Monday, 22 May 2017

Room Tour: Bella's Bedroom

Decorating this bedroom was a much more harmonious experience than I had anticipated. I was expecting it to be a battle of wills, but in the end it all came together really nicely and my opinionated ten and a half year old loves it.

Bella had her heart set on a cabin/loft style bed. Initially, we were open to this, mainly because her room is so small that any extra storage and floor space had to be a good thing. But they were either too young in style, or too tall (we don't have very high ceilings in the upstairs of our house due to the sixties chalet-style roof) or just too pricey, and I was worried she would outgrow it quite quickly. So I suggested we just keep her existing bed and, as we did with Angus's, paint it grey. I have to confess I was thinking about the half-tin of grey paint down in the garage and that it would be good to use it up. Surprisingly she agreed on the proviso that she could pick out the wallpaper that went behind her bed. 

This seemed fair and she went for gold stars on a slightly off-white background, which I absolutely love, and luckily one roll was enough. We hung a little shelf just to the side of her bed so that she could store her glass of water and book, and her bedside lamp clips on to the side of her bed. The grey faux-sheepskin rug adds warmth and texture to the white floor and the pink metal storage basket is from Ferm Living and one I've had for a few years. It used to live downstairs in the living room and held all my yarn, but as my yarn stash has dwindled so rapidly lately I didn't really need it any more, and thought it would look much better in her room, which it does, holding the many soft toys she absolutely cannot live without.

The prints and frames I already had. They hung in other parts of the house and simply changing the frames and moving them to a different location gave them a new lease of life and made me look at them afresh. Bella really likes them because they're pretty but not girly. I like that the colours are bright but not babyish, and they all share the same clean lines and stylised graphics. 

There is just space at the foot of the bed for a tall, thin bookcase. The curtains and blind are the same as before.

Turning the other way, towards the door and bed, there is just space for a little wardrobe and desk, all of which was here before. 

Bella and I had so much fun arranging her favourite objects and toys on the shelves.

The white painted floorboards are one of my favourite things about this room. I know people worry that they are cold but I don't think anything feels warmer than wood underfoot. I just love it. Also, we have central heating and the rooms upstairs are toasty in the winter, to the point that we have to turn down all our radiators, so I'm not too worried about the temperature issue. Also, we had nothing to lose but the cost of a tin of floor paint. The carpet was in such a bad state that we would have had to replace it anyway. If in a few years we decide that painting the floorboards was a disaster, well, we'll get a carpet.

You're probably wondering where all the toys are. There are four plastic storage boxes under her bed, holding barbies, Lego, bags, scarves, odds and ends. And downstairs, in the office, we have about eight huge plastic boxes which hold all the children's Playmobil and Sylvanian Families (we have collected a lot of those over the years) which help keep toys out of the bedrooms.

 I really love this room and there are lots of elements I would like to take into our room when I redecorate it this summer, like the floorboards and white walls. (Except I'll have about fifteen house plants crammed into our bedroom!)

We kept to the smallest of budgets, only buying white floor paint, wallpaper, shelf, rug, fairy lights and lampshade. I think we probably spent no more than £100 which isn't bad considering what we did. 

Useful links:

Floor paint is Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Paint in white.
Wall paint is pure brilliant white, we used Valspar from B&Q
Bed paint is Grey Slate eggshell from B&Q
Fardrup rug, Lack shelf, Ramsta fairy lights and Jara lampshade all IKEA
The tulip print in the black frame is by Inaluxe and the other three are all by Clare Nicolson.
Wallpaper is Galerie Stars from John Lewis.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Make, Bake, Sew, Grow

Thanks for your birthday wishes for Angus. Things are good here; busy, of course, with work life and family life, but low-level, manageable busy, not crazy-busy. As always focusing on home and all the warmth that domestic life brings makes me feel happier and calmer, especially when it's rained every single day this week. I hate rain in the summer. But then I found myself saying to a colleague - in all seriousness - that this rain is really good for the garden, and that is when I realised I had hit middle age.

{ Make }

I've been moving things around in the living room, trying to create a usable space in the large area in front of the window. Before, it was just somewhere to put the blanket chest which contains jigsaws and board games.

But it gets the best light, and would be a great spot for a chair for reading or sewing, so I am experimenting. Perhaps it needs a rug too, something to detract from the shiny laminate flooring.

Outside, we (well, John and my Dad) used a chainsaw to tackle the pile of wood and chop it into tidy stove-sized logs.

It's a massive improvement on before but that whole area under the kitchen and bathroom windows really needs something. It looks awful. Maybe some large planters and trellis on the walls, with some climbing plants?

{ Bake }

It's been all about the leftovers lately. After making spaghetti carbonara we were left with four egg whites, exactly enough for Cappuccino Pavlova as it happens. John and I made it together and ate it together, over four days rather than all one sitting, which I think showed tremendous restraint. Well done us. 

I think it might be one of the nicest things I've ever tasted.

Remember all those beetroots I bought for my crochet vegetables? Well they needed eating up, so I made beetroot and horseradish soup.

Gloriously pink and so good with sour cream and chives on top. I know May is not usually a month for soup but it's not been all that warm lately. April and May got their weather the wrong way round.

No photos, but we used the aubergines to make a thick, rick vegetarian pasta sauce with tomatoes, garlic, chilli and onion. It's really good with linguine. And the rest were used in a curry with chickpeas and spinach. Why don't I buy aubergines more? 

I had an urge to make shortbread today. I blame the rain and the fact that I'm wearing my slippers.

{ Sew }

It's mainly crochet at the moment. I have rediscovered a passion for it lately and have such a long list of things I'd like to make. Buoyed by the success of Dave the Seagull, I have started a Barn Owl from the same book, and it's to be a very late birthday present for my owl-loving god daughter.  This pattern comes from the intermediate section in the book and I am appropriately nervous.

I have also started these espadrilles from the fabulous Wool and the Gang. Now I just need some suitably sunny weather so that I can prance about in them and pretend I'm on holiday in Spain.

As soon as these are out of the way, I will make a start on my crocheted fruit. Bella has also commissioned a wall hanging like this one but bigger, in pink, grey, gold and white for her bedroom. I am only too happy to oblige, although where I'm going to find gold cotton yarn goodness only knows. 

{ Grow }

Indoors, the cuttings I took from my pilea over Easter are growing beautifully. I'm very proud of these babies and tend them lovingly, even rotating them so they get equal amounts of light. 

Outside, it's all going on. Alluims are popping up...

...and the little Red Robin tree produced the loveliest white blossoms this year, the first time it's ever done that.

The red and black currant bushes are looking good, although I'm going to leave the redcurrants for the birds this year. I still have all of last summer's redcurrants at the bottom of the freezer. I don't really see the point of redcurrants, if I'm honest.

And my sweet peas are growing! Oh, I am mothering these plants so well, encouraging the shoots to climb up the bamboo canes and watering them regularly. I took that photo at the weekend and, what with all the rain we've had, they're twice as big now.

I even bought a pretty new metal watering can. I am nothing if not dedicated.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


I am worn out. Swaying on my feet worn out,  but it's the kind of happy, satisfied tired feeling you get after a weekend where you didn't really stop but it was all good.

Angus turned eight on Friday. We celebrated with a family tea party yesterday, and he also had a day out with his best friend Jasper the previous weekend. He had no expectations about what he might unwrap and was genuinely thrilled with every single gift, even the ones that are actually necessities rather than treats, like new wellie boots. Among other things he was given Lego, some binoculars, a cricket bat and lots of books. Badgers didn't feature quite as heavily this year as they have done previously. If asked, he'd still say that they're his favourite animals but his interests have stretched into other animals, birds (hence the binoculars and books) and wildlife in general. Oh, and Minecraft, of course.

His cake was a bit of a mess. I made one, and it wasn't big enough, so I made another to put on top. Then it took ages to cool and people were due to be arriving, so I iced it while it was still quite warm. The cake was crumbling as fast as I slapped chocolate frosting on it, and the buttons on top were melting into a puddle in the middle. Luckily it's a good recipe - it's the chocolate coca cola cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess - and the cake tasted good, even if it didn't look that great. Ever the perfectionist, I was annoyed with myself at the time for not planning it all better, but Angus loved it and had fun blowing out the candles, so it must've been ok.

I made Angus a seagull from the book Edward's Menagerie: Birds. I just love these books and think they are inspired. Such good, solid, well written patterns and the creatures are so full of personality and character. The seagull is from the beginner section of the book but I learnt a new-to-me technique, splitting a round. Overall I'd say it was a little harder to make than the animals (those fiddly legs!) but a lot easier to sew together. He's called Dave, in case you were wondering.  

That photo of Dave and Charlie propping each other up makes me smile - they look like they're slumped after one drink too many. 

Cakes and celebrations aside, I've spent most of the weekend in the kitchen or garden. No crochet on the go at the moment, but I'm spending lots of time and creative energy on food and plants, which feels good.  Thank you for your comments on my crochet vegetables. I have a few other projects I need to get done first, but I'm already looking forward to starting the fruit. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Box of Crochet Vegetables

This has, without a doubt, been one of my favourite crochet projects ever. After two quite repetitive, long term crochet projects - the blanket and the cardigan - I really enjoyed the variety of colour and pattern these vegetables offered, and the fact that you could start and finish one in an evening or two.

I enjoyed every part of it: choosing the patterns, deciding which shade or colour yarn would work best, the crocheting, watching the vegetable take shape when stuffed, adding the leaves. 

And then, as each one was finished, arranging one of my creations with the real thing and taking a photo. So much fun. (Also - visits to our local greengrocer and our consumption vegetables increased too, both of which are good things.)

I made these for the Year R* class in the school I work in. I've always wanted to crochet some food but Bella and Angus are too old for toys like play food now, so there seemed little point. But after a chat with my teacher friends, I realised I could find a good reason to crochet a radish and use up some of my huge bag of cotton yarn scraps. Win-win. These vegetables now live in the Home Corner, where they will no doubt be soon be covered in snot, paint and grubby fingerprints, as they rightly should be, but the cotton yarn and acrylic stuffing should make them easy to clean. 

I made eight in total, enough to fill a box but not too many. I could've gone on and on - pumpkins, courgettes, corn-on-the-cob - but restrained myself. I tried to stick to vegetables that the children would be familiar with and recognise immediately, like carrots, onions, potatoes and tomatoes, whereas the radish and beetroot just pleased me immensely with all their frilly leaves. 

For about a week after I finished them I arranged them on the shelf in the dining room and just enjoyed looking at them every day. They are so tactile and wonderful to handle, and I love the colours. I will definitely make some more for myself, just to have around the house, to use as decoration.

I don't think there always needs to be a reason to crochet something like this. When I think how much pleasure I got from working on this, how much fun it was just to play with the colours and textures, I think that's reason enough.


The patterns are all from a brilliant American e-book I found on Amazon called Crochet Food. 35 Crochet Patterns of Fruits and Vegetables.

All yarn is cotton DK - mercerised and unmercerised- in various brands I've collected over the years, crocheted on a 3mm hook.

I did amend a few patterns in places, adding or removing rows or changing colours to make the vegetable more like what we'd see in a British supermarket.

* Year R, or "Reception", is the first year in the British school system. Children start the September after their fourth birthday. It is more similar to what other countries might call Kindergarten than the kind of education that starts when they enter Year One. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Bella's Bedroom - decorating progress


Over Easter we decorated Bella's bedroom. I haven't really shared much of the progress of that room here so far, and I thought that you might like to see how it's progressing.  I know that, like Angus's, it was only done a couple of years ago, but it was time for a change. Decorating decisions that we made in a hurry two years ago before we'd even moved in had not lasted well, and the furniture layout was not working. Bella is growing so fast. She wanted less pretty pastels and something a little simpler and more grown up, and we had fun planning her room together. You can see what her room liked like before here.


After emptying her room, we painted all the walls white, and touched up some of the woodwork. I like white at the moment, it's so easy, fresh and clean. 

Bella's bedroom is very small - it really is a box room. I wanted to try and make it feel as spacious as possible, so we did this in two ways. The first thing we did was have a huge, huge sort out of all her books and toys, and filled bag after bag for the charity shop. Once this was done, and the rest of the decorating finished, we gave her floorboards a light sand and painted them white. Her bedroom carpet - like Angus's - was here when we moved in and really in a dreadful state so I was more than happy to rip it up.

I have to say that one of the few pleasant surprises this house has given us is the state of the floorboards upstairs. My dad did a little remedial work for us but generally they were in very good condition. I am hoping that the white floor bounces a little more light around while the lines of the boards might create an illusion of space. 

The other thing I painted was Bella's bed, in exactly the same colour as Angus's, simply because I had half a tin left over.

The wall behind her bed still needs to be wallpapered with this paper.

Bella's so excited because she chose the wallpaper all on her own and we gave her complete ownership of that decision. (Luckily we liked it and it wasn't prohibitively expensive, otherwise there would have been some negotiation!) She had it in her head for months that she wanted a white background with a pattern of stars. Then a little shelf needs to go up on the wall, just to the left of the bed, to hold her book and glass of water.

So this is where we are so far.

It's very bare, of course, because it's not finished, but it won't be long now. Finally, I promised her we could choose a couple of prints for her walls together, since I did buy some for Angus's room, so I'm excited to see what she chooses. It occurs to me that she has good taste, this girl of mine, and I'm actually quite excited to see what decisions and choices she makes as she grows up. (Feel free to remind me of this when she's fourteen and deep into some all-black phase, or something equally awful...)