Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Crafty DIY : Comfy Cat Bed

Another simple crafty conversion. The cat has been grumbling about the chilly evenings as the caravan bed is so wide that the duvet does not extend to where he wants to sleep, so I thought he needed something to keep him warm at night if he insists on sharing the bed.

I took a simple wooden fruit crate and turned it into a cosy cat bed. A colleague very kindly gave me the box, leftover from one of her farm shop deliveries and I set to work staining the sides with walnut wood stain and then painted the ends with gloss as it would have taken too long to scrape the paper off. Leave it to air for a few days to get rid of any fumes and to ensure it dries thoroughly.

I used an old folded blanket in the base to make it soft enough to entice the old man in. And it actually worked! Which is strange because usually you give a feline buddy a gift and they're more interested in the box it came in. At least I started out with a box.

The best thing about the cat in the box? Our feet are now safe. We have an on-going problem in the middle of the night when we get too warm - we both naturally poke our feet out the side of the bed. If it happens to be where the cat is snoozing, he will inevitably slip into predator mode as he thinks he is under attack. Obviously it's not just the cat that is alarmed. Cat claws in your flesh is pretty horrific at any time of day, but it seems so much worse at 3am through blurry eyes.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My New Favourite Thing

As the wet weather cranks up a notch and the mornings become bleak and chilly, my feet need something cheery to keep them toasty and dry. My last wellies died due to overuse, given that we are usually out and about in our free time, and I am a firm believer that puddles are very much not just for kids.

I have already made them a home to help keep the caravan clean inside with the use of an old windbreak pole sawn in half and both ends walloped into the ground. Up turn your wellies and they get to dry naturally without cluttering up your door mats.

So these bad boys (girls?) are the latest welcome addition to the caravan life, bit of a goofy post, but I find them hugely exciting. So bring on the rain, I'm ready. Actually, I'm not, seriously. We've had no sun for ages now. I am kidding just to clarify. Indian summer in September first please. Then bring it on!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Crafty DIY : Freestanding Letters

I really like all these 3D letters and words that have become so popular, but am not keen on what they say such as ‘home’ and ‘love’ which is nice but a teeny bit samely for me. So I decided to make my own. But which route to take… wood perhaps? Don’t have the tools. Card? Too fiddly. Plaster or clay? Way too messy – for a caravan anyway...

Then a great big server arrived at worked, very well padded with a sort of airy, soft plastic that was strong but very light. It seemed too good to throw out. And then a light bulb moment occurred. I brought out my trusty crafting knife and got to work. It slices like a dream and although my handiwork is never the straightest, I was still quite pleased with the outcome. I toyed with the idea of spray painting the letters, but thought they worked quite well au naturel.

The other half was a little dubious when he arrived home to see the letters displayed in the caravan, however he quickly made a game of it and enjoys swapping the letters round just to kick start a play fight, so everyone’s happy.

You could even try this idea with polystyrene and paint it or cover it with paper or fabric. And the best part is – you get to write whatever word you like. I went for SIMPLIFY because its means so much to me at the moment. It's nice little reminder for when things get a little crazy. So keep a look out for any unwanted robust packaging, who knew it would get this second life?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Our Little Outdoor Space

When we moved into the last house, we learnt that living opposite a pub ensures that you quickly become the talk of the village. After moving day, we could not walk across the road for a G&T, let alone get in the car, without comments about the amount of plant pots in our possession or the very nice tin chest we own or ‘where did you get that wagon wheel?’ All these comments became a little creepy after a while… along with ‘so, you didn’t go to work today then ’ as well as ‘did you have fun out tobogganing this morning?’ and ‘so you’re thinking of selling the house?’ 

With regards to the latter, we had arranged for the estate agent to visit early in the morning, when the pub wasn’t even open, but sure enough word got out. In fact we had a note posted through our door by one of the villagers within 8 hours of the estate agents leaving saying they may know of somebody who might be interested.

Anyway, I am digressing. The point is we have a lot of potted plants - accumulated after many years of renting and not being able to settle in a garden. A few found freedom once we bought our first house, and you could hear them sigh as they pushed their roots down in defiance of the potted life but as soon as we decided to move again, out the ground they came and were returned to their captive pots amidst groans of retaliation.

So when we moved into the caravan, I know we had a massive expanse of grass and woodland literally at our feet, but I didn’t half miss our potted plants. So, slowly but surely I have been collecting one or two each time we visit the other half’s folks and bringing them back, creating our own small garden out the front of the caravan.

This is what we have so far in the garden, not great pics, but hopefully you can see what a nice place it is in the evenings with the cat and the rabbit running round. The cat is like my sidekick in photo taking - although blind, he aways wants to be where the action's at.

The latest instalment on moving into our new home is that we have been told to sit tight until probably November so why shouldn’t we make the place a little more homely? All this because, after three months, our vendors have still not found anywhere they like. Fingers crossed they have some luck before the camp site closes down for the winter.

I celebrated this news (not sure if the sarcasm comes across in written form) by ordering a ton of wine to be delivered to work and then hit the 70% off clothes sale across the road for warm woollies to make up an emergency autumnal wardrobe. Well, that was my excuse anyway…

And before I forget... Bonjour Marie Jo! J'espère que vous êtes bien. Merci beaucoup pour lire mon blog! Je suis désolé, mais je ne peux pas trouver l'option pour permettre vous traduire le site dans français. Peut-être de temps en temps, je dirai bonjour et écris à quelque chose dans français très pauvre pour vous lire! J'espérais vous voir cette année, peut-être l'année prochaine. À bientôt!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Gloomy Outdoor Living

The other half took a stroll around the site the other evening and took some shots of the gloomy weather we have been experiencing of late. Our surroundings have taken on a spooky, eerie feel reminding us that my second favourite time of year is approaching…Halloween!!!!

I cannot tell you how much I love Halloween. Nope, I have no American blood in me, but I can’t help myself when it comes to celebrating all things spooky. Unfortunately we have no home to decorate to the nines this year, no space to have a fancy dress party so I guess a few natural cobwebs in the caravan will have to suffice. I might make a cape for the rabbit though.

And on another note, if anyone is thinking of getting a caravan and deciding on keeping the bed up, for goodness sake take into account days like these when it’s too wet/cold/windy/gloomy to sit outside. Somewhere to rest your cup of tea and have a game of cards is very much missing in our shack at the moment after the cat broke our last attempt at a table for the front of the van.

The rabbit and I were hanging out the front window goofily waving to the other half, when the cat realised he wanted to get involved too, jumped onto the table just in time for the other half to think ‘aw, what a cute family’ and then the table gives way, the cat slides down to the floor spread eagled, the rabbit thinks he is under attack, sprints out of my arms, scratching my belly as he goes (note to self – must find those nail clippers) and hides under the bed.

As the cat calmly composes himself as though nothing happened, I turn to check the rabbit’s ok and he does his first ever thump – which is hilarious, although it is quite a serious affair from the rabbits perspective. He remains completely motionless and thumps one foot forcefully on the floor. Its so funny. Anyway, that’s why we are without table and so will be constructing mark two this bank holiday weekend.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Gorgeous Victorian Retreat

I love this little retreat so much. It keeps cropping up and I had to share it here. Dad, if you’re reading this – guess what we’re building once we move into the new house!!!

The very talented Sandy Foster created this miniature home and beautifully furnished it with second hand finds. Truly inspiring. Sandy has her own blog here where you can see more pictures and her blog is definitely worth stopping by for some shabby chic inspiration.

Her and her husband also live in a mobile home, although I suspect that theirs is a great deal bigger than ours, plus they have this lovely space to retire to, lucky folks. Not sure how the campsite wardens would react to us building a retreat outside the van.

Sorry to ruin the romantic mood, but one question plagues me though - how do they cope with the spiders?

Recipe : Shaved Sweet Tats

We have trouble cooking bulky things in the most miniscule of ovens that we have in the caravan. So potatoes for example, take forever. Therefore I have been coming up with new ways to make potatoes less bulky. Like getting carried away with a peeler.

To really crisp them up, turn up the heat slightly but these were still very, very tasty. I started with sweet potatoes because they are quicker to cook and well, we’re obsessed with them. Especially when they are roasted.

And quite frankly, this is quite a fun dish to make with friends, as you can all sit round shaving with a glass of wine. I’m a big fan of cooking together as it feels a lot less stressful and lots more fun. It’s not that I’m lazy – I promise!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Crafty DIY : Hanging Photo Display

Since I can remember, we have always had a photo wall in the home, but in the last house, we didn’t for one reason or another and I really miss it. So I have been wondering if we could have a scaled down version at the caravan. And there I was, waiting in the queue at the post office and there was a Christmas section on sale next to me with those tiny little silver pegs that you can clip Christmas cards up with for only 49p.

Well, in my mind it was meant to be so I set about creating the new photo wall on the caravan door. I bought some hooks, the little pegs which came with silver elastic and printed some mini pictures off in black and white. As the door is open quite a bit, I laminated the images to make them more sturdy and waterproof to last longer in wind and rain. I also used several layers of clear nail varnish to secure the elastic to the hooks.

After that it was just a matter of pegging the laminated photos up and admiring all the happy faces. Instead of a zig zag, you could always just drop the elastic vertically by the side of a door, secure it top and bottom, and then add your photos. It’s a great pick me up for gloomy days remembering your adventures and seeing the silly expressions of people you might not see for a while (Pinky Poon - that's you)!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Steam Trains & Charity Shops

We had the most perfect day out at the weekend, which covered both of our hobbies! For me, playing around with the camera and searching relentlessly through charity shops for items worthy of a new home or a new role, and for the other half – train spotting.

Yep, that’s right folks, I am admitting that I am in love with a bona fide train spotter. Luckily not the notepad and numbers kind, but certainly the model building variety, which is a little strange still considering the money he spends on model railway magazines for a model railway he has yet to build. He hides his geeky dark side well with youthful good looks and no anorak to speak of.

Anyway, the day started in Tenterden, Kent, which is littered with high end charity shops (I think the States call them thrift shops). I call them high end because a lot of posh people live in this area and so their donations are always more exciting than somewhere without posh people shall we say?
After charity shop shopping (I actually like the term thrifting better though!) and unloading my saddles full of treasured finds back at the car, we grabbed the picnic basket and headed out to do a little train spotting by the track, which can be very relaxing if armed with food and magazines. After getting to grips with the spiders sharing our dining spot, and devouring our packed lunch after a busy morning, we walked up the line to Rolvenden, the next station up, in order to catch the train.

I should have known something was not right as soon as the other half said ‘I used to walk this way when I was a kid…’ because sadly the footpaths were no longer clear and possibly legal. But the other half’s determination has only grown since he was a boy, so off we go. The main thing I remember and regularly flashback to since that day, was the Evil Stile...

This particular stile had been kept intact apart from the actual posts to climb on and the top bar had been replaced with a rather sinister round of barbed wire. Now I am happy to clamber whenever the occasion calls for it, however on this particular day I was wearing a 1950’s style A-line dress, so as I precariously balanced above the menacing spikes below, all I could think about was losing my footing, which kind of takes over all other practical thoughts of physically getting down. Thankfully I managed to jump off the other side to safety otherwise this post may not have started in the same way.

Our adventure did not end there however and as usual more was in store for us. As we approached the last field, our childish run through the meadow ended abruptly as there appeared to be no way through. We were stuck in a private field surrounded by barbed wire fencing (ok, ok, I realise now that they probably didn’t want us walking through their fields) with a river in front without any way across and more sinister fencing up the bank to the train line.

The other half offered ‘Well, that never used to be there’ as some kind of solace to our predicament. We could hear the train near the station only a few yards away and it seemed a little ridiculous to give up now. So he searched left and I searched right. All I found was a fallen tree precariously balancing above the waters edge. As I stood trying to figure out if it was worth the trouble, the other half called out to say he had found us a route.

So I skipped down to meet him and quickly discovered that his route was certainly interesting. First it involved ducking under a loose part of the barbed wire fence. Then, whilst teetering on the edge of the bank, negotiating an older rusted fence, with a short sharp drop to the dried part of the river bed. And then a dangerous scramble up the bank the other side through hedges and tufts of razor grass with only a few branches and loose gravel to cling onto.

Did we plough on through? Of course – because we are intrepid explorers!  And arrived just in time to catch the next train. The sun came out, the cardigan came off and the sunglasses went on. We leaned out the window the whole time enjoying the wind in our hair (as well as a few soot smuts) and finished the day nicely with a drive home with the roof out.

I couldn’t resist posting a little picture of some of my finds as well (this little lot came to just over £5 including the real leather belt!) – the green headscarf has become our outdoor tablecloth which billows beautifully in the breeze. The glass bowl will become a sugar bowl for guests, the lace mat fits in perfectly with the caravan decor and the little glass bottle…well, I have an interesting use for that which you will find out about soon…

Crafty DIY : Chalkboard Clock

Whilst we were packing up the house, I put a wall clock by to do up for the caravan, so this weekend I raided my limited collection of craft materials to update it. You can’t really see it, but the clock had lines across the face from where the previous glue stripes had eventually shown through with age, so I gave it a facelift with an old mouse mat cut to size, some chalkboard paint and some chalk which I had found on one of our walks.

We also really needed a clock outside as that’s where we spend most of our time, so because it had a plastic cover, allbeit a little scratched, it was perfect for the job, so it now resides on the inside of the front door. I toyed with the idea of painting the hands white or silver so they stand out, but black looks super cool! Obviously with a chalkboard base, you can choose whatever font you like. I’m afraid mine is rather simple as the chunk of chalk I found was not thin enough to anything fancy with. Still, I like the simplicity.

Clock hands are easy to come by, the cheapest option is to visit a pound store or a charity shop, buy an old clock and you can use the timepiece anywhere, as long as your base it thin enough to take the timepiece. So for example, if you have a favourite piece of driftwood or an old ceramic plate, drill a hole, stick the timepiece in and you have a brand new clock. Which is exactly what I will be doing once we move into our house.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Crafty DIY : Novelty Glass Lanterns

This is another easy peasy craft post – literally no work required with this one. We really like sitting outdoors each evening as it’s like our dining room outside the caravan (plus we’re lazy and it means making the bed if we want to eat indoors). However, in true British style the weather is not always summerlike, despite it being August, and lately has been a bit drizzly (which we put up with – you might be under-estimating the battle to put the bed away, especially when the rabbit wants to help out) and a bit windy, which is very annoying and less tolerable.

However lighting the lanterns makes it feel a little bit cosier and like we’re on holiday. But we only have two swinging lanterns and all the other candles we brought with us are instantly blown out in the wind. Annoying. But hurricane lamps can be quite costly. So, I scoured the local village shops for bargains on my lunch break and found this assortment of glass vases and a water jug, all for under a fiver.

I simply placed some small church candles inside them and you have some makeshift hurricane lamps, which look pretty novelty and importantly work a treat. So we have a bit more light outside now once it gets dark, which feels ridiculously early these days.

Also on my bargain hunting spree I stumbled upon a tall artificial flower which has a solar LED in the petals. Its sounds incredibly tacky but actually looks very cool lit up at night as you can see. I know, I know - you’re totally judging us – you’re thinking it will be gnomes next…

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Introducing Our Funny Little Family...

Since moving into reduced size accommodation for the foreseeable future, we were expecting a little trouble with the cat and the rabbit. Other than the mildly irritating ‘accident’ on my side of the bed by the astonishingly quick rabbit, and the weekend vomiting spree from the cat, our funny little family seems to be very happy.

The rabbit, a French lop, spends most his time break dancing and eating this new thing called grass and the cat is content to settle in the doorway with the sun on his face and relax a level above the mentalist rodent activity below.
The one who wears the trousers in the family is the cat, a mackerel tabby, dictating that we live in a caravan so we can all stay together. But, he has been my best friend since he fit in the palm of my hand. We adopted him after he was brought into the rescue centre without his tail. Now, as he approaches his 18th birthday, he has only recently matured at a radical speed and nowadays does not have time for childish and energetic rabbits.

As soon as he lost his eyesight due to high blood pressure and his arthritis kicked up a notch, he has become a grumbly old man, but still with a great deal of love to give at meal times oddly enough... His hobbies include searching for laps, sleeping, moving occasionally to adjust his position with the ever moving sunspot and tucking into a bowl of his special ‘old man’ food.
The newest addition to the family is the rabbit. The rabbit is not yet one year old and is still growing - he is almost the size of the cat now and is obsessed with cuddles. However he is also prone to frequent moments of mentally playful outbursts. We rescued him from being beaten up by his brothers – he has a very cool scar on his nose to show his war wounds (plus he was too big for them to sell - the lardy!). 

He is persistent with his attempted cat cuddles, whilst the cat is equally persistent in resisting his advances. The occasional swipe is had but does not seem to deter the rabbit, instead only encourage him further, like it’s a game. Although he is very, very naughty and loves to dance around, as soon as we settle down to watch a film, he knows its quiet time and is happy to snuggle down with the family. So I guess we'll let him stay.