After two weeks of soaring temperatures, blue skies and barbecues, the heavens duly opened this Friday to mark the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the long bank holiday weekend. Since its self-declared annus horriblis in the 90s amidst Diana’s death and Charles’s disfavour, the Royal Family has reclaimed its place in the hearts of Britain and the Commonwealth. This weekend almost every village in England held street parties, fetes and events, and Jubilee-fever spread across the county despite the rain, not least here in our house…
In preparation for hosting a Right Royal Tea Party for Harry’s nursery friends, we decked out every surface with bunting, added red, white and blue accents wherever we could and of course chose our own wardrobe with care… (I should add that these are my husband’s legs, before I get inundated with sympathetic comments and advice on discreet depilation…)
You can’t have a tea party without cake, advice we took very seriously, so Harry and I whipped up these cupcakes (below) and adorned them with London landmark cake-toppers and sprinkles. Regal brownies, bell peppers with mozzarella and a raft of other healthy and distinctly unhealthy treats rounded out the feast. Despite adding vast amounts of gel food colouring to the frosting we managed to achieve a watermelon shade rather than a deep red, but they looked no less perky for that.
To distract from the grey skies we turned the house over to toddler mayhem and had games, music and a few decidedly regal events; each partygoer decorated their own royal cookie, customised a crown to wear and earned a medal for enthusiastic participation in games with very few rules and much cheating; the best kind always are, I find…
Once every cake was eaten and the bunting trailed wearily from the bannisters, we collapsed in front of the television to watch a film about the creation of the official Jubilee song, which draws together performers from across the Commonwealth; a pretty awesome achievement, you can watch it here. So now we’re officially Jubliee-d out, as I imagine the Queen must be too; at least I didn’t have to do all this in high heels and a hat, maintaining a smile throughout. Respect is due, your Majesty…
When Harry whips out his shades (albeit upside down), you know that Summer is right around the corner, and some outdoor project planning is called for. In anticipation of a heady season of outdoor living and loveliness – fortunately optimism comes naturally to us both – we now have a sunshine project list that is beyond our wildest capabilities. Still, dreaming alone is intoxicating stuff…here’s a few of the things that made our Top Ten:
Inspired by a hotel we stayed at last Summer in the beautiful Guia D’Isora region of Tenerife, these pebble curtains would look stunning on a terrace or even inside in a bathroom – we’re collecting interesting stones in preparation…
Simple concrete or terracotta pots add an on-trend colour pop to the garden when sprayed in neon technicolour; the use here as an accent works more powerfully than a top-to-toe dousing; we’ll be trying this for sure next weekend.
Despite the hosepipe ban sweeping Britain after just one week of sunshine, I’m determined that we’ll have our own carwash up and running by August, catering for all the neighbourhood scooters, ride-ons and tricycles…
And when we’ve worked our way through some of those, we’ll kick back with a bowlful of these beauties; after all, frozen yoghurt and fruit has got to be good for you, right..?
And all of these of course will be in addition to our Great Sunflower Race, launched here; if you planted a seed too, ping me a photo or link with your progress and we’ll have a race pitstop to check who’s germinated, who is racing ahead and who has yet to pop through the soil – bate your breath! It’s not too late to join in, though illegal stimulants might need to be added to your watering can to ensure any late entrants catch up…
Photo credits: Neon pots via www.theproperpinwheel.com Carwash via www.sfgate.com
Typography is definitely enjoying a moment in the spotlight, with the ubiquitous Keep Calm and Carry On mantra leading the field. I saw something a little like this (below) in a glossy spread of someone else’s magazine, whilst reading over their shoulder on the tube. The phrase stuck in my mind as being exactly the kind of guidance we want to give to Harry, so I had a crack at creating it in eye-popping brights on my home laptop and printer (in Powerpoint, nothing more sophisticated). Framed simply, it graces the playroom wall and adds a splash of colour, and can be replaced within minutes for something cooler as Harry grows up.
Even more temporary, which suits my fickle nature, is this poster which I made for the bathroom today, reminding Harry of the morning routine (when read aloud, of course; though destined for great things, literacy for H is still a little way off…). Being 2, Harry loves a good routine, although one which involves hair brushing and the donning of clothes is less appealing. If H could skip steps 1-4 and depart the house full of Cheerios and cuddles but still sporting PJs and a bedhead, the world would seem to him to be a very lovely place indeed. Tacked to the wall with a nail and bulldog clip, we can replace this whenever it gets dogeared or needs updating. I don’t anticipate it still being there at the point that we need to add ‘shower and shave’ to the list, but hey, who knows…
If you fancy having a crack at something similar but can’t face starting from scratch, my files are attached below for download, so you can tweak text and colour to personalise… enjoy!
WORK HARD PLAY HARD poster-1
mr sunshine master
Harry’s now at the age where hand puppets are becoming interesting; they can bring stories to life, steal food from his plate (who knew that giraffes are partial to bananas, or that crocodiles lose all sense of decorum when faced with a square of toast?). They can whisper secrets furrily into one’s ear, and seem to Harry to occupy a realm somewhere between make-believe and reality.
We’ve amassed a small safari of animals over the last couple of years, including this incredibly lifelike rabbit below (‘it looks like roadkill‘ shuddered my husband, as I whipped the admittedly rather squashed bunny out of my suitcase after a recent business trip). The trouble is that like all soft toys they tend to get buried at the bottom of the toy box and discovered only by chance, usually looking somewhat crumpled and adorned with lost Cheerios and ancient stickers.
The solution; to mount them on the playroom wall, hunting-lodge style. Each animal has been carefully (if not very imaginatively) christened and allocated a position, and now our very own safari surveys the playroom and its members are regularly invited down for play. It’s perhaps the only habitat in which you will see crocodiles, giraffes and elephants co-existing in such harmony…far more harmony than a bunch of toddlers, that’s for sure.
How to make these: After experimenting with various poles and mounts, I discovered these papier-mâché hands (1) which duly fill the puppet heads to max effect when glued to a piece of MDF (2) – strong cardboard would work just fine. Glue together, paint white all over with a soft bristled brush (3), allow to dry and then drill a small hole before mounting on the wall with pins or nails (6). I added these name tags (4), made from wood offcuts and blackboard paint and strung loosely over the hands.
Some friends you just know are going to be in your lives for the long run, and our former neighbours fall firmly into that category. In the space of just a couple of years we’ve camped out in each others’ kitchens, set the world to rights more times than I care to remember, celebrated some of life’s great milestones and donned a myriad of fancy dress costumes whilst sinking an inordinate number of bottles of wine – all the usual stuff that bonds you and transcends the superficial differences in age and life stage. So it was a no brainer that they’d be the first people invited to dinner the moment the new cooker was connected, and last weekend we celebrated in style.
Of course, anyone who has ever had a new kitchen fitted will immediately recognise my amateur error above, namely to throw a dinner party without having even idly flicked through the 368 page cooker manual beforehand, and indeed such a laissez-faire attitude was foolhardy to say the least. The food was certainly eye-watering, but not alas because of its grandeur and finesse but because of the smoke which billowed from the oven and created an atmospheric if throat-constricting backdrop to the evening.
Still, the champagne helped, and the table decor distracted – I made these personalised placemats earlier in the day using a basic graphics programme and some vintage cutlery clipart, before adding a touch of silver leaf to the knife and fork to catch the light from the candles on the table. Stencilling the initials of our friends on these slate tags below with a chalk pen made for unique (and wipe-clean) napkin rings, into which I tucked a sprig of rosemary for a flash of colour and a hint of barely discernible scent. Tips and techniques below…
For the placemats (I used Powerpoint, but adapt these guidelines for your chosen programme)….
- Draw a simple coloured square for your background colour, and choose font colour
- I googled an online dictionary and copied the phonetic layout and invented appropriate descriptors for each guest
- Either paste your clip-art directly onto the backdrop or carefully print, clip and paste on to each
- I printed these onto UK A3 sized paper – using recycled paper gave a great matte finish, but normal copy paper would work fine
- Rub the clip-art image lightly with low-tack glue (I used Pritt-Stick) and brush on a little silver leaf, using a dry brush to remove any excess.
- Save the template – you can use it infinitely and just change names and descriptors each time – ta da!
One of the best things about having a new home is that once you’ve fixed the incredibly DULL things like boilers, rotten windows and Artex ceilings, you get to justifiably build a stockpile of gorgeous home decor magazines (known as ‘house porn’, I was informed by a hipper, cooler friend of mine..) The fact that you have no money left after said renovations is irrelevant. Elle Decor, like all good porn, is about the things you really want but can’t have, and know secretly that they wouldn’t actually work in your real world at all (though try telling a guy that Pamela Anderson would not work in their real world; most will vigorously disagree).
Once again I digress.
So back to my fantasy interiors list, which this week is devoted to the lovely Piet Hein Eek and his utterly gorgeous and preposterously expensive wallpaper. I know this must be because it is hand-woven by spiders and printed by artisans using the rarest ochres and inks, but £200 a roll still makes me quiver with awe. Still, behold the beauty of the Scrapwood range, which would look simply amazing on my wall (or inside my cupboards, or as an accent feature in a dark corner, or just ANYWHERE, frankly…). The only way I will own some is by marrying Mr Eek himself, so I will instead stroke my small sample piece lovingly, and return to reality.