world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Category: ART

Literally Literary Lovely! Kindle Cover

  One of the loveliest and most thoughtful gifts I received for my FortyTen birthday was a Kindle cover by KleverCase in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ design. Those that read my blog regularly will know that this is my all-time favourite book and Atticus Finch is my all-time literary love!

Founder of KleverCase, Philip Bradburn is a true Entrepreneur. After starting out as an apprentice bookbinder in 1976, his Eureka moment came with the advent of e-readers and specifically Amazon’s revolutionary Kindle.  KleverCase was born out of his desire to keep old books alive and to produce high quality products using his experience and traditional skills as a bookbinder. You can read more of the history here.

The company upholds true values for craftsmanship and heritage – and an outstanding customer service department (Mo could not have been more helpful.   Loving your work Mo’!).  Each KleverCase is made at Manor Bindery in the New Forest and each one comes with a personal signature of who made it … in my case Lotty – thanks Lotty!

There are so many great gifts for book lovers available on the KleverCase website, even for those who won’t succumb to the Kindle (or any reading vehicle other than the printed tome!).  Check out their leather bound box files that look like library greats to store receipts, bills etc. The designers obviously have a sense of humour! Impress on the beach with Eintsein’s Theory of Relativity or a Penguin Classic in their iconic orange.  Not Another Trashy Novel brought a smile to my face too.  There are diaries, notebooks, phone covers and other gift ideas for those who love the traditional or literary based gifts.

Available from the KleverCase website, Amazon and NotonTheHighStreet 


FortyTen in Florence Part I

 FortyTen. So it happened and rather like the Millennium bug it wasn’t the apocalyptic change I thought it was going to be, in fact it was pretty damned good! I awoke two days before the big day and was presented with a travel guide to FLORENCE.  My gay, carefree young self leapt around the room in a most unseemly manner, my control-freak 49+363 day old self panicked that I hadn’t read the travel guide from cover to cover, explored the off the beaten tracks and digested a phrase book …. but there was no need to worry.  Mr H and our two sons are well versed in my forensic pre-travel research and had done a more than brilliant job of discovering the highlights of this beautiful city

A budget airline dictated that I had to pack all my (unplanned) wardrobe into hand luggage so had to restrict shoes, toiletries and evening wear.  On arrival at Florence airport we stood in the early evening sun awaiting the flat fare taxi (a very reasonable 20€ + 1€ per luggage item), passed a piece of paper with the address and were whisked away to the heart of the city.

Our accommodation was booked through Air BnB and was exquisite. I am not exaggerating – those boys done good. Owned by an architect, the contemporary 2nd floor duplex apartment in the heart of Florence, beautiful linens, crockery, artwork and coffee table books with views from its rooftop terrace towards the Duomo. I coveted every single carefully curated item in our rented home, right down to the super stylish linen tea towels – there was not one item that would not have tickled the tastebuds of even the most critical aesthetes and the location perfect.

Anyone that has been to Florence will tell you, aside from being beautiful and awash with art and history, it is compact. This stunning city is easily traversed on foot. (Select your footwear wisely, Tuscan city heat, cobbles and heels are not a marriage made in heaven!)

There are 72 museums in Florence, 73 if you include Museo Gucci. You will have to visit Florence many, many times to see all of these museums – but be sure to visit at least one during your stay. There are various ticketing schemes to avoid queues and save money. Use these. Standing in the heat of the day to queue for museum entry is energy sapping and wastes valuable discovery time.  The first Sunday of each month, all National galleries have free entry so if you are prepared to be up early, join the queue as early as possible (check opening times). We arrived at the Uffizi as it opened at 8.15 on a Sunday morning but the queue was already winding back to the river.

Instead we headed to Palazzo Vecchio, a beautiful Medici home with breathtaking artworks and a stone tower that once climbed offers 360 degree views over Florence and towards the Tuscan hills – you need to purchase a separate ticket for the tower and the climb is long. Not for the unfit or claustrophobic!

Food will be covered in a second post, but it goes without saying the food was incredible. I could wax lyrical about the coffee alone.  There are unspoken rules on coffee drinking in Italy. Nothing with milk after 11am, unless you want to look like a tourist (heaven forbid!) and to avoid a steep price tag, drink at the bar – a delicious pre-11am latte was only €1.50 and we (almost) felt like locals.  An over indulgence of espressos on arrival night left me wired and staring at the intricate tiled ceiling of our residence counting Florentine sheep until the early hours!

There are an abundance of fine eateries in Florence but it goes without saying one should avoid those establishments with a waiter urging you to come inside, there are so many very good places that are not too costly. Take your time in choosing, you will not be disappointed

Chalk Paints …. simple

 I have a rather low boredom threshold on the crafting project front …. I want almost instant gratification with minimum effort, I guess that’s why I love cooking so much – great ingredients, a little time and understanding and it is easy to create a dish to impress your friends with ( I am all about applause and recognition for my efforts).  So, the idea of a furniture painting workshop was something I approached with a little apprehension.  Surely this meant days of sanding, painting, drying, painting again, combing or dry brushing effects. (Yawn)

 No need, this is an art form for those that abhor days of preparation, drying time and lack too much artistic flair (yours truly!)

Annie Sloan, doyenne of the chalk paint world has created a range of paints that can be used on ANY surface – plastic, metal, wood, painted finishes, lacquered finishes, wicker and these surfaces need virtually no preparation other than a quick but thorough cleansing with sugar soap.

Here is what her website says about her

Annie Sloan is probably the main reason for the painted furniture revolution through her easy, lively and creative approach to painting. She has a strong desire to communicate and empower people creatively which she does through her books, workshops and paint.
She has been painting for over 40 years as well as writing numerous books on the subject. She has made her own very special decorative paint called Chalk Paint®, which is specifically designed for furniture, that can also be used on walls, floors and in paintings. This paint has been developed through Annie’s knowledge of paint, pigments and art history. Read more about Annie Sloan and her paints here 

The class at The Upholsterer in Midhurst started with tea and biscuits and a ‘get to know’ you chat with other students. Moving into the first floor studio we were talked through the methods we would be trying in the half day workshop. Découpage, Ageing (paint effect, not me!), Crackle Glaze and textured paint with dark wax to give a leather effect

Each furnished with a piece of plain, unotuched softwood, we set about painting two thirds of our plank with a pale chalk base.

The first third (confused yet?) was then painted with a darker chalk colour, a gorgeous French grey and then sanded to give an aged finish and sealed with a clear wax.

The second third (I know, keep up!) was for découpage and crackle glaze …. There is something strangely therapeutic about cutting out paper shapes, in our case beautifully intricate birds (though that bird may be short of a toe or two due to my poor cutting skills!), glued to our second third pale chalk base, sealed with a further layer of decoupage glue and then subjected to the two part crackle glaze application and a blast from an Argos hairdryer. A final rub with a dark wax and the results were amazing. Suddenly I am AMAZING and I want to make this MY career …. And decoupage and crackle glaze every surface in my home!

The final third of my board (the third-third) was given up to a more textural finish in a rich cobalt blue with a dark wax which when finished looked like a gorgeous antiqued leather, though this effect was more effective with the brighter colours including orange which took on the appearance of ancient tanned hide

So I arrived home with my newly acquired tools, glues, glazes and paints ready to chalk paint my home to within an inch of its bare wood life!

I loved the course and came away totally inspired and enthused to try the techniques we had learned, a great activity to try with a girlfriend or a group of friends

2 months on update (post 1st project)

Top tip …. Start small! Frames, small wooden items etc, NOT the two dresser bases I started on and of course I didn’t have the glamorous workshop assistant to mop up, clean brushes and hand me baby wipes at home … Also I have decided I am not so keen on the shabby that is chic … I prefer something a little more uniform in appearance!

Holiday Reads that will make great Christmas Presents …. Part II

So now on to some more current, contemporary reads ….



A quick read and ideal gift for anyone interested in history, this is a sort of Scandi Forrest Gump, totally implausible but a ripping yarn nevertheless.  The book traces the life of 100 year old Alan Karlsson, as you journey through the old man’s century on Earth you cross paths with Stalin, Franco, Mao Tse Tung and Truman, oh and an elephant.  An offbeat funny book, not really laugh out loud but it has that humour peculiar to the Scandinavians, that sort of Nordic Nuttiness that is a little dour but still funny, death through hypothermia, decapitation and firing squad and told in the voice of Karlsson who is a-political but veers from one Socialist leader to the next tyrant.  So although it’s not a new book it’s definitely a good one for the guys.  As luck would have it the World Cinema choice on our flight home was Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The 100 year old man etc etc ….) now what are the chances of that? The film is fun too but you don’t get the back stories of each of the building group of oddballs that join Karlsson’s travelling troupe but a great Christmas pressie ensemble if you are wanting to give the full 100 Year Old Man …. experience!



(be assured I did not look for two books with the longest titles on purpose)

One of the most charming books I have ever read has to be this one, published in 2008.  This is a novel in letters of a love story emerging between two of the main characters, Juliet Ashton in London and Dawsey Adams on the island of Guernsey.  Dawsey regales Juliet with stories through his letters  of how the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came about. When German soldiers controlled Guernsey during the occupation of the Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945, the islanders were held to a strict curfew and severely oppressed. They were not even allowed to eat their own livestock and the island became a sort of Nazi holiday camp.  Several islanders thought of a clever scheme that could save a pig from their own livestock for them to enjoy themselves: When one farmer’s pig died, several farmers would pass around its carcass, each reporting the death of their own personal pig to German officials. Farmers could then stow away one of their pigs to slaughter in secrecy and eat with neighbours. When one group of islanders is caught they devise the Literary Society, something akin to a modern-day book club and to uphold the story they continue to meet throughout the occupation while they develop not only  a love for literature but also create a strong bond as friends.  There are some laugh out loud moments, some moments of lump-in-the-throat sadness, this is a book that I could read time and time again and would make for a great gift.



And the one that got away ….

LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov,

I rarely don’t finish a book, even if I don’t like it I persevere but this was such an uncomfortable read I actually couldn’t finish it.  From the beginning of the book you have an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and whilst with most books you want to go on a journey with the central characters, with this there is that awful sense of foreboding that somewhere in his head this paedophile, Humbert Humbert is justifying that this is a pure and natural love and somehow right.  There is no denying that Lolita herself is a little minx but Humbert knows he is wrong but continues to manipulate and impress upon the young girl and her mother, whilst horrifyingly recognising that there will be a time in the not too distant future where the young Lo’ will fall out of favour with him to be replaced by a younger more nubile model.  Somewhere on the internet I found a description that Lolita is a metaphor for the Old World of Europe (Humbert Humbert) and the changing new land of plenty, America (Lolita)  …. that may be but not a comfortable read for me … I am sure I will revisit it at some time but it was my final choice while away and was definitely bringing the mood down.

Read yesterday’s post on my
classics here 

What books do you like to give as gifts … the classics or new releases?




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