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Catherine Braithwaite WRITING PORTFOLIO

Where My Love of Vintage Started


I've loved old things for as long as I can remember. I remember picking up objects that belonged to my great-grandmother (that would be Isobelle, by the way) and being engrossed by the stories she'd tell me about them. I guess the main reason I love vintage things is the history. You don't get that with knick-knacks from IKEA now, do you? Both the cheeky chappy and Enid Blyton books above are treasures that I bought in charity shops when I was little. They now live in the room that I stay in when I visit my grandmother. It's full of kitsch deer ornaments and trinkets that both myself and my sister have accumulated over the years. The room just happens to be Isobelle's old bedroom too. There's so much history floating around inside those four walls; it's intoxicating. I've always been exposed to car boot sales and charity shops. And I've grown up collecting things too; starting with TY Beanie Babies and Wade Whimseys and progressing to cute teacups and kitsch deer in any form. Just typing this has got my adrenaline levels soaring. Last weekend heralded the start of the car boot season and I can't wait to get stuck in, rummaging around for special pieces with real stories to tell. Setting up Isobelle's Pantry has allowed me to indulge in my enthusiasm for vintage and to share my passion with like-minded people too. Why not leave me a comment about where your love for vintage started?

Get Outdoors Campaign: Wildlife Here at Outdooorsy, we love to explore the Great British countryside. This week, we’ve been planning the best ways to get the kids outdoors to discover more about wildlife. Whether you’re planning to visit somewhere new or just walking to the shops, why not go on a Nature Trail? Gather together everything you will need with the help of our handy list.

A nature trail can be done in any habitat, so why not scout out different locations to take the children to throughout the summer holidays? The RSPB has nature reserves up and down the country and the BBC has a great source of things to do.

• A notebook is great for creating a nature diary. Get the children to note down details about the area and draw pictures of the animals and plants they see there. • Make sure you take along a plastic container on longer trails so that the children can collect things and store them safely. Keep them on the lookout for feathers, fur and leaves to help them identify different species. • Get each child to pack their own rucksack or bag to take with them. They’ll feel like proper little explorers carrying all their kit with them! • A magnifying glass is perfect for taking a closer look at different items that the children find and is a great for little ones who love to find bugs and insects! • A waterproof jacket and pair of wellies may be an essential. Not only is the weather unpredictable, but you may want to explore marshes, ponds and the sea.

There are also loads of other ways to get children to interact with nature and wildlife. Why not build a bumble bee hotel out of bamboo, or make a bird cake to hang in your garden. The RSPB has exciting activities to enjoy and the BBC’s Summer of Wildlife booklet is a fantastic resource for getting outdoors this summer. Why not tweet us @GardenXL with a picture of what you find on your nature tail?

Top 5 Garden Party Themes Enjoy the glorious sunshine this summer by hosting a themed garden party for your family and friends. We’ve created a list of the top 5 themes and have compiled ideas for activities, decorations, food and drink. All you need to do is set a date!

Jay Gatsby has been charming the nation since the release of Baz Luhrmann’s newest adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel. Take inspiration from the party man himself and host an event that oozes the elegance and sophistication of the Jazz Age. FOOD & DRINK Treat your guests to Gatsby inspired cocktails. The Gin Rickey is claimed to be Fitzgerald’s favourite cocktail, and is perfect for when you’re reclining on a vintage inspired sunlounger. To recreate, place three or four ice cubes in a highball glass and squeeze over the juice of half a lime. Add 60ml of gin and top with soda, before finishing by adding in the empty lime half. Or why not try Daisy’s favourite twenties tipple, the Mint Julep. In a highball glass, muddle together a teaspoon of sugar, a splash of water and a handful of mint leaves. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add 60ml of bourbon and stir. Garnish with a few more mint leaves.

GET THE LOOK Costumes are where your Gatsby garden party will really come to life. For the ladies, elegant and feminine dresses, strings of pearls and glittering headbands are a must. Male guests should take inspiration from Leoardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Gatsby in impeccable tailoring and blush pink suits.

This garden party theme can be whimsical and elegant at the same time. It is perfect for anniversaries or girly get togethers for guests of all ages. Why not make your party a charity event by getting involved with Marie Curie’s Blooming Great Tea Party 2013. FOOD & DRINK Picnic foods complement this theme fantastically. Serve up quintessentially British cucumber sandwiches with a classic Victoria sponge, meringues and cream scones for an indulgent party meal. GET THE LOOK As for decorating your garden, bunting and country-style blooms are a must. Fairy lights create a magical ambiance that will enchant your guests. For your table, source mismatched vintage crockery from charity shops and car boot sales for a shabby chic look. Ornate bistro sets are a delicate furniture solution and are perfect for this garden party theme.

With tasty treats and timeless fairground activities, this garden party theme has something for all the family. Re-create the fun of the fair with our thrifty ideas.

The bright colours of Mexico make a Fiesta theme perfect for your summer garden party. Get into the party spirit with our top tips. Sombreros at the ready!

ACTIVITIES Traditional fairground activities are easy to create at home. Why not create your own coconut shy or skittle alley? Save up empty tin cans, wash them out and cover them in bright wrapping paper. Then stack them up and you have your very own tin-can knock down game for your guests to enjoy.

ACTIVITIES Make sure your party has a piñata as its centrepiece. You can buy one from most party stores or if you’re feeling creative you can always make your own. Using paper mache, cover a balloon in layers of paper strips, using glue or paste. Wait for it to dry and decorate with crepe paper for an authentic look. Cut a small hole, big enough to fill your piñata with sweets and then cover.

FOOD & DRINK Keeping food simple will allow you less time preparing food and more time to enjoy spending time with your guests. Feed your family and friends with hot dogs and serve candy floss and popcorn as sweet treats. GET THE LOOK Working with a limited colour palette ensures that your party looks both stylish and well thought out. Stick to red and white for your main items and accessorise with another primary colour for a nostalgic look. Striped paper bags filled with sweets make great prizes for the games or as party favours.

FOOD & DRINK Keep the food simple with traditional dishes; such as nachos and fajitas or tacos, with fillings in separate bowls allowing guests to help themselves. For drinks, serve up margaritas made from traditional Mexican tequila and pink lemonade for the kids. GET THE LOOK Gardens with vibrant colours and exotic planting make the perfect location for this theme. Use cacti and succulents as table decorations – they can also be given to guests as party favours at the end of the night.

Thrill your guests with a James Bond theme. The perfect Bond party needn’t be a Top Secret affair with our party advice. ACTIVITIES Casino game sets are available online and you can also hire out game tables and dealers. Protect your guests and their entertainment from the elements but putting up a gazebo in your garden. Not only is this a practical solution but it will also add to the luxurious feel of your garden party. FOOD & DRINK Martinis are the obvious choice of drinks for this theme. Consider hiring an experienced bartender to recreate Bond’s own invention, the Vesper for added authenticity. In Casino Royale, Bond asks for the following: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” GET THE LOOK Prepare your guests by sending out invitations in Top Secret files. Have a black tie dress code too. A monochrome colour scheme will look cool and sophisticated, just like Bond himself!

Catherine braithwaite writing portfolio