Tuesday, 26 August 2014



If you have a special family celebration….what do you consider to be the vital ingredients for that perfect celebration recipe?

Wanting to keep his BIG birthday fairly 'low key', we gave Mr. SH an intimate lunch here at home this weekend, with immediate family and a few close dear friends….it was a very happy day!

With his love for his garden being the theme of the special lunch, the table was set….

….with vintage small 'tom pots' filled with herbs and flowers and 'named' slate seed markers…

Canapés were lovingly made by our daughter, who just happens to work as a private chef (always handy!)….delicious asian crab on watermelon, topped with an edible viola….

Gaspacho 'shots' with spicy butternut squash, chicken, carrot and guacamole tacos…

 Lime and coriander poppadoms filled with the most mouth watering pear, cashew, mint and coriander spicy filling….

With my own input of making slow cooked loin of pork, with salads from the garden….and with dessert, birthday cake and cheeseboard to follow, we did not go hungry!

How were we to work off all that feasting?

By christening the new 'Pétanque' (Boules) pitch that my husband and youngest son have recently enjoyed building together….

So back to those ingredients for the perfect celebration recipe?  

Good friends
Good food
Good wine
Good fun!


Wishing you a very happy week ahead!

Sophia xx

Thursday, 21 August 2014


On a daily basis, I like to feel inspired!
Inspired in particular by something beautiful….whether through my design work, creating beautiful schemes that match my clients' needs and taste….through to something as simple as appreciating beauty in the nature that surrounds me when I walk my dogs each day.  It could be a beautiful basket of vegetables freshly picked from the garden, through  to a simple but beautiful table setting for an everyday but deliciously cooked midweek supper.  Taking ten minutes out of a busy working day to have that relaxing morning cup of coffee. Flowers from the garden, or picked up in my weekly farmer's market.  I love finding beauty and inspiration from travel, but equally, there is so much beauty all around us in our own environment, whether we live in a country or urban setting.  Not always the obvious things either, as it is often the small and least unexpected things and aspects of our lives that can be the most beautiful and rewarding. We just have to be open to seeing it,  and we will find it. 

Beautiful books are my great weakness….a package from Amazon once in a while is always a treat.  Design books in particular.  For me there is nothing nicer and more indulgent than to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine and a fabulous new coffee table book, and I would love to share with you today, a couple of new additions to my ever growing collection!

'Beauty at Home' by Aerin Lauder... 
Aerin is the granddaughter of legendary beauty empire entrepreneur Estée Lauder, and now at the helm of this iconic brand.  This beautiful book gives an insight in to Aerin's home life, both in her New York apartment, and at Estée's former home in the Hamptons which she and her family have inherited.  With stunning photography throughout, it depicts beautifully how these uber glamorous and luxurious homes still combine the comforts and simple pleasures for family life.   A stunning visual feast of beauty, which I have so enjoyed...

… 'Living Life Beautifully' by Christina Strutt of 'Cabbages and Roses'…
Using the core values originally created by Christine for her 'Cabbages and Roses' lifestyle brand of 'beauty, simplicity, longevity, integrity and sustainability', this lovely book shows how Christina has put all of these values into practice in her own home and work spaces, and those of a number of artists who share a love of Cabbages & Roses, to create beautiful places where life and work mingle.  From a country house to an urban apartment, Christina shows how easy it is to 'live life beautifully'.  With her wonderfully eclectic and pretty, pale vintage interiors, this is a charming and gorgeous book which I am sure you will love too.

Both conveying a completely different style to each other, but both women with a design and home life ethos after my own heart…our homes should be our sanctuaries, and with a little thought, imagination and planning, we can all have 'Beauty' in our day to day lives.

Have you come across any particularly inspiring design reads recently?  I would love to hear your recommendations!

Happy Thursday…

Sophia xx

Tuesday, 19 August 2014



After a glorious start to summer, August has been a little disappointing don't you think?  I am sure my UK readers will sympathise anyway!  

Being a great believer in 'silver linings' though, we are grateful for the rain here at home, as it saves us hours of watering each evening, which is always welcome!  Sadly this doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels too often….as there is always much to do in the form of mowing, weeding, and picking, let alone the constant evolvement of new projects that 'Mr. SH' and I can never resist starting.

As well as all these regular garden jobs, we have the mammoth task of trimming all the box hedging, and considering our penchant (addiction?) to continually adding to this, it is turning in to a serious annual undertaking!  What can start as quite a satisfying activity, soon starts to loose its appeal and we think to ourselves 'what on earth have we started'…. 

But when we look back at the garden after a long day of clipping, the reward outweighs the hard work.  If you are a lover of topiary as I am, I am sure you will understand!

A new 'Portuguese Laurel' hedge is now planted around the kitchen deck….beautiful and evergreen, and will be a great wind break…the price we pay for our view and being on top of a hill!

Having established the shape and structure of three identical square box edged parterre beds, part of which you can see above, my aim is to inject more colour into the summer planting next year.  Something tall and blue, to contrast with the existing Alchemilla Mollis perhaps?  Salvias or Catmint?  Any suggestions would be very happily received!

New gravel beds sit at the back of our side lawn…still in their infancy but we hope they will add 'formal' interest and contrast to the rural backdrop beyond.  Box hedging in time will grow up to contain more of my beloved 'Hydrangea Annabel' which I hope next year will increase greatly in size.  These are interspersed with simple home made planters of box balls….a slightly mis shapened bargain buy, which with patience, will start to look better next year!  Beyond that are tall posts, painted in Farrow and Ball 'French Grey' (still waiting for their finials) with young 'Hornbeam' trees between, which we are pleaching to train along their wires.  A Hornbeam hedge along the fence behind is also a new planting and in time, the aim is for the gap between this and the pleaching to form 'windows' to view the beautiful view beyond. 

Between these gravel beds, we have planted three 'Weeping Pear' trees…their silvery leaves will be a lovely contrast I think, against the green of the Hornbeam hedge and the green
box hedging and balls?

The 'Agapanthus' have been gorgeous….

 Both in pots, and in the long beds at the back of the house, but sadly coming to an end now.

Then there is the kitchen garden…my special sanctuary…which has been feeding us with an array of delicious produce, particularly French Beans and of course, as my regular readers will know, courgettes…perhaps a few too many!

Gorgeous Artichoke 'Violet de Laon'...

The warmth of the greenhouse...

Rewarding us with cucumbers and aubergines…

Going back to that courgette glut, thank you so much to all you lovely readers who took the time to send me your delicious recipe suggestions! 

I leave you today with a favourite, which is from the Sarah Raven 'Garden Cookbook', and uses the beautiful flowers of the courgette plant.  A little fiddly, but so well worth the effort.  

For 8:
16 courgette flowers
200g podded peas (frozen is fine)
300g Philadelphia or other cream cheese
Salt and black pepper
small bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped 
2 tablespoon olive oil
olive oil, for frying

For the tempura batter:
225g plain flour
plenty of salt and black pepper
2 eggs
375ml cold lager 

To make the tempura batter, sift flour into a bowl with salt and pepper and make a dip in the centre.  Add the eggs and with a balloon whisk, mix in the cold lager to make a batter the thickness of double cream that is not too smooth.  Keep this in the fridge until you need it.

Shake the courgette flowers to dislodge ants and earwigs (!) and remove the stigma from the centre.  Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water for 3 minutes.  In a mixing bowl, combine the peas, cream cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and a little olive oil.
Although not in the original recipe, I added a little chopped chilli at this stage, which we enjoyed.

With your fingers, gently part the flower petals, leaving one finger inside to keep it open.  Take a teaspoon of the mixture and carefully stuff the flower.  The stickiness of the mixture will mean that you can seal the pointed end easily with a little twist.

Heat about 10cm of olive oil in a deep pan, making sure the oil doesn't come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pan, until it reaches about 170 degrees C.  Deep each stuffed flower in the tempura batter, then fry them in the hot oil.
These are at their best eaten hot, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper.


Wishing you a happy week ahead…

Sophia xx

Wednesday, 13 August 2014



Happy Wednesday everyone!
I hope this belated post finds you all well, and enjoying your summer days?
Now back from our wonderful few days in Paris, I hit the ground running this week with a current work design project and I can't believe we are half way through the week already!
There is nothing like a few days away to top up on inspiration, and of course, there is no lack of inspiration in beautiful Paris!  

Leaving my usual camera behind this trip, here are a few of my iPhone snaps, which some of you who follow me on Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle 
will recognise.  

Paris for me inspires in so many ways…..

The gorgeous patisserie, and sweet treats…

The elegant architecture….

The strolls through beautiful parks….especially the stunning Jardin du Luxembourg...

The hidden courtyards and squares….with Place des Vosges my absolute favourite.

The romance….love and padlocks on every bridge!

The delightful cafés and coffee break stops...

The refreshing mid afternoon Citron Pressé…

The wonderful restaurants….delicious french onion soup and a glass of rosé anyone?

Shopping heaven!

Endless inspiration, with beauty and style at every corner…not forgetting the stunning choice of galleries and museums.  Paris never disappoints.
A special place that I never grow tired of, and I can not wait to return for my next Parisian fix!


Look in again soon, for some kitchen garden updates and healthy summer recipes we have been enjoying here at home, that I would love to share with you!

Thank you so much for popping by 'Sophia Home' and wishing you a wonderful rest of the week, whatever you have planned...

Sophia xx