Thursday, 29 November 2012

Project Simplify: Declutter diary – days 3 & 4

After a strong start to the week, things inevitably slowed down. Wednesday was marred by the addition of a builder and a toddler – each tricky to deal with but together a bit of a nightmare. And so we did what we could, taking it in turns to finish of bits and bobs here and there in the kids’ bedrooms. Tiny vests and long johns have been arranged. But it was not very satisfying, if I’m honest.

Thursday was a little better – I tackled the bathroom and chucked out all those little sample size bottles of shampoo and body lotion I’ve been incessantly collecting over the years. I know! Ridiculous. I found new storage for the kids’ bath toys, the hot water bottles, the piles of magazines. I stripped the window sills of clutter, moved the plants around, pottered a lot. So then the upstairs was DONE. Finished. Amazing.

I say finished, but I mean that I now know everything we have upstairs and where it’s located. What isn’t finished is the enormous pile of stuff we’ve yet to eBay, or the photographs yet to catalogue, or the art waiting to go to the framers, or a few shelves and hooks that need to be hung on walls.

Nearly there…

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Precious things: a series

Yesterday I went up to London with my father on a special secret mission. As well as seeing Bronze at the Royal Academy, I persuaded my pa to go to Anthropologie with me. Look at all those wonderful things! I bought a little ceramic dish designed like a farmer's market box, a lovely ceramic reindeer tree decoration, and a pair of reading glasses (I fear I have reached the point where readers will become an increasingly necessary accessory). 

Ah, so many beautiful things... Amazing scents inspired by public gardens. Beautiful salt cellar and mason jar snow-globes. A fabulous fringed scarf. This lovely dress. The new book by Tessa Kiros. I was tempted by a copy of Kinfolk, too - have you read it?

It's made me simultaneously panicky and thrilled at the prospect of Christmas. How do you feel? Are you excited? Ready?!


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Snapshot: A Welsh castle adventure

Last weekend we made the most of the sunshine and headed to the countryside. My brother told us about Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire: 'exactly tumbledown enough, but still looks like a toy castle', he described. He was right. The boys loved it, and the foam swords we bought them were the best £6 we've ever spent (although I'm regretting the purchase slightly now I've been on the receiving end of a few sharp lunges).

We scaled the turret to dizzying heights, we picnicked where the great hall would've been, we pretended to be prisoners captured in the dungeons. We didn't, however, re-enact the scene from the Led Zeppelin film, The Song Remains the Same, filmed at Raglan in the 1970s. Instead of prog rock, we headed west with Neil Young and Kate Bush, and came back over the bridge with the Fleet Foxes.

It was a brilliant day, bright blue skies and proper, old-fashioned fun.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Project Simplify: Day 2

After a great start, day 2 was always going to be tougher. There were a few bits and pieces left to sort from the attic, and it was time to start on the kids' rooms.

I've been in a quandary for months now, wondering what is the best configuration for the four members of our family and the three bedrooms we have. Do we put the boys in together? How does that work? Sleep hasn't quite settled into a routine yet - would sharing a room make things worse? This dithering meant we put off any decision-making so both boys' rooms were scruffy, untidy, and full of unsuitable furniture.

Most of day 2 was spent in IKEA. We knew we had to find a chest of drawers for A's room and had thought we'd get one of those dinky ones from the kid's department. But in the end, we moseyed about in Bargain Corner and found a much better option - a low, wide chest with 6 drawers, 30% off, and ready-made. Cheap and no self-assembly! That called for a high five.

It's boring but a fact - decent storage is key. Once we sorted that chest of drawers, everything else slotted into place. The only thing missing was a cupboard of some description - again, more dithering - but later in the week we decided to reuse an existing wardrobe.

The other big thing was to get shot of all the baby stuff. A painful process, but I know in my heart there are no more babies in my future. Luckily I have a few pregnant friends so those things will find new homes. Sigh... Hard.

End of day 2 - two respectably organised kids' rooms. Onward.

Precious things: A series

A little late afternoon sun, a 1920s painting, a succulent. Simple beauty and calm.

This week of de-cluttering is making me see, more than ever, the value of simplicity. Letting things breathe. Space.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Project Simplify: Day 1

Day 1 is done. We started at the top of the house - the attic room, which is both our bedroom and storage for Modern Room. It was scary. Running along both sides of the attic are 4 sets of double doors, giant cupboards into which we dumped all manner of junk when we moved in, back in 2006. It has barely been touched since then.

We systematically took everything out, went through every single item and placed in different piles: dump, charity shop, give away/back to friends, keep.

Wow, we found some rubbish in there. The car is full of bags to go to the tip, plus there are another four bags to go to the charity shop and one bag of baby things to pass on to a friend. What do people do with old videos and cassette tapes? I know I said I had analogue nostalgia but that has been well and truly cured with the boxes and boxes of tapes we discovered. Photographs, too - not rubbish, but vast, vast, overwhelming quantities of old snaps. That'll have to be a job for another day (or week).

And we unearthed a few gems too - a View-Master with a set of slides featuring Charles and Ray Eames, a box of old cameras, a drum kit (the boys and I have differing views on this one), hand-made presents my boy made for me when we were teens, a newspaper cutting from 1997 (I was photographed for the Style pages of the Independent at Glastonbury - imagine it!), a hand-written recipe from my grandmother for her Christmas cake (just in time), and a set of truly beautiful black and white photographs Mr O&P took as a student.

Then, we cleaned the room from top to bottom, hoovering out the cupboards and cleaning the surfaces. And put what was left back: two memory boxes, Christmas decorations, suitcases, diving gear, and camping equipment (I have a well-documented hatred of camping, so heaven knows why we have so much navy blue nylon), photographs. That's it.

Finally, we moved the furniture around - the desk now sits under the skylight, the clothes rails by the staircase, two antique chests of drawers either side of the bed. It's not finished finished - it needs a coat of paint, new blinds, a rug, pictures and lighting sorted. But it's a major improvement.

Onto day 2....

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Project Simplify: De-clutter diary

A while back I talked of our desire to simplify our lives, to cut back to the bare minimum and live by that William Morris maxim. I am not naturally a minimalist, but I'm prepared to give it a go.

Mr O&P and I have taken next week off work, with a view to systematically sorting, clearing and organising the house, beginning with the attic. We've lived here for 6 and a half years, and I don't really remember what's behind the doors of the eight cupboards in the attic. But we're going to find out. I would show you a before picture but it's far too embarrassing. Maybe I'll let you see in conjunction with the after... Weirdly, I'm excited about it. Enthusiastic. Chomping at the bit. I may not feel that way this time tomorrow.

The other thing we're planning to do is digitise all our CDs and reinstate our record player. I have analogue nostalgia. I want to hear that vinyl crackle again.

There are countless 'life laundry'-type sites online, and I've found a few that are useful to me. How about you? Do you have any tips for clearing and sorting?

Thursday, 15 November 2012


A couple of months back I was asked to write a piece for Lionheart magazine. If you don't know it already, Lionheart is (in its own words) 'a magazine for those looking for something that reflects their personalities and preferences. Editorial that’s smart, funny, friendly and a little irreverent, together with beautiful design, illustrations and photography. You’ll find craft, fashion, art, interviews and features that are interesting, inspiring and hearty.'

It's been a while since I've written a piece like this and I felt a little rusty. But I loved thinking hard about what to say on the theme - adventure - and running words through my mind, mulling, letting it settle til I got it just right. Sending it off felt nerve-wracking, like I was setting something free, not sure it would fly.

The finished product is beautiful. Talented editor, Hels Martin, teamed my words up with an incredible illustration by Dan Bright, which really completes the piece. As you can see, the page is black - I love the drama of it (you'll have to buy a copy if you'd like to read the whole thing). I love to write, nothing else brings more joy and satisfaction. And the thrill of seeing my name in print never seems to fade... An adventure, indeed.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Precious things: a series

Look at that fire surround! And the trunk, and the plate. That beautiful antique rug. The vintage crate. I love the hydrangeas, the lines of the wooden objects, the pops of pink.

My kids can just about reach the mantelpiece now. They pull stuff down, it falls on them, breaks on the floor. Last week T pulled out a full ash-pan from the grate, onto the sheepskin rug. My nerves cannot take any more!

I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks time when we finally have that kid-free space I've been dreaming about since forever. I will pile up books, and find little objects to put on display, and make a grown-up room just so, for us. No-one else.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Warm hearts

Today was the first really chilly day we've had - frost on the windscreen, sunny, but winter coats most definitely required. I forget that November has a different personality elsewhere: in other countries and hemispheres with alternative stories and traditions, their own beliefs and experiences and folklore expressing what this month is all about.

Isn't this the most beautiful wedding video you've ever seen? A November wedding in Brazil - just so warm in every single way.

Film by these amazing people. Makes me want to get married all over again...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


A visit to IKEA a few weeks back yielded all sorts of exciting and unexpected surprises. Their current stationery range is awesome. I could quite easily have spent a lot of money, and a friend had to rein me in and make me put down the washi tape, the fluoro/Victorian notebooks, the paper pompoms in perfect juicy shades, the lovely speech bubble gift tags, and the woodland wrapping paper, just on the right side of creepy. But I did buy lots of labels, including the ones now adorning my tea tins.

I asked IKEA to send me some press shots of this ranges (Historisk, Sarskild, Framstalla and Overlagsen) but they told me they're only in 3 stores at the moment. Can't imagine why, as it's all so fantastic.

Anyway, it got me thinking about my favourite Scandinavian style (and cinnamon buns. I think a lot about cinnamon buns). Forbrydelsen (The Killing) is back on UK screens on 17 November - not long to wait for what is an utterly amazing Danish crime thriller, I am so very excited. I already have one kinda Lund-ish jumper but would love a real Faroe Isle knit... bit steep at €280. Love this Topshop version though.  

Source: via Lottie on Pinterest

If you haven't yet seen it, here's the Forbydelsen III trailer. Less than 3 weeks!


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Snapshot: Ooooh.... Aaaah...

Tonight we walked down the road with neighbours to see fireworks, drink mulled wine, and wave glow sticks to our hearts' content. Something very lovely about kids and adults out together, enjoying the same simple pleasures. Warms the heart. Or maybe that was the wine...


Friday, 2 November 2012

November rain

Hello indeed. I have found myself singing a bit of Guns n Roses these past two days, which have been undeniably cold and rainy.

Not sure how I feel about this month... I'm looking forward to fireworks and bonfires, and the run up to Christmas, and I'm happy to have finally bought myself a new winter coat. But other than that? Bit cold and dark, isn't it?

Having said that, I'm about to lay a fire and make a lovely spaghetti using the last of the pumpkin from Wednesday. Lounge on the sofa with a glass of wine, a cat on my feet, and some good telly. Suppose that's not to be sniffed at. What are your November plans? Anything you love about this month in particular?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Snapshot: Halloween

A few snaps from yesterday... 1. I can never resist a commemorative tin / 2. Paper skulls - very dia de los muertos / 3. Spooky face satsumas / 4. More paper decorations - skeletons this time / 5. vampire batMummy dogs / 6. The haul (hurts my teeth just looking at it) / 7. Toasting marshmallows. We spent the afternoon in the woods with these two dudes and loads of other families / 8. Spooky raver 
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