Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Making progress

The sitting room carpet has gone. 
The woodwork is primed. 
Lining paper has started to go up.
Two brilliant books read - this one, and this one. I wanted to pack my bags and immediately head to Provence with the second one. Oh, to be back in that beautiful land. 
New recipes tried, like this one from Jamie's Everyday Super Food.
A very clean hob.
Bunch of daffs on the window sill.
One very dead mouse.
One cat in the dog house. 

Crossing things off the to-do list makes up for those aching muscles.


 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Renovate


I can't believe how quickly 2016 is whizzing by. I'm finding that being pregnant has made me much calmer and more determined to reduce the unnecessary stresses that I usually allow to fester and niggle. We're in full renovation mode over here with a very defined end date in mind. So much needs to be done by mid May before the little one arrives. I have moments when I look around me and can't believe that we've been in the cottage for 3 years and have only managed to officially finish one room, but then I remember just how big the works have been each year - removing a chimney from top to bottom, the kitchen extension and driveway, landscaping a garden, new ceilings in the sitting room, restoring the windows and adding secondary glazing to preserve them, removing that horrid fireplace and replacing it with the most delightful Chesneys wood burner which we've pretty much had on every night since it arrived irrespective of temperature. We've squeezed in some wonderful jaunts - to Devon, Florence and I'm still raving about The Pig in Brockenhurst (which is where we first spied the wood burner in our room). Our cooking habits have changed - we're eating far healthier and thriftier, the latter more through planning and making the weekly roast last for three days, than we have ever done before - in part due to the pregnancy but also because I decided last year to ditch processed sugar and alcohol. The sugar has crept back in as it was the only thing that got me through the morning sickness (really should be renamed to all day sickness), but now that's out of the way and almost all of the Christmas treats have been inhaled it's time to cut down again although I might keep my cheeky hot chocolate on the list. 
So, with the next 15 weekends on DIY lockdown we've got quite a list. 
  1. Sitting room - almost there. All that's left to be done is the woodwork to prime, walls to line and paint, final coat on the ceiling, gloss woodwork and radiators, new carpet and furniture.
  2. Spare room and office - hmmm, these haven't been started...empty (both have been prime storage units since we moved in), rip out the awful fitted wardrobes, strip wallpaper, soundproof wall, replaster ceilings, sort electrics, reroute cables, fill cracks, paint linen cupboard interior, rescue fireplace surround, prime woodwork, line walls, paint ceiling and walls, gloss, carpet and furniture. Mr M will lose his office and have to take up residency in the spare room tucked into a corner without the luxury of double desks, but then he'll be working from home less so that won't be too much of an issue.
  3. Master bedroom - new carpet and gloss doors
  4. Hallway and landing - if we have time...strip wallpaper, replaster ceiling, line and paint walls, prime and gloss woodwork, new carpet…
  5. And breathe...
My mission is to banish the moth infested carpet once and for all. The 1960s carpet in the sitting room will be the first to leave the building. We removed the flannel sized carpet from the hallway at the weekend. I'd always assumed it was probably laid in the 1990s, but apparently it was laid in 1977 as the very handy Telegraph lining the floorboards informed us.

Nothing like a new year challenge. I'll be making regular updates here and on Instagram. 

A belated happy new year to you all!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dunsborough Park NGS open day

Don't you just love the NGS initiative? We managed to get to quite a few this year, but my favourite had to be Dunsborough Park in Ripley, Surrey. The first thing we came upon was the most incredible glass house surrounded by giant sculptures, with olive trees and vines fighting their way out.
Onwards to wonderful never-ending parterre gardens that were groaning at the seams with dahlias, verbena and anemones. Mr M had walled garden envy. 
I fell in love with the ginkgo hedges.
The anemone drifts were stunning. I managed to kill the anemone I bought at the bonkers Crocus sale earlier in the year - I was understandably envious.
The water garden was a delight to stumble across. I do love gunnera - my rather more manageable tribute at home is a bunch of rhubarb which needs to be moved as it looks a little sad. 
It went on and on. I hadn't appreciated that it's a 100-acre site. Each 'room' had something fabulous whether it was a sculpture, water feature or some clever framed view. I thought there was an air of Atonement about this one.
Oh, to have spent longer there. To have perched myself on a bench with a book. It would be the perfect setting for a Mad Hatter's tea party. Dating back to the dissolution of the monasteries, the current owners restored the gardens almost 20 years ago. They open up several times a year for charity - apparently Spring is fabulous with thousands and thousands of tulips, and every so often they host evening concerts which must just be magical. If you're local, do keep an eye on their website. I for one can't wait to go back.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Wisley Flower Show

What a glorious day - bright blue sky, scorching sun - it almost fooled us into forgetting the biting temperatures of recent weeks. Not to waste such delightful weather, we made our way to the Wisley Flower Show. Overflow car parking at 9:50 meant a lovely meander through the pinetum with it's swathes of heather and tiny cyclamen - turns out the show started at 9am and not 10am as Mr M thought. Never mind.  
First stop the dahlia tent, whilst glorious it did highlight the limited colour palette which I'd never considered before. But I do still love the dark purples, which are impossible to capture on camera, and the more open flowers like 'Bishop of Oxford' and I am a sucker for a little pom pom. Onwards to the very genial plant displays - none of this Chelsea argy-barging in Surrey - where Mr M indulged in a few more agapanthus for the garden; Black Pantha, Midnight Dream and White Heaven.
We are still in awe of our sunny front garden and little sun traps in the back. I'm not sure the novelty will ever wear off having spent seven years in gloomy shade. One plant that triumphed this year were the alliums planted out the front - the most impressive being Allium Sphaerocephalon. The bees just go nuts for it. There were some really impressive allium displays today given the time of year.
I've been after some Allium Nectaroscordum siculum for ages and picked up 10 bulbs...and then we stumbled across Allium Summer Drummer. Oh my - they are fabulous. They are so tall! They can grow up to 175cm. Quicker than you could say boo to a goose, Mr M had purchased four bulbs and a solitary Allium White Giant - which, given the bulb size, should provide one of those big finale fireworks.
A couple more herbs for the herb garden followed by the obligatory over-priced burger and then it was time to go. Sadly the delightful Scabiosa Chile Black had sold out, so I'll add that to my 2016 wish list. And I was hoping that there would be a stand selling the beautiful wrought iron plant sculptures that a lot of the plant displays had, but alas no.
Off home with our wares, we spent the afternoon getting the front garden ready for Spring - dotted underneath the stepover apple trees we now have Crocus 'Snow Bunting', 'Goldilocks', 'Romance', 'Spring Beauty', Narcissus 'Jack Snipe' and 'Canaliculatus' and the tiny Iris 'danfordiae' and 'Pixie'. In front of the house, 40-ish mixed Wisley daffodils with a few of the leftover crocus bulbs. I ran out of puff, so tomorrow we plant the allium. We've somehow ended up with 60 Allium Sphaerocephalon - can you guess the garden theme for 2016?

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Writer's block

Tricky one that. Writer's block. Perhaps I should call it 'Acute Concentration Failure' or ACF for short. I appear to have rather a few drafts which haven't got much further than choosing a picture and the second paragraph. I can only presume that there was something of vague interest on the television, that the glossy life of Instagram was infinitely more exciting than mine and I had my eye on my work phone.

I could have started this post like so many of my others in the last 12 months - 'it's been a long time since I was last here…' or 'sorry for not posting…'. But no, enough of the guilt. I could offer up some excuse - too busy, one laptop between two - that type of thing, but again enough of the empty excuses which whilst valid are tiresome for those popping over to my little world. I've basically become lazy - a late adopter, but oh so big advocate, of Instagram which has helped the ACF or perhaps made it worse. My pocket blog without the editing and image resizing.

A lot of bloggers seem to come to the all important 'What's the point? Why did I start this?' questions in their blogging journey. For me, there was a point when blogs were all consuming - I lost hours of my life hopping from blog to blog, writing blog posts before I went to work and then worrying that I hadn't posted frequently enough, watching as some bloggers became so successful they gave up their day jobs, some became blog celebrities, every second post became a product push - combined with newer content thrusting, shinier lifestyle portals. Sites that brought all your favourite blogs together under one roof - yet another 'inbox' that you never quite got through.

The donk to my head in January certainly helped my ACF... I was pretty much good for nothing other than tapestry for the first four months of the year, and even then my memory for the first half of this year is comedic - many a question has been met with "Did I? Oh dear, I don't recall saying/agreeing to that at all."

But despite all my Instagramming and liking and commenting because it's just so darn easy and doesn't require signing in each time, I've missed blogging. I've missed the creative process of writing down random ramblings. I'm sad that 2015 is the least documented year of the past seven. That my photographs are taken across three devices and that I sometimes don't think to dust off my camera for weeks. I've just plugged in my camera and copied over 600+ photos from the last two months which is just crazy. I don't like how fuzzy my iPad shots are compared to my iPhone which are still not as crisp as my darling camera.

I started this blog for two people - my grandfather (then a sprightly 84 year old) and me. A visual diary and reference point. My grandfather can no longer use a computer, but I jolly well can. This blog has documented my late 20s, my early 30s and there's no reason to stop now. Heck - I've got so many things write about - the return of evening crafting and reading and sleeping. That damn crochet blanket (which I did undo…I just couldn't live with the back-to-frontness), the never-ending renovation of our sitting room and the installation of our first wood burning stove (if the chap from the shop ever comes back to us with a quote - I mean really, it seems as though you can't give money away to your local high street), our trip to Devon and how I fell madly and deeply in love with The Pig in the New Forest, the Naval wedding (swords and uniforms - oh my), Mr M's tomatoes and chutney making (apparently on an industrial scale), that weekly acupuncture and osteopathy means that I can touch my toes for the first time in 36 years, how I've given up processed sugar and alcohol but do allow myself some cheeky dark chocolate (yes, I've become 'one of those' but the weight loss has been great)…I could go on…and I will. I'll be posting regularly - weekly to start with, and then who knows.

If you've read this far - well, thank you. Thank you for popping by my little blog and do pop back again soon. If it seems a bit quiet, I'll be over on Instagram - it seems to consist of cat paws and compote, but we're running head first into Autumn, so it might get shaken up a bit with some homemade soups and seed heads.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The kindness of strangers (aka our garden fairy)

I returned from the Post Office today to find a delightful little present on our doorstep. A pot of pretty purple toadflax - just perfect for a medicine garden. Tucked inside was a lovely note saying thank you for the pleasure our "little cottage garden has brought to a wayfarer". It's really for Mr M, who is by far the master of the garden, but it's just too delightful not to share. And it got me thinking about how lovely a gesture it was and how sad it is that we don't all do these little acts of kindness more often.

By chance we happened to meet this lovely person at one of the open garden events this weekend. We managed fifteen gardens in Weybridge and two in Byfleet. We had a brilliant time meeting the owners (one, an artist, kindly gave us a quick tour of his studio), nosing around their gardens and spotting the plants that grow well in the local soil. Several backed onto the river - ever so peaceful with the narrow boats gliding serenely past, another was full of rambling roses tucked behind a 16th century higgledy-piggledy house and behind the broad beans we stumbled across a competitive sweet pea grower at the allotments. We discovered a community tucked away from traffic and street lamps living in cabins on stilts with gardens full of sculptures sweeping into quiet backwaters and an uber-modern home that wouldn't have looked out of place in Sandbanks, Poole.

And we met our garden fairy. We started chatting with a lovely South African couple in one of the courtyard gardens, as you do when the same people are following the map at roughly the same time. She happened to mention that she lived in a road near to us. When we mentioned that we lived close by, she asked whether we knew the cottage with a certain coloured door and a cottage garden that had been planted up by the young couple…erm…that would be us…which resulted in the biggest bear hug for us both. She walks past our cottage on her daily stroll and has thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr M's medicine garden come together and had been planning to leave us a little garden present from the garden fairy. And that she did. We don't know her name, or where exactly she lives in order to say thank you, but will plant it where she can see it and enjoy it.

Have you ever received a lovely act of kindness or have you been the secret gift giver?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Our herb bed - before and after

From this…
…to this. 
Creeping thyme and camomile, lemon balm, rock hyssop, feverfew and garlic chives, Allium christophii, verbena bonariensis, winter jasmine, a climbing white rose and a few other little bits and bobs to fill in the gaps.