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Monday, 10 April 2017

MAKING THINGS PRETTY



Today Last Tuesday, was a very productive day; after picking up Pops from nursery and a pit stop in Crystal Palace Park to see the dinosaurs, we went home to get crafty. {I thought she would be more interested in the prehistoric monsters than she was. As it turned out, the gravel on the footpath was much more exciting. I let her play in it, to prevent a full on tantrum, despite a few disapproving mummy glances-whose children were still unable to talk or move independently..you just wait, I thought! I did draw the line when she started to, or attempted to, eat it though.}


This was when she first saw the dinosaurs; her awe and wonder lasted for about 5 minutes...



...then she discovered the gravel!



When we got home and whilst Poppy drew on every scrap of paper with her new flamingo pen-an impulsive buy to prevent yet another meltdown in a shop with far too many ceramic nic-nacs to risk it-I had three jobs to do: spray paint the alphabet fridge magnets; print, frame and hang some prints in my bedroom; draw the outline of a suitcase on a box {it will become clearer, promise}.

I've had blue alphabet letters on the fridge for a while now, and every time I looked at them I wished they weren't blue. Not that I have anything against blue, just they weren't really in keeping with he theme of my kitchen.


Then it dawned on me. Spray paint them! I don't know why I hadn't thought of it sooner as it is a little 'making things pretty' trick I have used quite a few times in the past.

I started by testing the paint on just one letter first; I opted for X as I figured, if it went terribly wrong, I probably would need that less than an A or an E. And it didn't go great. Whilst the paint says it is for plastics, it wasn't adhering very well, it was almost running off the edges.
So of course that meant I had to sand each one of the little things. I hadn't realised until doing this that I had a favourite letter; turns out lowercase L and I are my favourites- for no other reason than they were the easiest to sand and had no little nooks, crannies or holes, which are not helpful when sanding tiny plastic letters.
With sanding complete, I just had to spray them with the paint and transformation was complete. I probably should have taken them outside to spray them, as I did set the smoke alarm off, but to go outside I would have had to passed Poppy. If she had seen me going outside with magnets and spray paint, a job which took 5 minutes would have ended with one, or both of us, in tears-and probably a shade of copper. I thought the risk of solvent poisoning was worth taking.




I'm pretty chuffed with how they turned out...so much so that I have ordered three more packs of magnetic letters off of ebay. Yay! More sanding of tiny letters!


The next quick job was to finish off a project I started months ago. I'm not sure why I didn't just finish it all at the time, although I do have a two year old, so that is probably the reason. In the lapsing time, I managed to lose the black Promarker I used for the other three boxes, so when my new one arrived, I really had to get the job done {before I lost this one too}.


I foolishly started drawing the outline on the box in front of Poppy. She then of course wanted to draw with her, please-don't-have-a-tantrum-have-what-you-want, flamingo pen on one of the other boxes. With some quick distraction, involving telling mummy off for drawing on the box and then finding her some scrap of paper to draw on, I made a quick escape to the kitchen to finish off the long awaited projected. The next job will be to actually sort out what is in those boxes as I'm pretty sure they are full of things which didn't really have a home, so ended up in the box graveyard. But for now, that job can wait.

My final productive task of the day was to print and frame a few quotes for my bedroom.



Sometimes, you  just need a little reminder that everything will be fine and to just get on with shit...and being a mum, that inevitably involves having a messy bun. Maybe once a week I'll get the chance to actually blow-dry my hair so it looks half way decent, the rest of the time it's tied up in something which resembles more of a nest than a styled do.

So my productive day ended with attempting to write this post...I got half way through and then being a mum took over. It's now nearly a week later and I am finally finishing it off and getting it posted! I'm sure there is some irony in there somewhere!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

SCAFFOLDING BOARD SHELVES



I get a lot of questions on my Instagram about my scaffolding board shelves, so thought I would write a little post about where they are from.

In October last year, I had my kitchen refitted. It was quite old and had far too many cupboards that ended up full of things I didn't need or ever use. {I found many appliances that I had forgotten I had: a tiny chip fryer which seemed almost pointless as it would never cook nearly enough chips; a bread maker which I had lost the kneading adaptor for-making it useless; a steamer which when I plugged in no longer worked, and my slow cooker which I did actually keep. However, I haven't used it once since rediscovering it, so it probably could have gone to the appliance graveyard with the rest...maybe this winter I will make lots of yummy stews...perhaps!}

Whilst planning my new kitchen, I spent many hours on Pinterest collecting ideas {of course} and trying to put them all together to make my ideal kitchen. One thing which featured in several of my 'pins' were scaffolding shelves. So I set about looking into how to make this a feature in my kitchen.

Of course, I started on Google and this soon took me to eBay. I found many places which sold old board, however, many of them were far too far away to justify buying a few little pieces of wood.
Then I found a place, just a few miles from home so popped in to see them.

They were very helpful-they cut and sanded the boards for me, although not too smooth as I still wanted that rustic look to me. I also asked to have the belts on either end of the boards, which they did willingly. They asked me to come back in a few hours to collect them, so I used that time to get online and look for brackets for them. Originally, I bought some standard shelf brackets from B&Q but when I got them home and held them in position, they looked very cheap and far from the look I was going for.

After a while on Google, I finally found 'the ones'. They are from trouva.com and were available in black and brass. I opted for the black as I wanted copper hints in my kitchen and felt the brass would clash with the other little bits I had bought to strategically place on said shelves.



All in all, they cost less than £100, the brackets being the most expensive purchase. The boards themselves were only a few pounds and I paid a little extra to have them cut, sanded and the belts put on the ends. Of course, if you have the tools, you could do that yourself, saving a few pennies, but for me, it was just easier to have them do it.



And I absolutely love them...and faffing about with the things on them. They are a great space to add quirky little things or seasonal decorations to brighten up the kitchen.




Sunday, 26 February 2017

NEW YORK, NEW YORK



There have been quite a few moments in my life where I have felt as though it has been a snapshot from a romcom movie...sadly never a proposal on London Bridge or someone standing at my front door with a monologue written on large pieces of card, telling me how much they love me. There was the time where I went for a drink in The Globe, ironically the pub that Bridget Jones lived above, and after about 10 minutes my date quite frankly told me he wasn't interested and left to go and watch the football with his friends. I guess he just wasn't that into me.

Most recently, I had my own 'Holiday' moment where I woke up on a Saturday morning and booked flights to New York for the next day! Sometimes you just need to get away from everything! The trouble with booking such a last minute flight is there is no time to do certain things, like apply for a visa! Not knowing the new protocol, had my friend not told me about the fact I had to apply to visit the Big Apple, I would have turned up at Heathrow, only to be turned away. Thankfully, the Visa Gods smiled down on me and my application was accepted within the hour.

So with everything sorted, I made my way to the city that never sleeps all by myself. It was the first time I had travelled alone however, it was just what I needed; sort of like my own Eat. Pray. Love. journey, except it was more like Eat. Drink. Shop.

I knew that it was going to be cold when I arrived (I did think to check the weather at least, prior to booking) but I wasn't expecting the arctic wind which would greet me. My first shopping spree sadly didn't involve a new pair of Manolo's, instead it was a haul for an umbrella, scarf and hat. However, and not down to foresight, I did have a pair of gloves in my bag so I was sort of prepared!

My first night consisted of drinks in the hotel bar and chatting to the other visitors, some of whom had travelled to Madison Square Gardens for a dog show. They, and all their dogs, were staying in the hotel on 7th Avenue, making it pretty much a hotel for dogs.

The next morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 5am, thanks to the time difference and my body clocks inability to adjust, so there was only one thing for it. Starbucks. I was surprised at how many other people were ordering caffeinated drinks at such an early hour-probably, like me, trying to store up on caffeine to see them through the rest of the day.

A little later on, and after wrapping up and wearing the majority of the clothes I had packed to keep warm, I went for a stroll (I'm not sure if that is the right word as it turned out to be an epic trek around the city!)

When visiting New York in the past, I fell in love with Greenwich Village, the Brownstones and tree lined streets are just so pretty and of course, there is the whole Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City vibe on those pavements.






Monday morning was spent walking around the village, popping in to shops and stopping off for hot drinks to help regulate my temperature and ensure I didn't get frostbite.





{Of course I had to pop into Magnolia Bakery, no SATC fan couldn't.}

After a few hours of wandering the icy paths in the village, I made my way back to my hotel, along 5th Avenue, to rest my weary feet before starting all over again. 

In the afternoon, I headed north and went to the public library and Grand Central Station, stopping off in Bryant Park to watch the ice skaters and warm up with yet more tea.








Tuesday was of course Valentine's Day. This year was the first in many that I haven't had anyone to give tokens of love to and I was so glad to be away from home and have a whole city to explore...rather than having yet another Bridget Jones moment with a bottle of red and 'All by Myself' on repeat.

I spent the day wandering around Central Park, snapping pictures of the beautiful snow covered grass and frozen lakes.

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A sculpture of Romeo and Juliet, seemed only right to snap a picture of them on a day for lovers. 

Adding to my movie moments, I stopped into Tiffany & Co and can completely understand why Holly Golightly found it to be her happy place. The beauty of diamonds and precious stones, sparkling under perfectly positioned lights is enough to get any girl's heart fluttering. Many of the customers that morning were men, stopping in to pick up a last minute gift for their Valentine, some carrying large bunches of flowers, others looking aimlessly at all the pretty things, probably trying to find something that would seal the deal but not break the bank. 



My final morning took me up the Empire State building, from where I could see the whole city and capture the urban beauty of sky scrapers and amazing architecture. 





The day before I visited the Empire State building, I received a message from one of my followers on Instagram, asking for a favour-to capture a moment which would she could surprise her husband with-a small, yet meaningful token of love. My brief was to make a small sign, take a photo from a landmark in New York and send it to her-New York being the place that they eloped to a few years previous. How could I not help to keep love alive. So armed with a handwritten sign, I battled the wind 86 floors up and took a photo to send back to the UK. 



I left New York with a sense of motivation to do more of the things which made me happy; to focus on all the good which is around me and to know that I can do many things-including flying half way around the world by myself. I don't plan on doing anything quite as drastic in the coming months, but I certainly plan on using the time I have to do all the things which bring a sense of contentment with myself and the new path my life is now on.  Maybe one day I will receive that proposal on London Bridge, or fall in a muddy puddle and be rescued by the love of my life, but if not, I'm happy to call action on whatever fun times lay ahead. 




Friday, 27 January 2017

HOUSE HUNTING



When everything crumbles down, it's the perfect opportunity to build everything again, but just bigger and better.

And that is my plan for this year, starting with the {massive} job of finding a house to buy. When you live in London, this is no easy task-unless you happen to be sitting on a huge pot of gold, or are prepared to buy  somewhere which hasn't seen a lick of paint in 30 years. Sadly, I haven't got a leprechaun stashed away anywhere, so my only option is to look at 'homes with potential'.

However, seeing that potential can be extremely difficult, especially when going for a viewing and every room you go in has someone asleep in bed...at 2:30 in the afternoon! Needless to say, that was the strangest viewing I have had to date; organised by Easy Properties, pretty much like the airline, it was all do-it-yourself. Whilst I was more than happy for the home owner to show me around the property-it has its benefits- I could ask about the boiler and neighbours and all the things you are advised to ask when you Google, what to ask on a viewing, I didn't expect his extended family to be dozing in bed when I arrived.

The house did have some nice features, arched alcoves and an extended kitchen (although it all needed to be taken out and done to my taste-but I expected no less) and a loft with the possibility of extending into. However, it was quite difficult to get into the rooms and have a good old nosy round, and channel my inner Kirsty Allsop, with the man's grandmother in bed! I was reassured that when the house was sold, the tenants would leave {thankfully, as I am pretty opposed to the idea of taking on three new tenants!}

With further viewings lined up over the next few weeks, I am optimistic that I will eventually find a little diamond in the rough...even if it is very, very rough. I do love a project.

The search is on!



Tuesday, 22 November 2016

THE YUMMIEST CHOCOLATE CAKE



This recipe makes the nicest chocolate cake.  In fact, I would go as far to say that it was the nicest chocolate cake I have ever made.

Last week, my little Poppet turned two. Her birthday was in the week so we had a little celebration at home, with a yummy dinner and a little cake for just the four of us. I say little, it started out as just-going-to-be-a-simple-cake, and it turned out being this....




Then on the weekend it was Birthday Part Two, with friends and family.

Originally the plan was to make a Victoria sponge; I'd had enough of faffing with fondant. But somehow, I ended up making the mother of all fiddly fondant ruffle cakes. {I blame Pinterest-I get all sorts of grand ideas after a few minutes hours searching for inspiration...often ideas which are well above my stations, and capabilities. But you gotta love a trier, right?

Rather than the planned simple, yet delicious, tried and tested sponge, I ended up deciding that I was going to make a chocolate sponge. Hoping that it didn't turn out being dry and inedible, I Googled moist chocolate cake recipe {of course}. And this is what I found.

Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter {at room temperature}
350g caster sugar
3 eggs {I used medium ones}
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
350ml milk
300g plain flour {I sieved the flour, although the recipe didn't say to...my mum always does}
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag of chocolate chips {This wasn't in the original recipe, but can a chocolate cake ever be too chocolaty? }

Method:

First you have to do the boring bits; preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and line two 20cm tins.

I like to melt my butter before I add the sugar; they mix together really easily and it doesn't take long before you have a light and fluffy mixture.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each one, then stir in the vanilla.
The dry ingredients can then be added, alternating with the milk.

Then when it's all mixed up, share it between the two tins and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check with a skewer and allow to cool.


That was the easy part!

I then decided that I was going to cover the cake in ruffles; after the initial covering of butter cream and then rolled fondant, the fun began.

There were a few moments when I was tempted to throw it all out the window {and go back to the Victoria sponge idea} but in the end, I just about managed to achieve the effect I was going for.

Sort of.

With a few sprigs of rosemary and some fresh Brassica oleracea, and enough fondant to hide a multitude of sins, Poppy's cake was complete.



Phew!




And because it was so big, there was lots left for breakfast the next day.