Recipe: The last days of summer with Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz recipe | Oyster & Pearl blog
How to make an Aperol Spritz

When it reaches this point in September I have to reluctantly accept that there's no going back. The long days of summer have gone and, although I dig my heels in and resist, I have to enjoy what's here and now. The light in late September can be so warm and rich even if it doesn't match the temperature. On Sunday, we (ad)ventured out of the city to a friend's vast garden, exploring woodlands, fields, a river, before heading back to the abundant vegetable garden to pick runner beans and courgettes, and dig carrots and beets for supper. There are definite joys to be had in early autumn.

But just before I sign up to September fully, I need to say goodbye to summer, squeezing the last drops from the season with a classic Italian cocktail. Sunny orange rather than pumpkin orange, the Aperol Spritz is light and fruity, with a slightly bitter, almost grapefruit-y note. Think of it as an Italian Pimms.

How to make an Aperol Spritz

How to make an Aperol Spritz

You will need:
Orange slices
3 measures Cinzano Prosecco
2 measures Aperol
1 measure soda water

Start by adding ice into the glass.
Pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol and add a splash of soda.
Top with a slice of orange.

Want to find out more? Watch the video.

Do you find it hard to say goodbye to the passing seasons? Do you find that seasonal rituals help?

A collaboration with Aperol Spritz
Thanks for supporting the posts that make this blog possible
Please drink responsibly

Interiors: Home tour - the living room

Living room home tour Oyster & Pearl blog - Ikea, Habitat, HM Home
Living room home tour Oyster & Pearl blog - Ikea, Habitat, HM Home
Living room home tour Oyster & Pearl blog - Ikea, Habitat, HM Home
Living room home tour Oyster & Pearl blog - Ikea, Habitat, HM Home

A few weeks ago, when I shared my top ten tips for making a rented house feel like home, I promised a little look at my rented home. Well, let's begin with the living room.

White walls and stripped floors, a bay window, wood burning stove - the living room is small but just my cup of tea. In a big change from my previous home, this room now has plenty of colour. And sunlight. I can never work out which is south facing and all that stuff, but whatever it is this room is filled with magic hour warmth each evening.

I had to make a few new purchases, such as the armchair, but many of the bits and pieces in this room have been with me for years. Things like the vintage Penguin paperbacks that belonged to my Grandma, or the red metal ampersand that inspired my tattoo, will always find a home in my home.

Sources: armchair / pompom cushion / bookcase / black and white baskets / sofa / typographical print / velvet cushions / coloured cushions / bead lights / basket / lampshade

All other items - vintage

Travel: Hotel Primero Primera, Barcelona

i-escape: Only the most stylish boutique hotels and hip hideaways around the world

The reason I know this line well is that, a couple of weekends ago, I was the first ever Instagram takeover guest for i-escape. And the stylish boutique hotel being photographed? Hotel Primero Primera in Barcelona.

Bristol to Barcelona is about the most perfect weekend city break you can get. Flights are short and conveniently scheduled to maximise the time you have in Barcelona. The city has it all - shops, beach, culture - making it a brilliant destination whatever your personal peccadillo. The people are friendly, the food is fabulous, the sun is shining. 

And this hotel? Well, Hotel Primero Primera is to hotels what Barcelona is to city breaks. Set in a quiet and leafy residential neighbourhood up towards Mount Tibidabo, Hotel Primero Primera occupies half a block or so, but is (and always has been) owned by just one family. But this is no cutesy, rustic getaway. The understated entrance to the hotel leads guests past an outdoor lounge area peppered with grey day beds and midcentury Acapulco chairs in red, white and black. Once inside, black dominates. At first, the dark interior seems entirely gentleman’s club, with leather chairs and antique lamps scattered around the bar and breakfast areas. But then you notice chic Mediterranean touches such as light curtains used as room dividers and ornate garden furniture, or the industrial detailing, metal lettering and mirrors, and the overall look transforms into a style that’s 100% Conde Nast Traveler-ready.

At the heart of the hotel is a beautiful antique staircase extending up to a skylit rooftop that channels light down to the reception area. Across the driveway is the breakfast room, with a cheerful mix of furniture - low tables and armchairs in one corner, upright, mismatched table and dining chairs in another - and a further door out to the gravelled terrace. Cushioned outdoor furniture here means you can choose to breakfast alfresco in the shade of a leafy tree. Up steps scattered with potted plants and through a small gate, and you’re in the main garden. Look up. Yes, those ARE green parrots flying about in the trees above. The dinky kidney-shaped pool does not dominate - instead, it lies in the far corner of the walled garden, surrounded by sun loungers and umbrellas, and next to an outdoor bar where guests are invited to help themselves to soft drinks. The water is warm-ish, just right for a cooling dip; towels are rolled up and ready for you. Nooks in the rest of the garden mean there’s always a secluded spot, with comfortable chairs and curtained day beds, to read or rest.

Back in the quiet, cool bedroom the dark colour scheme continues, with heavy wooden panelling that extends into the bathroom. A giant inviting bath sits under atmospheric lamps, and light pours through the louvred blinds onto the black tiled floor. Countering all these sombre colours are the bright whites of crisp bed linen adorning the super kingsize bed (complete with pillow menu!), a linen covered bench, and light curtains, which create a cool and quiet retreat. The framed, decades-old photograph of the family kids taking a dip in the pool was a sweet, personal touch. All the usual amenities you’d expect are there: enormous television, luxury bath products, tea and coffee-making with lovely china crockery, plus a big slab of chocolate cake with a little welcome note from the hotel manager.

The downsides? Depending on what you want from a city break, the hotel might be a little far out of the city centre for you. We took a cab in and out each evening, which took ten minutes and cost fifteen euros each way. Nearby, there are neighbourhood bars and restaurants - we ate two meals locally - but not a huge number and neither meal was a highlight. (But if none of the local bars tickle your fancy, there’s always the honesty bar. Hotel Primero Primera has provided a well-stocked drinks area with roomy sofas, stacks of books and National Geographic magazines to peruse, and even an iMac for use of guests.) And after a few days you may get a little weary of the jazzy, easy music piped throughout the communal areas. 

Small niggles, however. Hotel Primero Primera - like Barcelona - is practically perfect in every way. 

With huge thanks to i-escape for arranging our stay at Hotel Primero Primera. 

Giveaway: Win £100 to spend at Dwell PLUS a poodle lamp!

A poodle lamp and sideboard from Dwell - win £100 to spend!

Remember that post from last week? This one, with my three Dwell rooms? Well, Dwell has given me the chance to offer you lot £100 to spend at Dwell, plus that amazing poodle lamp from the room above!

To be in with a chance of winning, just leave a comment telling me what you'd spend £100 on from the Dwell collection. There are more optional entries as well.

Enter now:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

In association with Dwell

From summer to autumn... PLUS Competition: Win a £100 HomeSense voucher

Preserving jars from Homesense - a competition with Oyster & Pearl blog

August is the border between summer and autumn; it is the most beautiful month I know. 
Tove Jansson

I'm not sure I agree with Tove on this one - I find the end of summer achingly painful. But one mustn't dwell. Instead, I'm mooching about on my Autumn Pinterest board, inspired by the ideas there and the beauty of the season ahead.

Teaming up with HomeSense, I have a competition for you this bank holiday weekend to win a gift voucher worth £100. Just head in store, find a product you love that bridges the gap from summer to autumn, and share on social media.

I chose these preserving jars as jam is such a good way to guarantee a sweet taste of summer is yours on a cold, dark day later in the year.

What would you choose?

To enter the competition to win a £100 gift voucher, share your pic of the perfect HomeSense summer to autumn product on Twitter or Instagram, and make sure you tag @HomeSenseUK.

Oh, and what are your favourite jam recipes? I'd love to know. Here are mine:
Plum and Earl Grey
Rhubarb and Vanilla

In association with HomeSense

Interiors: Styling the Dwell AW15 range

Dwell's Autumn 2015 range - styling three looks: a home office, a cosy cushioned sofa nook, and a stylish sideboard.

There are many ways I like to spend my spare time. Regular readers will know that I spend an inordinate amount of time faffing about with vases, moving things here and there, and generally making home. Doing this professionally is nothing short of an actual dream come true.

The three looks here are inspired by three trends that jumped out at me from the new Dwell Autumn 2015 range, when I went up to London recently to style and photograph a few of their products in this incredible space (you may recognise it from Dragon's Den!).

1. The home office

Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & PearlStyling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl

Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl

I don't have a home office - I mostly tap away at my laptop on the kitchen table - but have always wanted a little space of my own. Somewhere to organise all my stationery, little pots full of perpetually sharp pencils, inspiring postcards pinned on the back wall to keep me motivated... Sigh.

This desk space is a feminine home office, softened by the pink throw, white leather chair, and this desk-which-isn't-actually-a-desk - it's Dwell's Camber dressing table as I loved its little central drawer, which is perfectly laptop-sized.

2. The cosy cushioned sofa nook

Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl
Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl
Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl

At the start of my styling day with Dwell, I went to rummage about in the new range in order to get a good understanding of what trends are afoot. Oh my goodness! These bright cushions were irresistible in sparky blues and mustardy yellows, particularly when teamed with a dark grey sofa and tripod floor light. I piled them all up and wanted to dive right in (but I knew I wouldn't want to get up!). I also tried the look with just monochrome cushions and a trusty sheepskin. Which look do you prefer? Colour or black-and-white? Also, how cute is the little cupcake stool/side table?

3. The vintage-style sideboard

Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl
Styling the Dwell AW15 range by Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl

The location wallpaper totally sang to me and became a big part of this room - a cute, slightly granny-ish corner, the Quad sideboard full to bursting with vintage crockery just ready for a tea party, and this gloriously kitsch Poodle lamp lighting up a cocktail party lasting well into the midnight hour. I also fell in love with this marble vase - stuffed full of blue agapanthus, it mirrored the wallpaper tones so well. Finally, I added a few of my own touches - a framed photo of my grandma's Boxing Day 1938 wedding, and a few of her vintage books.

Which of these three rooms is your favourite? I'd love to know. Oh, and come back on Monday 31 August when I'll have a Dwell giveaway for you!

Styling and photography: © Lottie Storey, Oyster & Pearl
In association with Dwell

Canopy and Stars: A day out at Harptree Court and some exciting travel news

Canopy & Stars, Harptree Court | Oyster & Pearl blog
Canopy & Stars, Harptree Court | Oyster & Pearl blog
Canopy & Stars, Harptree Court | Oyster & Pearl blog
Canopy and Stars, Harptree Court | Oyster & Pearl blog

Canopy and Stars, Harptree Court | Oyster & Pearl blog

Canopy and Stars, the quirky outdoor travel company, invited me and a shoeshot of bloggers for a day out at Harptree Court, yurt and treehouse

I have a thing for unusual or old fashioned words. I like to marry them with beautiful images. Psithurism is the word for the sound of wind in trees, and is the perfect descriptor for my day out with Canopy & Stars.

Purveyors of 'inspected & selected collection of quirky & unusual places to stay in the great outdoors: treehouses, cabins, Gypsy caravans, boats & more', Canopy & Stars offers a brilliant alternative to the usual holiday options. Our day out at Harptree Court in Somerset showed just how glamorous glamping can get, with a tour of the beautiful Georgian mansion, its uber yurt, and the most luxurious treehouse I've ever seen.

Half an hour away from central Bristol and you feel as though the countryside will never end, rolling away through abundant walled gardens, across ornamental ponds, and down a slight incline away from the most picturesque of pads. It felt almost vulgar to take endless photographs of such a thoroughbred, but everything was just so darned photogenic. There were enormous poppies - white petals, yellow centres - the colour and configuration of fried eggs. There was a lunch that made eyes pop and mouths water. There was that treehouse, a little film of which I had to make for my Faraway Tree-obsessed son.

And, there was Canopy and Stars. We're so delighted to have been invited by the team to join the Canopy and Stars Collective for 2015, and hope to marry the unusual and the beautiful - images and words, places to stay and things to see - here on the blog over the coming months.

Where's the most unusual place you've holidayed? I'd love to know.

Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

This year, I moved into my first rented house since leaving university. I was lucky enough to find a very blank slate kind of a house - unfurnished, white walls, wooden floors downstairs, decent carpets upstairs. There's even a little wood burner in the living room. It was easy to see how to make it the sort of home I wanted it to be, although there were some challenges along the way and a few lessons to be learnt. For decoration ideas, I spent a long time looking online for inspiration and to find the items I wanted. My favourite shops for interiors include all the usual suspects: IKEA, Habitat, John Lewis, and H&M.

Here, I share my top ten tips to make a rented house feel like a home, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Greenery makes homes feel alive. Plants with large leaves in huge pots are perfect in bay windows or framing fireplaces, rows of herbs look beautiful in the kitchen, succulents make low maintenance centrepieces for dining tables, and I love a huge basket of white orchids near a window.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

About the most basic of sewing projects, the humble cushion cover can be knocked up from any old fabric you might have lying around, including old pillowcases or jumpers. Or, for the less craftily inclined, cushion covers are cheap and easy to buy and switch around.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Nothing personalises a space like paintings, prints or photographs on the wall. Fabric is also a nice option, as is a shelf on which you can keep shifting knickknacks around to your heart's content. If you can't hang pictures on the wall in the traditional way, 3M Command Strips are a pretty good alternative.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Even if your new pad comes with curtains, it's easy to take them down and bundle them away for the duration of your rental. Instead, buy yards of white muslin which, even roughly cut and sewn, makes any space look clean and bright.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Replacing lampshades is very easy and cheap to do, and can change the look and feel of a room. You can even make your own lampshades - it's not as tricky as you might think.

Cover ups

Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

If your rented house is furnished but you don't like the furniture, there's only one thing to do - cover up. Tablecloths over tables, throws over sofas and chairs, and rugs on floors (hard and carpeted, kitchens in particular) and even chairs.

Bed linen

Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

In all but the most extraordinary of bedrooms, the largest item in the room is the bed. Therefore, a careful choice of bed linen will contribute hugely to the look of the bedroom. Also, throws and cushions are easy to select, style and even swap when a change is needed.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

I LOVE shopping for knick knacks. It's one of my favourite hobbies. As well as vases, decorative bowls, candles etc, I'm a fan of old books, vintage signs and lettering, natural finds such as feathers, pebbles and shells.


Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

As well as replacing lampshades, a few well placed table or floor lamps can totally change a room. Ditto fairy lights and candles.

In the bathroom

Ten ways to make a rented house feel like home

Some rentals have such ugly bathrooms that there's nothing doing, but many can be improved with a nice set of towels, a new bathmat, and a replacement shower curtain.


Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing some photos from my new home in a new interiors/home tour series. Renting is VERY expensive so I'm not advocating going to town on all of the above. Making a home is a lengthy process, and I've always wanted a look that comes together slowly and organically. But it is possible to get the basics in place fairly soon after moving in, and with careful buys from charity shops and even supermarkets if necessary.

What would you add to the list? What do you think makes a home?

School uniform review: M&S

School uniform from Marks & Spencer 2015
School uniform from Marks & Spencer 2015

School uniform from Marks & Spencer 2015School uniform from Marks & Spencer 2015

School uniform from Marks & Spencer 2015

Look at these two Just William extras. You'd think the suggestion of putting on school uniform on one of the warmest days of the summer holidays so far wouldn't go down well but they were surprisingly up for it. I guess it's a little like dressing up. Anyway, I love these pictures as they illustrate the differences in personality of my two children.

Last week, M&S sent us a bundle of school uniform to review. Handy, seeing as we're always running out of this or that, one or both of the kids having to go to school in a hastily wet-wiped jumper, the ghosts of last night's tea haunting sleeves and collars.

Straight away, the quality of this clothing is clear to see and feel. I'm hoping that the features of M&S uniform will make our mornings a little easier. Here are some of the innovations that should speed up our school run:
Expandicuff – elasticated cuffs that mean that you don’t have to deal with fiddly buttons.
Adjust-A-Hem – hems with an extra 3 inches of material that can be let down as your child grows. Just iron in place, not needle and thread needed!
Stainaway – shirts with a clever finish that means that means that stains wash away more easily
Permanent Pleats – pleats that stay, even after washing – no need to iron them in!
Non-Iron – just wash and tumble dry for crease free shirts!

An aside: the thing that signifies back to school to me more than anything is a stationery haul. As it happens we popped into M&S last week and I spotted their Paper Library range, which is all completely lovely, as is the Boutique range. Particular high points include this pencil case,  these ombre notebooks, this toadstool jotter, and a few things not featured online including very cute pens and a set of three erasers shaped like garlic bulbs complete with little net bag. Love!

M&S supplied us with uniform for the new school year.
Thank you for supporting the posts that make this blog possible.

On lateness and Getting Things Done

My children are now at the age I remember well from my own youth. The not-helping-nor-understanding-why-mum-wants-to-tidy-up age. There they are, busy watching other children open toys on YouTube (what is WITH that?), oblivious to me tidying around them, deaf to my requests for help until I take it up to I’M COUNTING TO FIVE! I’M GOING TO HOOVER UP YOUR LEGO! or other such evil threats that get them leaping into the air and squealing as if the house were on fire.

This house is small. Lovely, but it’s small. Mess has a life of its own, billowing up like a dust storm overtaking every floor, every room. I used to think the open plan ground floor in the old house was to blame for the tidal wave of toys that encroached into all corners, a high tide of plastic magazine cover flotsam crushed underfoot, but now I realise it is just how kids are. They don’t notice their surroundings, they just live in the moment, their attention turned to toys or telly or tea. Whatever’s in front of their face at that particular moment.

And, if I’m honest, it’s kind of how I am as well although my pride makes me keep on top of things, more or less. I can’t blame them for behaving like kids. But I could probably sort my own stuff out.

Recently, I read a piece about how people who are habitually late don’t do it out of slackness or disrespect. Instead, they are optimists, mistakenly believing they can achieve more than is possible in the minutes or hours until they have to be somewhere. Once upon a time, I was never the late one. Conscientious and diligent, I prided myself on always being on time, finding my late friends more than a little irritating. Times have changed, and I struggle to be anywhere on time - or (don’t be silly) early - these days. It’s not rudeness or a lack of consideration behind my tardiness, but a list-and-a-half of things to do. I’m deluded, basically.

This weekend, I believe it possible for me to achieve the following:
Laundry - wash, dry, change the linen on three beds, plus clothes
Photograph and blog several recipes/products
Have a barbecue/brunch with neighbours
Go for two runs
Do some gardening
Play cards
Clear out the box of junk that’s accumulating in the dining room
Go for a swim
Bake a brioche loaf
Clean the house 
Eat out on Saturday and Sunday evenings

Oh, and I’ve said I’ll knit a bat for my youngest. KNIT. A. BAT.  

Optimistic? Or just idiotic? Having kids has changed my perception of time to such an extent that I’m not sure what’s real anymore. And now, having chunks of time away from my kids, I’m re-evaluating everything, trying to weight my time accordingly, stockpile my errands, and tick things off at record speed. I’m kidding myself, aren’t I?

Does lateness annoy you? Are you an on time kinda person? Or are you one of us...?

Travel: A weekend in Cardiff

Last weekend we headed west. When you live in the west country, this can only mean one thing: Wales.

Heading over the bridge to what my kids affectionately term Dragon Country, listening to our current favourite song on repeat, the three of us talked about what we wanted to do in Cardiff. The castle? A must. Meeting up with friends? Yes, please. Plenty of lovely things to eat and drink? Tick.

First stop was Nata & Co, the most amazing Portuguese bakery tucked away in a part of Cardiff called Splott (what a name!). Aside from the classic Pastel de Nata (or custard tart) there were many delights with which to spoil our appetites. The boys and their friends devoured enormous slices of chocolate cake, while us grown ups downed hot caffeine and custard.

Next, we headed to Bute Park. Formerly the gardens of the capital's castle, the park runs along one side of the town centre - yin and yang, and all that. Perfectly timed with our visit was TAPE!, an installation made entirely from sticky tape hung between the boughs of trees to form a kind of giant spider web. My youngest boy is obsessed with all things scary, so the opportunity to enter a big white web was irresistible. Such a strange sensation knowing you're high above the ground in a cocoon made from layers of such an unlikely material, once inside the web was eerily quiet, creaking occasionally, reminding us of walking on ice.

The park is full of treats, temporary and permanent. For lunch, we ate at the Secret Garden Cafe, hidden behind a high, red brick wall, followed by ice creams at the Summerhouse Cafe. If the day hadn't been running away with us, we'd have sampled all three of the park's eateries with an afternoon tea stop at Pettigrew Tea Rooms, housed in one of the castle lodge buildings on the edge of the park.

Instead, we RAN to Cardiff Castle, where the kids bought swords and messed about in the stocks. A climb up a steep set of steps and we arrived in the heart of the castle, where my knights-in-training fought and played for the rest of the afternoon.

We headed to our home for the night, the Maldron Hotel in central Cardiff. The boys are always excited about staying in hotels and couldn't wait to see the room and decide who'd sleep where. Our room was up on the eleventh floor - the view was incredible and we could see the restaurants on nearby Mill Lane. Once spotted, the kids refused to acknowledge anywhere but Wagamama as their restaurant of choice for the evening. We sat outside and people-watched while we slurped our noodles. After such a packed day of fun, all three of us were ready for bed.

Next morning, there was a knock at the door at 7am - breakfast! It's hard to tell where my excitement at the kids' breakfast-in-bed thrill ends and my thrill begins; there are few things in life more special than sitting in bed, cuddling your kids and eating pastries.

And there our 24 hours in Cardiff came to a close. Back east to Bristol and the beginning of another week of this summer holiday. We're packing in the fun this year - follow our adventures here on the blog, and on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #summerholidaydiaries.

We travelled to Cardiff to contribute to a travel ebook created by RAC Breakdown Cover
As always, all thoughts and images are my own.

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