Homing Instinct

interiors, decor and everything home

Simple projects: tonal painted spoons

DIY Painted Kitchen Spoons

Until last week, we had just one wooden spoon in our kitchen.

Possibly the oldest kitchen item I own, it is a warped and aged thing, of a variety that you find lurking deep in the ‘Kitchenalia’ section of dubious antique stores.  Scarred by age and immune to the vigorous attentions of the dishwasher, it is also so short that every time I stir a boiling pan I risk steam burns and often drop the spoon entirely, having to fish it out with the toast tongs.  Why it did not occur to me earlier to buy a new spoon, especially when regularly purchasing such random things as toast tongs, I do not know.

Finally, I did.

I bought six in fact, having a tendency towards excess when shopping.  They are long and beautiful and  - let’s face it – rather dull, so I dug out all the leftover tester paint pots from our shed and gave them a good stir.  I taped off the tip of each spoon handle (use masking or washi tape) and then gave each two coats of paint.  When dry, I sealed with a satin varnish.  It took just an hour or so from beginning to end, but the result makes me smile.  Somehow stirring a dish with one of these makes it seem inherently more likely to taste good.

Paint pots

Leftover paint

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Hand painted kitchen sitrring spoons

DIY painted kitchen spoons in a pot

(As I study the photo above, I notice I’m still somehow unable to throw away the short-and-unhygenic-and-entirely-useless wooden spoon that inspired this project).

Have a wonderful weekend!  It’s a glorious one here; sunshine and daffodils and blossom and only an occasional gust of window to remind you that you are in England, still, and thus need to keep your wits, and woollens, about you.

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p.s.  Whilst you have your leftover paint to hand, why not try painted pots, and use them to start a family sunflower race… (we’re planting ours this afternoon!).

 

Room to Grow (a little more)

Boys bedroom

I finally got around to giving Harry’s room a proper makeover.

His treehouse bed was becoming outgrown; not by him, so much, as by me – the act of clambering up the stairs for a final bedtime cuddle, remembering to dodge the low beam and then lying very still, listening to the ominous creak of the stilt-legs, as I squinted at the label warning *THIS BED SHOULD NOT EXCEED 50 KILOS TOTAL WEIGHT*.  It was altogether tempting fate.  And besides, we’re now firmly in The Sleepover Years, where having twin beds from which you can actually see your best friend and talk all through the night (or at least until 10pm) is very important.Twin bed room

I bought inexpensive beds on eBay and we lost just two evenings of our lives assembling them and trying to remember not to criticise each other’s DIY skills or aptitude with allen keys and wordless, diagrammatic instructions.  They still make me wince slightly, remembering the effort that went into them.  But still, they look very cool; ageless without being too grown up (not yet; I’m not ready yet).

Star curtains

New star curtains with blackout linings filter the Northern light that still manages to creep through even in February, and two rattan Christmas decorations are repurposed for the bed-ends…

Bed with stars

Harry’s not ready to say goodbye to his nighttime menagerie of animals, but they do take a more discreet backseat these days, living under the bed in simple Ikea baskets.  The matching bedspreads are actually made from a TK Maxx bargain king-size bedspread, simply cut in two and hemmed (badly, flamboyantly – but who’s to know?).

Underbed storage

Bedroom stool

In the old fireplace the log basket remains, topped with a string of plug-in origami lights that provide a low, magical glow through the night;

Log basket

And the trusty badger rug remains, looking with every passing year a little less alive and a little more like roadkill, but beloved nonetheless.

Bedroom seascape

It’s a room to grow up in, and a room where you can still be reassuringly, comfortingly small.

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What are you reading?

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Are you a reader?

I grew up in a house of books; obscure and familiar, high-brow and low-brow, trashy and treasured.  An egalitarian wall of bookshelves meant that there was always something to read, and new discoveries to be made.  The collated volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica informed numerous homework assignments, Judy Blume navigated me through adolescence and later a diverse collection of philosophers fuelled my existential angst and earned me a university degree.  Even now whenever we come together as a family, someone will always ask on the first evening ‘what are you reading at the moment?’.

Discovering new authors is always a joy; exhausting the works of others always a sombre moment; Nora Ephron and Carol Shields feature prominently in my collection.

This Christmas and New Year break, I seized the chance to catch up on some great reads, old and new.  The Rocks and Fates and Furies were novels I’d read rave reviews of and which didn’t disappoint; both span decades and navigate the intricacies of marriage and friendship.  As a contrast, Julia Child’s autobiography of her years living in Paris and discovering – nay, Mastering! – the art of French cooking was a mesmerising read and made me immediately want to relocate to France and change career  (p.s. have you seen this film?  I watch it again and again…).

great novels to try

I was given some beautiful books for Christmas, including this one…

French laundry Cookbook

I’m smitten – and also completely outclassed – by the beautiful, complex recipes and preparations outlined in The French Laundry Cookbook, which is essentially a coffee-table cookbook, if such an idea were not intrinsically absurd.  Most of the cookbooks I read end in phrases like ‘… Made Simple’  or begin with ‘How to Cheat at…’, so this was a delicious and aspirational read.  Apart from posing with the book above, I have so far only mastered the important step of learning how to fold a napkin with a clothes peg, of which I am very proud.  Sauces and soufflés can wait for the springtime.  Or maybe never.  We’ll see.

Another gift; this gorgeous interiors book which celebrates imperfect homes and the contrast of old and new; flawed and smooth.  It’s made me wander thooughtfully around the house and move things around, to the great consternation of my husband, who finds nothing where he expects it to be these days. ‘Wabi-sabi‘ I whisper to him confidently as I waft past. ‘Transcience is the essence of beauty’.  I would best describe his expression as Unconvinced.  Two other recent, covetable reads; this book on colour which makes me want to paint my walls a deep, inky blue, and this one by stylist Sibella Court that’s an escapist work of art in itself.

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The last book I bought – two copies in fact – I haven’t yet read.  Harry and I have a new tradition; whenever I am travelling for work, I send him an iphone audio clip each day of me reading a chapter from a new story book, so that he can listen at bedtime each night, hearing my voice and following along at home under the covers.  It connects us and spans the distance of oceans and timezones.  Last time we read Jeremy Thatcher: Dragon Catcher (boys and pet dragons; what could be better?) and this time it will be James and the Giant Peach.  I’m looking forward to it as much as he is…

Roald Dahl

But now I need a new novel; my bedside pile is running low.  What are you reading right now; do you have any recommendations?

p.s. The ten most beautiful libraries in the world; I want to visit them all…

p.p.s. Top photo of Nigella Lawson in her library at home c.James Merrell for House and Garden 2004; all others my own.

Have a wonderful week!

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The Scent of Winter

Scented winter fire starters

Happy Sunday!

It’s been a frosty, overcast weekend here in this small corner of England, and each evening we’ve laid a fire in the hearth and drawn the curtains against the closing of the day; it’s a time for Hygge – for comfort, warmth and home.

To get the fire off to a crackling, scented start I made these bundles packed with clippings from the garden and the trimmed branches of our Christmas tree…

Winter firelighters from the garden

Scented fire starters in brown paper twists

I used sprigs of olive, from the huge old trees that we bought this summer to line our patio;

olive sprigs

And Nordic fir, shorn from the Christmas tree before recycling;

fir branches

Eucalyptus, one of my favourites that I use in the house all year round (try tying a sprig in the shower; it’s amazing!)

Try tying a branch of eucalptus under the shower for a blast of forest scent

And fresh rosemary, clipped from the pots around the kitchen door

rosemary sprigs

And then finally lemon rind, for a citrussy burst…

Peeled lemons

I tied the bundles tightly together and wove a slice of dried orange to each, before hanging them up to dry  out completely (slice a bag of oranges and arrange the slices on a baking tray, then dry out overnight on the lowest possible oven temperature; the scent is amazing and they look lovely..)

Scented fire bundles hung up to dry

Once they’re completely dried out, you can wrap them lightly in twists of brown paper (this stops them becoming tangled up and unravelling), and then use them to kindle a delicious, scented fire.

Scented fire starters for cold winter nights

For those without both the glory and the inconvenience of an open fire; try making these and simmering them in a saucepan on the stove instead for instant winter atmosphere and warmth; perfect for the bleak wintery months ahead.

Have a wonderful week ahead, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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In Praise of Autumn

This weekend has been a beautiful one so far, in the way that only a crisp, October weekend can.  Chilly mornings, pierced with brilliant sunshine and a newfound freshness.  In the park, horse chestnuts crunched under our feet and leaves swirled in the breeze; we wore our coats and scarves for the first time; shedding them after only a few minutes as the warmth broke through.

Inspired, Harry and I carefully picked some pumpkins and gourds and gathered armfuls of pine cones in the forest.  Last night, with a glass of wine in hand, I made this Autumn Lady who now graces the kitchen and wears the season in the folds of her skirts….

Harvest Lady

Built around a simple chicken-wire base, her dress begins with scraps of leftover silk fabric (from long-ago curtains). then branches of willow sprayed with coppery glitter. Dried poppy seed heads (from these flowers!) and faux crysanthemums mix with tiny fir cones, parting to reveal a giant, Cinderella-esque pumpkin…

Pumpkin dress

 

Pumpkins and gourds

The top of her dress is a simple length of linen, wrapped and tied with one of my belts (I am reassured by the fact that it strains a little more on her waist than mine…)

Autumn lady

Her presence in the kitchen has received a mixed reception from the household; it’s true that she does impede the direct line between kettle and fridge.  Also true that when you venture downstairs in the early-dawn, her profiled, looming figure can look startlingly like an intruder hell-bent on murderous attack (takes a few minutes to recover from that, I can confirm).

But still, she’s staying awhile…

p.s.

A winter dress, and a breath of Springtime.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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Dream house Renovation: The Dressing Room

Dressing room ladder

It seems inconceivable that just five years after moving into our rambling, creaking old house we could be decorating a room for the second time.

Harry’s then-nursery was the first room we did anything to on our list of priorities (a list pages-long, that still sits tacked to a noticeboard somewhere in the hallway, the paper curled at the edges now, with a faltering list of ticks and crossings-out).  We wanted a room that felt, to him, exactly like the one he had left behind; a cocoon and a place for dreaming and comfort.  We picked the smallest room in the house, and used Cole & Sons ‘Woods’ wallpaper for a magical night-time feel.

Then within a couple of years, Harry graduated to a bigger room; one with enough space for books and toys and a bunkbed; for den-building and story-telling.  I slowly took over the old nursery as a room to store clothes and handbags, but it looked very much like a room with an identity crisis…

nursery wallpaper

…so last week I funally took it in hand and gave it a makeover to be a proper dressing room.

Dressong room peg rail

I used Piet Hein Eeek wallpaper on two of the walls for a Scandinavian, cabin-like feel; the room gets a weak, Northern light so the cool, bleached look of the plank-wood wallpaper suits it perfectly;

dressing room with Scrapwood wallpaper

The eagle-eyed may remember that I used the same wallpaper, hung horizontally, on a chimney-breast in the main bedroom;

Piet Hein Eek wallpaper on a chimneybreast

I added simple peg rails made of unfinished timber and shaker pegs, painted with a single coat of chalk paint to blend in with the walls (I left the pegs in their natural state).  It echoes the guest room with its wall-to-wall peg rail.

Peg rail with shaker star

I borrowed a comfy chair from the kitchen which has rapidly become a place where discarded clothes accumulate daily.  I hasten to add, having looked at this picture (below) more closely, that I don’t wear these cut-off shorts and heels together.  Channelling Pretty Women is never a good idea.

Dressing room chair

I moved an old chest of drawers down from the loft  (*I lie; I had nothing to do with its journey down from the loft. That took lots of effort and cursing from two grown men and I made myself scarce as soon as the difficulty of the situation became apparent).  I painted the knobs silver – after purchasing the wallpaper, new knobs seemed like a luxury too far – and from a distance they could be mistaken for pewter.  A distance, okay?

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Dressing room tableau

This matronly mannequin has moved from the spare room and now houses bits and pieces of jewellery, pinned to her ample bosom;

vintage mannequin

And one of my favourite new additions; Ikea cabinets make the most of the super-high ceilings and provide a home for my handbags.  The only problem?  I can’t yet fill them all.  What a nice problem to have. (On the other side of the room and not shown; Ikea ‘PAX’ tall mirrored wardrobes which bounce the little available light around and are crammed full of everything else…)

handbag cabinets

it’s an unashamedly girly room, and as such, I have it completely to myself in this house of men; the mysteries of women being very much a fontier not to be breached.

Now, to the handbag-cabinet-filling opportunity…

 

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A Scented Home

fresh winter flowers

Recently, we had a glorious couple of weeks in Cape Cod.

We got back, travel-weary and laden with far more baggage then we remembered taking, and flung open the front door…

…and the air felt really stale; like someone else’s home altogether.  A kind of dusty, unlived-in smell, overlaid with (whisper it) a hint of damp. So I set about banishing it as quickly as possible by opening windows, lighting candles and buying my favourite small luxury, fresh flowers..

a winter bouquet

(Green and white; there’s something so simple and beauitful about green and white..).  The ornamental cabbages made me smile; my spine-chilling fear of slugs would prevent me ever trying to grow them, but they do look gorgeous in a vase.  And lilies; a staple on my kitchen island…

Lilies in the kitchen

Another favourite trick is to fill inexpensive garden-centre vases with kitchen salt and then add candles, found objects and single eucalyptus stems – a way of pretending I’m back drinking sundowners at a beachside restaurant or at a fantasy mediterranean villa rather than at home in rather more familiar and ordinary surroundings..

eucalyptus stem in a vase

filled vases

When it’s cosiness I’m seeking, I light a stick of palo santo wood; have you come across it?  It’s as far from the headiness of cheap incense that you can imagine, and instead smells like a cross between a roaring fire, a forest and something altogether sweeter… definitely one for the autumn as a chill arrives in the air.

palo santo wood

And finally, I always, always have a candle burning on my desk when I’m working in my studio

Scent in the home

My other scent passions?  Fresh basil on the kitchen counter.  Acqua di limone ironing water, for the delicious clouds of steam that invariably distract me from the actual heat setting and  prove ultimately rather hazardous to scorching.

And bath oil.  For decadence.  And inadvertantly slippiness, yes, but still.  Worth it.

Any other recommendations or passions?  Please do share… and have a wonderful weekend!

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Olympic Fever!

Are you following the Olympics?  It is the highlight of the year as far as my husband is concerned, and so we’ve been glued to the TV and radio, following the inevitable highs and lows and moments of glory and dashed hopes that characterise every single day in Rio.  Lord knows what we’ll do next weekend when it’s all over.  Olympic fever peaked four years ago when London actually hosted the Olympics and we got to experience it all at first hand; to celebrate we held an outdoor Alternative Olympiad party at home, and a new tradition was borne… so this weekend, we did it all again!

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A wide range of friends were invited (grown-up friends; this was one party that was not aimed at kids..) and asked to come ready for a night of fun in Olympic costumes, national colours or simply clothes they could move freely in – and we began to prepare.  Harry was allowed to stay up to light the olympic torch and officially open the evening’s event; he and I wore simple t-shirt and short combos, but used this easy cool-peel transfer paper to add an Olympic image to our outfits….

Olympics kids outfit Olympics t shirt

We scanned eBay for some olympic accessories and found wristbands and medals; each guest was given a different colour band on arrival to create mixed-up teams; a great way of getting everyone mingling and finding the other members of their team.

Olympic party accessories

Dorothy, who lives in the bathroom downstairs, modelled some of the gear very fetchingly.

Dorothy

We strung bunting across the patio and lights in the trees, and set up pergolas in case of rain (this is England; there is always rain..).  We positioned the Olympic cauldron (usually a stainless steel firepit; briefly repurposed) securely on a table ready to be lit in the evening, and posters around the garden signed the different events .  Finally an olympic flag marked the entrance to the games.

olympiad 99

olympic torch party IMG_0223

Olympic party flag

We set out a long table of drinks for both the serious athletes and those more intent on having fun!

Olympic party drinks

drinks olympic drinks

And then the guests began to arrive, looking wonderful in a series of steadily more impressive and outrageous costumes…

Olympics party guest

(including a WADA official, who looked highly corruptible)

WADA official olympic costume

Olympic party guests

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Olympic Guests

The podium we made in 2012 for our first party  has miraculously survived in the garden shed; far from stable, it nonetheless provided a fitting platform for posing.

Events included trampolining, where 2 members from each team were asked to work through a few simple moves remembered from childhood (the tuck jump, the star jump, and the seat drop), before busting out any personal sequences or flamboyant poses to attract additional points from the judges… and lawn volleyball, which roughly – very roughly – followed the rules of beach volleyball, though with the added hazards of the ball getting stuck in low hanging trees, or players attacked by the midges who felt all their Christmasses had come at once to find so many  people available in the same place.

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And then team relay races, including the Aquatic event, which required participants to don a large rubber ring, mask and snorkel and be wheel-barrowed by their partner along the race track to victory.  It was as ridiculous and glorious as the picture below suggests..

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Dinner was a BBQ between events, and then as darkness fell like a blanket we lit a fire pit and toasted marshmallows, and opened more wine.

You’ll notice the distinct absence of photos after 8pm; partly to protect the dignity and innocence of all involved, but mainly because life dictates that sometimes you just need to put the camera down and hurl yourself into the fray; far too much fun to be experienced from behind the lens :-)

An audit of the garden on Sunday (with a rather sore head, I confess) generated an eclectic collection of lost parts of costumes, spectacles, shoes, flags and pom-poms;

a night to remember, and one we might just find the energy for again in 202o!

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto

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Now We Are Six

This is 6

Whilst for Harry, life moves infinitely slowly, with the space between breakfast and lunch sometimes seeming to be as long as a whole year, for me it is moving very fast indeed.  Growth spurts can occur during the time it takes me to gaze blankly into my coffee as I come awake, and I am always surprised at the frequency of birthdays (Harry’s and mine, in fact – how did I get so old??).

Harry turned six a couple of months ago, which for him signified the onset of adulthood, pretty much, and for me caused to me pause and think about all of the favourite things which make up his world in this moment – the objects with a story behind them, or those which represent abiding passions over the years.  I gathered some of them together, bit by bit, and created a photo montage that we can keep and look at together in the years to come.  It includes:

1. The Militaria collection (or a selection thereof).

For a very equable, peaceful boy, Harry has always had his head turned by a decent plastic sword.  His collection spans various phases from pirate to buccaneer, brave medeival knight to Jedi knight, with silver duck tape providing necessary repairs over the years.  We have all become skilled in the art of swordplay, which mostly involves bluffing, waving your weapon flamboyantly around in the air air and shouting ‘ahhaaarrgghh!’ at intervals.  We are such amateurs.

Slide1 2. The Food Pyramid

I don’t think Harry consciously leans towards round-shaped food, but we certainly eat a lot of it.  From Cheerios (the breakfast of  champions), to cucumber – a hands-down favourite among vegetables, though both he and my husband maintain that eating lettuce is inexplicably dull and bizarre and to be avoided at all costs.  Chocolate donuts are a treat breakfast for holidays only, and thus have a near-mythical status and powerful associations.  The Charley Bear lunchbag is at least 4yrs old, but appears whenever we have a roadtrip to anywhere longer than an hour, and must always be filled with ‘just-in-case snacks’, although the snacks are invariably eaten and the just-in-case scenario is never actually verbalised.

food

 3. The Passions

Lego, Thunderbirds, Star Wars and making-things-out-of-cardboard-and-paper are abiding passions of Harry’s that show no signs of abating, and in fact gain steady momentum.  I captured some of them here, and expect that they’ll feature for many years to come.  I pulled out and photographed some of the items from his craft stash to remind me of this year…

craft

 4. The Random Ones That Make Me Smile

Amongst the rest there are a number of items that defy easy categorisation; the microphone that we mime with on Friday nights in the kitchen whilst music blares and the family dance-off unfolds (unravels, really).  The Ukelele that Father Christmas bought and which is strummed, endlessly and usually accompanied by Freddie Mercury-esque poses and strutting.  The commencement of pocket money, which has led to much discussion about the joy/torture of spending vs saving, and has introduced Harry to the novel thrill of having independent wealth to jingle in your pocket as you rummage through charity shops in search of a bargain. And Uno, a card game that Harry mastered at Christmas and will now attempt to persuade all those who cross our threshold to play.  He can now hold around 15 cards without dropping them all, has developed a cheery cackle to deploy gleefully whenever he is winning, and is an expert, charming manipulator who will try to recruit you to ‘join my team!’ whenever you look like you might be ahead.  He is still working on the poker face.

treasures

When thinking about what to choose, it also struck me what’s missing from this list, like books; Harry loves being read to, and increasingly enjoys reading now that the struggle of navigating new words is outweighed by the momentum of those he knows and the pleasure and discovery of a new story – but at this moment there are no particular favourites or books he returns to over and over; there were in toddlerhood, and there will be again (Harry Potter, here we come..), but for now they don’t feature here.

To make the montage….

I gathered up all the items on our list and took photos of each against a contrasting-coloured background, then imported the pictures into Powerpoint (free trial here), and used the ‘remove background’ tool to isolate each picture so it would work against the white backdrop of the slide.  For some of the toy figures I used stock shots online which was infinitely easier.  If you’re an afficionado of Photoshop you’ll be able to create a montage like this easily using that, but I am a luddite and use .ppt.

But… the main value of this is to capture the memories and the snapshot of life at this age, so the method is much less important than the purpose.  You could just as easily make a scrapbook together with photos (or drawings!) of all precious items and write a line about each (we’ll be adding notes to our montage when I paste it into this year’s Family Yearbook, so we remember the story behind each one).

Just looking at ours makes me smile – a little mistily, in truth – and is the beginning of an annual tradition, I think.

Have a great week, when it comes!

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The Wobbly Tooth

Tooth Fairy Door

It’s been a momentus week in our household; on Monday, Harry announced that he had a wobbly tooth.

My immediate reaction was to assume this was a false alarm; Harry has long been aware of the Tooth Fairy and the riches she bestows, and often checks my teeth for their general sturdiness, declaring many to be ‘close to falling out’.  This used to send me to the mirror in a panic,  but after a clean bill of health from the dentist I have learned to put this down to 5yr -old wishful thinking.  Or a budding career in dentristy, one or the other.  This time, however, Harry was right, and after a week of dogged tooth-wobbling, his loose tooth finally fell out on Friday.

I say it fell out; in fact it might have had something to do with me suggesting that Harry change into a t-shirt which later turned out to be designed for Ages 3-4, and which caught on his tooth – a rather painful and accidental extraction, but no less exciting for all that.  We carefully located the tooth, and placed it into a small jar together with some glitter stars, because everyone knows that fairies like glitter.  Proud of our own cunning, we attached a small bell to the jar in the hope that she might ring it and we’d catch a glimpse of her..

Tooth for the tooth fairy

We hung the jar over Harry’s bed, and then went off for bathtime and teeth-cleaning.

How to attract the Tooth Fairy

On returning to Harry’s bedroom, we were astonished to find a door had appeared, high on the wall above his bed….

Tooth Fairy entrance door

Apparently the Tooth Fairy Door appears on your bedroom wall only on the night that a tooth falls out, and is gone again by morning.  Who knew?

….And it seems the Tooth Fairy did indeed come that night, because this is what Harry found in the morning, under his pillow;

Note from the Tooth Fairy

Believing in magic can be very rewarding…

 

I made the Tooth Fairy’s door using an MDF letter ‘m’ turned upside down; it really resembled a tooth!  You could use an ordinary doll’s house door like these or these.  I attached it with blu-tack and stuck it high enough on the wall that it was out of reach of small hands.  Do be careful what you attach it with; wrestling it off the wall in the middle of the night in the dark requires something with pretty minimal adhesion… oh, and start preparing when the wobbling begins, so that you’re not scrabbling to sort out fairy entrances whilst still hunting for the lost tooth at the moment-critique.

To help the Tooth Fairy with her personal administration, I printed her letter using the free-to-download Blackadder font, and slipped it into a small vellum envelope, using a monogram seal stamped with a rubber stamp from here.

To get a very shiny pound coin you can wipe it with copper cleaner or drop it into a cup of hot water and vinegar for a few minutes.

If you have more than one child or this is the tenth milk tooth that has been lost in your household already this year and such effort seems absurd, I suggest just stuffing a £5/$5 note under the pillow and returning to your glass of wine.  Life is short, after all ;-)

Opened note from the Tooth Fairy

Have a great week, and enjoy the last few precious hours of the weekend!

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One hundred and twelve red apples

Red apple seasonal tablescape

It was my birthday last weekend and we had a handful of close friends for dinner; one of those cosy, informal dinners that feels just right as the seasons turn and the nights close in.  I went to the garden centre after work looking for flowers I could use on the table and instead stumbled across a stall filled with windfall red apples; a few minutes later I had purchased 4 huge bags of apples for around £4.50/$7, and had developed biceps of steel carrying them to the car.  Very satisfying.

I filled a basket with some of the apples and rested it on a stool to the side of the table, then literally rolled the apples along the centre, adding a few other bits and bobs to add height and interest..

Apple styling

Apple centrepiece decor Apple centrepiece

Simple and inexpensive, it took about 10 minutes to set up, but as a low-effort way of adding a touch of seasonal colour it worked a treat.  For dinner we ate a kind of deconstructed chicken and mushroom pie which I prepared in a large casserole before adding personalised piecrust tops to serve with each;

Personalised piecrust!

I cut large circles of ready-made puff pastry and used cookie cutters to create cameo silhouettes and tiny letter cutters for the initials of our friends (you can make them the night before of course and just chill overnight).  Brush with a little egg glaze, bake for 10 minutes and serve on top of the pie filling; a little bit of fun…

Personalise piecrust toppers!

And finally; a pan full of fudgy, raspberry-stuffed brownies, still warm and with a scattering of icing sugar and a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.  I’ve gradually tweaked and adjusted various recipes over the years and come up with one I love; the quantities are huge so do adjust depending on your needs (but then who doesn’t need 24 brownies?  No point doing things by half). Recipe below..

Fudgy raspberry brownies

Raspberry fudge brownies

Finally, thank you SO much for the lovely comments last time about my quilt post and the blog in general; they really made me smile.

Have a great weekend, when it eventually comes; we have bonfires and fireworks planned, and a couple of days of nesting after an unusually hectic period of travel and juggling.  I can’t wait…

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