Sunday, February 16, 2014

The housey wish list (part 2)

I am a home maker.  I know it’s not always fashionable to say these things, and if you could see my kitchen right now you’d doubt the truth of my words….
For most of my adult life my career meant I was on the move far too much to ever really settle down, so things like owning my own home - or even picking a place to finally plant some roots - just weren't high on my agenda.  
Moving again.

So over the years, I've learned how to make rental properties into a home - remembering the golden rule of renting... no matter what you do, protect your deposit!

If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that I’ve finally stopped skipping round the country and am ruthlessly saving for my own home.  So while I live in what I really hope will be my final rental place (‘rental’ not 'resting'.  Stop skim-reading!!), I’ve taken up the challenge of making it lovely without spending lots. 
My current place dates from either the 1930s or 1950s (I'm too lazy to find out), so it really suits my love of vintage things and comfy living.  But the house suffers from some 'interesting' d├ęcor choices and some very dodgy painting by previous tenants: 

Yes, that's 'magnolia' on 'magnolia'... *sigh*
At this point, dear reader, let me just highlight the fact that 'magnolia' comes in a gazillion shades - please, as one tenant to another (and I'm willing to beg here), make sure you pick the right one before touching up those little mishaps! 

So unless I wanted to spend out on repainting someone else's house (nope), I had to come up with a cheap way to cover up the strange markings on the walls.  Over the years, I have collected many picture frames and lots of pretty cards and followed Grandma Pembroke's example by putting the two together....
Mostly full of Anita Jeram's art from the Two Bad Mice card range
To me, cards are a great alternative to 'big art' because they're often beautiful and great value - which means when I fancy a change it doesn't cost the earth.  I currently have a bit of a thing for Phoenix Trading's cards which I swear by for giving to friends and family as they're insanely good value and very, very lovely (my friend Lucy is an Independent Phoenix Trader so I buy through her Phoenix Trading page on Facebook).   
In the spare room I needed to draw attention away from a scary carpet which is so red (and patterned) that it reflects off the magnolia walls...I'd show you a picture, but I'm scared it would blind you.  I needed something large, interesting (to draw the eye) and very cheap. 

So I pinched another tip from Grandma Pembroke.  She always had an eye for a pretty picture, no matter where it came from - including magazines.  So armed with old copies of Country Life magazines (thanks to a lovely subscription prezzie), chock-full of gorgeous photographs, I *ahem* redistributed a not-very-well-used noticeboard from the kitchen and got to work with some Blue Peter-esque cutting out...
So many possibilities..... first decision, chocolate or crisps to fuel this work? 
Once I'd decided on which pictures I wanted (a lot harder than I'd originally anticipated), and which way up I wanted the notice board to hand (guaranteed to be the opposite way to the original fixings *rolls eyes*), I got to work fixing the pictures down. 
Final layout comes to you care of Galaxy chocolate and Doritos.... 
You can't see them, but I've actually used Grandma P's old sewing pins as they have a pretty little tear-drop top to them and are really too blunt for fabric work these days.  I added in a few lines of poetry or nice thoughts (and even a fortune cookie message!) because I'm a bit in love with words (you're shocked, aren't you...), plus I think it adds interest and links the pictures nicely:
The finished frame - Grandma P would be proud.
The trouble with prettying up a room is that once you've done a bit you find more and more which needs to be done.  So my next port of call was to sort the headboard of the spare bed, which really needed recovering.
I'd been thinking about fabrics, but really didn't want to spend money on something which specifically matched this room.  But then I recalled a lovely old fleece blanket I had festering at the back of the airing cupboard (you know - that place where odd pillowcases hang out).  I threw it over the headboard as a temporary measure, but it's really grown on me so I can see it ending up as a permanent choice.  It doesn't match a thing - but it's so colourful and cosy that I'm thrilled to be able to put it to use!  
Finally - a place for the blanket of many colours!     
In the meantime, my charity shop ferreting habit had netted two amazing finds - the first was a gorgeous fireguard which hides a gas fire that's simply not my taste (plus needs more dusting than I'm prepared to offer it).  This actually ended up as a birthday gift from one of my besties - I'm a very lucky thing!
The fireguard - as much about not having to dust individual lumps of pretend coal, as looking pretty....
And the second was a really sweet little vase which reminded me of times gone by - and gave me an excuse to practice knitting roses...
Showing off the vase...honest, it's all about the vase...
Phew, that's quite a bit isn't it?  I still have more to do - for example, now that my 'spare room' has become my favourite room in the house I'm thinking of  moving into it and turning my current bedroom into a dedicated craft room for Nora's Thoughts...
Plus I've promised myself some hand made cushion covers and there's a garden which needs quite a bit of love this summer....something for another post, I think!
Love Fi.x


Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's a bit dusty around here...

Hello! *brushes cobwebs aside* Erm... have you gone a little grey, or.... *sneezes*'s dust... *avoids making eye contact* *shuffles feet*

Clearly I've been neglecting you all something awful - we've got loads to catch up on, and some posts I promised last summer.  Well, I promise I'll get to it all. 

In the meantime, how are you? Have you been getting enough biscuits?  Are you staying warm and as dry as possible?

How was Christmas?  Mine was lovely, thank you for asking.  I spent the event itself with my Dad in Norfolk - who showed just how high on the 'best Dads of all time' list he appears by starting Christmas day with tea and cookies:-

Chocolate chip cookies for brekkie!
 Followed by a walk along the beach at Great Yarmouth -

 yes, the sky really was that lucky were we?!

See, I really was there.....

After a fab Christmas dinner, we retired to the sofa for films and pudding... *happy sigh*  Day two was more presents, and beach walks and lots of lovely company - *double happy sigh*

It's quite unusual for me to have so much time off over Christmas, so in amongst my travels  I decided to teach myself a new craft - watercolour painting.  Which led to prezzies for friend's sproglets...

Although the kid's name was Fred, Nora liked the way 'Katie' looked... ;)
Having enjoyed a lovely time in Norfolk, I then nipped over to Essex to catch up with my lovely mum, big sister and ever-growing niece (now officially much taller than me...and fabulous in her alligator onesie... with tail and teeth included!).  Minutes after I arrived at mum's, I was put to work by mum's dog - fussing detail is no joke to a rescue dog! 
I got to do Christmas all over again (yay!), with my sister being a love and cooking us a seriously tasty Christmas dinner - all round to hers again next year, I say! 
I also got to catch up with old friends that I haven't seen in bloomin' ages (that's right, I'm an Essex girl by upbringing - judge that as you will *nips off to dance around handbag*).  Great times, lots of laughs and much gossiping was done in the space of just a few hours.
Unfortunately, all that travelling and talking (and fun) caught up with me just in time for New Year when I was felled by the lurgey (tonsillitis) which was followed by the silent lurgey (laryngitis).  Not only did I have to suffer losing my voice (oh the humanity), but the only way to get it back was to hibernate and avoid speaking - neither of which is a natural state for me!
But eventually I rallied, and escaped my house for a coffee...well, a hot chocolate...well, a hot chocolate and cake....  
First meal after my escape....

And that's really brought you all up to date with my life.  How's it been with you?


Friday, July 26, 2013

The housey wish list (part 1)

Though I love my little rented house, it’s fair to say that its style peaked in the 1980s and it’s so tired you wouldn’t want it driving. 

Because the house is a rental, I’ve been having great fun using my charity shop ferreting skills and general crafting to hide the worst offenders (the subject of my next post).  As I’m saving my pennies for my own home, I’ve also become quite obsessed with making plans and lists to ensure it’s the most wonderful place on Earth. 
And here’s where it’s all Kirstie Allsopp’s fault again.... 

If you saw her Vintage Home series, you may remember Ellie and Nick Harrington and their country kitchen.  To say I fell in love with their revamped kitchen is a gross understatement.  For a while there, I’m sure I wrote bad poetry and drew dodgy pictures of it with love hearts all around…

Kirstie Allsopp's  lino-cut blind using Duck Egg Designs pattern
Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs
So you can imagine my shiny delight when I discovered that Ellie Harrington is also the force behind Duck Egg Designs – one of the companies which played a major part in revamping not just the Harrington’s kitchen, but also their gorgeous dining room. 

Image courtesy of Kirstie's Vintage Home (copyright RTRP Ltd). 
And yes, it is a big picture - but just look at the sheer yumminess of it!!
As I skipped through the Duck Egg Designs website, my cup of tea grew cold and my chocolate remained untouched.  I was in love all over again.  Their love of pretty yet functional things mirrored my own; they understood the value of a soft colour pallet; and appreciated that a house is not a home without a Norfolk crab…
Between you and I, my Duck Egg Designs wish list (such a handy feature of the website) is roughly equal to the size of their product list.  However, in the hope that my loved ones might be reading this, I’ve whittled the list down to my five ‘must haves’ (well, four-ish and a table) and…well…Christmas is only five months away… ;)

1. No home is complete without a pet, and a reminder of summer holidays in (at least for me) Norfolk.  Clearly I simply must have this cushion in both their Norfolk Crab fabric (£38)....

Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs

And their Classic Duck Egg Print (£38)...

Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs
Since they're both cushions, I'm counting them as one choice - and truth be told, I'd be very happy with any of their fabric designs - but why wouldn't you want crabs and ducks on your cushions?

2. Reclaimed Victorian Table (£450) - because I want a table you can eat at, even when one end is taken over by the sewing machine (or the ironing pile)....

Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs

3. 1930 's Enamel Jug (£24) - if you've got the perfect table, then you simply must have a 1930's enamel jug to plop down in the centre of it with an enormous bunch of freshly picked's the law...honest.... This jug is actually currently out of stock (though they do have other lovely ones)...but I figure I still have some saving to do so I can wait.

Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs
4. Vintage Wooden Wine Box (12 Bottle Box) (£15.99). Oh, my giddy aunt - I shall need dozens of these all around my forever home.  Some to hold books, some for my greenhouse, some to hold fabric and yarn in the craft room and maybe the odd one or two (radical design concept here) to actually hold wine...
Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs
5. Winston Churchill Poster (£14).  "Never, Never Give Up" - now that's a motto to live by, especially if I ever want my own home.  Of course, I'm also applying it to my chocolate habit....

Winston Churchill Poster
Image courtesy of Duck Egg Designs
And that's just what I want - you just wait for my post on Christmas present ideas later in the year, because I know at least one little boy who would simply love a Tractor Time print for his bedroom wall....

Tractor Time Poster
Tractor Time Print (£14.00) - image Courtesy of Duck Egg Designs

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Christmas list to be writing and I think I left some chocolate untouched somewhere around here...


Monday, June 24, 2013

The one where I learn to bake bread

I blame that Kirstie Allsopp. 

Somewhere between knitting and learning to thread my sewing machine, I discovered the urge to bake bread.  The fact that I am a remedial baker at best and had no idea where to start had no impact on my continuing affair with the 'make do and mend' culture that's currently enjoying itself around my home.

Thankfully for me, I have three like-minded friends and following a bit of research we discovered the wonderful Mark Woods, Artisan Baker at Slow Loaf Bakery in Walsall.  As well as being the driving force behind Slow Loaf Bakery, Mark also runs bread making classes from the kitchen in his own home.  Classes are held once a month and sizes are limited to four students, which means there is plenty of help at hand if you get stuck.  Plus each class is dedicated to learning to bake a particular type of bread, which means you leave with a proper skillset as well as fond memories of a nice day out.

As the majority of our group were complete novices, we booked in for the beginners class ("Course 1").  To be honest, I can be a little nervous about new things (unless it's chocolate - but that's a different post).  However I needn't have worried as Mark has that enviable skill of putting you at ease from the moment he opens the door through to when he closes it at the end of the day.

Mark and my fellow classmates

We breakfasted on warm sweet pastries and tea while Mark explained how the day would work and got to know our motley group a little better.  Over the course of the day we learned the art of making dough (don't be fooled - it's a very precise science) and the techniques of kneading, shaping, proving, rising and baking.  We learned to shape the bread to make batards, rolls and rounds and to use a tin.  We also met Rachel the oven (you'll have to ask Mark how she came by her name as our lips are sealed).

Rachel - careful, she bites.

The entire class passed in a rush of flour and hilarity - we didn't even realise it was lunch time until Mike mentioned it.  After lunching on homemade leek and potato soup (with fresh bread of course), we dived straight back in to 'dough-bothering' and finished the class with an impressive 'show and tell' of our makes.

Loaf anyone?

Between you and me, I am in no way a natural baker.  My cupcakes adhere to a strict recipe and my loaves usually come from Tescos.  But under Mark's (extremely patient) tutoring, I got to discover the simplicity of an ancient art - and just how relaxing beating seven kinds of whatsit out of dough can be. 

I also got to take home my four loaves - you'll have to excuse the filter on the photograph, but my kitchen has come over all domestic goddess....


You can learn more about Slow Loaf Bakery and their bread making courses at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Procrastination, thy name is housework.

I've just vacuumed the house. 

This not exactly jaw-dropping news - but in this house it means procrastination, because I've got a deadline approaching. 

I decided a while back that this would be the weekend that I restock my Nora's Thoughts and Other Stories Folksy shop.  Now don't get me wrong - I've been crafting my little socks off, but I'm also suspiciously up to date with the house work, my paper work and seven months after moving house, I've finally got round to registering with a new GP.

I've always known that a little bit of pressure makes me insanely productive - but apparently I've moved up a gear, because I've just realised that either we're due Armageddon, or I've unconsciously prepared my surroundings to spend this weekend crafting and listing items for sale.  Stocks of coke and chocolate? Check.  Plenty of tea and biscuits? Check.  DVDs and loads recorded TV? Check, check.  So I've really run out of excuses not to knuckle down and get some work done - darn, my subconscious self is sneaky!



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tea for two

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in charge of a house will have an insatiable need to fill it.  Which is how I found myself being dragged into Leek (the Stoke on Trent home for all antiques) this week.

Being a civilised sort of shopping companion, I demanded tea and cake shortly after we'd arrived.  Given my ability to find tea and cake anytime anywhere, we quickly stumbled across Spout Coffee Shop on St Edward Street - and what a find!

To be honest, they had me at the tea - supplied by the wonderful Teapig Tea Company  I would happy live off their tea if my budget allowed *debates swapping in her car to pay for her growing Teapig habit* 

Sorry, lost me a bit there. Where were we?  Ahhh, yes... Here's the lovely Loulou from Spout - lady with the tea, coffee and cakes...

To call Spout a coffee shop feels a little off, because truth be told it's so much more.  It's like wandering into your favourite nan's living room knowing that you can curl up on the sofa with a cuppa and a book, because that's what it's there for. 

The shop is divided up into different rooms with an eclectic range of comfy seating, tables made from old doors, and even a chair or two you might recall from your school days.  Every wall has something new to look at, and includes some fantastic artwork.  Ok, I'm going to come right out and say it - I wanted to move in.

We took full advantage (read 'totally abused') the current offer for tea and home made cake for two for £5 and went for two carrot cake cupcakes (no sane person shares carrot cake).  We added a slice of toffee lemon drizzle cake to share, which some might say was greedy but I'm classing as restrained.  Check out the cute little milk bottle!  

If you're in the area and looking for a pit-stop, or a place to meet up with friends, your mother and baby group, or even house your knitting circle, then this is the place for you.  They're insanely kid and dog friendly, have free WIFI (count me in as a returning customer!) and serve food from 11am til 4pm. 

Check out their Facebook page

In fact, just go and visit.  I insist.  No really.  Go on.  I'll wait. 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jingle bells

Soooo..... if you're reading this from within the Staffordshire area (UK), then I may owe you an apology. 

It's possible that the sudden change from the gorgeous sunny weather of the last few days to the Narnia-like cold and wet of today is my fault.  This is what happens when you sing Christmas carols while you work and pray for it to be a little cooler.  So *shuffles feet and tries not to make eye contact* I'm very sorry...

On the bright side, 231 days till Christmas!  Yay!