Absolutely Nothing To Make – Peony Pom Poms by Samantha Taylor

I came late to the pom pom party. In fact had I not been drooling regularly over kids’ room tours on ohdeedoh and various style blogs, they may yet have passed me by. But slowly I noticed these ethereal tissue paper bundles floating in some very chic nurseries and once I’d ascertained exactly what they were, and how to get them, I was on a mission.  It seems that i’ve missed a trick because they have, in fact, become something of a phenomenon in crafty circles since their ‘invention’ by Martha Stewart some time around 2006. Whether or not this is entirely true, Her Royal Homeliness does have a knack for taking a craft trend and giving it a contemporary spin and if the images on the MS website don’t tempt you then you will probably never be a convert (you can buy them via the MSL Amazon store here)

They’re surprisingly easy to make too. You can follow her little tutorial here:

You need a pack of tissue paper (12 sheets should give you nice full poms), some florist’s wire and monofilament or ribbon to hang.

1. Stack your tissue. Fold the tissue, accordion style, in 1 1/2″ wide folds, creasing the folds.
2. Fold a length of florist’s wire in half. Slip over middle of folded tissue, twist. Trim the ends of the tissue (rounded or pointed depending on preference).
3. Turn on side and pull a layer at a time up and out, pulling away from centre.
4. Tie monofilament to wire for hanging

Of course,  I realise any DIY bride, party and wedding planner worth their salt can whip up a roomful of these frothy little beauties blindfolded, but I wanted a more permanent reason to use them. So, as I’m a sucker for anything that will give the decor in my blah rented apartment in Hong Kong a bit of oomph without a) spending too much and b) infuriating the landlord, I determined that I needed to work them in to my own home. Hubby quickly vetoed any area he uses regularly (‘but surely they would look more masculine in monochrome shades?!’) So that left the kids’ rooms and the perfect opportunity to indulge my pom pom fixation, because they are both still at the age where MUMMY DEAREST KNOWS BEST mwah ha ha. So the baby (boy) got the pom poms and all my husband could say to the contrary was “you DO know he’s a boy, right?”. Pah.

Here they are in situ:

I realise my primping leaves a lot to be desired but this would be a pretty dull corner of the room without the poms don’t you think? Not too girly?

More pom pom loveliness (not mine by the way):

There are plenty of online stores devoted to poms (try Etsy) and many have a wide selection of sizes and colours and you generally choose between rounded or pointed petal ends. The more layers of tissue, the fuller your finished poms. They come folded and ‘unbloomed’ with wire, or ribbon, for hanging. It will probably take you a tad longer than you expect to get the knack (my tip: don’t pull too gently, be confident – fast and random is better) but I can assure you; a fully bloomed and primped pom pom is a very, VERY satisfying thing to behold. Just beware of primp fever. Once you start, it’s really very difficult to stop.

I purchased my Pom Poms from I Have Ribbon (U.S) Visit their Etsy store here (they ship internationally).

Check out this great little ‘pom blooming’ tutorial on You Tube from Paperwhite Pom-Poms.

Absolutely Nothing To Cook – some Summery soups

After gorging ourselves on bread and cheese and rose for the past 2 weeks, we’re being tastefully frugal and enjoying evening meals of soups and salads. Soups are the easiest things in the world to make and really quite satisfying in both the concocting and consuming. So being rather proud of my last 2 evenings effort, I thought I’d share them…..in the absence of a longer and more interesting post about all the things I should be writing about. They will come soon, promise.

So, soup number 1 was cold beetroot soup which is up there as one of my very favourites. Here’s what I did – you can add all kinds of other things like spices and herbs (cumin is lovely when added at the onion stage and chopped parsley or chives are delicious thrown in at the end) but this is a basic easy start :

I used cooked beetroot which is much quicker and just as healthy as the raw version which needs cooking and boiling for hours. This recipe serves 2 as a main and 3 or 4 as a starter.

1 pack cooked beetroot (usually contains about 4 or 5)

1 red onion

1 large clove garlic

750 ml chicken stock

Balsamic vinegar – 2 tbsps I think

Olive oil and butter for cooking

Coconut milk or cream (about 150ml depending on taste)

Plain yoghurt and shelled crushed pistachios to serve

Chop the onion finely and crush the garlic. Heat a knob of butter and a glug of olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic until soft but not coloured – do I sound like a cookery book yet – only take about 5 minutes most.

Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for further couple of minutes until it most is absorbed. Don’t have the heat too high for all this.

Quarter the beetroot and add, cook for a couple of minutes and then cover with the chicken stock (or you can use vegetable). Cook just for 5 minutes or so, the beetroot is already cooked so it’s really just to get all the flavours mixed up together.

Blend until nice and smooth and then put back in to the pan. Add the coconut milk or cream – to taste – and more stock if it’s too thick. You don’t want it too runny though. Season to taste.

Allow to chill for a couple of hours. You can always put it in the freezer to speed things up a bit towards the end.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and sprinkle some chopped greek basil (the little leaves are really good with this) and some crushed shelled pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil.

Looks pretty as a picture.

Soup number 2 was butternut squash – which actually followed pretty much exactly the same recipe as the beetroot but here it is anyway.

1 butternut squash – I peeled it but apparently you don’t need to. I’ve never really been sure.

1 onion

750 ml chicken stock

Balsamic vinegar – 2 tbsps

Coconut milk / cream – 150ml or more to taste

Olive oil and butter for cooking

So, sweat the chopped onion as before and when they’re soft add the balsamic…..just as before. De-seed and peel the butternut squash and cut it in to small chunks – cooks faster that way. Cook with the onions and balsamic for a few minutes and then add the stock to cover. Simmer until the squash is soft. Blend until smooth and then return to pan and add the coconut milk and season to taste.

Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped basil or corriander and a dollop or yoghurt if you like.

And there you go. 2 soups with pretty much exactly the same ingredients but totally and utterly differently delicious.

This photo was taken at the brilliant restaurant Le Tracteur where we enjoyed a fabulous beetroot soup complete with croutons and chopped chives.


Another wonderful week doing Absolutely Nothing

It’s been a wonderful week of travel and children and work and all sorts….which hasn’t left much time for doing Absolutely Nothing but these few posts are some of our very best so far. AND we’ve reached over 3000 views since we started so that must mean someone out there is enjoying it.

We also now have a Facebook Page and Twitter feed (@ANTW) you can follow to keep up to date with new posts and anything else we can think of writing.

So here they are, enjoy.

Absolutely Nothing To Wear when you’re pregnant by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : The Tale Of Monsieur Lapin by Micki Myers

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Uzes, a style all of its very own by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Buy : Bespoke Fine Art Prints by Samantha Taylor

We also have an updated Contributors Page where you can learn a bit about just some of the people writing for Absolutely Nothing To Wear.

Absolutely Nothing To Buy – bespoke fine art prints

I have a small problem. No, not a ‘pass me the number of a therapist’ type problem (not yet). It’s just I have a teensy obsession with all things papery and beautiful. Cards, art prints and stationary made by clever, creative folk who sell at groovy little niche fairs, markets or independent type shops up and down the UK. Stuff that makes a REALLY satisfying treat for myself,  and rather lovely gifts for everyone else. Actually, this isn’t the problem as far as I’m concerned, but living half way across the world from them is (Hong Kong to be precise-hubby’s job). And so I had to get resourceful because I’m ticking the age box that equates to a lot of marriages and births, on top of the statutory birthdays. That’s a lot more gifts to buy and so undaunted I have embraced the maxim ‘have computer, will shop’. The upshot of all this is discovering that all those very clever, creative folk tend to have their own online shops or sell through sites like Etsy, and- unlike most big retailers- are happy to ship internationally. Ditto their U.S counterparts. So now I’m truly global in my paper and stationery quest (and yup, I’m now an Etsy addict too).

I’ve discovered that a really nice gift to give is an art print. People love to receive something original and beautiful, maybe a little quirky even, and I’m currently really in to the idea of bespoke art- lovely prints that can be customised with images, colour and text, and then framed to create a unique and thoughtful gift for that special someone in your life. Particularly if that special someone is yourself.

Here’s a roundup of a few that caught my eye:
1. Every one of Made Specially’s fabulous prints can be customised and they also offer framing and a totally bespoke service. Spread the love with this Namaste print (UK) from £40 (30cm x 40cm Giclee print).

2.  If your best friend’s dog means more to her than her own children (and let’s face it, dogs are far easier to train) then maybe a custom silhouette of the pooch would be just the ticket? Letter Happy ( USA) $15 (8″x10″)

3. Stuck for an original  ‘paper’ wedding anniversary gift? This 100 hearts tree from Leeds based Modo Creative can be customised to include your own message but it might be a tough call to beat ”a hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for you” £25.80

4. Brides-to-be will love this clever alternative to the wedding guest book from Florida based Fancy Prints. The ‘Signature Wedding Tree’ has 150 leaves for guests to sign and features lovebirds (and ‘optional’ nesting baby lovebirds) which can be customised along with the text and colour scheme.
$45 (16″ x 20″)

5. One for Dad – a thoroughly modern take on the silhouette print from Edinburgh outfit Happy Thought £35.86 (16″x11″ Giclee print)

6. Isn’t this the cutest? Every kids room probably should have a ‘little lion’ from Little Lion (Canada) $29 (30cm x 40cm)

7. Commemorate a birth with this sweet print from from U.S based Ink Tree Press $28 (11″x 14″ Giclee print).

8. Adorbs. Beautifully illustrated family tree with space for photos or drawings from Belle And Boo (UK) £16 (297mm x 420mm (A3)

9. Modern Pop’s alphabet frieze is like a little ray of California sunshine for your kid’s room $60 (19″ x 13″)

10. I love this cute triptych from Sugar Fresh which can be customised to just about any colour you like (USA) $55 (set of 3- 8″x10″)

11. Make any mummy happy (and  grandmummies too) with  Le Papier Studio’s beautiful silhouette print (USA). $24 (8″x10″) plus one-time charge of $10 per custom silhouette which can then be used in any future artwork.

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Uzes, a style all of its very own

The danger with buying clothes whilst on holiday, is that you can often find yourself being swayed towards a style you would never normally wear and which never seems to translate terribly well back home.  This is a particular danger in Uzes where they have a style all of their very own – a sort of Marie Antoinette meets shabby sexy hippy kind of look – fabulous on the right person but not at all on the wrong. Let me give you a little example, although this one involves a man but you’ll get the idea – there is a little shop off the main square, which sells beautiful cotton Mousquetaire shirts. They have them in all sizes and on children they can look rather sweet. They are large and billowing and fastened at the neck with a laced ribbon which criss crosses up the front. Think Dartanian, or Dogtanian if, like me, you preferred that version. The father of a friend, who shall remain nameless, came to Uzes a few years ago and bought himself one of these local Mousquetaire fashion blouse / shirts and continued to wear it back home in South London paired with jeans and Crocs for his Sunday lunch at home look. I don’t think I need say any more.

This is quite an extreme example and to be honest, there were about 20 dresses I could have quite happily bought and which at home, worn with a leather jacket and biker boots, would have been rather lovely. This brings me on to perhaps the best shop I have ever visited. L’Atelier Des Ours is located on one of the little side streets a moment away from the main square – for those unfamiliar with Uzes, it is a little like Venice without the canals – and sells all these fabulous Uzes style clothes for women and children. In amongst the swathes of linen and lace and florals and silk, there are vintage tins and toys and signs and glass plates with domes and dolls and all sorts of lovely treasures. It’s a little hard to tell what’s for sale and what isn’t but you have the feeling that the lady would happily sell you anything if you asked…..and had enough pennies. The floor downstairs as you enter is covered in fine sand which somehow makes you feel immediately excited but also quiet and careful. This is not a shop for the children! There’s a delicious ice cream stand at the cafe next door which will keep them amused while you take it all in.

I was so tempted I can’t tell you and even more so watching a customer flouncing around the shop making sharp intakes of breathy excitement as she tried on another layered skirt over her silk floral slip. It’s hard to tell whether it was the surroundings which made me love it all or the clothes themselves. So back home to the English countryside and do I wish I’d indulged myself or am I happy back in my ubiquitous jeans and sweatshirt look? It’s hard to tell. I haven’t returned home particularly longing for anything I saw, apart from the glass cloches, the 1950s school desk, the chalk board, the pretty floral sun dress, the cast iron bath, the vintage signs and tins, the wardrobes, the brown leather laced ankle boots, the 1920s hat box……no, absolutely nothing at all really.

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About : The Tale of Monsieur Lapin by Micki Myers

One of the pleasures of city living is not feeling like you’re living in a city. I live up on a hill; out of one side of my house all I see is sky and treetops; out the other side my back garden, which is open to whatever wildlife ambles along. There is a large park nearby, and from its woodland venture wild turkeys and deer, which forage silently among the trees. Less silent is the woodpecker who lives there, and wakes me each “morning” at about 4am by drilling for grubs. Rat-a-tat-tat instead of cock-a-doodle-do.

We have small grey mice and impish chipmunks and twitchy grey squirrels. We have blue jays and cardinals and grackles and all manner of brightly colored songbirds who eat from the birdfeeder hanging under the lilac. I often look up from my table to lock eyes with a brazen member of the groundhog family which has made its home in a vast network of tunnels under a neighbor’s porch. They are like beavers without the flat tails, and huge — the size of a small dog. They’re cheeky buggers, and like to dare you to make a sudden movement in their direction, at which they will bolt, often tearing through my vegetable patch flattening everything in their path.

I planted borders of onions to keep the rabbits out because they don’t like the smell. So far it’s prevented them from nibbling on the tomatoes and, for now, the young frothy tops of carrots, but I know it is only a matter of time until the word gets out and they will devour, like the beans, peppers, strawberries and sweet peas down to the ground.

But it is the family of bunnies I find most endearing. Every day they appear on my lawn among the clover to dine on tasty shoots, and stretch, and sometimes, just roll about. When they were babies (kittens, to be exact), no bigger than a tennis ball, they would often curl up to nap in a shady divot, their presence only signaled by a petite pair of silky ears. They are remarkably tame — naively tame, in fact — though they hold very still if you come near, watching with big beady eyes.

I have named the patriarch Monsieur Lapin, and find myself talking to him when I go out to water the plants or do a spot of weeding. “I see you, Monsieur Lapin,” I will say as he turns to hop away. “Say hello to Madame Lapin for me, and tell her to mind les enfants.”

My neighbors must think I’m completely batty.

Absolutely Nothing To Wear when you’re pregnant….

Let me start by saying I’m NOT pregnant but have written this for a few fabulous girlfriends who are.

There has to be more to pregnancy fashion than elasticated waists and smock tops. There just has to be. But what? I’ve been through it twice now and remember it oh so very clearly indeed. For someone who loves clothes and adores dressing up in the morning, I was pretty excited at the prospect of finding a whole new style of my own…..that was the first pregnancy, by the second I was sick to the back teeth of it and didn’t really put a huge amount of effort in to the style side of having a baby.

Child number one was conceived and carried and given birth to in London where I was still working and life had to pretty much carry on as normal. I had to be well turned out every single day and although the sample rail was pretty much out of bounds after the first 3 months, I had find a way to dress up and look the part. I always like to look for a style muse at times like these, someone I admire and would quite happily fashionably emulate. My pregnancy muse number 1 was Sofia Coppola. She did a smock, swing and shift dress better than anyone I’d ever seen and always looked chic and neat and stylishly preppy. My ideal look. So that’s what I did. I didn’t buy a single piece of maternity wear, I didn’t go near any skinny jeans with massive elasticated waists – they’ve always terrified me those things – I just decided jeans were out for the next year or so and alternatives had to be found. I wore dresses, every single day. Dresses I already had in my wardrobe paired with tights, or leggings when the sun came out, and all worn with some rather fabulous patent Celine pumps which I bought in 4 colours – pink, yellow, red and cream. PPQ smock dresses proved the best, as did American Retro (I bought two brilliant ones in Paris) and COS was my saviour for long sleeve cotton tees which covered both bump and bottom beautifully and they also do some of the very best oversized but flattering shirts, dresses and sweaters you’re likely to find on the highstreet. The other thing I love about COS, while I’m on the subject again, are the fabrics. Never cheap, always long lasting no matter now many times you wash and superbly comfortable to wear whatever “state” you may be in.

The last few weeks before baby number 1 arrived and I stopped work, I lived in my husbands Intimissimi pants, a pair of his old Levis and enormous t-shirts and vests. Needless to say I didn’t really care anymore I just wanted to get on with it and stop feeling gigantic.

Baby number 2 was a different matter all together. We’d moved to the countryside, I was working part time as a PR consultant whilst looking after my 1 year old, and I felt completely dreadful pretty much all the time. Dresses and patent pumps were no longer necessary – more was the shame – and I found myself in leggings for the most part worn with my faithful COS long sleeved tees and 3 brilliant maternity cardigans from Marks and Spencers. 2 black and 1 dark grey. I think they call them “Waterfall” cardigans, long on the sides and shorter at the back. Marvelous for covering up whilst being surprisingly flattering and incredibly easy to wear. And when it got hot – both my boys were Summer babies – I went kaftan crazy. Wore one every day for the last few weeks and loved every minute of it. So by the time he arrived I was freckled and fat and floating around Oxfordshire, dressed like a very happy hippy indeed.

So in conclusion, my tips for as stylish a pregnancy as possible are as follows – invest in some pretty pumps which you like looking at – even when you can’t see your feet any more, other people can and pretty shoes are important – go to COS and stock up on long sleeve tees, the ones with the thumb holes are the best, and wear dresses as much as you can – you can just belt them when your waistline goes back to normal. Finally get yourself a couple of M&S cardigans to keep everything looking tidy. Oh and leggings are a must I’m afraid. I found American Apparel do the best cotton lycra ones which are long and don’t bag at the knee too prematurely. The last thing you need to be worrying about is baggy knees, it’s enough to spoil the entire day before you’ve even started.

And don’t forget to buy yourself a pretty nightdress or nightshirt for the birth. I bought a white cotton one from Princess Tam Tam at Fenwick. There’s something strangely comforting in knowing you’ve made an effort to look nice even when you’re swearing at the midwife.