skin on
140g pancetta (or bacon)
12 small shallots
2 celery sticks, cut chunkily
2 carrots, cut chunkily
2-3 garlic cloves, bruised
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
25g of plain flour, seasoned. Plus 1 tbsp
1tbsp oil
15g butter
75cl of good red (basically a whole bottle)
4 tbsp brandy (optional, mainly for lushes)

How-to
Pour the wine and brandy in to a pan and boil over a high heat for 5 minutes until reduced by roughly a third. Set aside. Place the onions in a bowl, pour boiling water over and leave for 5 minutes – drain, peel and halve. Put the onions in to a bowl with the chicken, celery, carrots, garlic, bay and thyme. Pour the wine over and make sure everything is coated. It’s best left over night but a minimum of 5 hours would be fine.

When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C (160C for fan.) Drain the chicken, reserving the wine (make sure you do this, I failed first time.) Toss the chicken in the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil and butter in a large casserole dish over a medium heat. When the butter is foaming, add the pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes until golden and then remove with a slotted spoon. Set the pancetta aside.

Add the chicken to the pan (try to get a single layer) and cook for 5 minutes turning occasionally until browned all over. Set aside.

Add the drained vegetables, herbs and mushrooms to the casserole dish. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the 1 tbsp of plain flour and cook for 30 seconds, gradually add the wine. Season and return the chicken and pancetta to the pan, bring to the boil. Cover and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy with a roaring fire, a large glass of red and friends.

Mmmmmm. I so want to make this one. I can see Friday food is not going to be good for my waistline. But every domestic goddess should have coq au vin under her belt, right?

Friday Food is another area of Florence Finds where we want you to get involved. Have you got a signature dish you would like to share? Your Grandmother’s Victoria sponge that has been passed down? Or a recipe from a book which you think warrants publicising?

Send your recipes (and pictures if you have them,) to hello@florencefinds.com and if Florence likes them, we’ll post ‘em!

Roll on Friday Frock O’clock,

Love,
Rebecca.
xo

Tights Please!

One of the requests I have received since Florence Finds launched was for a tights round up, which couldn’t really be any more up my street. I wear a lot of skirts and dresses, so tights in the winter are pretty much an essential and I have a range of coloured ones alongside my trusty black opaques.

I love pairing a grey dress with my fuschia pink tights or turquoise legs for a pop of colour – it never fails to cheer me up on a miserable day and there are loads of wintery ribbed or patterned numbers available – more so than ever this year I think.

I’ve also included some party numbers, a few more unusual pairs and some favourites of mine…

…walk this way(!)

*Row one: Cable Knit ochre tights – Topshop, Pumpkin (orange) ribbed knit tights – Topshop, Red lace tights, Topshop, Bottle Green tights, H&M.
Row two: Turquoise 120 Denier tights – Topshop,100 Denier Opaques (purple) M&S and Aubergine Cable Knit tights – Dorothy Perkins.

Feeling bold? Why not go for a pattern? I’m particularly loving the gold lurex stars from Henry Holland and the variety of polka dots on offer.


*Star Tights by Henry Holland – Topshop, Multispot tights (small dots) – Topshop and
Oversized Spot tights by Pamela Mann.

Seam back tights always look classy but you can have a little fun with them too – Pamela Mann’s ‘Love’ tights are definitely on my ‘want’ list…


*Bow Backseam tights, Red Heart seam tights and Love tights (Pamela Mann).

Looking for something different? The picture doesn’t do these tights justice but I love the multicoloured fleck in these black wool tights from Urban Outfitters. Embellishment doesn’t usually come cheap but these Limited tights are only £15, or why not go Rock’n'Roll with tattoo tights? (Usually not my thing at all but they look fabulous on!)

*Black with multi-coloured speckles – Urban Outfitters, Tattoo Tights – Topshop and Embellished (sequin back) tights – M&S Limited.

One of the best places to shop for tights is online… and hence the ‘Tights Please‘ title! Tights please are an online tights retailer and have literally every type of fancy-pants hosiery you could possibly imagine, for treats, every-day colours or just standout statement style. Go check ‘em out.

So let’s hear your thoughts… seen something you fancy here? Or are you already a tights convert?

Lots of warm-and-bright-legs-for-winter love,
Rebecca.
xo

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever…

So, it’s the cold season once again and everybody seems to be coughing and sneezing. I’m just recovering from a particularly nasty sore throat/cold and am still battling a cough which is driving me insane. I’m awful at being ill… being used to being full of energy and lucky enough to be in good health means that when I pick up a bug, I get so irritated by it.

Aside from being generally debilitated, unable to exercise and function properly at work, there’s the fact that everyone around you wants to give you a wide berth whilst telling you ‘You should see a Doctor,’ or ‘You shouldn’t be in the office,’ (with a sympathetic but disapproving nod of the head) – not helpful when of course you don’t want to be at work. But the worst part… knowing that you can’t do anything about it but wait for the virus to pass.

When I’m ill (and I use the term loosely!) I have a few childhood traditions that I like to uphold that I thought I would share this afternoon, in the hope that you guys will also share yours. I’m sure there’s something about the nostalgia of being looked after that evokes a feeling of well-being when you’re ensconced on the sofa with a blanket and your favourite film, even if you have to warm your own soup! So even though there’s nothing that actually will make you better, some of these little ideas at least make you feel better. :)

  • Egg-in-a-Cup: A definite childhood tradition for me, this involves having a soft boiled egg or two, with the shells removed, then chopped up with a knob of butter in a cup. Served with buttered toast soldiers, I think it’s the closest to heaven you’ll get with a bunged up nose :)
  • Hot honey and lemon: I used to have this with cordial in as a child, and still do sometimes. The idea was that the vitamin C in the lemon juice would do some good and the the restorative properties of honey too, but I’m sure the temperatures of the water kills any of that off. Either way, it smells good (if you can smell!) and soothes a sore throat whilst keeping you hydrated.
  • Olbas Oil and Dad’s hankies: My Dad always had a proper handkerchief. A fresh one every day and in an old fashioned way it still warms me when I see men with handkerchiefs – strictly for offering to a damsel in distress you understand, not emptying a nose into all day… that would be unhygienic to say the least! Sprinkled with a few drops of Olbas oil, and kept under your pillow or to hand throughout the day, it’s brilliant at clearing the nose.

Of course, as I’ve got older, I’ve learned a few tricks that are less nostalgia based, and more orientated at getting you through the day, when a duvet day is simply not an option…

  • Stock up on Cold and flu remedies… Don’t ever waste your money on Beechams or Night Nurse – buy supermarkets or Boots own brand cold and flu relief – they have exactly the same ingredients (including a bit of caffeine in the day tablets, omitted for the night time ones.) You’d be amazed what a difference it makes to getting through the day – stop ‘soldiering on’ and dose up instead!
  • Cough sweets. There’s absolutely no evidence they work… but I like them, particularly when you have that tickly throat that goes dry and causes a coughing fit – they help to keep it lubricated. The ones that have a menthol ingredient are brilliant for clearing your nose too :)
  • Balsam Tissues – again, it doesn’t have to be the brand names, I reckon the supermarkets own are just as good, but if you don’t want to end up looking like Rudolph with a flakey nose, then they are an essential, especially the handbag packets.
  • A good all round moisturiser… something that you can slather on your nose and will double as a lip balm, so when you finally recover, you’re still looking presentable! The gold standard for me is Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream, but I’d love to hear your favourites!

So this afternoon, I thought I’d ask you guys what your cold remedies are? Was there something different you always had as a child – or are they the same as mine? And what do you do if you have to have a duvet day? Is there a film you always get out that makes you feel better?

Let’s beat the cold season together!

Love,
Rebecca.
xo