Friday, 22 May 2015


I'm glad it's Friday and I'm very glad it's half term next week. This week has mostly rushed by, leaving me feeling frazzled, frustrated and like I've caught a cold - or it could be hay fever, I'm not sure. Both are unwelcome. Well then, thank goodness for Tuesday, when I had a delightful morning in West Sussex and met up with Christine from the blog Chrissie Crafts at West Dean Gardens. Meeting up with blogging friends is fun but, as when meeting anyone for the first time, you want to make a good impression. I was a full twenty minutes late. I took a wrong turn on the way and had to double back on myself. Then I saw a sign for West Dean Shop, followed it and ended up down a dirt track in a church yard. Back on the main road I then saw a bigger sign for West Dean College and took that turning; knowing the gardens were somehow attached to the college I assumed I was nearby. I drove around the college grounds and ended up on a road which seemed to turn into a path and was soon facing a dead end opposite a pergola. I felt like I was having an anxiety dream. Starting to panic slightly, I did the smallest, neatest three point turn you ever saw (not easy in my massive, noisy, diesel estate) and drove back to the front of the college, muttering "This is ridiculous, where are the signs, where are the signs?" to myself as I drove. I parked. There was no phone signal (we're in the countryside here) so I can't access my sat nav on my mobile. Apparently I'm very, very close. I drive around a little more and head back to the main road where, around a bend, is a HUGE, very clearly written sign saying "West Dean Gardens", where I turn in, park, and run towards the entrance. Upon seeing Christine my first words are not "Hello!" or "Hi, how are you?" but "I'm so, so sorry!"

Anyway, it was the most glorious morning, it really was. Christine is funny, warm, friendly, and seriously knows her plants. We had a coffee together before heading into the gardens for a nose around. So beautifully maintained but also relaxed, with friendly staff and so much inspiration to be had, and tantalising glimpses of the stunning college through the trees. As you all know I'm no gardener, but show me a walled garden and some Victorian cold frames and I'm happy. It was all very Mr McGregor's Garden - I'm sure Peter Rabbit was lurking in a watering can somewhere.

I wanted to take something home with me from my day out and I did, but it was more a feeling than a purchase. Gardening in our new house so far has involved digging, moving sheds, assembling trampolines and a lot of me staring despondently at half finished jobs. I haven't been feeling much love for the plants, but spending some time at West Dean nourished my fickle gardening spirit. I bought a lavender plant at West Dean and picked up some compost on the way home. I called in at a farm shop on a whim and, thinking of the pelargoniums I'd seem earlier in the day, bought two geraniums and a bunch of locally picked asparagus. Once home, I gave some brand new terracotta plant pots a wash of watered down chalk paint to make them look a little more like the ones I'd seen earlier that day, and planted up my new purchases. Looking at the asparagus, I thought something chickeny and lemony would be nice for dinner and made this. I wish I had the time and opportunity to be so inspired in both garden and kitchen every day. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

A Cete of Badgers

This week....

:: We celebrated Angus's sixth birthday.

:: I learnt the collective noun for a group of badgers.

:: I made a delighted boy a badger t-shirt (and my mum was thrilled to find that blue jumper in M&S.)

:: I baked two cakes, one to be eaten after school with family and a McDonald's Happy Meal...

...and one Badgery one for the party at the weekened.

* * * 

And in other, non-badger related news, I also:

:: Picked bluebells from my sister's garden.

:: Learnt the difference between native and Spanish bluebells (these are Spanish)

:: Continue to be displeased with the mantel arrangement I've been faffing with. Everything about it is wrong and unbalanced and I don't know why. (I later moved the pussy willow stems and that helped a bit, but still, it's traumatic.)

:: Discovered that still warm off-cuts of cake with buttercream sandwiched between them are delicious, and everything I thought a whoopie pie (remember those?) would be but wasn't.

:: Saw a bird from the kitchen window, photographed it (sorry, not much zoom on my camera) and then looked it up in a book! A first for me. Suddenly we are all very interested in birds, all four of us. I think it's a goldfinch and I know you'll all correct me if I'm wrong.

:: Failed to cut the grass and admired the daisies instead. Why are we so obsessed with neat lawns in this country? Why are daisies and dandelions all over the grass considered a gardening failure?

:: Got excited about these rhododendron buds in the garden and wondered what colour they'll be.

:: Enjoyed John's banana ice cream, his first experiment with the ice cream maker he got for Christmas.

:: Also enjoyed using this old Tala ice cream scoop I recently liberated from my Grandad's kitchen drawer. Nice handle.

:: Had a lovely morning in Arundel with Sara. There are pretty buildings everywhere you look in that picturesque town.

:: Started a new book, The Year Of Living Danishly. It's very good, very funny.

Also, how lovely is that pink gerbera? 

I am looking forward to an early night and slightly less hectic week ahead. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Room Tour: Angus's Bedroom

I am assuming that you're as nosey as me and that, therefore, you'd like to see some photos of our new house. I've been sharing corners and snippets of our home here, but there is still a lot to do in every single room and it's in no way finished. It will never be finished, I know that, but my list of outstanding jobs motivates me to get things done. Some tasks are large, like decorating the hall, stairs and landing (my heart is already sinking - all those doors to paint...) others are smaller like changing that bare hanging light bulb in the dining room for a proper light fitting. But even the small jobs require spare time and spare money, and those things are in short supply. 

But last week, I declared Angus's room Finished. I think it might be one of my favourite rooms in the house actually, which came as a surprise; it's an awkward shape and size, there is only one place to put the bed, the carpet is knackered...but it reflects him somehow and he just loves his room, and that's probably why I love it too. There is no matching scheme, nothing that organised. Just neutral walls and lots of colour, black and white. All we did in this room was paint everywhere, choosing an off-white for the walls and white for the ceiling and woodwork. While I love the look of pure white paint, I knew it would look very cold in this north-east facing room and this is much warmer. We will replace the carpet at some point (it's in a bad way) but for now hiring a carpet cleaner and buying a rug sufficed.

His bed is one half of the bunk beds he used to share with Bella, and which used I to share with my sister when I was little. The white unit beside his bed used to live in our bathroom, but I much prefer it here. It's perfect for storing the random bits and bobs which six year old boys collect. 

The poster is a sheet of wrapping paper, a fun and cheap way to decorate walls, and I used these to hang it. The fairy lights are from Cable and Cotton, and the duvet set and hanging toy storage are both from IKEA.

The window sill holds toys or clutter, depending on your interpretation, and a black out roller blind helps keep out the morning sun. The view is nice too, lots of trees and rooftops.

At the other end of the room are two sets of cupboards. I just love the coat rack* here, providing both colour and storage. It's one of my favourite things ever - we've had it for years, and I think it's looks brilliant in a child's bedroom, or anywhere for that matter.

The rug was an inexpensive find and I love the eye catching chevrons. 

Those cupboards are very deep and go right back into the eaves; the one on the right is the airing cupboard and the other is a wardrobe. We call this the Narnia wardrobe because, behind the hanging space and toy storage, is a little den, carpeted and with a light!

As you can imagine, both Bella and Angus love to go in here, shut the doors and play or read. Kids like small spaces, don't they?

The bookcase and picture ledge (both IKEA) provide not only storage but space for favourite toys and books, very important for little personalities to shine through.

The wall opposite the window and bed holds a large wall mapAs Angus grows, we might put a desk on that wall, perhaps a drop-down one to save space for playing on the floor.

Something Angus loves to do is stand on that toy box and look at the map. His love of geography is almost as great as his love of badgers, and it has fired his imagination in a way I didn't think possible. At bedtime, after his story, John and he play this game where Angus stands on the toy box and, using his plastic sword like a pointer, finds the countries that John calls out to him. "Peru!" "Mongolia!" "Greenland!" The faster the better, and there are extra points if Angus can also name the capital. Please don't think we're those kind of "make everything a learning opportunity!" parents, trust me, we're really not, and this game often ends with Angus high as a kite and me moaning at John for getting Angus excited right before bedtime. 

It occurs to me now, as I write this, how much I really enjoyed helping the children decorate, furnish and arrange their rooms. I had to know my place on quite a few occasions, stepping back and letting them do things themselves, hard as I found that. Bella especially had very strong opinions on absolutely everything, and there was no way she was going to let me make the decisions for her. Angus was a little easier to persuade, but it's still very much his room and not mine.

Two last things: this is not a sponsored post, I've just provided links as I know people like to know where things come from, as do I when I read blog posts. And no, it's not always this tidy and yes I tidied it for the photos.


* I cannot believe how much these cost now!! We bought ours about ten years ago (in a bygone era of two incomes and no children) and seriously, it was about £100 less than this. I still love it though.