Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cable & Cotton, I think I love you...


What is it about string lights that makes us love them so?

When I was sent to work in the Falkland Islands for six months with only two bags of luggage, one of the essential items I squeezed in was a set of string lights and given how dull my mess room was, I'm so pleased I did.

Cable & Cotton recently sent me a length of their mojito coloured (flavoured?) lights for my study. Teal, lime and neutral shades which arrive as individual balls so you can string them how you want. I'm an idiot to a strung them completely the wrong way first time and then lasted a day before I had to restring them with all the colours in order.

The lights come in colour sets for indecisive people like me, but you can pick your own too from the 46 different colours they sell. So you could choose them to match a room's colour scheme or a quilt (yes fellow quilters, I'm way ahead of you on this one) or a season (I need Christmas ones!!) Or you could just choose one of every colour you like. They do lengths of 20, 35 & 50

I've strung mine up round a picture frame. Theo keeps coming in, turning them off and telling me "It's not dark Mummy." Now I have to explain that rule applies to every single light in the house except these lights. Because these lights are special.

Cable & Cotton lights

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Monday, September 29, 2014

En-suite bathroom tour

A few weeks ago I gave you a tour of our main family bathroom and now it's the turn of our en-suite

This bathroom is quite different from the other one. We spent nearly twice as much on fixtures and fittings and we opted for a simple modern look.

We chose a modern free standing bath and an opening (as opposed to sliding or bi-fold) glass shower door with a dual head system giving he option of rainfall or (for non hair washing days!) a regular shower head.

One of the biggest decisions was about tiling the shower. We originally planned to use glass tiles (which are uber expensive) but found these ceramic ones in a similar shade at Topps Tiles for a fraction of the price. The rest of the bathroom then fitted around the teal and white colour scheme

One of our indulgences was to have a heated LED shaving mirror which turns on and off by passing your hand underneath it. We also have underfloor heating (tested, but yet to be used) which amazingly we won in a facebook competition!

The bathroom still isn't really finished. We need a blind for the window and a few extra bits to make it a little more interesting. Although I intended it to be more of a grown ups bathroom, it's rather put in the shade by it's brighter cousin across the landing.


Tiles -  Topps Tiles
Underfloor heating - Fit My Wood Floor
Mosaic frame - moo.com
Bin - BHS
Basin mixer tap - similar available from clickbasin.co.uk
Bath mat - John Lewis
Mirror - illuminatedmirrors.co.uk

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Living Arrows : 39/52

ISO 640, 35mm, f/8/0, 1/800

This week's Living Arrows photo was taken yesterday at a cafe we visited for breakfast. There was a rather cool upcycled sofa made out of an old boat in one corner of the patio area and as I was taking a photo of it for future reference, a couple of ladies seated opposite suggested I put Theo on it for a picture.

He was is usual relaxed self about being plonked on a seat in front of two strangers and as soon as I got the camera out he turned the smile on. Sometimes I worry that he is learning to perform in front of the camera, but to be entirely fair, he actually probably has less photos taken of him than a lot of kids. It's just mine are taken with a large conspicuous SLR and not a mobile phone!

living arrows

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

South-coast breakfasts : Drift In Cafe


Although summer seems to have vanished in the blink of an eye this year, we have had the wonderful unexpected bonus of an unseasonably warm September (24c as I write!) So this morning we headed to East Wittering for a wander along the beach and a chance to try a new breakfast venue.

The Drift-In Cafe was originally recommended nearly a year ago, by Louise from the Clandestine Cake Club but it's taken us this long to find a time to try it out.  The Drift-In is situated in the middle of East Wittering's main shopping area, a place that is full of surprises with a mix of shops, that vary from Tesco and the Co-Op to an independent sweet shop and a quirky antiques place.

We got there at about 10am and were able to grab a parking space right outside. Inside the shop and cafe is like a rabbit warren with retail disolving into restaurant and back again. There's also an ice-cream parlour taking up the front section of one of the three shop fronts. Dogs are allowed in the cafe, but we headed for a cute little courtyard area at the back for our breakfast.

The Drift-In specialises in pancakes, smoothies and milkshakes. There was no bog-standard Full English on the menu but a couple of quirky variations on it involving pancakes. Jim tried the vegetarian option, while Theo and I shared a banana and nutella pancake and a toasted bacon, cheese and tomato sandwich. For drinks we had a capuccino, hot chocolate and pineapple and mango smoothie. Everything was fantastic, but the toasted sandwich was particularly good and I could quite happily work my way through their entire smoothie menu too, preferably without having to share them with a small boy!

The staff were the kind of chilled easy-going and long-limbed young adults you'd expect to find in a place like this. Nothing was a hassle and everything arrived on time. The Trip Advisor reviews seem to suggest this place never puts a foot wrong so we'll be back to try other things on the menu at a later date.

Drift-In Cafe. 11 Shore Rd, East Wittering, Chichester PO20 8DY  

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

John Lewis Autumn Fashion Magazine

1 - Somerset by Alice Temperley Animal Print Scarf. £49 / 2 - Somerset by Alice Temperley Sequin Detail Jumper. £17.25 / 3 John Lewis Wave Bangles, Pack of 5. £15 / 4 - Somserset by Alice Temperley Melbury Leather Calf Boots. £165 / 5 - Somerset by Alice Temperley Qualigate Leather Across Body Bag - £150

John Lewis have just released their Autumn fashion magazine and they've invited me to share my favourite 5 items with you. I've recently started moving my summer clothes out of the wardrobe and into the loft and digging out last year's winter clothes. It's a process I go through twice a year, yet I'm always filled with misplaced optimism about what the boxes contain!

At this time of year I need a good pair of boots (I'm a country girl at heart) a leather bag and clothes which are warm yet stylish. As you may have noticed in putting this list together I've discovered I'm a bit of a fan of the Alice Temperley range this season, which isn't as terrifyingly expensive as I thought it might be.

The John Lewis Autumn Fashion Magazine is free to download via the App Store or Google Play

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn Wild Food


On Sunday I took part in a wild food walk organised by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. It's part of a program of events that they run throughout the year based around the harbour that range from art through to conservation and they are all pretty good value for money. This two hour walk was just £6 a head and was a lovely opportunity to get out and enjoy a sunny autumn afternoon.

Theo was a little tired after a busy week of longer days at nursery, so I did miss out on some of the information as we were lagging behind the main group a little bit, but what I did manage to take in was fascinating.

Along the shoreline we were introduced to sea spinach (growing above the high tide mark) several types of seaweed and samphire. The latter of which seems to be a very popular plant at the moment.

As the walk progressed inland, we looked at berries, false nettles (which look perilous, but can be held painlessly) and discussed the many health benefits of rosehip syrup (apparently given to pregnant ladies during the war when there were no citrus fruits) and the folkore tales about our native plants.

Sloe gin was of course given a mention and afterwards we all got a sample to taste. Having been fighting off a cold all week I have to say that the sloe gin worked absolute wonders for me, it tasted just like cough syrup (in a good way) and I woke up the next morning feeling human for the first time in ages. I'll be making a new batch of it this weekend... just for medicinal purposes, obviously!

One of Karen the courseleader's recommendations was to make a recipe called Fruit Leather with hawthorn berries, blackberries and sloes.You boil them all up, sieve the fruit puree and then spread it thinly on a baking sheet and cook on a low temperature for 8 hours. The result is a bit like the dried fruit snacks you can buy for kids.

As we have all the relevant berries of these growing in the woodland next to our house we decided to have a forage this morning and see what we could collect.


I did think we might be out of luck with blackberries, but we did ok and to bulk it out I added a couple of plums from the orchard just down the road. A whole saucepan full from within a few hundred yards of home! The fruit leather is cooking in the oven at the moment and I shall report back on the results at the end of the week.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Living Arrows - 38/52

ISO 320, 35mm, f/3.5, 1/5000

Theo had a cold last week and though he soldiered through it, he spent much of the time on a precarious cliff edge of tears. I took this photo after a trip down the slide had tipped the balance. In the series of images before and after you can see him laughing one moment and looking thoughtful the next. Young children experience such a range of emotions I like to ensure that the images I take of him reflect that.

At three, he has just started full days at nursery and combined with some busy weekends he is still trying to build the stamina to keep up. But with all the fresh air and exercise he does at least sleep very well.

living arrows

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Training the untrainable...

A few weeks ago I was challenged by Pets At Home to make a video of one of our dogs doing a short training routine. As regular readers will know, we have two dogs. An older Retriever Cross from Canada called Macy and a slightly crazy Beagle we rescued in Cyprus called Bella.

We took Bella in long after our first flush of enthusiasm for dog ownership and so unlike Macy she never attended puppy classes and to this day cannot even grasp the basics of sit.  So we thought our dog training challenge would mainly consist of the hilarious contrasting efforts of the well trained older dog versus the younger chaotic dog. We were wrong.

We had failed to take into account one crucial thing. Bella is highly food motivated.  Very quickly Macy got tired of our obstacle course and sloped off to a quiet spot in the garden, but Bella just kept on going and emerged as our unlikely star....

Watch the short video below to see what happened...

Many thanks to Pets At Home for providing us with the dog training equipment. Bella was utterly exhausted by the end of it all, but I think it's clear to all she had a great time.

Linking up with Jenny at Let's Talk Mommy...

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Grip It Giveaway

I've posted before about the problems we have had fixing things to the walls of our various military homes (some made of concrete, some made of cardboard) and whilst wall fixings themselves are not a terribly sexy subject, I am a sucker for good design, which is why I leapt at the chance of trying out a rather beautifully constructed new gadget.

You may well have seen Grip It fixings on Dragons Den a few weeks ago when Jordan Dakin the 18 year-old entrepreneur who invented them in his grandfather's shed, won the backing of Deborah Meaden.

Grip It are an innovative new kind of universal fixing with metal wings that unfold inside the wall to securely support heavy objects. Safely supporting everything from curtain rails to kitchen cabinets. As the majority of new homes are constructed with plasterboard walls, Jordan's invention is an eloquent solution to an ever-growing problem.  

We tried them out and once Jim got past his resrervations about drilling a larger hole than he was used to (for rawl plugs) he thought that they offered a great solution for heavier objects.

Grip It have kindly offered readers of this blog a chance to win a starter kit with a range of different size fixings. To enter all you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

5 remodel overspends that paid off...

Last week I was interviewed by a journalist for an article that Self Build & Design magazine are going to be running on our house remodel. We had originally said no to the feature, because unless you have a business you want to promote there is no real benefit to the homeowner. However after a little negotiation, they agreed to pay a fee for using some of my photos and so we decided to go ahead.

One of the questions they asked me was about the areas where we'd splurged a bit and although we did very little splurging as such, we definitely overspent in certain areas of the budget and didn't regret it. There are so many decisions to make on a project like this that I think it's useful just to note down our successful overspends for the benefit of others who may be doing similar builds.

Wooden Floor

Our wooden floors could easily have been a disaster. We bought our first wooden floor from a large national store. It was under budget so we thought we were being clever, but as soon as we got it home I realised we'd made a big mistake. We returned it and then spent a bit more to get what we really wanted. Some corners aren't worth cutting, particularly if you have to look at them every day and wish you'd just spent the extra £200.


Our Velux windows turned out to be one of our best purchases. I originally priced up a cheaper alternative window, but after a lot of debate we decided to pay the extra for a known brand, largely because you can retro-fit electric blinds to them. It paid off almost immediately as we made as we had to change the size of one of the windows we'd ordered and Velux collected the old one and dispatched the new at no additional cost and with very little hassle. 


There was nothing at all in our original budget to replace the rundown garden building we had. We considered hiring a caravan, but access problems ruled that out. In the end buying the cabin not only enabled us to live on site (and escape to a dry, warm, dust free space) but also gave me a brilliant sewing room at the end.


Our original spec for our juliet balcony was for simple galvanised steel, but we upgraded to glass to give a simpler more modern look. It was more than double our original balcony budget, but it looks great and it doesn't obstruct the view.

Slate roof

It seems incredible now, but because we original costed everything at the minimum spend to make the project achievable, our initial plan was to reuse our old concrete roof tiles from the bungalow. Early in the build we decided to ditch this idea and cut back in other areas to spend more money on the roof. The extra cost was 1% of the entire bill, well worth the money I think, especially as we have a lot of roof!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Living Arrows - 37/52

livuingarrows150914 ISO 1250, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/250 

This little stool that Theo is standing on was a purchase at Ardingly Antiques Fair and it's been so useful. Suddenly he's got the freedom to reach the sink on his own and wash his hands independently. I honestly don't know why it took me so long to get one, except for the fact it took me till this month to see something I actually liked.

This week Theo started full days at nursery and the transition has been very smooth. He already loved his half days and accepted the news of the longer stays without question. It's a time of growing independence for us both. For him to be away from the home with children of his own age and for me to rediscover the potential of long uninterrupted hours.

Though he was still a two year-old a couple of weeks ago we suddenly find ourselves applying for primary schools already. He will be the baby of his year, but he's tall, outgoing and bright and I think (hope) he'll be ready next September.

living arrows

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