Friday, 31 December 2010

Lang may yer lum reek!

In celebration of Hubby’s Scottish heritage, we practice the so-called first-footing in our house. According to old Scottish folklore, the first-foot is the first person to cross the threshold of a home in the new-year. Traditionally it is considered good luck if the first-foot is a tall, dark and handsome male. Fortunately, Hubby is just such a man, so our luck should be secured.
In some places a fair-haired woman is regarded as unlucky. The first time I visited my in-laws at New Year’s Eve it was freezing cold when we were outside watching the fireworks at midnight, but I was not allowed to go back in the house before the proper man had set his foot over the threshold first.

KEEPING TRADITIONS ALIVE. Our family tartan is a nice backdrop for this old Scottish custom. 

The first-foot usually brings gifts with him. In our house it is bread, so that we shall not be hungry in the coming year; salt, so that life shall have some flavour; and pieces of coal, so that we shall always be warm. He hands the gift over, saying the old traditional greeting: Lang may yer lum reek! (Long may your chimney smoke!)

BRINGER OF GIFTS. Even though he is a resident of the house, Hubby can first-foot Hilltop House, just as long as he is outside before the clock strikes midnight. 

In return he is given a glass of whisky. Which is duly appreciated.

SCOTTISH GOLD. The amber fluid "perfected by the sixteen men of Tain" will undoubtedly go down well with Hubby.

We hope that you all will have lots of luck in 2011. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

After a week's holiday, Hubby and Husfruen are back at Hilltop House. And very glad to be home.

Although it's lovely to see friends and family again, there is something special about being able to celebrate Christmas and making one's own traditions in one's own house. So now, albeit a few days late, we are celebrating Christmas in our own way.

We and our little "nisse" wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Tea towel to travel

I have drawn a winner in my mini-giveaway. This time there were 39 people that wanted to try their luck with a total of 72 entries. The winner is a follower of our English site, and the tea towel from Södahl will have to travel all the way to Australia before it reaches its new owner Sandy, who has the lovely blog Paint Me White. I would like to recommend everyone to go and have a look at it. I always find plenty of inspiration there.
Congratulations to Sandy, hope you’ll like your prize.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dinner tips for weary housewives

When you finally drag yourself up the stairs at home, dog-tired and ravenous after hours of overtime at the office, that is hardly the time for creative antics in the kitchen. No, at such times there are three things that will save the remains of the day: wine, a packet of something freeze-dried and herbs.

First - the wine. If you are practically minded, you’ll probably have a bag-in-box strategically placed somewhere, so you can easily pour yourself a little stimulant before you start rummaging through drawers and cupboards for anything freeze-dried - whatever, just as long as it doesn’t take more than ten minutes to cook and doesn’t require anything added but a little milk. Today's catch in my kitchen was Pasta Carbonara. (Which actually doesn’t take much more than ten minutes to prepare if you do it the proper way either, but that's beside the point.)
While the whole thing simmers, you can lay the foundation for a beautiful table by throwing on a checkered tablecloth. If you have cut flowers in the house, then by all means get the vase. If not, any old flower-pot will do.
Soups and casseroles don’t require much cutlery, and that saves the washing up.
And finally, when you have sloshed the food into some bowls, it is time for le Pièce de Resistance: fresh herbs! Since you are, after all, not a complete slob in the kitchen all the time, you will of course have a selection of something green and fragrant on the windowsill. (I would have shown you a photo of my herbs, had it not been for the fact that they were so withered and dry that a few sprigs was all I could muster.)
And presto, it is time to invite the man in your life to the table with a kiss and a dewy glass, and he’ll be simply dazzled by how you could whip up such a meal in mere minutes. Kiss him again, and he may even clear the table and do the dishes afterwards, while you can curl up on the sofa with another glass of wine and your favourite magazine.

I’d just like to remind you that there is still time to try your luck in my little mini-giveaway, where you can win a tea towel that your husband will certainly appreciate when does the drying up.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Mini Give Away

As I was standing by the kitchen sink drying cups earlier today, it struck me that since I am so happy with my tea towels I should probably blog about that. So here goes: I first came across tea towels from the Danish manufacturer Södahl some years ago and was so impressed with the quality that I have never bought anything else since. They seem to become softer and more effective each time they're washed.
A quick look in my linen cupboard revealed a few brand new towels, and that gave me an excuse to have a little Give Away here on the blog, and let some lucky winner sample the quality of these towels.

The prize is a white/green/pink tea towel made from 100 % cotton.
If many people join the contest, I might have to give away one more. We'll see. :-)

The rules are as usual: You'll get one entry for leaving a comment, one for following this blog and one for linking to this Give Away from your blog.

The final date is Friday the 12th of November.

Have a lovely Sunday!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Our living room

Every month the Norwegian Interior Bloggers site NIB presents a challenge. This month it was to show your living room. That is something we wanted to take them up on, because if there is one thing we have enough of here at Hilltop House, it is living room. The bedrooms are so small that we can barely fit beds in them and the bathrooms are tiny, but in the living room department we've got acres of space. Consequently, we have no less than four sofas. (And one more to come.)
This is the one we use most of the time, when it's just Hubby and Husfruen home alone.

As you can see, we have a rather classic English style in this room. The large yew bookcase is from Bowlings of Tenby. It takes up a lot of space, but it also provides plenty of storage. The cherry wood chairs are from the Swedish manufacturer Brödrerna Andersons. They are pretty and light weight and very practical. The walnut coffee table is called Astoria and is one of the few pieces of furniture that we bought when we moved in here two years ago.

LOVESEAT. The sofa has down fill and is incredibly comfortable. It was a bargain bought at a furniture sale a few years ago. Since they only had the two seater left, it was reduced by 70 percent. It doesn't bother us that it is only a two seater, as long as we have other sofas  when we are entertaining. 
NICE VIEW. From this room we can enjoy the view of the fjord. The large windows let in a lot of light, which is very nice. We actually appreciate the view a lot more than we thought we would when we bought the house. There's just something about being able to see water, even if it is just a tiny fjord. 
AUTUMN. There are not many leaves left on the trees now, but thankfully the snow is still at bay. 
A BIT EARLY. The Christmas cactus must like the light in this window. It has misjudged the season by a month and is already getting ready for action.  
FIREPLACE. One good thing about autumn is that it provides plenty of opportunities for lighting the fire. Nothing is more cosy, in my opinion. The little bookcase is also from Bowlings, while the pedestal is from Galtung Interiør

PLENTY TO READ. There are numerous good books out at the moment. I often read two at a time. 

Well, the weekend is here at last, and the I can see the sofa is beckoning me. Enjoy your weekend too!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A walk along the fjord

After a week of rain and sleet, it was so good to wake up to a Sunday that didn't put its name to shame. Although there was much that should have been done indoors, the sun lured us out.

It was almost springlike outside. 

Most of the leaves have fallen now, so it's not much colour to be seen anymore, but some trees still cling to  their leaves.

Some flowers refuse to face the fact that winter is here. 

The season for pleasure boats is well and truly over this year, so someone should probably hurry up and get their boats up on dry land before the fjord freezes over. 

As usual the horses were eager to see us. 

But when they realized we didn't have any apples or carrots for them and all we could offer was a scratch behind the ears, they quickly went back to grazing. 

Rolling in the mud is probably very fun, but it doesn't do much for your coat. 

Local squirrels should have few problems getting through the winter. 

Have a nice Sunday!

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Writing on the Wall

I've noticed that wallstickers with text has been very popular among interior bloggers for a while despite the fact that Norway’s largest newspaper VG proclaimed only few days ago that it is a new trend. VG has evidently not seen the writing on the wall as early and as clearly as the ladies in Bloglandia.

I myself have been a little slow in joining in on this craze. I liked the idea of having text on the walls, but I think it's a bit boring to have the same as everyone else. So I tried various ways to avoid the mass-produced stuff.

My first attempt on a personal twist was the bedroom classic "Always Kiss Me Goodnight". A little playing around with Photoshop gave it the dreamy look I was after. The result was a wedding gift for my husband and ended up in a frame over our bed.

The next attempt was to buy several sheets of sticker letters. First up was this one next to the fridge.

At Hilltop House we don’t set much faith in guilt for calories. Alright, so we have a few kilos too many, both Hubby and me (mostly me), but it is still important to enjoy one’s food, right?

Another thing we definitely enjoy is coffee. We simply love good coffee in this house, so the next attempt with the stickers was this text on the cabinet door above the coffee machine.

It is funny, I think, but using the stickers here was problematic, because suddenly I was missing several letters. There were only two n's on these sheets, so I had to flip a u upside down. It works - just.
And now I’m left with x's, q's, z's and other useless letters, until I find a suitable word.

So I gave up the combination of trend and originality, and found out that I should go for the mass-produced wall words anyway. But I was really shocked when I saw the prices. It costs several hundred kroner for a sticker! But after some surfing I found Fotoprint'n, who made approximately what I wanted at an affordable price. They could also deliver in several sizes and colours, not just black. I like brown better.

I am very happy with this one that hangs under the plate rack in the kitchen. It means “The kitchen is the heart of a home”. I have also bought a new "coffee word" but I haven’t put it up yet. What I would really like is one of those focaccia recipes, but I haven’t found the right size yet.

This sticker greets guests to Hilltop House.

And this in silver grey adorns my bedside table. What do you think about this lamp base, by the way? 

It was left here by the previous owner, and I adopted it immediately. Really kitchy, but cool.

In addition, I bought several wall stickers for the laundry room, which is finally only a few coats of paint away from being finished. Can’t wait to show you.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A five star experience

We recently spent two weeks in England - one week of work and one of holiday. It was both interesting and nice.

When it comes to London, it's always difficult to find a nice hotel. In this city the adjectives "cheap" and "good" do not appear in the same sentence when referring to accommodation. If you cannot afford to splurge £500 a night, it's a challenge to find five-star accommodation within a reasonable budget, but we make a game out of it and we usually win. It's amazing what sweet deals you can come across if you just take the time. If you do find a good offer on Expedia for example, it may pay off to call the hotel directly and ask if they can beat it with something even better.
Staying at five star hotels is not something we've been spoiled with for many years. When I was in my twenties, I was completely obsessed with travelling around the world as a backpacker. Back then the goal was to get the money to stretch as far as possible, and when I think of how many shabby hostels I've stayed at, it's a wonder I got away with only a few flea bites. One time I actually lived half a year in a tent (!) travelling around the Pacific islands and Australia. It was quite an experience, but there wasn’t much luxury to be had. That time is over and done with now. Been there, done that, got the flee infested t-shirt. I still have the travel bug, but now that I’m in my forties, burdened with a busy job, I no longer have the time to travel around the world for months on end, so on the short trips I do occasionally take, I want to indulge in a little luxury. In that sense, the hotel has become an important part of the destination for me now.

London can offer both modern and classic hotels of every standard. This time we chose "The Cranley", which is a classic luxury boutique hotel. This tiny hotel, with just 39 rooms, is located in a quiet street in South Kensington and is comprised of three Victorian townhouses. The building dates from 1869, which obviously influences its style.

The lobby is quite small, but very pretty and nice - almost like a small library. As usual in London, hardly any of the employees were actually English, which can be quite frustrating if one tries to communicate a point. This man here, however, had such a nice accent that we wondered if he might be the exception that confirms the rule.

Every evening champagne and canapés was served in the lounge. Neither of us are normally all that enthusiastic about bubbly, but a refreshing glass before dinner proved to be so nice that it is something we could easily get used to.

Notice the colours in the décor, they are based on the original floor tiles. The entire hotel is decorated in these colours.

In the room there were fruit and drinks. Husfruen also appreciated the selection of reading material.

The mahogany four-poster was enormous, filling much of the room. It was dressed in Irish linen and the headboard was hand embroidered in a Roslyn pattern. It was simply gorgeous!

There was only room for one armchair.

Since everything else was kept in a traditional style, modern amenities like the small TV and the Ipod docking station looked a bit out of place. But I suppose it wouldn’t be easy to make a Victorian style television.

On the small desk there is just enough room for a laptop computer.

The bathroom wasn’t large, but it had a tub with a shower. The taps were, of course, classic style. Large, warm towels and dressing gowns are appreciated after a long day’s walking. The toiletries are Penhaligon’s, which are nice but not my personal favourite. However I still didn’t appreciate how stingy the maid was, not supplying us with new ones every day. As we came back on the second day, we found no new conditioner even though there was just about a half teaspoon left in the tiny bottle. When I called the maid, she told me sternly: “You will get a new one when you have finished the old one, not before!” How does one reply to something like that? Well, the next morning we just hid everything.

The hotel didn’t have a dining room so every morning we had breakfast brought to us by room service. It was the standard continental breakfast which became a bit monotonous with just jams and marmalade every day, so we supplemented with some cheese and Marmite. Heh heh, the cheeses that Hubby likes are somewhat pungent, so they probably had to give the mini bar a proper airing out after we left.

Of course, we had to visit Harrod's to buy some goodies. 

Hubby was tempted by the fantastic selection of cheeses, and was so charmed by the French ladies in the “Fromagerie” that we ended up buying a lot more than we could eat. By the way, the Stilton was simply divine. Mmmm! However, we passed over the truffles, at a mere £6,500 per kilo….

London is obviously a large city, but it is blissfully easy to travel by bus or tube. We strongly recommend buying an Oyster Card, which makes it easier still. However, if you like to use your legs, The Cranley is actually within walking distance of many of the most famous attractions. One can easily stroll to both Harrods and various museums like the Victoria and Albert or the Natural History Museum.
In this city there are so many museums that you could probably spend a year sightseeing and still not get around them all, so picking the right ones is important. This time we decided to focus on "timepieces", more about that later.