Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fairy garden

Furzey Gardens in Hampshire is definitely my kind of garden. It is like a magical woodland inhabited by fairies and possibly even talking deer and rabbits à la Snow White. It certainly doesn't feel like the sort of place where actual people have to do things as mundane as planting and weeding. We went this weekend with the intention of getting inspiration for our own garden which is a long way from being magical. The border along our back wall is rapidly turning into the forest of thorns around Sleeping Beauty's castle and it depresses me every time I look out the kitchen window. I have let it do it's own thing all year in the hope that it will surprise me with an amazing display of flowers or some stunning foliage but so far nada. The whole thing will have to come out and I don't know what to plant in its place. All I do know is - no more thorn bushes! Predictably our garden improving mission fizzled out early on, as who wants to think about that, when there are fairy houses and maybe even real live fairies to track down.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bathroom revamp: back to black

We did it. We went for the black wall. I hummed and hahed all week until M told me to hurry up and make a decision because he wanted to finish the tiling. I made a series of frantic phone calls to local suppliers. They were mostly able to get us the tiles within a couple of days but M was adamant he wanted to get to work right away. Topps Tiles were the only company to have them in stock, ready to collect, so we went with them, even though they weren't the cheapest.They are a slightly elongated black gloss tile, no bevelling.
I love them! 

I have found myself looking around everywhere to see where I can introduce more black. I feel like have rediscovered a colour. How could I let black slip out of my life? It is so dramatic and moody and chic. White suddenly seems boring and grey is just wishy washy in comparison. I am all enthused about getting black ceiling lamps, hanging a blackboard in the kitchen and even painting the summer house black - oooh and I could plant black roses too!

Take a look at these amazing black interiors and exteriors.
I love the yellow window frames of this black timber house in this photo by Helen Ogbourn.
Black walls and a black ceiling in this fabulous house at 24 Park Av.
I love the giant blackboard in this Australian cafe.

Welcome back black!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back to school

School and pre-school started up again this week after a six-week hiatus - not long enough! It was fittingly misty in the morning and we all needed cardies for the first time in months. Thanks mum for knitting Little P's back to school wooly! It has been great having the children around all day (well most of the time) and being free of the tyranny of the school timetable.
We didn't do half the things I'd planned, but maybe that's no bad thing. Sometimes it was fun just to potter around the house and garden.
We got plenty of trips to the beach in,
We made it to the aquarium finally,
And the children made new friends and spent time with their cousins.
And of course, we ate plenty of these
School reading books and key words were sadly neglected, but there is time enough for that (I keep telling myself anyway.)

I hope this school year is full of fun, creativity, new experiences and good friends - and a little bit of maths and English too I suppose.

Proud mum

Is it allowed to have a little boast about your children? What's the etiquette around here? Oh well etiquette be blowed, I am so proud of my boy. He's had two paintings displayed in an exhibition at the village hall. Here they are; a butterfly and a smiling starfish.
He belongs to an after school art club run by two ladies who are local watercolour artists. They are amazing with the children. They are kind and warm but expect nothing less than immaculate behaviour, which they get. The wonderful thing about them is they don't teach the children. Instead they provide them with the equipment (proper brushes, quality paper and paints), show them a few techniques and let them get on with it.
Here's the artist in front of his work!

On a side note, along with my espresso maker and photos of my children, my Dutch cargo bike is probably my most valued possession. I take the kids to school and pre-school in it everyday come rain, shine, flood, snow, highland cattle. Nothing has stopped me yet.
I am enjoying these late summer/ early autumn days of cycling in a t-shirt, skirt and flip flops. In a month or so, the rain-hood will be going on, I'll be muffled up in waterproofs and wellies and it all gets a bit less idyllic.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bathroom revamp: tiles

M is going great guns with the bathroom. He has removed one of the doors - we knocked two small rooms into one - and blocked it up with hardboard. All the remnants of the old bathroom are now bagged up in a very messy pile by the garden gate waiting for the skip. After what seems like endless patching and prepping the first tiles are up. Woo hoo!
I had a slight wobble when I first saw the tiles as I'd imagined them going up in a brick-style pattern rather than a grid. Then I started to wonder whether they should be placed vertically rather than horizontally. Anyway they are up and M has done an amazing job, so I kept my uncertainties to myself - mainly. All in all it was better that he just cracked on with it because I would have agonized for days about correct tile placement.

I did start worrying again about our overall plan, that rather than looking simple and stylish our all white bathroom could end up looking cold and clinical. I had yet another flip through my mountain of interiors magazines and found this...
It belongs to a family who live in a bungalow in Sydney and I absolutely love it. The rest of the house is gorgeous too! It is the first bathroom that I've seen that I could actually imagine working for us. And amazingly their white wall tiles are pretty similar to ours.

M liked it too which I knew he would. He is a sucker for black. So now we have to decide what to do. The black gloss tiles are more expensive than our white ones. £40 per metre for the black ones compared to £7.99 per metre for the white tiles (and we got a further discount on that!) We would only need enough to cover one wall though. Another issue I'd not considered is that black tiles show up water stains and would need more tlc to keep them looking shiny. Arrggghhh, decisions!
M says he is happy either way. He is leaving the back wall until last and I have a week to decide whether we stay all white or add a contrast wall.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

French summer

We are home after a wonderful couple of weeks in south west France. We stayed with old London friends in the their fabulous farmhouse in the Midi-Pyrenees. I am trying to hold onto that summer feeling of sunkissed skin and lazy days by the pool before we have to rush headlong back into real life and the start of the school year.
This is how we spent pretty much every afternoon. Little M learned to swim with a snorkel, a really big deal for a boy who hates getting his face wet. Little P regained her confidence in the water. She was completely freaked out by going underwater at a swimming lesson last year. And I got to practice butterfly, which I am always too self conscious to do in a public pool. I don't mind if it's just family and friends laughing at me for kicking up a mini tsunami. We stayed in the water until our lips went blue and the sun started to dip down behind the hill.
And of course, we ate well and drank well.
I loved how the children were welcomed everywhere. Not so much in the effusive way of the Italians, more that it was completely normal to bring them along to cafes and restaurants... and dancing in the square at the night market.
I think we were all equally excited by the medieval towns and castles.
The kids because they love knights and princesses and Big M and I because we recently finished a marathon viewing of seasons 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones. Not all in one night clearly but enough in one go to feel almost hungover the next day. This fortified town made me think of the Lannister's stronghold, where Charles Dance masterminded the battle against the Starks.
A kind passerby took a rare photo of us all together.
We had one uncharacteristic but fun day of adrenaline-fuelled action at a tree climbing centre. Big M did us proud on the black run.
 Little P was pretty impressive too with her barefoot climbing.
But mostly we just chilled out, read books, ate impossible quantities of salami, soaked up the sun and enjoyed being somewhere different.
A tout a l'heure!