You can't beat a good book...

I think that statement is true at any time of the year, but at Christmas I think it's especially so. For me Christmas Day wouldn't be complete without some time in the afternoon with my nose in a new book. Thankfully my family know this (and don't mind!) and this Christmas I had a few books to choose from.  

So for this month's Papery Peep, I thought I'd share those.  


1. Where Chefs Eat

First up is a guide to restaurants in and out of London and yes, its USP is that the restaurants have been recommended by chefs. It's a good reference book, but of course is subjective as while restaurants strive for the same level of service each night, at times it does differ, hopefully not too much though.

I thought I'd check to see what it said about Polpo, a favourite of ours and a relative of Polpette which we ducked into when the crowds at Lumiere London got too much.  

Polpo is recommended by Marcus Eaves, Shaun Hill and Bryn Williams, and while you may not immediately recognise any of these names (sorry boys!) they are responsible for restaurants such as Pied à Terre,  The Walnut Tree Inn and Odette's as well as appearances on Great British Chefs and Saturday Kitchen. 


Marcus says "I'm a massive fan of this place and its emphasis on simply great food in a chilled-out, stripped-back environment. Polpo opened in 2009 and it's still one of the hottest tables in London" - I definitely agree with him there. 

2. 20 Fabric Flowers in the Twenty to Make series

A change in genre for my next book 20 Fabric Flowers in the Twenty to Make series. In the past few months I've grown to love textile flowers, incorporating them on my new woolly scarf and on gift tags at Christmas.

I was looking to buy myself one to pin onto my flower-less clothes, when I realised I could probably make my own, so this book was an inspired choice. 

I've not progressed past flicking through the images yet, but the year is young!  And I suspect that once I start and find a design that I like I'll be blooming all over...

3. A colouring book!

Yes finally I've joined the colouring revolution and I'm looking forward to not going over the lines on these gorgeous animals... 


4. A year of good eating

But the real jewel for me this Christmas was the latest Nigel Slater diary-style book. This one is the one I struggled to take my nose out of, even for a turkey sandwich and a slice of Christmas cake.

It's as good as both of his previous Kitchen Diaries and while I am a huge Nigel fan (you may have guessed) I'd recommend this book to anyone that likes food.  

I'm only up to June 8th, but it's a good year already.

I don't know about you but with these types of books I always check what's in the entry for my birthday. In this book there's Rose and almond shortbread on that day, which is most acceptable.

Well done Nigel!  

Now I wonder if he'll pop over and cook it for me...



So there's a roundup of the paper in my life from the past month, what about in yours? 

Bleaching some pine cones...

In the run-up to Christmas I started to see lots of lovely bleached pine cones on Pinterest. I loved how they looked and thought to myself "how hard can this be?" and thought I could probably give this a go myself. The only thing was, I was short of pine cones...

Luckily though I spotted a source of pine cones one weekend at my in-laws as they have a Christmas tree of old planted in their garden, which is now, well it's much larger than a Christmas tree. I asked my FIL if he could save me some pine cones as they dropped and to my amazement - and to the amazement of my MIL and MOH too - he told me he had a bag that I could have which he'd collected a while back. So off he went and came back with a carrier bag of pine cones.

Result. This year was going to be the year I'd bleach some pine cones.

Rather than just plonk the pine cones into bleach I decided to do some more research and found this How to make gorgeous bleached pine cones post on Garden Therapy, and it looked just the thing. It gave more detail to my planned method and reminded me to take it all outside.

So sensibly attired in clothes-I-could-cope-with-if-they-got-splashed-with-bleach (they didn't) I set out to bleach some pine cones of my own. 



I mixed some bleach and water and chucked in my pine cones and gave them a stir with a stick that had blown down in the recent winds. I wasn't expecting it to foam like that, but then again I'm not a bleach aficionado as anything to do with bleach is usually on MOH's list of jobs. And I only braved it for this as I thought there was zero-to-no chance of him seeing the point of bleaching pine cones, let alone be part of it.


So pine cones in a mixture of bleach and water, and stirred with the stick. And it was true, my pine cones floated to the top. I remembered reading that weighing them down with some bricks would help keep and increase their chances of lightening. So off I went to find some bricks.



Now all there was to do was wait. Hmmn.

In the end I managed to leave them overnight. I popped out the next morning in the rain to check on them, and couldn't tell if it had worked at all. I wasn't convinced, but rinsed them anyway. It did make me smile when I thought of how excited I was to find out, and how daft I must look smiling to myself...


I'd forgotten how pine cones close up when they're wet. I hoped that as they dried their new whiteness would be revealed.


And it did. For most of them.

I'd also forgotten - if I knew at all - how long pine cones take to dry and open, but as they started to dry, some were looking distinctly whiter.  

They were also taking much longer to dry than I'd anticipated. When I started out I had no idea what I was going to use them for but soon thought I might add them onto this year's Christmas wreath as decoration. However it soon became clear this idea was pure folly as they were still not open. As we left for our Christmas break I moved them off the newspapers and onto a shelf above the radiator, hoping that it would give them a helping hand.

It certainly did, they are now dried and open.


They are all lighter in colour than when I started.

And I guess that like anything some pine cones take more to bleach than others. I quite like the mix of shades though. Now I just need to work out what to do with them, or at least find somewhere to store them where they are safe from MOH, who's most likely to want to throw them out. My other challenge - well that's remembering where I put them in time for next Christmas!


My top tip if you plan to try this: Don't leave it until 18 December before you start!

My Christmas

It's been quite a few days hasn't it? I hope you had the Christmas you planned for - ours was hectic with us here, there and everywhere and full of food and family, and I'm back at work already. Christmas Eve seems a while ago but I know I was keen to get Christmas started once work was done. Thankfully it seems a lot of people left London the night before us so our journey was unexpectedly smooth. Result.


MOH had made a Yule Log the night people were leaving London - a tactic he may get to repeat in future years.

It made its first appearance on the dining room table after tea on Christmas Eve. A good move as there wasn't much room to enjoy it the next day, well there never seems to be does there?

Christmas Day started with fizz and croissants and it wasn't long before we were unwrapping our presents.  This year I've been gifted some lovely presents and I'm sharing a few of them with you today. 


To celebrate this strenuous activity, I settled down with a sherry and a new book...

Sherry o'clock and a good cycling book. Happy Christmas!

Posted by Life at 139a on Friday, 25 December 2015

There was a handbag from MOH - and yes, the yellow phase is continuing as you can see! It's the one we saw recently in Brighton, the one that was no longer available online, but with help one that was tracked down in London. I love the colour and I think I'll definitely stand out. 


Then it was time for more food, as is often the way at Christmas. Turkey with all the trimmings and wine to match, followed by Christmas pudding which all went down very nicely indeed. My afternoon was spent on the sofa with Nigel Slater, sadly not him himself but his new Kitchen Diaries book - I do like his books, and I don't think you can beat a good book Christmas Day afternoon.

The next day we headed off for Christmas part two and another Christmas lunch. For me, that's one of the best parts about Christmas and visiting family - the number of Christmas dinners I get to eat!  There were more gorgeous presents too. I spent most of Sunday morning embossing anything and everything with my new die cutting machine. I've a feeling there'll be some shopping soon so I can extend my repertoire and move beyond embossed flowers. 


The final present I'm sharing here is this beautiful lap quilt made by my mum. Isn't it fab?  I'm loving the detail on it, each caravan is different, and has it's own embroidered door knob and button for a wheel, and the bunting's super cute too. 


Back home and the next day we went out on our bikes, heading towards Tower Bridge again - it's a favourite ride of ours. This time though we stopped off on the way at The Mayflower in Rotherhithe, a restored 16th century pub. It was originally called the Spread Eagle, but is now named after the ship chartered by the pilgrim fathers who left Rotherhithe for America in 1620.


It's only six miles or so from home, but we stopped briefly to go inside before heading onto Tower Bridge - which was buzzing with tourists - and back along the north side of the river. Then as cycling was such thirsty work, we headed through the foot tunnel at Greenwich and stopped off at the Cutty Sark for a beer and a pork pie, and unbelievably sat outside. This weather really is bonkers. 


So a busy Christmas for me, with plenty of miles covered. How was yours?