Wednesday 28 December 2011

Christmas Round Ours...

Our Christmas has finished, we waved off the last of our guests last night. Shutting the front door our house suddenly felt very empty. Then we collapsed in front of the fire with some wine and Christmas cake.

Our enforced deadline worked and we got there in the end with our sitting room.

This was Christmas eve morning (three coats of floor varnish, just dry).

But by the time Santa had delivered the presents we'd got furniture in and a tree up (thanks to lots of help from Hugh's brother and sister-in-law). Even if we were putting curtains up at 1am on Christmas morning.

It's been hectic, beef wellington, turkey, ham (a yummy Jamie ham recipe), we didn't even get around to Christmas pudding, mainly thanks to Hugh's brother cooking a fab alternative lemon and passion fruit roulade pudding from Nigel Slater, and mountains of cheese and mince pies.

Coco trying out a new Christmas present while wearing her (pretty hideous) Cinderella dress... I put aside my taste for a while for her present, and she loved it, insisting on wearing it everyday. My mum got her some pink glitter shoes which have been equally popular.

There's a lot of my sister's Christmas cake left...

Snowflake decorations... very similar to Anabelle's.

We've got to an age where we receive lots of edible gifts...

A basket of opened presents waiting to be put away... including Hugh's new Rhino head to add to the collection (a present to him that really I wanted, cheeky, I know).

I didn't take nearly enough photos, (didn't get any of my hand-made crackers, or presents being opened). Hosting Christmas is hard work. Respect to all the old hands out there. It was wonderful to be able to do it though and to have our house full of family for four days.

Hope you all had a great time.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Christmas Cards, Done.

Actually managed to get our cards printed, written, addressed and sent. Woo-hoo, only just after the last posting day.

I'm feeling buoyed up by the lovely comments from last nights post; and by the fact that Hugh is in the sitting room varnishing the floor as I type.

Seems the days of endless parties in the lead up to Christmas are long gone... I'd better get the worker that cup of tea I promised him.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

[Not] A Pretty Picture

Four days to Christmas and our sitting room still looks like this, can you sense my rising panic...

On the bright side it is painted.

If we ever get around to getting a tree it will be camouflaged against these walls... Farrow & Ball Green Smoke for our grown up room.

I can't quite believe we haven't had a sitting room since June 2009 when we moved out of our old flat, if we're in here on Christmas day then it will be fantastic.

I don't want to clutter my blog with messy photos (some part of my life needs to keep it's rosy glow) but be assured there are a few more places in our house like this.

Of course the last thing I should be doing right now is blogging...

Wednesday 14 December 2011

At the last minute...

Last years Christmas card, when Henry was just a bump!

I'm one of those people who is always last minute. I do normally pull the rabbit out of the hat, but my eureka moments always seem to come just a little bit late.*

It's obviously not last minute enough yet for me to make my Christmas cards as I'm sitting at my computer struggling with the design.
The 8 tabs I have open on this browser in the name of research/inspiration aren't helping much.** Neither are the distractingly long lists on my desk, lists that seem to have taken on a life of their own and are growing at a rapid pace.

11.14pm, do I carry on, or rely on tomorrow?

* Only today my Mum suggested that the thing I want to make for Coco for Christmas probably should have been started in August.

** Have you seen Hello, Little Printer!? I can sincerely write the three letters OMG. I would be very happy to get that in my stocking, only it doesn't come out till next year.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

A gift for Mila & A gift for George

Earlier this year my friends had a beautiful baby girl... I made her some letters as a welcome gift.

I saw Mila the other day and I commented on how much like her older brother George she looked while she was sleeping. The really sad thing is, she will never meet her older brother.

Very tragically George died after a rare and very sudden illness at just 14 months old. He was such a lovely little boy with a great personality; him and Coco used to play together, the last time we saw him they were both toddling and were chasing each other around my parents house.

Lucky for Mila she has two very strong and positive parents. Mark and Emily set up a charitable foundation in George's name and they really channel the love they had for George into the foundation which supports some brilliant projects.

For parents, I know hearing this makes them hug their children a little tighter... no one knows what is around the corner and having one of my worst fears come true for a friend has been horrible. It's made me realise how hard it can be to be a good friend. Supporting The George Oliver Foundation is one way I can help my friends, and to keep the memory of a gorgeous little boy alive.
If you'd like to give to the foundation they have a website and they are also having a Christmas Ebay Auction of gifts they've had donated to them (xmas shopping and charitable donation in one go)!

Our heart strings are pulled a lot around the Christmas period, but it is a bitter sweet time for many and just purely depressing for some... which also makes it a good time to share some love around.

Monday 12 December 2011

Half Way to Christmas...

12 open windows on our advent calendar, 12 baubles on the 'tree'

This is the advent calendar that I failed to make this year.
But lucky for me, I love buying advent calendars.

This one seemed to be a one off in the shop and it wasn't until I took it out of the cellophane on the 30th November that I realised that each window is actually a detachable bauble, so you can put a string through the punched hole and hang it up...

So I needed something to hang the baubles on. I got a few strange looks loading up the buggy with twigs on the way back from dropping Coco at school (and my neighbour who I was with did her best to act as if this was totally normal behaviour).

Big of bling spray paint and... ta da!
Needless to say this didn't all really get pulled together until about the 5th December.

I like the idea of keeping the baubles for next year
I'll never be organised enough to have a tree up on the 1st December, so maybe this will be the next best thing? Maybe a family advent tradition has been born?
We'll see.

There is nothing else Christmassy in the house yet... we just have builders dust instead! No presents bought, let along wrapped. It's going to be a hectic couple of weeks. Did I mention that we are hosting for my family this year!?

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Two Room Living

While we keep out of the way of the builders all four of us are sleeping in one room, along with piles of random stuff that we moved out of the way in a hurry (nothing is ever done in advance in this house).

The last couple of days I've been feeling a bit like a prisoner in my own home, hiding out in the kitchen with a soundtrack of power tools filling the rest of the house.
Every time I open the kitchen door there is a flurry of dust. Henry keeps making escape attempts. He's getting pretty quick too. I missed him once and he got covered in wood shavings in a millisecond.

But things are happening, and I'm keeping the faith. People keep asking me where we are going to put our tree, 'why the sitting room of course' (currently filled with tools, materials and very much undecorated, and more vitally unheated).

We may be putting the tree up at 11pm on Christmas eve, but there's nothing like a deadline to keep up momentum.

Thursday 1 December 2011

Further tales of a four year olds party...

The party bags, I think it's my love of multiples that makes me want to do things like this. There is something so satisfying seeing lots of things laid out the same.
Hugh got the bags from Paul Gardner (as featured on Spitalfields Life). He had to buy 100 but I'm sure I'll find uses for the others, and at £2.20 for the batch you can't complain really!?
[If you need some orange stripe paper bags feel free to contact me!]

I really have no desire to perpetuate the children's party mania, but I do enjoy putting together these party bags. In addition to the poppy growing card I also put in these bracelet making cards. The beads were recycled from their previous life as the contents of baby-shakers.*

I did an order on Handy Candy for some retro candy whistle sweets, remember them? Coco of course is insisting on pretending her whistle is a lipstick (rather scarily).

The obligatory plastic content was fulfilled with plastic rings and creepy-crawlies. Next year I will rebel and it will be plastic free. I have such high aims in my life.

Am thinking about doing a little party bag service on my etsy shop... what do you think? Would people pay to have these made and put together for them?

I was too busy joining in with a party games on the day to take many photos, but here are a few instagrams from the actual day...

The bit she most looked forward to; candles on a cake. Being the birthday girl is a serious business!

My Mum organised the cake (thanks Mum) from her village bakery where it was lovingly made by one of my primary school contemporaries - thanks Kirsty!
And the enormous collection of pink cards... there is a pink conspiracy, but I'm assured she will grow out of it. Plus, we got to re-use her birthday banner at home again.

Now, of course, there is a lot of talk about "When I'm five..."!

* I put these beads in small glass ex-herb pots to make shakers. Fine for Coco at 5 months, but Henry at 10 months would be smashing the glass - he's a little thug!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Cupboard Love

In my quest for a clutter free (or at least clutter-tidy) home I'm always on the lookout for good storage...

So I was very happy to bring this cupboard home from Kempton market back in the Summer. I got to finally unpack boxes of china that had lain untouched for two years.

It also, usefully, has a hidden section, perfect for toys... and when the doors are closed the less attractive kid-related muddle is out of sight.

But the top two shelves are mine to play with...

Our Astier de Villatte and my jumble of tea-cups (as I mentioned back here, I have a little problem with teacups and mugs).

Of course the reality a couple of months later is that as much as I still love the cupboard, it is now overflowing with all sorts of random stuff (seen here) and the toys which are meant to be contained in the bottom section just spill out into the kitchen...
I just can't fight the clutter.

At least when I really need some peace and quiet I can shut the doors on these two as well.

Friday 25 November 2011

Which White?

Isn't this crazy. A ridiculous modern malaise.

Making a decision between four whites.
It just makes me realise how ***** lucky I am.
Two beautiful, healthy children, a roof over my head (and a lovely roof at that). Fantastic family and friends... lets face it this list could go on and on (I just deleted a long ramble which ended in 'free health care').
I just wanted to introduce some perspective (to myself, really) I've been getting stressed about the house renovation stuff, Coco's birthday and a million other things that really don't matter.

Hope you all have a happy Monday!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Look what's cooking

At this moment I'm waiting for this baby to finish cooking.

This is cabbage soup; doesn't sound very appealing I know (when we told my parents this is what we were feeding them when they stayed last year they nearly got in the car and went home again)!
But, trust me, this is a very hearty, warming and surprisingly meaty tasting bread & cabbage soup. In this case made with Cavelo Nero straight from the garden. Jamie would be proud.

It smells good. It's 9.15pm and after a very long day, which started soon after 5am I'm hungry.

PS Hugh is always encouraging me to do 'mini posts' as I get stressed when I haven't updated my blog (I'm still striving for the five-posts-a-week goal), and I was moaning about dinner not being ready... so this seemed like quite a good exercise in time filling blogging... although now the soup is ready it looks even more of picture than it did 10 minutes ago!

Sunday 20 November 2011

Today I Will Be...

... continuing to make party bags...

in my attempt to be a bit more eco (and cheap!) the four year olds are getting a poppy seed pod...

I wonder if they will be appreciated?

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Mug for a Mug

I really love mugs.

This is a new addition to my mug family.

I got it for my birthday after saying something like "There's a mug that's right up my street at Anthropologie" to Hugh. He dutifully went off and correctly identified it, which wasn't that hard, as I love a teacup just as much as a mug - not to do his achievement down too much!
He said he did hesitate before buying it as it was a little on the large side, which I concur... but now I'm just splitting hairs really.

It's designed by Molly Hatch and there are three other lovely mugs in the range (plus some vases I think from a bit of online research...) oh dear, can I resist buying more mugs, when clearly, unless I'm going to open a tea shop, I really don't NEED them?

Sunday 13 November 2011

Sunny Sunday At Columbia Road...

There are occasional advantages of having children waking you at the crack of dawn on a Sunday. Sometimes you just go with the flow, haul yourself out of bed, open the blinds, see its a gorgeous day and get out and enjoy it... which is exactly what we did today.

We headed across town for a little East London fix at Columbia Road flower market.

We were early enough to get coffee and bacon butties without having to queue.

This little dog had it's eye on Coco's pain-au-chocolat!

I snuck away while the others watched some buskers and did some window shopping... I might have popped into Ryantown... but mainly I was on the hunt for things in preparation for Coco's birthday next week.

We did part with some cash, in exchange for some bulbs and a couple of climbers for the garden... (Alliums, snow drops, bluebells and snakes head fritillarys).

The strange thing was that once we'd got back home, had lunch (and obviously faffed around a bit - my loved one is very good at faffing) we ended up planting the climbers in the dark and the bulbs are still sitting on the kitchen table. Not loving the short winter days. Gardening in the dark has a few advantages*, but having tried it, I'm not sure I'd whole-heartedly recommend it.
But we'll try to learn from the positive messages seen today...

*The main advantage to gardening in the dark is that you can't see the slugs, but then that could be seen as a disadvantage.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

The Other Side of Apple Mountain

Last night we used up the last of the mountain of apples that my sister bought us from her apples trees in Wales. This apple cake recipe is pulled out every year. Photocopied a long time ago from an Islington Cookbook which my Auntie contributed to. In fact this is the second apple cake we've made in the last couple of weeks.

Our kitchen however is hiding a dark secret, well not that dark, but anyway... despite its smart exterior we are down to student-type levels of equipment. I had to resort to using one of Henry's baby bottle to measure out ingredients. One measuring jug was lost on a camping trip in the summer and the other broken. We are also without our trusty electric whizzer which sadly died, leaving us with no means to make a smooth soup. And I broke the cafeteria the other day. I feel a Christmas list coming on...

So, if you have the means and the inclination here is the recipe for Katrina's Apple Cake, it's yummy:

2 eggs
225g sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
100ml oil
3 tablespoons water or juice
350g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
6-8 apples thinly sliced and mixed with 125g brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in oil. Add liquid alternately with dry ingredients and beat until just smooth. Spoon half of the batter into lightly greased 23cm pan. Spread evenly. Add apples. Cover with the remaining batter. Bake at 350F/180c/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes until nicely browned.

Recipe says "Equally delicious with cherries or plums of blackberries." Which I expect it is.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

The Nearly Four Year Old's Party Invitations

In a couple of weeks I'll be the proud mother of a four year old... no longer a babe in arms, or a cute toddler, too big for a push chair but riding bike instead. We've weathered the terrible twos and are just about surviving the 'why' phase.

On Bonfire Night when we were trying to get her to hold a sparkler she asked, very earnestly, 'What are we doing this for?
The irony of warning your children about fire and hobs and then making them hold a sparkler.

Anyway, these are her party invitations. The event she's been play-acting and looking forward to pretty much since her last party 11 months and two weeks ago.

They had to involve pink. Of course. And flowers... so there you go.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Interiors Interlude

We've had a lot of angst/decision making and tooing-froing round these parts recently.

We thought, for a moment, that it might be worth us letting our house, living somewhere smaller and more... um, low maintenance but to do that we need to finish all the unfinished bits. DIY just isn't happening with two little people around. We are going round in circles somewhat.
But we ARE, dare I commit this to the virtual page, going to try to finish* our house by Christmas. There, said it.
By hook or by crook** it must be done. Then the new year can be DIY free.

So today, I'm allowing myself a little fantasy moment about our house... while it's still a bit of a blank canvas with so much possibility. My 'I want' list (in perfect spoilt brat style)!

An Alcove Bed

Remodelista (via pinterest) & Apartment Therapy

This really is a bit of a fantasy... Hugh comes up with all the practical issues of the bed ending up a bit cold. Boo. I just think it would be so cute... My friend recently told me how she spent a long time trying to convince her Mum to make a cosy bed for her on a high shelve in a wardrobe. I think her Mum's answer was no.
I read this account of an alcove bed on apartment therapy ages ago, it's just one of those little stories that's stuck with me.

A Splash of Yellow

From pinterest with no source... sorry!

Our colour palette is leaning very much towards muted greens, so I'm not quite sure where the splash of yellow will fit in... I like this hallway bench too.
I've just started reading the blog Little Green Shed, and Lou had some great yellow inspiration over there the other day.

Industrial Heavy Metal - AKA Beautiful Storage

Tine K via Bodie and Fou blog & a no source pinterest image (agh!)

I know it's all very 'trendy' but I am partial to a bit of industrial furniture - or ideally a lovely old haberdashery shop fitting - lots and lots of drawers to keep all my 'stuff' in. I've looked at so many. The Voice of Doom (Hugh) is often on hand to point out all the down sides of pieces of knackered furniture that have impractical drawers and rickety frames.

Beach Hut Style

Artemis' shed from Junkaholique & Grand beach hut style via 1st option

I have slightly vague but happy memories of days spent at my grandparents beach hut. Knitted tops over slightly damp swim suits, wet hair, sand between my toes on a wooden floor, hot cups of tea and building HUGE sandcastles with enornous garden spades. They had to give it up in the end as it got damaged every winter, and they were getting too old to deal with it. I hope someone else is enjoying it now.
I'd love to create a beach hut feel somewhere in the house... we have some wood paneling in our bathroom, but I think a bit of fifties, utilitarian is needed somewhere... I feel a butler sink coming on.

Painted (cheap) Shelving

This ikea photo has been all over the web... but I love the idea. Especially if it was 'flexible'. I am still planning on painting the insides of the wine boxes that are mounted on Coco's bedroom wall.

A Plate Wall

Place to bloom, via pinterest & Lottie Loves

I had lots of plates on the wall in our old house, I really want to get them and the new additions up on the wall in our kitchen. The problem with beautiful fresh plaster though is that you really have to psych yourself up to 'damaging' it (in my experience anyway).


Svenskt Tenn Wallpaper

I'm a bit fan of pattern. I can't wait to get this wallpaper up (I bought this when I was feeling a bit overexcited over a year ago). I'm also hoping that we can wallpaper inside a cupboard somewhere. There's just something very appealing about hidden pattern.

Clusters of lights

images; from etsy seller BootsNGus & Bodie and Fou

One light hanging all on it's own sometimes just looks a bit lonely.

So many more ideas... compiling this post has taken ages - multiple tabs of beautiful inspiring interiors... might have to do #2 another day.

*of course, the definition of 'finished' has yet to be determined
**Just had to google the origins of by 'hook or by crook'... quite an interesting diversion.