Saturday, 25 April 2015

Painted or natural?

It's started again. My annual urge to get the paint brush out has begun, clamouring to be heard. Last year I repainted the second bedroom and the year before that the garden furniture. For a while, I have been wanting to make a change in the dining room. For a room we spend a lot of time in (it is next to the kitchen and opens onto the garden so often acts as an extension of both spaces) it has always struck me a a little wood-heavy.

I have already discounted painting the wooden dresser, an idea I flirted with a few years ago before deciding that to cover up the honey-toned, satin smooth Victorian pine would really be a shame and something that I might come to regret later. I like the idea of a painted staircase, but dislike the maintenance of cleaning pale coloured stair treads every time one of our cats pads upstairs. So my eye has now lighted on the large, varnished wooden fireplace. I know that although the fireplace is original, the surround is not and is in fact cobbled together from bits of wooden moulding by one of the earlier owners of our cottage. This makes me feel less guilty about subjecting it to my brandished paint brush.
The dining room is north-facing, and as a result is one of the darker rooms in the house, I also have an idea that painting the fireplace would help to lighten this room as well. This photo from my Pinterest account is probably the closest photo I could find to what I think our fireplace could look like once painted.

Since we have repainted the dining room walls a nice warm white "Linen Wash" but Little Greene which we did last year after all the work on our garden room, I was thinking that painting the fireplace surround white might have the effect of making it disappear too much into the wall so I have been looking at very pale taupe/beige shades like "Bath Stone" or "Almond" by Autentico. Using a chalk paint would also mean that I don't have to sand the varnish off before painting. More Pinterest inspiration below, this time featuring a painted dining room fireplace.

But I'm still not 100% sure, that's the one drawback with painting, once it's on it's not so easy to take off! What is your preference? Do you prefer natural wood or painted?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Weekend gardening

Finally Spring has arrived! I've managed to spend a few hours each weekend in the garden and as it is now light when I come home after work I can get a few jobs done when I get home too. I love coming home to my garden, I can literally feel my shoulders drop and un-knot as I open the dining room door and crunch along the gravel. It's always exciting to see what has happened while I've been at work, I like the think of the small white fibrous roots slowly pushing their way through the earth and the little green shoots gradually working their way through the top soil while I'm tapping away on my keyboard at work.

I've already got quite a few projects on the go, I was seduced into buying a few globe thistle tubers from B&Q while I was collecting compost a few weeks ago and I also couldn't pass up a bare-root Sarah Bernhardt Peony for £3. We'll see if my bargains deliver their glossy promises later on this year.

I'm really pleased with my little trooper of a plant, Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' a lovely bushy perennial wallflower. Last year it was skeletal after being dug up and transplanted into a pot for the building work, it literally looked like a tumble weed! So I cut it back and kept my fingers crossed, but I have to say I expected it to be off the compost heap, but it rallied and now looks better than ever and even had buds in November. I took some cuttings last year which are all doing marvellously as well so hopefully soon I'll have a little battalion!

At the end of last year I placed an order with dahlia specialists Rose Cottage Plants and then forgot about it and placed another order in February. So I had a bumper delivery arrive at the beginning of March! I went for a mix of Offshore Dream, Wizard of Oz and Myama Fubuki. They don't look like much just now, but I'm looking forward to being able to cut armfuls of flowers for the house with this lot and the Cafe au Lait dahlias that I have brought out of the shed from over-wintering.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


I always have a list of things to look out for when I am out and about going to vintage markets or antique fairs and one of the items that is always on my list is old paintings. I love the timeworn patina on these old pictures and am always on the hunt for a pretty still-life although I do like landscapes too.
One of the first ones I found was at the Love Lane Summer Brocante a few years ago in Plumpton Racecourse. It is a lovely pastel of a bunch of flowers in a jug, it is not pristine but for me that is all part of the charm. I find I am always drawn to blues and pinks and I think the relaxed informal-ness of these paintings really delightful.

My next find was a lovely painting of pears in a dish by the very talented Penny German. I actually saw her paintings on Charlotte Supple's stall at the Country Living fair a few years ago, but someone else bought the picture that I was after. Later on, I contacted Penny German and she very kindly agreed to paint a similar picture for me. I love the pink rimmed dish, sprigged wallpaper and delicious greenness of the pears.

For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive this pretty little oil painting from my husband of a little jar of stocks or maybe they are sweet williams. It is French and is a lovely little size, I love the colours and that they artist has included some little blooms at the base of the jar which had fallen off their stems.

My latest purchase almost didn't happen. I spied it on French eBay about 30 minutes before the end of the auction and ummed and ahhed over it for a while and then decided I would go for it. I put in my maximum bid, but didn't get it. I tried not to be too disappointed as I knew I wouldn't have wanted to pay too much for it but was a bit sad that I had missed out. A day or so later I received an email from the seller offering me the painting - the buyer had decided that they didn't want it. I took it as a sign that it was meant to be and soon it was winging it's way from Paris over to London.

It is a departure from my usual pink and blue! When it arrived it was in a gilt frame which didn't quite fit, so I gently eased out the tacks holding the canvas into the frame and removed it. I think it looks much better without. I have propped it up on our dining room mantle piece, I really like the simple white blossom with apples and pears and the faded aqua background. So there you have it, my painting purchases so far. It's funny how most of my purchases have followed a theme without my really being aware of it but no doubt there will be a few more additions to come!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Four candles*

My husband used to get very posh yoghurts as part of his lunch at work. They were so posh they came in their own little glass pots, he mentioned this to me one evening and I promptly asked him to bring them back home after he had eaten the yoghurt as I could use those little pots for a myriad of things. He must have brought back at least twenty of the little glass vessels and apart from a brief sojourn as tea light holders they have been languishing in a wooden chest for a few years.

Then, as I was idly browsing Pinterest, inspiration struck. Someone had refilled their own glass jars with wax and made their own candles! Such a simple idea, why had I not thought of it before? A quick scout around on eBay led to the purchase of some soy wax and perfume oils (apparently essential oils are not potent enough on their own for use in scented candles). I tried to find the most natural ones and bought Lavender and Night Scented Stock (inspired by some lovely little plants in my Dad's garden earlier this year).

Last weekend, our kitchen became alchemy centre with wax slowly melting away in a bain marie, the kitchen work tops littered with glass pots, wicks and perfume oils. I had bought a kilo of wax and decided to start with 6 candles which have all come out quite successfully, although I think I might have been too cautious with my perfume oil as they are very very subtle!
I have plans to make some of the other pots into citronella candles for use in the garden come the summer. And I also think that they would make lovely gifts tied with a ribbon and given to a friend when popping round to their for dinner!

*The title for this post is taken from the classic Two Ronnies sketch (it's only loosely based on the post as I actually made six candles but I couldn't resist!)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Hello 2015

The beginning of a new year not only fills me with anticipation (and impatience) for the things to come; spring, the first roses, warm nights, but also leaves me feeling slightly bewildered by how fast the year seems to have gone by. At the beginning in a gloomy January, I see the year stretching out ahead of me like a long windy path filled with possibilities (with probably a few trials and tribulations - although hopefully not too many!)

At this time of year, the time can seem to pass so slowly as I become blinkered to the season I am currently in and instead start to look forward to lighter mornings and longer days rather than enjoying the candle-lit cosiness of late winter. I think I have a bit of a grasshopper mind, as I tend to hanker after the things still to come rather than enjoying the present.
Of all my New Year's resolutions this year, then surely, to live in the moment and bring my grasshopper mind into check, is definitely the one to work towards.
Maybe that way, I will feel less shocked when the end of the year rolls round again!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Joyeux Noël

I had planned to dedicate the whole of Saturday to decking the halls (or the downstairs of our little cottage) but some last minute wrapping and card writing put paid to that (although I love making my own hand-stamped wrapping paper and cards it certainly does make the whole process more labourious!)

Saturday evening saw me finally getting our tree up and wrestling the various boxes of baubles and festive fripperies out of our attic to be unpacked and pondered over. I find that my decorating process usually involves a fair amount of pondering. Although, despite my chin-scratching, things are pretty much the same as they are most years (we don't really have the space to move the tree to another location). But I have very mildly "shaken things up" with my garland placement!

I kept the dining room mantle piece simple this year with a pretty paper heart garland from Oyster Bridge & Co. I also hung a little jingle bell heart from the middle as well. The large garland that usually goes there has been moved to the top of the dresser. So far, I'm quite liking the result!
I've also put a little cut glass bon-bon dish filled with out baubles that can't be hung on the tree in the middle of our dining room table.

One of my favourite Christmas decoration purchases this year is a pretty paper bell from Found Country Antiques. I really like the simplicity of it, unfortunately there was only one left but I found some more in a slightly pink tinged white card from An Angel at My Table. Both these and the white bell are made from sturdy card and have little magnets to keep it folded out so will hopefully last for many years to come. I love the little Christmas trees!

 It did seem a bit silly to be getting all of this out since we are spending this Christmas with my family up in their lovely stone farmhouse in the Scottish borders, but I couldn't resist! Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, wherever you are spending it!

Friday, 19 December 2014

À bientôt Paris!

I've been back from Paris for a few days and it still seems strange being in the UK again. I feel like I'm stuck in this strange limbo with the afterglow of our festive Paris visit behind me and a slightly overwhelming Christmas rushing forward.

The French do Christmas impeccably, both my husband and I remarked that there does not seem to be as much advertising as back in the UK and it doesn't feel so "thrust upon you" over there. But maybe that is because we didn't watch any TV while we were in Paris and therefore avoided the worst advertising offender? I love how very clever the Parisians are with presentation, all of their shop windows were so beautifully set out and many of the shops were decked with fir garlands and lights. So tasteful and elegant!

I feel like we have eaten more than our fair share of patisseries and hot chocolate while we were there so it is nice to get back to having some healthier food - especially since the gourmand splurge of Christmas is literally days away! But we will miss our local pastry shop - Stohrer Patisserie. It had a beautiful interior as well as having a stunning array of sweet and savoury morsels to tempt every palate!

 We visited so many wonderful museums, for me one of the highlights was visiting Musee Cluny and seeing the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries which were stunning. When we visited there was also a small concert being held in one of the rooms featuring Ensemble Diagolos who played such wonderfully rich and beautiful medieval sounding music adding to the atmosphere and making our visit feel very special.

The Jacquemart-Andre musee was also lovely to wander around and while we were there had a special exhibition on Renaissance art which was stunning to behold. I loved the tea room which seems to be permanently fragranced by the perfumed teas that can be ordered there.

Now I need to catch up with the rest of my Christmas cards and decorating!