Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The New 'Pavilion'

So, Darling and I had to entertain some guests from overseas over the weekend. Being excited about being in 'Africa' I reiterated the fact with an African themed evening. I played it down slightly, and tried to subtly hint at Africa rather than make it outright tackarama (mine and my girlfriends' word for tacky) The good news was that our new 'pavilion' (what we like to call it) had just been completed. There's nothing like a new pavilion to raise one's spirits.Aren't these flowers amazing. They're obviously from the Protea family and are specifically called 'Banksia' The couple from Indonesia were particularly impressed.

The New Completed Pavilion

Darling, hanging the fish trap light at the eleventh hour.

Table mountain dressed up for the occasion.

You see how our house is in camouflage with the mountains! Clever house.

The table looking a bit naked - not quite complete.

The beautiful Portia.

Darling's drinks table.

Where are the guests?

* A note from Mrs Mostess
When serving canapes never make them so big in size, that it is impossible to simple toss them into your mouth. One does not want to have to stand trying to balance a plate as well as your glass then try and eat a huge tricky canape. Only people from the circus can make it look effortless.
Also, whilst trying to introduce your guests to our native cuisine, don't under estimate people's unwillingness to be adventurous. As biltong, kudu carpaccio and ostrich might seem like old hat to us, it is most certainly too much to ask of the palate shy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Style

So, I am still recovering from Christmas - or rather just letting it all sink in. I could not believe my eyes when going to a pre Christmas drinks party at a pukka English manor house in Henley, I had stepped into my ultimate fantasy.......

Ample sized Christmas tree in the hall. Perfect. Love the mono tone.

White doves flying up banisters. Oh how I would love to descend these stairs for dinner.
Another gorgeous tree on a table.

Can you see the train track going around the tree? Sir William McAlpine who's home it was is a true English eccentric and has a train obsession. There are miniature trains chugging all over the house laden with mini Sheppard's pie's, chocolates, mince pies and macaroons. Too much for me to cope with really.

Chests filled with gold treasure.

Real reindeer poo!

The children's playroom - as one might expect or at least hope for a true English child.

They even had Elvis singing whilst baby is being fed.

The sitting room. The house was decorated by Oliver Messel a renowned stage turned interior designer during the sixties and seventies. I will have to do a mini expo on him later. You just must see the houses that he decorated in Mustique. I had never heard of him before and now I have researched him it appears he was the Nicky Haslam of his day. He also designed suites in the Dorchester hotel, where I might add Sir McAlpine was ACTUALLY born. His family owned the Dorchester at the time.

I quite enjoyed this crazy concept of a side table filled with all sorts of fascinating nik naks. Brooches, pill boxes, badges and all things shiny and pearly.

I love a fire screen especially tapestry with dogs . I love the flowers over the mantle piece.
Well what can I say. We know the English and their labs. Also, might I add that all posh homes have little tapestry cushions with funny little sayings. The Duchess of Windsor had "You can never be too rich or too thin" She certainly lived by that motto by looking at her.
Panelling!!!! Nothing beats it.

Of course the library, always my favorite.
Amazing amazing books with ladder. I am obsessed with library steps.
The dining room had the most beautiful wallpaper that covered walls, servers and the entire ceiling. In fact I am so sad I do not have a photo of the ceiling - it had the same fabric as the walls all gathered in the centre like an Arabian tent.
I apologise for the darkness of the photos. I was trying to subtly take photos with my iphone. Terribly embarrassing to be seen taking photos of someone's home. I was like a spy, quietly snapping away under my clutch bag whilst mid conversation with guests. Can you spot the blackamoor figure?

Sad it's not too clear.

A long passage in the house made so interesting with all hats collected from all over the world. The pictures on the wall are all framed puzzles of trains. 

In the guest loo I found the official 'Sloane ranger handbook' which I just adore. Funnily enough I actually have a copy - from before I met Darling strangely. It is brilliantly witty and now from witnessing I can't believe how true!! I will have to give you some examples soon.
This is Sir McAlpine's life size steam engine that travels around his property. He has proper stations and once a year invites the people of Henley village for a ride! I have mentioned him before in previous posts. He is the neighbour of Darling's parents and also has a private zoo. You might remember on previous posts photos of us walking the dog and stumbling across wallabies, lama's and strange African buck all living in harmony in the English countryside.

Oh, and they also have a carousel.
What fun to be an English eccentric.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Dinner

So, do you remember me telling you about the charity auction we went to, where we bid for a chef to come and cook for a dinner party of ours? Well, we had the dinner on Saturday night. It was just Heaven on Earth. As one of the guests pointed out, it was like flying First Class for the first time. The sad thing about having flown First Class is the depression of having to go back to economy. I feel that now I've had someone do all the cooking AND grocery shopping for my dinner - having to do it all myself next time is going to be just like going back to economy after the absolute luxury of First Class. Tricky!
So, I woke up on Saturday morning like a child on Christmas, I had a relaxed coffee in bed whilst I planned the evening ahead. I could finally do all the fun things that I normally want to do but always run out of steam or time. Things like, making up delicious cocktails, doing beautiful flowers and spending some time on the table decoration. All the fun things really. So I made my list, I love a list. First stop, the bottle store.
Even the bottle store was fun and festive. Who would have thought. The Grand Marnier was the reason I was there. More on that later.

Second stop, Adderley Street flower market. Just my best.

I tried to choose Christmasy flowers (well, my made up version of Christmas flowers) I did not want to be too predictable.

The brilliant Lindsy and Portia doing the prep. Are those little blinis I see!

The table.

The table is not quite done yet, but I had the sudden brain wave to cut branches off our conifer tree and lay them down the centre of the table scattered with Christmas balls and red glass votives. It made for a sort of horizontal Christmas tree.

I tied red satin ribbons around gold candle holders.

I had the mantra of Wallis Simpson (or it could have been Diana Vreeland, can't remember)) going around in my head.
"Decoration should be low, low, low, glasses cold, cold, cold and plates hot,hot,hot!"

Oops, the table cloth looks is in a bit of disarray. That's because I was standing on it hanging branches and balls from the overhead light. Clearly way too much time on my hands! It looked a bit amateur to be honest - so not entirely worth it. It did look better at night however, when all you saw where twinkling lights overhead.
The sideboard waiting to be laden with turkey and vegetables. Again, I just cut a few sprigs from another tree - outside the dining room window in fact. It has variegated leaves which I thought for whatever reason looked like Christmas. I layered the same type of branches along the top of our mantle piece along with pine cones and fairy light and red bows.

Then I started my flower arranging. Quite bizarre what came out really. I was seriously getting into full swing!

This is like "Messy Christmas"

Not bad.

I was quite smug about the berries.

Then finally I was pulling it together.

Am pleased.

Then I lost it again. I think staying in a resort in Mexico influenced me on this one. I'm obviously having with drawls. I had two green leaves left over so I picked some pink roses from the garden. This was arrangement was not part of my Christmas contingent, instead I put them in the guest loo.

Quite pretty.

Flowers on my desk.

The crazy arrangement with the drinks table, quite apt.

The tidy sitting room waiting for a party.

I like this this one here.
I also like my mini white tree with fairy lights.
Now for the cocktail!
I call it 'Christmas Breeze' ha ha a bit of tack.
You need:
Grand Marnier
Cranberry Juice
Fresh Lemon Juice
Simple Syrup
Fresh Rosemary Needles

In a tall mixing glass muddle 10-12 rosemary leaves lightly with simple syrup. (simple syrup we made from just mixing a bit of water with madeira cane sugar over the stove until syrupy)
Add remaining ingredients then add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into glass with ice. garnish with rosemary sprig.

You see above the table laid out for prep. The rosemary leaves and an antique marrow spoon that we got given as a wedding present. Which we love, but sadly are not quite Tudoresque enough to be digging around in bones in search of marrows as often as we would like to. However, we have found that it does make for an excellent cocktail stirrer!
The rosemary sprigs did let me down somewhat. They weren't as robust as I would have had them be. It should look like a mini Christmas tree in your glass, but never mind they were absolutely delicious and set the party off to a roaring start.
One last final look
And finally Darling in his dj pouring me a drink. Hooray!