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 went 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!

Monday 21 July 2014

Making a Terrarium with Botanique

Last Monday night I met my friend, drank wine and made a terrarium.
Boom. Take that normally-boring-Monday night!

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

When my friend Ali told me about her friend who had started a business making terrariums I got really excited, doubly so when I went onto her website and saw how tasteful and well um cool (I'm just too old to say sick), she makes them look.
And not only does she make them - she runs Indytute lessons on how to make them too and so it was that we found ourselves in a plant filled library at the Hoxton Hotel.
Side Note: Indytute have quite a few quirky courses that look interesting... and also are doing loads of things at Battersea power station over the summer, including lots of Mum things with the lovely Jenny from Mothers Meeting... scooter painting

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

Alyson from Botanique provided all the bits we needed - although some people bought along their own glass objects - the girl opposite me made a load of test tube terrariums (I might have to stalk her on twitter to find out if they survive).

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

This is Alyson - she was a very gentle teacher and had a couple of good terrarium facts up her sleeve.
First up we had to make our own tools - basically 'things on sticks'  - spoons, sponges (for cleaning your glass) pokers for pushing down soil etc. My vessel was nicely open at the top but next time (yes, there is going to be a next time) I'm going to try doing something more enclosed.

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

The first layer of slate in the bottom of my terrarium... before I had to put the camera down and really start concentrating on what I was doing.

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

Gorgeous, spongy, moss.

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

This is my friend Ali's terrarium, she managed to nab one of the orchids - thats her pushing-down-soil tool

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

We had to choose between either tropical plants or sedums as the soil you put them in is slightly different... of course as soon as I committed to tropicals I was eyeing up the sedums wondering if I'd made the wrong decsision... but I got to add moss and I really like moss.

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

Ta-da! My first terrarium (which up until Monday I was calling teraniums...)

Terrarium making with Botanique by Alexis at

And here it is at home... I've yet to find it's place. So far I've been shifting it around... next to my desk, on the kitchen worktop or here in the spare room hanging out with some random crystals and marble eggs which seem to survive every home-cull I do inexplicatable... maybe they can go in a terrarium!?

For more information on Botanique - Alyson's business visit (you can contact her direct about courses).
Or for more inspired courses check out Indytute - Alyson will be doing another one I think... and I might be there again when she does!

(This post isn't sponsored by the way - all genuine recommendations here!)

Friday 18 July 2014

Six Weeks of Summer

This is it. School's out for us as of today!

A few things I'm hoping for over the next six weeks... my manifesto as it were*

Sea swimming

Scrap book making
Camp fire cooking
Seeing the Matisse exhibition
Farm vegetable picking
Seeing my sister and visiting the Llanffylin Annual Show (like last year)
Olympic park cycling (saw a poster on the tube and quite fancy a visit to the Lee Valley)
Sitting outside under the stars - with friends & wine
Outdoor cinema visits
Daytrips (Frinton-on-Sea is on my hit list...)
Meeting Hugh at work for lunch
Evening picnics
Sleeping under canvas
Running through city fountains (it looked like fun, so I want a go too this time)
Honesty box shopping

I've got a few posts lined up for next week; but then once I'm knee-deep in summer holidays I don't know how much time I'll have to blog... things tend to go a little quiet here during the school holidays - but I'll be back!

*An idea pinched from Lou over at Little Green Shed

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Blog Hop

I was asked by Abigail to take part in a blog hop... as is rather typical of me that I'm in posting this... I'm hoping she forgive me.
So I get to answer the three questions below as Abigail did (she also asked Lia to take part) and I've seen quite a few other peoples blog hop posts so it was very nice to be asked to join in - thanks Abigail... (and very much looking forward to following along on your blog with your new-house-chapter)!

1. What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk/making table in the last week?

I can normally be found at my desk in the mornings when Henry is at nursery and then again late at night... the last week has found me doing lots of holiday research  - spending way too long on airbnb and making wish lists of holiday destinations but we finally have our summer holiday organised (always at the last.possible.minute - thought we'd be sleeping in our hire car for a while).

I'm also pretty much always making books of some kind or another - although never getting very far, currently I'm simulaneously making our book of 2013 as well as this year. I layout my photo books using inDesign but am thinking about starting more of a scrap book approach now we've bought a printer... taking another computer task offline maybe? Last week I also prepped a couple of some activities for the Coco and Henry to do over the summer holidays... (high hopes of them lasting longer than last years efforts).

Our kitchen table is where anything crafty happens - and it's where (often last thing at night) I've been trying to keep up with my animal drawing project.

2. Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (influences, heroes/who, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)?

I get inspired by everything! It's my problem really... I get ideas for stuff to do all the time and never feel like I have the time to action anything. It's a frustrating place to be. I love hearing other peoples ideas too and I'm one of those annoying people who tells you what you should do as well... I can't help it.

I love looking at IG and other peoples blogs - so much inspriation out there - although it's easy to get overwhelmed and come away from a big blog surfing session feeling more drained than inspired; it's a fine line.

London is a huge inspiration - just being out and about, galleries and exhibitions of course but I also love browsing the shops, shop windows and displays are often so creative (Liberty stationery department the other day was looking particularly fine), or hanging out in parks - being quite into my garden at the moment I'm often eying up peoples front gardens as I cycle along... if I'm in the mood then I do just find inspiration everywhere.

3. How important is being creative to you & how do you blend this with your work/life/family balance?

It's very important to me to be being creative... this blog is really my main creative outlet and although it may seem like I'm not here very much and I also don't look after it as well as I should I do love it and feel it's quite essential to me in many ways. Through these early years of motherhood it's been so good for me to have a space I feel accountable to, so I have a reason to photograph to write and record and occasionally create. I get down if I'm not doing things or don't have a project so this blog serves an important purpose for me. It also means that I'm naturally combining my love for my family and my love of documenting our lives… and I'm so glad that I have my instagram account too. So many little moments that I recorded that would otherwise have been forgotten and I've made lots of friends over there too.

In terms of blending being creative with all the other strands of my life I'm not sure I do that very well! Sometimes I think being a 'creative' person can be a bit of a pain as I'm always wanting to be doing or making and although I enjoy doing things with the children often I'd prefer to be being creative in my own space… but obviously that isn't that practical at the moment, so I need to be patient. I will have time again and I don't want to wish away this time now either. What I try to do is to be in the moment with whatever I'm doing.  I"m not always very good at it, but I think it's the only way.

I've also recently started using Evernote as a place to make notes about everything - so far I've found it quite useful as if ideas come to me I can just jot them down in various virtual notebooks… it's helped me to feel more 'on top' of things.
I know trying to juggle all the things I do can sometimes make me mad... but it also makes me happy.

And now it's my turn to pass on this blog hop.
So I would like to tag the following two bloggers:

Heather at Growing Spaces
Heather juggles lots of hats (am I mixing my metaphors too much there)... one of her blogs is growing spaces where she shares some lovely edited posts of interiors and lots of practical things she is doing to her own home too. I'm currently waiting for her to share more posts about her amazing 30 days of camping...

Lucy at London Loafing
Lucy lives on the other side of London to me and I'm slightly envious that her side is better. I feel like we are similar in our love of good food and also of our fine city. Her blog is great place for London tips or a salad recipe or two!

I'm hoping that despite summer holidays looming you'll still have time to join in? You need to answer the same questions above and then pass the blog hop onto another two bloggers... have fun!

Friday 4 July 2014

After School Trip To Kew & Yarn Bombed Trees

Being desperate (seriously DESPERATE) to make the most of every second of summer I took Coco and Henry to Kew gardens after school the other day.

We biked straight from school to the station and took our bikes on the train... which was vaguely interesting... quite a mission to get my bike with child seat, Coco's bike and the two small people on the train and not get in everyones way... but we managed it, ish. The journey home bought me out in a bit of a sweat with rush hour and with station steps to navigate; but with kind strangers and generally cooperative children we managed it.

There's always stuff going on at Kew; you know, things like trees in blankets.
I've never ever felt the urge to crochet... until that was I saw it on a tree.

Wool comes from sheep Henry (yeah, whatever Mummy).

On a hot day when you're not in easy reach of a beach then hanging out around big trees is the next best thing.

Coco in her element, up a tree.
We headed to the 'official' playground soon after this and the children left me alone for a while so I could just sit in the sunshine. Made the effort worth it.
On our way out we got side tracked by Mrs M and her cart of curiosities. She told us a couple of good tales. Worth trying to catch her if you are at Kew (sorry - failed to get photos... but there is a bit of info on the Kew website).

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Finding Wallspace for our New Vintage Flower Paintings

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

There are lots of artists in my family... on all three sides (it's complicated... aren't all families?) but of all of them it's aruguably my Granny's sister, Hilda Waller, who was the most successful; exhibiting in her time at the Royal Acadamy summer exhibition. I grew up feeling so familiar with her paintings - we had ones at home and pretty much all of my relatives had them too.

Recently my mothers cousin, Hilda's daughter, had a bit of a clear out and she had some paintings that she wanted to sell - so Hugh and I decided to give a couple of them homes here.

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

We chose two paintings. This is one of them - dahlias and chrysanthemums which I just LOVE against the green smoke background in our sitting room. We had it in our bedroom for a while but it eventually found it's way back downstairs again and I'm pretty sure this is where it will stay for a while. It's quite nicely complimented by my pots from Anthropologie (which they are still stocking 5 years after I originally got them - they must sell very well; our animal heads are also from Anthro).

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

The clock was also an Anthropolgie purchase - it's designed by Molly Hatch who I'm quite a fan off (we have a vase, a mug and some little trinket dishes by her too - all from Anthro). The wood-cut to the left was my present to Hugh for his thirtieth birthday; and on the right....

Flower painting from Vintage flower painting website photo by Alexis at

... this painting was quite a random online purchase from Vintage Flower Paintings an online shop run by Lisa Brown  - who has quite an eye for mid-century flower paintings. It's quite a small piece and it's been hard to find it a home that isn't just tucked away somewhere... which I don't want; so it's found it's way back to the mantlepiece for the time being... when Hugh is watching cycling on the tv I can just look at my nice paintings instead. What a life eh.

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

Above the sofa we have another of Hilda's paintings - this one was at my parents office, then their house. My parents have a lot of pictures and occasionally do a shift around and somehow during one of their re-hanging sessions this lost it's place and found it's way to our house instead. 

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

Finally this is the second recent Hilda acquisition... which after spending a few months leaning against various walls is now hanging in the bathroom. When we first got it daffodils were in full bloom... I'm not generally a fan of yellow flowers, but daffodils are an exception, their arrival marking the end of winter is always something to celebrate.

Flower painting by Hilda Waller photo by Alexis at

It feels quite funny in some ways having these paintings in my house. They are very much of an era; and a few years ago I would never have imagined wanting to have them in my home (you know; when I was a young-loft-living wannabee). But things change - I love having an eclectic mix of things; each with it's own story and special meaning to me. My taste has evolved a little since we moved to this house... plus with the family connection and the quality of the paintings themselves I'm very happy we have them. They belong here now.


I'm quite tempted to start a bit of a series about art at home... what do you think? Here are some links to a few posts which show some of the other art we have in our house;

The Same but Different - features a different iteration of our sitting room mantlepiece (obviously I got the changing-the-pictures-round gene from my Ma & Pa)

Me, Kenzo & a Blind Love Affair - a very long post about our bedroom blinds but zoom down to the bottom to see my Mrs Eliot Books print...

Nature in the Home & Utility Area Makeover both feature my lovely Bold & Noble print (the same as Lou has in fact).

Frame Cluster Friday - putting up our the picture wall in our kitchen

Sarah Bowman - A post about our lovely big painting in the kitchen

Christmas round ours & A small instant collection are the only posts that show another of my favourite paintings which is by Vanessa Bowman (Sarah's sister...)

Decorating the fun bit - my beautiful birds print

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Cooking Mushroom Ragout

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream

Last week I was contacted by Lactofree to see if I'd like to try out a recipe that chef Tom Aikens had designed for them using some of their Lactofree ingredients...
I'm getting to the point with PR requests where I pretty much always try to politely say 'thank you but no thanks'. It's hard at the moment to find time to update my blog and I've got loads of posts in draft form or waiting in my head to be written without feeling the pressure to write about a freebie that I've been sent... and this blog is my hobby; I don't want to turn it into another chore (got plenty of those)!
However... Rachel at Lactofree came back and said it was a no-strings-attached gift so I gave in and accepted.

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

The next day I got a very nicely packaged up bag with all the ingredients to make a mushroom ragout. It was quite a blessing really... I resist supermarket shopping - and our fridge was looking quite bare towards the end of the week, so Henry and I got down to it and cooked up the recipe pretty much straight away.

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

It was so simple and easy to make - mushrooms are Henry's favourite thing to cut... (he'll be cooking this on his own soon)!

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

Ooops - think you've got the knife the wrong way up Henry!

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

If you fancy making yourself a lovely supper or brunch - here is the recipe.

Mushroom Ragout - for 2

2 large portobello mushrooms cut into eighths
150ml cream (Lactofree in our case - which was very delicious)
100ml Madeira sweet wine
50g / 1 shallot finely diced
40g butter (Lacrofree spreadable)
50ml vegtable iol
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp thyme leave
1tbsp chopped chervil
salt & pepper
2 slices of soughdour toast

1. Put a frying pan on medium head, add the oil and when it's hot add the butter/spreadable.
2. Add the mushrooms, season and then cook for 5-8 minutes without stirring so they slowly caramelize.
3. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the Madeira wine and reduce by two thirds.
5. Add the cream and then reduce by half.
6. Add the chervil.
7. To assemble place the toasted sourdough onto a plate and put the mushrooms on top.

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

Here was my portion... I wish you could smell it rather than look at my slightly dodgy photo - it really was sumptuous. I'm not sure if that is the right word, but sounds like it should be.

Mushroom Ragout on toast ingredients with lactofree butter and cream by Alexis at something i made

Henry and Coco had theirs with rice, brocolli and a few beans from the garden... this is Henry dipping his beans into the creamy sauce.
All in all I was very impressed - it was a great veggie meal and I'm pretty sure it's going to become a new staple in this house - a good midweek dinner for everyone.
So thank you Lactofree - I'm very glad I accepted your gift!