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!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The one where I am not a Domestic Goddess

Today is mostly about digging the house out of the state I created over the Bank Holiday weekend.  Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure how this happens every time.  I had a friend staying this weekend, which meant I tidied as I went - but I swear, as soon as her car left the driveway, the house did its 'Fat Sam's' know, from Bugsy Malone...where the tables come down from the ceiling to avoid police don't?  Oh, ok... *moves swiftly on* 

The first round of washing is on - which in itself is rather brave as the hose is leaking again (it's the third hose - time to upgrade the job from DIY to HELPME).  The bins are out (how does one person, who recycles and everything, still regularly fill up a large kitchen bin?  Does rubbish breed? Should I be separating the boy and girl rubbish?), and even the windows have been thrown open - apparently to let some air in, suggesting my house is vacuum-packed...which it isn't....not really...

Of course, the house does suffer from being lived in by a crafter.  If you craft, or you live with one, then you'll know the signs - random knitting needles left laying around in case there's a knitting emergency; pins and needles waiting to be found by bare feet, a fine layer of felt dust lining all surfaces.  And then there's the crafting accessories - the cold cup of tea, the chocolate and the biscuits, three pairs of scissors (yes, I do need them all) and two tape measures (one looks like a panda...'nuff said).

In an effort to stay on top of this domesticity business, I have pretty baskets to put my projects in and those hessian bags for life are a God-send.  Everything goes into boxes, or neat piles around the place.  Even the stuff for charity has been carefully packed into two large and tidy bags.  But I can't quite escape the feeling that it's all waiting like a coiled spring, ready to ride forth and spread across the house at a moment's notice....

Monday, May 6, 2013


Well, hello. Jolly nice of you to stop by. Hobnob?

I'm Fi (or Nora if you prefer) and I own a little crafted gifts business called Nora’s Thoughts and Other Stories. I’m often found creating crafting mess about the place, but it’s ok because it’s for art…see?  I love to grow my own vegetables (well, plant them…forget them…and buy fully grown ones from Tescos), fuss animals (except insects or anything that bites), read books, and drink lots of tea with custard creams and chocolate chip cookies for dunking. And I love to write. More than I love to talk – which is a lot. 

So welcome to my little corner of t’interweb. I promise there will be little of common sense going on here – just tales from the life of a random crafter, sometimes stable hand and routine chocolate hunter.