Saturday, 27 November 2010

A Long Hallway Table

Remember when I showed you my hallway? I had just found a huge table that would fit in it. Well, it arrived I was at the office. "Bloody hell this table is huge!" was the text I received from Matt. At first, he wasn't convinced by the table. Hell, even I was a little unsure when I saw the unsightly thing in our hallway - but I knew I could see the potential.

Still - it's pretty ugly.

We'd already chosen the paint as I had already created my display case so I got to work painting two layers of primer and followed it with two layers of 'Aladdin'. I picked up some inexpensive dust sheets to protect my floor - way cheaper than thicker sheets and much larger than bin bags. It took well over a day to get the finished result - and I got very impatient - but it looks a million times better!

I really love how the mini cabinet creates an added feature. And you get a little glimpse of the decorative paper inside when you walk past!

It's definitely livened up the hallway and I hope it will continue to grow with decorative objects as the months pass.

This is the first time I've ever painted a piece of furniture - and I'm so pleased with the results. It's so easy - and I still have loads of paint left over so I can create matching items.

Don't dismiss an item of furniture on first glance - just think of the possibilities!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Being Nice to your Landlord (And Playing Detective)

When we viewed this flat 8 months ago, there was one small obvious flaw. And that flaw was on our living room wall.

A huge damp patch creeping down from the ceiling. I was told by the agent that it had happened just recently and that the problem had just been fixed (there was scaffolding outside the house so I believed her). In a couple of months, the wall would dry out and it would be re-painted and that would be that.

Perfect. I thought.

2 months later we had the wall painted. A few weeks after that, the mark came through again. This, I was told, was because the cause of the problem hadn’t gone away and no matter how much we painted it, that mark would come back.
I decided to do some investigating and in the summer, I popped round to the flats next door to see if they had a problem, too. Both the flats next to mine (on the same level and below) had damp problems on that wall and it all started to appear once a fire escape had been installed a year ago. I went out onto the fire escape and took some pictures of the mould on the wall.

The source had been rotten leaves that had been removed the week before by our neighbour’s landlord in a desperate bid to fix his own walls.

But this was good news. Their landlord obviously cared enough to get the problem fixed so I took his number and sent an email of my findings.

Hi Pauline,

I’ve been speaking to people in the flats next door to see if they’ve been affected by the damp on the wall. I’ve had the same story from both of them – that it started about a year ago and has something to do with the fire escape.

Apparently their landlord removed a lot of gunk from the fire escape and drains last week but isn’t sure if that is what has caused the problem. The couple in Flat K (ground floor and directly next to ours) are moving out in 2 weeks so I imagine he’ll want to try and fix the problem before getting new tenants in.

I’ve attached pictures of our wall, the wall directly next to ours in Flat K, next door, and the outside adjoining wall of both properties (13 pictures in total).

I got the mobile number of their landlord, Steve, 07*********, in case you think it’s a good idea to talk to him about it and possibly work together in fixing the problem?

I’ll give you a call to talk to you about it in more detail, but thought it was worth giving you as much information as possible.

Best regards,

A nice email, I think. One that isn’t demanding or accusing and tries to be the nicest as possible when asking for work that will come at an expense to the recipient.

Contractors were soon sent out to take a closer look at the problem and I was told the best thing to do would be to re-plaster the entire wall. First they’d paint over it once more to prove that there is no other option and get to work on the wall in the New Year.

Today, the painter is here – giving me a bright new wall just in time for guests to arrive in December. I’ve been patient and polite and now my flat is becoming perfect.

If you have any problems with your rented property, be as nice as you can and you’re more likely to get help. Also – make sure you’re only making valid requests for work and can back up your reason to have it done. But it has worked with me and I am very happy. Bring on the wall!

Monday, 22 November 2010

CD Rack turned Ornamental Display Case

When Matthew re-arranged his room, he brought out a CD rack that has been hiding in there for the past 7 months.

We wondered about giving it to someone, and as we were talking about it, I said “and see, you’ve already sanded it down so it’d be perfect for someone to paint and…. no, wait - I want it!

I thought back to a post I’d read over at Cherry Menlove when she painted a pigeon hole, and hung it up on a wall in her hallway to display trinkets and sorts and I thought that was definitely something I could do.

I briefly wondered where I could hang it, and then a very clever idea came to mind – instead of adding yet more holes to the walls, I could display it on the new table in the hall! That thing is so big that it really needs something huge to be put on it – and this would be perfect.

So with a weekend of painting ahead of me, I started to get a bit excited. On Friday night I went to Wickes to choose some paint and we decided on 'Aladdin' - a deep purple colour - for the table, and I got some plain white for the CD case. But halfway through painting the case white I decided I didn't like it and cracked open the purple.

Once that was dry, I measured the squares and cut out pretty wrapping paper to decorate the insides with (£1 a roll - bargain). I chose two similar prints in different colours and glued them in place. Then decorated the shelves with some tiny ornaments.

Over Christmas this will be beautifully decorated with all things festive and after that I'll try and find little bits and bobs to display. Trying not to be too girly, of course, as Matthew still wants the hall to look a bit masculine for when his clients walk down there to his studio - although I don't think I've quite mastered that as currently there are 3 fairies and some stones.

Now just to get the table painted! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Hallway

My hallway is long. Very long. Over 7m long, in fact, and I have spent 6 months having no idea what to do with it.

Ideally, I'd like to have the walls covered in photographs but as I'm in rented accommodation, I don't think my landlord would be too happy with that amount of holes in the wall. Because of this, I've left it empty.

Which is a shame, really. Because it really is a large part of the flat, and one which is used multiple times daily to go from one end to the other. But because it's so long (and made to look even longer with my mirror at the end) it needs something huge to fill it, and I've never been able to find anything big enough (and which doesn't cost over £100) that would look right... until yesterday.

Spiral Charity Shop - where I got my chair - is the best place to find cheap furniture and I went looking without actually imagining I would find something. But I found a table that would be perfect. 190cmX36cm - narrow enough that it won't stand out too much and long enough that it will look as though it was meant to be there.

I may not get the table delivered for another week but I am desperate to get started on it (painting it up nice and decorating it for the festive season) so I wanted to show you a 'before' shot and give you a glimpse of the empty hallway before I start on my new makeover.

Oooh I'm excited!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ever Growing Collection of Spider Plants

For my birthday my friend and colleague, Courtney, gave me a Spider Plant. It sits happily on my desk, next to another little plant I have that doesn’t quite know whether or not it wants to live or die.

I was very happy with my gift. Very, very happy, in fact. I like a bit of greenery next to me in the office. But one day I noticed that something was sprouting out of the middle. It looked like a weed of sorts and when I mentioned it I was told “no, that’s for the babies!”


What I didn’t really know, or understand, about spider plants was their ability to breed. I got this plant 2 months ago and already has it sprouted 4 babies.

Can you see them there? Hello babies!

The biggest one will need to be potted soon and the others will follow shortly after, but I’m amazed at just how purse-friendly these plants are!

Soon I will have 5 plants and 4 of them will have to be taken home where they will then, no doubt, breed like the other one. I will have plants coming out of my ears and I didn’t even buy the first one my self!

Great gifts that really do keep on giving, excellent decoration, and perfect for selling if you have too many to cope with.

But I think this is the best news – I water this plant about once a week. It needs a “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” approach and that is fine by me!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Healthy (gluten-free!) Eating

For 2 weeks I haven't done a food shop. I've been utterly terrible. One week Matthew was working away and I didn't have anyone to help me lug it back to I just didn't bother and last week we were at Matthew's parents for Bonfire Night so I didn't do it then.

Needless to say, we ate our freezer bare and yesterday we found ourselves without any food.

Off to the shops then!

But not before coming up with a shopping list, which I had to squeeze in between tidying up, getting ready, and making my paper baubles.

I'm finding the whole gluten free thing relatively easy to be honest. I can eat meat, veg and dairy - so that's pretty simple. Now I'm trying to introduce new grains into my diet to substitute flour and I've been quite happy with the results. One of my current favourite things is the M&S 'Super Wholefood Shaker Salad' consisting of Quinoa, Wild Rice, Edamame Beans, Butternut Squash and Green Lentils in a olive oil and lemon dressing. Beautiful - and something I am going to try and make myself once I get myself down to Taj to get some edamame beans (they don't stock them in Tesco).

Anyway, this week I have decided to be pretty healthy and have come up with a decent meal plan for the week!

Nigella's Praised Chicken with Brown Rice
Potato and Haloumi Bake
Salmon with Brown Rice & Veg
Quinoa salad (with leftover chicken instead of beetroot and srping onions - I'm using what I've got)
Pork Chops, Mash and Apple Sauce
Chicken Curry with Rice

Which is not bad going really. No pasta, no pastry. I am going to make an Apple Pie with gluten-free flour - but I'll see how that goes.

Sophie Dahl's cookbook is full of lots of recipes that don't contain gluten - she seems to be a bit of a health buff so I'm enjoying the rewards of her good eating habits. And the same can be said of Cook Yourself Thin - so it looks like I will be embracing all my heathy cookbooks to avoid lots of gluten-based recipes.

But for now - off to go and make an Apple Pie (fingers crossed!)

*update: Apple Pie was a success*

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Twig Christmas Tree with Paper Baubles

Okay, so Christmas doesn't really start here until December 1st but I have decided to be brave and make a decoration in mid-November.

But I figured if I made it early, I could post it here and hopefully some other people could have time to make it.

The best thing about this decoration was that it cost me nothing. Nada. A big zero. Not one single penny spent.

I saw this idea in a copy of Country Living magazine (the UK version, I believe there is also a Country Living magazine in the US - it's not that one) but unfortunately it isn't on their website so I may as well write up my own tutorial.

All you will need to create this totally free masterpiece (assuming you have the following things - which you should have) is:

Scrapbook paper
Paper clips
A thick needle
Twigs from the garden
Silver spray paint (optional)
Pliers (optional, but will hurt your fingers less)
A plant pot/Vase
A rubber band (optional)
Tissue paper (again, optional)

First pick some branches from a tree in your garden. I chose some that were thin and had lots of twigs sprouting all over the place. Spray paint these silver, if you wish. I think it gives it a more festive look, but to be honest, the twigs are just there to display the baubles so it's not a disaster if you don't have spray paint.

While the paint is drying, start on the baubles. Cut out some scrapbook paper into strips 1cm wide and 10cm long. You'll need approximately 15 strips per bauble. Straighten out a paper clip and using a thick needle, make a hole in each end of the paper strips (I did these in groups of 3 which made the process a lot quicker). Then thread the strips of paper onto one end of the paper clip like so:

Using the pliers (or your fingers!) bend the tip of the paper clip into a loop to keep the paper from falling off. Then thread the opposite end of the paper onto the opposite side of the paper clip like this:

You'll have to make sure you hold onto the paper as it won't want to stay bent and will try and pop off the end. Once you have all the pieces of paper in place, loop the end of the paper clip again. Make sure the loop is big enough to thread over a branch as this is what you'll use to hang your baubles!

Repeat this process again and again until you have your desired amount of baubles.

By now your twigs should be dry so arrange them together and tie the bottom with a rubber band. I did this so that it looked more like a tree and would stay more secure. My plant pot, however, is much wider than the base of the twigs so I held it in place with some dark green tissue paper stuffed into the pot. You may have a thin plant pot/vase so this part won't be necessary - but I do like the look of the tissue paper in the pot!

Once you are happy with the twigs, start decorating with baubles! I also added a couple of mini bead chains and I plan to add a few more. You could also attach beads to the base of the bauble to create an even prettier effect, but I do not have any so until I get some they will have to do being bare. Still, I think they look pretty sweet!

I have decided to display this tree over on the craft table, which, as you can see, has become filled with stuff!

Which means even more projects will be coming this way, such as making a new table cloth, decorating my embroidery hoops, knitting a scarf and making homemade christmas presents. Stay tuned, and please let me know if you make this!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Swedish World of Dreams

"Ikea" is one of those words that creates one of two reactions; excitement or irritation.

You either love Ikea, or you hate it. The grand scale, the mass of shoppers and the sheer amount of stuff packed into one store. For some, this creates a lump in the throat. And for others like me – it fills the air with a glow of wondrous possibilities.

I believe there is a difference between those who love Ikea, and those who do not. The answer: taste.

You may assume that Ikea is for those who do not have taste, but I find the contrary to be true. Those without taste see a warehouse full of cheap tat. Those who do have taste are able to see past some of the junk and find the real treasures. Cheap yet beautiful items full of promise, waiting to be given a home.

I believe it’s not what is put in a house that makes it beautiful. It’s about finding items that compliment each other, regardless of their price, age and quality.

A good 70% of my furniture is from Ikea. The other 30% would be if there was a store nearby but unfortunately I have to travel to get there and for the time being I do not have a car. Instead, I have to wait for the same time to roll around each year before I can have an excuse to go... and this special time is Christmas.

My main justification (not to myself, but to those who I have to beg to take me) is that jars for Christmas presents are a fraction of the cost at Ikea than they are anywhere else. 99p for a 1ltr mason jar is beyond a good deal and I jump at it – they are perfect for Christmas Muffin Mixes, which make a beautiful homemade gift.

But while I am there I spend most of my time scanning the rooms for inspiration. This trip, I took 36 pictures of rooms that looked as though they could inspire me in some way.

From blocks of colour paint as the perfect background to hang pictures…

To ideas on how to decorate my shelves for the festive season…

And a kitchen I can only dream of owning.

The ideas that can be found in an Ikea showroom are sure to inspire anyone who wants to improve the interior of their home.

I left the store having spent just under £17 and I am amazed even I managed that. By telling myself “I do not need this” I overcame the desire to buy teapots and cushions and spent as little as possible on things I really did need.. and some tea lights that were on offer – 200 for £2.80 (I couldn’t help myself).

I can not understand why anyone would hate Ikea… but then I cannot understand why some people choose not to do all they can to live in a beautiful home.

Each to their own, but if you’re anything like me – go give yourself a little Christmas inspiration treat and pop down to Ikea for some Swedish festive fun.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sparkly Things

There is a shop that I walk by each and every week when I go food shopping. It is a shop called Cristabel and it is full of pretty things.

I had a bit of a nosey the other week and was in awe as I walked around the tiny shop, admiring all the beautiful pieces of jewellery and miniature glass bottles draped in crystals and clear beads.

I picked up one of these bottles and looked at the price tag. £20? For a teeny tiny bottle? I don't care how pretty is it - I am not paying that for something I could make myself.

So I will. But for now, I have taken inspiration from the way everything was presented in that shop and have re-vamped my vanity area appropriately.

My new necklaces are now on display - perfect for not only looking pretty, but so that they don't tangle. A new case to store all my make-up now matches the space and perfume bottles add a bit more sparkle. Eventually I would like to hang a few necklaces on the wall, as it would be more practical to be able to see all of the mirror when I'm putting my make-up on, but for the moment that necklace is my favourite and I generally am always wearing it whenever I need to freshen up!

This has brightened up this corner of my bedroom so much. It was definitely needed. And it makes sure I clear up after myself as everywhere has a place to go! Definitely much better than walking into my bedroom and finding a chest of drawers cluttered with my face.
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