Monday, 25 January 2016


Monday morning started well, with the postman delivering a little surprise gift!

As a thank you from the team at Sarah Raven, for my contributing guest blogger posts for their main website blog 'Garlic and Sapphire', I received this rather lovely 'Flower Vase Set'....

A sweet lilac glass vase, with a packet of Calendula gorgeous will these vibrant orange beauties look when grown, and placed inside.  Two colours from opposite ends of the colour wheel that work so well....

Not just decorative, Calendula (or commonly known as 'Pot Marigold') have been used traditionally as both culinary and medicinal herbs. The petals are edible and can be used fresh in salads or dried and used to colour cheese or as a replacement for saffron.  

Calendula oil is used medicinally as an anti- inflammatory and a remedy for healing wounds, claiming to have antiviral properties too.  

It is for salads that I like to grow Calendula, along with an assortment of other edible flowers such as Nasturtiums, Pansies, Borage and Violas....there is nothing like a pretty pop of colour, to brighten a large mixed bowl of leaves....we eat with our eyes after all!

A wonderful source for both growing and cooking with edible flowers, is in this beautiful book written by Kathy Brown which I came across last summer at the 'Chelsea Physic Garden'.  With over 400 gorgeous photographs, and many projects, tips and recipes, it is a wonderful source of inspiration for both gardener and cook...

Do any of you like to grow or use edible flowers?
If you have any favourites or tips, I would love to hear from you......

Roll on Spring....I can hardly wait!


Sophia xx

Friday, 22 January 2016


What glorious weather we have had over the last few days!  Cold admittedly, but with beautiful blue  skies and wall to wall sunshine, it has been absolutely stunning here in Kent. 

My daily dog walk has brought me home most days with a detour in to the kitchen garden for some pickings of the few winter veg I have this year....chard, spinach, kale, carrots, leeks and celeriac, and I have found myself daydreaming of Spring and this year's plans for hopefully an abundance of produce....

Daydreaming is no good though!

It happens each year at this time...I get lulled in to a false sense of security thinking 'it's winter' and 'I've got lazy weeks stretching out ahead of me'.....time for a reality check though and to start planning and thinking about all those jobs that need doing!

There is the greenhouse to clean and disinfect...

Raised beds and this pergola to mend...

 ...and the back breaking but oh so worth while task of spreading barrow loads of manure on all the beds.  (Perhaps I can sweet talk Mr. W in to that one?!)

Eighteen months ago we planted these tiny Portuguese Laurel trees in four small raised beds.  They were just wispy leftover hedging plants, but having already taken on some vigorous growth and by removing the lower branches, we are nurturing them in to 'standards' which will hopefully be spectacular 'lollypop' shaped trees in a few years time?  Worth a try!

I am not renowned for my patience when it comes to 'creating', but while creating this large garden and also keeping an eye on the budget, I have gradually learnt that it is well worth the wait for the rewards!  Smaller trees and hedging plants end up stronger in the long run and it is also so satisfying to nurture something so small in to something special.

Rhubarb is being forced under the terracotta forcer.  Not long now until those first precious and delicious stems...

Now for that planning.....the fun of choosing seeds, both new and heritage varieties is always exciting.  As mentioned before here, each year I vow to grow less but end up growing enough to feed the whole of Kent, but it is always so lovely to share with friends and family and I may look out for a good cause too to donate both seedlings and vegetables this year.   

Thankfully the choosing and ordering can all be done from the warmth and comfort of indoors!

  Keen veg gardeners out there, what are you planning to grow this year?  Are there any unusual or particularly successful crops or varieties that you can recommend?  

I would love to hear...

Happy garden planning!

Sophia xx

Thursday, 21 January 2016



One of my all time classic window treatments has to be 'Plantation Shutters'.  There are of course many very beautiful fabrics, and these I am surrounded by on my client interior projects, but with the exception of enjoying these in a few rooms in our home, and using them on cushions and accessories, it is shutters for the windows, that I have chosen here at home.

Having designed and built a white weather boarded barn style home, which satisfied our love of the 'New England' and 'Kentish' look perfectly, shutters blended in well with the overall design look.

Shutters are also an ideal treatment for those awkward shaped windows.  Above you can see that they were the perfect solution for our oversized main window/french doors and tall corner windows in our master bedroom.....

My desk area in the kitchen is a beautiful sunny spot to sit and work, but so often the light can be blinding for computer work, and so again shutters were the answer, as I can tilt them to adjust the glare and still enjoy the light.

Another double height window on the staircase...curtains would have looked wrong...and large shutter slats allow us to still see the beautiful view to open countryside beyond when tilted open.

Here they have been cleverly shaped in the top right hand corner to accommodate the curved oak beam in the guest bathroom...

The kitchen too has been given the 'shutter' treatment... again wider slats have been used to take in our views in the daytime when open.

Are any of you a fan of shutters?  I would love to hear....

Thank you Jane of Shutter Frontier for the beautiful shutters....there are more on my wishlist for the coming year as you know!


Wishing you a happy Thursday evening....followers of my Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will know that tomorrow I shall be sharing my thoughts and plans for the 'Spring Kitchen Garden' so do join me!

Sophia xx

Tuesday, 19 January 2016



For the perfect Saturday night dinner recipe, mix a handful of great friends, some delicious fresh ingredients, some great wines, and your very own chef to prepare a fabulous five course tasting menu, and you have the makings of a great evening!


The Rosemary Shrager Cookery School is where we found ourselves on Saturday night, to celebrate a good friend's birthday....and what a treat it was!

Set up by TV chef and renowned cookery teacher and writer Rosemary Shrager in the beautiful historic Georgian setting of The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, the state of the art school runs a variety of exciting and innovative cookery classes for both novice and budding chefs alike.   On Friday and Saturday evenings, head chef Iain More hosts the fabulous 'Chef's Table', preparing an exclusive and delicious five course tasting menu for parties up to 10 people.

Sitting around the home style kitchen area, one delicious course after the other was prepared before our eyes, with a chance to chat to Iain about the wonderful dishes and ingredients whilst socialising and having fun with friends.  

Sadly I didn't photograph every course, as you guessed it, too busy eating!  Above is the delicious Smoked Duck dish to start, and a glance at the menu below, showcases the innovative and successful flavour combinations used.  I had never had 'smoked mashed potato' before, and can now say that normal mash just won't be good enough from now on....

  As for the 'Dark Chocolate Delice'? 
Well, say no more!

With day time courses covering an exciting array of culinary skills....mediterranean, asian, indian, game and canap├ęs and many more, I am very tempted to book myself in for some new inspiration this year!

Wishing you all a happy Tuesday....

Sophia xx

For more information, click on this link to the Rosemary Shrager Cookery School

Monday, 11 January 2016


As a lover of healthy eating, preferably local, ideally home grown and organic wherever possible, I am always on the look out for new and inspiring recipes to try.  In January, like many of us, I also try that little bit harder to pack in as much goodness to guard against winter colds and energise this often rather flat time of the year.

While reading the Saturday Telegraph magazine at the weekend, I was drawn to a book recommendation....'Spice yourself Slim' by Kalpna Woolf.  Being a lover of spicy food, this immediately caught my attention.   Adding zero calories to a meal, spices add great flavour and interest to so many dishes, and elevate simple, healthy ingredients to a whole new level.

The health giving properties of spices is also a subject that I find fascinating, and 'Woolf' particularly advocates the power of Turmeric, Cloves, Cumin, Cinnamon and Fennel seeds. With claims that certain spices can help guard against many cancers and even dementia, I for one shall be including them as often as I can in to the food we cook and eat at home!

Followers of my Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will have seen me share yesterday morning, this picture above, of the smoothie I made from the book, and at the request of many of you, here is the recipe...

"Super-boosted turmeric and black pepper smoothie"

1 tbsp coconut oil
1tsp ground turmeric
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 avocado, peeled and stoned
75g blueberries
handful of kale, chopped
200ml coconut or almond milk
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, mix the coconut oil and turmeric to make a paste.  Add it to the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

If you are not used to Turmeric, this supercharged healthy spice can taste a little 'earthy' to begin with, but you soon get accustomed to it!

I described this as 'strangely delicious' and shall certainly be making it give it a try and let me know what you think?

Wishing you all a happy and healthy start to the week!

Sophia xx

Friday, 8 January 2016


I recently heard on the radio, that the majority of people just don't send hand written thank you letters anymore, indeed any hand written notes at all. With the ease of technology, to send a quick email or text seems to be the norm these days.....and even that isn't a given!


 Call me old fashioned, but I find this very sad indeed.  I am the first to love the ease of text and email for communication, but when it comes to those special 'thank you's', putting pen to paper is the little extra effort that makes all the difference. 

For those of you who still write and love to receive a hand written note, I am sure you empathise.  When a host or hostess has gone to the trouble to prepare a wonderful meal or party, or a birthday or Christmas gift has been carefully chosen, a little note of appreciation goes a very long way don't you think? 

I am pleased to say that I enjoy receiving wonderful thank you notes from most of my friends, and heartened to see that after years of instilling this discipline in my children when they were younger, has left them as young adults automatically sending a card of thanks for any special hospitality or gift.  
So, the art of the thank you letter isn't quite dead!

If you are a stationery lover like me, who can resist a gorgeously designed note card.  This lovely 'Merci' design above is my current favourite in my on hand stash of cards to send....

Where do you stand on this matter?  Do you love to write and appreciate receiving a hand written note? I would so love to hear! 

Wishing you all a very happy, fun and relaxing weekend, whatever you have planned.  

Sophia xx 

PS. Hello and thank you so much to all new 'Instagram' followers....if you do not already, you can follow 'Sophia Home' at @sophiahomelifestyle or through the live Instagram link at the top of the blog! xx

Thursday, 31 December 2015



Sophia xxx