Wednesday 29 January 2014

Putting the Kids to Work

So it turns out that in this household sometimes the recipe to a harmonious afternoon is actually putting Coco and Henry to work.
We had a load of fire wood delivered. A sack full in fact, that had to be craned off a small truck (much to a small boys delight) and on to the pavement outside our house. After that it could not be budged. When we got home from collecting Coco from school we set to work in a chain gang with trugs to unload the sack and then shoot the logs down the old coal hole and into storage in the cellar.

The sack - this is about half as full as it was to begin with.

Getting down to it... Henry kept almost falling into the logs trying to get a particular specimen out while Coco enthusiastically dragged the trug up the garden path...

...and then emptied it into the coal hole, undoubtedly the favourite task.
Meanwhile I was running up and down to the cellar to clear log pile ups... and of course trying to document the action (be it a bit badly in the fading light of the afternoon).

The workers in the cellar.
I think the fact that Henry insisted on keeping his helmet on - which he normally hates -  and Coco's gloves + hand-on-hip pose add to the worker vibe of this photo.

It was a job well done.... and when we were finished lit a fire and had a well deserved snack.
One afternoon of no moaning and no tantrums.
Planning what I'm going to put them up to next as I type.

Monday 27 January 2014

Our Kitchen - from 2009 to 2014

This post is sponsored by VELUX® and is a good excuse for me to share a little insight into our house renovation. 

Our kitchen, pre-renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

When I started this blog I thought it would be a great place to document our home renovation which had just started but somehow that didn't happen. Most of the things we were doing were not actually very photogenic, as much as I wanted to think about paint colours, beautiful fabrics and furniture we were actually spending a lot of time sorting out the bare bones of the house.
It was a steep learning curve. Our evenings shifted from sitting on the sofa tutting at the people going over budget on grand designs to researching heating systems and studying wiring plans.
We'd veer from feeling really positive about what a great house we were going to have to being completely depressed about the mountain we had to climb to get there.

Replacing all the windows in the house with new double glazed sashes was one of our big budget items and we also wanted to make our spaces as light and bright as possible so we'd be looking at online resources like the VELUX webshop to get prices and inspiration. There are still various projects we need to complete around the house and one thing we've been toying with installing is a VELUX Sun Tunnel - our friend - who was also was our amazing project manager when it came to our major works - has just installed one at his house for an ensuite bath room. It is such a fantastic way of bringing light into an otherwise dark space.

The biggest impact we've had on this house is in what is now our kitchen... and now finally, five years on from when our 'before' photo was taken I think I can show our complete journey.
Here is where we started...

Our kitchen pre renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

Two rooms that were just begging to be one.
You can just spot the fireplace that is now in our sitting room there on the bottom left of this photo.
Note the lovely lino/carpet combination. Not sure what that was about... and quite a lot of ivy trying to grow over the doors and windows.
The room on the left which is now the room that we were converting into our kitchen and family room felt seriously dark. It's hard to imagine as it's not dark now but a combination of mean windows, an overgrown garden and winter light created a dingy space that was pretty depressing.

Our kitchen pre renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

We lived in the house for a few months before we started major works. Coco was nearly two (in fact we had her second birthday 'party' in this room) and we had no central heating... we managed to stay until the beginning of December before we crumbled. We used this room as our kitchen/sitting room at the time as it had a working gas fire. It kind of felt a bit like camping. Probably because we were using a calor gas stove to do all our cooking on.
I know, we were living in chaos.

Our kitchen mid renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

Once we moved out and the work started walls and floors quickly disappeared.
Yep, that's me testing paint colours - ever the 'useful' helper! And really practical clothing... hmmm.
And the view from the other side...

Our kitchen mid renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

From the garden - poor house looked very sad with its window brackets in... but this shows the previous extension that we knocked down....

Our kitchen mid renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

Just like that, it was gone.

Our kitchen mid renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

And the photo on the right shows the huge steels that are now holding the rest of the house up.

Our kitchen mid renovations - by Alexis at Something I made

Before the glass roof and doors had arrived - underfloor heating and bamboo floor being installed.

Hugh fitted the kitchen, we had to move back in before it was all finished (so predictable!) this is us having a curry on our first night back in the house. Election day 2011, we came back to vote. We'd just had a weekend away, camping in Derbyshire, we'd all got colds and then I'd found out I was pregnant. Quite a week.

Our kitchen moving back in - by Alexis at Something I made

The glass roof arrived... it had to be craned over the house. A stressful day for all.

Craning the glass roof over the house - by Alexis at Something I made

That's Hugh down the bottom in the white hard hat...

Our kitchen moving back in - by Alexis at Something I made

...and then we just carried on living in semi-chaos while the floor and walls were finished around us.
Looking at this photo now I can't quite believed we lived like that with a toddler...

We did get things done gradually and by the time Henry arrived nine months later the room looked like this (although of course not normally quite this tidy). 

Our kitchen post renovation 2011 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen post renovation 2011 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen post renovation 2011 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen post renovation 2011 - by Alexis at Something I made

We lived with just the kitchen finished for about a year and then we had another push and got the sitting room done in time for Henry's first Christmas 11 months later.
The photos above were taken in January 2011. You can see we were still missing the fireplace and hearth tiles; which we only just (almost) finished this year when Hugh added the shelves into the empty void... we've also done a few other things -  changed the door into the room, installed a splashback for the hob, painted our blackboard wall, bought our toy cupboard, added our plate wall moved the sofa and put a load of pictures up...
Quite a bit of tweaking... and a lot more clutter!
I tidied up for you and took some photos last week... (and reminded myself just how hard it is to get decent interior photos).

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

Our kitchen January 2014 - by Alexis at Something I made

Sunday 26 January 2014

04/52 A Portrait a Week

This week was sparse on photos again - but I caught two moments from what felt like a very busy week... I'm not quite sure where it went.
Henry -  getting a much needed haircut. He was so good, but very suspicious.
Coco - at school, she had a open classroom session on Friday and she was so excited to show me around. I can't quite believe how independent my little girl is.

Last week I remembered the blog Lamb loves Fox and lost an hour looking through some wonderful photos. I think this week I'm really really going to try not just to get the camera out but to think more about making my photos more dynamic.  The author of Lamb loves Fox is a photographer; there's a lot I could learn from looking at her photos.

Taking one portrait of each of my children each week for 2014
Joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

Wednesday 22 January 2014


2014 so far has had a yellow tint to it.

Henry's yellow birthday cake - by Alexis on

Henry requested a yellow cake, and in fact a yellow present too, for his birthday. So the christmas cake his birthday cake was dutifully iced in a slightly fluro yellow. Unfortunately every last crumb of this cake is now finished. It made using a Nigel Slater Christmas cake recipe from his Kitchen Diary book and we're already planning to make another one waaaay before next Christmas. 

New yellow smythson diary - by Alexis on

A yellow arrangement on the kitchen table. My 2014 diary; which I'm loving, is a beautiful yellow - as is my wallet; although at nearly 10 years old it's looking a bit faded (um, dirty). Am trying to drink more water... I like it warm with lemon in (honest that's not a gin and tonic).
The card is a Mary Fedden birthday card from a while ago; now blue-tac'ed to the wall.

Daffodils on my kitchen table - by Alexis on

And now we have some daffs to cheer us on up on this grey day.  Hugh's brother bought these home yesterday and they are already opening. 50p a bunch, lovely.
I quite like this yellow theme... hoping it continues.

Monday 20 January 2014

03/52 A Portrait a Week

Making pizza on saturday night.
Both these little people love to cook; although Henry has more patience for it than Coco at the moment, but when it comes to making their favourite food she definitely wants to be involved. I think at the moment this photo was taken Henry is probably asking "Is is is is is is is it spicy" about the salami that he has just happily eaten a slice of moments before. He is in a funny little phase where he repeats words over and over while he's thinking.

I should have a lot more photos to choose from for last week but somehow the week past without me getting any decent shots. Henry turned three and we have lots of pictures of us celebrating with pretty much our entire family in the pub, but not a stand out photos of either of the children on their own. Then the week went on to include a lovely trip to Kew gardens where I have lots of photos of Henry running away... and of course as it's still dark so early the opportunities to get photos of Coco are limited. So I'll try to rise to the challenge and do better this week. Or I might just resort to iphone photos. We'll see.

Last week I loved these shots by Lottie at Oyster & Pearl and it's nice to see Lori of Wild and Grizzy joining in with the 52 project this year - both happened to take some nice un-portrait feel shots!  

Taking one portrait of each of my children each week for 2014
Joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

Thursday 16 January 2014

A Cup of Tea with The Godfather

Bathroom window

My parents chose my Godparents well. My Godfather is a little leftfield but he is also a wonderful. He loves stuff, beautiful, well made, lovingly designed things. Furniture, objects and pictures. He spends a lot of time buying this stuff and occasionally sells some.
I guess some people would call that hoarding? If you've been around here before you might remember my post about him from a while ago.

He lives in a big, ramshackle house which is literally packed to the rafters. Some rooms you can't even get into. There is a barn where in order to see what is there you often have to climb up on other pieces of furniture. It's not exactly child friendly.
However last week, before Henry started nursery, we took a day trip to visit my Godfather. Since our last trip to Edinburgh to visit Hugh's family Henry has been requesting that we go on a BIG train, so he was delighted to be going on an adventure and on the way back we got on a proper intercity train; result. (He did, however, expect to be in first class and getting a meal... I think we've spoiled that boy!)

Henry by Alexis from Something I Made blog

My Dad collected me and Henry from the station and drove us to the house where we had a little wander around (as much as we could at least). Many things are familiar to me from over the years, familiar faces in the paintings and rugs on the floor. Some things he is very attached to.

Wonderful things by Alexis from Something I Made blog

We had a cup of tea in the Godfathers bedroom - the only heated room in the house and the location of some of the most beautiful paintings, there are four rather grand ladies in his room and we joked about them having conversations amongst themselves about him when he is out of the room. It was a familiar scene, we used to sit on his bed in his old house too on my childhood visits there. It was a wonderful London town house which I slightly dreaded going to as he still had an outdoor toilet.

Wonderful things by Alexis from Something I Made blog

The whole place is supremely photogenic, but I really don't feel comfortable putting too many photos up here. It's not my house and blogging certainly isn't the Godfathers style. So here is a taster but you'll have to take my word for it; there is a lot of amazing stuff, plus the Godfather is very knowledgeable about it all so you get a kind of potted design-history lesson as you go around.

Outdoor sculpture for overgrown gardens photo by Alexis at Something I made blog

Henry was on top form and was very good considering he couldn't really touch anything, he did manage to stomp in some mud outside and he enjoyed visiting the ducks that the Godfather has in the garden, including one with a broken wing which was born in the garden and he has been looking after for a couple of years, building a protective shelter to protect it from magpies or foxes.

Henry by Alexis from Something I Made blog

Yes, I expect eccentric is a word that could be used to describe the Godfather, but the world needs all sorts of people and there aren't so many like him.

It was a good day trip.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

We Love to Read: One Night Far from Here

One Night Far From Here by Julia Wauters - A book review by Alexis from Something I Made

Another book that couldn't be resisted from the Tate bookshop, One Night Far From Here is published by Flying Eye Books.
Featuring creatures and habitats from far away lands (and seas too in fact) this multi-layered book is beautifully produced and has masses of intricate details.

One Night Far From Here by Julia Wauters - A book review by Alexis from Something I Made

For each habitat it shows us a midnight view, with buzzing insects and nocturnal beasts...

One Night Far From Here by Julia Wauters - A book review by Alexis from Something I Made

Then as dawn approaches we see which other animals are on the move.

One Night Far From Here by Julia Wauters - A book review by Alexis from Something I Made

Until finally as the sun rises we can see all sorts of activity. The text has great detail, all the species are referred to with their correct full names - which can sometimes be a bit of a challenge for me (damn you dyslexia) but so far Henry and Coco haven't pulled me up on it. Only a matter of time.
Considering so many children's books use animals in all sorts of weird and wonderful contexts it's great to have a book with a solid factual foundation and I think we'll be referring back to this in years to come, but for now it's another great picture book for our shelves.

Linking up with Tigerlily Quinn

Other posts in this mini-series...
Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day
Mythological Montsers 
There are Cats in this Book & Where is the Cake

Monday 13 January 2014

The First Two Weeks of the Year (01/52 & 02/52)

It's been a slow and gentle start to the year here. No big resolutions, but a few changes that are forcing a slightly different routine and for me the opportunity to do a lot more.

Henry is now at nursery every morning. So for the first time in what feels like ever I have time. Time I've been longing for; but of course, you have to be careful what you wish for.
My first couple of mornings without Henry I felt such a cocktail of emotions, I had time, PMT, the weather was dire and the house was a mess after two weeks of Christmas chaos plus I had an unrealistic to do list that was (is) so long. Not a great combination.
I couldn't even blog.

But after a few days of clear skies and a great weekend celebrating Henry's third birthday I'm feeling better and back in control. I did some really good tidying too. You know the drawer of dread (I'm sure everyone has one?) the dumping ground for all sorts of essential delights, lost components and things which don't really belong anywhere, well ours was overflowing and I tidied it. A sort of physical manifestation of tiding up my head.
I even showed my new tidy draw to people. I don't think they quite understood the significance. Anyway. I feel better.
And ready to blog.
So here we go, the first four portraits of the new year and the new 52 project.


The beginning of the year - hanging out in dressing gowns and pj's.
We sorted through some of Coco's art, it's photographed and now in the recycling bin (and Hugh cut her fringe)!


Henry - relaxing on a pile of cushions at my God fathers house. We took a little day trip there last week before he started at nursery.
Coco - making Henry sit still and hold Teddy for a photo. Hmmm, a bit like looking in a mirror this one.

Taking one portrait of each of my children each week for 2014
Joining in with Jodie at Practising Simplicity.

Thursday 2 January 2014

A Portrait a Week - 51 & 52


Coco - You may never see her wearing jeans again. I persuaded her to go through her clothes with me in a bit of a pre Christmas sort out. She was in a good mood so agreed to try these jeans on which have been handed down to us. I managed to get a photo and then she was back in a dress again.

Henry - Having a bit of a chocolate break at the playground.


Coco - she has worn this dress solidly since Christmas eve when it was part of an angel costume.

Henry - New battery powered trains for Christmas were a big hit. This was taken on boxing day when Henry pretty much stayed in pj's until the sun was going down again.

It feels like yesterday that I started this project on a bit of a whim, I'm quite amazed that I've actually managed to see it through to the end.
And so it's back to 1/52 again in a few days... no reason not to start again really?