Vivez Bien * Live Well

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sublime Stellenberg


After today I am suffering from an extreme case of garden envy! I went with my friends Lynn and Karen to visit the Stellenberg Gardens and what an incredible treat it was.

 Divided into a series of garden "rooms" the first room we visited was to the side of the homestead and consisted almost entirely of white flowering plants with just a smattering of the palest pink peaking out here and there.

 Imagine sitting out here in the evening overlooking this magnificent garden when the white flowers really come into their own!

 This table underneath a wisteria would be the perfect cool spot for a cup of tea on a hot day. I particularly  loved the chandelier.

 After that we made our way to the veggie garden which I completely fell in love with.  From the water feature in the center, to the row of pencil cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), to the bamboo trellising to the citrus trees in Anduze pots, to the wicker  baskets for collecting veggies or clippings... I wanted it all!


 We left the veggie garden through this beautiful metal gate and made our way to the rose garden with its perfectly clipped box hedge....

 ....then through a pretty shady walkway and onto the herb garden...

....with a jasmine arbour at the centre.

I loved this bay tree in a wooden planter clipped into a pyramid shape...

....and these runner beans making their way up bamboo trellises.

 After the herb garden we walked onto the main lawns in front of the homestead with the most beautiful hydrangea borders.....

 ....and then onto the walled garden that houses the swimming pool. I think this might have been my favourite area.

  The blue and purple bed was just beautiful!

 The next treat in store was this magnificent garden designed by the late David Hicks.

The central rose covered arches divide the two sections of the garden. On the left, you can see the masculine side with its precision clipped hedges and more minimalist style and on the right is the feminine side with its profusion of plants and colour and soft edges.



 Reluctantly leaving this area which really is the most incredible work of art, we headed to a fairly new area of the garden that has a forest feel with a stream running through it.

 ...and then wandered though this part of the garden called the garden of reflection, beautiful with its series of reflecting ponds and topiaries.

 This led us to yet another arched walkway with pretty fountain at one end and row of benches to the side. There are just so many places to sit and contemplate the splendour of these gardens.


 Finally, we settled down in yet another part of the garden for a well-deserved cup of tea. All this garden envy is thirsty work!

 Are you as inspired as I am? I better get stuck into my garden very soon while the inspiration is still fresh in my mind. Wish me luck!

I hope you all have a lovely week

Till next time

Sharon x

 You can visit the Stellenberg website here