Books for the Loo

ladder bookshelf

Never be without a book on the loo.

Visitors should never be without a book on the loo either. It is common courtesy to offer reading matter.

Here is a (non-definitive) list of my favourites:

The Sleeping Beauty series by A.N. Roquelaure

Belle de Jour by Unknown author

The Naughty Nineties, a saucy pop up book for adults only

How to Drive a Tank and other everyday tips for the modern gentleman, by Frank Coles

Homework for Grown-Ups by E. Foley and B. Coates

People who Changed the World by Rodney Castleden

Asterix by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

Confessions of a Failed Grown-Up by Stephanie Calman

I’m sure you have some fabulous titles you could recommend too.

Image credit

Oatmeal Bath


The guest bathroom was finally decorated.

It was all white – white tiles on the floor with a sheepskin rug beside the Victorian clawfoot tub. In the corner was a painted and lightly distressed wooden chair, on which were stacked a pile of White Company towels.

It remained for her to place the pure white little pouch she had tied up with white satin ribbon, over the taps of the bath, to wait for the first guests to luxuriate in the scented water …..

bath bag

Great gifts or heavenly indulgence; simple to put together but decadent to enjoy – little pouches of natural ingredients.

Gather together:

Muslin (bags), Organic porridge oats, herbs, ribbon or string
•Cut the muslin into squares, 20 x 20cm
•Place a handful of oats in the centre together with a few herbs. (Or fill the little bag)
•Gather together and tie with the ribbon – so that there is enough length to hang on the hot tap.
•As a gift – line a small box with fabric and place a selection of bath bags inside.


Herbs to choose from;
•Lavender flowers (relaxation)
•Mint (invigorating)
•Rosemary (energizing)
•Vervain (calming)
•Thyme (antibacterial)
•Fennel seeds and leaves (cleansing)

The organic oats provide a natural and magical way to soften skin.


Reference Cabbages & Roses, Ocean Organics, Lyonsleaf.


Enjoy the magic!!


Write every day, without exception

The trouble is, I’m not a very consistent person. And I’m easily distracted. Right now, I want to have a quick gander at some other blogs that I follow. It is taking great will-power to actually get something done! The people who are ‘doers’, now they really do get a lot done. I would have to say that I am an ideas person and a bit of a dreamer. It is hard to change one’s personality. I am trying to put some discipline and routine into my life. I am great at finding excuses and at loading stress on my shoulders. So slowly, bit by bit, my endeavour is to create a great-life-change and to organise myself and to become more of a ‘doer’:

1. Instead of panicking about how many tasks I must do, I will actually DO one item from the list and instantly feel better.
2. The lists that are inside my head must always become lists on paper to minimise stress.
3. Try to incorporate 3 yoga classes a week into my schedule.
4. When I do the laundry I must immediately put it in the cupboards and not leave it in piles. Piles just create work for another day! And another job on the list.
5. Write a little every day. Every period in my life during which I have done some writing evokes such happy memories for me.
6. Get up in the mornings and drink a glass of water while playing with the kids. The kids will be so much happier knowing that I have played with them at least once in the day.
7. Organise my computer things better on memory sticks or dropbox, to know that everything is safe.
8. I must do everything daily, without exception. Strictness and rigidity, punctuality and planning are the way forward to a happier me.

There you go. The 8-point plan to gaiety.

And if I succeed, there will be a reward – something cultural and wonderful and inspiring.

Thank you to the great blog, ‘The Daily Connoisseur’ by Jennifer L. Scott for being an inspiration.

The book that I’m reading: Down The Garden Path by Beverley Nichols.

A Passion for Food

I recently saw this video clip about Irish food. It inspired me to think about everything good in food that I believe in. Local produce provides us with what we need the most of. For the restaurant business, my favourite quotes: “You need to be able to communicate with your audience, you need to able to tell them the difference between what you’re doing and what’s being produced commercially” ……….. “connecting the farmers to the customers” ……….

Thanks to the very talented Imen McDonnell from for putting together this fabulous film highlighting what is great about the Irish food culture.

Watch it here:


Everywhere I go these days I see the trees laden with red berries: Rowan trees.

Rowan tree

I have a series of beautiful little books called Flower Fairies, and I want to share a pretty poem:

“They thought me, once, a magic tree

Of wondrous lucky charm,

And at the door they planted me

To keep the house from harm.

They have no fear of witchcraft now,

Yet here I am today;

I’ve hung my berries from the bough,

And merrily I say:

“Come, all you blackbirds, bring your wives,

Your sons and daughters too,

The finest banquet of your lives

Is here prepared for you””

Rowan tree

And this a pretty card available at Not on the High, mentions the names and uses of the Rowan tree.

As for me: I’m Irish, and as such a true believer in fairies, so I will tell my children the story of the Rowan tree as the protector against evil. Red is the best colour to protect against enchantment and each berry has its leaves arranged as a pentagram opposite the stalk.

But I also enjoy the Greek myth of Hebe, the goddess of youth, who lost her magical chalice. The gods sent an eagle to retrieve it. Upon his return he was attacked by demons and shed feathers and blood which fell to the earth and created the Rowan tree, whose leaves are the shape of eagle feathers and whose berries are like drops of blood!

Myths and legends aside, we live in the mountains: hence the hardy Rowan trees abound. So let all the birds have their fill, as winter here is long and hard.

Getting cosy

It is about this time of year when the days start to shorten and the leaves turn to orange, that I dream of an Autumn mini break to somewhere cosy and inspiring. It seems like weeks since we were swimming outside, and yet weeks more until the first snow. I like the in-between seasons, where everything mellows and we try to slow time down a little.

Autumn's smile

Still sleeping with a Summer duvet, I keep warm by snuggling down with my hot water bottle.

Ruby and Ed

Ruby and Ed hot water bottle

and slippers

Ruby and Ed slippers

My favourite clothes are skirts with boots, keeping the Summer alive but preparing for the Winter while legs are still brown.

skirts and boots

Or break out the wellies and brolly for those showery days.

wellies and shorts

Rosé starts to make way for a fuller bodied white wine.

Puligny Montrachet

We get to eat curly kale, the king of green veg.

Curly kale

Warm baths become something to languish in during the shorter evenings.

Writing in the bath

It is the season of jam making!




and board games to while away the evenings.


And cuddles.


Take time to enjoy a walk in the countryside, enjoy the end of the harvesting, swim before the water gets too cold, watch the changing season. ‘Tis a gorgeous time of the year!

As for us, a week until the job ends and we take a plunge into something new….

Juggling being Mummy and working (and the guilt), is nothing new to our generation, but it gets no easier.

As our world rushes towards it’s greater complexity, I feel a pull towards the old ways in the home whilst enjoying modern technology. Is that a cliché? I know I’m not alone.

Oooh, and as for that mini break, I’m happy just to dream.

rachel ashwell

The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell

Until next time xx

(all photos on Pinterest here)

My favourite blogs today

I was going for a slice of dark chocolate, when I changed my mind and opted for red, red wine, a delicious St Emilion …..

Chateau Haut Mondil

It seems somehow to go with my new change of look (and outlook? I dare …. !) So it is from blonde with pink lipstick to brunette with red lipstick that I have become. Hurrah! I love the change completely.

So here I am and I wanted to share some of my absolute favourite blogs with you today. I can get lost for hours in the blogosphere, but there are a few who truly have me hooked every time:

1. Firstly and stand-out-of-the-crowd the best is:

Greg Canty’s blog Fuzion

I love his regular posts with thoughtful insights on happenings throughout his daily life and work. He is clever with his words and diligent in replying to comments. I read every post.

2. I love (along with very many others):

David Lebovitz’s Sweet Life in Paris

He combines a lot of my passion’s – food, France, tipples, and another who is amazing with words and wit.

3. At a risk of getting too ‘girly’, I do like

Radostina’s 79 Ideas

A seemingly endless whirlwind of beautiful photography of houses, interiors and exteriors. Almost all are to my taste, indicating of course, that Radostina has excellent taste!

4. Heading South, the Australian ‘professional’ blog that I enjoy dipping in to:

The Design Files Daily

Sticking to a regular routine of interviews, recipes, design updates, this blog never fails to pique my interest

5. A blogger who has made me think about good manners again, (when Mum and Dad aren’t there to do it all the time):

Jennifer L. Scott’s The Daily Connoisseur

Jennifer reminds us of how to live well and has a lovely book out too, drawing from her experiences as an American in Paris. I particularly enjoy her video blogs.


Maybe you like to dip into blogs from time to time too? There are some great people out there writing ….

I feel like the computer world hooks me into a world of stunning images and dreams - but when I can drag myself away from it and sink into the written word on paper, blissful pleasure emerges.

So I am off now to read some words on paper (and another glass of that sumptuous red), until next time xx

BTW, to all fellow Swiss dwellers, HAPPY SWISS NATIONAL DAY!!!!



iTuned Out last night

my reading nook

My reading nook

This week I banned all screens for my kids. There was uproar, so I agreed to ban them for myself too (with the exception of necessities for work).

Indeed I composed this blog post the old-fashioned way, with a pen and notebook.

The liberation from the distraction that is the internet these days, was overflowing.

I have done the ironing, walked the dog , the kids are asleep on time (and without any quarelling over TV), I have done the laundry and I have lain (for the first time ever) on the lounger on the terrace at sunset reading my book and drinking a gin and tonic …. and am still in bed by 10pm.

My hairdresser told me the other day that my hair is completely ‘mou’ (French for ‘limp’), probably due to stress and lack of sleep, she said. Well, I think I may have found the cure.


The cleverness behind the hippy-front that is Leonie Dawson, instructs goddesses to work offline.

Emer O’Reilly Hyland’s brilliant article in Image magazine says ‘We worry about our children being parked in front of a screen for too long, but do we question what it does to us, the grown-ups? I feel unfulfilled after a night of info-snacking. It’s like tucking into a big Easter egg only to find that it’s a thin, empty shell of cheap chocolate, but you still feel guilty for polishing it off’.

Turning off is really the key to getting on with life as we knew it.

I can scour pinterest for “work-related ideas” but spin-off into dreamtime. You should see my ‘dream house’ board!! (What about my real house, have I crafted anything fabulous for it lately???). I check in on my distant friends on facebook and get ‘sucked in’ like South Park. Oooh, someone just had couscous for dinner, how fascinating! (Did I really need to know?). I read and retweet interesting articles on twitter & catch up on blogs I follow. Then a quick check of the trends on Shopbop, special offers on perhaps? Have they discounted that skirt I love on Ruby and Ed? Apps? I must need some new apps! PING, there goes my phone, an email …. resist the urge, it’s probably just a newsletter…. Crikey, where did my evening go? Did I even speak to my husband at all? Oh, he’s watching the TV …….. Luckily I don’t enjoy TV that much anymore, so it’s not that hard to wean myself off THAT screen!

Do my kids really need to learn to read ONLINE? I’m sure we managed perfectly well from books and paper for generations.

I have been so targeted with combatting my kid’s obsession with screens, that I failed to realise it comes from us. They look up to us as their parents for guidance.

So there it is …. I am imposing a screen ban in my house for a week (baby steps – never set your goals TOO high). Just the necessary evils of work-related screens, but NO SURFING! A recent Daily Mail article reports on our negative moods linked to online surfing.

So, let’s see how I get on … signing out for now!

Oh and PS – I am currently reading the much-acclaimed and true-to-it’s-reviews, very beautiful SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts. It fills me up.


There just isn’t enough time anymore ….. :-) NAH!

Thoughts on Entertaining Guests

1940s guest entertaining


People can be deadly serious about their parties, many of them forget that entertaining is meant for pleasure.

Once I walk into my party, there is nothing more to be done than to relax and enjoy. The weeks of planning for my wedding, organising contractors and guests and even final table laying on the morning of the event meant that when I put my dress on, I thought only of US and just enjoyed the rest of the day.

It is easy to throw a proper dinner party with beautiful food, flattering light, elegant displays and a balanced list of guests, but it is not so easy to put an unforgettable event together. Plan from start to finish – an invitation with a WOW to set the theme and challenge the imagination of your guests, a carefully thought out theme that follows from invitation to decoration to cocktails and gastronomy, imagine the lighting and seating, the entertainment and costumes. Set the ball rolling: a diverse list of guests and a well-chosen venue. Then alight your imagination to create something that is fun and frivolous, not somber and stalwarty!


One should be confident in any company at any level of society. Seated beside the Admiral or the junior rating, learn to have good conversation with anyone – get past the basics and then crack some jokes.

‘Eating should be fun and not a time for worrying about which knife and fork to use, and the easiest way to allay those fears is to learn to eat with style and perfect etiquette’ ……’Displaying and appreciating good manners is not a matter of snobbery.’

says A Butlers Guide to Table Manners.

As children, my parents taught us to eat ‘As if the Queen was at the table’. Dad would ask, “Do you think the Queen would approve of that?” as we licked our bowls of ice cream! (We are not even British for heaven’s sake!). But thanks to my Mum, we always know which knife and fork to use, how not to end up with a mouthful of fish bones and how, most importantly, to Pass the Port. (Although perhaps that did not come as a child, but more as a Naval education at the endless round of formal dinners.)


Whether it is a family dinner with the kids, a romantic dinner for two, or a birthday tea for ten – setting the table is all about entertaining. Choosing, combining and positioning the elements on the table make the occasion special. If you have children, it is a gift you can give them to have table manners and knowledge to set the table and share conversation.

I have had the most fun at impromptu gatherings: spread a hamam towel over the table, pick lavender from the garden and shove it in jam jars, grab mismatched plates and glasses, hang Christmas fairy lights on the terrace and light candles everywhere! Bring your own food and wine and plonk it in the middle to share.

At a properly planned party, think through the colours, shapes and theme – pick flowers in season as you do the food. Match little details to create a display on the table and in the room. Never kitsch, always styled! If guests have made the effort to pay for a babysitter for the night it is nice for you to make an effort too.


Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance


Plan a theme, it will help you. Even if it is as simple as a colour or a flower or a favourite game, it will help. But why not go BIG and create that memorable event. Plan the guest list now and invite them. After that there is no holding back..(PS I await your photos)

6. HELP!

Really? Ok here goes:

Be My Guest by Fay Lewis

InStyle Parties - the Complete Guide

Simple, Stunning Parties at Home by Karen Bussen

David Stark: The Art of the Party

Top 10 Guide – Dinner Party Checklist

Don’t forget I love to hear all about it, so do tell all! Have a great weekend x.

Housekeeping Books

OnBoard magazine

from OnBoard the magazine

Housekeeping – love it / hate it? If you’re in the hospitality industry, it’s just something you have to deal with, so you had better at least like it!

I get great job satisfaction turning a messy room into a tidy, clean room. But I have worked with lots of people who just don’t get it, and have not lasted too long in the business.

Cleaning is perhaps the least favourite part of the job for everyone. But I have to say that working as a stewardess on yachts (and yes, cleaning them) allowed me the privilege to get paid to travel to the getaways of the rich and famous, to swim with manta rays in the South Pacific, to dance until the wee hours in Sardinia, to watch the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix from a yacht at the track edge and so many more adventures, that I can actually say that I really like my job.

And anyway, housekeeping today is trendy. Yes, you heard me – trendy? With the design and interiors craze, people everywhere are taking more interest in how their home looks and feels. There are even tv shows about cleaning now!

The globalization of feng shui and it’s philosophy of de-cluttering and cleaning to promote a more creative / loving / welcoming space has encouraged us to dust away the cobwebs and clean behind the couch.

Heck, there are even Apps about it!

The move now is away from cleaning with chemicals to actually cleaning with more natural and traditional products, to make a healthier environment. On the yachts we used a minimal kit for general cleaning and kept specialist products for deep cleaning (or the odd crisis!). But even then, the simple methods work best – I saw a bottle of balsamic vinegar dropped on a beige carpet in the salon, we poured water on it immediately and blotted it up with white paper towels, the stain vanished completely! The (very meticulous) owner walked by while we were on the floor and said “I don’t want to know!”, luckily he never needed to know!

So with all of this in mind, here are some of my favourite books on the subject:

Cabbages and Roses ‘Guide to Natural Housekeeping’ by Christina Strutt.

What she says: ‘Live a calmer, healthier life, Recycle and Reuse, Clean Naturally, Garden Organically’

What I say: Do you know how to make your own sticky fly paper? Did you know how to clean the impossible to reach areas of a glass decanter with bicarbonate of soda, crushed eggshells and warm water? Make plant pots for your seedlings out of newspaper and when they emerge, plant them out intact! This book is laden with invaluable information that will bring you back to it time and time again. Beautiful photographs of vintage linen and homewares enhance the pleasure. Added to that, Christina Strutt agrees with me “There is little in life more satisfying than tackling a really untidy, unclean room”. A real gem of a book.

‘From Mother to Daughter’ by Viviene Bolton

What she says: ” Traditional housekeeping for the modern home: steam puddings, smoke fish, dry tomatoes, soak in a milk bath, harvest lavender, launder silk, knit a flannel, perfume linen, plant a pumpkin, grow a salad, pickle onions, compost waste, coddle an egg, soothe sore throats, bake bread, make jam, boil a cordial, whip up hand cream, take cuttings, clean bamboo, make pancakes, steam mussels, mull wine, bottle figs, care for your skin, decorate a Christmas tree … “

What I say: Cleverly the chapters of this book are the seasons, so helps you to use it throughout the year. It is not purely housekeeping, as you have read from the list above, but more a book of homemaking. It makes you yearn for an English cottage and garden! She teaches you from her experiences, and those passed down to her from older generations,  how to grow and use produce with recipes to eat / drink / put on your skin / clean your furniture ….. full of tips and useful advice, and modern pictures reminiscent of bygone years, spurring you on to create your own memories and treasures to hand down to your children. Lavender, roses and happiness!

‘The Feng Shui Bible’ by Simon Brown

What he says: “The definitive guide to improving your life, home, health and finances……..From understanding basic principles of feng shi to mastering floor plans and using remedies to cure real-life problems …. It includes advice on moving house, tailoring feng shui to your personal requirements, choosing furnishings and deciding when to decorate.”

What I say: I love how this book is laid out, and it’s size – just a little bigger than pocket-sized! It starts out with the basics of feng shui, the numbers and directions and teaches you how to find the best place to sit in your home. The next short section talks about the ‘building blocks’ –  mirrors, candles, plants, colours, etc that define how the chi flows. Finally the largest part of the book examines areas of your life and how to improve them – from home to career, family and relationships. Can it bring family closer and reduce arguments? I am a believer, and feel the changes in atmosphere in our home, simply by removing clutter and deep cleaning. For bigger shifts I have changed the directions that my babies have slept for more restfulness and the place that I sit to work for more creativity. This is a great no-nonsense book and a source of continuous reference.

‘Kirstie’s Homemade Home’ by Kirstie Allsopp

What she says: “This book is full of achievable ways to transform your house into a home that reflects you and the things you value, plus lots of gorgeous craft projects to try yourself.”

What I say: As an ideas book to dip into and scour the pictures, this book is fun. Following the television series of the same name, Kirstie has some good ideas and walks you through the basics of lots of different crafts. But if you want to go in-depth to anything in particular then this is not the book for you. I have enjoyed popping in from time to time as a source of inspiration!

Here are some more great references on the subject:

Be Happier in your Home / from the blog ‘Headed Somewhere’

1001 uses for white distilled vinegar

The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

The best housekeeping book you’ve never heard of / from the blog ‘The Modern Mrs Darcy’

Top 10 cleaning and organizing books / from

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