Saturday, 28 March 2015

Imposing Order

Every day this week, between the hours of nine and three, I have been unpacking. Unpacking and cleaning, with just the radio for company, and it's been wonderful.

Yes, that is a perfectly reasonable number of mugs to have.
The kitchen was a challenge and I didn't enjoy this task as much as I thought I might - I was even looking forward to it, seeing all our familiar and much loved things come out of the bubble wrap and newspaper. I had it all planned out in my head: the toaster next to the bread bin, the kettle near the mugs and tap, the pans by the cooker. But I felt like I was playing a game with the boxes and cupboards. Will it fit here? No. Here? Yes, but only if I move all of this...and there are all these boxes still to unpack! It was like a big rubik's cube of crockery and cardboard, and there was always a box right in front of the cupboard I needed to get to. 

But then, one the second day (yes, this was a two day job), it all clicked into place. Order prevailed over chaos and I was so pleased by the neatness of it all that I took a photo of a cupboard on my phone. Just look at those beautiful, tidy stacks of plates!

The dishwasher is plumbed in, the leak under the sink has been fixed (thanks Dad) and everything is on and in and working. I've wiped, scrubbed, mopped and polished this little room and - this I did not expect! - I'm growing rather fond of it.

In our house in Leeds, the kitchen looked directly into my neighbour's kitchen, and I couldn't see the garden. Here, the window looks out over the garden and the room is full of light all day long. I can watch the kids play outside. What a difference things like this make. 

There is no budget for a new kitchen for now - and honestly, it's a perfectly fine kitchen, if badly fitted - but there are little things we can do to make it more efficient. A rail near the cooker, from which I can hang all my utensils, would be useful.

Plus some hooks on the back of the door for aprons, and we need a bin.

We moved in yesterday and those jars are now full of pasta and rice, ready to use.

I feel a teeny bit possessive of my, I mean our, kitchen. I've been in it on my own all week, making it mine, getting to know it. I don't want anyone to make a mess in there. I scrubbed that sink, I mean really scrubbed it, and it gleams. I dont want it to get dirty! I need to get over this, or I'll be doing all the cooking and washing up on my own for the next twenty years.


A few lovely things happened lately which I forgot to mention. I've had three really nice coffees (lady dates, as I like to think of them) with friends I've made through this online world. I am missing my Leeds friends a great deal and, while I've started to make tentative friends at the school gate and on the PTA, these things take time and so it's wonderful to have already formed relationships with people I "know" through blogging or Instagram. A couple of weeks ago I met up with Jo; we connected through Instagram and share many things in common, and realised that we actually live about a mile away from each other! What are the chances of that? And I had a very nice morning in Chichester with Caroline and then a few days later in Arundel with Sara. With both it was like meeting up someone you already knew, and we chatted for ages about all sorts of things - children, education, blogging. Interesting, funny, intelligent ladies, all of them. Good eggs. And I hope soon to be meeting up with Chrissie and maybe even Jooles too - that would be amazing. Chatting about craft over coffee and cake - I don't think it gets much better than that.

We are now finally in our new house, surrounded by boxes. While the kitchen may look tidy, rest assured that the rest of the house is chaos. And unfortunately we won't have any broadband for the next two weeks. Agh!! This is going to be a huge test for me, for all of us. I hope I will read and crochet and spend amazing quality time with the children...hmm. We'll see. Which means blogging and emailing (and also really necessary things like internet banking!) will be challenging and so I may not be around much over the next few weeks. But don't worry, I'm not going any where. If anything, I feel like I've just come back home. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Colour Collaborative - March - Bird

Do you know much about birds? I don't. Some people, like my mum and my friend Kate, can correctly identify a bird by it's song or a glimpse of an outline in a tree, and what a skill that is. I wish I could do that because, if it's not a seagull or a blackbird, I'm pretty useless. Actually, no, bluetits and robins, I know what they look like. And an emu, I'm fairly confident I could correctly identify an emu if I saw one wandering around. 

But seagulls, oh you know I love seagulls. I even embroidered one.

I'll tell you one thing I do actually know; a "seagull" is not one single species of bird, but more a generic label given to all different kinds of gulls which happen to be coastal, and are commonly and collectively known as seagulls. I know, I know, they're mean, they're bullies, they steal chips and divebomb innocent holiday makers for ice creams, but they charm me. I can hear their squawks often now we live on the coast, and it delights me, it truly does. It's a sound which makes me think of summer, of holidays, of long days spent at the beach, and I hope I never tire of it.

There is something very quintessentially British about the humble seagull and I think it is because it's colours so closely and beautifully reflect those of our shores. Grey and white with the odd splash of yellow or orange, the colours of our beaches.

Our seas are more often silver than turquoise, and the skies more often cloudy and white than deep blue. Variation and contrast is provided by the yellows and browns of the shoreline, the grey-green of the sea grass, a bright orange buoy bobbing around in the water. 

It's a moody palate, subtle and always shifting with the weather, but it's as beautifully British to me as eating chips on the pier. 


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sandra at Cherry Heart
Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River

What is The Colour Collaborative? 

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Monday, 23 March 2015


Progress on the house move. Over the weekend we hired a van and emptied one attic and two garages and filled our new house, which suddenly shrunk and seemed very full. It's all chaos, of course, but we are very fortunate to be able to stay with my parents for just a few more days so that we can unpack a little before actually moving in properly. Nearly there, though, nearly!

Progress in the seasons. 

Look at this tree! It's in our garden! This made me rather excited and I spend a lot of time gazing at it from the windows at the back of the house. We think it's a cherry tree. I desperately want it to be cherry so I can make my own jam with the fruit (although it's quite high so how I'll get to the fruit is anyone's guess).

Progress with decorating. 

In the end we managed to get the dining room painted too, as well as three bedrooms, the living room (that massive high ceiling, agh!!), the spare room and the upstairs loo. I have never, ever, done so much decorating in my life.

I realise this is a really boring photo (and that wall light is going) but I can't tell you how happy I was to get our dining chairs out of storage. I love these chairs. The first four white ones were a housewarming present in our old house, nine years ago, then we saved hard and added the yellow and blue one. We have a new (to us) dining table, a round sixties G-plan one, and I can't wait to see how it all looks together.

Progress in the kitchen, which is clean, free of paintbrushes, and awaiting the arrival of a dishwasher tomorrow. As you can see it's small and for some reason the previous owners thought tiling every single wall would be a good idea, but it has a nice big window and a good amount of cupboard and worktop space.

Progress in the garage. That huge box contains a tall, dark, handsome Danish stove, which will be fitted this week. I hope we get to light it once before it gets to warm. 

This is how the garage looked after all our stuff arrived. Not so tidy, and kind of like we've been there for years. The wheelbarrow is full because my mum was itching to tackle some overgrown flowerbeds. Nothing annoys my mum like a messy garden; the satisfaction she gets from sorting something out is phenomenal, and it must all be done straight away, and yes, I certainly inherited my impatience from her. That is my dressing table sat in the middle there, because I intend to do something with it. Sand it. Paint it maybe.

And while my parents gardened, John and I assembled beds.

 Progress in the green porch, which I'm still having to justify to everyone who sees it. Mum and I built a shoe rack. 

I like the watery ripples the glass made on the wall. 

I think that's one of the things I'm most looking forward to, seeing where the light falls around the house at different times of the day. Things you only notice when you live somewhere.

Monday, 16 March 2015

A List

Assembled: One chair, four bookcases and half a shoe rack.

Repurposed: One very large cardboard box.

Searched for: Signs of spring.

Found: One bitterly cold walk and fifty shades of coastal grey.

Found a bit later on: Some actual signs of spring.

Show offs.

Baked: Lasagne and apple strudel.

Remade: One fox, in proper wool felt this time after the last one fell to pieces. This one feels a million times sturdier, and the wonkiness of his whiskers are testament to the vigorous bedtime cuddling he's had to endure, poor chap.

Bought: Very, very many embroidery threads. 39 I think.

Put off: A new embroidery project. It taunts me and I've been following my friend Jennifer's progress on the same pattern with a mixture of awe and jealousy

Dreaming: of daylight hours when I can put down my paintbrush and pick up my needle.

I feel like I have so much to say and share here, but completely lack the energy or wherewithal to say it. So I give you a list, and hope that you'll bear with me. There will come a time when I can write in sentences again.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Green, Pink, Black & White

Are the colours I am currently obsessed with. I can't get enough of that green! 

John likes it. The other people who've seen it (my family and the electrician and the gasman) say things like "Wow, that's bright!" or "Hmm. I'm sure you'll make it look lovely..." Bella simply said "Mum, that's hideous.I'm understandably a little defensive about my colour choice.

The room we've painted this shade is the porch, and it's only on the one wall. I know, it's not an essential project in an essential room, but I just wanted to do something fun. I couldn't have this colour in a room we were in all the time, but our new house has a porch/lobby/vestibule which is about 2 metres by 2 metres and it's such a luxury to me! We've never had a porch before. I would've killed for this space when the kids were small and I needed somewhere to put the pram or pushchair.

The front door opens into a tiled area and then you have an internal front door and glass wall, filled with swirly frosted glass, which leads into the hall. This space will eventually have coat hooks, a shoe rack, a stool - practical things, but pretty too. The light and glass make it feel a bit like a conservatory so I think I was channeling a kind of greenhouse theme here, with wellies neatly lined up against the wall and flowers in a jug. That big green wall will be filled with photos and prints in white frames, so that only a small amount of the colour will be visible. 

But my impatient creative mind starting clunking and whirring away and an idea for a possible stool cover emerged. My first project for our new home! Happily, I had the exact shades already in my cotton yarn stash - it's like it was meant to be, see?

I'll write more about the stool cover another day as I want to make another in different colours and remember to take photos during the process.

Here is a glimpse of how it looks so far:

It's almost finished, with the just ends to darn in and the whole thing will be straightened up nicely when I attach it properly to the stool.

I think these colours are my response to spring and the fact that I'm not doing my usual spring-ish things. I'm not buying daffodils or tulips and filling vases with them, there are no bulbs coming up in our new garden apart from four crocuses hiding under a tree in the front. I miss faffing around with arrangements on my mantel. I've been so focused on painting, painting, painting, lists, deadlines, more lists, that I think I forgot there was a season going on around me outside.

Tomorrow I'm going to buy a bunch of daffodils. 

Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Testing, Testing: Playing With Retro Colours

Lately my life looks like this: get up, take the kids to school, work on the new house until 3.30, collect the kids, get on the homework/after school clubs/tea/bath/bed merry-go-round, eat, collapse. I'm not moaning, I am glad I can spend this time at the house as I know that once we move in work will slow down, but today brought an unexpected respite from this routine as Bella is home from school ill (although not that ill, really, as it turns out...) and so I have some precious time to blog.

As you probably know, we are staying with my parents while we do some work on the house we recently bought, and we are now at the decorating stage. It was our intention to decorate three bedrooms (Bella's, Angus's and ours) and the living room before we moved in, and I'm very happy to say we've done that, bar the odd job here and there and the installation of a wood burning stove in a couple of weeks. My life seems to revolve around paint colours lately and I have to say I have found choosing these colours quite tricky and this has surprised me. I love decorating and interior design, and choosing, and colour! But I think it's the thought of trying to choose paint for a house that we've not yet lived in that unnerves me. How do I know how a room feels, what kind of light it gets, before moving in?  

These are the colour palates we've been drawn towards:

Our new home was built in 1968 and we've been conscious of that as we've looked at tester cards, aiming for tones that felt in keeping with the era of the house. Retro colours, I suppose. I realised the other day that many of these colours are evident in one of my favourite prints, the Orla Kiely Multi Stem print pattern - this photo is a close up of my address book.

Actually, John and I had a discussion about Orla the other night; I've loved her work ever since I bought a tiny green handbag by her with pears on it from Selfridges in Manchester in 2003, back when tiny handbags were fashionable and I had the disposable income for such things, and we have a few of her lovely products, homewares mainly. But I worry that the brand might be changing, like Cath Kidston did. Remember how, ten years ago, Cath Kidston stuff was lovely? All faded floral prints, light, airy and vintagey, so different to their newer patterns. Well, you see Orla designs absolutely everywhere now, even on bins! I hope I'm not going to go off her. But I argued that, however her brand changes, I will always love the multi stem print and I would go so far as to say that it's iconic now. I'd like a wall papered in it. John says no. We'll see.

Anyway, the colours. John became obsessed with the notion of an orange wall somewhere in the house, a kind of burnt rust colour. We tried a few. They were awful and will remain in their tester pots.

Then we looked at greens. Mossy, olive greens, faded and muted, a bit drab even. I love all these colours but when it came to it they were, for a multitude of reasons, discounted.

Then the yellows. We really wanted mustard yellow somewhere in the dining room. Sadly, the colour clashes horribly with the nasty orangey fake pine laminate that currently sits in that room and we can't afford to change the floor now. But we both really want a yellow wall or two someday. Just not now.

The light blue is Bella's fault. She has insisted on a light blue wall in her bedroom from day one and we were happy to oblige, just grateful we have a daughter who likes colours other than pink. I'll show you lots of photos when we're in and there's something to look at other than the blue wall. 

And then dark blue. I never really thought about dark blue but, as we stood staring at the rainbow of colours in front of us, my hand kept wavering over these deep blues. I kept thinking how nice our white bed stead would look against it.

In the end we chose Princeton Blue for our bedroom and I love it more every time I see it.

Then along came the neutrals. The beautiful soothing, restful, warm, airy neutrals. Don't worry about the oranges, greens and yellows, they said. Choose us. We're stress free and easy on the eye. 

To be honest, it was a relief once we'd decided neutral was the way to go. No pressure to make a bold colour choice. Nice and easy. We bought four tester pots and chose New York City Winter for the living room which is a large room and one we wanted to feel cosy but airy all at once, and used a similar shade in all the upstairs bedrooms.

Those eight holes above the fireplace are from where the previous owners had their tv mounted on the chimney breast (heathens!) and they've since been filled and painted over. And the mess of bricks at the bottom will be sorted when we get the stove fitted.

It's a tricky room as it has a wide west facing window and a lot of bright direct sunlight, but also some dark corners. Neutral works here; it's a kind of putty colour, a pale grey with a bit of brown and beige in it, and it will complement our furniture when we move in.

And then there is this colour combination, which I am currently obsessed with. I just adore that bright green at the moment, especially with pink, black and white, and I'll do a whole post about it soon.

I'm sorry I don't have prettier photos for you all right now. I'm doing my best here with limited means and not a lot of energy. I just can't wait to get in and make it all look lovely!

These tester pots are by no means a waste of money - I'll use all of them in various crafty projects. I recently used one of the mustard yellows to add some colour to the end of this pole on my wall hanging.

One last thing - this is not a sponsored post. I've provided links to Valspar paints simply because B&Q, our nearest DIY store, stocks them and that's where I've been shopping. Incidentally, I've been really impressed with their paint, as have I with Crown (bought because it was on offer) and Dulux (bought because we wanted their one-coat white on the living room ceiling) which we've also used. And B&Q's own brand Colours range is pretty good too.

Edited to add: And I totally forgot to say THANK YOU for all your generous comments about my shawl. So rude of me, I am sorry. My head is all over the place. But thank you. xx