Friday, 12 September 2014

Yeah! I'm a T-Shirt Designer

my homemade graphic t-shirt by Alexis at

OK, I'm not a t-shirt designer, but I did make this t-shirt.
Well, when I say 'make' what I mean is a drew some triangles on it.

I've been meaning to do this for ages, mainly because:
1) I can't be bothered / don't have the time to shop
2) When I do shop I end up feeling completely overwhelmed by the choice which results in waves of apathy, angst and worry. Apathy - I don't know what my style is anymore, did I even ever have a style? If things are cheap & cheerful I have angst about the ethics of buying cheap, if they are expensive I worry about whether I'll get a good CPW (that's cost per wear - obvs!) or I still worry about the ethics and all the other things I should/could be spending money on, or my (lack of) pension etc. It's a fraught business.*
3) Then, if by some miracle I do find something I like, lets say for arguments sake, a graphic t-shirt with a bat* some triangles on it I think, "but I could make this myself" so then I can't bring myself to even buy the rare thing I do like...

So after a few fruitless shopping trips filled with all the above I bought myself a plain white cheap (angst!) t-shirt which has been lying in my drawer all summer taunting me, until finally last Saturday I dug out the pens I bought for Coco's crafting party and drew some triangles on it.

Now, I'm sure you can tell exactly how I made it, but I'm going to show you anyway. I'm a blogger, it's what I do - and I have dreams of one day having a Pinterest-worthy tutorial; you've got to have goals people!
So here you go... this is what I did...

making your own graphic print t-shirt by Alexis at

making your own graphic print t-shirt by Alexis at blog

There you have it!
The first of many... um, maybe? What do you think? The way forward or not?

 *Actually; don't fall too hard for my woe-is-me tale. I did manage to buy a few nice autumn things the other day. Autumn seems to be a much less angst-ridden shopping time for me.
** I really like Zoe Karssen's graphic t-shirts (not sure why, but I just do) however £60, for a t-shirt!? I know I might get my CPW but I can't quite bring myself to do it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Walking Barefoot at Kew

One of the things we enjoyed a lot this summer was visiting the barefoot walk at Kew Gardens... We decided to go for a final visit last weekend; one last chance to get our feet dirty.

There is something incredibly therapeutic about discarding your shoes, rolling up your trousers and really feeling the ground beneath your feet - plus the landscaping of the walk is lovely (and is giving me quite a few ideas for our garden).

Summer is bare feet. Sand between your toes, wet grass sticking to your feet in the morning. Walking on tip toes when the ground is too hot. Summer is a chance to feel the earth under your feet. 

Look away now if you don't want to have to see lots more photos of my feet!

I'm going to take every chance I can now to walk barefoot. I don't want Summer to end.
Although... I do love winter boots.

Monday, 8 September 2014

An Almost Free Lunch AKA Our Tomato Harvest

Tomato Harvest - Making Roast Tomato Soup by Alexis at

This year was going to be our last shot at growing tomatoes. The last few summers haven't been too productive on the tomato front and they had started to feel like too much effort for not enough return.
But, guess what - the little red fellows finally came through for us.

We were so close to giving up that I started a tomato tally on the blackboard; we stopped logging tomatoes consumed around a month ago.
We just had too many. In fact we've had an amazing year... starting with 'gardeners delight' which we bought as plants, followed by waterfalls of cherries which we grew from seed and a great selection of weird and wonderful varieties that my sister gave us.

Our tomato plants, sept 2014 - Making Roast Tomato Soup by Alexis at

The main bulk of the plants grow by the house up against a warm wall (and across our kitchen window by this time of year). Hugh sunk some much bigger planters into our decking area in the spring and I think these have been the key to our new success, (well those and the weather) but we also sort of shoved in plants in and around the other veg too and they have literally taken over, creeping across every bit of exposed soil - it's a bit like The day of the Triffids out there. 

Courgette plant and flower and corgette with the tomatos - Alexis @ somethingimade

I think the reason I'm so amazed by the harvest is that I really don't think of myself as a garden person. I'm not the green fingered one in my family, and up until five years ago I'd never had a garden at all, ever. I can't quite get my head around the fact that for the last two months we've pretty much eaten something from our garden everyday. I suppose for lots of people that's totally normal; so forgive me for sounding like I think some kind of miracle has occurred... but, um, I kind of do.

Making Roast Tomato Soup - by Alexis at

On Saturday morning I wandered into the garden with a bow: I ended up with over 1kg of tomatoes - and I cooked up one of my favourite things, tomato soup. Had it been warmer I might have made gazpacho, which would have to up there in my top 3 meals (will have to have a think about what else would be there...)
I never would have imagined that I'd have enough tomatoes that I'd want to cook with them (ok; I'll stop with this amazement at my garden miracle now).

Cooking Roast Tomato Soup - by Alexis at

I used a Gordon Ramsey recipe - adapting it slightly as I went along... it basically goes something like this:

Gordon Ramsey's Roasted Tomato Soup

Heat some olive oil in a hot oven - once it's almost smoking tip in 1kg of halved tomatoes (Gordon says plum are best - but as you can see I used a variety and it worked fine!), an onion cut into rings, a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of caster sugar and a few thyme sprigs.
Season and cook for 20-25 minutes - adding a few basil leaves just before the end of cooking.

Meanwhile heat up 1 litre of stock and then when the tomatoes are cooked tip them into a pan, discard the twiggy bits of thyme (and in my case the tomato stalks) and then add the stock in.
Gordon says add some smoked sun dried tomatoes at this point and 1tbsp of BBQ sauce. I just added 3 regular sun dried tomatoes.
Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.

Strain the mixture and then whizz up the tomatoes in a food processor, once you have a paste gradually add the stock back in.
When finished you can strain the remaining mixture through a sieve to get rid of any rogue seeds. Because I used lots of cherry tomatoes we had loads of seeds so it was definitely worth the hassle of removing them.

The finished roast tomato soup  - by Alexis at

Serve warm and enjoy!
It was delicious - a perfect Saturday lunch.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Back To School

So that's it.
The end of the holidays for Coco, back to the school routine tomorrow for all of us. I got her school uniform out ready this evening (starting as I mean to go on...) and I couldn't quite believe how fast the holidays have gone, I remember triumphantly stuffing it into the washing machine on the last day of term like it was yesterday.

But the holidays have treated us well. I have a vague sense that I haven't managed to shoe-horn in quite enough fun and magic into them as I wish I'd had, but life can't be magic all the time... that's an important lesson to learn; and we have definitely had our fair share of good times. I'll probably do a full round up in the coming week that will inevitably look a lot more magical and charmed than it really was, but that's why I blog to make my life look better! Ha!

We ended the holidays with supper outside on our new garden table (yep - just got that sorted in time for... um Autumn) we had Coco's requested menu, rainbow rice, which is basically rice with as many different coloured vegetables as you can gather together added to it - a throwback to her days at nursery, and fish fingers. She wanted to make the fish fingers a la the 'I Can Cook' recipe (which I'd thoroughly recommend) but we couldn't be bothered to go to the shops and get fish so we had the normal kind. Then we had ice cream and Hugh read the last two chapters of Charlotte's Web, which made Coco cry. He didn't read them in a sadistic kind of way, we had actually got to that point in the book.
Such a good book.

And to any parents of first time schoolers out there I wish you luck. It's a shock to the system... I found the first term that Coco was at school very hard. I was really emotional about it, Coco was absolutlely fine... just a bit exhausted which meant she wasn't at her best when she was at home which was a nice little extra kick in the teeth, you miss them and then they are foul to you.
The other thing that was hard from my point of view was feeling like I was back at school myself. The years of doing a school run stretching ahead of me like a life sentance. I loved my school days, but have no desire to go back; homework, exams, cliques in the playground, getting to class on time and remembering to take this book to that class etc etc. But being the parent of a primary schooler is actually a bit like that; which is througherly annoying and inconvient. Really didn't think having children through did I!?*

The feeling has passed now though and I've loved seeing how Coco's grown over the last two years, lucky for us, she still loves school and after the Charlotte's Web tears went to bed very excited to be back there tomorrow.

*Only five more years till boarding school. Ooops did I just commit that thought to the internet forever & ever. (This bit maybe edited out shortly).

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

This Girl - 28/52

Coco at six and a half. She is still a little girl - a girl who loves her teddy. Yet she is also brave and strong, snorkelling well out of her depth, scrambling out of the sea onto rocks and climbing trees... and she can be a little foot stamping madam too.
But she is beautiful and growing and changing... and I need to take better care of this wonderful soul.

Oh yes, and she is wearing her dress back to front. She insisted it was better this way.
Willful; just another word to describe her!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Bottled Holiday Keepsakes

I found myself wide awake at 5.45 this morning and for the second morning in the row got up early, creeping around the house while everyone else slept. Apart from the fact I'll feel tired later I love padding around quietly, the front of our house faces east and the sun was pouring in through our sitting room windows and into our hall warming the wooden floor.

The last of our holiday unpacking is still around in various little piles waiting to be sorted out so I gently began putting a few bits away but then got distracted by the shells we'd bought home.

As so often happens, I can't bring myself to throw things away and was wondering what to do with them... our last shell haul ended up in the garden. In the clear light of this day however I did something different with these shells...

Bottling shells and holiday memories - by Alexis at

I bottled them  -

Bottling shells and holiday memories - by Alexis at

then I added in notes about where we found them (using the saved string from a lovely clothing label)

Bottling shells and holiday memories - by Alexis at

and then I labelled them.

Bottling shells and holiday memories - by Alexis at

A bit twee I know - but a good little pre-breakfast project that also prompted me to go and pick some flowers. 

Here is roughly what I wrote (slightly edited as I'd rolled up the papers before I decided to type them here - and I added in a few more details for you!

Shells from Sardinia 2014 #1 (on the left)
Do you remember? We left our hotel late one afternoon and drove while Coco and Henry slept. We spotted an almost empty cove from high up on the road (behind Liscia Ruia). Waking the children we walked down to find a perfect beach. We swam and then Coco and I walked along to the rocks where we collected these shells which are almost all the same. We stayed on the beach until the shadows were long and then we walked back up the track to find a parking ticket on our car! We didn't let it dampen our mood though as we went in search of pizza, driving up and up to San Pantaleo where we found a pizzeria that (whispers) almost lived up to Franco Manca.

Shells from Sardinia 2014 #2 (on the right)
On our last day we back to a tiny beach where we'd found ourselves a couple of days previously. We'd had a lovely afternoon - a kind Italian family lent us an umbrella and we chatted to them while their 16 year old daughter played with Henry trying to translate for him so he could help some other children build a sandcastle (little did she know that his real intention was probably to try to sabotage their sandcastle).
On our second visit we had the beach nearly to ourselves and Henry and I sieved for tiny shells in the sand using a bucket and sieve we'd borrowed from our hotel - Coco washed them in the sea for us.

A third bottle of the green sea glass I collected would have fitted in nicely with these but unfortunately Henry threw them all away in a flower bed (I'd been using his bucket to store them in which he was not happy about). I didn't bother to retrieve them, but I'm wishing I had now.

green seaglass - by Alexis at

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen some of our holiday scrap book progress - I was spurred on by Jennie Maizels' wonderful IG feed of her holiday journal but calamity! I forgot to pack the printer cable so the scrap booking is still in progress! Will share more anon.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Holiday Scrap Book Kit

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

For our holiday this year I've decided it's about time Coco and I made a scrap book.
I have to confess - I'm really looking forward to doing this and I really hope Coco gets into it too... (there is a danger she'll just draw rainbows and butterflies all over it).

We recently bought a little photo printer that we can take away with us, (it's a Canon Selphy - if you are interested and so far we are liking it), with a six year old it's worth doing things when they are fresh and also I think it will be a nice task at the end of the day to choose and print a photo to stick in our book...

I found the scrap books in Muji - I went for a classic large size book, big enough to stick in a piece of A4 paper but also couldn't resist a smaller one (this will be mine I think).

For the rest of our supplies I decided to do a little in-house shopping - ie go through my drawers and cupboards - I managed to find some pretty good loot!

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

For sticking things in the book we are going to take washi tape - including this great map one, very on brand for a travel scrap book I think! I've had a washi-tape subscription from Papermash this year - Lynne's genius idea for getting some cash flow to her company late last year and I've been loving it! I get sent a different tape each month and Lynne goes to the trouble of a different kind of ingenious packaging each month too, I'm hoping she'll do it again next year.
There are some stripy paper bags that we can stick in and also a few translucent ones that I've had since my degree show. I've also popped a couple of paper clips and some of those butterfly clip things in for attaching things to the pages.

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

I found these cut out stars stashed away which will be great for putting captions on - no idea where they came from. We also have Hugh's old watercolour kit, I took this away with us last year and remember thinking that I'd love to learn how to do watercolour properly... I'll probably feel the same when I start to try to use them this year!
The mini rubber stamp kit will be great for titles.

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

I went through our wrapping paper scraps and pulled out a selection of small pieces that I just haven't had the heart to throw away!

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

These old 1p stamps have been kicking around for AGES. We can use them to either make our own stamps or just decorate/make pretend postcards. Likewise I've had these speech bubble stickers for a long time - but it's time they got used for something good. The feather cut outs are left over from Coco's birthday and the purple ones from a Christmas project.
You can also just spot at the bottom some plain round Avery stickers we can colour in and some photo corners.
The Muji rubber stamp kit is a good one as has all numbers, punctuation and the stamp pads.

A holiday scrap book kit by Alexis at

And of course the stabilo cappi pens (best felt tip pens ever) - which pretty much come everywhere with us anyway.

I just need to add in some glue, printing paper and scissors; which I'm currently wondering about. We were planning/hoping to fly with cabin bags only (don't want to tarnish my 'light packing' track record) and obviously scissors are a big NO. Hmmm will have to think about that one.

Hopefully we'll have something good to share from this little lot on the other side!