Essential items to include when designing your home office

All white home office

With the invention of internet and portable computers, working from home is becoming an ever more accessible and popular lifestyle choice. Whether you have decided to run your own business, having a baby or enjoy home comforts far too much, when deciding to work at home it is a good idea to set up a home office which will be your work zone. Below is a list of essential items which should be included when designing your home office.

Laptop, notebook & pen, mobile phone and coffee

Computer

Virtually all jobs which require an office environment will require a computer to write documents, access the internet and send emails to clients. A laptop is a good choice, because it will allow you to take the computer out with you if you need to meet clients etc. If you like working on a big screen but are short on cash, instead of splashing out on an expensive desktop computer, why not by a monitor screen which you can link to your laptop, doubling it up as a desktop computer.

Broadband speed test result | H is for Home

High speed internet connection

There is nothing worse than spending hours waiting for web pages to load or media to buffer. Not only can this be frustrating but it is also a huge waste of time which could be put to more effective use. When looking for an internet connection ideal for a home office, wireless, fiberoptik internet is a wise choice for that high speed connection which will allow you to use multiple devices simultaneously. This is ever more important if you have a large family with many people connected at once. Virgin media boasts being one of the fastest internet providers currently.

Ergonomic chair in a home officecredit

Ergonomic office chair and desk

If you are taking working from home seriously, it is likely you will be doing a good 9-5 or similar shift in the home office. Therefore, it is important that you have comfortable, ergonomic working conditions to work in, to increase comfort and reduce physical damage to your body through excessive straining over time. A good place to start is spending some cash on a good quality ergonomic office chair. This will prevent back strain and aches which develop from excessive straining. A large desk, tailored to your height will also prevent hunching which can be bad for posture over time and prevent the development of back problems as you age.

Storing office papers and pens

Organisation equipment

One of the most important tips when running a home office is to ensure it is tidy and organised. A messy environment can be both mentally and physically stressful. Not only will you waste precious time finding important documents and files in a heap of items, but a cluttered work place often leads to a cluttered mindset and therefore you may become less efficient in your job. It is therefore important to install lots of storage units within the office for different items. A few simple, cheap storage units you can buy are filing trays for all your important letters. Ring binders for all your important documents and an online storage account for all your important virtual documents. Dropbox is an online storage provider with a good reputation.

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Designer Desire: Antonio Frasconi

Mosaic of Antonio Frasconi artworks | H is for Home

Antonio Frasconi (1919 – 2013) was an illustrator best known for his woodcut prints, especially the ones in his award-winning 1950s children’s book, The House That Jack Built, a picture book in two languages. and See and Say, a picture book in four languages. He often produced books in multiple languages; namely English, Italian, French and Spanish. A great way to learn a new language – whatever your age may be!

Frasconi was born in Argentina, grew up in Uruguay and, aged 26, moved to the USA. In addition to his work for children he produced very political works on subjects such as the Vietnam War and ‘Los Desaparecidos’ (The disappeared), the people tortured and killed during the Uruguayan Dictatorship in the 197s and 80s.

As well as his own books, he designed numerous covers and illustrations for the works of other authors and poets including:

  • Dylan Thomas – Reading a Child’s Christmas in Wales | Narrating Under Milk Wood (LP records)
  • Herman Melville – On the Slain Collegians
  • Walt Whitman – Overhead the Sun
  • Jan Wahl – The Little Blind Goat
  • Ruth Krauss – The Cantilever Rainbow
  • Henri Pirenne – Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
  • André Gide – Strait is the Gate | If It Die
  • Glenway Wescott – 12 Fables of Aesop
  • Titus Burkhardt – Alchemy

Antonio Frasconi at work

Image credits:

Invaluable | Pinterest | Moma | Amazon

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance allotment

12 perennial vegetables to grow for a low-maintenance vegetable garden or allotment | H is for Home

You may or may not have noticed that we haven’t done an update about our allotment in quite a while. Yes, we still have it. Unfortunately, because of Justin’s back injury, poor weather and neglect due to time pressures, this year has been a wipe out!

In an ideal world, we’d potter about amongst the fruit and veg every day – alas, this just isn’t possible at the moment. We’ve come to the conclusion that, for the time being, we’d be much better off concentrating on low-maintenance perennial vegetables. We’ve done a bit of research online and from Eric Toensmeier’s book, Perennial Vegetables. This is our short list of 12 that we’re going to try out.

Allium fistulosum - Welsh onion

Allium fistulosum – Welsh onion

It may say Welsh on the tin, but this allium actually originates in China. We think it would be perfect for our allotment. Not only is it good for cooking and eating, it’s a beautiful ornamental when it’s in flower. It’s used widely in East Asia in miso soup, stir fries and in salad garnish.

Available here

Allium ursinum - Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Allium ursinum – Wild garlic, damsons, wood garlic

Wild garlic grows… well, wild in lots of places near where we live. We have an old tin bath that we planted up with a few wild garlic bulbs a couple of years ago. It absolutely loves the dark, damp spot where we put it and its spread has already doubled. We’ll dig up a bit of it and replant it in a similar position on the allotment. We look forward to the wild garlic season every year, we use the leaves a lot in cooking.

Available here

Growing asparagus in a pot

Asparagus officinalis – Asparagus

Asparagus is one vegetable that I wish we’d cook and eat more often. It’s always so expensive in the shops – and it’s almost always thick, fibrous spears on offer. Because the soil in or garden and on our allotment isn’t at all sandy, we think we’ll grown a little asparagus in containers. Maybe one green, one white and one purple.

Lots of people say that it can’t grow in pots but we’ve seen on the internet that it can be done. Apparently, the container needs to be very deep with very good drainage – so we were thinking of using a couple of old metal dolly tubs. The downside of container-grown asparagus is that it doesn’t live anywhere near the 10-20 years that it does in open ground and the resulting spears can be a little spindly. The upside is that the taste of asparagus cut from the earth and cooked within hours is incredible – as is the feeling of knowing you’ve grown it yourself.

Available here

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides - Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

Brassica oleracea botrytis asparagoides – Broccoli, Nine Star Perennial

A broccoli that looks like a cauliflower and is a perennial? We’d never heard of it! Each head grows to the size of a tennis ball – so the perfect portion. It would be great roasted or served with a cheese sauce and a crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Available here

Cynara scolymus - Globe artichokes

Cynara scolymus – Globe artichoke

Yes, it’s a faff to prepare. Yes, there’s a lot of wastage in its preparation. But you never see it in the supermarket and rarely on a veg stall at the market. And it’s such a show-stopping, architectural plant in the garden or on the allotment; we think it earns its place on this list.

Available here

Helianthus tuberosus - Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke

Another vegetable that you don’t see in the supermarket, the Jerusalem artichoke (it’s not an artichoke… and nothing to do with Jerusalem for that matter!) is a relative of the sunflower. As such, this perennial root vegetable doubles up as an ornamental having bright yellow flowers on a stem that can grow 5-10 foot tall.

Available here

Matteuccia struthiopteris - ostrich ferns and fiddleheads

Matteuccia struthiopteris – ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern

It’s the young unfurled fronds, or fiddleheads, of the ostrich fern that can be eaten – not raw though. Neither of us have ever tried them, but they are meant be delicious sautéed in butter. They contain omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids, fibre, potassium, antioxidants… full of goodness!

Available here

Phaseolus coccineus - Scarlet runner beans

Phaseolus coccineus – Scarlet runner beans

The pods of the scarlet runner bean conceal the most beautiful beans! Eat them in their pods while they’re still young & tender, cook the shelled beans from fresh or dry and store them for a later date. Grow & train the plant up a wigwam or trellis where you can appreciate the scarlet flowers in all their glory. Even the roots are edible – a true perennial all-rounder!

Available here

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum - Solomon's seal

Polygonatum biflorum canaliculatum – Solomon’s seal

We’ve had a pot of Solomon’s Seal in our garden for years and never knew that it’s an edible plant. Talking of all-rounders, the starchy rhizomes of Solomon’s seal can be used to make bread and soup, the young stems can be eaten like asparagus and it’s used in herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, sedative and a tonic.

Available here

Rheum rhabarbarum - Rhubarb

Rheum rhabarbarum – Rhubarb

One of my favourites! I love it in pies, crumble and as a compote atop plain yoghurt. We may use it like a fruit, but it’s actually a vegetable, similar to celery.  It’s a beautiful, sculptural plant with its huge, tropical-looking leaves at the end of bright pink stalks. It’s only these stalks that are edible – the leaves are famously poisonous… but they are terrific for the compost heap, the toxic oxalic acid quickly breaks down. Rhubarb is known as a bit of a bully and can become rampant, so keep an eye on its spread. We already have a couple of varieties growing in dolly tubs in our garden.

Available here

Scorzonera hispanica - black salsify

Scorzonera hispanica – black salsify

If you live in a cold part of the country like we do, black salsify can cope with that. Another relative of the sunflower, it has lovely yellow flowers. If you’re growing carrots on your allotment, use this as a companion plant as it’s believed to repel carrot fly. Another nutritious root vegetable, it’s rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium, and various vitamins.

Available here

Urtica dioica - Stinging nettle

Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle

Most people see stinging nettle as a weed, a pest. Poor thing, it doesn’t deserve that reputation! It’s really versatile. We inherited a couple of patches, which we have left alone, when we took on our allotment (their presence is an indicator of a good quality soil!).

Pick the young leaves (wearing gardening gloves) and cook with them in much the same way as you would use spinach. It’s full of protein, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It can be used to brew tea and beer. Use the leaves and roots to make natural dyes. Even the stalks can be used to make a textile similar to linen. Soak it in a large watering can or water butt to produce home-made liquid fertiliser. Insects love it,  If you keep chickens, feed it to them and the yolks of their eggs even more yellow. If you still feel the need to uproot it, put it on your compost heap, it’s full of nitrogen which helps in the breakdown of the organic material. What’s not to love about the humble stinging nettle?

Cakes & Bakes: Yellow layer cake with buttercream icing

Slice of home-made yellow layer cake | H is for Home

Our neighbours have gone on holiday this week and have asked me to look after their chickens again. They have about twice as many chickens as they did last time… so that means twice as many eggs every day.

Separated eggs | H is for Home

I’ve been looking into recipes where you use lots of just yolks and just whites – as I don’t like to waste half the eggs. I found a couple of recipes by Rose Levy Beranbaum that fit the bill. I’ll be attempting her favourite yellow layer cake this week.

Flour, butter & sugar in a food mixer bowl | H is for Home

I decided to make the yolks-only cake first as I discovered, on my online travels, that egg whites can be easily and successfully frozen for use at a later date. Yolks take a little more effort. The yellow layer cake I made today – as you’ve probably deduced – uses just egg yolks.

Yellow layer cake batter in an orange vintage Kenwood food mixer | H is for Home

It also uses bleached cake flour, something you don’t tend to find in supermarkets here in the UK. I took a lengthy detour on the website of Rose’s Devon-based friend, Kate Coldrick, who shows you in great detail how to make your own substitute.

Yellow layer cake batter in a round baking tin | H is for Home Yellow layer cake cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

I followed both Rose’s and Kate’s instructions almost to the letter, hoping that I’d produce a cake like never before.

Yellow layer cake sliced in half horizontally | H is for Home Yellow layer cake with buttercream icing in the centre and on the top | H is for Home

The sponge was light & airy and the texture was crumbly. I teamed it with a vanilla buttercream icing which complements, not overpowers the flavour.

Detail of a yellow layer cake with buttercream icing | H is for home

Stay tuned next week Thursday for my egg white recipe!

Yellow layer cake with buttercream icing
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Cook Time
35 min
Cook Time
35 min
For the cake
  1. 4 large egg yolks
  2. 160g/5½oz sour cream
  3. 1½tsp vanilla extract
  4. 200g/7oz bleached cake flour*
  5. ½tsp baking powder
  6. ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  7. 200g/7oz caster sugar
  8. ¼tsp salt
  9. 170g/6oz butter, softened
For the icing
  1. 250g/9oz butter, softened
  2. ½tsp vanilla extract
  3. 300g/10½oz icing sugar
  4. 1tbsp milk
For the cake
  1. Grease a 23cm/9-inch spring-form cake tin then line it with parchment paper
  2. 20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 175ºC/350°F/Gas mark 4
  3. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, lightly combine the yolks, about ¼ of the sour cream and the vanilla
  4. In a stand mixer bowl, with paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, caster sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt
  5. Mix on a low speed for 30 seconds to blend
  6. Add the butter and the remaining sour cream and mix on a low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened
  7. Increase to medium speed, or high speed if using a hand held mixer and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure
  8. Scrape down the sides
  9. Gradually add the egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition until fully incorporated
  10. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes away clean and it springs back when pressed lightly in the centre
  11. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes
  12. Loosen the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula, and remove the sides of the spring-form tin
  13. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and flip it again onto a second rack it so that the top faces up
  14. Allow to cool completely before slicing in half horizontally and icing the middle and top
For the icing
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla essence
  2. Blend in the icing sugar, a quarter at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. Beat in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy
  4. Keep the icing covered until ready to use
Notes
  1. *If like me you're based in the UK and find it hard to find bleached cake flour in the shops, have a look at Kate Coldrick's meticulous method to make your own version
Adapted from The Baking Bible
Adapted from The Baking Bible
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/

Our new shop space

Shopfront of our new shop space | H is for Home

In a recent blog post about a Blomus tea set, we mentioned our new shop space.

Empty shopfront of our new shop space | H is for Home

Well, here it is! It’s an attractive corner plot directly opposite the antiques centre from where we currently sell. This was a good opportunity to spread things out a bit. We’re sharing the shop with a couple of other dealers.

Looking out into the street from our new shop space | H is for Home

Our space has got a lovely, big display window.

Neglected window box outside our new shop space | H is for Home

…and a neglected window box which had potential to look very pretty.

Justin standing in the street outside our new shop space | H is for Home

So, what to do next!  Mmmm… let’s mull this over.

Bringing stock into our new shop space | H is for Home

We moved into the space over a couple of days. We wanted to combine our twin loves of mid century modern and rustic country styles.

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

And here are the results. We hope it looks like the kind of shop in which you’d like to browse. If you ever get the chance to visit, we’re right next to the library in Todmorden – at the junction of Hall Street and Rochdale Road. Picturehouse Antiques, where we also sell from, is directly across the road – and there are loads of good places to get coffee and cake close by!

Collection of wooden vintage bobbins in the window of our new shop space | H is for Home

Justin took lots of snaps which we’ve included below to give you a good feel of the new place. We hope to see you there one day!

New H is for Home shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Detail of an antique miniature chest of drawers for sale in our new shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Display of antique wooden items for sale in our new shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Detail of spindles from an antique country chair | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Trio of blue vintage objects for sale in our new shop space | H is for Home

Setting up our new shop space | H is for Home

Chemist fittings in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

Chemist fittings in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

Chemist fittings in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

Anatomical figure of a cow in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

Anatomical figure of a pig in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

Detail from a Frogman piece in the new shop space next to ours | H is for Home

New H is for Home shop space | H is for Home

Get their look: Vintage furnished Victorian railway carriage

Vintage furnished Victorian railway carriagecredit

This vintage furnished Victorian railway carriage home belongs to Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire, owners of Minimoderns. Keith and Mark design & produce a range of beautiful homewares, much of which can be found decorating their home.

The railway carriage is located down in Dungeness on the Kent coastline. We love the distinctive scenery and unique atmosphere that Dungeness offers. It’s attracted many artists and designers over the years – and lots of ground-breaking architecture too.

There’s a sparseness to the landscape – and the Scandinavian mid century modern simplicity of their décor suits the environment and the railway carriage supremely well.

  1. Hooked E27 Bakelite lamp holder
  2. Bright orange round fabric lighting cable | 3 core
  3. Trentham green bull money box designed by Colin Melbourne
  4. Vitra Alexander Girard wooden doll
  5. Attache record player – blue
  6. Hornsea Pottery bird ashtray/pin dish by John Clappison
  7. Green Riihimäki art glass vase
  8. Set of 4 ceramic beakers
  9. Jacquet cushion – Tangerine Dream
  10. Darjeeling cushion – Tangerine Dream
  11. Pavilion linen fabric – Harvest Orange

Get their look: Vintage furnished Victorian railway carriage | H is for Home