Monday, 21 April 2014

Plant Me Now

At the turn of the year I wrote a post with all of my resolutions, and an eagle-eyed PR spotted that getting my garden planted was on the list. Their client, online garden retailer Plant Me Now, was looking for unloved spaces to transform for spring/summer, using plants from their range. Colour me up for it!

The front and back gardens were both absolute disaster zones when we moved in, paved over squares with nothing but the odd weed waving in the wind. I actually don't mind a few weeds, but something seriously had to be done. Here are a couple of pics of the sad state of the front garden now.























Yes, I really have just subjected you to a picture of my bins. Sorry.

Working with one of Plant Me Now's gardening experts, we considered the aspect of the garden and worked out which plants would work best. I love plants that either smell lovely, have gorgeous flowers or foliage, or produce fruit. I also wanted to get a bit of height in the front garden for privacy, and so that I could see a bit of greenery from the living room. There is a tree opposite, but I thought some wavy fronds in front of the window might be nice, to add a bit of texture to the sparseness of our little garden.

Along with the packages of plants from their nurseries, Plant Me Now provide a Getting Started guide with tips on how to get the most from the plants chosen, including step-by-step foolproof tips on how to plant. Here are some of the plants we chose.


Hope some of that prettiness makes up for my bins! I love lavender and it will really attract the bees. I love purples and pinks, hence the violas and cheery geraniums. And the super-delicate dichondra (bottom left) should cascade prettily out of the window boxes, according to Tim, the Plant Me Now expert!

So, with window boxes, pots and planters ordered and on their way, all I need to do now is wait for the delivery of flowers, enlist my handy helper (that's Arthur), and by mid-May my concrete box of a front garden should be a-bloom! I'll keep you posted!

Monday, 24 March 2014

eBay collections

As an avowed thrifter, many of my favourite things have come from eBay. A brooch shaped like a telephone, beautiful vintage leather shoes and bags, 1950s glass Christmas baubles... When I'm far away from the thrift stores that I love, I can still sift through Americana treasure.

Perfect thick wool vintage blanket

In the run up to my wedding, I even bought dress options from eBay – I still have a fabulous Halston Heritage nude silk dress that I didn't wear and need to re-list. And over the years, I've found so many beautiful vintage dresses from last century; chiffon from the fifties, palm prints from the sixties, printed silk from the eighties; I can remember them all. I have my favourite vintage labels saved as searches and, this might be taking it too far, my favourite colour. (Electric blue. If you search electric blue, you are pretty much guaranteed to find some cool things.)

So eBay's new collection feature is, for me, a dream. I can save things I like, gathering them into moodboards to go back to later. I have a rule only ever to buy things that I can't stop thinking about, so this is perfect: save now, go back with your fingers crossed that it's still available! (And this is where the 'find something similar' button is a godsend: sometimes the same piece shows up, or something better!)

Now I have a house to fill the collections have been invaluable. I've been able to group together looks and themes and plan out rooms. A cosy cluttered kitchen is my number one house priority, and I've been able to source essentials like a Mason Cash mixing bowl, enamelled teapots, heavy iron pans, and most importantly, a huge reclaimed kitchen table!


Next on my list is the garden, so bistro chairs, thick vintage wool blankets, antique lemonade pitchers and every garden's essential: a swingball set. And a paddling pool. (For Arthur. Honestly.)

One day I will finally own a Moroccan wedding blanket
 When I'm not filling my actual house, I can fill my fantasy dream home – a modernist LA house in the hills, filled with period Danish rosewood furniture and ceramics. (Again, just try typing the word 'Danish' into eBay search for a list of singular beauty.)

Then when the dream house is filled, I can get even more abstract and just live inside a William Egglestone photograph, or daydream about a motel stop-off on a dusty California desert roadtrip. Amateur oil paintings of bored-looking ladies, mexican hand-embroidered bedspreads, and the ultimate, a pink Princess telephone.
A pink Princess Phone for long days chatting and drinking martinis
Do you use the bay of plenty? Isn't this just a BRILLIANT new feature?
   
[You can see the rest of my collections here: Berlin coffee shop, a perfect day to spend in bed, Tribeca loft, and more!]

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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Trainers

Trainers*. It's complicated. Like most people of my generation, trainers have played a big part in my life. From trying to track down original adidas Gazelles as a teen in a tiny Yorkshire town, to wearing only Jack Purcells for about two years, with only a handful of brands being acceptable due to indefinable, almost imperceptible nuances of culture and style – NIKE, adidas, Converse, Vans.

I fell out of love with trainers about five years ago thinking that in my thirties proper shoes shoes would be more appropriate. So this whole resurgence of trainers as absolute footwear of choice by absolutely everybody for absolutely everything has got me a bit confused, thinking, really? Isn't this a sartorial step backwards?

But slowly I'm being sucked in. I started off high-end with a pair of NIKE x APCs. (Well, I bought two pairs actually.) Now, I've got my eyes on some New Balances, like these from J-Crew. New Balance, that's a first, a huge brand leap, a big deal.

More importantly, I've started running my ass off since making my new year resolutions (about 60k since January, woo!). So now I need actual trainers. For running in. I've always worn ASICS to run in but frankly, they look shit, and as there are so many good-looking, performance running shoes around at the moment, I think I need to branch out. The NIKE Free comes recommended by a friend who runs. And you can NIKEiD your own colours!







So, is NIKE the way to go?

*Sorry, I can't bring myself to refer to them as sneakers, as Vogue did this month. A trainer is a trainer.

[Top image nicked from random fashion coolness's Pinterest page - dat girl knows a thing or two about trainys.]

Saturday, 1 February 2014

2013 moments and 2014, the beginning.


Ding, dong it's the first of February. I saw Katie's round-up of 2013 and remembered when I used to do a year by pictures as well. Lloyd's Bank asked me to share some of my best moments of 2013 so here is a little momentsgif.

Last year was really all about Arthur, as we did lots of 'firsts' with him. First time in the sea, first time in a plane. I've realised this year will be much the same, because it will be the first time he actually knows what's going on when we take him to the sea and on a plane! 

2014 has been a bit of a pain so far, let's hope the year improves! In other news, I'm so glad I wrote my resolutions as it made me focus on what I needed to do, and I can mark up a few triumphs in January. 

House – We planned to have some rewiring and restore our original floors in January but as it turned out, we had no floorboards in our house underneath the crappy flooring that was there, probably because the subfloor was damp. So, January has been spent living at my father-in-law's house in Blackheath, talking to builders and tradesmen, and having a ton of work done to the house. We knew it all needed to be done, so it's great to actually get on with it. Plus my father-in-law is away, so it has worked out well. Living in Blackheath for a month is no chore! 

We're having a gorgeous oak floor put down, hopefully in the next week, so in a couple of weeks should be back in. Next I just need to choose colours for the living room, which I will paint before we move our furniture back in. I'm thinking something very pale, the colour of eggshells, with a lacquer finish. At last, the fun part!

Fitness – I joined the local gym, started running again, and made it a priority. I notched up 50k in January, plus a couple of 1k swims and a spinning class. I love spinning but one class is enough for me for a while! Running is just as evil torture, and I get to listen to my own music. Plus the way my face goes magenta indicates that good work is being done. I only trust my scales at home so I don't know if I've lost weight, but I think I've lost an inch or so here and there. It's also encouraging me to drink less (coffee and red wine, tsk), and eat healthily.

[I need some new running trainers btw. Nike or New Balance, that is the question?]

Work – With all the above, I haven't had a chance to be proactive in looking for more work. But a really cool project came to me, and I hope to share later this month! Arthur has had some great days with his childminder since we've been in Blackheath; they've been to the Turner and the Sea exhibition at The National Maritime Museum, which I heartily recommend, and on board the Cutty Sark. I will miss Blackheath when we head back to East London - Greenwich Park is really special!

How is 2014 going for you?


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Resolutions


Or, get loads of shit done.
Happy New Year! It's January 1st, the day before everything goes back to normal. So I'm seizing the moment to write a list of everything I want to get done this year before I find myself in default brain sludge mode, which I predict will happen at around 10am tomorrow morning. If I've written it here I can keep checking to remind myself. And maybe do it. Note: this is not interesting stuff.

1 - File last year's tax return. I think I have until the end of January to do this. When I finish writing this blog post I am going to check. (Note: I finished writing the post and have already checked. It's all groovy. I CAN do this stuff! I just need to pay my outstanding National Insurance bill now. Baby steps.)

2 - Go back to work. Well, I already am working and have been since Arthur was 5 months old. But I want to do something more structured; either take on a new regular client, or a permanent job. I'm even thinking about going back to typesetting because I actually did love doing that, and you can just plug in your headphones and get on with it. (Which frankly sounds like heaven, when most things I do usually involve having a toddler tugging at my leg.)

3 - Sort out more structured childcare. I have an amazing childminder at the moment but usually only for one day a week. And the father-in-law helps a lot. But I want my time to be more structured, so I'm not chasing my tail the whole. damn. time. I'm thinking: find job first, sort out childcare second. (Is that obvious? Heh. This is my list so whatever.)

4 - Make sure Arthur gets plenty of stimulation. This will probably go hand in hand with more structured childcare. Arthur is walking and talking now. He is really physical and loves learning new things and frankly needs more than I can give him in that department. My mum's primary school teacher gene didn't get passed down. He goes to lots of toddler groups and gets plenty of exercise but I want to make sure he's not bored.

5 - Lose weight. I've still got the weight I gained when pregnant. This sucks. I just don't get the chance to exercise as much as I used to and that's really frustrating as I actually really enjoy exercise. (I daydream about spinning classes! Seriously.) So. Find a spinning class. Go running whenever I can. Ditto swimming. And cycling. And yoga. Sigh. (This one seems really hard as I'm too tired in the evenings and during the day I work whenever I'm not looking after Arthur. Ideas?)

6 - Stay motivated to keep on top of the house. Not literally. And I won't bore you with this. But there's always something that needs doing. So just do it! And I'm not just talking hoovering – the fireplace needs sorting out, kitchen needs updating, roof has a leak, bathroom could do with some work… January we already have wiring and reflooring booked in… Make sure everything else gets done. A stitch in time!

7 - Plant garden. We pulled up all the garden pavers and turfed in the autumn. So now we need a bit of trellis fencing and some plants! I have a list of things I'd like to plant, need to work out what needs planting, when.

8 - Try to drink less caffeine. And red wine. And swear less. The usual. Have less fun, basically.

9 - Relax more. Have more baths. Light more candles. Watch more films. Read more books. The usual.

10 - I just feel like I should finish on a 10. Ok, wear more sunscreen. And actually, I mean this, as I have lupus and wearing sunscreen is the single most important thing I need to do to keep healthy. Also, exercise and do everything i can to sleep well, to try and prevent lupus flare-ups. Make sure I keep on taking my supplements. (Currently - Vitamin D, cod liver oil, evening primrose oil and Floradix. Seem to be working well.)

I told you it was boring! This is more for me than you, OK. Hope you're all feeling ready and raring to go! Let's do this, 2014!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Books, books, books!

I've read quite a lot this year. Reading is something that's pretty difficult to do with a baby around, so in the evenings I try to read as much as I can. Travel is another thing it's harder to do with a baby, so I seem to have been reading books set in places I like to visit. Mainly, the US, it seems! Looking at my Kindle – much preferred way of reading these days, espesh with synching iPhone app! – I seem to have read lots of debut novels set in Brooklyn.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman sees a female author painting a pleasingly barbed portrait of a twenty something male author struggling to do the right thing in a postfeminist world. Note my use of sarcastic italics. This whole book should have been written in sarcastic italics. I loved it.

A more austere but absorbing Brooklyn-based novel, The Affairs of Others: A Novel by Amy Grace Loyd. A young widow tries to lock her grief away in the apartment building she owns, but slowly she starts to enmesh with the lives of her tenants.

From debuts to a much awaited new release, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch landed a couple of months ago, so everything else was summarily dropped. Her writing is so intense I found it almost stressful to read, finding myself flicking forward through the pages to see what happened next...within the first chapter! Powerful writing. Also set in two familiar favourites, Manhattan and dirty Las Vegas, the plot (and some characters, actually) seemed implausible in parts but enough to keep you holding your breath and second guessing.

Summer's top read for me was Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter – an epic love story set across decades and continents, also in some of my favourite places; Los Angeles, Rome, tiny windswept Italian coastal towns. Craving the scented summer heat of southern France, I also read Bonjour Tristesse for the first time – major literary oversight on my part, yo! Languid summer teenage plotting with a sting in the tail.


I like pulling this book out at this time of the year, and having it around to dip into. Dickens has got Christmas on lockdown, and makes the grey London December days a bit more cosy and romantic.

Another cosy winter read that I pull out at this time of year is The Andy Warhol Diaries. This is an old favourite that I've been dipping into for nigh on, ooh, six years? And a welcome break from fiction post Goldfinch. Mr Warhol feels like an old friend. There's something so comforting about entering his dual world of daily mundanity, gossip and glamour. His work ethic and success are so inspiring and impressive to nosey at, too. I'm getting worryingly close to the end though, March 1985...


On my Christmas list is Eminent Hipsters, the memoirs of Steely Dan's Donald Fagen. I can't wait for tales of  1980s east and west coast hedonism, supplied with a shot of muso geekery. One reviewer described reading it as 'blissful'. I can't wait.

What have you all been reading? Help me be a bit more adventurous and venture away from North America and Mediterranean Europe? My resolution for 2014. (Eek!)

Top photo by sfgirlbybay

Friday, 11 October 2013

Heal's Challenge

heals composite flat2
This post is part of the Heal's Challenge, to put together a living room using only the Heal's product range. Basically, an absolute dream. My perfect living room would be a happy and cosy mix of styles, shapes and colours; like Julie Delpy's apartment in Beyond Sunrise, or Vanessa Bruno's gorgeous Parisian apartment. (You can see some inspiration pictures on this Pinterest board.) This would be the ideal dream version of it, straight from the Heal's showroom.

1. Love this sculptural pendant light shade; perfect to punctuate the room. (Most of my favourite rooms seem to have huge, interesting shades.) 

2. Walnut Round Mirror – to add light and a feeling of airiness.

3. Love the elegant line of this Danish designed chrome floor lamp. (Copied from one of my inspiration pictures here.)

4. I picked a walnut frame sofa in a classic leaf green to add a bit of structure and elegance to my room. But it was a difficult choice as there was a huge range of gorgeous sofas, each of which would completely change the look of your room.

5. The coffee table is a focal point of any living room and this Calligaris Element piece throws a great shape. Unusual but completely practical.

6. I'd cover every spare surface with bowls and vases if I could. But I'll stick to this one Finnsdottir piece. Beautiful handcrafted Danish porcelain.

7. At least one blanket or throw is absolutely essential in my living room. I'm going matchy with the sofa with this bold graphic green print, a gorgeous Eleanor Pritchard wool throw.

8. Ok, I can't stick to just one vase. These Pols Potten colourful glass bottles will brighten any dusty corners and the bubble tops neatly match my circle mirror. See what I'm doing here?

9. Throwing matchy matchy out of the window, this is a big ol' happy grin of a rug, painstakingly cross-stitched rug in brightest pink.

10. My parents got Heal's bookcases for a wedding present, so an elegant bookcase is a must. Plus a living room that's not full of books is all wrong.

Post in partnership with Heal's

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Arthur is one!


It was this little niblet's first birthday today. Hard to believe it was one year ago that I caught the tube to the hospital first thing in the morning, with Arthur born at 11.26am. By caesarian section, I'm not that bad-ass. We've had a lovely day – balloons, lego, a trip on the Docklands Light Railway to the city farm, cake and candle. Looking back at the pictures from today we may possibly have overdone it; Arthur looks exhausted!

Happy birthday Arthur. You're the best baby in the world. (This is him last weekend, out for a walk in our local park.)

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Autumn earworms

Apparently I've got a thing for blowsy baritones at the moment. This chirpy little ditty is keeping me cheerful as we say goodbye to summer. Ghouls, by H. Hawkline – perfect for Halloween. Who couldn't love a silly song sung by a cute Welsh boy?


I heard Jake Thackray played on the radio recently and stopped in my tracks. How silly and lovely is this song? He was very well known apparently, something of a TV and radio personality back in the day. Sentimentally sung in a daft Yorkshire accent – perfect. 


And let's round it up to three with a song written by my other favourite baritone Fred Neil, sung here by the divinely gorgeous Tim Buckley. (This is one of my favourite musical moments ever. Tim Buckley looking saucy plus beautiful song  ? WIN.


Autumnal folk music surely goes hand-in-hand with cider drinking. So I'm going to this Apple Day fair at the weekend to get into the spirit of things. Can't wait!

Monday, 23 September 2013

hush

collage3
So, did you guys already all know about hush? Finally I have discovered where people shop that expensive-looking but slouchy, luxurious but dressed-down look that I can't ever seem to achieve. (See: all Hollywood superstars on their day off.) hush is like a huge, overstuffed chest of cosy cashmere, bedtime cottons, stylish silks, interesting knits and winter brights. They stock both day and nightwear, with a lot of pieces comfortably crossing over. The price range is totally accessible, too. Here are a few of my favourite autumnal reds and winter blues, to keep you warm until spring.

1 –  I would live in this jumper straight through to spring. Berry red cashmere to keep you cheerful over the cold season, but with the reverse-out detail on the sleeve to keep it real on a February day, i.e. grey. Love!

2 – Twenty years post Nirvana, and Cara Delevingne somehow deemed the beanie to be essential winter headwear. Needs must, and it definitely must be cashmere. And shocking scarlet, to ward off the weather nasties.

3 – Cotton red star pyjamas. These are really cute. I wish I'd known about these when I lived in my jim jams for three months after having a baby. (It was winter, OK.)

4 – Love the textured knit of this heart stitch jumper. A great short 'n' swingy length, too.

5 – Egg cosy! Needs no explanation. Essential.

6 – Stripy hand knitted bed socks. Because 83% of us can't knit and you shouldn't rely on your mum to buy your socks for you.

7 – A case of good red wine. For when an egg cosy and cute jim jams just aren't enough. This just sneaked in, sorry.

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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Autumn wishlist.

cobra-rock-boot-co-

1 – John Lewis digital radio. What is autumn for if not cosying up and listening to the radio? Gilles, Cerys and Jarvis on BBC 6 Music, plus I'm thinking about getting into the Archers. I spied these radios dotted around my friend's house at the weekend.

2 – Tatty Devine avant garde robot bib necklace. I've never been that into Tatty Devine before, but there just seems something so right about having a giant slab of abstract laser cut perspex around one's neck at the moment. I like these giant lobsters, too.

3 – APC Orange Floral Print Dress. The dress equivalent of kicking leaves in the park then repairing red-cheeked to a mahogany panelled pub on a Sunday afternoon to share a bottle of red wine. Long sleeves and tied up tightly at the neck to keep out any draughty autumnal chills.

4 – Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen's latest fall project. (Love how he apparently calls all new films Fall Project number whatever, until he works out their name.) Cate Blanchett as his latest beautiful muse, set in San Francisco – can't wait to see how he frames San Fran. Out in the UK on September 27.

5 – New Look parka. Parkas are always in aren't they? Or am I stuck in the 1990s? (sponsored)

6 – The pumpkin. Baked in a pie, chopped into a risotto, or roasted til gooey with gorgonzola. I've even got some pumpkin jam. Let's go, giant orange globefruit!

7 – Cobra Rock boots. These boots are handmade in Texas, so perfect for the urban prairie that is, er, Leytonstone. Unfortunately the waiting list is 8 months long so maybe for next autumn, yeah?

8 – John Lewis Voyage Garden Bird cylinder shade – pretty birds to remind you of spring. And to remind you to feed the birds. John Lewis have lots of pretty light shades to keep your house aglow as the evenings get shorter. (sponsored)

Monday, 2 September 2013

Summer.

I remember feeling slightly glum at the end of spring – we still had to finalise buying the house and it was all domestic drudgery with no time to think about summer plans. But luckily it all came together and, thanks as well to some EXCELLENT weather, we've ended up having a really nice summer. Yeah!
First stop was a trip to East Sussex. I've never been to a festival in my life, showers and hair drying having previously been a priority for me. But as I've got older – and having a baby is a great leveller – I've felt a bit more able to go hang out in a field. And of course, festivals are basically luxury events now. Anyway, we booked a room at the really lovely Barnfield Farm B & B (okay, we still didn't camp) and went along to the Love Supreme festival near Glynde.

The B & B was gorgeous, really baby-friendly, with a super cosy made-up cot waiting for us after our sunny drive down from London. The converted barn looked onto the rolling South Downs, with a friendly sheepdog for company, so evenings were spent on a blanket enjoying the view, drinking local cider and throwing the ball for the dog while the baby slept upstairs. Heaven!


The festival itself was really nice – a short walk from the B & B through gloriously sunny country lanes. We set up our parasol and sat in one spot all day drinking cider and listening to the music. Chic played, as they did seemingly every other festival this summer – just brilliant party tunes that you know every note of, one after another. (I think it is essential to dance in a field as the sun goes down at least once every summer.)

This is the view from the waltzers at the back whilst Chic played. I had a little detour on the way back from the loo
 

We made the most of being by the coast and went to the beach. This beach was called Cuckmere Haven, in the Seven Sisters country park next to the famous white cliffs, where the River Cuckmere reaches the sea – we sat in the river with Arthur and basked.

 


































We also went to the beach at Seaford, which was crystal clear, deserted, but a bit chilly. Arthur loved the sea, he'd do a little sharp intake of breath at first and look quite serious, but then relax into splashy funtimes. So cute. 


We did a quick two hour pop to Brighton on the way back, the best way to enjoy it in my opinion; it was packed even though it was just a random Monday afternoon. We wandered the North Laines, got some delicious icecream from Gelato Gusto, and drove back to London. I'm not really into Brighton but it is nice to pop to every few years. Ha!




For our proper holiday we went to San Sebastian, in the basque region of Spain. We'd booked flights to Biarritz intending to go to Cap Ferret but had left it last minute and all of the available accomodation was out of our price range. So, with friends in San Sebastian and it having been on our visit list for a while, we changed our plans. We booked an apartment in a modernist block high on Mont Igeldo with gardens and a pool. It was absolutely heavenly. 





The apartment was all windows along the side, with a fir tree almost touching the balcony, looking out over the valley. There were owls twit-twooing, birds of prey shrieking and donkeys honking away. It was so nice we stocked up on cheese, ham, fresh fruit and bread, nutella and pink wine, and hardly left our little spot in the shade of a lilac bush near the pool.

Arthur loved long holiday lunches

OK, we did make it to the nearby town of Getaria for a spot of grilled fish for lunch and a trip to the beach. (It turns out beaches are a bit of a pain in the arse with a baby - sand and pebbles everywhere. The pool was much easier.) I'd intended to go to the Cristobal Balenciaga museum (it is his hometown) but was too much in lazy holiday mode and didn't make it.



We also managed to get up to some London fun. The Canary Wharf jazz festival is essential for me every year. I absolutely love catching the DLR there, it's like the robot space train weaving through the city. It was VERY exciting for a certain 10 month old boy. Having a picnic among the skyscrapers and listening to some live music is awesome too. Troyka were particularly good to zone in and out to. 


We went to a few of our favourite haunts - like a stroll around Blackheath, where we used to live.


Lunch at Banners in Crouch End. I absolutely love it there, it has a really buzzy diner feel and piled high brunch plates of ackee and saltfish with spoon bread. It's another very child friendly place. (Here's Arthur summoning the waitress.)

 

An afternoon wandering around Greenwich, with a trip to favourite pub next to the river, The Trafalgar.


Just a couple of trips to the lido at Parliament Hill - one day I went and it was so crowded with yoots that the police were on duty with a metal detector outside. Bad vibes. So I went to the swimming ponds and got bad-vibed there as well by a witchy old local lady who pushed past Arthur's pram and hissed that children weren't allowed. Unfriendly, London!



So I guess that might be the end of my silvery sandshoes and the jeans I cut off at the beginning of the summer. Although it's September, the sun is still shining, but there's a definite nip in the air. Thank goodness for a warm summer at last; installed in our new house and with an ever more inquisitive little boy to show everything to, it has been a vintage one. I'm a bit scared of the winter now though - being able to stop off in parks to feed and play has been invaluable!