Sunday, 31 May 2015

Small Houses, Tall Towers and Old Friends

After any kind of break or holiday I relish that point when I sit down on a Sunday night and go through all my photos. Inevitably I take too many and - lucky for you - delete about 95% of them, but I like to reflect on all that has happened, all that we did and saw and experienced. 

We had such a wonderful half term break! We really did. The main part of the week was spent at home pottering, doing chores, getting stuff done, but in a relaxed way. After two months in our house (is it really only that long?) a large part of our free time is still spent doing house and garden related tasks. The garden is really starting to take shape now and I'll show you more soon. On Friday morning, our friends from Yorkshire came to stay with us for the weekend. We were pretty excited (GUESTS! Guests in our HOUSE!) as these are old, old friends - from university - and there is always a lot of laughter and reminiscing when we get together. They have two boys similar in age to Bella and Angus which makes planning what to do easier.

Once they'd arrived, after bacon sandwiches and as soon as the rain stopped, we visited Bosham, a nearby village on the Sussex coast. 

It's a very quaint and charming little village, and picturesque too. 

There's a gentle, meandering walk you can take around the harbour and I like to amuse myself by admiring the houses and having "if we won the lottery" type conversations.

It was breezy, but the sun shone and all the wildflowers were out. 

The other past time I like to indulge in here is Garden Admiring. Many of the cottages have large front gardens, some walled, and all beautifully planted. Look at this border!

Plus it's the kind of place where kids can eat ice creams and find crabs and you can finish the day in a pub beer garden, so it's something for everyone really.

Saturday - mercifully - was warm and sunny which was just as well as I was intent on showing off our local area. So much has changed since I grew up here and it's fun to rediscover it. We headed down to Southsea, a quirky, touristy neighbourhood on the south coast of Portsmouth. I dragged everyone into the Model Village which hasn't change one bit since I went there as a child - read into that what you will - but was thoroughly enjoyed by each small person present.

We had a nice time wandering around Southsea and looking in the vintage shops.

There is only so much of this wandering/browsing you can do with four children though, so we moved on to our next destination: Spinnaker Tower. (You might just be able to make out some figures abseiling down the tower in the photo below.)

Should you ever find yourself in Portsmouth on a clear day, do go up because the views over the Solent from the top are just fantastic. 

You can see the boats come in and out and it's really like looking down on another kind of model village.

A section of the tower floor is made from glass and you can walk on it. I'm afraid I just couldn't do it. Even though I know that it's as safe as the floor I was standing on, and I don't think I am especially afraid of heights, I just couldn't walk on that glass floor.

Bella could though. I was surprised by my reaction too - every part of me wanted to take her arm and lead her off that glass. The rational part of my brain knew that she was probably safer there than walking along a main road, but the mother part of my brain wanted her safe and next to me.  

Do you think you could have walked on the glass floor? 

So, a good weekend all in all, and I am now gearing myself up for the week ahead. It's going to be a busy one. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Colour Collaborative: May: Morning

My morning starts neon green, flashing and beeping.

It glows red and green over the top of the bedroom curtains as the sun hits the trees and cars on the drive below and sends colourful beams shooting upwards. (This always makes me think of the Northern Lights for some reason.)

My morning is the pale blue of my favourite-morning-brew-mug as I make the first (and best) cup of tea of the day. 

After showering and dressing, my morning is the red of my make-up bag as I sit at my dressing table, gathering my thoughts and readying myself for the day ahead.

Downstairs, the rush begins. My morning is the primary brights of toast and jam on melamine plates, the white of glasses of milk poured, the brown of a second cup of tea.

It is the red of strawberries on top of my cereal.

The greys and pastels of a dishwasher waiting to be emptied.

And the glaringly bright neons of lunchboxes and water bottles.

There should just be time to brush teeth and hair, check all children are dressed and ready, open the curtains and make the beds before re-grouping in the hall where the brown clock determines whether I start shouting or not.

And the day begins.


I've tried to give you a flavour here of my normal, slightly rushed but very colourful weekday morning. Of course, it's half term this week - otherwise there would never have been time to take some photos! - and I am not rushing about like a mad woman today, but sitting in my dressing gown enjoying my second - actually, third - cup of tea and generally feeling quite relaxed. But it's always so interesting to observe colour in our daily lives, where we notice it, where we need it, where it's too much, where it soothes us and where it makes us happy. 


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
Sarah at Mitenska

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, 25 May 2015

Print and Pattern on a Bank Holiday Monday

Hello! Did you have a good bank holiday weekend? Mine was spent solo parenting while John worked and, what with the fact that it was just me and the kids (who are not in any way demanding, on no), and that sun which refused to stay out and shine, and I had that cold which lingered and is finally shifting...considering all that, I would say it was not a bad weekend at all, actually. At times, I even did some Good Parenting. We went to the beach. We baked. I took them to places where they could practice riding their bikes. I tried to do washing and housework and some DIY and told them to put down the iPad every now and then and only raised my voice a few times. And when John came home tonight I did a happy dance as he's off for the next week and we have all sorts of lovely things planned.

It all seems to have gone very retro round here. I'm not quite sure when exactly that happened, but suddenly I find myself drawn to these brightly coloured repeating floral patterns in the things I am making and buying. It could be because summer's coming, or a natural shift in my taste, or perhaps our new home is having some kind of affect on me. Our house was built in 1968 and, while I don't know how it was decorated when it was first built, I envisage lots of pattern and strong oranges, blues and yellows. Suddenly it feels like future projects and new additions to the house have an older feel about them.

I first saw this cotton valance being cruelly mistreated by our gas man and used as a dust sheet. I told him of it's value (he thought that was hilarious) and he said I could have it. I already have a duvet set in this colourway but it's very faded, and the colours here are so much brighter.

With this pink linen, I am planning to make reversible cushions. I'm even learning how to insert zips!

Ditto these yellow pillowcases bought in a charity shop in Northumberland, teamed with beige linen. 

I pulled these two rolls of vinyl wallpaper out of a skip at our local tip, or Household Waste Recycling Centre as they're now known. They were folded flat and, apart from being a little dusty were in incredibly good conditon and cleaned up really well. I couldn't leave them there, could I?

Also rescued was this orange tin, in which my Dad had been storing plumbing bits in his garage. It used to be a biscuit tin I think. It's seen better days but my heart is lifted by that cheerful colour and perky pattern. It's not water tight so I think it will eventually make a great little planter for the garden. 

And after some persistent stalking of my local supermarkets, I have all found three of the limited edition Orla Kiely for Douwe Egberts coffee jars, and I have lot of instant coffee too. I really, really like these, especially the simplicity of the design and the way it's etched onto the glass. Very effective and pleasing to my eyes. 

I have noticed that many of the above items have provoked comments along the lines of "Why do you want that, it's hideous!" or a raised eyebrow at least. People have strong opinions about homeware from the sixties and seventies and it's not always positive. Perhaps it's still seen as dated and old fashioned, as something to be banished in exchange for something clean and crisp and new. The bold colours are often a bit much for some. Plus there's such a strong nostaliga element; people often fondly remember curtains or bedding sets in a certain style and associate them with their childhood. I love the colours, I love the patterns, and for me there is a comforting familiarity in the homewares from this era. But for me, I think it's the excitement of finding some treasure amidst the junk and grabbing a bargain. If I see something I like the look of in a skip for free, or at a car boot sale for £1, I'm going to grab it and have fun thinking about what I can do with it. 

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.