Sunday, 6 April 2014

Wishes: For a place to call home

I think I first mentioned the begining of our search for a home back in Autumn 2012 and we've been looking ever since! I haven't bored you with shots of all the dreadful flats and houses we've visited in the intervening months, but suffice to say we have finally found one we love in an area we're excited about living in!

I just had to delete a paragraph that I had originally written back in 2013 when we had an offer accepted on a house and were going through the paperwork. Sadly, that place fell through and we went back to the drawing board. But finally, I have some good news to share - we have exchanged on a house!!! :)))) I'm a little superstitious about things and don't like to over think stuff, as I"m convinced it then all conspires against you! After our first knock with house number one we forced ourself to be really hard headed about house number two. I really haven't spent much time thinking about it, making plans for it and imagining our life in it. But suddenly, all that's allowed now!

It's a lovely house, liveable but with plenty of room for improvement, value-adding and DIYs! Can't wait to get cracking with the planning, designing, trial and error, testing, DIYs, renovations, painting, building, decorating etc. I am finally allowing myself to dream wild home watch this space!

It's ever so slightly terrifying! I am one part unbelievably excited - to have our own place where we can do what we want, make it how we want, fill it with the things and people we love, create a haven from the hectic world outside. But I'm also one part totally terrified! It's such a responsibility, such an expense and such a big and unpredictable liability. We will be responsible for forking out every time the boiler goes on the blink, if we spring a leak or if the tiles fall off the roof! :s London houses are pretty old too and that can have all sorts of complexities! Our place has seen some subsidence in it's long past, it's now been underpinned and no longer moving (thank goodness) but the thought that it could shift and move is difficult to comprehend. A number of the doors inside had to be planed to fit in door frames that are quite diagonal!! Eeek!

But all that aside, we are excited about a new start, by exploring a new part of London, our own patch. Excited about putting our own stamp on our small corner of the world to create a place we are proud of and can truly call home.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Natural History Museum

Have you ever been to the Natural History Museum in London? Stupid question! It was one of my very favourite places growing up. Not to say that we went there frequently, living in West Wales made that tricky! But on each visit to London, as rare as they were, this was the only place I wanted to go. Even now, there is nothing quite like walking into the huge central hall, filled with the smell of history, and see Dippy keeping a watchful eye over the thousands of people coming and going each day. I'm sure most of us have ond memories of family trips to museum-land. I would bring a tiny little notebook and pen and insist on spending the entire day in the mineral and gemstone wing. I'd spend hours in there on my own, trawling around the cabinets looking at each of the sparkly, colourful gems and stones, furiously scribbling notes and day dreaming of my future collection!

Not long ago, with a day to ourselves we decided to take a little trip across the river to South Ken and visit the museum again. In winter the whole area comes alive with an outdoor ice rink, carousel and lights, which lends a certain festive atmosphere and gives the wonderful facade of the building an even more beautiful glow. So it seems that a gentle afternoon at a museum is now my idea of a happening day out these days!! We had such a fun day exploring the museum, the Earth section and the dinosaurs, of course!

Going up the escalators through the Earth is still exciting! "Don't stop when you get to the basement, give my regards to the Earth's core!"

The only real problem is that you need at least three days to get around the whole place!! With only a few hours it really was a whistle-stop tour. Luckily, given our proximity to South Ken, I hope we can keep popping back until we've nailed the lot!

The epic T-rex robot!

The magical winter wonderland outside the museum. 

Bleary eyed at the end of the day, on the bus back home! :)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

DIY Fantastic: Houndstooth Bean Bag Cover

Today I am sharing a project that has been in the works for, ahem...years!!! In all honesty once I knuckled down to the sewing last weekend, it was done in a day. There is nothing super complicated about it, lots of long straight lines of sewing, so quite straightforwards. But it just took me time to drag the pieces out from behind the sofa and just sew them together, you know! But am I glad I did, this is the perfect addition to the living room and is such a cosy spot to sit and read or get the prime spot in front of the tv for the winter olympics!

Now we were lucky to inherit a huge bean bag from a friend years ago, thanks Saff! It's super comfortable for lounging around on or as an extra flexible seating when we have friends over. But, it is made of black pvc, so a little bit bachelor-esque! I found some really fun upholstery fabric with a bit of stretch back at a Design Guild warehouse sale some time ago which I though would be perfect to cover it. It's quite a busy pattern and not to pale - important given it's going to be on the floor!! :s

What you'll need is...

1. Fabric - chose anything you fancy - the brighter and bolder the better! I used a thick upholstery material from the Design Guild. I'd recommend something durable, with a little bit of stretch and enough pattern to make it less delicate!
2. Needle and thread and a sewing machine
3. Fabric scissors
4. Newspaper or other paper for creating the pattern
5. ....

Oh and of course - a bean bag! Although while I say that, it's actually not necessarily true. In fact you can get the polystyrene balls that the are made of and fill your own bag up with them. Just have to make sure there are no holes for the polystyrene balls to get out of!

First off we had to make a pattern. The original bag was made up of 5 long panels running all around with a large hexagon for the bottom and small one at the top! We used newspaper to trace the panels of the beanbag and cut them out in the paper. A bit of experimentation to ensure we could get all the sections to fit from the material we had and off we went with the cutting. Here's the dream-cutting-team in action, thanks Mum and Izzy!

Next we actually overlocked all the way round each panel. The fabric was quite prone to fraying so we overlocked it to keep it all together. But this isn't essential, it totally depends on the material you squirrel out! We then pinned together each panel and sewed them together, adding one panel at a time around the small hexagon and finally sewing together to create the final shape. At the end I added the two panels that made up the bottom hexagon, overlapping slightly in the middle to create a flap and an opening.

 Then all it remains for you to do is turn the whole thing inside out and stuff the bean bag inside. Now I don't have any pictures of this stage as to be completely honest I needed four arms to get the bean bag stuffed in. It's not coming out in a hurry! I used some velcro patches on the base of the bag to close the gap and plopped myself down to enjoy the view!

It also turns out that bean bags are ridiculously hard to photograph, it's almost impossible to stop it from looking like a large pile of fabric dumped down in the corner. You'll have to use your imagination for the rest!

But ah, doesn't that look like an appealing spot for a rest, a cuppa and a little read? You'll know where to find me when I've gone missing! :)


Sunday, 2 February 2014

DIY Memory Quilt

This was a lovely project my cousin's friend co-ordinated for her 30th birthday - a memory quilt that brought together the memories of all her family and friends and creating a single homemade quilt with the results. The final piece was an absolute gem and went down a storm at the birthday party!

To contribute to the quilt Izzy and I created a series of three squares. We set on three of our favourite memories of times with Rhian and then raided my fabric box for three key colours that each concept could work with. We found a series of materials, a cream wild silk, a pink jersey cotton and the green upholstery fabric. We used the combination of the three to create three separate but co-ordianted patches.

First off - a family holiday in Corfu where Rhian and I were instructed with the task of purchasing a watermelon. With eyes bigger than our stomachs we naturally chose the biggest watermelon on the stall, it was a beast! Great value for money, right?! We were totally stoked with our choice, until the walk home...up a steep the midday 40 degrees! Even taking it in turns to carry the beast we were exhausted and dripping by the time we got it back to the flat. In fact, I distinctly remember putting our faces in the fridge to try and cool off! Needless to say, the watermelon was faaar too big for our tummies and by the time we left we still hadn't quite managed to finish off the whole lot. Gutted!!

We used the cream silk as the base and appliquéd the watermelon using the pink and green. We did all the stitching by hand as I couldn't work out how to get the zig-zag stitch going on my machine!!! :s Hence the rustic vibe! And finished it with sequins for the pips. 

Next up was our more recent Huw's Hike up Mount Snowdon in Wales. We did this with all the family and friends in aid of the St David's Hospice in South Wales which looked after my uncle and the family in very difficult times. It was a magnificent event and a tough climb for many of us, but the support we had was phenomenal and we made some lovely new memories with the family. 

For this one we used the pink background as the base and then the green and cream silks appliqued on top! See what we did there?! The jersey cotton wasn't exactly the ideal base for the patch in all honesty, it kept rolling up and was blinkin' tough to work with!! :) But we created a mini Mount Snowdon with a white cap.

And last but not least the fantastic monkey puzzle tree. Rhian's family had a fabulous monkey puzzle tree in their garden growing up. It was the first part of their house that you'd see as you drove up the road toward the house and we always got super excited when we finally saw it after the long drive from West Wales! It's one of those strange trees, they look majestic and beautiful, but at the same time they look very spikey and terrifying. To be honest I am ever so slightly in awe of them! And whenever I see one I am immediately transported back to the Joneses and family new year's eve parties!

For this one we also used the cream silk patch, you can see from this picture how much it was fraying as we worked on them! I was worried it'd end up smaller than the required 5 inches for the quilt!! :s We used a cross stitch in a green embroidery thread to create the monkey puzzle branches and appliquéd on  trunk.

Dear Jayne then received the individual patches from everyone and managed to pull them all together into this fabulous memory quilt. No mean feat!! It included squares made from old clothes, flags of many of the countries they had visited together, squares crocheted by Mrs Jones, squares decorated with messages from the kids.

What a wonderful idea by Jayne and a lovely keepsake that I'm sure Rhian will treasure for the next thirty years!! :) 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Fantastic Travel: Sicilia 2013

I've been day dreaming of warmer climes again, bad habit of mine during winter! Not sure if it gets me through the cold and wet winters here or if it just makes it harder! Hopefully the former. So to ease the winter blues I've been trawling through our holiday photos from Sicily! I hadn't shared any of these here as yet, simply too disorganised. So I thought I'd share a few favourites to help us all through the darkest days of winter. :) 

First of bougainvillaea, how can it not make you smile? Bright and beautiful. And it was everywhere in Sicily!! 

Breakfasts in Italy magnificent - we found a number of fabulous cafes and cake shops around the Island and the choice is plentiful. Be it cornetti filled with cream or custard with a fiendish shot of espresso or as a special treat a delicious cannoli filled with ricotta and chocolate chips. Either way, pudding for breakfast is always a sure fire way to start my day!

Who can help but LOVE all forms of Italian motor vehicles, be it the cutesy cinquecento or the trusty vespa. They are all scattered all over the island and are certainly not treated as treasured relics, most are still work donkeys for the locals. 

The other man made wonders are the towns and their architecture. Some magnificent and sparkling and others crumbling and wistful, but either way incredibly magical. This is the church in the main square at the heart of the popular town of Taormina and one of the winding streets on the way there.

And last, but most definitely not lest the epic landscape! From the soaring heights and barren summit of Mount Etna to the turquoise mediterranean sea. We undertook the hike to the top of Mt Etna on foot, without the aid of the cable car and it was unbelievable. The volume of lava rocks covering the whole mountain was incredible and the steam and smoke rising from the crater both spooky and exciting! 

These pictures don't do it justice - the steepness of the sides and the depths of those craters made it petrifying to stand at the edge, particularly in high winds with tired legs!! Back down at sea level the coastline was often just as steep, but much more serene and relaxing. The turquoise Med showing off it's best colours along the fringes of the Taormina coast. 

 And on our final passeggiata along the seafront in Cefalu before dinner on our last night! <3 comment-3--="">

Thursday, 23 January 2014

DIY Fantastic: Rose Petal Confetti

Here we go...the first of what I expect to be a veritable flood of vaguely wedding orientated diy instalments for us. Brace yourselves folks. I can barely call this a diy, it's more of a just do this and this will happen sort of post. But still, I am so excited about the results I simply have to share! :)

A bunch of roses Ben brought home the other day were starting to look a little sorry for themselves. To be honest some of them were starting to get crispy! This is what gave me the idea...rather than bin them, to keep the drying out process going and dry all the petals for confetti. So, the only thing you really need for this diy is a sorry looking bunch of roses and some patience!

I simply gently held the rose in one hand and pulled the stem out from the back of the flower. this helps loosen up the petals. Then I gently slowly peeled each petal off one by one and unravelled the layers. I placed each petal carefully on a bamboo mat keeping them as flat as possible and flattening out any kinks, especially in the inner petals.

From there on in it's uber simple. I just left them out until they were dry and crispy! Each day I gently turned the petals, flattened them out and unravel any rollers. Once I was happy they were fully dry I popped them in an airtight jar for storage with a little bit of tissue and hey presto!

And this was a lot of fun:

It was also a lot of mess to clear up, you don't think we got that sequence on the very first try do you?! Rather bizarrely our first attempt turned out to be the best, but we didn't realise that until we'd cleared up this mess a fair few times!!!

So now Ben has an excuse to buy me roses every time he pops to the shops, win-win!! :)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

DIY Fantastic: Watercolour Greeting Cards

Ever find yourself caught short just before an important event, a birthday, an anniversary? No? Then maybe it's just me. Because I'm afraid I always do. But, my go-to back up in a situation like this is to whip out my card stock and some paints and rustle up a quick watercolour card.

Sometimes watercolours get a bad press, they can be difficult to manage because everything dries so fast! Plus they are very different from other mediums such as acrylics and oils that you can re-work over and over, they often have a life of their own and the dry result can look very different. But for me that's the beauty of watercolours, the speed makes it unpredictable and means you get a different result every single time. Plus it's great for a busy gal since it's so fast, free and fun! There are absolutely no barriers to entry you, all you need is watercolour paper, watercolour paints, a fine brush, water and some inspiration:

I used A6 watercolour such as this and drew a gentle line down the middle, using a ruler, where the crease would later be made to turn it into a card. I used half of the paper for my illustration. In this instance it was all about fishing vouchers for the family, so I set to it armed with a wikipedia's Brown Trout page for inspiration. :p I very roughly sketched out the shape in pencil, mostly to get the proportions right and then I cheated a little by using black ink to create an outline and add some detail.

However, to be honest there's not so much detail on a fish, so launched in with the colours pretty swiftly! I must admit to being a little free and easy with the colour interpretations of the so-called 'brown' trout. But who wants a card with a brown fish on the front??! ;) I didn't want to feel restricted by the black lines, that just makes it all a bit cautious. So I took relish in going outside the lines, quite liberating in fact!

I tried a couple of different perspectives and even got a bit adventurous and branched out from the brown trout to something a bit more exotic! 

What do you think? Why not give watercolours a whirl? Anything goes and the more interpretive the better! And if at first you don't succeed, try try and try again! (Practice really does make perfect with these bad boys!!)