A bit about our home decoration – designed with my grand 5* hotel inspirations in mind!

Colour Coded Bookshelves

practiceprincess : December 2, 2012 2:16 pm : Castle

A marvellous feat of accomplishment was achieved here in this household last Sunday.  Colour-coded book shelves.  It might not have moved much of a response from onlookers buy hey, that’s what this blog is for if nothing else – a place where I get to share the pleasures of personal inspiration!


Recently, my home inspiration came from the above photo which I found online.  A final completion of my to do list: I had my eye on this wonderfully kitsch, beautifully novel idea of organising books by colour – I came across some ideas for bookshelves about a year ago and I was inspired to try it out myself.

“Hmmm…. strange idea?”  I absolutely loved it.  It seems to be a big trend in the U.S. and like many things, will probably arrive here in a couple of years time… although there are many extremes to which you could take it!

So here’s my take – before:

And after:

Do you like it?  Well, I was thrilled!  Of course, I am prepared, until the trend crosses over from the Atlantic, for the usual sorts of questions…


“How do you find anything?”

Well, firstly, let’s be realistic about this: how are your bookshelves organised at home?  I know, I know, you can categorise books and films in many ways: by genre, by alphabetical order, by date or, most commonly (and just as random) by size – but honestly: do they have any sort of order at all?  Or are they really just where you put them?  Most people do not consciously arrange their possessions in some sense that apppeals to us; taking the time to pre-determined gives a theraputic sense of order and identity – yet invites some curious responses!

In fairness, perhaps this is partly because this is not a five minute task: granted this kind of sorting out does not appeal to everyone – be warned; this takes longer than you might think.  A good 4 hours was need to de-clutter, compile, and re-shelve this lot.

The end result however, hugely satisfying.  Most of our objects have accumulated, rather than natural order.  So how do you find anything?  Well, the answer is: the same way as we did before – by knowing roughly where it is when you put it away!


“Wouldn’t alphabetical order be more logical?”

Well, not when we’re talking about personal pleasure – a home, not a reference library, or a shop in which to sell things.  In the days of digital books it’s not all that often that you do search for that item beginning with ‘A’ rather than just what’s on the go in your handbag or bedside table.  Most of the time, it’s nicer just to peruse.


“But books are not art, they’re real objects with names and meanings!”

Books are there to be enjoyed!  Looking as much like books as pieces of art, I like mine blended in with memories in lovely picture frames or intricate objects, candle sticks or champagne bottles from around the world.  Any way that helps you to be inspired by their possibilities – that’s the way it should be at home.  What we absorb in the leaves of books into our minds, the films we watch, mementos from our travels are quite simply a source of divinely splendid inspiration for me that only the richness of a bookshop and a warm cup of coffee could match in terms of pleasure.



When I look at these books I feel comfort; a sense of richness, eclectic wealth of knowledge and a reminder of the amazing fabric woven through the tapestry of human minds; shared thoughts, ideas, respite and inspiration.  I think about what I’d like to read next.  I look at the colours and my eye is drawn to unexpected things, I look at books I’ve read years ago in a new light and I consider revisiting them again.

On a more permanent note, I must say, it’s been a little while since I blogged; with life being busy I suppose I imagined for a while, that as trivial as baking, home decoration and grocery shopping can be, there were more important things to do.  But how wrong I was!  I realise that inspiration is the most important ingredient for any form of productive existance.  So, apologies, readers for my neglected postings; like a lemon drizzle cake I think that the marvel of all the meticulous work is only truly appreciated in the eating.  Happy Sunday to you.

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Ruby Curtain Voiles

practiceprincess : November 16, 2012 3:25 pm : Castle, Daily Blog

Here’s a little home decoration update for you, from our recent trip to Ikea.  Curtains!  Well, they’re actually rather transparent, very light ‘voiles’ which allow a little daylight through whilst giving you some added privacy.  Excitement was in the air last night as these finally went up… the flow of creativity is palpable in our house this week!

I love voiles and have been looking for them for some time… thanks to our resident handyman this was made possible.  I was originally going to go with a very light coffee / cream embroidered striped fabric, however, these gorgeous ruby sets were a bargain at only £7.00 per pair, so seemed worth the experiment.  We’ll see how they fare.

I was so pleased to have Adam here to put up these curtain poles – it’s not easy drilling through brick walls, getting all the measurements right and determining the many variables among which to purchase – colour, thickness, fittings… so much so that it’s taken us many years of procrastination to achieve this simple task.  I am so pleased!  Once you have them, you can do all sorts of things – have drapes, thick curtains as well as nets or voiles… I had a feeling it would just add some cosiness to the whole room.

I wasn’t sure at first about the dark, rich colour – but there’s something sort of Moroccan and lovely about it!  It’s a little moody but very cosy at night, especially with the little lamps on, a few tealights and our movies.  A perfect spot for good book reading even further enhanced.  So this was our living room before…

And this is after.

What do you think?  It’s a little dramatic and perhaps a particularly sparkly ruby, but fun to experiment and oh so much more homely – I would recommend putting curtains of some kind in every room.  Next stage: the study / dining room!  I think I’ll give it a proper trial run tonight over a good old romantic film and whatever tonight’s dinner turns out to be: I’m thinking a delicious bowl of hot chilli con carne… maybe with a glass of wine and today’s papers – something I’m finally enjoying reading at a strolling pace again in my return to abundance of leisure and free time.  Have a lovely Friday, all!  Take it easy.

P.S.  If you’re noticing the new comment box below for the first time, you’ll see I’ve done a little spring cleaning to deter some irksome spam that’s been cluttering up my site!  To leave your remarks now, you just follow the prompt and enter the city name copying both the capital and lower case letters.  Much obliged ;)


Wardrobe: Camera – Action!

practiceprincess : October 28, 2012 12:33 am : Castle, Daily Blog

This is one of my favourite views.  Only up here do I ever feel like the world truly makes sense; from a great height, where everything you live in can be captured through a view the size of your hand, or a small airplane window.  Sometimes a little dash of perspective gets me in the mood to reorganise: as you may well know, a favourite pastime of mine!

Rejuvenated by our recent holiday, I decided a little domestic post would be fun so here’s one on getting the house in order.

Well, now my degree is over (and the results are nothing short of a miracle!) I am relieved to find life going back to normal, however, the effects on my wardrobe have been starting to show.  We’re not just talking odd socks here, I mean we are in the realms of cluttered thinking and wardrobe malfunctions from a few months of stuffing things into spaces and making do.  If I’m to ever get anywhere on time, I need to be able to think quick when I look at my clothes, especially in this ever changing British weather!  So Miles decided to help me have a little tidy up…

“I knew I put it in here somewhere”

And as a result I can share with you my five top tips for a tidy wardrobe.  Yes, readers, we can take on those gremlins of fashion indecision, odd socks and dry cleaning procrastination…

Don’t be overwhelmed!  Here’s our advice:  (note, above is Miles poised in one of his favourite hiding places)

1) If you’re tight on space, have an archive of winter / summer clothes, and change them each season.  I know for a fact I will not be wearing the little sun dresses during the cold months, the maxi dresses can survive under the bed and so can the flip-flops, shorts and most of my t-shirts.  Okay, I might be extremely fortunate and score an exotic holiday somewhere, and if so they’re in easy reach – hey, you can even store them in your suitcase for safe keeping if you’re optimistic!  Double space saving and time-efficiency in one.

2) Invest in some of these fantastic vacuum pack bags: I was a cynic until I actually tried them!  They needn’t be expensive, mine were a steal at £1 each from a bargain high street shop.  They turn your bulky duvets and pillows from this:

To this!

… leaving plenty of room for your extra shoes and handbags ;)

3) Be kind to charity.  Do your bit and donate to ‘thrift’ or your local charity shop once in a while, with whatever you honestly don’t get enough wear out of anymore and could potentially make someone else very happy, whilst turning out a little profit for a good cause.  You’ll feel better for it and it means it’s acceptable to buy a new scarf or jumper if it takes your fancy, as you have the room to store it!

4) Embrace the capsule wardrobe concept and only ever buy the best you can afford.  You’ll be grateful for timeless, classic pieces that fit you well when either you’re in a hurry or you’re reorganising your wardrobe and you regret the cheap things you bought, seeming like bargains, that just need to be replaced a year later after little wear.  My top tip: browse through old fashion magazines from one or two seasons ago just to prove how versatile some things are, most likely things you already own, which never date.  The trench coat, the good pair of jeans, your favourite sweaters, the black dress or the classic shirt.  Here’s just one example, but they’re filled with inspiration.  I love how the stylists mix things up I wouldn’t normally think of pairing together.

Image Source

5) Treat yourself after you’ve done the rigorous job of having a clear out – after all, if it was easy everyone would be doing it!  But you can beat that recession and be kinder to your purse than the rest: before you shop til you drop, rediscover your old favourites, and how you can mix and match them up with a few clever accessories or new twists.  And my treat?  Well, a lovely candlelit dinner with Adam – I’ll share the menu later but for now the icing on the cake was the sticky toffee date pudding with vanilla pod ice cream for dessert.  Delicious!  Too many of these and I really would need to invest in a new wardrobe… however, as my mum says, ‘a little bit of what you fancy once in a while’ …does you good.

Organising a wardrobe or baking a cake, whatever it is, I think there’s something satisfying about a pretty tangible, guaranteed way of knowing an outcome with some degree of certainty and determination: life, however, and the world of a woman and her work are… well somewhat more complex things.  If my aspirations are eggs, my passions are sugar, my ideas are butter and my hopes are… well, flour?  I suppose I would quite like my future career to turn out like some marvelous, decadent cream cake with icing and Viennese swirls on the top.  But we don’t know yet.  But, as my dad says, sometimes the process of letting things go is as much as we need to do to bring things a step closer to our destiny.  So far I seem to like where my travels take me…  ‘Forward’.

Oh, and don’t worry, Miles is out of the wardrobe now.

No cats were particularly inconvenienced during the making of this post.

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How to Clean a Teapot

practiceprincess : October 11, 2012 7:12 pm : Castle, Daily Blog

Here’s a definite keeper to file under household organisation and general improvements.  Ever notice those stubborn brown stains in the tea pot or your favourite mugs, they refuse to budge under hot water washing up suds, dishwasher trials and general soaking at length?  Worse, they alter the taste of your tea!  Before I start sounding too much like an infomercial, let me emphasise the importance of a good cup of tea in my dailly writing and thinking routine.  The teacosy certainly gained me a few extra half hours of productivity, however, if left in the pot for long periods of time, the last cup turns into this awful brown stewed stuff that’s too bitter to drink.

Most unpleasant.

Well, I thought, for less than the price of one single Starbucks I could change all this and make my frequent daily cups a bit more enjoyable.  I decided to tackle this issue on several fronts: firstly I descaled the kettle.  Now, despite procrastinating at length on this one for inexplicable, numerous months, this is not as difficult or daunting as you may think; just a simple sachet and half an hour’s worth of soaking and you have a perfectly clean appliance again.  I also changed the filter cartridge on my water jug – well, I asked Adam to do it for me and he did – both of which must contribute hugely to the taste of a good brew – we drank really good cups of tea in Ireland. (and Guinness)

I just love the packaging design of these garish household detergent packets – they’re so retro aren’t they?  I don’t know what it is just find them sort of kitcsh… like this sort of packaging design hasn’t changed much since the fifties – but anyway as for your teapot: the solution is even more simple.  A little googling led me to this ingenious little You Tube video.  Thanks, anonymous you tuber!  Take one perfectly ordinary dishwasher tablet, with or without the ‘powerball’ feature and pop it in the empty teapot.  Fill all the way to the top with boiling water (best to do this in an empty sink to catch the overflow) and put the teapot lid on.  Leave it there to fizz for about half an hour, then empty and rinse.  You’ll go from this:

To this:

No scrubbing, soaking or expense involved!  Miraculous.  A little marvel in your day-to-day -  I’m pretty sure it would work just as well in pots and pans, tea stained mugs and the like.  Now back to the task in hand: whipping up another coffee cake (really, I just love this recipe!)

… or a sesame seed biscuit from the Chinese supermarket.  Yum!

Hope this passes on a little bit of household pleasure to you too.

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White Picket Fence

practiceprincess : September 12, 2012 1:05 am : Castle

There’s something romantic and inspiring about a white picket fence, so homely isn’t it?  The perfect symbol of domesticity and order… peace and cosiness within.  Such is the topic of today’s post – a sense of carving order from chaos, putting a nice finish on a work in progress… both appropriate and somewhat overdue because of this good news… I finally completed the homework!

That’s right, readers: the entire two years of studying: finally done!  So happy, thankful and relieved – more about that journey later but for now, after a weekend off, sleeping, recuperating, and a couple of days of just generally organising the house again, I’m getting back to normal and able to plough my energies into the things I love… hello again, Miles, and hello again, house & garden!

I thought a good place to pick up might be one of our recently documented home improvement escapades, which happened thanks to the wonderful members of the family I have who solved this problem while I was busy studying.  Project White Picket Fence:

We decided to paint our new fence cream – I loved it!

While Adam did the hard work I did my best to supply a nice breakfast: my favourite lately is this super-thin egg omlette, cheese and bagel combo with a sprinkle of spring onions and black pepper.  Mmmm mmm.  It’s squidgy and delicious, you’ll try one and want more I guarantee!  It goes great with OJ and coffee.

Thumbs up!  Sorry, Adam.  But I do like this photo.

I digress.  Anyway, we’re very pleased with our new boundary!  My dissertation has been all about community spirit, how little things can add up to a lot between neighbours, and why relationships are good for your health, well being.  Making this one little change was an eye-opener, and helped us to discover how we actually have a thriving abundant community of good neighbours here, plenty of passing nods of encouragement – appreciative comments and general good will from people on the street.  Lots to smile about!

Being outside in the garden invites people to strike up a conversation, which has been pretty inspiring to see and believe in person.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the nice people around us a little better – as Miles probably has been – and to all the things the future brings :)

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