Monday, 27 July 2015

Room Tour: Bella's Bedroom

Decorating Bella's bedroom has certainly had it's challenges. The first is that it's small; not as small as the boxroom in our old house, but very definitely a single room not a double. The second challenge (for me) is that Bella is eight and a half, independent, opinionated, and knows her own mind. I try to impose my decorating will on her - really, I do - and she just shrugs. "Don't like it." she says of numerous pictures of well styled spaces I show her. "No. Boring," to the bedding set I like. "No, it's babyish" to the cloud cushion cover I want to make her. We go back and forth until we reach some kind of compromise.

From the moment we moved in and scraped off the Mickey Mouse wallpaper she wanted that wall to be blue, and the shade to her exact specifications. The rest of the walls are the same off white that we've used in most of the rooms (and works well in this north-east facing room) and the pale carpet was already here, we just cleaned it. 

The bed is the other half of the bunk beds she used to share with Angus, covered with a mixture of supermarket bedding and cushions I've made. The little filing cabinet from IKEA is a brilliant bedside cabinet as the drawers can be filled with all manner of loom bands, hair clips and what not.

Hooks on the back of the door are essential if you're short on space, and a must for bags, dressing gowns and all the things that wont fit into her already jammed wardrobe, like plastic Hawaiian flower necklaces. 

As in Angus's room, a sheet of gift wrap is hung above the bed as a print. I love this idea for bringing colour to walls as it's so cheap and versatile and can be changed easily. This sheet of paper has since been moved to Angus's room and we now have a piece of wrapping paper covered in butterflies in it's place. I used these poster hangers.

It was essential to put a bookcase in here somewhere and so, when you're short on space you go upwards, and we just squeezed a tall, thin Billy bookcase into the gap between the end of the bed and the window. 

Opposite the bed is a wardrobe, desk and some shelves. You'll notice that most of the furniture is IKEA; it's not going to last forever but it'll do for now. The shelves hold all kinds of much loved and precious things. 

There isn't space for a chest of drawers so all clothes are hung or folded and stored in those boxes. I was putting some clothes away in that wardrobe earlier today and was confused as to why everything was muddled - school uniform, t-shirts, dresses all mixed in together. Then I stopped and smiled when I realised that everything had been arranged by colour. She has her own system and who am I to say mine is better. 

Are you wondering where all her toys are? It is suspiciously tidy, I know. Two huge drawers under her bed hold masses of stuff and the bigger items live downstairs in either the office or spare room. We had to compromise - even if we built a cabin bed this room wouldn't be big enough to hold all her toys. 

I just want to mention these brilliant triangle wall stickers we used to decorate Bella's wardrobe and bedroom doors. They are from Caroline South's etsy shop and they are ace. Easy to stick and unstick, they can be used and reused on walls and furniture and are a lovely inexpensive way to add a bit of colour or individuality to IKEA furniture, among other things. We went for a sort of bunting look here.

We also used some in Angus's room, to highlight the angle of the sloped roof above his chest of drawers. 


It's lovely to have the time to take some photos and write about our home and what we've done to it. It occurred to me that I haven't really shown you a lot of our house yet, since we are constantly doing work on it and nothing is finished, but if I wait until it's done I'll be waiting forever. No-one's home is ever finished, is it, and wouldn't that be boring? Who wants to live in a show home? Not me, anyway. So I'll have to get cracking and take some more photos this summer and you can see it in it's real, unfinished (if slightly tidier than usual) state. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

On Holiday

Since returning to work, the six week long summer break has taken on an almost sabbatical-like length in my head and my To Do list is full of all kinds of projects and activities. There I things I really want to do (read, sew cushion covers, crochet blanket after blanket, embroider) and things I said I'd do and sort-of still want to do (paint the garden bench and our bedside tables). There are household tasks which I don't much want to tackle but they really need doing and I know I'll feel so much better when they're done, like clean out the fridge, renew my passport, go through the filing cabinet, wash the windows. And there are things that are exciting and lovely which I'm really looking forward to: a huge family barbecue to celebrate my parents' upcoming ruby wedding anniversary, a week long holiday in Derbyshire, day trips to London and other places, catching up with friends.

But now that we are officially on holiday I'm wondering if the anticipation might be better than the reality. Today it has rained solidly all day. All the lights are on indoors and I'm wearing slippers. Depressed by the weather and the state of the house, I spent the morning in the kitchen scrubbing, wiping and mopping various surfaces. It now gleams and I feel better, and not at all like cooking so I've taken one of John's chicken curries out of the freezer. I ate soup for lunch and I enjoyed it. It was fish soup, brought back by my parents from a recent trip to France and I'm the only person in this house who likes it. I don't get a lunch break at work so I savoured it today. Then I went to the supermarket to do the food shop. I don't think I've done this since going back to work as John always does the shopping, and a great deal of the cooking and housework. He has been brilliant and I love that it's never him "helping me out" but both of us working together doing the things that need doing.

I've been thinking about all the changes in our life lately and, now I have a chance to stop and think, how I like where we are right now. I do like being at work very, very much, and I am thankful that the hours suit our family life and that I don't have a long commute. I love going out of the house and mixing with others, getting to know new people, making friends, being good at something, dusting off skills and finding they are still there. A few times in the last few years I have toyed with the idea of working for myself from home, perhaps something to do with the blog or something creative - so many talented blogging friends of mine have done that so successfully. But my heart was never in it. I like the boundaries and distance that come from working out of the home, they suit my personality. Term times are now busy for us and will always be so, but that's ok. I think I feel slightly adrift because the long, routine-less summer break can be hard work. I'll freely admit that l like routine, need it even, and I find change and transitions difficult. They unsettle me. I wonder if any of you find that too?

But now, it's Friday night and John's weekend off. It's gloomy and the rain is bouncing off the decking, but we've poured gin and tonics and been playing board games with the kids. We have full weekend planned with days out and jobs and all sorts of nice things. I'm going to hang up my apron and potter around, do some crochet, watch some tv. I can get the hang of this.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Make Bake Sew Grow

{ Make }

Teacher gifts. It's that time of year. 

I thought that once I went back to work I'd stop the handmade gift thing, but it turns out I do it because I like it, and people really do appreciate something handmade, and that makes me feel good.

So we have good old crocheted washcloths, from a very good pattern by Kate of Just Pootling via here. I'm not one for frilly edging as a rule, but I really liked the way this turned out.

Marmalade was also put to good use as gifts, jazzed up with pretty labels and fabric toppers. Nice packaging will get you everywhere. 

{ Bake }

A batch of apricot and nut biscotti, also for those lucky teachers. (We have a lot of teachers, two per class, plus teaching assistants.) 

These are from the excellent Popina Book of Baking by Isidora Popovic. I've written about this gem of a book before, when I made these biscuits (I'd almost go so far as to say the book is worth buying for that recipe alone) and these parmesan crackers. You can find an online version of the biscotti recipe here; you'll see that it should also contain figs but I didn't have any so doubled the quantity of apricots. Anyway, an easy and practical gift for teachers or otherwise, as biscotti keep really well for much longer than normal biscuits or cookies. 

Something else I've tried recently was courgette fritters, also known as zucchini pancakes depending on where you live. 

I kept the recipe simple (pancake batter plus courgettes, similar to this recipe) and they were light as a feather and very fluffy, but maybe just a teeny bit bland. They need a lot of seasoning, and might benefit from some onion or spice in the batter. They were very good with a poached egg on top but would've been better with some crispy bacon too. But I'd really like to make them again so if anyone has any good recipes or tips that would be much appreciated.

{ Sew }

One ironing board cover, sewn on a whim in an hour, without any measuring or precision. I just got so sick of looking at my stained, scorched, frayed old one that one rainy Sunday afternoon I I pulled it off the ironing board, drew around it, cut it out, hemmed it, and pulled some elasitc through. It's not Great British Sewing Bee material, but that new (old) floral pattern makes me like doing the ironing a whole lot more.

{ Grow }


Yes, that's right, we have some actual homegrown produce going on in the back garden right now! 

Now, I don't know that I particularly like redcurrants, or that I know what to do with them, but I'm not going to let stop me. They're now bagged up in the freezer (all 125 grams of them) and I think they will eventually be used in a summer pudding.


One more day to go, one more day to go! Nearly there, nearly on holiday time... I'm so glad I started this Make, Bake, Sew, Grow thing as it's kept me blogging in a time of change and upheaval and for that I am grateful.


{ Make } Something for my home.

 { Bake } Something from the kitchen.

{ Sew } Something crafty.

{ Grow } Something in my garden

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Flying By

We've reached that time of year again, that time when everything speeds up and becomes frantic as we race towards a deadline. Calendars, and diaries, days and evenings, all are full and claimed. The days by work and housework, the evenings by fun and socialising (rarely), or all-consuming tiredness (usually). It's end of term next Tuesday and my last day at work on Wednesday. Like Christmas, it's a happy and festive time in the school calendar but there is so much to do, to remember to do, in these last few days. It's safe to say we're counting down to the holidays.

This of course is the reason why I've not blogged much lately, and hardly visited any of your blogs, and I'm already looking forward to a few mammoth blogging sessions next week when we break up. My laptop is very slow and takes so long to power up (like, fifteen minutes) and then works so slowly that I almost dread turning it on, and my laptop is what I use to edit photos and blog. And this is when I enjoy using Instagram the most, when I still want to share and chat with my friends and feel connected to my online community, but I don't have any spare time. (You can find me here if you like.) It takes me a couple of hours to write a blog post as I am as slow as my computer, it would seem, especially when I have a lot of photos, but Instagram takes moments. Seconds, even. 

So, in lieu of a proper blog post and any photos from my big camera, here is what I've been doing over the last week:

Angus and tiger enjoying lunch last Sunday in Guildford. He won that tiger at the school fair and he's called Chill Tiger. He reminds me of the tiger from the book The Tiger Who Came to Tea

A corner of our bedroom on a dismal, gloomy, wet Monday morning.

Our living room. I was sitting drinking a cup of tea in an after-work slump thinking how much I hate 5pm and all that needs to be done around that time.

Reading with Angus on Tuesday night. It was a really sweet bed time; he used to love (love) this book when he was smaller, pointing and squealing at certain pages. He still likes it now and even thought he's quite capable of reading it himself he likes me to read it to him. And I like to read it to him, and it makes me a bit nostalgic for previous bed time routines and a bit breathless at how fast he's growing up.

Walking to the pub with John on Thursday night for our first night out together in about a year, I think. Something about the heat, the trees and the sky reminded me of holidays spent in the Vendee in France.

A humid, pre-rain sky.

Bedtime faffing in Bella's room on Friday.

In the woods with my nieces on Saturday.

Looking for Mr Fox.

Crocheting teacher gifts in the garden. 

Today, baking more teacher gifts.

Apricot and nut biscotti, very nice.

And finally a quick trip to the beach this afternoon where the sky really was that blue.

Seeing my Instagram photos here so big reminds me that the camera on my phone isn't nearly as good as the DSLR I use for my blog photos, and that I will continue to lug about the big camera because it is worth it.

Have a great week lovelies. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

A Pretty Perfect Weekend

Ah, this was just what I needed. Slow and steady with that elusive balance of activity and rest, time alone and time with people. Last week was busier than usual; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I attended a First Aid at Work course* and on Thursday and Friday I had my usual days at work and tried to cram in everything I usually do at home on the other days. Then after lessons on Friday our school held it's summer fair, a completely lovely event which the children thoroughtly enjoyed. John was able to attend and he took the kids home after a while, but I stayed for the clean up and arrived home about 7.30 pm, very tired. I slept so deeply and heavily on Friday night that on Saturday morning I don't think I was really with it.

We went into town, to the library and to Waitrose. The kids signed up for a six week summer reading challenge and, caught up in the excitement, I also decided to borrow six books. "I'm going to have my own six week summer reading challenge!" I declared to John, "It'll make me make time for myself over the holidays!" He just laughed at me.

I chose two crime fiction titles (The Dying Minutes and R is for Ricochet), two books that I can't believe I haven't ever read before (Love All and Love in a Cold Climate), and two purely because I liked the jackets (Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Sex and Stravinsky).  I'll probably only read one but who cares, my intentions are good. That's the great thing about libraries, isn't it, you can just pick up as many books as you like and on a whim too, and if they're no good then it's no loss. 

We had a coffee and bought some bits and bobs. Fruit, flowers, beer chosen for the label design. I have decided that nectarines are much nicer than peaches, and the yellow fleshed ones are best of all. These were almost syrupy and so good with pancakes.

I pottered with the flowers slowly, enjoying the snipping and arranging, glad not to be in a hurry.

Flowers in every room. I'm good at buying the cheap ones and stretching them into lots of vases in lots of places.

I spent most of the afternoon in the garden, reading the paper and crocheting. Every now and then I came indoors to do something or get something, but it was a pretty chilled out affair. I drank tea and listened to Woman's Hour on the iPlayer. My sister and brother in law were coming for dinner on Saturday night so we did some cooking. Really easy, no fuss stuff, like spiced nuts.

Smoked trout pate.

Spinach and ricotta stuffed cannelloni (John made that).

Lemon possets with lemon shortbread for pudding. Nice food lined up ready in the fridge, ready for a happy evening of eating and drinking.

Today we met up with my dear friend Abigail and her family in Guildford. We had a lovely long lunch together, made plans for the summer and looked around the castle, where we saw the most beautiful wild flower planting.

Isn't it stunning? Imagine having this in your garden.

And these marigolds and geraniums had been planted in huge swathes throughout the castle gardens. I'm not sure if I like them, they are maybe just a bit too bright and brassy for me, but very eye catching.

I'll take these poppies any day.

I wish every weekend could be this good but I know it can't, normal life and work gets in the way. But that just makes times like these all the more precious. I hope you had a great weekend too.

* I went on this one and it was excellent; informative, well delivered and very useful. I hope that I never have to use it, but that I don't forget what I learned either.