Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Duck Egg Bookworm...

On the dining table amidst the rice cracker packets, tambourine, sippy cups and wires piled precariously high in the middle  out of the reach of unseeing hands desperate for a haul, is my brain. I am sure I left it here...somewhere. Throughout the day in the small snatches of down time I am trying to collect my thoughts for the website and often the afternoon walk is via the antiques shop for vintage finds for Duck Egg! My toddler is a willing companion, as long as the pram doesn't stop moving and we sing loudly to the smirks of teenagers and sympathetic looks of those who have been there and done it!! However, there is one 'me' thing that I don't do enough of and that is to read. I love reading, I loved studying and am complete and unashamed geek. My book choices were often the source of amusement amongst my school friends, who mean the world to me and I am so blessed to be in touch with so many, although they never let me forget the hoards of strange Russian novelists and wonderfully indulgent fin-de-siecle French literature that I had on my shelves in my teenage years. But reading nowadays takes staying power and it needs a specific slot or the washing up and general fire-fighting of our renovation takes over. (Scenes of a deluge last night when I decided to helpfully mend a leak and a toddler thinking all his Christmases had come at once!)

So for those of you who are interested Duck Egg is starting up a monthly readers' club. I am longing to join a book club, but at the moment hours are long and time is short! So in the comfort of your own home, we are going to suggest the book that we are reading each month and a few things to look for along the read! At the end of the month, we'll discuss it (We'd like your reviews!) and choose a new book (suggestions would be fabulous!) You can also tell us what you think via the comments at the bottom of the blog. Hopefully this will inspire us all!

Why?At the heart of Duck Egg is the community we belong to as an entrepreneur, working mummy and as much as possible ethically responsible citizen. So it seemed fun to extend the community further and the Duck Egg website will provide beautiful interiors pieces, but also a forum where we hope to build a community where you can exchange recipes, gardening tips, local fairs and a jolly, good read. We want Duck Egg to be an experience!

So in amongst those moments we never have,  here is our first Duck Egg ...

Book of the Month

The World's Wife- Carol Ann Duffy

I have known very little about our poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, I vaguely remember a London Underground poster with one of her poem's on a bleary late night tube home, but that was it. This book is extremely illuminating and there is something magical about a well-known story being told from another's angle. In the author's words it depicts our "cultural ancestry".

A few thoughts to follow throughout the poems...

  • Have a look at her themes, female responses and ideals, why does she choose who she does?
  • What are your views on her contemporary style and setting?
Join us on twitter @duck_egg and follow the bookclub news on (hashtag)duckeggbookclub

(Where is the hashtag on a macbook- hashtag fail...)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Vintage Gardening-Part II: The Scented Bower

So the garden has been cleared and the snow has finally melted and we are contemplating ordering our apple tree.  Ignoring the rather large mound of debris that was cleared from the ground and that looks ominously outside our dining room window, we are planning our planting in more detail. I know I want a wild area of herbs and wildflowers in front of the lawn that will frame our seating area, but I have another obsession. The science of scent. A science which indeed may drive some, like the unfortunate inhabitants of Grasse in 'Perfume' (Patrick Suskind) to great lengths.

My epiphany on the power of evocative smells reminds of a hot summer I spent backpacking around the Greek islands with friends. It was a summer of blue skies, turquoise sea, beautiful beaches and monasteries clinging to mountain sides. It was idyllic, the worst thing we worried about was where the ferry was to take us to the nearest beach. We did stay in some interesting places, and I think the energy of youth perhaps lent us a rose-tinted view, but we spent all day on the beach and returned with warm skin and damp hair before heading out for sunset. Amongst these islands we visited Paros, which is rather favoured by artists. How glorious to live and paint here. It is the island on the east, which is the first stop from the Athenian port of Piraeus. A barren island at first that gives way to  stretches of windswept golden sands. We stayed in a flat, where the odd cockroach congregrated, but we had a small porch with bouganvillia climbing the pillars. On our first evening we were exploring the lively capital of the island which shrugged off it's daytime sleepy stupor and there were markets and shops and bright lights shimmering on the sea front. One of my most enduring memories is from a chance encounter where the four of us were swept with a crowd of tourists into the balmy high-walled courtyard that was a world away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. Suddenly around the corner a beautiful Orthodox church facade rose with majestic arches and in the evening heat the garden was filled with the heady scent of jasmine. Scents are so evocative and as soon as I smell jasmine I am transported to a beautiful evening in Greece, standing in the peace of the courtyard looking at the stars in an inky sky.

(The C4th AD church in Paros http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panagia_Ekatontapiliani)

So I know my first and most important scent that I'll include in huge pot loads is jasmine. It also has a lovely vintage feel to it if included in flower arrangements! So here are a few more scented plants to create a year round old-fashioned scented bower, perfect for trysts and wistful wanderings, whatever your space. (Climbers and bedding plants)

Roses are the quintessential element for a timeless scent, here are our favourite varieties. You could have both a shrub and a climber for big impact of fluffy petals, or you might want to have climbing flowers of a different variety such as a jasmine or rich fragrant honeysuckle.

David Austin is a good first port of call and their 'Scepter'd Isle' or 'Gertrude Jekyll' delivers a soft pink rose worthy of a Burne-Jones painting and a knock out scent punctuated by myrrh.

In your bower you might want to include a few pots bursting with scented blooms, we recommend the delicate scents of a tobacco plant, Nicotiana sylvestris.

Flowering shrubs for winter to keep your arbour smelling beautifully might include the bush honeysuckle or Daphne bholua for sweet winter scent.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Your wall/Your canvas

With half term upon us it got me thinking about things to do out and about in the UK. We have some really spectacular places to visit and especially some pretty amazing inspirational interiors. After spending time in Italy I have a love and appreciation for integral wall art, and I definitely think it is making a comeback in the modern home. Maybe not in the traditional trompe l'oeil way but the popularity of stencilling and personalised quotes stencilled or stuck to the wall and the popularity of nursery murals indicates a shift in interior trends towards the decorate importance of the wall as a canvas. Needing some inspiration we really recommend a trip to Sandham Memorial Chapel with the exquisite and heartbreaking clarity of Stanley Spencer's frescoes. (Open in April, see the website) An artist not largely acknowledged in the British canon of art, the 'naive' quality of his art is oozing with spirituality. This is a chapel that carries on the ancient tradition of murals and frescoes in sacred spaces; there is something medieval and, at the same time, starkly modern about his work. In the wake of the acclaimed adaptation of Birdsong this is a topical and poignant place to visit, as well as providing a unique look at interior decoration.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Vintage cleaning or How to keep 'people' out your drawers and other matters of cleanliness...

Sorry about the rather absurd pun, but I had to do it. It is a true story. First thing this morning while trying to wrestle my wild mass of hair after the shower, which is still heavy with paint from my furniture restoration, and put on socks and jumpers at the same time to avoid the cold; I opened my underwear drawer...and a moth flew out. The cheek of it! It can keep the metaphor and the holes I imagine it might like to reap. It spurred me into action. I have Napisan-ed (love it- a very dear friend recommended it and I have never looked back) everything has been washed to avoid the larvae.

How to stop them coming back? We live in an old house and as previously mentioned, it is certainly a work in progress therefore there is heaps of dust. So I am war with the little people nesting in my sock drawer and I done some research on how to combat these beasties in natural way, one that does not involve something that little hands are inevitable drawn towards finding and consuming...these are a few ideas on how to avoid more chemicals around the home and more importantly save some precious time! As I reach for my marigolds I feel a 1950s Mad Men moment coming on (an extremely rare moment for my long-suffering husband!)

She seems to have tried quite a few products and one that looks suspiciously like a can of oil...Anyway here are the Duck Egg natural home cleaning solutions!

For Moths
Cedar wood can really help and you can easily find cedar balls across the internet. If you have a few moments you can even make these repellants more appealing...A lavender bag in subtle duck egg ticking fabric won't be an unwanted item in your drawers! You can also add a ribbon so it can hang in your wardrobe. Cut out two identical heart shapes from your chosen fabric and sew around the outer edge. Leave a hole for the dried lavender- available widely across the web and pour in through a makeshift paper funnel. Stitch up the heart and there you have it! Dried mint also seemed popular on our internet research so add a few dried leaves to your mixture for extra punch! There were also mentions of cloves and rosemary.  Sadly ironing helps kill the larvae too, but since that is my least favourite chore I'd rather make lavender bags!

There are some brilliant websites with lengthy descriptions of how to tackle individual problems, but there seem to be a few staples for cleaning that reoccur again and again.
Vinegar- a natural disinfectant and deodoriser. (I also use it to descale the baby bottle steriliser!)
Lemon juice has a variety of cleaning purposes, but when it's combined with baking soda it works as well as an abrasive cleanser without the chemicals. I love these ideas, it feels so 'vintage'! Baking soda is also a great deodoriser and it is working its magic right now in our fridge after a very fragant cheese from the farmer's market made itself very much at home! There are so many recipes out there for a greener home and I hope we have inspired you to have a look for some, I loved an article I found at one point called 50 uses for vinegar! There are also some wonderful more elaborate uses for herbs.

So here is to a house smelling of lemons and even if its cold and cloudy outside, there will be Sicillian sunshine in your home!

PS If you find cleaning isn't your thing you can always make a mean lemon drizzle cake fom the leftovers!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

How to make a 'space' a home

I am really interested in how spaces can become homes or more specifically homely. We have recently moved and started renovating a 'project' Victorian cottage. However, I have found it's the smallest things that seem to make the differences, for example our vintage duck egg blue and white striped curtains that I made last weekend. (I made them too short and have an interesting ruched arrangement at the top to disguise this!) I made them without linings so the light still shines through but our modesty is preserved. The window is resolutely chilly whatever the weather but somehow these flimsy curtains are so evocative, that it got me thinking, at 1 am one chilly visit to the bathroom.
What is it that makes any space a home?

Some of my fondest memories are from my time spent on my grandparents' farm. The seasons were so obvious when each summer holiday we made the long drive to the farm from London. The summers were hot and peppered by highlights such as tea in the harvest field, tennis in the garden and, having once navigated the netting, finally picking juicy raspberries as the sunlight danced through the canes. These were  special carefree times where we were allowed to wander from dawn until the dusky sunsets,  only deigning to show our grubby faces at meal times (always of spectacular fare)! We shared rooms with cousins and chatted until a grumpy adult told us, in no uncertain terms, to put a sock in it! Our sanctity from the regulations of grown ups was a beautiful wendy house on a island in the duck pond.

 It was a play house of such proportions that there were actually stairs and two floors. I dreaded growing each year, as each year threatened to send us through the ceiling like Alice. It was a stately wooden house, built with such love for us all. There was  a bunk upstairs and the previous generation had even slept there. A small kitchen with a table and chairs were downstairs and the view out from the small window was out over the pond shrouded by weeping willows. Every spring the island came alive with primroses and we picked them and placed them in fusty jam jars which were also useful to catching wasps, of which I have always had an inordinate fear! It was always my favourite place as the sun grew dim to sit on the stairs and watch the light on the eye watering patterns of the miniature curtains and the fading cheery wallpaper. This was a space that belonged to everybody but one we called home.

So now with a shed that is under attack with 'bay tree' coloured paint and already festooned with heart wreaths, I am thinking about making a 'shed' a home. It seems nostalgia has a lot to do with making somewhere homely. It doesn't have to cost a lot. Vintage fabrics, remnants or a dress that is too pretty to lose but too small to ever fit (post pregnancy sadly!) are all useful in making beautiful bunting. Cut triangles with pinking shears and sew onto lengths of ribbon or grosgrain. This will cheer your space. If you have the time then painting walls always adds a new dimension. Choose a soothing colour for reflective spaces or a bright aquamarine for creative and energetic spaces. Finally dig out that old jam jar, dust and all and place some wild flowers in it.