Thursday, 28 March 2013

A millionaire for a few pence

Back in 2004, I went to see an exhibition at the Design Museum showcasing the life and work of the floral designer, Constance Spry. It was a radical show, with walls painted shades of black and grey so dramatic the colours of the flower displays popped and pulsated. Sprays of delphiniums were twinned with ivy leaves, sprigs of lilac sat alongside enormous dahlias, and kale leaves were artfully arranged in a vase, their curly fronds spilling over the glass below. I'd never seen anything like it.

Spry is accused of democratising flower arranging. Opening her first florist shop in 1929, she chose to move away from the formality of floristry popular at the time (at a price only available to the rich and famous), instead encouraging everyday folk to ransack attics and kitchen cupboards for vases, vessels and jars, and to forage in hedgerows for foliage, or visit the greengrocers to buy cheap greenery (hence 'A Millionaire for a Few Pence' - the name of one of Spry's books). The resulting displays were eccentric: gravy boats filled with kale leaves; pussy willow, weeds and vines arranged in tureen lids or baking trays.

The images above are from the opening of a new Toast shop, with copious decorations by the Flower Appreciation Society who adorned the shop and shoppers alike. Their approach owes more than a nod to Constance Spry, I think - just look at those little swan vases, the dizzy heights of the lupins, and those beautiful Frida Kahlo-esque headdresses. Alas, I wasn't at the launch (these pictures are from the Toast website), but had I been, I think I might have died. Beautiful clothes, incredible flowers, Sipsmith gin (my favourite), and edible flowers (another fave)? Total perfection.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Nature in the home

We're just home from a whirlwind few days away. First, we went to the launch of DinoZoo2 at Bristol Zoo - the return of the terrifyingly realistic, animatronic dinosaurs that proved such a hit last summer. It was an ace evening, rainy and dark, and we followed a theatrical, torch-lit tour of the new beasts with excitement and laughter.

The next morning we headed for Cambridge to a friend's birthday weekend. And then onto Legoland for a couple of freezing days of fun - more to come on both these adventures.

But while we were in Cambridge, I snapped this beautiful bowl of pine cones which had been collected by my friend's parents for years. Something of a departure from the freesias I posted last week (featured on Littlegreenshed today - thanks Lou!), these cones are a wintry addition to Nature in the Home. Far more appropriate to this snowy weather, although I'm yearning for Spring. Brrr...

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Something in the air

Freesias, ranunculus, and a pair of 1930s Wedgwood vases: arranged in readiness for dinner with friends on Saturday night; photographed as part of Lou's inspiring Nature in the Home series.

There is something in the air. My little T has been waking at an ungodly hour - 5.30am all this week. We are well-versed in the ways of the early riser, thanks to 18 months' practise with A, but I naively thought those days were behind us. Perhaps it's a blip. I hope so. It's only Wednesday and I'm broken!

A bit of nature (outside the home, this time) always helps when one needs geeing up. I'm off out into the garden with a new pair of secateurs, ready to tackle the rose-pruning, window box-planting, and long overdue tidying. With it should come some peace. Do you find gardening meditative?


Tuesday, 19 March 2013


March is running away like a hare, I can't believe there's just a week or so left until Easter. Last year, we made bunny pancakes, went egg-hunting, and experienced the highs and lows of that lethal sugar/chocolate combo.

I've been madly Pinning to an Easter board on Pinterest, planning crafts as well as confectionery. Will I actually make any of these beautiful, pastel delights? Probably not. But I'll bake, without a doubt.

What are your favourite Easter treats? Are you a Simnel cake fan? Or perhaps you favour a hot cross bun? I do love the warm, nutmeggy fug of an Easter biscuit, straight from the oven. And Easter egg chocolate is my very favourite. That snap between thumbs or teeth - thin, crisp, delicious.

Tell me your Easter plans, lovely readers.

* This is a sponsored post.


Sunday, 17 March 2013


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

A: Top marks at parents' evening this week. Very proud of him and his love of learning.
T: Scrappy hair and a dirty face. Such an urchin. So very sweet.

My favourite from last week: Ava's little shoes and that beautiful light.

Jodi's 52 project

Friday, 15 March 2013

My littlest boy

My littlest boy, Ted, woke the night before last. Like me, he loves sleep so this was unusual. His cry was pained, he seemed disorientated, kept putting one hand over his right ear. I scooped him into my arms and rocked him, he cuddled in and seemed a little comforted.

We gave him medicine, he spat it out. We brought him downstairs, sat him on the sofa under a blanket, offered him toast and jam. We watched videos on YouTube together. He cheered up.

Sometimes I forget how small they are, how vulnerable. He's usually the tough one - falls down, dusts himself off, gets up and hurtles off for more fun and rampaging. I forget. He needs me. 

Brace yourself for a sob, but this poem says it all, all there is to say about being a parent. I thank my lucky stars.

My boy is sleeping safe in bed
Without a tumour in his head.

No hepatitis, septicaemia.
No lymphoma, no leukaemia.

His heart is strong, his breathing sure.
The marrow in his bones is pure.

CF, MD or HIV.

We drove him safely to his school,
And back again. He swam the pool

Untroubled, laughing, loving it.
No seizure, stroke or fatal fit.

No aircraft engine yet has failed.
No train come lethally derailed.

He moves from trampoline to tree
To bicycle, to skate and ski,

Unharmed, unruffled, innocent.
No injury. No accident.

He sleeps. We sleep. Another day
Is passed in ease. We made more hay.

No horror here, no sudden shark.
No plunge into the depthless dark.

No slip from sunshine into sorrow.
But there’s always tomorrow.
Always tomorrow.

by Mike Reed for Dog Ear Magazine

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Bits and bobs

Yesterday, the IKEA live magazine plopped through the letterbox. As well as a lovely feature on Jane Foster and her incredible home, one of the many things that caught my eye was a suggestion for inverting vases over potted plants to create a sort of impromptu terrarium. So today I had a play about and came up with this - my entry to Lou's Nature in the Home linky this week.


It's been one of those days, today. I don't fancy cooking this evening, so I'm trying out a bowl (or three) of Lizi's Granola. Rather lovely of Lizi to send me a bag, this is exactly my sort of treat - healthy but delicious, it's full of oats, nuts and seeds, but low on sugar and other nasties. Yum.


On a totally different note, my friend Claire posted this on Facebook earlier, and I am SHOCKED. Both at the amazingness of the albums contained within, and at the realisation that we are knocking on a bit. Which was your favourite album of 1993? I can't decide - it's between Suede, the Breeders, PJ Harvey and Tindersticks. Oh, and Blur. And Radiohead. Man, it was a vintage year...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

So much to read, so little time...

Kinfolk issue 7

I'm a bit of a magazine fiend. Upstairs, I have stacks of back issues of favourites old (Martha Stewart Living, Bust, World of Interiors) and new (Lionheart, The Simple Things). And recently, a few even newer favourites have crept in as well.

I've just discovered Kinfolk and Cereal - two of the most beautiful, independent foodie mags, photographed so stylishly and printed on lovely, uncoated paper. Both have new issues coming out around about now, and I can't wait to read them. Swoon!

Another new favourite is Simply Crochet. I don't have a great track record when it comes to crochet... Despite taking a couple of courses it's not a craft that comes naturally, but I'm hoping this splendid new magazine will hold my hand and get me to a point where I can make something like this - a beautiful blanket I had my eye on for ages but could never quite afford. 

And finally, Gathered by Mollie Makes. After working crazy hours for the past few months (I have a complicated day job, a few freelance clients, my writing commitments, plus blogging. Oh, and childcare!), I decided to treat myself to an iPad. And I'm so glad I did - a whole world of Newsstand has opened up to me, with all my favourites available at the swipe of a screen. Gathered is a new weekly publication from the people behind Mollie Makes, featuring craft projects, interviews with makers, book reviews, and beautiful products. If you take a look at my sidebar over on the right there, you'll see the Gathered logo. That's because I interviewed Emma Hardicker for the current issue (issue 21)! Gathered is available for subscription, but there's a deal on at the mo where you can download five free issues. Go on, I think you'll love it.

What are your favourite reads? I'd love to know.


Footnote: just spotted this video - the making of Gathered. Love it!


Sunday, 10 March 2013

For all the mothers

I bought these beautiful flowers for my mum today, but didn't get to spend much time with her as I was working. Aren't they lovely?

This is for all the mothers out there, who do an amazing job every single day.
A little bit of magic in honour of the spell that took place the day we earned the title 'mother'.


Saturday, 9 March 2013


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

A: Eyes. Observant, mischievous, twinkly. Ever so slightly heterochromatic.
T: Fingers. Fiddly, investigative, expressive. Still chubby.

Playing along with Jodi and the gang.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Cooking under the clouds

Although not outdoorsy by nature, having two sons and a husband who are have made me try a bit harder with open-air fun. Recently, we headed up to the woods for some running around, a bit of mud-squelching, and a go on the best swing ever.

We took some bits and bobs to Leigh Woods for lunch, and also prepared a very simple but delicious hot snack, perfect for a spot of al fresco cooking.

Campsite Croque Monsieurs

You will need (per person):
2 slices of bread 
1 slice of ham
30g cheese, grated (something with flavour, such as gruyere or a nice sharp cheddar)

You will also need:
A campfire or camping gas stove
A small frying pan
A roll of tin foil

And here's what you do:
1. Toast the bread on both sides (over the fire if you're using a gas stove, toast in the pan or bring along pre-toasted bread).
2. Assemble your sandwich with the cheese and ham tucked in neatly, and give it a good press down to keep things together.
3. Carefully lower your sandwich into the frying pan, and warm through until the cheese begins to melt. 
4. Flip it over when one side is nicely toasted and melty. Be careful not to burn your croque.
5. If the bread is getting too brown before the cheese begins to melt, wrap your sandwich in tin foil and start again, or keep it near enough to the heat of the campfire to get that cheese melting.

Alongside our croque monsieurs, we got through a very large flask of hot chocolate, a few bags of crisps, and plenty of fruit. 

Quick, easy and wholesome. Just what you need after all that bear-hunting.

*This is a sponsored post.


Sunday, 3 March 2013


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

A: So proud of you for your determination in the water at your first swimming lesson. Getting there...
T: Nearly broke me this weekend. So much defiance, so many tantrums. Only so many times I can peel you off the floor.

Funny old weekend, it's been up and down. The major down from yesterday (ill-advised family Asda trip on Saturday afternoon) resulted in a lot of wine being consumed (up!), followed by a bit of a grumpy morning today. Most definitely down.

I found this Alain de Botton quote the other week which really sums it up for me:
'During the longueurs of weekends, we may be desperate for our children to grow up, lose their interest in trampolining and leave us alone for ever so that we can read a magazine for once, and enjoy a tidy living room. And then a day later, at the office, we may want to howl with grief because a meeting looks like it’s going to overrun and we realize we’ll miss out on putting them to bed.'

Ain't that the truth?

Playing along with Jodi. My favourite from last week - Julian.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Project Simplify goes monthly

Last year, I started Project Simplify as a way to get to grips with our home and our lives. At times it felt as though we were losing our grasp on the 'stuff' that seemed to be taking over, and PS meant pausing, drawing a line in the sand, and assessing what was really necessary in our lives and what could go. So we took a week off work, tackled the entire house from the top down, and cleared, sorted, and organised what we could. It was a brilliant start.

I am definitely one of those personality types that enjoys project work - I love things with a defined start and finish, I like to tick things off and never re-visit them again. But life isn't like that, and neither is housekeeping. (Nor is parenting, for that matter.) So, how to keep motivated?

Project Simplify had such overwhelmingly positive feedback with so many people saying they'd like to do the same that I've decided to make it a new monthly blog series. Now that March is here and spring is most certainly springing, it feels like the right time to get going.

Project Simplify Monthly is a way to chip away at some of the bigger stuff, to tick something off the list, to start as we mean to go on, and to keep going. Every month I'll be posting a project designed to clear the decks, streamline life in some way, or just force our hand to get round to a job we've been putting off for much too long.

I have designed a couple of blog badges (250px and 170px) if you'd like to play along. I'll add a blog link up to each post so we can all track our progress throughout the month, be inspired by each other's good work, and motivate ourselves to just get something done.

Are you in?

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