summer sale…

I’m having a huge summer sale and everything is 50% off!!!

sophie conran jug giveaway…

Somebody’s gonna get lucky on my birthday!!!! I’m giving away this beautiful hand-blown Sophie Conran glass jug (1L (1.75pt)). It’s really quite stunning and I think you’ll love it, lucky person.

You can earn an entry for each of these steps:

1. Go to my Nicole Jane Home Facebook Fan Page and click on “like” at the top of the page. That way you’ll like the whole page, not just a post. https://www.facebook.com/NicoleJaneHome

2. Twitter about the giveaway. Please make sure to include the following, so I know you tweeted “@nicolejanehome is giving away a sophie conran glass jug bit.ly/K1wiVp”.

3. Follow Nicole Jane Home on Pinterest   http://pinterest.com/nicolejanehome/

Draw Date: Friday, June 15, 2012

Boring fine print:

You know the drill…must be resident of U.S. or Canada and be 18+ years old. Void where prohibited by law. Sorry, Quebec…looks like you’re not allowed to play (it’s prohibited there).

she's so sophie…

Knees shaking…dry throat…and the ever-present threat of two ill-behaved dogs on the verge of hysterical barking…

You guessed it! That was me dialing the phone to call my design idol–Sophie Conran–who kindly agreed to be interviewed. When I heard her cheerful, “Hello”, I was instantly at ease–she’s even more personable and interesting than I imagined.

Sophie’s accomplishments are vast in the world of design and good taste, including work as the entertaining editor for In Style, writing entertainment and recipe features for Living Etc., and writing for House Beautiful about what makes a house a home. Not to mention all of her cookbooks and designs in tableware, glassware and wallpaper.

Sophie also turned a 15th century manor into a retreat–Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting–for country weekends in the Cotswolds. It’s looks and sounds absolutely idyllic–I can just imagine how beautiful it would be for a wedding! (Mark…if you’re reading this…take it as a huge HINT for our 25th Wedding Anniversary…no point being subtle anymore!!!!!)

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Sophie Conran for Temple Guiting

Before I go any further, may I offer my advice for the best way to read this interview? Make yourself a pot of tea, sit in a comfy chair, and drink out of one of Sophie’s irresistible cups. Or feel free to fill it with jelly beans and munch away, like I did during a photo shoot a few weeks ago!

photo by Janis Nicolay for Nicole Jane Home

Jennifer: Sophie, your tableware is wildly popular in Canada and the U.S. What was your inspiration for the beautiful organic shapes and colours?

Sophie: One source of inspiration came from my childhood. My family used to drive from England to our little house in France and stop off in Limoges on the way. My mom would visit the ceramic factories to buy seconds of their porcelain, which were always plain white and wobbly and each piece was individual. Another inspiration came from the Japanese, who have amazing potters. I really love the way they hand-make such delicate pieces. They have a saying that if something is perfect, then it’s not beautiful.

Jennifer: I’m most impressed by the fact that your tableware is strong and delicate at the same time. How were you able to achieve that balance?

Sophie: It has to do with the material it’s made with. It’s pure porcelain, which is fired at really high temperatures, making it incredibly hard and durable. All the pieces can go in the oven, dishwasher, and microwave. When we were making the samples, I kept on asking, “Can we make it thinner? Can we make it thinner?” because I wanted that delicacy. When you drink a cup of tea, and you have a very thin cup, somehow the tea tastes better.

Jennifer: Your cups are the ones I drink my coffee with every morning.

Sophie: That’s lovely. I’m delighted that my website has a picture of Mrs. Obama drinking out of one of my cups during a visit to England.

Jennifer: One of the best things about your tableware and glassware is that they are truly multi-purpose. I frequently reach for one of your teapots or glass jugs to hold bouquets of flowers. Do you have any suggestions for unique ways to use any of the other pieces?

Sophie: All of the pieces can be used in the oven, so I’ve made berry crumbles in little tea cups and everyone gets their own personal serving. I also use lots of tumblers filled with tea lights and flowers on my table during dinner parties.

Jennifer: You’re a member of a highly creative and accomplished family. How did your parents foster creativity and encourage you and your siblings in your creative pursuits?

(Sophie is the daughter of UK designer, Sir Terence Conran and cookbook author, Caroline Conran, and her brothers, Sebastian, Jasper and Tom are all renowned in their respective fields.)

Sophie: My parents were always showing us things, getting us involved, and asking us our opinions. The business very much revolved around our home with my dad’s design studios based there. We moved to an old school when I was little, and the old classroom blocks became the design studios and workshops. The carpenters who made all samples would come over for a drink and dinner and stay the night. It was our playground and we were all involved in the photo shoots for my father’s catalogues. It was a huge deal when a new design or new piece of furniture came in–very exciting.

Jennifer: Did you appreciate it when you were a child? That it was something very special?

Sophie: I don’t think so. I didn’t do well at school, but home was fun for me. My mom was always cooking and writing recipes for books and magazines. When we moved into the school, it was pretty derelict, so we lived in a “building site” for a pretty long time. There were old walled gardens, which had been a Christmas tree farm. They were all cleared out and we built a huge vegetable garden and remodeled all of the greenhouses. It was pretty amazing actually. There was always lots of creativity around us.

Jennifer: It sounds wonderful, but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Sophie: I really enjoy work. I’m happiest when I’m working.

Jennifer: As a mother and businesswoman, you are an inspiration to women all over the world. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in a career or building a business?

Sophie: I always put my kids first. Be patient, always be true to yourself and don’t be scared of making mistakes. And always work with great people—make sure that you interact with reputable companies, it’s very important.

Jennifer: Do you get to travel very much for your work?

Sophie: I don’t travel very often. I’m a bit of a homebody. I’m in my office right now, but it’s attached to my home.

Jennifer: Whenever I visit England, I’m always so impressed by the bold British design aesthetic—particularly the exquisite paint colours and wallpapers. In Canada and the U.S., we’re seeing a strong resurgence of wallpapers, and I’m excited to see your new collection. What inspired your designs?

Sophie Conran wallpaper collection

Sophie: I absolutely love nature. The wallpaper hanging in my office at the moment is based on a Japanese kimono book. It’s full of beautiful irises, which were inspired by the exquisite floral designs and embroidery on the kimonos.

Sophie Conran's "Fleur" wallpaper

The inspiration for another collection that I designed was from a childhood stay at a chateau in France. It was completely falling apart. Each of the rooms had incredible paintings, fabrics, and such fabulous fading wallpapers.

Sophie Conran's "Belle" wallpaper

Sophie Conran's "Juliette" wallpaper

Colour is also a really big inspiration for me. Contrasting colours always get my creative juices flowing.

Sophie's home featured in the April '08 edition of Australia Home Beautiful

Jennifer: [The interview with Sophie took place two weeks prior to the royal wedding] Will & Kate‘s wedding is just around the corner and we’re getting very excited about it in Canada. My 77-year-old mother is even planning to wake up at 1 a.m. to watch the ceremony on TV. How will you be celebrating the royal wedding?

Sophie: They’re such a sweet couple—always smiling. We’ll be attending a big party that a friend is throwing at his home in the Cotswolds. Lots of people are organizing street parties, and I think that 10 million visitors are expected to be in London for the wedding. People are baking and decorating—it’s really, really nice actually.

Jennifer: If you had a day all to yourself, what would you absolutely love to do?

Sophie: We have a home in the country, and I love to be down there with my family. I spend time gardening, and visiting the gardening centre–just doing nice stuff around the house with my kids and husband. I really enjoy cooking, and friends often come over with their children and we’ll have a big meal together.

Jennifer: Imagine that it’s Monday afternoon at 2:43 p.m., and you’ve been hard at work. Do you reach for one of your delectable Whoopie Pies and a piping hot cup of coffee?  Or is it an apple muffin and iced tea calling your name?

Sophie: I don’t really like a lot of sweet things. If I was busy, it might be a little piece of avocado on toast with a squeeze of lemon. Or it might be some humous and carrot sticks, or a smoothie.. I normally have something already prepared in the refrigerator, like lentil salad, so I might have a bit of that. Those are the kinds of snacky things I like to eat.

I’d like to thank Sophie for taking time to chat with me. She’s such a dynamic person, and I look forward to seeing many more amazing things from her in the future.

CONGRATULATIONS, Anita T: You won the Sophie Conran giveaway. You were lucky #9.

SOPHIE CONRAN GIVEAWAY!!!

I’m such a huge fan of Sophie’s products (we use her tableware every day in my home) and I want to celebrate her interview by hosting a GIVEAWAY. One lucky winner will receive one of her gorgeous white cake plates, a set of 4 white dessert plates, and a white teapot!!! Everything you need for tea time!

All you need to do is:

* Visit Nicole Jane Home and sign up for my newsletter (don’t worry, I NEVER send spam. If you’re already on my newsletter subscribers’ list, you’re automatically entered.

* Leave a comment below to let me know you signed up.

Here’s the small print: You need to be a resident of the U.S. or Canada (we’re not allowed to run contests for residents of Quebec), 18 years or older. Good luck everyone!

Draw Date: May 25, 2011

shades of aqua Easter…

Easter makes me feel like redecorating! Let’s face it…every season makes me feel like redecorating.

This year, I’m really digging the color aqua (I was born in ’64…so it’s authentic when I say “dig it”), so Easter 2010 is “Seaside Chic” at the Findlay estate (bah ha ha ha). This epiphany came to me when I flipped open my crisp, new copy of Canadian House & Home magazine, which I relish with a piping hot cup o’ coffee and my two cuddly dogs.

C & C design editor, Stephanie White, came up with these gorgeous painted jars, and I fell instantly in love. They’re so sweet. She recommends using a florists water tube on the end of flower stems if you want to use them as vases. I’m thinking they’d look pretty sharp with tea lights flickering in them too (not sure if acrylic paint is flammable though).

photo courtesy Canadian House & Home magazine

Here are the paint colours she recommends, from left to right: Seascape Green (156-4) | Delicate Petal (407-2) | Frosty Glade (456-4) | Idyllic Isle (254-4) | Cathedral Glass (455-5) | Seascape Green (156-4) all Pittsburgh Paints.

I wonder if I could build a new dining room, wallpaper it in fabulous paper, and reupholster my dining room chairs by Easter…hmmm. In case I haven’t said it before (about a zillion times), Sarah Richardson is Canadian royalty!!!!! She should have been included in the opening ceremonies for the Olympics!

courtesy of Sarah Richardson's Design Inc.

When I was in Seattle last week, I stopped in at Sur La Table (drooool) by Pike’s Place Market and spotted this lovely piece of epicurean delight–Le Crueset’s Carribean-color French oven. I think it would be perfect for a little Easter weekend lamb stew!!!

This is my celadon-colored Sophie Conran tableware, which I absolutely adore. I’ll probably mix it up a little with some of my aqua & chocolate brown damask placemats–ooh la la. I admit it, I’m a shameless saleswoman! I’m a walking, talking Nicole Jane Home endorsement advertisement! I must be stopped!

photo by Reinier De Smit for Nicole Jane Home

Nicole Jane Home

OPI‘s Breath of Life is such a gorgeous color. Perfect for an Easter pedicure and then open-toed sandals for the rest of the season!

photo courtesy O.P.I

tea party…

As I was washing windows on the weekend, I started to think about what a shame it is to waste a freshly cleaned house (believe me…I don’t do it often…and it doesn’t stay that way for long). The next crazy thought that drifted into my brain was the idea of a tea party–an unabashedly girly ritual. Do any of us still have Sunday dresses in our closets? Or is all available closet real estate devoted to jeans and frilly blouses?

I just love the quaint notion of linen napkins, sipping proper tea in china cups–none of this tea bag nonsense–go loose leaf or go home. And then there are those ethereal finger sandwiches…sigh. I’ve always been a sandwich girl. The finger sandwiches were always the first thing I made a bee line for at Church teas every Sunday (imagine a chubby, bespectacled redhead ripping off her choir gown and flinging sheet music on the way to the church kitchen). In my opinion, the best day for afternoon tea is Saturday. That way, you have the morning to get ready, the afternoon to enjoy, and ALL day Sunday to recover!

At first, I thought it was called High Tea, but that’s not correct. The proper term is Afternoon Tea. It all started with a hungry Queen, who couldn’t make it through the afternoon and evening until dinnertime at 9 p.m. She started having tea with buttered bread around 3 p.m., then she started to invite her gal pals over for tea, and the whole lazy lot of ’em sat around munching on sandwiches, scones and jam. High tea, on the other hand, is more like dinner served between 5 and 7 p.m., with cheeses, meats, pickles, etc. More manly and working-class-ish, apparently.

Some of the snootier folk take this quite seriously, and scoff at anyone who accidentally calls afternoon tea, high tea (like every hotel in North America). So here are some elements that I think any decent tea party should have…

A. CUCUMBER FINGER SANDWICHES

Really simple. If you really want to make them extra-special, you can order special sandwich loaves at your favourite bakery. Ask them to remove the crusts for you. Otherwise, start with a really good loaf of white bread. Finger sandwiches need to be buttered (real butter) so they don’t become soggy. Spread a layer of cream cheese on top of one of the buttered pieces. Top with thinly sliced peeled cucumber. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Now, you can stop there, or you can add finely chopped chives or mint. Yummmm. Make sure to cut off the crusts and slice in diamonds, or use a round cookie cutter. Easy peasy.

Photo is courtesy of How To Be Pretty (you can click on each of the photos which have hyperlinks to the source).

photo courtesy of How To Be Pretty blogspot

B. SCONES WITH JAM & CLOTTED CREAM

I am getting REALLY hungry writing this post–look at that, it’s almost 4 p.m. Gotta go! Bill Granger of The Sidney Morning Herald included this recipe in his advice column.

Scones with jam and clotted cream

1 tbsp icing sugar
310g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
250ml (1 cup) milk
30g butter, melted
Jam
Clotted cream

Preheat the oven to 220C. Sift the icing sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the milk and butter and stir with a knife to combine. Knead quickly and lightly until the dough is smooth, then press out onto a floured surface.

Use a glass to cut out rounds (roughly 5cm in diameter and 3cm deep) and place them close together on a greased baking tray. Gather the dough scraps, lightly knead again, then cut out more rounds to add to the baking tray.

Cook for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve with jam and clotted cream.

photo by Quentin Jones via The Sidney Morning Herald

C. FANCY SHMANCY CUPCAKES

These delectable little fancies are Martha Stewart’s Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

photo courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Makes 24

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Lemon Curd (see below)
  • Seven-Minute Frosting (see below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (Ateco #828 or Wilton #8B) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately.

Martha Stewart’s Lemon Curd

Makes about 2 cups

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

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Martha Stewart’s Seven Minute Frosting

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Continue reading

Sophie Conran…

When I was blogging into the wee hours of the morning, I received an email from, Katharine, a friend in Spain, who loves Sophie Conran and suggested that I post some of her recipes. I think it’s very fitting, considering that her father, Sir Terance Conran, is a famous interior designer, and I carry Sophie’s line of tableware at Nicole Jane Home. I use the celadon blue tableware every day and I love it (washes up beautifully in the dishwasher and handles the heat of the oven). Look at how she uses the serving pieces! I use my souffle dish for trifles and 7-layer mexican dips, and I use the jugs for flower arrangements. All the pieces are multi-use.

photo courtesy of Sophie Conran’s website

Sophie Conran tableware

Before designing her vast kitchen and tableware collection for Portemeirion (which won the ELLE Decoration Award in 2006), Sophie was a renowned cookbook author. Her website offers these recipes, which sound scrumptious (kids…momma’s on a cooking bender this week…hallelujia).

Beef, Beer and Mushroom Stew with Cheesy Dumplings by Sophie Conran

DECEMBER Beef, Beer and Mushroom Stew with Cheesy Dumplings

Butternut Squash & Sausage Soup by Sophie Conran

APRIL Butternut Squash and Sausage Soup

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