Monday, 29 April 2013

A little project

A few weeks ago we went to Accrington and I posted about this shop. We also went in a few junk shops and I picked up this little sewing box for £5...

It was in a bit of a state and not even particularly good quality; I think the legs are the only parts made of solid wood and the rest is veneer. But I liked its shape and thought it might make a nice little project.

I don't actually need a sewing box. This is the right size for keeping knitting in though...

It's taken a while due to the intermittent nature of sanding, priming, painting and reupholstering. A lot has been weather (and baby) dependent. But it's finished and I'm quite pleased with the result.

I padded the lid and covered it with a retro floral fabric (the veneer was a bit too damaged to sand back and re-paint).

I also re-lined the inside by wrapping card in fabric (the bottom of some too-long curtains) and fixing the covered panels into place with a hot glue gun and stapler. 

It isn't a knitting box either. It now houses my little laptop, some notebooks and a pen. It's my blogging box and it lives next to my nesting spot. There's nothing quite like finishing a project and crossing it off the list, is there?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Nature in the Home

This week's Nature in the Home post had me a bit stuck. The intention was to go out walking with a pair of secateurs in my pocket and find something for the vase I bought yesterday at a flea market.

But it's cold, windy and overcast and I'm ashamed to say I decided to dart out into the garden and grab whatever was available (not much) then retreat back indoors. I don't know what it's like in your part of the world but here it's still pretty chilly. In fact the first primrose has only just made an appearance.

So, from the meagre pickings, here it is: weeds. Cute ones. But weeds nonetheless. They're suited to a humble little jam jar and I actually quite like them so they're now sitting on my bedside table.

Friday, 26 April 2013


A trial run - I'm going to a First birthday party in a few weeks and have offered to bake (for the adult guests). Red velvet cupcakes. Recipe from here.

A (delicious) success. Happy Friday!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A Room of One's Own...

...or at least a desk. Putting our house up for sale has brought up the inevitable question of what we'll be looking for in the next place. And although we plan to rent initially, there are some things which are non-negotiable. 

At the moment I have no work space. I use the kitchen table sometimes but it's only a small, cafe-type affair so you can't get much on it. And then there's the whole putting things away afterwards thing. At the moment the printer lives in a kitchen cupboard (underneath cake tins and a popcorn maker).

My sewing and knitting paraphernalia are housed in the living room and the bedroom. It's all a bit scattered - not literally, of course, me being the neat-freak that I am. But it would be nice to have a dedicated space where I can blog, photo-edit, sew, make things...

I'm currently carting my laptop, a notebook and pen and a few other necessities around in the felt bag pictured above. I love the bag but I do feel a bit strange, constantly packing and unpacking, and working from either my lap or the bed.

Before Joe came along we did have a office. It started off looking like this:

And ended up like this:

These days my desk lives up in the loft and much of my photography, drawing and painting stuff is housed in the sideboard downstairs. So it would be really nice to have somewhere to be creative when we move. Maybe just a little nook somewhere. Virginia Woolf was definitely on to something (not that I actually finished the book - I spent much of my first year as a student living it up when I should have been reading. Maybe I'll give it another try one day).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Creative outlet

I wrote here about how much I love pottery. And last night I got the chance to try making some.

I started an Introduction to Pottery course at the local high school and - despite feeling a slight panic as the tutor handed out instructions for our first project - relished every minute.

It was really good to be in an environment devoted to creativity. The school was rebuilt a few years ago and the art studios are beyond impressive: well-equipped, airy and with huge windows looking out across the fields to Lancashire (hooray!).

I enjoy working to some kind of brief. Although we were encouraged to interpret it however we liked, sometimes there's nothing that paralyses you more than a blank piece of paper. So we discussed William Morris, looked at his work and made clay tiles using the designs as inspiration.

It was intricate, challenging and completely absorbing. Next week we get to paint and fire the tiles.

Our next project is coiled pots and the designs have to tell a story - we've been encouraged to look at Grayson Perry's work to get the right idea.

This week I'll be making sketches and thinking about what I'd like to make. It's exciting. I think I may end up doing another course after this one. And despite wishing I'd taken a more creative route at sixteen, and envying those students their fantastic school (knitting clubs at lunch time!) I realised that learning is fun if you're studying something that is 'you'.

PS The images are of little ceramic decorations my mum bought me last time we went to Krakow. They're not my own work... but I promise to share when I have something to show you.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Simple essentials #7: a nicely stocked drinks cupboard

I say 'cupboard' because we don't have a cabinet. Actually, we have a shelf inside a cupboard. And I say 'nicely stocked' because well-stocked means you end up with strange things like advocaat and so on that nobody either likes or remembers how it got there in the first place.

The sun came out on Saturday and I felt the urge for a G and T. We had neither. So I went and bought some, along with a lime. There were several temptingly expensive-looking bottles but I just went for the tried and trusted variety. Fortunately we already had ice cubes in the freezer.

I drank my G and T through a straw and it almost felt like summer.

Some occasions call for certain types of drinks. I'm not much of a drinker but now and then I want something - a bottle of Corona or San Miguel on a hot day, or mulled wine on a cold winter's evening. Celebrations (or just feeling a bit frivolous) mean prosecco or cava - I'm not one of those who insists on champagne. Although it is nice, obviously. Outdoor parties and barbecues need Pimms. With fruit and cucumber and mint.

People occasionally give us wine, which we accept out of politeness (neither of us being wine drinkers). If we don't pass it on we'll maybe cook with it. Ditto cider. I did pork steaks with cider and mustard on Sunday evening and very nice it was too, served with creamy mash and spring greens.

Some things sit in the cupboard forever - whisky, marsala, an unopened bottle of sloe gin, some poisonous-looking absinthe. There are so many bottles of Baileys too from Christmases past. And a huge bottle of Martini which may well stay there for eternity.

But as long as we have the few things we like it's fine. I won't be letting us run dry of gin again in a hurry.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Hello! I've just introduced myself to the world of HTML and am feeling rather weary and brain-fried. Thanks to Jay who helped me this afternoon (and encouraged me to try freshening up the blog myself). There are still a few things I want to do but I'm happy with the new simplified look and colour scheme - yellow and grey are a favourite combination of mine, hence the pics.

Oh, and the little fawn from my original header image lives on in the form of my profile picture.

Hope you like it!

Sarah :)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Nature in the home

This week, for Nature in the Home, I'm going nautical. We have jars of shells in the house (I always bring a few back from the beach after a holiday). And on Thursday I bought Joe two secondhand books: an old Observer guide to the seaside and a Ladybird one on the same subject.

I've also been making him a mobile for his room. It has sea creatures and shells suspended from a dried starfish (one of three I brought home from Nantucket back in 2005). 

I mentioned wanting Joe to know about and appreciate nature in this post. No doubt he'll be fascinated by the shells when he's a bit bigger. In the meantime they look nice in the house - as do the starfish. And I can't wait for the summer for a trip to the coast (and an opportunity to add a few more finds to the jar).

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I've been eating stewed rhubarb (home grown) and Greek yogurt. From a pink glass dish, as mentioned  here.

And I still haven't mastered the basics of crochet so have been knitting wristwarmers instead. It's been a chilly spring. Plus, I like using my collection of old needles (bought as a job lot from a charity shop).

We've just put together an order for a gift shop in Cumbria. We do greetings cards using our photographs. It doesn't make us any money really but then we only supply a few places.

Nice to know our photos are in circulation though. The one of the green boat was actually taken in Cumbria last time we went to the Lakes.

I'm also into photographing flowers, farm animals and buildings (especially corrugated steel ones) and most outdoorsy things.

I'm aware I mentioned recently that I have a few projects on the go. They're still on the go. I'm spinning plates at the moment. Metaphorically at least. Life's busy. But in a good way.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Bringing the outdoors in

You may have noticed that I've added the link button for Nature in the Home. It's something which I've always done, being an essentially outdoorsy person. The best walks always entail bringing something home with me.

My grandmother on my dad's side always used to have a vase of fresh flowers in the house. It was her one treat, not being a smoker or drinker or someone who was particularly extravagant. I always remember her having the tiniest kitchen (and it housing a mangle), and there always being a bottle of pale pink Oil of Ulay on her dressing table.

I'm partial to flowers too. I don't always go for fresh either; dried are just as appealing to me. Not the dusty variety you see in arrangements, all crispy and faded, but those which are interesting to look at. Poppy seed heads, hydrangea, eryngium.

The hydrangeas in the picture were on my little table at Bond Street. I actually pinched them from the empty house next door. The front garden had a bush full of deep pinky-red blooms. My garden had pale blue ones. I wished I could swap them around. Instead I just leaned across the wall one day and casually snipped some stems off.

At the moment we have the pussy willow (still going) I bought a few months ago at a farm shop, and some dried allium heads from two summers ago. I love their structural look and the way they tie in with the mid-century furniture in the living room. Maybe this year I'll grow things with a mind to how they'll look dried. There are some echinacea planted already (signs of life still to appear). Nigella could work too.

Any other suggestions would be very helpful!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Simple essentials #6: a nest

This one costs approximately nothing. Unless you furnish it, of course.

We all have our favourite spot to sit and relax, maybe read, watch TV or just curl up when we're feeling under the weather. Mine is the end of the sofa closest to the kitchen (and yes, now I think about it, the fridge). It's like having 'your' side of the bed - your little nesting site is just that. Yours. Not that I'm territorial. Other people are allowed to sit there. This isn't a school staffroom or anything.

It's where I lie in winter under a woollen blanket, nursing a hot drink. In summer I collapse there, grateful that the sun shines on the back of the house for most of the day so the living room's always cool and a bit shady.

Of course, the nest of my dreams would be somewhere entirely different: maybe a porch swing complete with cushions, a book, the sound of crickets and a mint julep close to hand. Or a fireside nook with views over a lake and a ticking clock for company. But for now I'm happy with what I've got.

I mentioned furnishing (feathering?) your nest. For me, there are a few nest necessities. Sheepskins. Cushions. Good - but not too harsh - lighting for reading. A cosy throw or blanket. And a little table for drinks, reading material, knitting... and the TV remote if you manage to commandeer it.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Camera shy

It's a long time since I was this happy to smile for the camera. I think I was two or three in that (a bit grubby and marked) picture - i.e. too young to feel self conscious.

I hate having my picture taken. I'm just not photogenic. I cringe when someone says, 'I'll put those photos you were in at the wedding on Facebook'. No no no.

I'd prefer it when people take candid shots - when I'm unaware there's a camera in the vicinity. Either that or if someone takes me by surprise and photographs me before I get the chance to feel awkward.

Anyway, I read a post on A Cup of Jo a while ago and it got me thinking. Basically, it was about biting the bullet and not avoiding the camera. It was about new mothers who feel they look too fat/tired/unglamorous to be captured on film, and about a project encouraging women to lose their inhibitions and just get their pictures taken. It struck a chord. 

I don't want Joe to grow up not knowing what his mum looked like when he was a baby. So now I brave it and agree to pose for photos, some with him and some on my own. I'm not saying I enjoy it one little bit. But I think it's important to be brave and just go with it.

There are parts of my life where there are no photos at all to look back through and I regret that.

These days the beauty of digital is the option to take tons of pictures and edit the bad ones out. And keep the odd few images you don't feel are all that bad. Even those where you look like you have wonky eyes (must be the glasses).

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A few thoughts on food

I'm not one of those people who only has to look at a cream cake to put on weight. I only have to think about looking at one. And I love food. Love it.

There are certain things I just don't have in the house: biscuits, crisps, salted nuts, cheese... I usually save those for Christmas or parties. But I do believe in having good food in the cupboards and fridge. Things like oils, hummus, olives, spices, seasonal fruit and vegetables, nice ingredients (harissa paste, Maldon sea salt, capers, Parmesan).

I'm not a fan of 'low fat' either. Margarine doesn't ever appear on the shopping lists. Skimmed milk leaves me feeling hungry shortly after breakfast (and you need energy with a baby - all that lifting and carrying and running up and down the stairs). But occasionally I find something good and low in fat, like this yogurt.

We tend not to eat all organic (mainly due to cost) but I do buy organic milk. And free range eggs (obviously). And I have a thing about not buying apples unless they're from the UK. 

I'm not a paragon of virtue. If I could get away with it, I'd eat the following several times a week:

Warm donuts in a paper bag with sugar in the bottom - like those you get at the fairground
French fries from a well-known fast food chain
Chocolate milkshake from the same 
Danish pastries (almond/cinnamon - either would do nicely)
Croissants (buttered)
Egg custards
Cornish pasties
Creme brulee.

I'll leave it there. That was just off the top of my head. I could go on. And on...

What about chocolate? Well I just buy a large bar of 70% cocoa (usually Lindt because I like it's thinness and the lovely snapping noise it makes) and ration myself to a square a day. Exciting, eh?

I can't drink tea without sugar. So I tend to have just one or two cups a day.

I do have a nasty little habit I can't kick. For all my food awareness, distrust of multinationals and all the rest of it... I can't manage to take a daily multivitamin but I ensure I get one of these down me every single day:

Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Kitchen pink

I've mentioned before that pink isn't really my thing, but over the weekend a promising bit of sunshine made me want to bring some colour into the kitchen.

One of the good things about having a 'neutral' colour scheme throughout the house is that you can swap things around and make changes without having to decorate. As we're trying to sell at the moment we can't be too imaginative with the decor but that's no bad thing.

So I pulled out some colourful cookery books (I'm also currently into turquoise).

I picked up a little memo board for 60p and gave it a quick coat of white paint. I'm looking for some more bright things to pin to it...

These little dishes were part of the hoard I mentioned in this post...

And I do actually use these chopsticks. I bought them from Liverpool a few years ago (although one was residing in the shed - it had been utilised as a dibber for planting out seedlings last year).

Even the geranium's joining in and has put out a pink bud or two.

For someone who isn't a big fan of pink there seems to be quite a bit of it in the house. I'm now scouting around for a few more turquoise and maybe yellow things to brighten the place up ready for summer. There will be a summer.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Flowers in the house

I didn't think I'd ever say this but... I'm starting to suffer from daffodil fatigue. This spring has been so late in coming that not much has dared show its petals yet. The seedlings in the kitchen are taking over but I daren't plant them out for another week or two. My mum's garden looked a bit empty at the weekend - a few little purply things here and there, lots of miniature daffs and bare branches. Although the mock currant is on its way (and I love mock currant, it always seems a bit 1950s somehow).

Each year I get excited when daffodils appear and I can buy a bunch still in bud and lime green, and put them in my special vase I always use for them. But I'm not buying any more this year. At the weekend I went for tulips instead and they're nice and bright: coral pink with a hint of parrot about them.

The pussy willow's still going strong (bought two months ago). That's what I call value for money. And I'm not getting tired of it either.

Even though I've had it with daffodils I'd gladly grow pots of paperwhites all year round. That goes without saying.

Sunday, 7 April 2013


It's been a busy weekend. Today we've been doing things around the house - including a few mini projects which I'll let you in on later this week.

Yesterday we went to Accrington, home of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit (I read it as a student - it was one of the set texts for my English degree). Jeanette Winterson is one of my National Treasures. I love hearing her on the radio and I love her writing.

Anyway, I used to frequent Accrington first as a child on shopping trips with my mum or grandma, then later as a schoolgirl with my friends. We'd go on the bus and wander around the shops or go to the cinema (now redeveloped as so many of the old Odeons have been).

Like many towns, it's seen better days. Lots of empty shopfronts. Lots. There's something sad about seeing a place like that when you remember it as it once was - thriving, with long-established shops: Wardleworths (books, art supplies, stationery), Abode (cookware, art, pottery, cafe), Pets and Ponies (speaks for itself) all long gone.

Still, the indoor market has had a facelift and retains its Victorian splendour. The arcade houses mostly empty units but the architectural details are still there. And Warner Street is still full of little independents.

Revival is a treasure trove of vintage clothes and accessories. I used to visit as a student and bought jackets, jumpers and jewellery.

We called in yesterday and caught up with the lovely man who runs it. He was only too happy for us to rummage through the displays.

I bought a couple of scarves and could have spent ages in there.

Of course, 'vintage' doesn't necessarily mean 'tasteful'.

Some things were definitely more covetable than others.

It just goes to show: even those places most in need of a revival have some hidden gems. You just need to look for them. And they often come in the form of small, independent shops.
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