Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Last Week of July

And the first week of the summer holidays almost over, just like that. August is just around the corner and I know that, when we return from our holiday in a few weeks, everything will be a shade less green and there will be blackberries in the hedgerows. It feels like we are racing through the seasons, racing through this year, and I would like to slow down a little please. I'm in summer mode, even if the weather isn't.

I had such a good day today though. From 9.30 am to 3.30 pm Bella and Angus attended a holiday club at a local school with all their cousins. I dropped them off with packed lunches and water bottles, handed over my money and drove home. It was like being a stay at home mum again! I made a coffee then went upstairs and finished some jobs in our bedroom. Then I came downstairs and cleaned up. I ate lunch, alone, with a magazine. Then I caught up on some admin while listening to episode after episode of The Archers (I am so behind). Mainly I just enjoyed solitude, something I cherish but rarely seem to find.

I really needed today because the last few days have been busy. We've been to IKEA, I have sanded my dressing table and painted it white, I've swapped around furniture and sorted through drawers, cleaned, ironed, written holiday lists. Our bedroom is almost finished, just a shelf to hang and we're there. 

But there are good things going on amongst the hubbub, like end of term gifts, both received....

and given. I'd been hanging on to those tins for a while, not really sure what to do with them, and had a last minute brain wave. I wanted to give the teachers plants, but a dripping plastic flower pot didn't look great, and these were perfect. 

Lemon drizzle cake on a wet Sunday afternoon. It is the best cake ever. Not a glamorous cake, or a fussy one, but quick to make, easy to bake and easy to eat too.

I finally finished Barney the Barn Owl, a birthday present for my owl-loving god-daughter. 

We'll overlook the fact that her birthday was in January and focus in his handsome good looks and oversized feet (which were an absolute bugger to crochet, although worth it.)

My dear friend Charlotte celebrated her birthday this week and so, with my sister watching my two, we went out for lunch to a country pub. It was such a mid-week treat. (Oh, I could so enjoy being a stay at home parent again...) I also made her this little wall hanging after she admired the one I made Angus for his room.

I must be feeling creative, because I also made a little hanging planter with the leftover black yarn from my espadrilles.

Oh, and I spray painted these wooden drawer knobs copper! Aren't they great? I'm really happy with them. I mean, I don't think for a second that anyone's going to mistake them for real copper but they cost me nothing and make me very happy.

I also sorted out my fabric stash, a job that forced itself to be done when I swapped over the chest of drawers that was in our living room to our bedroom. I was ruthless and anything I no longer liked I either threw out or gave to the charity shop, depending on condition and quantity. And now I have all these pieces and, as ever, plans for quilts but I can never seem to decide on a pattern or colour scheme. 

The garden is looking a little wild and untended lately and nearly all the plants in my tubs and pots have finished. I don't know if this means they've naturally come to the end of their life or they died because I forgot to dead-head them. The latter is the more likely outcome, if I'm honest. 

But the sweet peas are still growing.and I picked my first homegrown courgettes today. They're tiny, but I was worried if I left them any longer they would just rot on the plant. Enough for me to make a very little courgette fritter for lunch tomorrow, perhaps.

Oh, I bought a bikini! Remember my swimwear shopping traumas from a few weeks ago? Well I spent £60 in Bravissimo and now have a really nice, well fitting black bikini (this one) although sadly my figure isn't quite as trim as the model's, but in the interest of being a good role model for my daughter - and laziness on my part - I am embracing my curves and wobbly bits and am just going to wear it and have a good time on holiday. How vain am I to think that anyone cares what I look like anyway?

The next few days will be busy still, with shopping and packing and running around doing last minute errands. Then we sail to France and there will hopefully be sun (please let there be sun) and nice food and wine, and good company, but most importantly time; time to read, to sew, to talk, to crochet and lots of time to sleep. 

Sunday, 23 July 2017


Hello! How are you? We've broken up for the holidays - hurrah! - but sadly there is no time for lie-ins and lazy days here, as I am frantically trying to finish our bedroom before we go on holiday next weekend. And do a million other things too, of course, like referee Bella and Angus. I spent a very happy day yesterday cleaning and sorting. I told the kids that we were having a home day and to amuse themselves (this can go one of two ways) while I sorted piles of junk that had built up here and there, moved back all the displaced furniture from when we decorated our bedroom, dusted and vacuumed and mopped. It felt good. Maybe not the most exciting start to our holidays but it needed to be done.

I have a few recommendations for you today, a few things I want to tell you about. Some I've been kindly sent to review, others I just want to share with you because I just really like them and think you might too.

:: Beth Pegler's beautiful, simple handmade jewellery, made from knotted rope. My sisters gave me this necklace for Christmas and it's one of my most worn items of jewellery. It looks especially good over a striped Breton top which is handy as I have, oh, one or two of those. 

And then I recently treated myself to another necklace and a little pile of these gorgeous bracelets. They are so tactile and soft against the skin, but not itchy as I have found yarn-covered jewellery to be. Do have a look at her shop. 

:: Espadrilles! Yes, I crocheted my own shoes! I do realise that sounds a little far-fetched, but look at them, aren't they fabulous? Wool and the Gang kindly sent me one of their kits a while back (quite a while actually...) and I finally got around to making them.

They were a gratifyingly quick make and I was able to crochet all four sections while watching the men's Wimbledon single's final last Sunday and then spent two evenings sewing the fabric heel and toe to the sole. This is not difficult, but I found it a little fiddly and hard on the fingers, but the end result is very pleasing.

Never mind the fact that I don't have any euros yet, or travel insurance, and haven't even thought about packing, I have espadrilles so I'm ready to travel.

:: Alice in Scandiland's blog. I discovered this via Alice's instagram account and find her style of decorating very inspiring, especially her creativity and eye for shape and design. But recently I was very taken with her wonderfully original handmade garden furniture

Photo by Alice J Collyer, used with permission.
Because the thing is, we really need some new garden furniture. The set we have only has three chairs for starters, and there are four of us, so that's already annoying, and bits wobble and fall off frequently. But wooden garden furniture is really expensive, even in the sales. But after seeing Alice's creation, and looking into the hair pin legs, and the cost of wood, I'm now working on John to see if he might fancy whipping me up an outdoor table and two benches sometime this summer. 

:: I was kindly send two LSA Bud Vases and very lovely they are two. I like this size of vase because you can easily fill them with a few snipped blooms from the garden without wiping out all your flowers. 

They are mouth blown from a single piece of glass and have a beautifully organic shape and come in some lovely colours. I gave the blue one to Bella's teacher as an end of term gift and she was really over the moon with it, absolutely adored it.

:: Power Ballads. I don't know if you know this about me, but I love two things very much: Radio 4 and power ballads. And while I was pottering around in the kitchen yesterday, listening to Radio 4 as is my way, I happened to catch the most brilliant programme called How to Write a Power Ballad, presented by the Rev Richard Coles (I love him too, actually.) It was fascinating, what goes into a song - technically - to make it sound and feel a certain way. And, while listening, I found out that there is a club night in London where all they play is power ballads. It's true! This might be my ultimate night out and I think I'm going to make John take me there for my fortieth birthday next year. Anyway, do have a listen on the iPlayer if you get a moment.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

All white

Well, it was going to happen. I have been itching to begin decorating our bedroom for months and months, and it finally happened at the weekend. I am not entirely sure of the wisdom of undertaking such a decorating project a week before the end of term and in the midst of a few seriously busy and pressured weeks at work, but I can't moan because it was all my idea. John (who actually quite enjoys decorating and is very good at it although he'd deny both accusations) sweetly indulged my ideas and conceded that there were things he'd also like to change. 

There was nothing especially wrong with the room, just a collection of lots of things that weren't working. The awful, awful carpet - with a pile so ruined that you could run the vacuum cleaner over it for half an hour and it still wouldn't pick up the hair on it - had to go. The blue paint colour wasn't working for me anymore, nor was the position of the bed in relation to practical things like plug sockets. I have learnt that decorating an empty house before moving in, while time-saving, isn't a long-term solution. There were other smaller details; a falling to pieces laundry basket, too-small mirror and furniture that had seen better days. 

I was - and still am - excited about transforming our bedroom on a limited budget, as I did with Bella and Angus's bedrooms. There are things we would love to do to this house: rip out and replace the bathroom, replace the flooring in the hallway and living room, fit a new front door etc. But these things run to thousands, not hundreds of pounds and take serious and lengthy saving - especially if we want the odd holiday too! - and so for now I am enjoying refreshing our bedrooms on fairly small budgets, around £100-£200 per room.

So on Saturday morning, and with the help of my parents, we emptied the room (sleeping downstairs on the bed on the spare room for the next three nights) and lightly sanded the floorboards with a handheld sander.

Overall they were in great condition, apart from a few boards that had been damaged by a long-since-fixed leak. My dad (he's ace) replaced them and the rest we painted with some of that Damp Stop stuff before applying the floor paint.

We managed to paint the ceiling and start the walls that afternoon too.

Poor Angus had to put up with a room full of furniture for a few days.

 On Sunday John and I finished the walls, applied two coats of floor paint and undercoated the skirting boards. It sounds like a lot of work but there was lots of time for crochet and watching the Wimbledon final between jobs.

 Then on Monday, while I was at work, John gave the floor two more coats of paint and finished the woodwork.

It was hot over the weekend and the door to the balcony was open the whole time we were in the house.

It's just gorgeous when the sun streams in, bright and clean. Not everyone likes pure white, and some find it cold, but this room faces south-west and the light is warm. Too warm sometimes. I know that some also find floorboards cold and draughty. But this house, built in the late sixties, is warm and well insulated. I might feel differently if we lived in a huge Victorian pile. And, as John said, the carpets were going either way. If in a few years we decide that, actually, we'd like carpet again, then we'll fit carpet. Nothing is forever.

 This was the room last night. Very bare and empty, but beautifully calm and cool. Of course it needs pictures, plants and rugs, and there is more furniture to move back in, but I love it so far, especially the position of the bed under the picture rail. 

So far, any money spent has been on paint. Around £60 on two tins of floor paint and £30 on white wall paint. I intend to re-use as much as possible  - furniture, prints, lamps etc - from other parts of the house, even re-painting drawer pulls rather than buying new ones, and will re-paint my dressing table this weekend. I'm not sure what to do with the chest of drawers yet. I may paint it, or swap it with the one that's currently in our living room. I have ordered some lovely shelves though. And there will be plants - lots and lots of plants. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Two Chairs

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pair of spindle backed chairs from eBay. I'd been looking for one chair for months, to sit at my dressing table, but single chairs don't come up for sale very often. Eventually I found a pair, and not far away in Winchester. Solidly built and sturdy, they were a bargain at £15 each, but pretty bashed around the edges as you can see below.

But the poor state of the veneer and horrible orange colour meant they were perfect for sanding and painting.

I remain unconvinced by chalk paint, and so did this the old fashioned way; sanding the wood then giving the chairs two coats of undercoat and two of eggshell, with a light sand between coats.

I think the white paint transforms this chair and enhances the lovely shape of the spindles. It will stay here in the hall for now, against that colourful Marimekko wallpaper.

The second chair got a coat of paint too.

I had always intended this one to be dark grey or black and in the end used Empirical Grey interior metal and wood paint by Valspar, mainly because we had an almost full tin of it in the garage left over from when we painted the radiator in our dining room a year ago.

This chair sits in the living room for now but eventually this one will go in our bedroom, in front of my dressing table. I think it will look good on the soon-to-be-white floorboards.

I didn't intend for 2017 to be the year I painted all our furniture, but I'm really enjoying it. Two beds and two chairs later, I'm working my way around the bedrooms in our house. My next project will be a chest of drawers and my dressing table. I know I only painted it two years ago but it's in a terrible state - the off-white colour has faded badly and I've never known paint chip like it. I can't wait to sand it back and do it again properly.

Monday, 10 July 2017


Hello friends. How was your weekend? Ours was packed full and in danger of being totally lost to chores and commitments, you know how it is. My Friday night mood (tired and grumpy with a dash of resentful) carried over until Sunday afternoon when I thought bugger it, bugger the ironing pile, the homework, the gardening, the emails, all the things I need to do - we're going to the beach. And we did, and it was the best decision of my whole weekend.

It wasn't all bad; Saturday morning's 5k bike ride/run was fun, if swelteringly hot, but I spent most of Saturday afternoon in the car ferrying small children around while sulking to myself. Honestly, I'm just too much fun. Sunday morning was lost in M&S (returning a swimsuit) and B&Q (buying plant pots) and in between all that I sanded and painted a chair. John was working all weekend. Weekends when he works can go one of two ways - brilliant fun, when the kids and I do what we want, or really hard work. 

So the children and I packed the lightest of beach bags - just swimmers, towels, bottles of water, a mat to sit on - and jumped in the car. I'd barely put the bags down on the sand before Angus was running into the sea and I had to have words with him about not going into the water without me. It's a sheltered beach with little surf, but still. It was beautiful down there and the water was warm and clear. Later on my parents and sister and her family joined us for a while and we all swam and splashed around, it was so lovely. Of course now I'm all out of kilter with my week, and will also be working full time I suspect, but it was so worth it. 

Other highlights: 

:: The sweetpeas  - it's true, the more you cut them the more they grow!

:: A happy hour spent repotting all my pilea babies, which grow almost as fast as my children.

:: Cherry clafoutis for dessert after dinner on Sunday evening. Light and sweet and summery.

:: Realising that this shelf is the best place ever to display the large amount of shells and pebbles we seem to collect every time we visit our beach.

:: And finally, finally, the best thing ever...