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Thursday, 31 March 2011

To boldly go?

Before I did my recent watercolour painting course, my pictures were always tiny little things, done in pale washes, with pen and ink on top to give them a bit of shape. Getting some tips has encouraged me to go large  and achieve a more three dimensional look (see below).

So, from being very cautious and mousy, I've suddenly gone all splashy and impulsive. I can't wait for the lilac to blossom so I can have a go at painting those in my new style.   

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Preparing for a sale - or not!

I am, as you may have gathered, a rather enthusiastic buyer of vintage items. I try to be very sensible, but inevitably, I can't fit everything into my house. Every year, I do a sale in a nearby village on the first May Bank Holiday weekend, collecting together the things that I've been promising myself I will do up/recover or repaint. It gives me a deadline to aim for, and I really enjoy preparing everything. I have mixed fortunes at this sale. Some people love my things - others really don't. I once overheard someone whispering loudly: "it's just like a charity shop, only twice as expensive!"

Anyway, I have started to get things ready. But it's difficult. I am in the process of recovering this little blue ottoman, but the problem is, I have fallen in love with it all over again, and I'm not sure that I can part with it.
Then there is this tin trunk. I painted it in pale grey, and then decided that it would make a perfect 13th birthday present for a young friend who loves vintage that won't be going to the sale, either.
So far, I have managed to fix up a mirror, a chair and some garden planters, but I had to move them out of sight pretty sharpish so I don't form another emotional attachment. A work box full of wooden cotton reels is in the 'possibles' pile.
If anyone is interested, the sale will take place in the pretty village of Elton, near Peterborough, on Monday May 2nd, 1pm -5pm. Last year, it was rainy, so I took our huge family tent and pitched that on the village green. I will be going ahead come rain or shine.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

A beautiful house

Last week, I went to a photo shoot in a lovely cottage. It will make a great feature for the local magazine that I edit. The owners, Justin and Katie, have blended French country and something more earthy to make a truly original home. They haven't just thrown money at it, either. The house demonstrates real ingenuity and a clever take on recycling (I particularly liked the vintage tablecloths clipped to curtain poles in the bathroom, see below).
I just took a few snaps: our photographer Lesley Anne Churchill has produced a wonderful set of pictures and I can't wait for them to appear in the magazine next month.
I came away feeling really inspired.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A fine flea

Peterborough Festival of Antiques is our nearest large flea market. It is only five miles away, so it means I can get there nice and early. Friday was a beautiful day, and even though I had to scrape ice from the windscreen at 7am, the sun was pouring down by 10.
I found some pretty things, including some Hungarian linen, so thick and creamy, and very reasonably priced, perfect for curtains and blinds. And this adorable old typewriter, still in working order. Yes, while others queued overnight for the iPad 2, I walked away with this equally amazing portable device. 

And finally, I fell in love with this faithful friend.....three people stopped me as I walked back to the car with my dog on wheels. One wanted to reminisce about her old toys, and two wanted to know how much I'd paid! And I got some very amused looks when I stopped for petrol on the way home...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


I first visited Anthropologie about five years ago when we went to San Francisco. I loved the style of the shop, which did not feel like a large, corporate chain, even though it is, and especially the amazing jewellery. I'd never seen anything like it in my price bracket, and I am still wearing the things that I bought on that holiday. I'd heard that it opened in London's Regent Street last year, but I hadn't had a chance to have a look until today. I had a work meeting just around the corner, so I knew exactly where I'd be heading once it was over.
It is a lovely shop with clever styling. I love these books (Penguin Classics) ....and these little notebooks, cleverly displayed on clip boards, which were hanging on the wall. Some very pretty details, such as bundle of weathered, vintage frames (just seen above)....but I wasn't prepared for how expensive the UK store would be. I guess the exchange rate must have been very favourable all those years ago. Anyway, I came away with a few ideas, and a very pretty cup, to be put away for Mothers Day.
And now I am just resting my tired London was very hot in the capital today!
PS I am sorry that my photos are in no particular order. The server was not cooperating tonight

Monday, 21 March 2011

Blossom - and a floral weekend

Look what is blooming outside my back door....when I came out of the house this morning, I heard the buzz of hundreds of bees and this was the reason. This tree sprung up in my neighbour's garden out of nowhere. It's some sort of wild plum and by far the best thing about it is this wonderful blossom.
I had a great weekend. My lovely friend Jo and I went on a watercolour painting course on Saturday afternoon. We spent four hours studying one spray of green hellebores, and I must say, it was very challenging. Here is Jo hard at work:
Jo produced a wonderful painting. There is a sort of William Morris patterny effect to her work. I have to say, my picture was absolute pants. I just couldn't get the zingy lime colours of the hellebores at all,  but I enjoyed doing it nonetheless and I learned some useful tips from our tutor Helen Hillson. It is really restful to spend a whole afternoon focussed on something which does not allow your mind to drift away to work matters or what you are making for supper. 
Here is my effort. I have found some of these hellebores growing under our willow tree, and I am going to have to attempt to paint them again....

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Beautiful lace

I don't have a lacey  kind of house, but there something about old lace which I find very appealing. I've tried to find out more about it, but in truth, it is very difficult to identify the different kinds and their provenance. All I do know is that this lot looks quite old. There was such a pretty light when I woke up this morning, that I couldn't resist playing about with the camera.
Old letters are also very intriguing. This one came from ebay, for about £1.50, and it has a little scrap of the original red wax seal. I have kept a little stash of old letters from my past - when I was a student, long before email, I wrote so many letters, and luckily for me, so did my friends and boyfriends. I very rarely look at them - I can't remember the last time - but I just know I don't want to throw them away.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Friday flowers

I always feel guilty when I buy flowers from my weekly 'essentials' budget. But for £ could I resist these? Feeling frazzled and end-of-week-ish, just stopping at the flower stall and admiring all the spring plants and bulbs is balm to the soul.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Little scenes around the house....

I do have a lot of little things, and I arrange them around the house. This is what it looks like at the moment.
Different colours for different rooms.....and a little addition from today. The green Spode plate above was only 20p. The local Methodist chapel set up a pop up thrift store in the village hall for two days only and I went along early this morning. I was very excited, having been alone at my desk for the last few days and on a deadline for work, so I haven't moved very much, except to make cups of tea and greet the boys when they got home from school.
The ladies at the sale were very kind, and I spent a long time chatting about my passion for vintage, while they listened indulgently. I also bought a pretty cake stand, which I shall store away for May Bank Holiday, when my mum and I will be making afternoon teas for my friend Tracey's National Garden Scheme open day in nearby Oundle. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Favourite finds

This beautiful cake tin is a recent ebay acquisition. It's a genius design: three tins of varying sizes, all joined together. It wasn't a bargain. I don't know how people get those on ebay. I am much more likely to pay well over the odds, because I get carried away during the last minute bidding process. Much safer to give it a wide berth, or just use it for selling. I stick to those rules....most of the time.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Here come the girls....

In a house full of males, it is easy to feel outnumbered at times, especially as the boys are getting older. So, when we decided to have some guinea pigs in the family, I made it clear that they had to be girls. Minnie and Syrup are almost three now, and we've had them since they were a few weeks old. They are brilliant. Although they are nervous by nature, these girls are really quite tame. They love to go free range around our living room, making bold forays to the fridge whenever they hear the door opening, and after exploring the room a few times, they usually crash out by the radiator where I make a bed for them. I haven't worked out how to house train them yet....but it's worth it. Here they are in their run, probably their favourite place. They are loving the new spring grass which is just coming through.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tray cloth cushions

A year or so ago, I went through a phase of buying inexpensive batches of old linen from an auction house. They always contained lots of fairly unpleasant crochet mats and a great deal of very pretty tray cloths. The crochet went straight to the charity shop, but I couldn't bear to part with the tray cloths, as many of them are absolutely beautiful. I didn't want to cut them up, or hide them away, so I have just started making them into little cushions. Here is my first attempt.
It fits prettily on to a chair that I bought for £6 a few years ago from an antiques fair. My dad fixed the wobbly leg, and I painted it and recovered the seat with a scrap of Cabbages and Roses fabric and an old linen cloth for the back.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Market day

Today, the market was full of beautiful flowers, bulbs and sunshine. I can't always make it to this market, so when I do, it always feels like a novelty, even though I am usually shopping for mundane items such as potatoes and onions, and loaded down like a packhorse. Anyway, I bought two bunches of blooms (the others are more gorgeous, but try as I might, I can't photograph them properly).

Then there were more flowers, on this fantastic scrap of Sanderson linen from Help the Aged. Just 49p. And a stall selling cushion innards of all shapes and sizes. I have decided to turn some of my stray traycloths (of which I have many) into cushion covers. But as I can't do anything too clever with material, I needed some cushion pads of just the right size so I don't have to join anything together. The stall was full of them. Hooray.
And finally.....this baby was lurking on one of those market stalls that sells seconds from Marks and Spencer and Monsoon. This is a White Stuff coat in raspberry coloured cotton velvet. While £40 is not strictly a bargain, it was originally £95 so.... I bought it.
Potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, grapes, broccoli....and a White Stuff coat. A good market day.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cute shoes

Love these shoes from Peacocks, £10.
Can't wait for bare-feet-and-plimsolls weather and the chance to get outside and enjoy it!

Sunday, 6 March 2011


This weekend, we had a 24 hour dash to take our eldest son to a hockey tournament in Ilkley, Yorkshire. His team had unexpectedly got through to the quarter finals of a big competition, so we were keen to see him play. While the team were warming up, we had an hour to spare, so we had a quick look around this lovely little town. First stop, a quick cup of coffee in Bettys famous tea rooms....then a brisk walk through the streets in wonderful sunshine, peeking into a Victorian Arcade and admiring the early spring bulbs, just showing through in the park. A brief interlude investigating a tiny antiques fair in a community centre, just 50p to get in, but no real time to rummage there....

The clock was ticking for the big match, in which the boys drew with Ben Rhydding, and then lost after a penalty shoot out....very tense for all concerned. It was a rather crestfallen crew who headed back down the A1 after a memorable day.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Fabric love

Today, I was keen to take a few photos in the sunshine which is streaming in through every window. I just managed to get a few shots of one of my work baskets and part of my fabric collection. Since completing my first patchwork (just the binding to sew on now), I am keen to get on with a new project.   

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cheap date (2)

Recycled wool blanket from the National Trust shop in Cambridge, £12 each. Some beautiful colours, and each one slightly different. There were also some slightly more expensive British made blankets, at £28, in brighter, cleaner colours, also very appealing.