Thursday, 23 February 2017




A NEW SIMPLE PLEASURE....

Anyone who read my post on 'Beating the January Blues' may recall me mentioning that I was keen to take up a couple of new creative hobbies at the start of this year, and one of those was candle making?  Well, I'm pleased to say that I have tried it, I have REALLY enjoyed it, and I don't think that after my fourth batch, it is going to be one of those passing fads (unlike other whims in the past!?)

It is my new 'Simple Pleasure'...




We all love candles don't we?  A simple pleasure, and yet the power of even a few tea lights has the ability to transform a room from soulless to warm, inviting and calming.

Growing up in the 70's here in England, with a Scandinavian mother, I grew up with lit candles being a big part of every day.  Candles were always lit at the table, even at breakfast on a school day, and this must have subconsciously instilled in me that need for a calm and special start to the day, whatever it held.  It always surprised me to learn at the time that most other people only used candles on 'high days and holidays' or a special meal, or otherwise as a practicality in the frequent power cuts in the 70's!  This was quite a foreign concept in our 'Swenglish' family home.

Then of course, the candle love spread in this country and steadily grew over time, to be the huge business that it is today!

Qualities as we know vary enormously.  From the cheap, overpoweringly scented variety (not to be touched in my opinion!) through to the beautiful quality of candles such as Diptique, Cire Trudon and Jo Malone which are just a few of my favourites.  They may cost more than cheaper versions, but their burn time and quality of scent make it so worth it.

Putting these above lovelies on one side, I have been keen for some time to try to recreate some of their lovely quality in my own home made candles.  So, after quite a bit of research, a bit of 'candle supplies' shopping and finding myself with a nice clear Saturday morning, my new little project began.  

Firstly, my research taught me the difference between different wax qualities.  I decided on a natural soya wax as opposed to a cheaper petroleum based wax.  Soya does not emit carbon so therefore much healthier for us in our homes, as well as for the environment.  It came in flake form which was easy to handle and use.




Then I chose which fragrance to use.  Wanting to make a top quality product, I chose pure essential oils for my candles.  I made half of them using Grapefruit and the other with Peppermint, both uplifting fresh scents and especially nice in a kitchen or bathroom.  I have since experimented with a gorgeous mix of 'Lavender, Chamomile and Vanilla' which is especially lovely in a bedroom and also 'Lime, Basil and Mandarin' which seems to appeal to most people and is so fresh and invigorating.




The wax was then heated in a double boiler.  I used a large jug that I bought especially for this purpose and stood this to melt in a large pan of boiling water.  When completely melted, the wax was allowed to cool very slightly before adding my chosen essential oils.  It is hard to say how much one needs, and advice varies, but experimenting and using you nose helps!  A good few shakes for a volume this size did the trick, and made the kitchen smell amazing!




Wicks with attached metal discs are the easy option (as opposed to long lengths of wick on rolls which you assemble yourself) and these were attached to my chosen candle jars with little glue dots especially for this purpose.  They come in different lengths, so choose the right length for the size of container you are using.  Choosing the containers is the really fun part.  Virtually any heatproof container can be made in to a candle.  I bought a variety of sizes of glass container, my favourite being these goreous larger ones which take three wicks.

Making sure the wicks were securely stuck to the base of the candle jar, I gently poured the melted wax in.  Kebab sticks or something similar can be used, to keep the wicks upright while the wax is hardening.  You will be able to remove these after about an hour.  Then let the wax fully harden for 24 hours.




Lovely silver, gold and bronze lids are not necessary, but complete the look of the finished candle, and protect it from dust when not in use.




I am so enjoying giving these away as gifts....as well as enjoying burning a number of them around the house too.




Many of you will know this already, but it is very important to burn any candle long enough for the first time, for the entire surface to pool with wax.  This helps the candle to burn evenly and to avoid 'tunneling' around the wick.

The Soya wax burns beautifully, and without any sooty vapour that cheaper alternatives create.  

The pure essential oils also smell wonderful! 




In all, a very satisfying new creative hobbie which I shall certainly be continuing.  I am looking forward to experimenting with new containers and scents and look forward to sharing those with you in the future.

If you have been inspired to have a go at making your own candles, then there are many candle material suppliers out there.  I found these two to be very helpful for both their supplies and advice:

Supplies4candles (click for link)

Candle Shack (click for link)


***

Wishing you a very happy end to the week,

Sophia xx


Tuesday, 14 February 2017


 PUPPY LOVE...








Any of you who have been following my Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle over the last week will know that our new little member of the family has arrived!  A special early Valentine's present to me from Mr. W which has caused great excitement in the 'Sophia Home' household!





I collected 'Delilah' our nine week old miniature smooth haired Dachshund last Friday,  just in time for the weekend, with all our brood home (often difficult to engineer at times, but funnily enough it happened this weekend?!) 






After a bit of a cry from her basket going down the motorway, she then fell in to a deep sleep.  Think it must have been the soothing tones of the satnav woman's voice that lulled her in to slumber!






Cuddles on tap once home...



...but unsurprisingly, not from our other two dogs!
Rocco appears to be laughing and playing with her in this picture, but trust me, that didn't last for long!





Decidedly unimpressed, once they realised that this little bundle of fun was here to stay, Rocco our Lab and Kiki our Cockerspaniel decamped down to the other end of the house...Delilah jumping in their bed did not go down that well!



 Poor little thing....she is trying SO hard to be friends!  I think it is going to take some time before these two old pensioners are going to accept her.  Early days!





She's a confident little thing, and unbelievably affectionate.  She also seems to have a love of 'Netflix'....or is it a nice excuse for a cuddle with new big bro?





Today the sun came out, and it was time to explore the garden for the first time.  No walks out in public yet for Delilah, until she has had her final vaccinations in a couple of weeks....





...but hitching a ride around the fields on the morning walk gets her out safely for now...and certainly all that fresh air makes her sleep well!






It's been a full on week with tackling the house training, and having to be ever vigilant and keeping the peace between this little monkey and her pensioner canine friends, but I have to say I think we are getting somewhere....all be it slowly!  She really is proving to be a very sweet and loving little dog, with such a lovely nature as well as being rather brave and feisty.

We are all most definitely smitten!

***

Wishing you all a happy rest of the week...

Sophia xx

Monday, 23 January 2017

BANISH THOSE JANUARY WINTER BLUES...


January for many, can be the most depressing month of the year.  After the excitement of Christmas and New year, January can be a bit of a let down...back to work for most, short daylight hours, usually cold and damp, recovering from the expense of Christmas, along with any new diet  and non drinking resolutions?  
Not great really!

IMAGE CREDIT: PINTEREST

Now I'm no psychologist, and true depression is a different matter which needs to be treated properly and professionally, but if you are just struggling a little with these early weeks of the year, then I do believe a different mindset and a few little tweaks and above all, being kind to oneself, can make all the difference.  


It is our homes, more than ever at this time of year, that are so important.  For me, the organised running of and relaxed and happy atmosphere in our home is of paramount importance to me.  It is something I strive to create for myself and my family and visiting friends every day.  Not just a roof over our heads, our homes should be a complete sanctuary. A place to feel totally safe and relaxed, to switch off from the outside world, as well as an inspiring and happy place to be.  

Why not take advantage of being inside more at this time of year?  I know that once the warmer weather is here, I shall be spending far more time outside and concentrating on our garden, so here are a few simple things that I like to do at home in January, to keep things upbeat:


  Have a good clear out!
Even the most 'neat freakish' amongst us will probably benefit from a bit of a clear out?  We all know our weak points...whether it's wardrobes, kitchen cupboards, or the cupboard under the stairs, we can all benefit from a bit of a clutter clear!

Clothes to begin with...you know the rule, apart from only a few special exceptions, if you haven't worn it for a year then you probably won't again, so either donate, sell or bin it!  As I get older, I am more sure of my own sense of style and am pleased to say, rarely feel that I make a disastrous purchase.  Quality over quantity becomes more important, and I like to wear and enjoy what I have and not just look at it in the wardrobe!  Over time, I am purging far less things on my annual wardrobe sort out, which is a good feeling.  It's amazingly energising to get this done, and to open your wardrobe and know that you love everything in it, and it fits and suits you, and the life you are living.


My second big sort out after the long Christmas/new year break is the fridge and larder. If you are on a bit of a new year health kick this is a must...leftover 'naughties' can go!  Out of date items are binned and stocks replenished.  This helps me think straight and start planning some new fresh recipe inspiration.  


Cook something delicious:

I'm not one for fad diets and strict regimes, believing instead that by just cooking with good healthy, wholesome, organic (wherever possible) ingredients from scratch, (no labels!) combined with plenty of exercise is the answer.  January especially really is not the time for deprivation, so 'moderation'  in my book is a far gentler and kinder option!  There are plenty of delicious, comforting yet healthy things to cook.  An hour or so in the kitchen trying something new can be fun and relaxing, given the time, and I am especially enjoying trying some new recipes this month.  

One particular inspiration is in Mimi Thorisson's beautiful book 'A Kitchen in France'  (click for link) which many of you will know and love.  My youngest son gave me this gorgeous book for Christmas, and being a fan of delicious, simple, french country cooking, I am so enjoying creating some of her mouthwatering recipes.   The whole roast chicken cooked in creme fraîche and herbs will leave you never wanting to roast a chicken again in any other way!





Next on my wishlist is her latest book 'French Country Cooking: Meals and Moments from a village in the Vineyards' (click for link), which like her first book, promises to be just as lovely, with stunning photography too.



Flowers and bulbs:

Fresh flowers in the house has to be one of life's simple pleasures, and one of the most inexpensive and easiest ways to light up a room and give days of enjoyment.   It doesn't have to be elaborate, just a small bunch from the supermarket, costing a couple of pounds can make all the difference.  All my indoor Christmas Hyacinths have finished flowering now, so new ones are called for, along with mini narcissi baskets from our Friday flower market which will have us optimistic and dreaming of Spring, which really is only just around the corner!




Pamper:

Who doesn't love a long, hot soak in the bath?  
Jo Malone's beautiful bath oils are my big indulgence, turning bathtime in to a real treat.  So many gorgeous fragrances, but I'm so loving the Red roses oil, and indulgent body cream at the moment.  



 It certainly makes winter pampering extra special. The scent is heavenly and it leaves the bathroom smelling amazing!  


BATHROOM: SOPHIA HOME





 Candles:

Year round, candles are essential aren't they?  Don't just save them to the evening.  A beautiful scented candle burning on the kitchen side or on my desk during the day, certainly lifts my spirits. 

My favourite scents at this time of year are fresh, clean zesty fragrances, and the recent 'Lime and Bay' addition from 'The White Company' is so uplifting....







Take up a new hobby:


New year....new interests?  
I decided that I wanted to try my hand at a couple of new skills this new year, and have taken up embroidery and candle making.  Early days with the embroidery, but the candle making so far has been so much fun and could become a little addictive?  I shall report back on both soon!
Have you taken up any new hobbies?  I would love to hear.



Hygge:

Unless any of you have been living in a cave for the last few months, you will not have missed the 'Hygge' trend taking the world by storm? Scandinavians have been naturally practising 'Hygge' (pronounces 'hoo-ga') for ever, and this appreciation of cosiness, kinship and appreciation of the simple pleasures in life, whether in quiet conviviality around the fire indoors, or out enjoying nature, has obviously contributed to the Nordic countries being rated as amongst the happiest nations.  If you need a little inspiration, then I can highly recommend Signe Johansen's lovely recent book 'How to Hygge' (click for link) which includes some delicious recipes too.






So let's try to embrace these darker months before the Spring arrives and turn to our homes to enjoy this precious time...it certainly looks like Kiki my Cockerspaniel has got it all worked out?  



PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME



Wishing you all a very happy week...

Sophia xx

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


PUPPY LOVE...


Happy Tuesday everyone, and I hope your week is going well?

Firstly I have to say that today's little post comes with a warning....it contains rather an overdose of doggie cuteness!

ALL PHOTOS: SOPHIA HOME


Followers of this blog, will know that there are two important members of our household, namely Rocco our 14.5 year old Labrador and Kiki our 13 year old Cocker Spaniel.  Both quite elderly now, but pleased to say, still in reasonably good health and enjoying life.


We have been toying with the idea of getting a new little addition to our canine family for a while, and somehow now seems the right time.  Quite what our doggie pensioners will think of a puppy in the house, well who knows?  Hopefully after the initial shock, they will grow to love her? Fingers crossed!
A miniature smooth haired Dachsund was our choice.  Small, manageable and loyal with big personalities and the energy to enjoy long walks in the countryside seemed the perfect characteristics. Stubborn with training also cropped up...but ask me again in a few weeks!  

What we hadn't appreciated, was just how fashionable these little dogs are, and a combination of being very particular on breeder and litter, proved an intensive search and we had to be vigilant to available puppies being advertised. The Kennel Club came up trumps though, and I would recommend to anyone, to always go down this route when choosing a pedigree puppy.


ALL PHOTOS: SOPHIA HOME


So here is where our search took us....to these gorgeous little bundles of joy.  Two chocolate and tan girls and three black and tan boys, just five weeks old.  I think you can tell that daughter Georgie and I were fairly besotted to say the least!







We were particularly impressed with 'Mum' Rosie...such a sweet, friendly temperament and she seemed only too happy to show off her beautiful babies to us.  This along with the background and conscientiousness of the lovely breeder Lyndsey,  made us all the more happy about this particular litter.  All very important factors to take in to account when choosing a new puppy.


What wasn't quite so easy, was actually choosing which puppy?
  Quite honestly, we could have very happily taken them all home with us!








Here she is though....this is little 'Delilah', who will be coming home to live with us in just three weeks time.   



Such a sweetie, and we can hardly wait to welcome her.  No doubt you will be seeing plenty of her in the future!

***


Have a lovely rest of the week...

Sophia xx

Friday, 13 January 2017

SNOW CALLS FOR SOUP...


MORNING VIEW - PHOTO 'SOPHIA HOME'



What is it about even the slightest sprinkling of snow, to bring out the child in us?  It was with much excitement that I opened the shutters this morning, to see a light dusting of snow covering the garden and fields beyond.  Mr. W was less impressed with the thought of possible disrupted trains to London, but for a home based designer and blogger like myself, a day working at home was going to only be enhanced by being surrounded by this pretty winter wonderland.


KITCHEN GARDEN - PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


My poor kitchen garden and greenhouse looked a little cold and sad this morning, and it is hard to believe that in just a few weeks, it will be all go in here with much preparation and planting to do.  

However, look a little closer and there is life in here!  We have leeks and kale to enjoy at the moment, and these beautiful 'Marveille de quatre saisons' lettuce.  Whether the latter will stand up to this snow and cold temperatures I'm not sure, but they are incredibly hardy and as their name suggests, they really are a marvel to grow all year round!



PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME




Another great success this year has been growing Brussel Sprouts, which is encouraging as it is the first time I have grown them. Love them or hate them?  Personally I love them!  If you are not so keen, just try and think of them as 'mini cabbages' and roast them or stir fry them with bacon or chorizo and maybe chestnuts or pine nuts.....a complete revelation! 


PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Like a number of winter vegetables, sprouts benefit from a cold snap and this brings out their sweet nuttiness beautifully.  



PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Followers of my instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will know that last week I tested out a delicious recipe for 'Brussel Sprout, chorizo and chestnut soup' which I can confirm was SO delicious!  It is the perfect winter warmer, and bar the small amount of chorizo (an essential addition!) which adds a wonderful rich and spicy kick, it is super healthy and perfect for all those good intentions for the new year.                                                                                                                                                                                                 




PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Sadly I forgot to take a photo of the end result, but trust me, it's delicious, so do try it!


INGREDIENTS:

400g Brussel sprouts, trimmed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 bay leaf
100-150g cooking chorizo chopped
1 tsp group cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
Leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, in two equal piles
2 large tomatoes or 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
500g cooked peeled chestnuts, vacuum-packed 
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


METHOD:

Separate the sprouts into two equal piles.  Cut one portion into halves and finely shred the other and keep separate.

In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the onion and carrots until they start to brown.  Add the bay leaf and chorizo and continue frying for another few minutes.

Now add the halved sprouts, the cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, rosemary and half the garlic and stir for another minute.  Next add the tomato, chestnuts and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Use a hand blender or food processor to blitz the soup but don't make it too smooth - some texture is good.  Reheat in the pan, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  When the oil is hot, throw in the remaining garlic and the shredded sprouts and stir fry for a minute or two until the sprouts are just tender and bright green.

Stir through the soup just before serving, saving a spoonful to garnish each bowl.


****


Bon appétit!





With more snow forecast, do stay safe and warm.   I have a new delivery of seed catalogues, and shall be doing just that, and dreaming and planning for Spring, which really is not too far away.

Happy Friday!

Sophia xx

Thursday, 29 December 2016


A LOVELY POST CHRISTMAS LULL....




I am writing this last blog post of 2016, in the lovely post Christmas lull before the New Year weekend.  Christmas has been a very happy time, with all our brood home for some, if not all of these days, and the house has been filled with music, laughter and fun.  




These few in between days have always been my favourite.  A nice mix of seeing friends with their families, easy meals with the delicious leftovers, plenty of walks in the fresh air, and time to just kick back with good books and films.




This is also a time to reflect on the past year, and to plan projects for the new year to come.  I have much that I want to share with you all in 2017, and along with my design work, I plan to spend more time working on the blog.  It has been a little neglected, particularly due to our travels (Thailand post coming soon!) so watch this space!









I do hope you have all had a very happy Christmas, and that you too are enjoying the last few days of 2016?





So from my home to yours, may I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year, and thank you so much for reading 'Sophia Home'.





With love,
Sophia xxx