This time last year, we were busy house hunting in a (then) completely unknown area of London.
I was about eight months pregnant, the weather was glorious for weeks on end, I’d huff and puff round houses, stopping outside every one to have a little sit down and a sip of water. We did stupid things like decide to look round 13 houses in one day. And then wonder why we couldn’t remember which was which.
At the time, it was pretty exhausting. Looking back, it was really quite exciting: discovering a new part of town, buying our first house together, knowing the baby was coming soon but not knowing anything more about him.
But for a good few weeks, one thing was confusing the hell out of me. Why were there so many houses for sale? It seemed as if every single street we walked down had at least ten houses with a for sale sign outside.
Eventually, we paid a little more attention to the signs and realised that, actually, this is what they were saying:
The area we were busy hunting in was, in fact, stuffed full of artists, all opening their houses for the annual Dulwich Festival.
This year, now ensconced in our new pad, I thought it would be fun to go along and check out some of the open houses. I’d been planning it for weeks, marking all the places I wanted to go and see on my map. The festival took place on the middle two weekends of May and I had a tight schedule sorted out, with the optimum route plannedbetween houses. (Yup. I’m a fun person to live with…)
Only thing was, when we set off, the baby immediately fell asleep in his pram, so we didn’t want to risk waking him by pushing him inside the houses. My partner said he’d just wander round outside and I could go in, but every time we got to the door of an artist’s residence, I felt a little bit awkward about wandering round their house on my own, sans money and without any intention of actually buying any art.
So, in the end, I only went in to about two of the planned route. One was the garden studio of Moth London, a duo who were making some gorgeous knitted cushions and lavender bags. This hugely appealing sign led the way through the side gate down to their studio:
Unfortunately, I was so over-excited at the sight of their knitting machine that I completely forgot to take any photos once I got inside. But you can see the lovely semi-felted knitted goods on their website: www.mothlondon.co.uk.
Luckily, for my suddenly self-conscious sensibilities, there was also lots of street art as part of the festival.
This giant mural was part of the amusingly titled Baroque the Streets installations:
And further down Lordship Lane, an entire house had been “loaned” with different artworks painted in each rooms. This rather lurid painting on the wall outside slightly reminded me of some more psychedelic clubs I visited in Bristol back in my student days…
A bit more to my taste, was this amusing montage, hidden away round the corner:
The little cherubs at the bottom were completely oblivious to the fact they were having paint poured all over them:
So, once again, I’ll say “maybe next year” for actually getting inside some more of the houses. Because toddlers love quietly and calmly walking round houses to look at art, don’t they?
I’m a bit of a fan of insects. In art form, anyway, perhaps a little less in real life. There’s something really aesthetically appealing to me about the complicated little bodies of bugs, with their iridescent colours and gauze-like wings…
I’ve made a paperweight illustrated with “the life cycle of the asparagus beetle.” I put some squash bugs onto one of the fabrics I designed with Spoonflower. And having a little browse through my Pinterest board Free graphics, I can see that I’ve pinned more than my fair share of various little creepy crawlies, with some wonderful pictures providing inspiration for future makes:
So perhaps it was inevitable to discover one of my projects Pinned the other day with a description “this looks like a petri dish of dead bugs suspended in something gelatinous…”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not such a delicate flower that I’m sobbing into my pillow at night or anything. As critical reviews go, this is pretty humorous and – looking at the photo again – I can sort of see what the Pinner was talking about.
And of course, I knew that if I started up a blog and put stuff that I’ve made out on the internet for all to see (I’d even uploaded this project to Craftgawker), then it’s inevitable that some people would think I had made a load of old crap. Each to their own and all that.
But, as the first time that it’s ever happened (to my knowledge anyway) I did have a sharp little intake of breath when first reading the comment.
So, fellow bloggers, social mediaers, anyone who has ever shared something online, tell me I’m not alone! Have you ever seen any rude comments about things you’ve made, either out there on Pinterest or somewhere else? Let me know in the comments…
Not much chat this morning (I’ve got a Monday morning head on, I’m afraid) but just a few pics of things I harvested / grew / stole over the weekend, along with plans for their transformation…
First up, this verdant little bunch of wild garlic leaves.
I’ve felt a little jealous of the country lifestyle of my friend Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) ever since I saw her amazing pesto recipe, made from hand picked wild garlic foraged from their local woods. So imagine my surprise to realise that there was a bounty of wild(ish) garlic growing along the side of a path just down the road from me. Admittedly, I do suspect it’s been carefully planted there by the council, but I nipped a leaf or two from each plant in the hope nobody would mind.
This healthy bunch of rhubarb, on the other hand, is from my own garden.
We were lucky enough to inherit all sorts of amazing well-established fruit and veg when we moved in to our new house and the six rhubarb plants seem never-endingly abundant.
I will definitely be making a rhubarb and orange cake following the recipe from Waitrose. I’ve made this a couple of times before and it’s an absolute beauty.
Finally, a bit of booze. I’m getting married later this year and we were originally planning on making sloe gin for everyone as wedding favours. Except, when it was sloe season we had just moved house and had a really small baby, so we never managed to pick any. But, with the abundance of rhubarb in the garden, I think it could be worth having a crack at some rhubarb gin instead. I’ll trial a small bottle first before going for industrial quantities. Billy’s Booze Blog has two different rhubarb gin recipes.
I’m hoping this little pumpkin seedling will one day become just as prolific as the rhubarb:
I planted eight seeds a few weeks ago and all have germinated. I shall have to give some away because I certainly don’t have space for that many pumpkins. I harvested the seeds myself and can no longer remember whether they are standard pumpkins or butternut squash. But, if the latter, I will certainly be making a butternut squash risotto or ten, come Autumn time. I usually just wing it when I make one, but I might be tempted to try this really unusual recipe by Nigel Slater, which uses leftover butternut squash soup along with stock.
How was your weekend? Was it sunny where you were too?
I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted with this article, so let me just summarise everything that’s going to follow in four words:
I flipping love Pinterest.
Somehow, Pinterest must have found out how much I love them and decided to let me know that they love me back, because they asked me to take part in the UK Pin It Forward campaign, to help spread the news of their recent launch here in the UK.
Would I like to be involved? Erm, yes please.
Of course, I don’t need to explain what Pinterest is, because I’m sure you all know about it already. And yes, us Britishers over here have been using it for years already without a UK-specific version, but now we’ve got the option of seeing proper English spellings and everything…
The Pin It Forward campaign is a group of 300 bloggers who are linking up and talking about why they use Pinterest and speaking a little bit about one of their boards. The baton was passed to me today by two lovely blogs, Sew Scrumptious and the Start Up Wife.
And without further ado, readers, meet my board, I Could Make That. Pinterest board, meet my lovely readers…
I should warn you, before you shake hands, that my I Could Make That board (ICMT from now on, to save any repetitive strain injury on my typing fingers) is a bit of an unruly beast.
He wants to be all things to all people. All crafty people at least.
He’s the very first board I started when I joined Pinterest, 18 months or so ago when I was living in Hong Kong. I was supposed to be writing a novel (you can find out how that went by reading point 4 of my Five things about me) so was spending quite a lot of time sitting in front of my computer.
But, unlike during my Uni years – the last time I spent quite a lot of time sitting at my computer with only my willpower, rather than any financial incentive, to get something done – this computer was connected to the internet. So, my minesweeper addiction didn’t return. But I got a new addiction. Pinterest.
I was soon hooked on all the inspiration I found for all sorts of crafty things I could be doing. I created my first board, my ICMT board, to store some of the ideas.
At the beginning, like all the other Pinterest fools, I thought that I would just pin something and then make it. Maybe pin one or two things during the week, then make them at the weekend. Ha! Little did I know that my pinning would get woefully out of hand and I’d pin 10, 20, maybe 100 ideas for every single one I would actually get round to making.
My ICMT board became stuffed full with all sorts of craft ideas and I looked on with envy at others’ carefully curated boards dedicated to a specific pursuit (sewing, knitting, paper crafts, stuff you can make with toilet rolls – okay, I just made that last one up, but I have seriously considered creating that board myself on a number of occasions)…
But, wild and unruly as ICMT is, and hard as I find it to easily locate specific pins in amongst the other 428 I have stored, I’m really fond of this board.
The pins I have on here introduced me not only to amazing things I could make, but also to amazing new craft blogs. My Pinterest addiction soon expanded and became something of a craft blog addiction. And if I hadn’t spent so much time reading other peoples’ crafts blog, I probably wouldn’t have started this one of my own.
Really, I’ve got Pinterest to thank for the fact I’m here at all…
So, yes, I flipping love Pinterest. If you’re not on it already, you can use this custom link to register. As a bonus, you’ll automatically follow my ICMT board…
And just in case there’s anyone out there who doesn’t yet know what Pinterest is, I’ll just say that if you’ve ever bookmarked a page online, or torn a picture out of a magazine for inspiration, you’ll want to go and sign up.
That’s my Pinterest story. Tomorrow, Nesha from Flower Child blog will be talking about her Pinterest love, so head over there to have a read of her thoughts. Nesha’s a web designer and her blog is just as beautiful as that would lead you to expect. And if you’re keen on beautiful design, check out her Pinterest board Design: Branding, which is stuffed full of loveliness.
So tell me, are you on Pinterest? What do you most love about it?
All my related articles today are from the three other blogs that are linked with me in the campaign:
I’m a bit in awe of the beauty of Flower Child Nesha’s blog, photography and sartorial choices! Take a look at this adorable little envelope liner she made to see what I mean. (I’ve just Pinned it, of course…)
Sew Scrumptious is a really inspiring sewing blog. I’d seen Louise’s amazing pillowcase dress project before, which collects beautiful handmade dresses to send to girls around the world…
…But I’d somehow missed the Pin addicts Pinterest challenge: make something you see on Pinterest and link up the project. I will definitely be joining in next month.
The Start Up Wife is another blog that makes me feel a little jealous of its beauty. Emily is a photographer so it’s not a surprise all her photos are so stunning. (How she finds time to photograph, blog and work on other projects with four children is a slight mystery to me, though. I have a hard enough time with one baby…) Take a look at her Little things blog post to see what I mean.
I write this fresh from waging war on the slugs and snails in my garden. I’d love to say that I was the victor but, despite having deposited a full ice cream tub of the slippery critters into the skip at the end of my road, I fear their guerilla warfare tactics will give them the upper hand again by the end of the day…
(I know, I know, the skip owner doesn’t want slugs and snails in there, but I can never bring myself to actually kill them…)
In completely unrelated news, (note to self, really should try harder to link blog posts together into a cohesive article) I wanted to show you a few pictures of some quilting I got up to at the weekend.
After the success of my quilted teapot, I wanted to have a go at some slightly more freestyle quilting.
Before my sproglet was born, I made a burp cloth, following this really simple tutorial at Made by Rae. It’s a pretty handy item; backed with terry towelling it’s very absorbent, but it’s always bugged me a little that the two layers don’t stay together very well.
So, I thought I might have a crack at quilting them, vaguely following the outlines of the little rocket people all over the top fabric.
I’ve got to say, I was pretty pleased with the results.
In some places, I followed the outlines closely.
In others, I just nipped along wherever I fancied.
I definitely think I’ll be doing more of this.
Now, sewing chat out of the way, if anyone wants to come on a snail hunt at 7am tomorrow morning, I know the perfect spot…
Something feels wrong this Monday. Oh, wait, I know what it is… …it’s not a Bank holiday. Sob, sob.
Somehow the three-day weekend last week felt like a miniature holiday, whereas the weekend we’ve just had was more like a rushed work lunch break. Two whole days passed so quickly that I don’t really know what happened to them.
Still, enough moaning, I’m going to show you what I managed to produce with the few productive couple of hours I spent sewing on Friday night.
For today, these cute business card holders.
You remember I got my first ever Wolves in London business cards a few weeks ago? Okay, I’ve still only managed to hand out one. The rest are sitting in a rather beautiful pile on my mantelpiece, where I admire them at least 20 times a day.
They’re so gorgeous, I couldn’t bear to put any in my wallet in case they got dirty or – worse – crumpled! So, I really needed some means of transporting them around, otherwise I would never give any out to anyone ever.
I found a great tutorial for sewing a business card holder from the Crafty Cupboard, which I basically followed to the letter. I didn’t sew on the button and elastic because I forgot thought it wasn’t necessary…
The blue one is made from some beautiful Japanese fabric that I bought when I was living in Hong Kong. I wish I knew where to get some more because it’s running out now.
Incidentally, I didn’t originally set out to make two – I spent a while making the first dark blue one, carefully lining up all the flowers to the right places and so on, only to discover that it was too small for my business cards once I’d finished it. Ah well…
If you like the vintage animal fabrics I’ve used here, you might also like my teapot fabric
It’s been dawning on me recently that I’m not so young any more.
It’s not the wrinkles and increasing number of grey hairs that are the biggest giveaway. Nope, it’s the way I choose to spend my spare time that is the real telltale sign.
Not so long ago (okay, quite long ago) (okay, probably a decade ago, in fact) a sunny bank holiday weekend would be the perfect time to sit outside a bar in Brick Lane, music blaring, cider in hand, the afternoon whiled away drinking with friends.
Nowadays, however, I can think of nothing more pleasant than taking a good walk through some beautifully maintained gardens, and boring my poor partner with the Latin names of all the nice plants and some “interesting facts” about their sexual reproductive systems (a sentence I say without even the tiniest smirk at the words “sexual” or “reproductive”…)
Luckily, quite one of the loveliest London park gardens is just at the end of my road and – provided your idea of a fun leisure activity is as middle-aged as mine – I heartily recommend a visit.
Peckham Rye is a large, flat, somewhat uninspiring expanse of green in Southeast London. But tucked away at the southern end is Peckham Rye Park; a series of beautifully planted and faultlessly maintained public gardens.
At its heart – and my favourite spot – is the Sexby Garden. The layout dating back to 1906, this is the secret garden of my dreams: pergolas dripping in wisteria lead to a central fountain, at each corner arbours provide shaded resting places, benches are tucked away in yew hedges, there’s a gentle buzzing as bees hum from plant to plant, the smell of the air takes me back to childhood in my Granny’s garden (it’s the fragrant Daphnes that are so heavenly) and the flower beds are planted in a formal(ish) way with clusters of vibrant tulips…
Most days, I push the pram over the cobbles and daydream that I’m back in Victorian times, about to come across a boy in a wheelchair… (Okay, if you haven’t read The Secret Garden that sentence might sound a bit wrong.)
The rest of the park is perhaps slightly less impressive to me, but still highly pleasing. I’m planning on frequenting the dog-free picnic area in the arboretum many times over the course of the Summer.
The “Japanese garden” looks like the sort of thing that would be described as an “English garden” anywhere else, but the stream through the middle always makes me stop and dawdle, looking for fish.
And the bowling green is as prim and proper as you could wish a bowling green to look.
It’s all looking particularly beautiful at the moment, with all the plants in blossom or close to it. The perfect place to wander and spend a few hours with my co-explorer…
If you’re in the neighbourhood (the SE15 / SE22 borders) then I do recommend popping in…
If you’d like to see another city in the sun, take a look at my photos of my recent visit to Brighton.
The UK a little too close by and boring? I’ve got a few from Hong Kong as well…
Not in a “did we buy enough bread to see us through to the weekend?” kind of way. More in a “ooooh, why don’t we move to Croatia in a year and buy a boat and sail to Greece and learn to make Greek food and then come back to the UK and open a Greek restaurant” kind of way.
(Actually, who am I kidding, I like to plan in the bread way too…)
The more plans I have on the go at any time, the happier I am. The very day I move into a new house, I’ll be checking out the “for sale” signs on houses round the corner, planning where we’ll go to next.
The minute I start to think about how much I like nicely-designed fabrics, I’ll decide it’s a brilliant idea to start a fabric business.
I’ve got three big plans in my life, right now. The fabric business plan. A plan to move to Italy in two years, open some holiday cottages and start to make cheese. And a plan to move out West once we return home from the Italian sojourn.
Most of these plans involve leaving London in the not-too-distant-future and, as is my wont, I started thinking about all the things I’d miss once we do leave London – despite the fact we’ve nothing concrete set in place to do so…
But, then, in perhaps one of my more sentient planning moments, I thought that I should really make the most of London before we do go.
Along with, I suspect, most of the population of London dwellers (at least those out of their 20s with kids), I don’t actually spend that much time exploring all the wonders the capital has to offer.
I’ve been to the theatre once in the last year. Seen perhaps two art exhibitions. Eaten at lots of cafés and restaurants, but most of them right on my doorstep.
So, the latest plan is the simplest one I’ve ever come up with: make the most of London while I’m still living in it.
I’m going to arm myself with one of my favourite London-based books for some inspiration. Used, so far, mostly just for armchair Londoning.
Tired of London, Tired of Life, gives you one thing a day to do in London. I bought it when I was pregnant, thinking it would give me loads of ideas of things to do with the baby once he arrived. Of course, what I usually do with the baby is wander round the closest shops.
And since I plan to be out doing these things, I thought I might as well write about them here too, in a new series called… ….you guessed it… making the most of London.
My very first trip is a bit of a cheat, since it’s right on my doorstep, but it’s given as a destination for August 5th. So I started out with Peckham Rye Park. Head over to the article: A stroll around Peckham Rye Park.
The next few things I’ve got planned are a trip to Nunhead cemetery (an easy walk from me, but still unvisited after living here for six months) and a repeat trip to the Horniman Museum.
If you’ve got any ideas for some weird, wonderful, cheap or just unmissable places and events, do let me know in the comments.
Ever feel like you’ve turned up to the party a day late when everyone else has already started cleaning up?
That’s me at the moment.
Or perhaps, I’ve turned up and can see everyone else inside having fun, but they’re being too loud to hear me frantically ringing on the doorbell…
You see, I keep finding out about these amazing blog events I’d love to join in with. But I always hear about them a little too late to do anything about it… First was the Knitting and Crochet blog week, hosted by Eskimimi Makes. I missed that one by a few days and it looked like lots of fun. Now, on May 10th, I’ve just seen Rosalilium’s Blog every day in May. That would have been fun too!
I need to mark up my calendar now for next year…
But, just for today, I am going to join in. Today’s topic was “travel dream” and, frankly, dreaming about travel is something that takes up at least 60 per cent of my brainpower every day.
At the moment, my biggest travel dream is to return to Borneo, where I took a two week holiday last year. Incredible place.
I took this photo in an orangutan rehabilitation centre.
Regular readers will know that here on this blog I move at the speed of a gazelle.
Okay, perhaps at the speed of a very young gazelle. With a club foot. Who is just learning to walk in heels.
Anyone who read my post at the start of March about these children’s T-shirts I made and was intrigued by my little teaser about the tomato fabric at the end will still be eagerly waiting to find out what I made. (Why? Because I haven’t finished making it yet…) And my promise to deliver a baby bib pattern was made first in February and then again in April. But erm, no pattern yet, I’m afraid…*
So, perhaps it’s not a surprise that, despite my very real excitement at being mentioned by two of my very favourite blogs Truly Myrtle and This Blog is Not For You, a couple of months have passed and I’ve not yet shared five things about me. Or even one.
Partly, this was down to the fact I simply couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about myself. But then recently (ahem, not that recently) I saw a post on Decorator’s Notebook with a photo of her blogging view: the view she usually has when she sits down to write a blog post.
I found it really interesting (I always used to love those articles in the Guardian as well, where they showed a picture of an author’s study) and thought to myself, O-ho, this is something I could share as one of my five things and, what’s more, I’d love to see other bloggers views too…
So, my blogging view takes number one place and, after much head scratching, I managed to think of four more as well.
1. This is my view as I write most of my blog posts. I sit on my sofa, the baby usually asleep on me, and whenever I raise my eyes from the screen as I scramble round my brain looking for the perfect word, this is what I see in front of me.
I was going to move the bins out of view for the photo, but then I thought that would be cheating – especially as I so often catch sight of them and think, drat, I forgot to put the rubbish out. Six months ago, you wouldn’t even have been able to see the bins, just a giant cactus.
I feel the need to point out that I did not choose that wallpaper. We moved into our new house about eight months ago and it’s not yet been decorated. So we currently have a different 1950s floral wallpaper in every room. I might show you some more of them in the coming weeks…
2. The succulent on the window sill is one I grew from a “cutting” of a 150 year-old jade plant. I say cutting, but actually I snapped a bit off and hid it in my bag when I was looking round the cactus and succulent house of a botanical garden. I’m not going to say which one, because, clearly, you’re not meant to go round breaking bits off the plants and I feel a bit guilty whenever I think about it…
3. Ever since I was about five, the one thing I’ve really wanted to do with my life is write a novel. From the age of 18, every time I went on holiday / took a gap year / was between jobs / went travelling I promised myself that would be the time I was going to write my novel. Finally, last winter, on sabbatical in Hong Kong for six months I actually did write a novel…
4. …When I read over it, it was a bit shit.
5. And for the last one, this is what I look like:
I’ve been really reticent about including a photo of myself on my blog; my About page just has a logo. I don’t even really know why. I suppose it’s a combination of a photos-on-the-internet-fear combined with a general not-liking-photos-of-myself.
But, I thought it was time to bite the bullet! I always like to see what other people look like when I read their blogs, so I guess people might want to know what I look like. This is it! (*Blog readership dramatically plummets* ha ha.)
The photo was taken by my partner who is officially the world’s worst photographer. And this photograph is officially the best one he’s ever taken in his life.
It’s not recent, as any recent photo of me would include bags down to my jowls, but about a year old, back when I was pregnant. As you can probably guess, it was taken when we were living in Hong Kong, and this is a Chinese New Year market. It was very busy, as you can see.
So, there you (finally) have it: five things you (probably) didn’t know about me.
And here are a few bloggers whose blogging view I would love to see:
Laura from Circle of Pine Trees is an amazing photographer and I just know any photos of her blogging view would make me long to move to her house even more than I already do.
Her crafty correspondent Annie, at Nimble Fingers & Steady Eyebrows, lives in the US now and I have a feeling her view will be equally impressive. It will probably include the odd bee or two as well.
Cheryl from Thimble Fingers makes the most beautiful fabric items with vintage images on them. Also in the US, I am very curious as to what she sees out of the window. Nothing like my London front garden, I’ll warrant…
So if any of you would like to show me a photo of your blogging view, I’d be delighted!
* Honestly, honestly, this is coming soon though. I’ve got it in pdf form now and everything.
P.S. On an unrelated note (though I suppose I could always make this a sixth thing), I mentioned that I went to a Pinterest party a few weeks ago, which was in celebration of Pinterest launching over here in the UK. I’m part of the UK Pin It Forward campaign, where 300 bloggers over the course of May will share one of their favourite boards, talk about why and what they’re pinning and introduce a new blogger the following day to do the same. Sort of like a giant online game of tag.
It’s all kicking off today and you can read more about it on the Pinterest blog. If you’ve got your reading glasses on, you can even spot my name at the very bottom of that great long list of blogs. If only I’d called my blog Aardvarks in London, eh?!
I’m up on May 17th, so look out for more then. It’s one deadline I will definitely be keeping.
I’ve linked to about a hundred articles in this post already, so I’m just going to give you the links again if you’re like me and prefer to read to the end of a post first before clicking on a link.