Gimme Five! Advent calendars

November 27th, 2015

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Selection of 5 advent calendars

Advent starts on Sunday so you only have a couple of days left to get your hands on your advent calendars! They’ve been around since the 19th century and are traditionally used to celebrate the run up to, and prepare for, Christmas Day.

It wasn’t always about scoffing a chocolate a day – although I wholeheartedly agree with that undertaking – the 24 compartments once held a different bible verse, prayer or poem. How about filling them with something different and unique – handmade sweets, a daily artwork, ‘activity’ coupons or individual figures to slowly make up a nativity set? I like the idea of filling each of mine with an advent candle – or little scented tea lights like these from IKEA.

  1. Reusable fabric advent calendar – Christmas tree: £40.76, Etsy
  2. The Advent Calendar – Truffles for Two: £26, Hotel Chocolat
  3. Wooden LED lit advent calendar by The Forest & Co: £29.50, Notonthehighstreet
  4. Wooden Houses advent calendar: £40, John Lewis
  5. Susanne Kaufmann 2015 advent calendar – £99, Liberty

Cakes & Bakes: Fruit and nut soda bread

November 26th, 2015


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Home-made fruit and nut soda bread via @hisforhome

This week has been quite busy, so today’s Cakes & Bakes is going to reflect this – it’s a fruit and nut soda bread loaf. Soda bread is delicious. It’s not an emergency or last resort loaf, but having said that, it’s a real godsend if pushed for time.

flour and cubed butter in a mixing bowl flour, butter and buttermilk in a mixing bowl

It was my birthday on Tuesday, so I had a lovely lie-in while Justin took the dog for a walk. In the afternoon, he took me for a pub lunch locally at the Staff of Life.

Fruit and nut soda bread in a loaf tin before going into the oven

We stayed indoors during the evening but we shared a bottle of bubbly and caught up on some Scandi drama on television.

Freshly-made fruit and nut soda bread cooling on a wire rack

Yesterday, I went into Manchester city centre for yet another after-birthday lunch with a friend. Alas, after the whirlwind couple of days of being wined & dined, I’m getting back into the daily work schedule…

Fruit and nut soda bread
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
  1. 350g/12oz plain flour
  2. 50g/1¾oz wheatgerm
  3. 1tsp salt
  4. 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  5. 1tsp cream of tartar
  6. 2tbsp caster sugar
  7. 40g/1½oz cold butter, cubed
  8. 250g/9oz buttermilk
  9. 50g/1¾oz currants
  10. 50g/1¾oz chopped walnuts
  12. fruit and nut soda bread ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven and grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, wheatgerm, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar and sugar and mix
  3. Rub in the butter
  4. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk
  5. Using a bring the mixture towards the middle, mixing until it just comes together into a ball of dough
  6. Add the currants and walnuts and knead just a few times until the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed throughout the dough
  7. Form into a loaf shape, add to the tin and make a single deep cut along the long side
  8. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the top is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when knocked
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and eating
H is for Home Harbinger

How to bring a vintage industrial feel into your home

November 25th, 2015

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Vintage industrial officecredit

Vintage industrial style draws its influence from a variety of sources – factories, mills, schools, science labs, garages, hospitals and theatres. It shouldn’t be thought of as just suitable for loft apartments or factory conversions – the look can be brought into all kinds of domestic, retail and restaurant spaces. It’s been a very strong interior style over recent years and we think it’s definitely here to stay. Items incorporated into a scheme can be original vintage or modern with an industrial twist. Individual pieces also sit very well in an eclectic mix of old and new which has a timeless quality in terms of interior style.

If you like the idea of bringing a vintage industrial feel into your home, here are a few of the ways you can make it happen.

Retro tripod lamp from Furniture Village in our sitting room


Factory pendant light-shades are very much in vogue. Some people like theirs in the classic old industrial green enamel, a bit worn with a few chips. Others like the style and shape, but prefer them shiny and clean in bold, fresh colours. It’s a perfect example of how the look can be achieved through original vintage pieces or modern interpretations.

This tripod light from Furniture Village is a another great example. Taking its design from old theatre or TV studio lighting, it’s a striking sculptural piece. It has lots of presence in a room even when switched off… and looks very dramatic when lit at night.

Detail of lit retro tripod lamp from Furniture Village in our sitting room

Vintage workbench & lathe lights have a strong industrial look. They have flexible arms and tilting heads which make them very practical – perfect for bedside, reading area or office. Brands such as Mek-Elek and Newton are the most sought after.

We also like hanging task lights which have a metal cage protecting the bulb within. These often originate from old car factories or garages. They look fabulous suspended from the ceiling on a long cable.

Even bare bulbs can look amazing – modern bulbs with the old style filaments are now widely available; as is the woven fabric flex in various colours which completes the vintage industrial look.

Collection of vintage industrial seatingcredit


Most spaces need seating so there’s lots of opportunity to bring in a bit of industrial chic here. Machinists chairs, lab stools and tractor seats have the classic look that’s sought after… and again, there are both vintage and contemporary on the market.

Chair frames in distressed metal and layers of worn paint have real character. Rows of cinema seats, refectory and canteen benches can also give the desired look.

Vintage industrial wall-mounted shelvingcredit


If you’re good at DIY, you can up-cycle inexpensive wooden pallets to build shelves. Pinterest is awash with brilliant ideas for both inside and out. You could also employ pre-used wooden scaffolding boards and poles to make all manner of furniture and fittings. Old workshop and hospital trolleys with tiered shelving can also be utilised – as can stacks of old fruit or bottle crates.

Vintage industrial metal bank of drawerscredit


Again, there’s a great deal of scope here. Filing cabinets immediately spring to mind. Old examples with worn, patinated finish in wood or metal are sought after… and if a piece looks a bit too tatty, but you like the style then it’s perhaps the ideal piece for restoration. Wood can be stripped and re-stained, metal can be shot-blasted and then polished – or resprayed in a colour of choice.

Many workshops have huge banks of small drawers to accommodate tools, screws, nuts & bolts. These can be put to a myriad of uses – from ingredients in the kitchen to stationary in the home office.

Pigeon holes from factories, schools and sorting offices can be used in a similar way – ideal for displaying items too with their open fronts.

School & gym lockers were built to withstand daily use and abuse by pupils. They’re sturdy and robust and are perfect for use in kitchens and bathrooms to store items such as brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards and other items that are best hidden away.

Vintage bus blinds framed and mounted on a wall above a wood burning stove in a kitchen-dinercredit

Work surfaces

Work benches, sorting stations, trestles and sewing machine tables are all ideal to consider as re-purposed work surfaces.

They can function as dining tables, coffee tables, work desks and media consoles – in fact any surface you can think of. They tend to have a rough hewn or used appearance, giving bundles of character and charm.

Wheels and castors can add further flexibility with the ease of movement and re-positioning options.

Vintage industrial work surface with storage belowcredit

Finishing touches

Vintage industrial accessories complete look. The following items all work very well to bring a scheme together.

Factory & station clocks; enamel advertising signs; vintage school charts and maps; wire racks/baskets; tailors’ mannequins; old bobbins & reels; bus blinds; ladders & steps; letter stencils… whatever you think works!

Consider distinctive, quirky details too – add vintage castors to table legs, use science lab glass as vases, hang clip boards for shopping lists. Be creative – you’ll have hours of fun sourcing items putting your own unique look together!

So where can you pick up vintage industrial pieces? There’s lots of it out there if you search. Scour car boot sales, architectural salvage yards, internet stores and of course, eBay. Be patient if you’re looking for a key statement piece – it will turn up eventually! Having said that, if you find something that’s ‘almost right’, it’s probably best to snap it up –  then if absolute perfection turns up, you can sell the first piece and replace with the new. A really good thing about antique & vintage pieces is that they hold their value very well – sometimes even increasing in price.

We live in an area where historically there were many industries present including textile mills, dye works, iron and brick works, mines and quarries. Many of these businesses haven’t survived but the buildings that once housed them have; local auctions regularly sell their now defunct contents. Pieces should be readily available in most areas however, as dealers will travel the country looking for pieces that fit in with sought after styles.

Further vintage industrial inspiration can be found in the books below…

Vintage Industrial: Living With Design Icons book Industrial Chic: Cult Furniture, Design and Lighting boock Reclaiming Style - Using salvaged materials to create an elegant home book Industrial Chic: 50 Icons of Furniture and Lighting Design book