Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture

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Rachel's Blog

Monthly Archives: January 2015

  • My English Journey

    Part 1 - Christmas In The Countryside

    My son Jake moved to London from Los Angeles, October before last. Seems to be in our family gene to move far away from home.  My father was born in the US and moved to Europe in his 20’s. I was born in London and before my twentieth birthday I moved to the US… and now Jake.

    So my daughter Lily and I travelled from the US to spend this Christmas together in London. I am always happy to have a winter Christmas. Hard to come by in Los Angeles.

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     Our holiday residence was to be Babington House. A beautifully perfect English manor hotel in Somerset. I had stayed there last summer and had a perfect time. Always a risk when you try and repeat a perfect experience.

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    The prior visit we had stayed in “the cabin”, which is truly lovely. On the lake, a short walk from the main house. Secluded and luxurious. No teeny weeny detail was overlooked. From the furnishings, to the hot crusty French bread, cookies and tea in the rooms. Not to mention the yummy Cowshed products in the wonderfully functioning showers. This visit the Cabin wasn’t available so we had one room (with a tiny bunk bed nook), in the main house. Heavenly. The room was beautiful, comfortable and functional, values aligned with mine.

    We were just upstairs from the bar, restaurant, pool room, library, and the delightful entryway lined with wells and perfectly polite and accommodating staff.

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    (available at www.shabbychic.com)

    Leading from our room was a main staircase with perfect, slightly wonky chandeliers and a back staircase that butted up to the upstairs/downstairs of the kitchen and staff quarters. Tiled walls and busy people with aprons, shuttling fantastic food. I felt I was observing a slice of Downton Abbey.

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    Because we had only one room for the three of us, we had lots of talk time, which sometimes doesn’t happen when there is too much room. We played hours of cards, and talked in-between our turns. I learnt to play pool… Jake was nicknamed “the hat” by a fellow pool player, I think due to his American baseball hat.

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    The morning of Christmas, I opened our door to a line of three Hunter Wellington boots, for the three of us…. as I said, they thought of everything.

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    I carried a few Christmas presents for the children from LA so we had some to open Christmas morning. Jake and Lily got me a monogrammed Smythson diary, which inspires me be mindful and use my time meaningfully.

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    My dear friend Pearl Lowe lives a short drive from Babington so a treat for me was to drive around to her beautiful, whimsical family home for a cup of tea. All the kids, dogs and hubby were home… the cosy family. Lily and Pearl caught up on discussions of the search of vintage inspiration for their mutual fashion lines www.lilyashwell.com www.pearllowe.co.uk

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    Our stay was faultless, but then the journey back to London was a quick return to reality. Only a short 117 miles from London. I drove us through the tiny country lanes, (really only fit for a small horse) towards Bath Spa. I pride myself on being a pretty good driver. But the combination of driving a stick shift, forgetting every now again what side of the street I was to drive on, and such teeny streets, where really you’re driving both sides at the same time, gave cause for a jerky drive.

    Eventually we reached the train station…only to be told by a very nice guard, that all trains had been cancelled into London that morning, so even though the trains were partially running again, there was a backlog.

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    Therefore any reservations on any particular train didn’t mean much. We should just go down to the platform and get on a train when possible.

    We listened to one polite English announcement after another as they gave us updates on delays, reroutes and options. Eventually after waiting outside on a cold and windy platform we found a seat on the train… and ventured back to London

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  • Comfort By Candlelight

    Back in October I celebrated my birthday with family and friends, and a beautiful candle lit cake! The tradition of using candles for celebrations and ceremony have always bestowed a sense of significance to the event and lighting a candle holds a strong symbolic notion for so many different purposes, though born of such practical means. I gather comfort from this ongoing ritual and place much importance to continuing this in my daily life.

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    Therefore candles are always one of my final touches to any room for inviting in everyday magic, especially when combined with lighting controlled by dimmer switches, and I’m sure am not alone in thinking that candles around a bubble bath is heaven on earth!

    I enjoy fragrance for it’s calming, romantic and nurturing properties and candles deliver this with soothing sentiment. My favourite scents are Vanilla, Gardenia, Fig and Blackcurrant, some evoke fond memories and some are just yummy, for indulging. Mostly I avoid anything too sweet or musky.

    Recently I’ve been getting more involved in the candle making process along with Nicole Winnaman who is one of my oldest friends. I’m thrilled to be collaborating with her Original Scent brand on our new range of poured soy wax candles and diffusers and we are soon to launch our first two custom fragrances ‘Gypsy Rose’ and ‘Petals’ with ‘London Light’ and ‘Ruby Berry’, soon to follow.

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    Much time was spent sniffing potential scents to combine and create a magical collection. I never knew there were so many scents to choose from and how all the “notes” come together like a symphony {in between sniffing fragrances we would sniff coffee beans as a sniff cleanser}. A truly fun and interesting process which can be experienced in our Santa Monica store by way of our Scent Bar where we have a botanical fragrance designer available to custom design candles, diffusers and gorgeous body oils, specific to your preference {New York opening in February for Valentine Day!}

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    Capturing a scent of a treasured place, such as The Prairie, was my purpose behind our Prairie Candle Jar, instantly taking me {and I hope its’ many guests} back to those warm Texas nights. An added bonus is they come in reusable, quilted embossed glass jars. Mine are regularly used as tumblers and sparkle delightfully as votive holders.

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    Another new addition we welcome, adding more romance and drama to our stories this festive season is the White Drip Candle. Conceived by the owners Mark and Samantha, who rolled up their sleeves and created these one by one for their wedding day when they couldn’t find anything that fulfilled their need of an authentic drip effect without the mess. The irony is that it is a challenge to find candles that drip these days. In a world looking for perfection drips seem to be thought of as messy, but for me drips compliment a flame magically.

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    As always I love combining the shabby with the chic. Finding cheap and cheerful candlesticks in the $1 box at flea markets brings me joy, along with stumbling across a precious treasure.

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    As the daylight dwindles may we all find a little time to take comfort by candlelight {and be sure to be candle safe too}

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