Summer Gardening

I’ve been busy working on the garden this year. When I moved into the house the garden was all lawn apart from one small bush and a rose. And so I have been slowly adding to it and starting to fill out the beds, although that obviously takes some considerable time.

I made two trips over the summer which were kind of inspirational.

One was to Grow London, a new event held in Hampstead which I think is run by the same people who organise the Affordable Art Fair. Essentially it was a large exhibition with sellers of plants, garden furniture, landscape gardeners and many more.

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flowers

They made it really easy by having a free shuttle service from the tube station.

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They had some quirkier products like these Seed Bombs.

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seed bombs

And some ideas to steal like a plant stand made from an old painted stepladder – something to look out for eBay and try at home.

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Plenty of other ideas…

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van trunks teapots succulents flowers 1

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cloth  fabric

And I did buy. And I’d go again.

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The other was a trip to the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was founded in 1673 and is still arranged as a botanical garden. I went with my parents and it’s a great summer afternoon out and a really interesting insight into our changing relationship with plants not to mention the fact that it’s really very beautiful (and the cakes in  the restaurant aren’t bad too).

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Local Arts and Crafts

Today is the first day of the Camberwell Arts Festival. And for those who don’t know Camberwell (my wonderful home in London) I will attempt to paint the scene…. it is a quirky multi-cultural corner of the city, close to the Oval for the cricket fans among you. Where you can, as I did this morning, get your nails done by a Thai man whilst sat between a Russian lady and a Ghanian mother and daughter getting their nails done for a family wedding – all of us Londoners. It is also home to the famous Camberwell College of Arts hence its strong creative flavour and history.

Anyway the Art Festival’s imminent arrival had passed my by until I decided to visit the Farmers Market on Camberwell Green on a whim. There is often a good plant stall selling some more unusual herbs that I thought I would seek out.

However, it was not as I expected. A pop-up choir were entertaining the shoppers and there were stalls with all sorts of art and craft products from the local area.

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And I did well.

I purchased a new bag which I am going to use to carry my gym kit and laptop about in, no more grubby freebie canvas bags for me. That came from Gitas Portal who I think are based in Deptford…or maybe New Cross. I did ask but now I am not so sure.

Side one

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And the admittedly quite similar reverse…

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And I also came across this stall selling handmade pottery.

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Initially I was really drawn to this little tea light holder, but I have some many candle related items I restrained myself.

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I’d include a website link but they don’t have one. The potter was there manning the stall herself and she did give me these details.

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I finally decided on two that were coming home with me. One is a gift.

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It’s a coil pot rather than a thrown one. I think the glaze is really beautiful and works brilliantly with the colours of the plant.

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And one for me made using the same method.

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And in it’s final resting place in the house.

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As part of the festival they have also produced these really attractive mugs based on the local area. Lovely and available to buy here.

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Pictures

Earlier last year I did a short interview for Crafty Magazine which is a new magazine about – you guessed it – craft. I think they were interested in me because I have painted so many things to give them a new lease of life.

That was when I was temporarily in the flat and was kind of fun to do. Anyway I mention it now because the photographer Andy Sawyer who took some shots has posted more images on his website and I thought I would share them here as some are really nice.

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Lovely.

Thanks Andy for letting me share them.

 

Shameless self-promotion

In my other life, when I am not working on the house or at my day job I also work as a painter and I have a show coming um – more details here. It’s only a tiny venue but if you’re in the area you’d be most welcome to come along.

I tend to paint urban scenes mainly from the area where I live, but this time I have devoted the whole show to the menu of a fast food restaurant near my house – Perfect Fried Chicken.

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Paint

My friend has come to stay with me while he writes a book. So we’re transforming the sitting room into a bedroom and the kitchen/dining room into a kitchen/sitting room. It’s actually been fun. A bit of a struggle moving sofas between floors (the sitting room is…well was..on the first floor) but quite a good challenge.

As part of this I took the chance to get the painting finally done in the kitchen. It got a quick once over with pigeon when the room was first worked on but it was never a polished job. Plus overtime I had decided that it would be better to have all the woodwork, ceiling and walls one colour. I got some raised eyebrows when trying this out on people as an idea but I felt pretty sure it would work. Or I’d like it at least. So I plunged in and got going.

Taking delivery of plenty of paint.

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How it was before. 

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and after…

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I’m also changing the lights in this room to two of these which I bought in the John Lewis sale after Christmas. I don’t think they do this one anymore but they have some similar styles.

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Painting the ceiling a dark colour is definitely the most controversial idea, but (and it may seem strange that I consider this a good thing) no one actually notices that it’s been painted until you point it out. Just that something is different and I think it makes the room seem more complete and the ceilings seem higher as there’s not a band of colour demarcating the divide.

Overall I’m pleased with the results.

Halt!

You may have noticed a small dog sneaking into a number of pictures on this blog. It’s Heidi after whom, with her counterpart Klaus, the blog is named.

Being a Dachshund you are supposed to discourage them from running up and down stairs, leaping ill advisedly from heights and general activities that might put a stress on their backs. Basically all the things Heidi truly loves. Because of this Heidi needs to be stopped from using the stairs all the time as she attempts to follow you around the house. You could achieve this through training or through mini barriers just to be doubly sure. Being short of stature they don’t need much height and so are easy to step over but do thwart Heidi. I actually suspect she could climb over but they are enough to discourage her.

Mind are quite crudely made but I’ve used left over paint to make them a bit smarter…

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Because they are so low I am tempted to paint a height restriction on them like they have for fairground rides, but presumably Heidi would be the only one short enough to see it and I’m not sure she would appreciate the effort.

 

Spring has sprung

And there has been some sun.

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And in response the garden is starting to get it’s act together. I planted hundreds (and that’s not an exaggeration) of bulbs last year, most of which I imagine have been feasted on by the local wildlife. Those that have made it through seem to be stirring.

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And all inspired by this I invested in a bunch of flowers for the house too. It always feels extravagant to do this but I love them every time I look at them, which must make it worth the expense.

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Booze

Recently I’ve had a couple of nice things sent to me to try out.

I’m still surprised by how frequently I get approached by companies and/or individuals and generally I say no (some are amazingly random) but in these cases I was kind of interested….

The first is a metal wine holder. I have no real space to store wine, beer etc the bottles are just all lined up in a corner of the kitchen. I probably should invest in a proper rack, like this that could fit into my alcoves.

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Although I’m not sure my “wine collection” totally merits in. In quantity maybe but quality might be stretching it.

However, Black Country Metal Works sent me this little number to try and it’s  made a big difference. It’s tidied things up plus I think it fits in well with the look of the kitchen / dining area. So a thumbs up from me.

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You can buy all sorts on their site, including I noticed – cauldrons!

Storage!

The main bedroom has a major flaw. There’s just not enough storage.

It has an old brown wardrobe it in which seems massive but hardly fits anything in at all. It’s too narrow for most hangers to hang properly and so they have to go in at an angle. I can’t explain why it would be built that way, it remains a mystery to me. It also means that the bed and dressing table can only go in certain spots making it hard to find space for a chest of drawers without having furniture all lined up around the room.

There are two alcoves in the room which I intend to have fitted cupboards put into, but I decided as an interim fix to find a chest of drawers that could fit into them. And I found this fellow for around £40 on eBay (my usual haunt for inexpensive furniture).

before

It doesn’t look that exciting… .I think my mother described it as “a brown blob” or something along those lines.

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before open

I agreed but thought it had potential and I really liked the cupboard part at the top. I think it makes it quite versatile and something I could move to another room quite easily. It did need work though and I intended to paint it. I set about giving it an undercoat straight away. And then some months passed….

interim

stuff

I came to a bit of a halt because I couldn’t decide what colour to paint it. Leaving all my stuff strewn around my room while the chest of drawers stood incomplete.

Then I saw this in a catalogue, John Lewis I think and took a snap on my iPhone.

inspiration

I painted the exterior in Farrow and Ball Pigeon. This is a colour I have used elsewhere, particularly in the kitchen. If I did ultimately move this piece of furniture within the house that seems like it’s most likely new home. Plus I liked the idea of it matching the walls and not introducing another colour to the room.

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The inside however I painted Farrow and Ball Rectory Red.

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And I love it.

Squeaky clean

A bit of a belated post, really I should have put this up before Christmas. Unfortunately I couldn’t as it’s actually a gift idea which needed to be secret.

Making people presents can be a bit hit and miss…..some are well….more desirable than others……Despite that I decided to make soaps and inflict them on my unsuspecting family as a Christmas gift. I actually think they turned out quite well, plus it was really easy to do. Hence I am documenting it here.

I bought the elements from a specialist site but you could easily assemble your ingredients separately.

The basic soap.

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Dye and fragrance

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Ingredients

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I made two types – rose and lavender.

The process is very easy. First you chop and gently melt the soap using a bain marie.

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Then allow it to cool slightly before mixing in the dye and ingredients. I found that it was best to add quite small amounts as it was easy to overdo it.

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Then you gently pour them into moulds. I did buy some specialist moulds but I also tried some cup cake moulds I already had and they were far better. A couple went wrong, for example not filling the mould enough or adding too many ingredients which all just settled at the bottom. Those I gently re-melted, amended the mixtures and allowed to set again.

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I let them set overnight before popping them out.

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Then I wrapped them in some festive paper and basically that’s it. Very very easy.

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