STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (7/52)

1. Making pompoms. It’s a little bit addictive.

2. A new stack of books for the dark winter evenings. The top one is our Book Club read for February. It’s a surprisingly easy read.

3. A pretty typical morning scene in our house.

4. Louis’ science party for his 9th birthday. Enormous fun was had blowing stuff up, making sherbet and spinning candy floss.

5. Goggles, a plastic apron and a mouth full of sherbet, what more could a boy want?

6. The aftermath.

7. The piles of washing never seem to get smaller do they?

These are a bit of a mishmash of stills from the last two weeks, I’ve been a bit remiss in keeping up!

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (2/52)

1. My lovely boy lost in his maple syrup pancake at the weekend.

2. Spelling practice, late-night drawings and his Foundation-year photograph - Xav’s noticeboard contents.

3. Louis made his own Golden Snitch. He loves Harry Potter and reads the books avidly. Finding this little creation (he made it overnight) in his room one morning last week was a very special moment. So proud.

4. A melamine tower in the kitchen. A little colour on a grey day.

5. Homework. With a little furry companion.

6. The sweetest black grapes. Gone in 60 seconds. Literally 60 seconds.

7. Pens and paper everywhere.

8. A dinosaur and a candle together as windowsill companions. Obviously.

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

STILLS: A WEEKLY COLLECTION (1/52)

I like the ritual of a weekly linky. Last year I photographed weekly shots for Nature in the Home and came to the end of the 52 Weeks of Happy project. This year, I’m putting my hand up as the new girl in the delightful Em’s (she of the Beetle Shack) Stills project.

A weekly collection of images, posted each Sunday. Not quite a daily documentation, more a hint of the every day, a prompt for me to watch and capture the bits of life that happen as we rub along together in our little world. These are my first shots (a little late, but who’s counting?).

1. The first hyacinths of the season for me. Plonked on the table as the perfect antidote to packing away Christmas last week.

2. The nightly ritual of lighting a candle and opening a good book.

3. Fireside reading.

4. The daily list of gear to take to school. By the back door as a last-minute check-list. Now if only I’d consult it once in a while…

5. Morning light. And yes, I did smirk that the forgotten-ball-under-the-bed tones nicely with my bedlinen.

6. Airing the spare bedroom for a grandparent visit next week.

Joining in with The Beetle Shack’s Stills: A Weekly Collection linky

Decluttering. Gradually...

This weekend has been a typical April one - bright sunshine one minute, rain and even hail the next. It’s been a weekend for chores, homework and tackling ‘those’ jobs around the house - the ones I’ve put off for so long but which really need doing.

So, having been inspired by Claire at Just a Little Less who is constantly striving and managing to live with fewer possessions, and Lottie’s Project Simplify, I set about Part One of the Great Tidy-Up - the boys’ clothes.

This is one area of our house that has got completely out of control. School uniform is mixed up with wetsuits, socks, pants and vests are all over the place, their shared wardrobe is crammed to overflowing with clothes that are either too small or too big and there’s not a folded item in sight. Our clean laundry is chucked in a basket that never gets properly emptied because we can’t actually find the space to put the things away.

This is what it their drawers look like on any given morning:

It is impossible to find anything and everything is creased. It had to be tackled.

So with a strong coffee and some musical accompaniment, I delved in and made a start, weeding out dirty t-shirts and rather a lot of too-small clothes. I am ashamed to say, I even found an old apple core, lots of tangerine peel and a couple of cars lurking at the bottom of Xav’s drawer.

Once everything was out, I started the sorting. Old clothes into one bag for a charity drop, dirty clothes into a laundry pile, old pants and holey socks in the bin, 'keepers’ in neat pile for each boy.

I realised that Xavi has plenty of clothes - many of which have been passed down from his brother with lots of wear left in them, but Louis has grown out of most of his wardrobe.

Once I’d folded, smoothed and sorted, everything 'current’ went back into the now shiny and un-sticky drawers.

After all the sorting, Louis was left with only four t-shirts. That’s fine for term time, but come the holidays, he’ll need more than that for sure. Curiously though, he has more socks than any person could ever need (20 pairs and counting for some reason) but a shopping trip is definitely required - he needs another pair of trousers, a couple of long and short-sleeved t-shirts, swimming trunks and pyjamas, but as long as we buy sensibly, I figure those items will last long enough to pass on to Xav in time as well.

Xav on the other hand, has done very well out of the whole exercise, inheriting sweatshirts, a natty shirt he’s had his eye on for a while and countless t-shirts.

And my charity bag - a 50ltr kitchen bin liner - is full to the brim with stuff to pass on. All in all, a good morning’s work.

I wonder how long it will stay this neat and ordered though?

The next job on the list is the garage. That will take WAY longer than one morning and a single cup of coffee…

Finding time for stillness

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This morning has not been a classic. Harsh and unexpected words from another mum first thing. Ongoing delicate work issues. Getting my car bogged down in inches of oozing mud in the middle of a forest in Oxfordshire. All before midday.

Coming back to a calm, quiet and still house was a relief. Sometimes I think we forget to make time for stillness. I know I needed to this afternoon. Not to mull over this morning’s events, but to put a pause underneath them. To create a line break in this weekend’s story. To start afresh and not get sidetracked by other people’s dramas.

So I sat quietly, listening to nothing. Noticing the little bits of our home I forget to see in the every day. Smelling the scent of my latest blooms, admiring the strength and softness in these catkin stems.

A cup of chai. More than a few sighs. A glance at the clock, then out again. Back to the forest for round two with the muddy puddles. I shall be wearing a flack jacket this time…

Little care packages for little boys

We’re off to Rome for a few days tomorrow *eeeep!* leaving my parents in charge of the boys. Can you believe it’s the first time I’ve left them for more than one night in all the time I’ve been a mum? How did that happen?

Anyway, whilst I’m really looking forward to our trip, the boys are a little sad so I’ve put together a little care package for them with a treat and a note to open each morning we’re away.

I started by making some labels and notes to go in each day’s package.

Then I wrote each of them a little note with instructions on what to do with their parcels - the main point being not to rip them all open at once on the first morning!

Their first day’s treat is a little cuddly animal each with a message telling them what each one’s name is and what he likes to do and eat. Their task is to look after their little cuddlies all the time I’m away.

I didn’t want to go overboard on treats for them but I did want each morning’s treat to make them smile. So Friday’s parcel contains a couple of chocolatey treats and a little note from me asking them how school was and reminding them to be kind to each other!

Faced with a long weekend looming ahead of them, I decided Saturday’s parcel ought to contain some ‘doing’ things so Xavi has a couple of cool picture books (including a story about a robot with no bottom) and Louis has a sketch pad and a book on how to draw cartoons. I am hoping these will give my Mum and Dad at least an hour of respite…

Sunday’s treats are all sweet-related. I figure by that point my Mum will be so exhausted she won’t care what or when they’re eating. I have put a note in telling them only to have one before breakfast though!

I am sure I will miss them like crazy but I hope these little packages will remind them each morning how much they are loved and will keep them happy. I am SOOOO excited about spending some time away. We went to Rome for our honeymoon a whopping ten years ago on Friday. It will be ace to go back again.

I’ve got a little baking blog post scheduled for Saturday but I’ll be back 'properly’ on Monday, catching up with the portrait project and sharing some bits on Rome too I’m sure.

I hope you all have lovely weekends x

The Bedroom Changeabout (Part 2)

Yesterday I showed you the work-in-progress shots from our big weekend project to swap our bedrooms about. So today here are a few shots of the finished rooms.

There is still a bit to do, but generally, everything is now where we want it and we’re all much happier.

I have treated myself to one of these for a bit of R&R if and when I finally get around to taking a bath in the evening (the bathroom runs the length of the bed head wall in the shot below). And I will eventually get used to not having a bedside table (the shot below was taken from the bedroom doorway and the door opens in to the right so no room for anything next to this side of the bed).

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The wall ledge with the pictures on is actually a blocked up fireplace which was decommissioned when the cottage was renovated. It makes for an odd-shaped room but a handy ledge (even if it does slope downwards rather keenly).

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The new chest of drawers was meant to go lengthways in the alcove but it was just 1cm too wide to fit. I think it looks fine here though. I didn’t manage to break the TV during the move - oh how I hate a television in the bedroom but my husband would probably expire if I ever suggested removing it.

And I found a good spot for last week’s purchase, the pigeon holes. I picked these up from my local antique & reclamation place for a fraction of the price this very similar one sells for - bargain!

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This is the view from the other side of the room (the doorway is to the left of this shot). It’s beautifully light in this corner - changing rooms has coincided with the lighter mornings and we have a great view of deer grazing in the fields beyond our house.

In Louis’ new room the re-assembled bunk beds fit into the corner well. Putting the side bars back on the top bunk reminded me what a pain in the bum making the bed is in bunk beds, but as Louis is eight now, I figure bed making is well within his remit…

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I’d quite like an underbed storage truckle rather than this assortment of boxes but that will have to wait for another pay day I think.

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And I’m really pleased with the desk. I was worried it was going to be a bit too small but I picked up this vintage Ercol chair this morning from the aforementioned (and much loved) local antique shop and it fits perfectly. The colour on the chair is very serendipitously Annie Sloan’s Louis Blue chalk paint. Hehehe, I love coincidences like that. Had no clue when I bought it this morning but the shop stocks her paint range so I googled the colour just now…

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A few planets, a light-up moon and some glow-in-the-dark stars for him to look at from his top bunk.

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And finally, I’m also really pleased with the map. I had one on my mood board for this room. This is actually a sheet of wrapping paper which I picked up for a couple of pounds and framed with double-sided tape in an existing Habitat frame we had knocking about. Result!

So there you go - sorry about the rubbish pictures, I haven’t had my photography groove on today. Hope you have enjoyed this little wander around our rearranged middle floor.

The Bedroom Changeabout (Part 1)

The bedroom swap with Louis is complete! It was an awful lot of hard work last weekend (thank goodness for my Dad and his ratchet screwdriver and fully-charged power tools and my Mum and her organic shepherd’s pie) but we are now each residing in a bedroom that suits our needs far better than the arrangement we had before.

Because our cottage is dinky upstairs - full of uneven floors, crooked walls and narrow doorways - before we could swap about, we had to dismantle all the beds, re-build Louis’ two beds into bunk beds and build a new Ikea chest of drawers.

We were pretty methodical which definitely helped. I bought a couple of plastic boxes to house the various bits and bobs like lamps, pictures, light controls and odds and ends that would otherwise either get lost or broken as we moved furniture about. And we did all the dismantling first to free up floor space for building the new furniture.

I’ll share the finished room photos tomorrow, but for now, this is what the work-in-progress looked like.

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image(well with all that hard work you need the odd break right?)

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So that’s everything taken apart - now to put it all back together again somewhere else…

Indoor den building

It’s snowing again here and the boys have been climbing the walls a bit so this afternoon we got out the big guns and made an indoor den.

They normally build a complicated sofa-based hideout but today they wanted to cosy up as they watched the snow fall, so we converted our kitchen table into a special secret HQ. Apparently cameras were banned in this high tech secret environment so I was unable to take any decent photographs, but in surveillance conditions, I managed to capture these two suspicious looking characters loitering within tent (hehehe - see what I did there?).

I’ve shared this post with Emma over at Bradshaw and Sons as she has a fun little Indoor Den Building Week thing going on. I do love an indoor den!

Changing rooms

Panton Junior chair by Vitra

We’ve been living in our home for 15 months now and I have a serious case of the moving/arranging/decorating bug. Normally I can’t go more than about six months without rearranging the furniture, painting walls or adding new bits and bobs to our rooms.

But as we rent our house, there’s a limit to how much decorating I can do. I long for a wall or two painted in Downpipe and bright, white walls elsewhere, but the thought of having to return every surface to our off-white rental colour when we eventually move is rather putting me off.

I’ve toyed with the idea of sorting and de-cluttering our garage then lining our storage racks with these, but to be honest, that is going to be such hard work - the garage is so crammed with moving boxes, baby toys, pushchairs, garden pots and even a running machine, that I don’t know where to start.

So for now, to satisfy my arranging/decorating bug, I am planning for us to swap bedrooms with our eldest son. His room adjoins our main bathroom and whilst this is convenient for the boys’ bedtime, there have been some evenings when I have longed to read a magazine in the bath, but the thought or creeping through his room and running the water with fingers crossed he doesn’t wake up, has been too off-putting to ever try. Plus a change is as good as a rest isn’t it and a new view might stop me obsessing about Downpipe-painted walls.

My plans include giving him his own desk, painting an old wooden cabinet a nice bright green to match the inside of his wardrobe and framing some of the beautiful prints we have knocking about for his new room.

To kick-start the plans, I have ordered a white Panton Junior chair for him (I have lusted after one of these for ages), but before the whole move can take place, we have to dismantle all the beds, turn the two single beds in his room back into bunk beds, get a new mattress for our bed and then tackle the small matter of convincing him it’s a good idea.

Wish me luck…

2012: A Year in pictures (Part 3)

So here we are - the last day of 2012 and the last part of my look back at our year in pictures. It has been a good year.

We’ve done lots, been to loads of places, had lots of new experiences, seen friends marry, shared many a laugh and most importantly, we are all healthy and (mostly) happy. My wish for 2013 can only be that we have more of the same in the year to come and that you all do too.

And without further ado, here are my picks for September to December:

SEPTEMBER:

OCTOBER:

NOVEMBER:

DECEMBER:

September - Back to school and the boys started missing each other after a summer together. Typically, after the wash-out that was the school holidays, September brought a bit more sunshine. The boys won the Best of British fancy dress competition and a couple of goldfish at the Street Fair.

October - The landscape around us started to turn a gorgeous autumnal orange as the leaves began to fall, the fire got lit more and more and our annual Halloween bash was much anticipated and greatly enjoyed. We took a half term trip to London and marvelled at the Science Museum.

November- The first of the winter frosts arrived, Louis was the flag bearer in his Beavers Remembrance Parade and we turned the last of our blackberries into bramble vodka ready for Christmas.

December- The last month arrived, bringing with it a spectacular hoarfrost that lasted a couple of days and covered the countryside around us in the most magnificent white sparkly blanket. Taking a walk up the hill near our cottage with my camera and woolly hat was one of the happiest times I enjoyed. Louis made us so proud, singing with his choir at the NEC and Christmas was good to us all. A chance to relax, unwind, spend time just playing, not rushing, and recharging our batteries for next year.

So that was our year in pictures, I hope you have enjoyed it and here’s to the next one eh?

Happy New Year to you all.

2012: A Year in Pictures (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of 2012: A Year in Pictures. It is SO difficult to narrow the pictures for each month down. I guess I take a lot of photographs…

Anyho, here is May to August.

MAY:

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JUNE:

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JULY:

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AUGUST:

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May - The weather brightened up a bit and we had lots of walks down by the river and across the fields to the pub. We also made our annual trip to St Ives which is always a wonderful break away from it all. This year, Louis was finally old enough for surf school and the beach was magnificent as always.

June - The small fella turned five, Spence’s band played the Cornbury Festival and our campervan Dennis was finally out of rehab. We travelled down to Batcombe Vale for a weekend of camping, got rained out and broke down on the way home. So that was a fun trip…

July - Aah, the school holidays loomed large this month. Our best friends got married, we enjoyed the wonderful Giffords Circus, I met Reggie Yates, photographed the great and the good at the House of Lords, joined twitter and, well, the weather wasn’t all that bad really….

August - Full-on school holiday fun, trying to find things to do in the (mostly) pouring rain. Another festival - Wilderness this time - and picnics in the brief glimpses of sunshine we managed.

I had so many more photographs for Summer than I did for Spring. But I have even more for Autumn and Winter, funny that…

Part 3 tomorrow…

2012: A Year in Pictures (Part 1)

I’m a visual girl - my business is pictures - so what better way to record 2012 for posterity than in a selection of photographs?

Here, presented in three posts (one today, one tomorrow and one on New Year’s Eve) are some of my favourite images from this year.

Here are my picks for January to April…

JANUARY:

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FEBRUARY:

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MARCH:

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APRIL:

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January - The first month of the year always seems a bit gloomy to me, but this year it was a voyage of discovery, marking the start of what would be our first full year in the countryside. We took lots of (wet) walks, made comforting food and generally hunkered down and endured the weather this month. Oh, and we paid LOTS of visits to our mate Billy’s place to get our campervan renovation underway :)

February - Snow! And Louis’ birthday. Both coincided in the same weekend, as did Louis’ first overnight camp with Beavers. At one point it looked like he wouldn’t make it back in time for his own party, but he did. The snow didn’t last long though.

March - In a year of odd weather, March brought beautiful sunshine. We had a great time exploring, learning about our new environment and generally being outside and appreciating the massively blue skies we saw this month.

April - A half term dinosaur museum trip (we will really miss this place when it shuts for a year in 2013), Louis won a prize at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival - we were SO proud - and the sunshine and beautiful skies stayed around a bit longer. The countryside started to wake up and we were full of hope for a wonderfully long hot summer…

So that was January to April, more tomorrow for May to August…