As someone who has never owned a property but feels the need to be surrounded by beautiful and meaningful things at all times I've known the pain of renting and not being able to decorate first hand. This also means however that after 13 years of being a tenant I've realised that you can still bring your passions and personality into your interior decor in a non permanent way. Believe me when I say that art, textiles, books, keepsakes and a little imagination are your very best friends and if you want to create a space that makes you feel comfortable, content and inspired then surrounding yourself with things that make you smile and bring back memories is the best way to do it.

I don't follow interior design trends as you'll see, much like with clothing I just mix together looks that I love to create my dream result. It is however very helpful when things you love just happen to come into style as it makes them much easier (and often much cheaper) to procure. 

A shining example of this is the trend for elaborate lighting such as the brass palm tree light that have been gracing the homes of my favourite interior influencers for a while now but have been way out of my price range (think £600 plus!) then in steps Matalan and makes me dream come true! I think they must have got some new very clever bods into their homewares team recently because boy are there are a lot of gorgeous things on their website right now!

Personally I do think a dog is an essential addition to a home but its actually soft furnishings that I want to talk about here. One thing that can absolutely change a room completely is a sofa and since we got our new giant corner sectional last year our living room has finally become the cosy sanctuary I always wished for.

To up the comfort levels I have of course added some gorgeous cushions and a big faux fur throw that I use far too frequently for sofa naps. I was also thrilled to find a rug that wasn't too expensive in a pattern I actually liked as the wood floors could be a bit chilly in the winter and not very comfortable for Betty the bulldog to snooze on. It also helps with sound in the room giving the tv and hifi system a warmer tone than it had when it was just bouncing around hard walls and a hard floor.

Dillon Sectional Sofa in Raven by DFS - pieces start at £569.00 (purchased)
Faux Wolf Fur Throw by Home Bargains - £35.00 (purchased)
Double Sided Faux Mongolian Fur Cushion by Matalan - £12.00 (* gifted by the brand)
Vintage Look Rug in Graphite from Amazon - £65.00 (purchased)

One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to collect keepsakes and things that I can display in the cottage to remind me of my adventures around the world. Museums are very special places to me and I love the two pieces here from some of my favourite London locations the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Soanes Museum, both of which I collected on trips with my parents and sister. 

Although not purchased on the trip I love my giant fabric wall hanging map of Paris as it brings back memories of the time I spent there but also makes a great focal point for the wall opposite the window in our little living room. I also have lots of trinkets from my Grandparents house in this room that remind me of my beloved Gran and Gramps.

Mexican Tin and Mirror Hand from the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A - £5.99 (purchased)
Paris Fabric Wall Hanging by Collard Manson - £40.00 (purchased, sold out but others here)
Tattooed Vamp Print (part of a Milan tattoo convention poster) - Freebie with an order from Gentlemen's Tattoo Flash
Round Angel Plaque - from my grandparents house

As with my fashion choices I love mixing the old and the new so finding Pop Vinyl characters dotted in amongst antiques is a frequent sight in our house - we've been collecting them for some time now and the latest addition was a Black Phillip from The VVitch that Pete surprised me with. Other new things are the Time Turner that Pete bought me on our honeymoon trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, oyster shells with our names on that were place settings at a friend's wedding and my candleholder friend Oswald the Octopus.

Drawing of our cat Cleo by our mega talented friend Anne
Feathered fascinator hat made by me at a class with Pearls and Swine
Pop Vinyl characters collected from various places like Amazon, eBay and Forbidden Planet
Time Turner Necklace from Harry Potter World at Universal Studios but also available here
Madonna statue and crucifix both from antique shops in Bruges
Jesus statue was a present from my sister

My husband and I are both music obsessed and so bringing this love into our decor came naturally. I mostly collect prints and posters at gigs we go to, but if I spot any online that catch my eye for bands that we love I like to grab them to add to the collection. I recently found an Australia based company called Beyond The Pale and I've become a bit obsessed - if I won the lottery I think I'd buy one of nearly all of their prints!

Also seen here is a print of a piece by one of my all time favourite artists John William Waterhouse and a defaced dollar bill that came with a print I purchased from a current incredible artist Kevin Llewellyn that I mounted on a spare scrap of fabric by the amazing Timorous Beasties. The tin hand was another purchase from the V and A Frida Kahlo exhibition.

Alkaline Trio Tour Poster Print by Beyond The Pale - $30.00 (purchased)

Collecting books is an obsession of mine and every room in our house is 'decorated' with them. I collect anything that interests me but my particular favourites are old ghost stories and historical volumes like the translation of the Egyptian Book of The Dead that fans of The Mummy may be aware of - yes it was an actual thing! I collect my books everywhere - from markets, second hand bookshops, antique warehouses and fairs and various online resources. 

I struck gold recently on eBay winning this antique black corner unit with mirrors for just a tenner and it has pride of place filled with books and being guarded by Shaun the Prawn which was a Valentines Day gift from my husband that he got at Zara Home a few years ago.

More trinkets from my travels live on this shelf including a cuddle bat and old copy of the world of Percey Shelley that I found when we visited gorgeous Gloria and Ali in Glasgow. The ceramic hands were found at various vintage fairs and I painted the lady face plant pot on a trip to Center Parcs one year. The print is by Kevin Llewellyn who is mentioned above and is of my favourite sculpture The Veiled Bride that usually resides at the amazing Chatsworth House.

The kitchen can be a tricky place to personalise if you have limited space but we're fortunate enough to have the original range in our cottage that makes a perfect focal point slash book shelf! Of course I haven't been able to hold back here either and have decorated the chimney breast with an amazing neon light, vintage liquor adverts and postcards that I bought at a concert. My giant Cointreau bottle ice bucket also resides here along with a neon heart light that I got as a secret santa present last year!

Cocktails Neon Light by Prezzybox - £75.00 (* gifted by the brand)
Vintage vermouth ads purchased online
Fake travel postcards bought at a Caro Emerald concert
Vintage Cointreau Ice Bucket - Winged Ape Loughborough (purchased)

I've managed to add a touch of eccentricity to my office too with the addition of a decorative table hanging bar, some shelves and nicnacs and of course more art prints. I also an out of room on my jewelry organiser and so I started hanging light necklaces from my fake trailing plants, but I liked the effect so much I've carried on doing it!

Table Hanger Rack by Clas Ohlson - £14.99 (purchased)
String Bulb Lights by Clas Ohlson - £19.99 (purchased)
Swan Hanging Planters by Flying Tiger Copenhagen (purchased)
Faux Trailing Plant by Ikea - £6.00 (purchased)
Leopard Bauble Decorations were a gift from my Mother in Law

As someone who loves 'pretty stuff' storage is key for me and naturally if the storage itself is decorative all the better! The wall shelf trend has been a big help with this and I have quite a few little display shelves dotted about the cottage now.

Wire Shelf by Matalan - £16.00 (* gifted by the brand)
'N' Book from The National Portrait Gallery (purchased)
Lobster Bottle Opener purchased at a little shop on Spetses island in Greece
Gold pen pot by Primark (purchased)
The Library Scented Candle by True Grace (purchased - my favourite candle of all time!)

The Future Is In Your Hands Print by Oh Deer - £12.95 (purchased)

I hope you've enjoyed this post and that it's given you a few ideas for your own home - I'd love to see photos of anything you add that was inspired by this piece!

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*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.

If I was only able to use one word to describe The School of Artisan Food that word would be special. Before you even go through the gates as you drive through some of the UK's prettiest countryside the feeling of excitement and privilege builds, then you're into the estate and it's like you've entered another world. It really is a feeling of privilege and luck, like I have access to a secret domain that encapsulates all of the things I love that I feel when I head here and that is rightly so - where else can you learn techniques and skills from some of the most brilliant food artisans in historic surroundings as gorgeous as these?

On my second visit to the school these feeling hadn't dissipated and it was with practically a spring in my step that I walked up the steps of the school to the main dining room where my class was meeting. Of course you need to fuel up for a full day of learning on your feet and so the spread that greeted us was most welcome and of course all made at the school - I grabbed a coffee and a lovely fruit bun topped with apple before sitting down and chatting to some of my fellow students. The relaxed atmosphere is one of the nicest things here, even in the classroom you go at a pace that isn't rushed, you're free to ask any questions you wish and the teachers frequently visit your station to see how you're getting on.  

The class I attended on this occasion was all about the afternoon tea and the day was spent making five delightful treats that would plate up as a perfect sweet selection for that most British of eating events. On the menu were macarons, friands, tuille pastries filled with flavoured cream, possett and of course scones - all with a twist and using all natural ingredients of the best quality. We were fortunate enough to be being taught by Graham and Rose Dunton, two professionals who have been working in patisserie for over 30 years in some of the most predigious establishments such as The Dorchester and The Connaught and The Hyatt Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge. To say that I felt honoured to be learning from Rose and Graham was an understatement and they were wonderful teachers peppering the recipes with ideas for other ways to use the elements, alternative flavour combinations and professional tips and techniques that you'd only dream of hearing outside of these walls.

The morning began with macaron shell making which is something I'm familiar with but is definitely a big draw for a lot of people since they have been one of the trendiest - and difficult to perfect  - delicacies on the scene for a few years now. We then moved on to baking our friands and Graham even showed us how to make the jam that he has used for years, a different take that is much quicker to make and leaves you with a beautiful zippy fruity blend that would probably make a piece of polystyrene taste great!

Time flew by and before I knew it we were at lunchtime so we wandered back into the dining room where two lovely ladies had spent the morning cooking us up a feast of quiches, tarts, roasted potatoes and a myriad of salads. I must say that the wild garlic quiche was just gorgeous and I'm actually planning on recreating it this weekend along with the refreshing fennel and cucumber salad.

After a chilled out meal and a chance to rest our feet for a while we were back at it in the kitchen whipping cream, spreading out langue du chat paste and (briefly) kneading our scones before we were on to topping, filling and gussying up our completed treats. As happens in any kitchen we had a couple of hiccups along the way with some naughty macaron shells that cracked and rolling up cigarette pastries that were a tad too short to join around the moulds, but honestly a kitchen is a place full of the opportunity for mistakes. With that many students creating such a spread of different patisserie I'm frankly amazed that's all that went awry and Graham and Rose did a brilliant job of explaining what my have gone wrong and ways to rectify it which is far preferable to your trying on your own at home and having no clue what went amiss!

By the end of the day everyone had brains full of tips and inspiration and cars full of delicacies to take home - I could barely fit it all in my fridge when I got home. There was no doubt that everyone had had a thoroughly enjoyable day and I left with renewed invigoration for baking and a mind whirring with different ways I could flavour and switch up what we had made during the day. 

I absolutely will be returning to the school to do more courses in the future and if you are a food and cookery fan I know that you would just adore a day or two of learning just like me. It's not just baking that you can learn here either, the range of courses cover butchery, cheesemaking, preserving, brewing, chocolate making, food photography and more so you are sure to find a subject that tickles your fancy. Personally I'd love to do the Classic Culinary Skills course with Justine Kanter and I'm keeping my eyes on the Fermentation Masterclass with Sandor Katz!

It's safe to say that I fall more in love with this place on each visit and I can't wait to come back to explore the rest of what the Welbeck Estate has to offer like the farm shop, microbrewery and the gallery. It's safe to say that if I ever ended up working here at some point in my life I would be a very happy woman - it's nice to have goals eh?

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*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.

Whenever I take a trip to London one of the first things I plan is where I'm going to be eating dinner. With such a wealth and variety or eateries it would be a shame not to take advantage of this, even though I do confess I have favourites that I'll head to time after time. A new restaurant opening however will never not be a source of excitement for me and so when I heard about the concept for Brasserie of Light before it even launched I knew I had to visit. 

Brasserie of Light is a stunning new restaurant set within the world famous Selfridges department store on Oxford Street, with its own entrance on the Duke Street side of the store. The double height space is occupies showers diners in light with the crowning jewel being a sparkling 24ft Pegasus encrusted in crystals, designed by the legendary Damien Hirst. I confess it definitely isn't the sort of piece that comes straight to mind when you think of Hirst but the incredible scale, intricacy and well, unexpectedness speaks of the artists reputation. 

An airy and truly opulent space filled with shining mirror and Art Deco flourishes, this has to be one of the prettiest spaces I've eaten in. Artistry and design are clearly of the highest importance and I was tentative to see how this was translated into the food which mixes British cuisine with internationally inspired flourishes and flavours - sometimes this can go very wrong but at Brasserie of Light it has gone so so right.

We started our meals with a drink of course, my sister choosing the Jasmine and Peppermint Gin and Tonic which mixed Monkey 47 gin, aromatic tonic, chartreuse washed ice, peppermint mist and jasmine pearls. I love Chartreuse and it was a treat to taste a whisper of its herbal flavour against the bitter gin and tonic and it made for a refreshing drink after a busy day of shopping, despite the peppermint and jasmine not really making an appearance.  

I chose the Black Lotus cocktail, a concoction of sake, apple liqueur, matcha syrup and more and let me tell you it was truly delicious. The bite of the sake with the sweet tart apple was perfect and the matcha green tea added a fragrant and unexpected extra note that worked perfectly. An A class long drink that would be a proud addition to any bar's menu.

With so many interesting options on the menu it must have taken us about half an hour to decide on what to eat but I finally settled on a starter of the Dorset crab salad with watermelon, radish and a lobster dressing. I've had watermelon salads many times but never mixed it with a a creamy delicate shellfish like crab. Let me tell you, it works. Creating a perfect forkful with a piece of watermelon, a sliver of radish, a swipe of lobster dressing and avocado puree and a generous scoop of the crab was a sheer delight. Sweet and crisp, creamy and decadent, the bite of savoury micro leaves. An experience I would like to have again and again.

Laura decided upon the avocado and sesame fried chicken with coriander and green tea, served with a chia seed and jalapeño dip and was not disappointed. The chicken was juicy and flavourful with a delicate crispy crust that gave way to a ghost like taste of green tea herbalness that paired beautifully with the spice of the dip and the little sprinkling of saffron fronds.

As a huge seafood fan that lives with someone that doesn't appreciate fish dishes these tend to be what I order most of the time when dining out, but cod has never been top of my list. The combination of ingredients in the blackened cod with sprouting broccoli, wasabi mayo, shaved fennel and truffle wafu dressing however really sparked my interest. I've honestly never eaten cod this good in my life. Everything worked. The fish was tender and moist (which is regularly is not the case for blackened dishes as they are often served grilled to the point of dryness) and the seasoning was perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the meat itself. When eaten with a few shavings of fennel and a dip of both the dressing and mayo it was a divine mouthful covering all the bases of sweet, sour, soft, crisp, fresh, rich... can you tell I'm a bit enamoured with this one? 

Wafu dressing if you are unfamiliar is an asian dressing with a citrus and umami profile and I adore it on vegetables such as the broccoli served here, especially with the extra special addition of truffle. I can't honestly say that the wasabi really came through in the mayo possibly because it was with such a variety of other taste bud tingling flavours but it was rich and luscious as a mayonnaise should be. Needless to say I would order this again and again. And again. 

My sister settled upon the roasted salmon with asparagus spears, herb sauce and caviar which I was pleased by as this was one of the other options I was toying with! When asked how the fish should be cooked she decided not to go for it pink and despite this the fish was still unbelievably delicate with just a touch of toasty brown crispness. I adore a creamy herbaceous sauce with salmon and this one was particularly good, amped up to eleven with a nice splodge of caviar for added texture and decadence. Dipping an asparagus spear into this luxurious yet zingy fresh dressing was another treat that should be experienced.

Because it's one of my favourite treats we also shared a basket of zucchini fritti and me oh my was this a good decision! Wonderfully thin matchsticks of zucchini were dusted in flour and fried to absolute perfection and when spritzed with lemon juice and a little salt made for the perfect accompaniment to our rich fish dishes. I was just sad that we couldn't finish the very generous portion!

Dessert was a course I was very much looking forward to mainly because of the photos I'd seen online and so I was very chuffed when Laura ordered the 'Orbit' - a chocolate sphere filled with chocolate mousse and salted caramel ice cream, served with milk foam, honeycomb and popping candy plus salted caramel pearl chocolates. Yes it did indeed look incredible when it arrived at our table but the proof is in the tasting and it lived up to the magnificence of its appearance admirably. I don't know how they made that milk foam but I would like a bucketful delivered each week please and thank you. The light foam balanced out the voluptuous chocolate and caramel elements and the combination of sweet and salty cold ice cream, rich chocolate mousse, airy milk foam and crisp chocolate shell was a masterclass in pudding...ing. 

I have a real thing for tarte aux pommes so I couldn't resist ordering the saintly named 'Golden Apple' tart with candied pecan nuts and cinnamon sprinkle, topped with salted caramel ice cream rolled in gold fuilletine and golden dried apple slices. Another gorgeous addition to any menu it was a buttery rich treat with crisp pastry, tender apply, crunchy nuts and soft creamy ice cream. Not the best apple tart I've ever eaten but definitely an impressive offering that I would happily order again.

We concluded our meal with coffees including a 'vanilla shakerato' of espresso shaken with ice and served in a glass like an espresso martini

As you have gathered by now I'm sure we were very happy ladies as we left after a meal of this caliber. The creativity and interesting flavour combinations left me aching to try more and I've been recommending Brasserie of Light to many friends since our visit.

One comment that I would make is that the menu wasn't very vegan friendly, although a table near us had some allergy requirements that the waiting team helped with very well. Perhaps with the next menu review the addition of some more options will occur for our vegan friends ticking even more boxes.

So in a nutshell my words to describe Brasserie of Light would be beautiful, decadent, fun, artistic, delicious, creative and, well, all round magical.

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*This meal was complimentary in exchange for my review, but all opinions given are, as always, 100% honest and my own. 
For more information head to my disclaimer page.

If you're a long time reader you'll know that I find it hard to resist a good bit of kitsch and Valentines Day has to be the kitchiest holiday out there. My husband and I don't really make a big deal of it as it's very close to his birthday, is my sister's birthday and is a month after our officially being a couple anniversary but you better believe that I use it as a reason to treat us to a good dinner and a few nice drinkies - any excuse eh!

My love for the cocktail has had a bit of a renaissance over the last few months, mainly I think because our booze cabinet got a lot of new additions over the holiday season and that sparked back up my love of drink creating (and taste testing, hic). After learning about iconic brand Luxardo's exclusive first venture into gin with drink experts 31 Dover I knew that I just had to use this ruby red cherry infused delight in a Valentines drink. Luckily I also stumbled upon 31 Dover's champagne selection and it became obvious - a twist on the classic French 75 was the way to go.

The Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin* is an absolute treat, not at all syrupy like a liqueur but with the true juniper bite of a good gin and a slightly spicey warming range of botanicals behind it that finishes in juicy cherry with a pronounced sour zing. It's gorgeous as is over ice and it works a treat with a softer tonic that lets the cherry sing, but I know it will be finding it's way into many a cocktail over the next few weeks.

Thanks to my Mum my champagne of choice is usually a bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial* as its what I always remember her drinking, but go for whatever you fancy and can afford. I'm also a big fan of Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot.

Please do feel free to serve this drink in a flute as is the norm, I just much prefer drinking out of a coupe or champagne saucer and so I do. As we're in blood orange season I simply had to use them here but feel free to use normal orange if you can't find it or if you like things really sour go for lemon juice instead.

French Kiss 75
Makes 1 (because Valentines Day is a great excuse for celebrating self love too)

25ml Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin
15ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
10ml simple syrup (I make my own using this recipe but you can buy it)
Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial to top
Orange zest twist or cocktail cherry to garnish

Put the cherry gin, simple syrup and blood orange juice into a shaker with some ice and shake vigorously, then strain into your glass. Top up with Moët and finish with a strip of orange peel or a cocktail cherry if you wish - I forego this and just squeeze the zest strip over the drink to release the scented oils so I can drink it quicker, ha!

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*This post contains items that were gifted but all opinions are 100% honest and my own. For more information head to my disclaimer page.