Homing Instinct

interiors, decor and everything home

How To Look Manly In An Apron (or: Impress Your Friends With a Tea Towel DIY)

DIY Tea-Towel Cafe Apron

Successful marriage requires compromise, as we all know.  The hurly-burly of give and take is what bonds you as a couple and cements your union.  Sometimes it means making sacrifices for the other, such as when your wife whips up a homemade apron and then realises that she has no-one to model it, and sabotages your restful weekend breakfast with the request that you put down your toast and newspaper, don the aforementioned apron and adopt a stylish, manly pose right this minute so that she can take a picture before the sun goes behind a cloud.

Gotta love him.  Not least because living with creative souls can be a very messy business.

Cafe apron DIY

When we were in Provence recently I did the classic tourist thing of buying a handful of beautiful tea-towels, thinking they were almost too lovely to use, but sure I would think of something I could do with them later.  There were these vibrant, colourful trio, a bargain at 10 Euro for the three;

Provencal tea towels

And then these gorgeous heavyweight rough linen monogram tea-towels, for just 5 Euro each (I bought a bagful, I confess…)

French linen monogram tea towel

Linen aprons

Once home, I decided to turn one of the linen tea-towels into a cafe-style half apron with pockets.  It’s not a no-sew project, I cannot tell a lie, but it’s certainly a low-sew one, and required very little skill or tiresome things like measuring or tacking or the re-threading of needles until puncture wounds drive you towards that unopened bottle of wine.  The monogramming and stripes on my linen towel obviously complement the style, but you could do this with any tea-towel of a reasonable weight.  Here’s how I made it, step by step…

DIY Cafe Apron from a Tea-Towel

Locating my sewing machine, finding that the cable was missing, buying a replacement, returning to the store to buy the right colour cotton and clearing the kitchen table in readiness took about 2 days.  Making the apron took approximately 30 minutes; pleasingly short.  And it’s just the right length to wipe your hands on when in the midst of a flamboyant culinary endeavour, with pockets big enough for your phone, recipe, ladle, and anything else you might need…

DIy Cafe Apron with Pockets

And finally, if aprons and tea-towels aren’t your thing, how about these gorgeous local soaps in every scent and colour under the sun, the other souvenir we brought home from our travels in France; I spent ages choosing which ones to buy, aided by Harry in doing the sniff test (we still sneeze when we think about it).  Simple purchases, and simple pleasures; the very best kind…

Provencal soap

 

olive oil soap

beautiful Provencal soap

Have a great week!

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DIY Cafe Apron

 

Navigators, Cocktails and the Swansong of Summer

The Navigator's table

I know, I know… with a title like that, any post is bound to be a disappointment.

Never mind, how are you, how is your week?  We managed a last-minute get-away to the sun for a few days before school begins, and threw a large and informal impromptu dinner party with friends to celebrate summer before it takes a final bow.  We managed to cram 14 people around our kitchen table, adding a couple of side tables at either end to accomodate everyone.  I covered them with these amazing shipping charts (below) that I found in a junk shop on the Isle of Wight last month… aren’t they beautiful?

Vintage navigation mapsVintage navigation charts

They were printed in the 1950s and obviously used for some years; each has small, faded annotations and comments scribbled on them warning of currents, submarine testing areas and shipping channels.  I bought as many as I could carry for £1 each; cheaply enough that I felt able to spread them liberally over our tables without worrying about wine-rings or the flamboyant distribution of food that is inevitable when you’re in the middle of a great anecdote and have a loaded fork.  And a near-empty glass.

I decided on a nautical theme and gathered everything I had that might fit the bill to go down the centre of the table… like driftwood and old map books;

maps to decorate a dinner table

Jam-jars, speckled with silver paint and housing t-light candles, whilst battery-operated fairy lights added pin-points of brightness along the length of the room…

A navigator's dinner table

Summer table setting

I wanted an informal feel, so for placemats I simply printed an image of a vintage ship’s compass onto sheets of watercolour paper and used them to mark each setting;

Map dinner table

DIY Map placemats

For the cutlery, I used some sheets from the map book featured earlier and folded each one in 3 with slightly overlapping edges, before gluing 3 of the edges and cutting a half-circle at the top with a circle-punch; the perfect pocket, and a 5-minute make…

Map book pages make a great cutlery pocket

Use maps to make cutlery pockets

It was a deliciously warm night, so we gathered on the patio before dinner and drank porn-star martinis which I’d made in exuberant quantities with a Nutribullet smoothie-maker; I’m sure the manufacturers would be horrified to find that I had substituted the recommended kale and wheatgrass for vanilla vodka and passion-fruit, but it worked a treat and they tasted far too good…

But now it’s back-to-school week; the labelling of a myriad of baffling pieces of sporting equipment, haircuts (the first in many months), and a frantic scrabble to locate the lists of homework we were supposed to cover in the endless yet somehow crazy-busy days of summer. Epic fail.

And as if by magic, autumn has ridden into view, with two days of torrential rain followed by mists, an early-morning chilliness and the ripening of the apples all along our lane.  We’re treating ourselves tonight by lighting the wood-burning stove for the first time since winter; unecessary perhaps, but the woodsmoke smells so good…

Enjoy the rest of the week!

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Friends for dinner: time for kitchen experimentation!

How is your Monday going, are you surviving?  We managed a lovely weekend with friends and sunshine (the best combination), so the afterglow has seen me through a manic day at work.  We threw a small dinner party on Friday night.  The kind where everyone arrives, slightly giddy with a mix of exhaustion, anticipation, and the rush of adrenalin that comes after shutting your laptop, settling the babysitter in, examining yourself from every angle in your outfit, sucking everything in and racing, slightly late, to your destination.  Friday night fever.

If you’re braced for a picture-heavy post, here are a few touches from the night, like dessert (but more on that later!)…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

Earlier in the week I made place-names for everyone to go on the table.  I began by printing out the names of all our guests onto watercolour paper (I used this calligraphy font; a favourite of mine), before taking a heavily loaded brush and spattering on watercolour paint in different shades of green.  I swirled the brush around a little to pool the colours and left to dry…

Watercolour gift tags step 1

Before slicing the paper into strips to create individual tags;

DIY place cards or gift tags

Which I then clipped to the plates at each setting, adding a spring of rosemary….

DIY Watercolour place names

Watercolour place settings

With dinners like these it’s always good to work out where to spend the effort and where to make life easy for yourself so that you can kick back and enjoy the evening; I opted for a huge caprese salad to start, and then a side of salmon, baked with lemon, feta, black pepper and capers and served up with sharing bowls of roasted new potatoes; one of those combination that you can place in the oven and forget about for 40mins whilst catching up on everyone’s news.  You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos; we were having way too much fun to stop and try to capture the food…

After a couple of easy courses, I wanted to go to town on the dessert and experiment with using the edible flowers I’ve been growing.  I decided to make individual lemon tarts in advance (these, which are my go-to reliable pudding for nights like these!).  To try to truly over-stretch myself, I also decided it would be a really great idea to make caramelised hazelnuts to garnish the plate, following what looked like a foolproof tutorial from Martha.  WELL.  Let me tell you that it’s quite an expensive garnish if you factor in the saucepan which became irretrievably welded with cooling molten caramel, and the burn cream I had to invest in after a minor slip up with the pan.  Oh, and you could lose 8hrs of your life attempting to skin the hazlenuts, unless  - as I did – you decide from the outset that life is too short and that a rather more slapdash approach is called for.   They look mighty pretty, but I can tell you it was a one-off venture into nut caramelisation for me…

caramelised hazelnuts

Still, I would like to be awarded an inventiveness prize for my creative repurposing of an old floral foam wreath…

caramelised nuts in florists foam

After that, the rest of the dessert was remarkably easy.  I had a dry-run at putting it together before everyone arrived, and took the photos below.  I’m pleased to report that even 4hrs and a number of glasses of wine later, it was manageable – here’s the step by step guide if you fancy giving it a whirl!

Take a plate (yes, ok – that’s the easiest step).

plate

Using a brand new  - washed! – paintbrush, add a stripe of raspberry coulis (from a jar; this is no time for domestic goddessery; no-one will ever know).

Plate with coulis

Add your homemade lemon tart in the centre of the coulis.  Squash together any crumbly bits; dust with icing sugar if necessary to disguise any imperfections.

Coulis and lemon tart

Add a couple of fresh blackberries and some carefully washed and pesticide-free edible flowers.  Mine are nasturtiums; you can grow your own or buy them in high-end supermarkets.

Step by step dessert with edible flowers

A couple of (shop-bought!) macarons add a further splash of colour.  I once tried making my own during a weekend break in Paris; it was amazing to learn but another of those once-in-a-lifetime things for me.

And finally, the caramelised hazelnuts, a sprinkling of dried edible rose petals (from Waitrose, for those in the UK), and a shaving of lemon zest, and ta-da! – dessert on a plate.   Just don’t drop the tray of these on the way to the table or your poor heart will never recover from the ruined labour of love…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

The evening went on into the wee small hours; plates were scraped clean and the weekend was truly christened and launched.  I love Friday nights…

p.s . Now I need a new show-stopper dessert; do you have any favourite recommendations that you can share? Or other courses?  Preferably high on the aesthetics and low on the culinary skill required, which regular readers will know is my modus-operandi by now…

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto;  and thank you for stopping by… particularly those who come week after week and say hello; it’s a very wonderful thing :-)

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The Dream House Renovation: Creating a Family Bathroom

DIY Bath tray

Regular readers will know that we’ve been gradually restoring our ancient, crumbly-but-beautiful home, room by room as budget allows.  We began with the kitchen and hallway and gradually worked our way upstairs, tackling our en suite bathroom and guest bedroom last year.  One room that has never quite hit the priority list has been the family bathroom; an inoffensive but bland mishmash of linoleum flooring, pastel tiles, 70s wallpaper and a squat, kidney-shaped plastic tub.  Oh, and a shower which has not worked for the entire 3yrs we’ve lived here.  What can I say? We’ve obviously been rather busy.  Finally last month we ripped it all out…

bathroom refit old bathroom

And now it looks like this…

An understated family bathroom

I tell you, I could spend the rest of my life in this bath and die happy.

IMG_8246

The huge roll top, ball-and-clawfoot bath was  salvaged from another bathroom in the house which we don’t use – it actually spent the last year filled with old suitcases and boxes, gathering dust.  Finally we’ve liberated it and it has pride of place as the decadent main attraction of our family bathroom.  Oh, and it’s big enough for all of us at once, which is both a good thing and a terrible thing when you just want a quiet and relaxing soak…

bathtime rituals

Classical bath taps

I painted the feet silver as a first experiment towards painting the whole of the exterior; I’m going to live with the white for now whilst I ponder colours…

Bath feet

We added tongue and groove panelling to all the walls and hand-mixed a bold charcoal colour with a blue-ish hint (achieved by combining Shaded White and Railings from the Farrow and Ball range).  I love the depth of colour and drama of it, offset by paler walls and the whiteness of the fixtures and fittings.  We found an old French street sign in a local junkyard and that now picks up the colour of the wood and is one of just a couple of decorative elements…

French street sign

Another being this ancient rowing oar, warped and weathered with verdigris clasps; I love it.

Vintage oar in the bathroom

It is, above all, a family bathroom, but one we wanted to be able to switch easily into a calm and adult zone, so Harry’s bath-time Octonaut tribe live in this old wire basket and can be easily drip-dried and contained once darkness falls.

Octonauts!

One of my favourite, favourite elements is the bath board I made using a salvaged piece of the original floorboards; when we ripped up the lino, the underlying boards were beautiful but chopped and nailed every couple of feet after centuries of plumbing work.  We took one up and I sanded it to a smooth finish before buffing it with a waterproof white wax, and it holds all the clutter one might need for an extended soak.  This, by the way, is the carefully edited artistic shot (below); usually you will find it piled high with a glass of wine, a slightly damp novel, a random toy that Harry has helpfully supplied me with ‘in case you get bored in the bath’, my phone, razor etc – you can imagine.

dream bathroom

We added a HUGE radiator-come-towel rail, which turned out to weigh 90 kilos (a lesson in reading the small print online), but looks magnificent and keeps the room toasty warm; in a house like ours that is not to be under-estimated, and I can imagine many a winter’s night where we will all just gather in the bathroom to socialise and eat dinner, rather than shuffling around in 8 layers of clothing downstairs like usual.

Bathroom radiator

The floor is made of engineered-oak boards and is coping wonderfully well with the nightly drenching it receives.  As a bathmat, I’ve repurposed a beautiful felted pebble rug that we were given a couple of years ago, which feels lovely underfoot as you step out of the water…

Felted pebble rub

We’ve gone for an understated look elsewhere, with simple wall lights which can be used in the evenings as a softer alternative to the ceiling lights, and a concealed cistern and boxed-in pipes to continue the flow of the panelled walls.  A laundry sack hangs on the door for all the clothes that are randomly scattered in the haste to clamber into the tub, and a tree-slice stool like those we chose for the guest room stands just where you need it to hold a glass or a book when the bath board gets too full (or just plain too far away when you’re lying back and relaxing).

Bathroom makeover

The room is still gradually taking shape as we complete the snag list, neatening paintwork and considering pictures and other accents for the walls and windowsills – but that final refining is a gradual process, and one best considered from the scented depths of the tub.  Bliss.

Now, where is that towel?

Towel hook

Bathroom window

The Mysteries of Small Boys

The Mysteries of Childrens Pockets

Until very recently, if you had asked me about the mythology of what small boys keep in their pockets, I would have been inclined to dismiss it as literary cliché and nostalgia.  What modern boy, after all,  covets marbles and decrees that random kerbside junk is somehow Treasure?

This one, it seems.

Harry discovered the true magic of pockets – with their seeming infinite capacity for holding Important Things – when he was given a fleece jacket with roomy, zipped pockets on each side.  When I pulled it out of the laundry basket last week ready to wash it, it weighed a startling amount.  Careful emptying of a single pocket revealed the list of treasures above, dictated by Harry as being;

An old fruit gum: “For my snack, if I need energy”

Pebbles: “For my collection”

A golf ball, found in undergrowth the previous weekend and carried around for 5 days: “For Grandma”

Marbles, source unknown: “For a game I am planning about lions”

A single, small Lego piece: ‘I always like to have Lego in my pocket”

Stray feather: “For you, because I know you like feathers and I always collect them when I find them”

Random rubber objects with sequins attached to them: ‘Just in case I need them for something.  And because you like sparkly things”.

Squashed pine cone: “In our game it was the school bell and I was ringing it to mean the end of playtime”

I was struck not only by the sheer magnitude of stuff which he’d collected (and you can imagine the shower of dust, soil and fluff which fell out with it all…), but also the considered evaluation and justification of each item.  They’re currently carefully collated in a shoebox, waiting for the fleece to be dry so that they can be restored to their rightful place.  Or discreetly thrown away.

 

Boys… a wonderful, awesome mystery.

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(p.s. What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in a pocket?  And to mothers of daughters; are girls the same?  )

Christmas at Home

Dogs bearing baubles

Today is apparently the busiest day for holiday traffic as everyone heads for home and family in a grand  exodus.  Even though we’re not travelling, the dawn of the weekend does seem to signify the proper start of Christmas and the time when relaxation can begin.  We have family arriving tomorrow to celebrate, so here’s a quick glimpse of how we’ve decorated the house.  Firstly, the friendly stone dogs who stand to attention at our door have abandoned their usual froideur and now bear baubles and festive ribbon, illuminated by the bay trees which are now strung with lights and oversized bells..

Dogs with baubles!

The fir lady has been visited by a flock of robins who peck at her skirts (collective noun for robins, anyone?)..

The fir lady with robins

But aside from the fir lady, I’ve opted for a low-key, calm kitchen with just an oversized paper star to catch the eye from the hallway and distract from the frenetic preparations and clutter on every surface..

Christmas kitchen

In the hallway lies my new addition to our Christmas decor; this year we are honoured to host the North Pole Sorting Office, where every letter sent to Santa from around the world blows in steadily, falling in flurries around Santa’s desk and filling his mailbags to overflowing;

North Pole Sorting Office in Hallway

Santa's mailbag

Santa's mailsack

As fast as the letters arrive, Santa diligently replies to each one. He’s currently busy writing back to Harry;

Santa's Mail Room

His typewriter perches on a ladder, which also holds his reading glasses, special wax seals, bundles of letters and maps and a compass so he can work out where each child around the world is writing from;

North Pole Post Office Detail

(To make this, I printed addresses onto some regular envelopes using different fonts and soaked them in a tray of watery tea before drying on the radiator for an old, worn appearance.  The letters blowing in from above are wired together using lightweight florist wire and hung from a removable adhesive hook on the ceiling. For the letterhead paper, I used this lovely printable and simply added my text to it.)

North Pole Letters

Further down the hallway I’ve arranged a similar tableau to last year (below), with the addition of a basket of magic reindeer food to give to all Believers who cross the threshold and may need a little help to summon the reindeer on Christmas Eve…

Holiday tableau

Magic reindeer food

I’ve hung Christmas cards simply from lengths of ribbon and clips, wired to the base of the bannister poles..

Christmas cards hanging in the hallway

And of course, most importantly all of all, mistletoe to greet all those who arrive…

Mistletoe in the porch

 

We have a real Christmas tree in the Snug, which I’ll share next time along with a few other festive accents.  Now, though, I must sign off as I’ve set myself the challenge tonight of mastering spun sugar to decorate an over-ambitious meringue wreath for dessert at lunch tomorrow.  The wreath has already collapsed after I accidentally turned the oven on again, forgetting it was quietly cooling down inside.  Plan B is to use whipped cream liberally as a distraction…

Have a wonderful weekend!
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The Fir Lady Returns…

The Fir Lady 2014

In early December last year I experimented with attaching boughs of fir to chicken wire to craft a wintery skirt for the dress mannequin that sits in our kitchen.  The result was a quirky, 50s-style fir minidress that added a dash of festive sparkle to the room…

Fir Lady 2013

This year I decided on a more decadent and formal, full-skirted look, so the Fir Lady has flowing, floor-length boughs and an elegant hessian shawl, fastened with a red corset-style belt from my wardrobe…

Fir Lady belt

I followed the same steps as before, securing some chicken wire around the dress form and then simply pushing fir branches up into the wire, twisting it tight as I went to hold the boughs in place (excuse the poor photo; my usual moonlight crafting takes place when the rest of the house is asleep.. )

Making a fir dress

Once the skirt was complete, I folded a length of raw hessian fabric in half and just draped it around the top of the mannequin, to cover the tops of the branches and ends of the wire.  A wrap-around belt cinched tight holds it all in place (and it looks far better on her than me, so unfair..)

Fir Lady with hessian Shawl

As a final touch, I scattered birch wood stars randomly over the fir skirt, leaving them where they fell, nestled half-in, half-out of the greenery.

Fir Lady Dress with stars

And here she stands, as if she has swept in from the garden to escape the chill; a little bit majestic, a little bit fun.  The inevitable gentle flurries of pine needles underfoot at breakfast time will probably be less fun, but we’ll manage…

Fir Lady in the kitchen

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Accent walls

PHE paper


In one of the very first ever posts to this blog, I talked about a wallpaper I’d fallen in love with; Scrapwood paper by Piet Hein Eek.  The cost of papering a room in Scrapwood would roughly equal the national debt of a developing country, so it has always sat on my ‘Crave’ list of beautiful but unattainable things that I like to admire from afar.  And then recently a single roll appeared in the sale bin of an achingly chic design store I was rummaging through, and it felt like a tap on the shoulder from Fate.  An expensive tap, even then –  but the deed was done.

Woodplank wallpaper on chimney breast

Scrapwood No.2 wallpaper now adorns the chimney breast in our bedroom and I love it.  It lifts the previous calming but somewhat bland walls and manages to be both eye-catching and restful at the same time.  The walls in this room are almost 4m high, creating quite a dramatic sense of scale that it’s hard to convey in a photo  - even when dangling half-out of the window, as I was here.  The wood-plank effect is so realistic that visitors* tend to approach it and stroke it before jumping back to surprise to find it’s paper… (* I should clarify that we don’t have many visitors to our bedroom, lest you think it odd…)

vignette on mantlepiece

accent wallpaper

So taken was I with our accent wall that I turned my attention to Harry’s new room, which we’re in the process of decorating.  He and I chose this gorgeous wallpaper from Scion, which made Harry beam with delight when he saw it.  ’That fox is called BORIS” he announced, with great conviction; ‘and I think he should come and be in my room’.

scion fox wallpaper roll

So now Boris – and approximately 200 of his friends – adorn one wall of Harry’s very grown-up bedroom, adding a splash of colour and fun.

Scion fox wallpaper

I love the way that they parade under the window, as if heading off for a prowl around the neighbourhood…

Bedroom decor

Mr Fox Ginger Wallpaper

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! (We’ll be counting foxes…).

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The Door in the Woods

The Secret Fairy Door



A couple of years ago, soon after we moved into our home, Harry and I began to hear strange skittering noises under the floorboards.  Small things occasionally went missing or turned up in unexpected places.  ’Mice!‘, said my husband.  ‘Borrowers!’ I replied.  Harry was mystified.  Then, we discovered these small doors in the skirting boards (below) and realised that we are not alone.

Fairy Doors in the Kitchen

we’ve come to enjoy watching the comings and goings of whoever lives behind these doors; post is delivered, sometimes with milk or a fresh supply of logs.  But we always assumed that the Borrowers, or fairies, or Lego men – whoever they were – lived indoors… until yesterday, when we were kicking a ball around the garden and discovered the door in the tree;

The House in the Woods

Lit by a small lamp and almost disguised amongst the foliage was this ornate front door, complete with welly boots and a rake, and a freshly swept porch.  We were very taken aback…

Fairy Doors in the Forest

It prompted us to rummage around a little further, at which point we stumbled across what looks like a tiny children’s playground, complete with tyre swing, straw bales, sandpit and even  an abandoned buggy (maybe we made too much noise?).

Fairy Playground



Well… a truly magical garden, and a whole new place to look for signs of tiny life.  We did try knocking on the door of the Tree House, but there was no reply – this time.

If, having paced out every inch of your garden or backyard, you find no signs of miniature life and want to encourage a few fairies or little people to move in, you could perhaps create your own tree doors and playgrounds.  I used unpainted doll house doors which I daubed with grey and green paint before sealing with varnish, adding tiny door furniture and borrowing some accessories from Harry’s ark and toy box.  The tyre swing is a Lego tyre, temporarily borrowed from a Lego City fire engine and repurposed.  The tiny replica gas lamp was a junk shop find (amongst a bag of mixed dolls house furniture and accessories), and miraculously works with a tiny hearing-aid sized battery, casting a magical glow over the undergrowth.  eBay is a good source too for miniature accessories and pre-loved dolls house kit.

To protect the tree from damage I simply glued the door to the bark in a natural hollow; a strong enough hold to allow the door handle to be tugged, but not a permanent fixture.  Oh, and a word of caution; when I first crept out at dusk to create this scene for Harry, I set a small dolls-house sized tomato plant by the front door, with attractive cherry-red tomatoes strung along it; by morning it was gone, and is probably even now being spat out in disgust by some local urban fox… so perhaps remove any bits and bobs at the end of each day.  Besides, half of the magic is never knowing where the evidence of the little people might pop up…

Secret Fairy Doors in the Woods

Have a great weekend!

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Calendar Cards (and notes from the week that was)

Calendar Card DIY

It’s our wedding anniversary later this week so my thoughts turned to cards.  A few months ago I stumbled across this beautiful free graphic calendar from Jasmine Dowling, and thought how perfect it would be for making cards to mark a special date or anniversary.  I downloaded the calendar page for July, resized to A5, then glued it to a piece of cardstock before adding tiny wooden pegs and circling our wedding date in red glitter glue…  and that’s all.  I’m in a pared-down, understated frame of mind at the moment and the visual simplicity of it really appealed.  Thanks Jasmine!  (These would be great to make as Save The Date cards for a wedding or party too..)

Heart date card

It’s our sixth anniversary and I’m looking for ideas; apparently it’s traditional to give your loved one iron as a gift – not to be confused with an iron I think, though this maybe why so many marriages suffer from the seven year itch; it can’t be easy to move on from the romantic gesture of laundry supplies.

For our fourth anniversary we gave each other the gift of a giant pair of faux resin antlers from RH (below); they looked so stylish and elegant online, and indeed they do now in our home – but the real act of love was the gesture my husband made in escorting them home from the US after a business trip.  It was, he later said, the longest interrogation he has ever faced at an airport check-in desk, when presented with the 44″ antler span; (‘Where were you thinking we would store these, sir?  Or should we just strap the darn things to the plane?’).  They arrived in the UK with balled-up sports socks attached jauntily to each point for protection, trussed in Heavy Load tape. We vowed then that gifts would be token purchases, and highly portable at that – and our relationship has flourished ever since.

moose antlers from RH

Still, gifts made of iron??  Suggestions please…

One purchase I did make this week was this beautiful Tradewinds Mural from Anthropologie (below)  - I had seen it months ago and become mildly obsessed, with my enthusiasm constrained only by the price tag.  Then the Sale came and I was lost.  It’s going up in Harry’s bedroom I think, for a splash of colour and to inspire dreams of globe-trotting and discovery.

tradewinds mural

With interiors in mind, I finally finished the faux fireplace in our master bedroom, which is gradually coming together (more pictures soon, I promise).  When we recently renovated the en-suite bathroom it focused my mind on how to update our bedroom to complement it.  We added a simple, architectural fire surround to the plain wall, then packed it with 10cm deep log slices to give the impression of a filled-in hearth….

log filled fireplace

And then finally for this week, one culinary success and one truly epic fail; the success first – a drizzled lemon and poppyseed cake which vanished without trace in the space of a day, using a recipe from my current favourite cookbook… you can see my passion for the bundt tin hasn’t yet abated;

Lemon drizzle cake

Homemade lemon drizzle cake

And the epic fail?  Well, my fig tree finally produced a flurry of these beauties below, and I decided to try making fig jam, as a perfect accompaniment to the cheeseboard we had planned for dinner with friends.  Well.  My first attempt produced a kind of fruity industrial-style cement (albeit one which smelled divine), which adhered to our teeth in minutes and had the staying power of cinder toffee, rendering the whole table literally speechless.  Very little actual cheese was consumed, largely because jaws were sealed shut with fig jam.

figs

I am determined to crack it though, and when I do you will be the first to know.  Trust me.

Have a great week!

Kate

3 Last-Minute Easter Crafts

Welcome back! Easter is nearly upon us, so three quick projects this week in case you’re in need of inspiration and feeling crafty.  Our long Easter weekend begins tonight and stretches luxuriantly until Tuesday – four days of uninterrupted family time and the promise of occasional sunshine; it’s certainly good enough for me.

Firstly, some simple but pretty paper hares I made by printing copies of this free-to-download colouring page and using the hare as a template to cut shapes from gift wrap to make these place cards for our Easter lunch table…

Easter Bunny Placecard

I printed out different sizes of the page and then positioned the hare against the paper to make the most interesting patterns and designs before cutting out.  To reinforce the paper I glued it to a sheet of card stock first; you’ll only need to do this if you want your hares to be freestanding.  I then snipped off the ears and reconnected them using a butterfly clip so that they can be waggled up and down and repositioned…

Easter bunny templates

And finally, inspired by this beautiful Matthew mead table setting I added a sprig of apple blossom  for a tail;

Bunny place card

You could use the hares to mount on cards or hang as gift tags, or even just as a beautiful bookmark; a myriad of uses!

The second craft really is a five-minute job (hurrah); using old eggshells to make hanging vases which can be strung on spring branches.  I took a handful of eggshells, washed them out and left to dry and then taped thread to the inside of each (Scotchguard invisible gift wrap tape works well as it has a matte finish).

How to make eggshell hanging vases

Eggshell hanging vases

Don’t try and make these if you’re feeling cross; you will smash your way through them all.  Sip a glass of wine, think zen thoughts and the eggshells will prove surprisingly resilient and tough.  Trust me.  Once complete, they can be filled with spring blooms for an elegant grown-up look (but don’t try filling them with water; a risk too far I think)..

Apple blossom in eggshell vase

Or Easter chicks and hens if you’re in the mood…

Eggshell hanging vases with chicks

And finally we’ve been preparing for Easter itself by creating gift packages for grandparents and Harry’s friends, who will be coming over the weekend for a garden egg hunt and plenty of games and a seasonal sugar-rush.

Homemade Easter Gift for Gardeners

Regular followers will know that every year we have a sunflower race, so this week we packaged up supermarket seeds into vellum envelopes, added a picture on the front (from last year’s race), and sealed with tape measure washi tape from here;

DIy Sunflower Seed Gift Packets

I then wrapped simple easter eggs ( the 5 for £5 supermarket variety) in cellophane and tied with ribbon before placing in flowerpots with a pack of seeds.  The mint green pot above is a Skurar pot from Ikea, and will appeal to our adult recipients.  For Harry’s friends we found a stack of brightly coloured pots and saucers at the Pound Shop and will do the same…

Easter Party Gift Eggs

And with that I will leave you in order to pace out the garden in the gathering dusk, in an advance mission to locate cunning nooks and crannies in which to secrete this year’s bounty of eggs and surprises.  This might be the first year that there is a danger of them melting rather than freezing, though I’m sure our tribe of hawk-eyed 4yr olds will recover them before there is any serious risk of that..

Have a wonderful Easter weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; here’s wishing you sunshine and relaxation!

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ps More Easter ideas from the archive here and here, and a lesson in nest-building here