Friday, 26 June 2015

DIY Fantastic: Creating in Watercolour


I'm always excited to dig out my watercolours. The freedom, fluidity of adding water and pigment to thick heavy paper and seeing what happens is always amazing. The results can be mixed, but they are certainly always unusual, unexpected and impossible to replicate! These few factors make them a creative force to be reckoned and why I always try to let the watercolours do the walking and the talking, rather than vice versa. They will never bend to your will so it's a real test in letting go and guiding rather than controlling.



The quiet time I've had this week as I recover has been the perfect time for some relaxed watercolour experimentation. That plus the veritable explosion of flowers in the garden and from the folks' garden in Hereford has meant endless floral inspiration. Perfect for putting water to paper and seeing where we go...and this was where we went.


I'm super pleased with the results, the colours are vibrant and the intensity and textures varied and they sort of look like sweet peas too (always a bonus!).

I also love my watercolour palette below, I never tire of looking at this, the tiny cute block of colour and the crazy colour combinations I create on the mixing plates. Ha!


Are you inspired to get out your watercolours or any other favourite medium after this? Nothing like a little creative experimentation to help you feel alive!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Guerrilla Gardening Update

Over the last few weeks I have been the lucky recipient of a daily 'dirt' photo from Mr Fantastic! In his usual impatience he has been snapping every teeny green shoot he spots in the scraps of soil along our street and forwarding them over for identification!! I have to admit, the vast majority of photos sadly got a resounding 'no' in repsonse to the nasturtium identification challenge. They mostly looked like various weeds, but this week we popped out on to the street to study the soil more carefully and lo and behold, we spotted some seedlings!!! Nasturtium seedlings!!!


We were beyond excited and hopped from tree to tree inspecting as we went, leaping up and down in our flip flops and pjs every time we spotted one! In honest, there are very few compared to the ridiculous volume of seeds we planted out, but we still count this as a big WIN for the street! Some Nasturtiums has to be a lot better than none.  


As you can see they are popping up amidst all sorts of debris including cigarette stubs and chewed chicken bones!! Apologies for the macro shots of such paraphernalia. Not exactly photogenic. But I think that all adds to the charm for me...beautiful fresh new life growing through the litter of the modern world! How poetic.


They are still small, but I hope they survive and grow into thriving bushy plants over the next months. Fingers crossed for the odd rain shower here and there to keep them growing strong. I shall be sure to report back with an update as soon as we spot our first flower!

Friday, 12 June 2015

My Blogtacular Manifesto

I have taken a deep deep breath and signed up for Blogtacular this year! I took one look at Grace's Bonney's key note speech topic, all about 'the fear' and it completely reminded me to 'feel the fear and do it anyway'. A long lost motto of mine from my school days...when I was fearful but fearless, or so it seemed! 


To justify this leap to myself the doubting voices in my head, I've created my own little 'Blogtacular Manifesto' - a list of all the things I want to achieve/do this weekend! I was totally inspired by Elise's summer manifesto, this is something I've done lots of each year, but never formalised or actually shared before! :/

So, here goes:
1. Fill a WHOLE notebook with ideas, thoughts and inspiration. Pretty sure that's going to be easy peasy! 
2. Go up to my online blogging heros and just say 'hi, I love your work'. Rather than blurt out nonsense, stutter, mumble and then shuffle on!
3. Get down and dirty with all crafting activities on offer - these are my favourite!
4. Not even consider trying to 'network'!! Instead I'm going to trick my brain and focus on chatting, sharing jokes and finding out interesting things about everyone else (aka networking without the scary title!!) 
5. Make some new friends, like, in person, not just online!
6. Continue to make connections and share things with all those folk and friends long after Blogtacular comes to a close (sniff). 
7. Maybe take a FEW pictures to share on IG/twitter, but don't take thousands (I want people to meet me not my iphone!).
8. Hand out all the blog business cards I've hand made (even if I give them out to randoms on the street at the train station, I'm not carrying any home!)
9. Decide on five things I'm going to do differently after Blogtacular and how I'll do them.
10. And most importantly - have FUN!! 

There, doesn't seem half so difficult now! Phew!

P.s. You can also check out my 2015 'things to do more of' here




Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Travel Fantastic: Whistle-stop tour of the Cyclades, Greece


When I was deciding on the title for this post I started out with 'A guide to Milos, Sifnos, Folegandros, Paros, Naxos....et al.' But I quickly realised that was becoming a total tounge twister! Luckily for me, the Greeks have a collective name for this cluster of rocky outcrops in Agean ocean - The Cyclades. (Thank goodness!)


And these islands are literally that - huge rocky mounds that push straight up out of the azure blue ocean in a series of sharp dramatic cliffs. This makes for dramatic scenery, raw beauty and a drop of mystery. The islands are inhabited by a rock gardener's dream collection of hardy succulents that are tough, tenacious and tireless! And so they need to be, with the Methini wind sweeping over these isolated isles for many months of the year you need to be a tough cookie to survive these extremes.


We spent a week doing some serious island hopping, spending each night on a different island. We were the guests of my wonderful parents in law on board their gorgeous sailboat. We stayed is small marinas on each isle, sailing and motoring between Islands during the day. And by night mooring up in  series of small marinas scattered across the Cyclades!


By virtue of the early season, the marinas were quiet and the waters even more so! This one above was probably busiest we visited! 

Milos


I landed in Milos, a gorgeous little island. The small cute town of the same name rises up over a small hill, with a little church on the top. It sits on the edge of a wonderful large bay and is really the most beautiful setting! The seafront has a handful or lovely fish restaurants and they'll even cook you home caught tuna fish for you if you ask nicely!!


We spotted this colourful waterfront as we left the bay, what a colourful collection of beach huts! Would love to go back and explore this coastline on foot, those colours are so enticing!  

Sifnos




This is maybe my favourite of all the islands, one of the least developed and least touristy! We stayed at Platis Gialos which had a delightful little bay with a lovely long sandy beach and a series of small cute restaurants and modest homes along the beachfront that opened straight onto the beach! This would be a wonderful place to come back to for a week long holiday or with a family. It felt incredibly safe and easy (other than getting there!). There was just one (fabulous) restaurant open in the village at this time of the season and we had the beach and the crystal clear water completely to ourselves! Bliss!



Leaving the next morning on our way to Folengandros, we came across then most wonderful sight - a large pod of dolphins! There was possibly 7-8 of them in total and it was amazing to see. We didn't get too close, but we think they may have had some young with them as usually they are curious to investigate sea vessels pasig, but instead they kept their distance. 

A day or so later we saw another dolphin, this time a large lone male and he came right up to the boat and dove beneath us!! If you're a fan of these darling aquatic creatures, then sailing around these islands is a must! 

Folegandros



The small bay and harbour of Karavostasis was both practical and delightful! We clambered over the hills and cliffs to find some wonderful deserted tiny beaches! And a short bus ride yo the hill was the Chora of Folegandros, a gorgeous hill top town, full of tiny white houses with splashes of colour creating the most delightful vignettes at every turn through the meandering narrow streets.


The view from the cliff-tops was breathtaking (and the perfect spot for a sneaky little selfie!) and while exploring the village we stumbled across the most exquisite square in the Chora. Nothing beats dining alfresco at the best of times, and in this setting with the textured walls, rustic wooden tables and chairs, twinkling lights and it's own dancing begging dog (I kid you not!) it was truly heavenly!


Ios


The welcome you get as you arrive into the bay is gorgeous, the first thing you see is this unmissable church perched on the peninsular towards the opening of the bay.


For the party capital of the Cyclades, Ios was rather sedate in May! Ios is less untouched than the other islands, the town is a little functional and the water on the beach was no where near as clear as the other bays we stopped in. This may have had something to do with the large swell we had on our evening in Ios, walking the plank from the boat to the quayside was a mini adventure in it's own right each time!! Thankfully none of us had an impromptu dip this time round!


Irakleia


This was my second favourite Island of the trip. It was even more untouched and quiet than Sifnos. We stayed in a tiny bay on the South West of the Island and again the waters were totally clear and divine.  There were only two boats on the quay and a handful that anchored in the tiny bay and again it was a one-restaurant village. Perfection.

Paros



The most cosmopolitan of all the islands we visited. Naoussa on the Island of Paros was actually rather chic and sophisticated! The seafront and old marina was lined with smart fish restaurants that each vied for your custom, hanging out their squid out front to tenderise it in the sun! 



The old port was an absolute delight, so many gorgeous tiny fishing boats in all shades of blue and turquoise an instagramers dream!!


The small narrow streets wound up the hill and were full of hidden shopping gems, selling all sorts of good quality wares such as jewellery, beachwear and shoes! A shoppers paradise! 

Naxos


Naxos was our last stop on the trip. The history of Naxos was fabulous, from the old castle at the very top of the town, that we stumbled upon whilst exploring, to the ancient arch on the peninsular. No idea how this remains upright in the face of the Methini winds, but it frames the town marvellously!



And that rounds up our whisle-stop tour of the Cyclades. Phew, sounds exhausting, right?! ;) Don't feel too sorry for us!


It only remains for me to say a huge thank you to these two super smart sailors for putting up with us on board, teaching us the ropes, saving us from scrapes and generally spoiling us rotten. Cheers!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

DIY Fantastic: Guerrilla Gardening

I've always joked about becoming a  Guerrilla Gardener. The idea of throwing wildflower bombs over fences into abandoned lots or neglected gardens and seeing the results grow and blossom always sounded like such a lovely antiestablishment act! And let's face it, as a goody-two-shoes at heart this is about as rebellious as I was ever likely to get! 


Finally, these long-harboured dreams have been turned into reality - there's really is nothing quite like getting a foot on the property ladder to get you invested in your local community and street improvements! Ha!


So tonight, I ventured out on to our street armed with 101 nasturtium seeds, a trowel and a watering can on a one woman mission to brighten up our street! Oh and I dragged the husband along to carry the watering can! (I think he enjoyed it, at least the guerrilla part at least!) 


We planted a handful of seeds under each tree, in the scrappy square of soil around each tree trunk. Created a series of trenches in the greyness and popped in a nasturtium seed or three into each. Covered them back up with a sprinkling of soil (aka dust and twigs) and watered thoroughly before moving on to the next tree.


And that's it. We now get to sit back and wait a while and hope for more rain! Each day I'll walk to the station hopeful of seeing my handiwork start to spring out of the earth. First as a teeny seedling, then grow into a strong little bushes and eventually burst into a root of colourful flowers! Hmm...we'll see! 

It's sure going to be a test of my patience mind! By the virtue of my daily walks in sure it'll feel like they're taking FOREVER to come to fruition, as I watch them grow a millimetre a day! But with the days and weeks, hopefully they'll bring a flash of colour and life to our already cute street over the summer. 


We picked nasturtiums as they are hardy, love scrappy, poor soil (which is what they're getting!!). They are bright and fun and hopefully easy to grow with very little tending! My ma bought out the pound store of nasturtium seeds last time she visited to stock us up in advance!!

As for hazards of the job, we got down and dirty with all sorts, the cigarette buts, the bottle tops, the dried dog poop (extra nutrients?!) and all sorts of natural debris. We both wore gardening gloves for the job and were super careful. Said gloves even got a deep bleach clean afterwards and I must have scrubbed my hands about four times before I was satisfied! Our remaining natural foes will now be the council weed-killing men (please don't do the rounds soon), dogs and drought! I don't often say this, but...bring on the rain!

I'm desperately hoping to one day spot a neighbour or visitor admiring the new addition to the street so that I can glow smugly on the inside knowing that each small change like this will help make our street a better place to live. (I'll report back if we manage it!)

So, what small steps have you tried to help contribute to your neighbourhood? I'm all ears - we need our next project!

P.s. you can see more about our first step onto the property ladder here and more gardening updates here.

Monday, 4 May 2015

DIY Fantastic: Hallway Hooks

Does anyone else also have a fear of becoming a hoarder? Or is that just me?! Since visiting our upstairs neighbours years ago and finding her flat literally stuffed to the brim with all sorts of gubbins, it's been haunting me! My fear is made all the more real by my love for pretty but useless things and car boot sales! (What a toxic combination!) 


I had been hoarding these four gorgeous coloured hooks since early last, they'd always been destined for a coat rack and so it was time to put them into action! 

With no place for coats, keys and the usual paraphernalia they usually ended up as a mound on the end of the banisters or piled up on our sofa. Great for snuggling up under in winter, but not when you're in a rush to leave the house and scrabble through the pile looking for my favourite leather jacket!
So the solution was to create a hook shelf combo to come to our aid! 


We have also been hoarding (spot the trend here!? Maybe I should just give in and embrace it!) a pile of salvaged wooden floorboards from when we renovated the floors upstairs. They look super rustic here, but under that paint and grime the wood is really lovely old pine, beautifully worn and weathered! 


First we had to dry it out - which meant bringing in the damp and dirty boards into the bathroom for a few days. We then decided on a length, sawed then down to size and sanded off the grime. As you can see here, I brought in some muscles for this part!! 


'We' didn't sand them down fully, I wanted to keep some of that beautiful ageing that gives the wood texture and depth. But we did sand off the edges and corners to leave them smooth and splinter free. 


Once happy with the wood, we measured out the four spots to add the hook, evenly spaced along the plank and screwed them each in place.


The hooks I found in Tiger whilst shopping for wedding decor, ha! Tiger don't sell online (what sort of business model is that in this day and age?! Even TKMaxx, the ultimate designer jumble sale, and possibly,aherm I mean definitely my favourite shop of all time, sell online these days!) but you can see similar ones available in store here.


Here you can see that lovely texture  of the wood, yummmm!! 



We drilled a few holes along the wooden back. Think we opted for 3 or 4 to keep it secure. Measured out and drilled matching holes in the wall and then up it went!


Not entirely sure why we used the spirit-level - I swear there is not a single straight line or 90 degree corner in our house, it full of all sorts of curves and crazy angles!! Thank you London clay (but it is marvellous for the roses!).


We used the second plank to add a small shelf up above the hooks to keep the dust off our coats and add some plants and pretty things! We used simple black brackets and followed a similar process to adding the hooks. 


And there we have it, four big and bold hooks that bring a little (more) colour into our hallway! I bought these loooong before adding colour to the stairs, but by adding colours in a similar palette at the other end of the hallway, they tie things in very nicely.


On the shelf we added some car boot sale treasures and framed art - including a print I bought Mr Fantastic as his wedding present. I'd been lusting after this print by Clare at Tiger Food Press for months, the quote is brilliant and the mustang is one of our inside jokes!


For the meagre few pounds I spent on hooks, we now have a bespoke fixture that adds oodles of character to the hallway. I particularly love that the wood we used may even have been the original flooring when he house was built back in 1890, it certainly had enough layers of paint!! And now with a new lease of life, it can continue to contribute to the house's history! (Blimey, getting a little over sentimental here - got to remember this is a just plank of wood I'm harping on about here!!) Plus we now have somewhere to hang all our layers as we enter the house. Pretty AND practical - WIN!!!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Potting Shed Fantastic: Spring!!!

Bluebells appearing for Spring
Happy first day of Spring! Winter felt way too long this year and at last the days are starting to lengthen and I can feel the promise of spring in the air. At this time of year the occasional warmer, brighter day keep us hooked with baited breath for summer. And naturally, this starts me thinking about just one thing....gardening!! (Okay, as well as holidays, flip-flops, bbqs, beaches, sailing etc.!)

Anemone shoots braving it to appear above ground
This will be our first year with a proper decent garden! And I am beside myself with excitement! We've said goodbye to our teeny square of concrete totally encircled by brick walls and moved up a rung to a slightly larger rectangular garden, circled by four fences!! Haha, but there is definitely much less concrete so a clear step in the right direction! 

Today I wanted to share our priorities for Spring time in the garden this year. I have grand plans for the garden eventually, but given it take time to develop and mature I know this is a multi-year project, so starting small...

Seedlings

The cutest sweetpea shoots

I've already got a whole bunch of bulbs and seeds planters indoors and they are starting to show their sleepy heads! This is my favourite part of gardening - when the tiny shoots are in the safety and confinement of the controlled conditions of our house and you can see the little steps of progress made each day!! And before they are let out into the wilderness of our garden and become prey to all sorts of urban wildlife! :s

In fact, our dining room has pretty much been repurposed to an indoor greenhouse at the moment:

Ranunculus thriving in our indoor greenhouse!

Climbers

On the outside, we need to cover the box of fences, and quick! I have already stated bulk buying all possible climber I can get my hands on!!

Honeysuckle starters
We have planted climbing roses (at least 4, I'm losing count!!) and my latest additions have been two honeysuckles on the shaded side. Plus we have added two thornless blackberry plants, a Japanese Wineberry and a Loganberry plant all at the bottom of the garden. Which may just have to become our soft fruit patch, yum!! :) 

Beautiful red stems of the Japanese wineberry
Ben's Valentine's Day pressie was a vine sapling - Pinot Noir no less! It's shooting already and we just need to find the perfect spot for it to get started in. And finally, to round off this collection of climbers I just want to add some summer flowering clematis to get some bright big flowers! 

Composting

Finally, on a slightly less glamorous note, composing. We have a giant composting bin that we've been adding to all winger long. The walk out tot the end of the garden in the dark and cold winter evenings is NO FUN! Particularly when you lift the compost lid and just KNOW it's full of slugs, worms and flies, but you just can't see them in the dark! Eeeek! But thankfully they are all working their magic in there to make usthe yummiest more nutritious humus ready for spring! 

We're actually close to maxing out on the compost bin so may wen have to strut a second! We're gonna have the best fed garden in the whole of London come Summer !!! :D 

More bluebells
As soon as this plethora of bluebells open up their blooms I'll be sure to get my camera out there once again. I plan to share a few snippets of our garden progress here over the next 6 months as we go from novice plant killers to pro green-fingered Bob Flowerdews!! :)

So, this is our starting point, what are you focussed on this Spring? Be it in the garden or indoors?!