Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Walking off the Christmas pudding

My favourite part of the Christmas holidays is that no man's land time from Boxing Day to New Year's Eve. All the excitement, present buying, cooking and hosting is done and dusted and there is a short lull before the next lot of celebrations kick off. Unless you are very unlucky, there is no work, and you can just grab a few quiet days together as a family. 
Much as I love chilling out at home reading interiors magazines, watching Scandi noir films and drawing up plans for the garden, I need to get out into the fresh air everyday or I start going stir crazy. Miraculously, the rain let up for a brief interlude, so we packed the protesting children into the car and drove to the beach. It wasn't the prettiest stretch of coastline, but the clouds were doing amazing things in the sky, and the air was so clear, it felt like you could reach out and touch the Isle of Wight across the water. Perfect.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pass the chair

My mum bought this chair second-hand as a student in London in the late '60s. It was a leather armchair then and apparently she planned on reupholstering it but never got round to it. When she told me she was throwing it out - she had literally dumped it in the back garden - I said I'd sell it on ebay for her. But when I saw it, I felt I needed to rescue it myself. It is not in the greatest nick.
It could look amazing with a really brightly coloured floral fabric. I love these from Bluebelle Grey.
I want them all! 
I adore these designs by Zoe Barker 
 How fabulous is this deer?
Or this one from Designers Guild
There is something quite hideous but also strangely appealing about this one also from Designers Guild.
Maybe not.
These delphiniums on yellow by Harlequin are rather cheerful.
Or something more retro. How gorgeous are these Josef Frank fabrics in Ben Pentreath's London flat?
I am in love! 
This fabric with the pomegranates by Harlequin is not dissimilar.
Or this large leaf design from Harlequin again.
Not as colourful, but I love these ferns from Sanderson.
Decisions, decisions. I have a niggling feeling that I may have taken this chair on with the same intentions my mum had forty plus years ago and that they may remain just that - ideas. Maybe another forty years down the line little P will rescue this chair from me full of plans to revive it. It could just become a family tradition of pass the chair. Why not!?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Trick or treat!

I did Halloween for the first time ever with the kids and it was FUN! We spent half term at my parents mainly because I had a lot of running around to do for work and I knew they'd have a good time with my mum. She had them carving pumpkins, baking bat-shaped biscuits and she would have whipped up some pretty impressive costumes too, if I hadn't already ordered them from Tesco. 

Originally I had ambitious plans to sew a very bling princess-witch costume from black lace and millions of sequins and a bat with folding articulated wings, but the sewing machine was acting erratically and time just seemed to slip away from me. The children were beyond excited when we picked up their supermarket outfits. Little P put on her princess dress (not very halloweeny, I know!) in the confectionery aisle right next to the Haribo party buckets and little M struggled into his devil onesie by the tea and coffee. 

I spent the day in St Leonards and saw this fabulously ghoulish shop front.

I've only ever made flying visits to St Leonards, but I must go back and spend a day exploring properly, maybe when it is not so cold and miserable.

Back at my parents' house, this splendid sight greeted me.
Predictably the children were too excited to eat any tea, so as soon as it hit half past five, we took to the streets for some trick or treating. Some people had really gone to town on the Halloween decorations; pumpkins, fake cobwebs, candelabras and dry ice. The children initially refused to approach a front door with a blood spattered sign reading "Zombies Beware!" but the thought of more sweets spurred them on.
Next year we need to remember to take little bags for collecting the treats. My coat pockets were stuffed to bursting and we kept forgetting whose sweets were in the left and whose the right pocket. They nearly came to blows over an unidentified chupa chups. In the end, there was more than they could eat anyway, though they gave it a good bash.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bathroom revamp: we can wash again!

We are almost there with the new bathroom. It feels like we've had so many delays. M injured his foot and wasn't able to do anything for a few weeks, so the plan to whip out the old bath and put in the new one soon after, didn't quite come off. But it's all in place now and looking great.
Look at that neat plumbing!
We were looking for a sleek and simple contemporary light to go over the mirror but could we find anything under £100? Oh no! We finally settled on the IKEA skepp light (still not that cheap at £47). It looked okay in the picture, but in real life, my goodness, it is huge! It looks like some alien spaceship has landed on the bathroom wall. 
I am not in love with it at all but we just can't afford to overspend. We still have another bathroom and the kitchen to do once this is out of the way!

Pimp my pumpkin

We're not usually big on celebrating Halloween. There are various family birthdays and our wedding anniversary around that time, so it doesn't usually get a look in. Also we are usually fighting the first round of autumn bugs, so traipsing the streets in the cold trick or treating doesn't feel like the best idea. But this year, the children are full of talk of ghosts and zombies and witches, so I don't think I'm going to be allowed to skip it any longer.

The PTA at little M's school organised a pumpkin carving competition, so we got into the spirit early. I am not sure whether they actually expected the children to carve the vegetables out themselves, but I got little M to draw a face, which big M then cut out for him. After a rootle through the craft drawer, I gave the kids some t-shirt paints to decorate their pumpkins. I figured, if it sticks to fabric, it'll stick to pumpkin. It did.
Little P in the background was running a temperature of almost 39 degrees, hence the tears. I only discovered that post-pumpkin painting clearly.
Looking good.
To finish it off, they sprinkled on some glitter for a bit of Halloween glitz. I was pretty certain, little M was in with a chance of a prize, but the winning pumpkin was this amazing, intricately carved work of art, that clearly no child had had anything to do with. He got a lollipop for entering, so he was more than happy.
And here is his teeny tiny little pumpkin next to the biggest monster of a pumpkin, I have ever seen. 
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Batten down the hatches

We are on amber alert, bracing ourselves for the biggest storm to hit the south coast since 1987 or 1703 or something. Information on how to prepare seems woefully skimpy. Micheal Fish has appeared saying, "Batten down the hatches, ho, ho, ho." Hmm, I seem to remember he was the one who said there was nothing to worry about, when the last one hit and tore the roofs off people houses and sent woodlands spinning through the air. 

What are hatches? And how does one batten? Does he mean close your shutters? We have curtains and blinds. Can't see how that'll help. I suppose in Kansas and the like, where they are used to tornadoes, "batten down the hatches", is probably a shorthand way of saying, "do all your pre-tornado safety stuff", and everyone knows the drill and jumps to it. Not so useful here, where our weather is far less dramatic.

The other useful piece of advice is "avoid woodland areas." We live in a forest for goodness sake. We are literally surrounded by trees. Great whopping big oaks and redwoods and silver birches. It's the equivalent of saying to the population of London, "keep away from built up areas."

I suppose it all comes down to common sense. Don't go out if trees are being torn up in front of your eyes, that kind of thing. Still I wouldn't mind a check list. I've stuffed all the garden furniture, kids' bikes, scooters, toys etc into the summer house, put the dustbins in the garage, laid the big ornamental chimney pots and plant pots on their sides, made sure both cats are in.

The cats have been pretty edgy for days. Skinny sat in the middle of the stairs last night and yowled and yowled. Fat cat ventured out briefly this afternoon to scope out hiding places. I think one of them is hunkered down in the garage at the moment. We went for a short walk earlier, while it was pretty blowy but not too wild. About three horses followed us across the common as if they were hoping we'd take them to shelter. Usually they turn a blind eye to humans. I saw them later in the carpark and I swear they looked like they were trying to get in a car!

The kids are super excited and keep asking "Is it here yet?" I really want to sit down and watch The Wizard of Oz with them but at the same time don't want to freak them out too much.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spinners Garden

I have bitten the bullet and booked a guy to come and dig out all the hideous thorny bushes from our front and back garden. It means I am going to have make some quick decisions about what to plant in their place if we want to avoid naked flower beds over the winter. My gardening knowledge is pitifully skimpy but I have been reading through old gardening books and peering into neighbours' front gardens trying to figure out which of their plants are doing well. I have also been pinning away on my garden inspiration board on pinterest which has been useful in figuring out what my own tastes are. I clearly love lavender, bluebells, all purple flowers and black-eyed susans!

I am finding the best way of figuring out this gardening malarky is to actually go and look at a real garden and talk to an expert. So this weekend we visited to Spinners Garden. It is quite small and very sweet and has a troll bridge and bamboo thicket which kept the children entertained, while I managed to pick the brain of the owner. Apparently early November is not too late to plant my borders. The soil will still be warm and there will be plenty of autumn and winter rains to get the plants going.
Right, enough jaunting around other people's gardens, time to get cracking on my own!