Thursday, 30 May 2013

Room for Improvement - Bella's Bedroom

About a month ago, here, I wrote about Bella's bedroom, about how despite a lick of paint and a tidy up it still wasn't really meeting her needs or looking very nice. We've been tinkering about with it since then and I finally have some photos to show you.


And after!

We gave away the little table and chairs, moved things around and bought a deskchairbedside table and bookcase. All were from IKEA; affordable, convenient and well designed. Then Bella and I set about doing the fun bit - prettying it up.

I spray painted these old picture frames and we chose some favourite things to put in them. Postcards sent from grandparents on holiday, pictures Bella had drawn, felt animals, all sorts.

I particularly like Bella's interpretation of the royal wedding.

The desk works so well. Bella was ready for somewhere to sit and play/colour/write.

The chair was plain wood and I painted it with white eggshell and a tester pot of pink paint for the seat. By coincidence the pink matches Hello Kitty's bow perfectly which pleases Bella greatly!

The bookcase is a big improvement on what Bella had before and she had fun arranging her books. Best of all, the shoe box mouse rooms are accessible and get played with daily. the little pompoms strung along the top of the wall were made from yarn scraps left over from Mr Snake. Her bedside table is a filing cabinet. A strange choice, I know, but so useful for storing the tiny toys, dolls, trinkets and general bits and bobs that six year old girls like to collect. She really loved labeling those drawers.

I made two new cushion covers with some fabric I bought a while back. With a different blanket on her bed they make it less pink and frilly, more fresh and bright.

But best of all...the fairy lights. Oh, we love those lights. Both of us.

Switched on or off they look fabulous.

We moved her shop to a different wall where there's more space to open and close the "door". I find that, with all the children's toys, simply moving them to a different area or room makes them suddenly infinitely more interesting to them. I've no idea why.

Yes I tidied the shop and yes I enjoyed it.

A few weeks ago MoneySupermarket emailed me and asked if I'd like £50 to put towards a house or DIY project as part of their Room For Improvement campaign. I am usually wary of these things but their upfront approach and the offer of actual cash struck a chord and I thought actually, yes, I know I can make that money stretch a long way and it will help make this room really lovely for Bella. So I said yes please and I spent it on:

Cable and Cotton fairy lights: £23
a yellow desk lamp from habitat: £15
a can of green spray paint (to add to the ones I already had): £8
one tester pot of pink paint: £1.50
two showler & showler postcards: £2.50

Obviously these are fun extras and wouldn't touch the cost of the furniture we bought. But I expect if you had more time and patience than me and good access to charity shops, car boot sales and reclamation yards, then you could probably buy most of the furniture for £50 too! Maybe that's a project for another day. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Green Things and Holiday Souvenirs

Lou's challenge this week was to find something green. A green flower is actually quite tricky to find! I've gone for herbs (rosemary and chives) and some cow parsley; not herby, I know, but I do love it's frothy white flowers and it's everywhere at the moment. Staging these little arrangements is such fun and it gives me an excuse to go rummaging through cupboards for bottles, jugs, tea towels and all manner of things to make a little vignette that is nice to look at. After I'd photographed this one I realised that everything you see was brought back from a holiday. That Greengate tea towel under the bottle and book was bought from a lovely shop in Hereford called Berry Red, on holiday with my in-laws in 2010. And I found the Clover milk bottle in a little shop in Totnes for £2 when we were on holiday in Devon with my parents in 2011.  That book, Culinary and Salad Herbs (which is actually really interesting!), was purchased for about £1.50 from a charity shop in Richmond while staying here with my best friend Abigail and her family also in 2011. Funny how I can remember all that!

Joining in with Lou's Nature in the Home series at her blog littlegreenshed.


I've had a bit of a tinker with my blog lately, creating buttons for my email, bloglovin', my Pinterest account and Instagram. I felt like l'd invented the internet when I finally got them to work! Huge thanks to my friend Jennifer at thistlebear for helping me with links and tips. I also removed my photo because it was annoying me. I will replace it whenever I find a picture of me that I like.


Finally, I recently had an email from Emma at Studio Lambert about a forthcoming BBC2 series about amateur interior designers. She asked me to help publicise the series as they are looking for people who might want to get involved. I agreed as this sounds like the kind of television I will enjoy watching. 

Details below:


Are you passionate about interior design?

Do you have a natural flair and creativity and think you have what it takes to improve the interiors of other people’s homes?

In a brand new, warm-hearted television series contestants will compete to be named the UK’s best amateur interior designer.

If you think you have what it takes please call 0207 534 2018 or email in order to receive an application.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

From the Garden

I've been reveling in our little garden these past couple of days, enjoying what it has to offer and bringing bits and pieces into the house. Our garden is small and I am not very green-fingered so it's always a bit of a surprise when I grow actually something - pretty or edible - that I can bring indoors. The bluebells enchant me. I love their wobbly purple-blue heads and long slender stems. I picked a couple with the last daffodil and one of the last tulips (they are really on their way out now, poor battered things) and put them in a glass bottle. I love this cluster on the mantle above; the egg cup and dala horse bring out the bright primary colours in the flowers.

The mood board arrangements were inspired by Caroline at scraps of us. She takes the most beautiful photos of her local area, her children, her crafty makes, vintage finds and  her home. She has an eye for really good composition and her blog is a visual treat. Do pop over to her blog and look at her monthly garden moodboards, and anything else for that matter!

Also from the garden - rhubarb! Notice there is nothing next to these two stalks to represent scale...they are a little on the small side. I've washed, chopped and frozen these and will add to them over time until I have enough to do a batch of baking or jam making.

I planted some alium bulbs last autumn and they have just started to emerge in the last week. Every day I see they've opened a little more. I love aliums, they're so dramatic, and I'm looking forward to seeing these open fully.

The smallest bit of blossom has appeared on our apple tree. I feared last year that out apple tree was dying as it produced hardly any fruit, and not many leaves. But this spring it is full of lush green foliage but very little blossom. Maybe it's retired from making fruit? That's fine by me as the apples were the size of plums and very tart, no good for eating or cooking.

I also noticed lots of little flowers in the strawberry plants. Does this mean there will be strawberries?  

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Remember on Friday when I said how tired we all were, how worn out, how sick of the cold wet weather, and how I needed some sunshine and a couple of days of nothing? Well, that's what we've had. It's been blissful.

The children and I spent Saturday morning doing some errands and having that hot chocolate and cake in the cafe that I'd promised them. When we got back I went into the back garden to hang out the washing and, instead of rushing through it as fast as possible keen to get on with the next task, I did it really, really slowly. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face and taking in all the sounds and smells around me, thinking of nothing more than which item in the washing basket was next, which peg. Reach, peg, reach, peg. I made it last as long as possible, just enjoying the deep blue of the sky, the lush green leaves, the blinding white tea towels flapping around. Everything looked so vivid, extra-bright and saturated with colour.

We spent the rest of the day in the garden. I potted out my sunflower seeds and planted them against a wall with little bamboo stakes to help them grow nice and straight. I tried to photograph a hover fly. The paddling pool came out, sun cream was applied. Bella made leaf soup and petal salad. The deck chairs were dragged out of the garage for the first time this year. I sat at the little table with a cup of tea and some crochet. It was pretty fantastic although I was a little hot under the crochet blanket - definitely a winter project! Today John was off and we painted the front of the house, had a barbecue, drank some beers. Meals have been relaxed, bedtimes later than usual. At around 4pm, having finished the painting, cleaned the brushes and had a shower, I sat down in a deckchair in the sun with a bottle of cold beer and honestly, I was so happy, I'm surprised I wasn't levitating. Of course it lasted about 20 minutes until the sun went away and a fight broke out between Bella and Angus over something or other, but it was good while it lasted. 

I wonder why the sun makes me so happy. Is everyone this affected by nice weather? Are you? It helps that it's a bank holiday weekend too. I hope you are having a nice time, whatever you're doing. And hello to my new followers and readers. It's lovely to have you here and you're very welcome. I'll try to pop over to your blogs tomorrow, when it's sure to be raining. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

52 Weeks of Happy...32/52

The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.

I had to dig deep for my happies this week. After a week which has felt rushed, even frantic at times, I find myself tonight feeling tired and frazzled. But when I sit here and think about it and look back through all the photos I took here and there, I find that yes, there was lots to be happy about this week. There is a bit of a food and flowers theme to the photos - two things which never fail to make me happy. So, joining in with Jen at little birdie, here are this weeks four happy things.

1. The garden. I don't know what kind of magnolia tree we have but it blooms later than the pale pink variety, and they last for months. The first flowers always cheer me. And the bluebells. Are they still bluebells if they're white? I always feel lucky that we have them. I didn't plant them and year after year they pop up and wave their blue and white heads at me. I might pick some this weekend.

2. Meringues. I tried to make hollandaise sauce last weekend to go with some asparagus. It looked great up until the point I added the lemon juice and then it went very,very wrong, splitting and curdling horribly. I was left with two egg whites which I whipped with brown sugar to make fantastic dark ivory coloured, toffee-flavoured meringues. They tasted good, but more importantly they soothed my bruised kitchen-ego.

3. Tea loaf. The best kind of thrifty, comforting baking. Stupidly easy to make and disproportionately delicious.

4. Friends. Book group on Wednesday night, take-away and beers at a friend's house last night, quick daytime coffees, hurried chats, emails to a new friend overseas, hellos and waves at the school gate; just that warm and supportive network of women (and some men, but let's be honest, mostly women) who make life richer and that bit more enjoyable.

And it's half term next week. We have nothing planned this weekend which is fine by me. I hope to do some serious lazing. I've promised Bella and Angus a hot chocolate and cake in a cafe tomorrow morning but other than that our day is deliciously empty. If it would just stop raining and warm up a little that would be nice. The best word to describe our garden right now is battered, after days of wind, hail and rain. Wishing you all a lovely weekend. x

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Perking Up Your Plant Pots

About a month ago, on a very grey day, a little corner of our garden looked like this:

Some very dead plants (I think they were dahlias in a past life) and some sorry looking pots. My mum, who knows about gardening, helped me triage the plants - some were rescued but most were beyond hope. I decided to spruce up this corner with some elbow grease, a can or two of spray paint and a few new plants.

The result: Colour! Greenery! And, by some miracle, a little bit of sunshine.

I use a lot of pots and containers in our garden. I like how portable and versatile they are. Our outside space is small and as we live on a hill we have steps up to all our doors. I like to put pots on the decking in the back garden and on the wall by the front door and move them around depending on the time of year and what is in flower. I thought I would share this with you so here is a tutorial of sorts, should you wish to do something similar.

You will need:

1. Old garden pots.
2. A large bowl filled with hot soapy water.
3. Rubber gloves.
4. An old sponge.
5. Masking tape.
6. Cans of spray paint.

First, some words on using aerosol paint: Follow the instructions on the can and use in a very well ventilated area. It's nasty stuff. Also, be patient. Many thin layers of paint work much better than two or three heavy ones, as I found out to my cost. I allowed about half an hour between coats so this was something I set up in the back garden on a dry day and came back to in between other things.

1. Empty your pots of as much earth and grit as possible, brushing them out as best you can.
2. Give them a good scrub with the old sponge and the soapy water.
3. Leave to air dry.

4. With the tape mask off the part you don't want sprayed.  You could use all tape, or tape and paper as I did, depending on the size of area you are working with. Spray inside the top quarter or so of the inside of your pot - the rest will be hidden by earth.

5. When it's dry, gently peel off the tape. Mine was a bit wonky on the corners but I'm not too precious about something that's going to sit in the garden in all weathers full of soil.

There is lots of fun to be had playing with different paint colours and shapes of pots, experimenting with a dip-dyed effect, or full-on paint.

Then fill with lovely plants and admire.

I can't promise this little project will bring sunshine to your garden though. Sorry about that.

Thank you for all your kind comments about Mr Snake, you are very kind. I feel as though I've hardly had a minute to pop round to your blogs and say hello this week - I will try to have a catch up tomorrow. Life is busy at the moment. We are all very glad it's half term next week. We need a little break. 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Mr Snake

Hello there! I finally got round to taking some photos of the snake I crocheted Angus for his birthday. Here he is in all his garish, rainbow-striped glory.

He was completed at 11.30 pm the night before Angus's birthday - nothing like cutting it fine! I wish I'd had another week so that I could have made him longer. He measures 83 cm from nose to tail, which is fine, but a little longer would've made him more snakey. 

I call him Mr Snake. Angus wanted to name him "Angus". My children display a staggering lack of imagination in the naming of their toys. We have many bears called "bear" and rabbits called "bunny" and our dolls go by the names of "pink baby", "blue baby", "big baby" and the like. Actually, "Mr Snake" isn't all that creative now I come to think of it...

As you can see, he has a few, err, imperfections, which I like to think add to his overall charm. This project was a detour from my crochet comfort zone of granny squares and it challenged me with crocheting into the stitch, increasing and decreasing, and working in the round. I don't think his tail should be quite so bumpy - something clearly went awry there!

I used an acrylic yarn that I got free with this book. It is not nice to work with, squeaky and inclined to split - honestly, if you were trying to learn to crochet with that yarn I wouldn't blame anyone who gave up. But it was free and sitting there needing to be used and I'm loathe to go out and by more yarn for a little project when I have a pile of it sitting there. Also, a toy for a four year old which will be dragged around the house and garden and go in the washing machine and dryer needs to be robust. Now was not the time to get precious about which particular blend of cashmerino yarn to use, much as I might have wanted to.

The pattern is from Baby Crochet by Lois Daykin. I fell in love with this snake when I saw it here on Elizabeth's blog Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse about a year ago. Sadly, the book now appear to be out of print, but Elizabeth very kindly offered to photocopy and send me the pattern so that I could still make the snake. Thank you so much Elizabeth. The kindness and generosity that exists within the blogging community never ceases to delight me.

And most importantly, Angus like Mr Snake very much, which is all that counts. 

Sunday, 19 May 2013


This weekend we...

  • Celebrated a little boy's third birthday.
  • Attended the local carnival (it rained, which is traditional).
  • Watched inflatable wrestling, a first for all of us.
  • Made giant tissue paper pompoms inside damp marquees.
  • Jumped on a lot of inflatable things.
  • Bought cakes, fudge and candy floss.
  • Dodged the rain showers.
  • Drank a lot of tea.
  • Got very muddy shoes and regretted my poor choice of footwear.
  • Ate Chinese take away.
  • Watched the Eurovision Song Contest.

So a mixed bag but, considering the weather and that it was just the kids and I, not a bad weekend all things considered. In fact, rather a good one.