Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Living in a wonky cottage

I think I have mentioned before that we live in a crumbly old cottage:

 (I can't dwell on this photo because the gaps between some of the stones freak me out, like the Big Bad Wolf could huff and puff and blow my house down.  Gulp.)

I love this little house.  I may have said before but it's actually a pair of very small cottages which were knocked through to make one house about 25 years ago.  One of the cottages that makes up our house is Grade II Listed, the other is not. The house, as a whole, is on a slope so although we have just two bedrooms we kind of have five floors/levels sometimes with just one room on a floor.

The house has bags of character; exposed stone walls in places, wooden beams everywhere, an inglenook fireplace and a vaulted ceiling. We bought this house because we love these quirky features.  I also love the sense of history here.  The deeds and other papers for the house were sent to us in a huge box and it was fascinating to read through some of them - we learned that the house, many years ago, was sold by auction at the local pub.  That amuses me.  I like to imagine a pickled old man, possibly a farm-hand, who staggered slowly home after what was meant to be a quiet drink in the pub before his tea.  He gets to the front door, cap in hand, scratching his head and greeting his wife... "you bought what??" she yells... Ha!

So old places are generally, to me, great.  Very occasionally they are not so great.  The walls in our house are mostly covered with artex which I'm not all that keen on but can't face the huge expense and disruption to have it removed.  Now that summer appears to be on its way out, and the temperature has dropped, the house is freezing.  I put the heating on for a short burst the other day (I know!) and we now have to light a fire if we spend any time at all in the living room.  We have to work really hard to keep mice at bay, especially at this time of year, and the conservatory roof has developed a leak.

The thing that I'm struggling with at the moment, though, is the wonkiness of the place.  (Is wonkiness even a word?)   The walls are uneven.  The floors are not level.  The ceilings aren't level either.  Nothing in this house looks straight.  Mostly I live with, and love, this fact but it has has been further highlighted today by the delivery of a lovely new dresser for the dining room (yep, the revamp has only just begun and the first piece of furniture has been delivered, slightly earlier than anticipated!).  We've popped it in the corner, where it will live post-revamp, and it fits perfectly (hurray!) but it looks so wonky:

See!  The floor slopes horribly.  I suspect the ceiling isn't ever so level either.   I just don't quite know how to straighten it up properly.  If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear from you - perhaps you have a similar issue at your own place?

I'm sorry for the slightly too 'real' rough and ready photo of the dresser and messy dining room.  We're selling all of our existing dark wood furniture on eBay so the room looks like a store room right now.

I know we all like to dream and swoon over other people's photos on our blogs and I can promise some prettier photos later in the week, if you'll bear with me.  My utility china collection is building nicely and I made a few fab purchases at local charity and antique shops over the weekend so I'll leave you with a taster of what's to come:

The husband couldn't understand why we need an old jam spoon, pickle fork and bread fork:  men really are from Mars.  ;-)



Sunday, 21 August 2011


I get little obsessions all of the time.  Once I get something in my head it consumes every waking moment and I can't think about anything else.  

Current obsessions include:
  • Crochet (even doing the odd stitch as I blog right now)
  • Fabric (keep buying fat quarters of pretty fabric - can't sew yet)
  • Smeg retro fridges (MIL is buying us one for our anniversary present... eek!.. now which colour?)
  • Cake (can't stop fantasising about whopping chunks of sponge with tea)
  • Socks (Great big cable-knit warm ones to wear with PJs and/or winter boots)
  • Legwarmers (as above)
  • Cushions (a long-standing obsession of mine)
  • Bunting 
  • Cake stands, domes and cloches (for my cake obsession)
  • Embroidery 
  • Scarves and stoles (making them, buying them and wearing them)
  • Blankets (as above, but also for folding up and putting in piles or draping cosily over chairs)
  • Boots (it's an Autumn thing.)

But my biggest obsession of the moment is utility china.  I totally blame the lovely Little Gem (see her gorgeous blog here) :-)   Of course I realise that I am, again, a late-starter and definitely behind the times in blogland - lots of people have been loving this stuff for ages.  I know I've admired a few bits of Jasmine Wood's Ware (amongst a million other pretty things) over at Coco Rose, for example, but I didn't really realise what it was until I started to read Gem's blog.  Didn't realise that there is a plethora of vintage china available, quite cheaply, in these pretty pastel colours that mix and match beautifully together.  Posts like this fuelled the obsession... and now I am well and truly hooked.  Thanks, Gem, for sharing your knowledge with me and pointing me in the direction of other lovely blogs.

I've always had a bit of a thing for jugs but it's getting out of hand!  I think I've picked up about ten jugs over the past two weeks (I'm not kidding).  

I was up early yesterday morning, before the husband and step-son, so I had a lovely time trotting backwards and forwards with various bits of pastel china and jugs of flowers, taking photos of my bits and bobs!  I had to laugh at myself, skipping about in my PJs with my camera and various random items.  

The top blanket (in the next picture) is my current crochet project - the giant granny I started on holiday.  It's coming along nicely, I'm really enjoying myself.  Have plans to make loads more (received a few requests from people, too).  The spotty one is a holiday purchase - a gorgeous lambswool red/cream spotted blanket.  It's red with cream spots on the reverse.  I ♥ it.

I bought this little string of shelf bunting at a vintage fair last week and popped it in the kitchen until I found a better place for it.  It has a nautical theme and I think it looks quite good with the kitchen gubbins so it might stay there after all.

We are about to start giving our dining room a bit of a facelift.  The furniture that we brought to the cottage just isn't suitable. It's very dark wood and too oppressive.  This house is very dark, cold and quite small so it needs light, soft, colours to lift the rooms.  We are hoping to have a new floor put in and I have started to consider the type of furniture we will choose.  I think I'm going for painted oak and I really REALLY want a nice dresser to display my new china collection!  The postmistress was laughing at me on Saturday morning as she delivered a couple more of my ebay purchases - the husband had moaned to her about the fact I was collecting this china and that he wouldn't mind but now we have to buy a cabinet to put it in!  

Are you still with me?  Sorry to bore you... I could go on all night so I'll start to wrap things up.... 

We've got J (the step-son) saying for the week so I've got a couple of days off work and we're going to London tomorrow.  We are doing a few touristy things, taking him to the Forbidden Planet megastore and having a good feed-up somewhere.  

My MIL came over for lunch with us today.  The weather was gorgeous and we all lounged around in the garden, it was lush.  She was especially welcome today because she brought dessert too:

I am feeling really sunny and cheerful at the moment.  I'm loving the last dregs of summer and excited to see the first signs of autumn, it's my favourite time of the year.  I feel in control of my workloads at work, I've got a few things to look forward to in the next few weeks, but most of all I am loving being married.  LOVING it.  This is a big thing for me - I always thought I was commitment-phobic. Turns out I just hadn't met the right man.


Monday, 15 August 2011

The Great British Holiday

I can't tell you how busy I've been today.  It was my first day back at work after a week's holiday and there was so much to catch up on.  I was working from home, which I'm grateful for, but as I sit here in my stained sweatshirt (coconut yogurt, hastily wolfed down in my 'lunch break' and too busy to change) with mad lady hair (no time to blowdry after my shower this morning - frizz city) it feels like I may have dreamt my holiday last week.

We did have the most dreamy time... (What a link! Sorry).  My parents bought a static caravan on the Norfolk coast a couple of years ago and we love it.  It is just kept for our family to use, we don't rent it out, so everything we could possibly need is kept there.  We have rules about maintaining a supply of 'essentials' at the caravan so there is always a cold bottle of wine to enjoy with our fish and chips when we first arrive!  

The dog went on her own little holiday last week, to stay with my MIL, so we had some freedom to go out exploring without worrying about getting back for the dog.  It was truly lovely. 

The weather wasn't great but it stayed warm and fine and we did get out and about.  As you will know, the Queen likes to get away to Norfolk every now and then too, so we popped over to Her Majesty's little holiday home a couple of times for tea and scones.  Unfortunately she wasn't in when we dropped by but we did get to have a poke around the house and grounds.  
I loved looking around the house.  I wish I could have taken some photos indoors but, understandably, cameras were not permitted.  The tour guides had fascinating little stories to tell both about the royal family's history but also about mundane little things like which chair the Queen favours for watching television (ha! I wonder if she likes Casualty on a Saturday night too?).  We had our fair share of cream teas last week but I can confirm that the cream teas at the Queen's house were the best.  So good we went back a second time, just for the tea room.  (Jeans are a little snug today.)

There were also National Trust properties to visit with beautiful gardens, pretty woodland walks and (again) great tea rooms.

We ate out every day and found a few nice pubs in the area.  This one, the Orange Tree in Thornham, was particularly good.  Great food and wine, pleasant staff and a lovely beer garden.  (We also discovered another pub which had good food but the most appalling service I have ever encountered.  That particular lunch trip was memorable simply because it was so farcical.)

We seemed to sleep a lot too (parents have said 'oooh, you must have needed it', as parents do).  We adopted our usual holiday nap culture and would have an hour's snooze mid-afternoon every day!  Such a pair of old biddies.  

We were sure to fit in a daily stroll along the beach.  I especially liked our evening walks; hand in hand, chatting about nothing in particular and people-watching whilst eating rum and raisin ice cream cones.

Things I didn't get photos of included a fish and chip supper with wine in tin mugs (classy) by the beach.  The chip shop we go to in Wells-next-the-Sea is well-known as the best in the area and the queues always snake right down the road.  We went to Pensthorpe nature reserve where Springwatch is filmed and, of course, there was plenty of time to wander around the local shops.  I bought loads of bits and pieces and would have bought more if there had been room in the car (we took loads of beach gubbins) but I'll do a post on my purchases later in the week.  I think you will appreciate them more than my husband does!  I also went to a lovely vintage fair on the Saturday before we went on holiday where I picked up some other little goodies.

I remembered to take my crochet bag away with me.  (What did I do before crochet?!)  I stuffed my bag with a load of cheap yarn just in case I was gripped by the desire to make something.  The caravan was pretty cold in the evenings and there were no blankets there so I decided to make a giant granny square.  I was hooking at every spare moment:
Addicted, I tell you, addicted!  As you know, I'm making loads of squares for a blanket for my sister and niece but it is taking quite a long time and I just love how quickly this giant granny square grows.  Loving how it drapes across my legs as I'm working on it!   I'm still at it now and it will be finished any day soon ready for us to take next time we go.  I'll show you properly when I've done the edging. 

I'm off now to catch up on all of the blogs I missed when I was away.  I did have access to the internet but was trying to have a proper break away from everything.  I couldn't resist sneakily reading a few, and putting some short comments here and there, but now's my chance to fully indulge myself!   I've found a few new blogs to read, a couple through new followers here (hello!).  Love it.


Friday, 5 August 2011

Holidays, Hook Rolls and a Granny in the Middle

The weather has been gorgeous in my little corner of the world and I'm super excited to be preparing for a little British holiday!  We've spent a silly amount of money on gorgeous cotton windbreaks, beach chairs and various other goodies so I really hope the fine weather lasts.  I am planning picnics, National Trust trips, fish and chip suppers, late evening walks along the seafront and a bit of shopping and lunching in some of the pretty towns along the Norfolk coast.  There is a lot to pack (we are staying in my parents' static caravan so need to take bedding, towels and all sorts) so I have been writing lists like a maniac to make sure we remember everything.  I know that we will look like students bombing along the B roads in my husband's 'pocket rocket' (his stupidly small but nippy car - minds out of the gutter, girls) but, bizarrely, it feels like as much of an adventure as a fancy holiday in an exotic location.  I can't wait! 

I had the most wonderful package in the post last week - Cuckoo made me a roll for my crochet hooks (see her fab creations here) and the darling girl finished and posted it last week.  I knew that it was en route so when the postmistress appeared last Tuesday morning I practically rugby tackled her in the street.  I couldn't wait to rip the package open but I demonstrated an unusual amount of restraint and took a few photos. 

Cuckoo had wrapped the hooky roll beautifully, like a birthday present: 
There was a beautiful card, with an embossed picture of a bird, in the package too 
Isn't my hook roll pretty!  The fabric makes me swoon, it's right up my street.

I love it, am delighted with it, and I am so glad I had the balls to ask about it.  (I was - still am - a little shy about posting comments and asking questions on other people's blogs.  I feel a wally.)  Cuckoo took the time to make the roll exactly to my specifications, it fits every single hook perfectly and there is the most brilliant little pocket for my embroidery scissors and other little bits and bats.  If you haven't already seen it, pop on over to Cuckoo's blog using that link above and you'll see she has made quite a few already.  If she ever sets up an Etsy shop (and I think she should because I also want one of her homemade padded noticeboards and am too stingy to buy a staple gun) I am certain it will stock one or two of these hook rolls and I would urge you to snap one up.  I have to say that it is has that extra special something because it was made by someone I consider to be a new friend (even though we've never met) and that makes me thankful again that I've met such lovely people in this friendly online crafty community.  Group hug, people. 

So I've been spending the balmy summer evenings crocheting to my heart's content.  Remember I told you that my niece asked me to make her a granny blanket? I've enjoyed poring over my fab book, '200 crochet blocks' to find just the right pattern.

I think I might have found the perfect design.  What do you think?  

It's called the 'Granny in the Middle' square.  Forgive me for spelling it out but the middle bit is a granny square and it's edged with a few rows of double crochet.  I've made six so far (all with nice long tails this time, hurrah for experience!) and, as you can see, I've made them all in the same colours.  I want it to be a pretty, girly blanket that my sis and niece can snuggle under but I didn't want it to scream 'Barbie'.  I thought this jade green with a little splash of pink and cream might hit the spot.  I may choose to break it up with a few plain cream squares, I'm undecided at the moment.  I'm just enjoying creating these big, soft, pretty squares right now.  The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK which a few people have recommended and I am surprised to love it.  It makes my new crochet addiction seem so much more affordable and a springtime throw is well within my reach now!  :0D

I love that when the sun shines we are absent from our blogs for longer periods of time.  It means we're all busy with our family and friends, hopefully enjoying the long summer days.  I have read so many posts lately with busy gals apologising for not being around and not posting due to one thing or another.  So I won't apologise - I've been making the most of the beautiful weather and I totally understand that everyone else has been, too.

My niece was desperate for these sunglasses that came free with a magazine,
even though they are far too big for her!
She's obviously a bit of an accessories girl, like her Auntie :-)

See you soon!