Vivez Bien * Live Well

Monday, December 21, 2015

Island Style

At this time of the year, whether we like it or not, we tend to spend a great deal of time in our kitchens. The season of festivities means gatherings of friends and family which usually revolves around food. Our kitchens, which are perfectly adequate during the rest of the year, suddenly seem far too small for the amount of people and food populating them!

Don't you envy the size of this kitchen island with all the fabulous space around it? You could easily accommodate 10 people around it, all chopping, stirring, carving and assembling, while you just issue orders with a glass of wine in hand. Sounds like my type of food prep!

I also like this idea of neighbouring islands - one for food prep and one for laying out the completed dishes.

One of the important features of a great kitchen island is to have the right lighting above it. It not only has to be functional, but beautiful as well. No spot lights please!

  Whether you opt for a pair of lanterns....




 ....a gorgeous chandelier...

 ....some hanging pendant lights....

 ...possibly with an industrial edge...

....or a double pendant to make a real statement.


 You could choose something more contemporary...


 ....maybe a wooden version...

....or even a glamourous Tiffany style....

....but whatever the style of your island and the state of your lighting, I wish you many wonderful hours in your kitchen with all your favourite people!



 All these lights are available from 
Look out for their Christmas Specials.

Till next time

Sharon x

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas stockings and other things

The Christmas tree is up and and is adorned with its usual array of brightly coloured ornaments gathered over the years and some from our travels. But this year, I decided to tone down the  decorations in the rest of the house and keep them fairly simple.


A little tree at my front door....

...some Christmas stockings hanging above my kitchen island....


...some Christmas baubles and a wreath in the sitting room...


....a few simple decorations on the family room mantle....


 ...some crystal decorations above my dining table...

....and some twig trees on my outside table...

All was going well, until I decided that these Christmas stockings that I made for my boys about twelve years ago, were too bright and possibly a bit childish considering they are now all teenagers.

Photo 2005

I had seen the idea of a Santa Sack on Pinterest and decided that these would be the perfect solution. So proud of my handiwork, I produced these lined and personalised hessian Christmas bags to be admired by my children.

Let's just say they were less than impressed! "But they don't even look like stockings!" "What have you done with our old stockings?" That just looks like an old sack!".

I felt completely deflated. I thought that teenagers were hip and happening, but it seems that mine are traditionalists, averse to change. We compromised by agreeing that I would display the new Christmas bags, but on Christmas Eve, I would put out their old Christmas stockings to be filled by the Christmas elves.

Silly of me to expect that they might embrace a new Christmas stocking as readily as they do a new X-Box game! Also, they are clearly not as bright as I thought they were - the new Christmas stockings are bigger and would need more gifts to fill them - just saying!

But I will put my bitterness to rest and move on to other things I have been busy with.


I decided to tackle this really boring and overgrown bed next to the garage. I (actually, my gardener) removed everything in the bed except for the Jacaranda tree on the far left. It was given to me on my birthday about 18 years ago by Matt, my oldest son, when he was one year old. In those days, Jacaranda's weren't considered the undesirable aliens that they are today. I always pictured this mass of purple blooms over my front gate, but the tree hasn't really lived up to its promise. In fact, Matt has turned out a whole lot better than the tree. But I live in hope, and because it has sentimental value, the tree will stay.

 I placed a little fountain in the centre, added some wrought iron features and have planted a mixture of salvia, gaura, agapanthus, a grey leafed ground cover whose name I can't remember, heliotrope,  and an olive tree. I kept to a colour scheme of grey, white, pink and blue. Now I am patiently (impatiently) waiting for it to grow. I am happy to report that the reaction from my boys on this change was pleasingly positive. "I really like the new garden, mom." "That's nice my boy, what do you like about it?" "Well, it will be so much easier to find my soccer ball than in the old garden!" High praise indeed!

I don't know if you have come across an American  artist called Carolyn Anderson. I really love her style, particularly her bird paintings. I was inspired to create some of my own little birds.

I thought I would give them away as Christmas gifts, stuck them up on my wall with double sided tape to see what they would look like and haven't yet taken them down. Can I still give them away, or are they now "used" goods I wonder?

But that's enough of my ramblings. I will leave you to get on with your Christmas shopping, unless you are one of those over achievers who has done it all already and make the rest of us look bad!

Till next time

Sharon x

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's all about the Bench

Please concentrate because I am going to give you a very good tip to get you through Christmas entertaining! I know I spoil you, but I feel you deserve it....

One of the by-products of the festive season is mass entertaining or at least entertaining on a larger scale than we might do at other times during the year. As wonderful as it is to have all our family and friends sharing a meal, the practicalities of seating everyone sometimes becomes tricky. That is where the humble bench comes into its own.

What a bench might lack in comfort, it definitely makes up for in convenience. It is just that much easier squeezing in a few extra bodies around a table when you have a bench at hand. They are especially useful when you want to accommodate a plethora of children!

A bench also lends itself to more casual entertaining.... a rustic table with benches on either side gives off a relaxed and inviting air reminiscent of our student days hanging out in pubs. Or was that just me?


In fact, this table and benches looks like they could have come out of The Pig and Whistle, but in this setting exudes a more sophisticated feel.


If you are lucky enough to have a big table in your kitchen, benches are the perfect spot for guests to congregate and you can put them to work, peeling potatoes or chopping carrots!

 If you prefer, you can combine a bench on one side of your table with chairs on the other. This makes for more versatile seating and possibly better accommodates granny and gramps who might prefer a proper chair.

If you are concerned about the lack of comfort offered by wooden benches, you could opt for cushioned or upholstered benches and your friends and family might linger longer. 


 Although I have said that benches are generally considered a more casual option, there is no reason why they can't be used for more formal and sophisticated dining as in the examples below.

Another very useful tip about benches is that in the "off-season" when you possibly don't need them around your dining table, you can put them to very good use in other settings.... your entrance hall....

.... at the end of your bed... a coffee table in your living room....

...or even in your bathroom!

 So  there is your Christmas tip - if you don't already own a bench, you need to go and acquire one. You can thank me later.

Till next time

Sharon x