Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Precious things: a series

In love with these bits and bobs: the bakers twine, the eucalyptus, the glasses. The monochrome.

The decorators are in. Soon we will have a white living room. White, with a black slate fireplace and a dark sofa. Plenty of beautiful wood - cabinets and chairs.

I'm overlooking the disruption (furniture scattered throughout the house, not great when you're in quarantine) and looking forward to the arranging of the pictures, the furniture, and the precious things. My favourite bit.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013. 
Joining in with Jodi and the others.

A: Chatty / inquisitive / climbing / questioning / prolific
T: Chirpy / helpful / energetic / sleepy / clingy / spotty!

T has chicken pox and we're pyjama-clad and housebound. It's taking everything we've got to think of games to play, things to do, and ways to take everyone's minds off these pesky spots.

A hasn't had it (yet) so we're playing the waiting game. Watch this space...

There's a pox on our house

T has chicken pox and we're staring into the abyss of quarantine, Calpol and cabin fever.

Any tips for dealing with the pox would be great. Have your kids had it? How did you keep them happy?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A postcard to the southern hemisphere


My parents are on holiday, touring various wonderful and warm parts of Australasia (not envious at all, honest). We've been in touch by text and FaceTime, but A wanted to write to them and to show them pictures of our snowy adventures last week.

Hello Nana! G'day Grumpy!

Here's A's missive, in case it's tricky to read:
Dear Nana and Grumpy
We had a good time in the snow. We made a snowman and climbed on a big fat bit of snow and we went to the Lounge and had hot chocolate and chips. 
We hope you are having a nice holiday.
Love from Arthur, Ted, Lottie and Ben xxx

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Musical youth

Me and my pa, long ago
{that hair!}
I have spent much of the past two weeks humming 'What makes you beautiful' by One Direction, after buying a pop party CD for A.
I was in two minds about supplying him with a whole hour of terrible music - it's inevitable that I would end up with those pop sounds rattling around my brain indefinitely.

But twice now he's been to the school disco and twice it's crossed my mind whether he even recognises any of the music they play. At home we listen to motown, reggae, rock and roll, 90s guitar music, bluegrass, country, punk, 60s pop. But not current pop. And it made me feel bad for him, not knowing the same songs as the rest of his friends, his school, his generation. 

My brother and I were talking about the songs we remember as a child and, although we had our fair share of Now albums, it's the music our parents played that sticks most vividly in our minds. I do love a mix-tape playlist, and so I've made one in honour of those nostalgic tunes that conjure up childhood journeys, summer holidays, hours and hours rattling around in the back seat of a blue Volvo 740. It's one for those of us born in the 1970s - a collection of (probably quite terrible) songs from the mid-eighties or thereabouts. 


And while I'm on a nostalgic musical trip down memory lane, here's something from a little later...
About ten years ago some of our friends were in a band and asked Ben and I to be part of one of their videos. Can you spot us?


Sunday, 20 January 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.
A: Everything is amazing or everything is awful. Extremes of emotion. 
I recognise myself in you so much.
T: Wild child. This week you cut my hair, pulled over the TV, broke your bed, and pulled a cupboard door off. 
I love you deeply and wouldn't change any of this for all the tea in China.

Can it really be week three? This year is going fast...

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snapshot: Snow white

1. Banana bread for two flu-ey families
2. Fed up with losing mittens. We went old school
3. This fella went up FAST, first thing Friday morning 
4. Hot boozy drinks, indecently early
5. Fig in the snow, like a fish out of water
6. Family of boots. Getting ready to brace the elements second time round.

So the snow did come. School was cancelled. 
The excitement in my children's eyes would melt the coldest of hearts. 

{But now we're kind of over it all for another year...}

Thursday, 17 January 2013


As we eagerly await the 25cm of snow forecast for tomorrow (yes!), I'm thinking about all things white. Our house is painted in shades such as Old White and Cornforth White, neither of which are actually white. The living room (Old White) is greenish, and feels sludgy and dark as it only gets late afternoon/evening sun.

So, the time has come to paint it all white. Real white. Snow white. Like this beautiful house pictured above. Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? I love that the starkness of the white walls and floors is softened with the beaten up furniture, the tones and textures of marble, all those colourful pictures and textiles, and well-chosen lighting. Full of life. Perfect.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Things are happening...

I had a feeling 2013 *might* be the year things would happen. It's only mid-January, but already change is afoot.

I just know that something good is going to happen...

Sunday, 13 January 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013.

A: Back to school and loving every minute. Getting frustrated by his little brother when they play together, but when they're good they're brilliant.
T: More and more like his Uncle Joe every day. Always the joker. 
Found him asleep standing up with his head on the seat of a chair yesterday. He got bored of waiting for us to get ready and go out.

{Quite like how these photographs - taken 5 days apart - almost feel like they're responding to each other...}

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Recipe: Sloe gin and pomegranate fizz

Yesterday I had a bit of good news and so I decided to celebrate with my new favourite drink - sloe gin and pomegranate fizz. I tried Sipsmith gin back in July when we visited The Ethicurean, and this Christmas I bought a bottle of their sloe gin. It is stupendous.

You will need:
35ml sloe gin
5ml grenadine
250ml tonic water
Copious amounts of ice
1/2 orange, sliced
1/2 pomegranate, seeds and juice

1. Fill a tumbler with ice.
2. Measure your gin and grenadine and pour over the ice.
3. Throw in your orange slices, pomegranate seeds, and squeeze the juice of both into the glass.
4. Pour in the tonic.

Down the hatch.

By the way, I had a hard time working out where to buy sloe gin in Bristol so I called Sipsmith and spoke to the very chipper Sam, who helped me to track down a bottle {Waitrose, of course}. Gotta love helpful, independent producers.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Let the light in

Back to work, back to school, decorations down (actually, mine aren't - is something bad going to happen to me?!). Cutting down on wine. Eating nuts and seeds. January doesn't sound too fun, does it? Been thinking today about the things I might do to make January less gloomy and let a bit of light and fun back in - here are my suggestions. 

:: The house is already full of spring flowers - hyacinths, daffodils, tulips - which will continue to be a necessary purchase until the first of the bulbs emerge. 

:: Bet now is peak time to book holidays. Been thinking about what we might do this year... I'd love to go to Italy with the kids. 

:: Early nights watching the new series of Borgen, or tucked up in bed with a cuppa and a good book. I was lucky this Christmas, and got this one and that one (I love reading cookbooks almost as much as I love cooking from them).

:: A facial. Never had one before. But my skin could do with a detox of its own.

:: Thinking of healthy but delicious food ideas. It's not easy but it's possible. For breakfasts I'm going with this granola, or perhaps a grilled grapefruit. I'm going to snack on crudites with home-made houmous and tapenade, or slices of naval oranges sprinkled with orange flower water.

:: Perhaps a chilly night swim under the stars at my favourite place, the Lido. Or a cinema trip with my dearly beloved.

:: Imagining I've won the Lottery and perusing the Modern House listings. Multi-million architect-designed pad in Highgate, anyone?

How do you get through this dark month?

{Photograph taken last night at the Holburne Museum in Bath, at the last couple of days of Circuit: A Light Labyrinth}


Sunday, 6 January 2013


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013 - from Che and Fidel

A: Shy and stubborn, complex, full of questions and contradictions.
T: A whirlwind. Fearless. Talking more and more each day, his phrase du jour is 'did it!'

I'm taking a photograph of my children every week this year, inspired by Jodi and her beautiful series. Very excited about this, just hope I have the staying power to carry it through the year...

Friday, 4 January 2013

Project Simplify: Declutter your house in one week

At the end of last year, we did a major de-clutter which I called Project Simplify. With the new year and detox-type resolutions abounding, I thought it would be useful to compile everything we learned into one post to make it easy to tackle should you be thinking of attempting a similar operation.

Our main objective was to systematically rid our house of unwanted or unusable items in one fell swoop, in order to facilitate simpler, easier living in a more convivial, less stressful home. In other words, I wanted to clear the clutter and to know every item in the house and where it lives.

We meant business. My husband and I both took a full week off work while the children were (mainly) in school/childcare. This allowed us uninterrupted time to think, process, and work quickly and efficiently. Obviously this is a luxury so if you can't do the same try to work out some other way to gain a significant chunk of time to yourself. 

Our decluttering began in the attic bedroom where we sleep. With eight double cupboards in the eaves, this was the main source of the clutter. Because the junk was behind closed doors, we had no real idea what we were dealing with so our first job was to take everything out of the cupboards and assess the situation. It was worse than we thought. Have a look here for a full description of how we tackled this particular mess. 

On subsequent days we moved from room to room, through the house clearing and tidying, relocating and rehoming. Kids' bedrooms are obvious clutter hubs but providing decent storage and explaining how to tidy, put away etc should minimise some of the worst of the mess. Other pinch points include the bathroom cabinet - full of tiny tubes of hotel toiletries, carefully gathered but never used. I was ruthless. Kitchen cabinets were also bad. Anything behind a closed door tends towards the chaotic if you're not careful.

So what did we learn? Here are my top tips:

I am a firm believer in the like-with-like approach to storage. It's a straightforward system, and if you label storage containers there's more chance of everyone understanding and sticking to the system. 

Bed linen storage has always been a headache of mine. When it comes to changing the beds I worked myself up into a frenzy trying to find the right size sheet for the right beds. The solution is simple and came to me in a eureka moment - each bedroom now has a dedicated space containing the linen suitable for that bed. One room has a box of linen in the wardrobe, another a blanket box/bench, and the last a dedicated drawer. 

Work in sequence, finish one room before moving onto another. Group items together to see clearly what you're dealing with. Prune out broken, ugly, or unwanted items, box them up, and take them out of the house the same day. 

Offer unwanted items to your friends or followers first, before trying Freecycle or eBay. It's much easier to drop something round straightaway rather than photographing, listing and waiting for auctions to end. Plus you don't want to run the risk of changing your mind at any point (a de-clutterer's worst nightmare). 

You don't want to have to do this again.

Don't go it alone - work in pairs, preferably two people with slightly different tendencies to even out purging/hoarding. Keep energised - a constant stream of breaks, snacks, and rewards at the end are essential. If necessary stock up beforehand. This *is* a military-style operation. 

Photograph rooms at their worst so you can see how much you've achieved. Count the number of bags you're taking to the charity shop or the tip. Give yourself a pat on the back. 

Accept some clutter is inevitable and plan for it. Our kitchen worktops are rarely without those piles of bills, kids' drawings, magazines etc, and the best thing to do is find them a home. It doesn't matter if that home is messy, as long as it's contained. I'm going to invest in a kitchen trolley from IKEA - one shelf each.

Put redundant furniture to new uses: a beautiful old wire shoe rack became too small to hold the copious wellies and heels we own, so it now lives in the bathroom - the perfect storage for bath toys, shampoo, and hot water bottles. Likewise, a beautiful antique trunk at the end of our bed contains all my craft materials, fabric, and other bits and pieces I rarely get round to using. 

Leave something half done unless completely unavoidable. We still have a few piles of bits and pieces to ebay, and mess generates mess. But, at the same time, the term 'Project' is a little misleading. Successful de-cluttering is an ongoing process - accoutrements need to be pruned regularly (daily, weekly) and the 'little and often' approach is better than the binge-purge, all or nothing.

Lose momentum - call up painters, decorators, electricians etc while you're in the moment, frame photographs, hang pictures, try out paint samples, replace batteries. These things don't take long but the cumulative impact is huge. 


Phew. Our house is far from finished but we made a good start, which has allowed us to see more clearly what still needs to be done, and even how we might use the house itself in better ways. 

Have you ever done a similar de-clutter? What are your tips? Would you consider tackling your home in this way? Or are you one of those naturally tidy, ruthless types whose house is always neat?


Thursday, 3 January 2013

New Year's Day

Happy new year! How did you celebrate the beginning of 2013? We visited very dear friends, drank tea and champagne in equal quantities, danced, laughed, chatted, and generally had a lovely time.

New Year's Day started a little earlier than I'd have chosen (doesn't it always?), but we made the most of the beautiful sunshine and blue sky with a walk in Richmond Park. The kids splashed in puddles, spotted deer and parrots, and climbed trees, while we drank coffee and chatted some more. It was pretty much perfect.

Resolutions this year are fairly simple - health blah blah, some exciting work-type things on the horizon, and I am going to buy myself nice underwear. Like a grown-up. 2013 will be the year of more: more people over for meals. More fun. More kindness. More music. More sleep? Hope so.

What are yours?  
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