Sunny house views

Sunny days at home have recently been rare indeed.  A little while ago on one such day I dug out the camera and decided to see what I could see just lying around the house…

It appears our house contains quite a number of dairy-related objects, appropriately enough since it was once a dairy farm.  We get our milk delivered by the local milkman, which is fantastic (not having to constantly say to myself ‘ooh I must remember to pick up some milk on the way home’ is a revelation).  Continuing round the house, we found a small milk jug in France this summer which we now use as a kitchen-top compost bin.

(There is also the large milk churn outside the door which I’ve previously written about.)

Next to the milk jug on the kitchen windowsill is a pot of succulents which, despite neglect and ignorance on my part (they seem to sprout new bits randomly and spontaneously, how do they do that? How can I make one big one instead of lots of small ones, and vice versa? These are questions I do not currently know the answer to, although I am aware, as ever, that they are just an internet search away) have been alive since some time in 2011.

And, in turn, next to the pot of succulents is another find from the brocantes of France- an earthenware jug in which we keep washing-up paraphernalia.  I like containers.

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A lovely Christmas present

My mum has just retired, so naturally she is busier than ever.  One of her many current projects involves honing her skills as a potter, and thus I am the grateful recipient of an increasing (but not yet large) number of pieces of pottery.

She gave me this bowl for Christmas, together with a dish and a little pot which are also very lovely.

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Country life

We now reside in the countryside…. it is lovely.  Blissful.  There are birds tweeting, and cows just over the back fence.   Really.  We live in the Chew Valley, which is just south of Bristol and seems to be a thriving area with lots of lovely villages, and copious amounts of cows.  There is a dairy in the village (I haven’t investigated daily milk deliveries yet but it’s moving up the list of things to do) and the Yeo Valley dairy company is based two villages over.  I have been a devotee of Yeo Valley yoghurt for years, so I am inordinately pleased that one of my favourite food items is now officially ‘local’.

This is the view from just over our back fence.  I took this a couple of weeks ago when the sun was actually shining, ahem, and for the last week there have been lots of what I think are teenager cows in the near field.  They seem to be quite bouncy and mischievous, and also not that big, hence my teenager theory.  When the weather stops being atrocious I will see if I can get some photos of them.

The sun setting over the Mendips.

We also have a garden, an actual garden with proper plants in it, about which I am clueless.  I think I can handle herbs in pots, so I am planning an expedition this weekend to get some of those.  For the rest, I think I need to make friends with the neighbours and get their green thumb advice!

There is also quite a bit of lawn, which has necessitated the purchase of a proper lawn mower (American readers will not know that there is any other kind, but yes, here in England you may purchase electric mowers, i.e. with a cord attached, and yes, even human-powered mowers.  I had never seen such things before I moved here) and the building of a compost bin in which to house the grass clippings and other organic waste.

This compost bin was built by Mark from some obliging site waste material, and is standing proudly in the garden looking incredibly fit for purpose.

It is also designed with spiky residents in mind.  The hedgehog population is in decline in the UK, which is very sad, as hedgehogs are wonderful.  You can read all about them in the Guardian here.  In addition to residing in hedges (obviously), hedgehogs also apparently are quite keen on nesting in compost bins, and it is important to leave a gap to allow them access to this most ideal of habitats to encourage them to move in.

As you’ll note, one panel of the bin has been deliberately left out so as (all being well) to act as the hedgehogs’ front entrance.  Now all I need is some bunting to welcome them in….

Two-part blog: ribbon chalkboard and marbled cupcakes for hungry cyclists

I haven’t been very active in finding interesting or useful things to hang on the walls of our flat, partly because as we’re renting, I don’t feel like it’s really ‘ours’.  However, the other week I thought it would be useful to have a chalkboard in the kitchen to write lists of things on, so I don’t forget to buy another tube of toothpaste for the fifth time.  Mark, always happy to oblige if sawing, drilling, and painting are involved, found a suitable piece of wood and painted it with chalkboard paint, drilling two holes for string.  My job was to source the string; I completely forgot and in a fit of desperation/inspiration dug through my box of ribbons and found the perfect silky black ribbon to hang it up with, so much better than a piece of rope!

I hope you’ll agree it looks smashing.

You might also notice the message I came into the kitchen this morning to find….

I had mentioned to Mark that I might want to bake something this weekend, as my sister Lizzie bought me the Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ cookbook for Christmas.  He was pretty excited and obviously thought he’d make sure I remembered my plan for the day!

I settled on marbled cupcakes, and after a temporary but very alarming setback in which my set of scales went bonkers and started lying completely about what things weighed (unopened 500g bag of sugar weighs 871g, apparently?!) which was only resolved by a quick trip to the local hardware store for a replacement, all went smoothly.  The recipe is fiddly and a bit unusual but worth following, as the sponge came out incredibly moist (a crucial factor) and the icing was very fluffy, although I much preferred the vanilla to the chocolate icing.

As soon as the last cupcake was iced, four hungry cyclists turned up wanting tea and cake!  Although cyclists are not exactly tough customers where sweet treats are concerned, the cupcakes certainly disappeared very quickly.

Bookcase project

I may have mentioned here before that Mark has been working in Bournemouth for the last four months, and travelling home to Bristol at weekends.  Needless to say, this was an undesirable arrangement for many reasons (although there was a silver lining in the cloud as he saw more of his family who live in that area), but it has thankfully now come to an end as he has left the horrible job which sent him there.  “Our” furniture reclamation projects which were embarked upon so excitedly when we first moved in to our current flat were put on hold as Mark’s do-stuffing time in the evenings and weekends became almost non-existent.  The true extent to which all things DIY are driven and completed by him also became very apparent, as if it wasn’t before!

So it was with glee in his heart on his first free day home that Mark headed down to the wood recycling centre to find a ratty old bookcase for the knock-down price of £10.

I never actually saw it naked in person as I was up in London, but according to Mark (who took all the photos in this post) these shots somewhat mask the fact that the wood veneer was in quite poor condition.

(Note- the photo above is a bit misleading- there is a mirror in the back of the bookcase which is actually reflecting a DIFFERENT bookcase which looks quite similar to this one, but was in better condition so we left it as-is.)

So while I wouldn’t condone blithely painting over lovely wood (witness our gateleg table as an excellent example of something which, in my opinion, should never ever be painted or even varnished), it seemed this specimen wasn’t sufficiently sacrosanct to warrant saving, and a few good coats of white paint would give it a new lease of life (and fit in with my current obsession for all things Scandinavian.)

It first had a good undercoat, then slipped into a white eggshell.

Ta-da!  I am already plotting how to fill up the shelves without him noticing before it’s too late.  In all ways, it is good to have Mark home.

New cushion covers

I made something!  Actually sewed something!  This should not be such a big deal, but somehow it is… if you were to ask me what some of my favourite things are to do, high up on the list would be sewing and embroidery.  I love textiles, and textile arts, but in a kind of secret ‘I wish I could do this more often’ kind of way.  I even like folding washing.  BUT recently other things seem to have gotten in the way, so I have had the beginnings of sewing projects lying around which have been left untouched for an embarrassingly long amount of time.

But no more!  I was in Ikea the other day, and noted that they have cheap, fun fabrics, so I picked up some cheery rainbow-y fabric with which to adorn my sofa.  It’s probably not the sort of thing that will stand the test of time (or my shifting tastes) but the fabric was less than £10 in total, and it took me about 2 hours to make the covers, so I am happy.

My design aesthetic at the moment seems to be whitewhitewhite with some wood and neutrals, and little pops of rainbow colour to liven things up and make me smile.  These cushions certainly provide the last element.

I also subconsciously purchased white fabric for the backs of the cushions which is actually the same fabric as the sofa (the benefit of buying sofa and fabric all from Ikea), so if I want things a bit more minimalist I can just turn them over.

So there we are, my first completed sewing project in well over a year.  I am now inspired to continue and make some more things…

A bare chair

A few weeks ago I mentioned that we had picked up some rickety chairs at a reclamation yard…

At the time we had acquired lots of bits of wood furniture all at once and I felt that stripping the chairs wasn’t a priority.  They also wobbled.  So they hung around, not really being sat on (the wobbles were just too alarming!), and just filling up space.

But then, I came home one day and Mark had not only fixed and glued them back together to stop the wobbling, but had stripped one of them as well!  It looks amazing, all mottled and worn, paler and warmer-hued than before.

A wonderful surprise!  Three cheers (again) for the furniture-restoring hero!