Friday, 29 June 2012

The Proposal - Part 2

Setting off on such an adventure on a minimal budget meant no fancy hotel breakfast for us, instead we casually left the Bristol hotel quite early and dashed for the local Wetherspoons pub to engage in a few 99p coffees and a spot of birthday card opening with a tasty wholesome breakfast. Luckily the pub was empty so we had a rather nice lot of room to display all my lovely cards for a good half hour. I was now officially thirty years old and although I didn’t look any different, I certainly felt like this was going to be an exciting day, what with a planned trip to the beach and a bottle of champagne from a friend waiting to be popped in the sand dunes. I mean, how decadent are my thirties starting out? 99p coffee for breakfast and champagne for lunch. Bring it on!

Once we left Bristol and set off for my favourite place in the world, heavy rain showers and glorious sunny spells teased us all the way down, never knowing which side the weather coin would land. As we arrived in Cornwall, I kid you not, the clouds parted and the sun won the battle and the temperature soared. As we arrived at the beach, the warmth of the sun made my face light up and I distinctly remember a conversation that went like this. ‘Don’t you want to take your coat off? It’s gorgeous now.’ That was me to other half. ‘Nope’ he said as we passed surf dudes stripped to the waist and girls in small shorts and flip flops  ‘I’m still not quite warm enough’.’ Weirdo’, I remember thinking.

After taking in the beautiful beach scene, we trek up to the sand dunes and nestle in a little spot overlooking the bay and enjoy the contrasting weather from the day before. We even risk popping the old sunglasses on, knowing that such an action might tip the weather scales, but hey we are fearless in the face of superstition. Sometimes. After a rather relaxing time, I suggest we crack open the bubbly, only to be told no. What is he thinking? It’s my blooming birthday. How rude to not let me open my own bottle of champagne on my birthday. Decadence isn’t the same if you’re told repeatedly to ‘let’s wait for a bit’. So I settle back into the sunshine to enjoy the view of the beach instead. Our plastic champagne flutes not far from my side.

And then the rather handsome other half gets up and kneels in front of me on one knee. Mistakenly I think he’s coming in for a kiss and I wonder why he’s only balancing on one knee on such a precarious sand dune. But then again, he looks a little nervous as he fumbles in his pocket and pulls out a small blue box. Well, what else can I say? We finally got to open the bottle of bubbly which overzealously popped, splashing the winter coat used to conceal the gorgeous ring. And the dream day continued with rock pooling and beach combing whilst holding the hand of the man of my dreams and then setting up camp next to my tiny little car. How many dreams can come true in one day? What a lucky girl I am.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Proposal - Part 1

So it was the last day of being in my twenties. To many this is a solemn day, but to me it was rather thrilling. I had a tingling anticipation that left me feeling really excited about this new chapter that started the very next day. Thanks to our lovely bunch of friends we started our celebratory Great Big Southern Adventure (travelling around the South coast of the UK armed with a tent and several bottles of wine) with the remnants of a two day hangover, so a lengthy cruise up the M4 to Bristol was just what my rehabilitating body needed. As it turned out, most of the wine came back with us as we couldn’t face it after drinking over rather a large number of consecutive days.

As part of this birthday treat, we accomplished a long term dream of mine - going camping in my little two seater car. So if you can imagine three hours of being rammed next to a kettle, sleeping bags and a bbq, we were rather excited about arriving at our first destination, kicking off our Adventure with a night in a fancy hotel in Bristol. Except after the initial jovial leg stretching and pent up play fighting, we left the car only to discover that the rain was very much just getting started.

However, like true patriotic Brits, we didn’t let it scupper our plans and we spent the day mooching, exploring and eating and then more eating with a rather nice meal out in the evening. As we sat for hours chatting and laughing and ordering way too many olives, no wait, maybe not enough, I remember thinking ‘Cor, aren’t we lucky that after all these years we still have so much to chat and laugh about’. The weather seemed to suggest that my mood should be more melancholy at losing my youth and embarking upon a new era of pre-wrinkle moisturisers and elongated hangovers, however I went to sleep that night wondering what my thirties might have in store for me…

Monday, 25 June 2012

Crafty DIY : Pub Chalkboard Sign

Le Bar Jardin, our latest retreat for small gatherings, was missing a classic pub chalk board out the front to advertise the goodies on offer inside. And being so easy to make, I didn’t even bother looking on ebay and just jumped straight in with my off-cuts. This was made from a thin sheet of MDF which had been kicking around the garage catching spills and stray paint drips. I also used a few thin strips of leftover exterior wood for the frame. I already had the chalkboard paint, so this little baby cost me nothing!

Its another simple job (when isn't it with my level of patience?) which involves cutting the wood to size for four legs and two braces, cutting the MDF to size with a bit for the back to take the hinges. Then its a quick paint job for the actual blackboard and the legs (remember to weather the black surface with chalk after you have finished painting by scraping all over with chalk and then wiping it off with a damp cloth). Assemble everything with small screws and attach the hinges at the top.

Grab your chalk and go crazy. I have yet to invest in a chalkboard pen, so here is another classy example of my appalling handwriting disguised by swirly bits. This also doubles up as something fun for visiting kids to play with, for keeping scores with Mario Kart tournaments and for mass group Pictionary. If you really cannot be bothered to move from the sun whilst enjoying a cold beverage, why not challenge your drinking partner to a non-exertive game of noughts and crosses? A classic at any time of day.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Crafty DIY : Garden Shed Bar Conversion

We had a rather nice looking shed left in the garden when we moved in. When I say nice, I mean dry, lined out, no damp and relatively free from arachnids. It seemed silly to make it damp and insect infested with storing our lawn mower and gardening tools in there, what a waste! Instead we did the obvious and turned it into a bar of course. I gave a little glimpse earlier in the year, but here it is in it’s full glory – Le Bar Jardin.

And the best bit about it? It only cost us the paint, mirrors and decking. We already had the bar stools and outdoor furniture and the lights were going spare and the bar is an old decrepit shelf unit with a painted plywood front and the fridges were in the attic and the plants were originally by the front door. It’s like it was meant to be.

We weather proofed the outside with a mocha/grey exterior paint and spruced up the inside with a lick of red, creating a darker, sexier atmosphere. I created the mirror at the back to block off a window so the neighbours cannot see in. We added some old red rugs to the floor and built decking all the way around the shed for a seating area. I made the bar sign from a scrap of old wood and designed a logo in Illustrator and my Dad stencilled the design on.


And the verdict? We love it! What a wonderful retreat! And friends, although baffled we’re inviting them out to the shed, are amazed at how funky and cosy this little intimate swanky wine bar actually is. Views of the garden, warmth from the chilly winds, a welcome break from gardening, wine on tap. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

That Time of Year

When the sun shines and the clouds hide behind the horizon and the warmth seems to re-energise the soul, there is no greater place to be than an English garden. This time of year can be amazing and it seems every single day, a new flower has shot up and opened over night as though racing its neighbours to the finish line.

Sadly, time spent in the UK is not always blessed with such wondrous weather, and so when that sun does make that rare appearance, I am racing outside to get few shots for the scrap book. These are all taken from our little garden. I cannot wait to see what pops up next, but for now I am content with the roses jostling for attention in every corner.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Crafty DIY : Waterproof Bunting

Birthday season – whoop whoop! Which means guaranteed rain. But I am very proud to be British and therefore take the weather as it comes. And then moan about it endlessly whilst refusing to go indoors. Given that it ALWAYS rains on my birthday, I decided to make some waterproof bunting because it was masses cheaper than buying it. I chose to use oilcloth as the fabric keeps its shape and is splash proof from the rain. I used 50cm of a roll which cost me £3 and the binding cost me £5, I managed to get about 20 metres worth of bunting so that’s quite a saving.

It did however cost me a little in the emotional stakes as my sewing machine is in desperate need of a service and kept playing around, but if you’re machine is loved and cared for, it should only take you an hour or two to get all this cut out and sewn. Using a template back to back ensures maximum number of bunting flags and I spaced mine at every ten inches (25cm) apart to get as much length as possible.

Simply lay out your fabric, use a template (google bunting template for a variety of sizes to print out) to mark out your flags with a pen and then cut them out. Take your binding and fold it over and pin into place for the first ten inches, then add your first flag, placing the top edge into the fold on the binding. Pin in place and continue pinning the flags every ten inches apart. Once they are all pinned in place, crank up the old sewing machine and straight stitch all along the folded binding, making certain the flags are still safe inside the fold.

Tie a loop each end and hang your bunting wherever you fancy for instant cheer. This is of course single sided, so it works best around the edges of a garden or along walls. For double sided bunting, simply cut out diamonds and fold them over to make triangles or as my Mum suggested, take a permanent marker and colour in the dots behind in a contrasting colour so that they appear to be double sided. Genius.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Recipe : Rosemary Focaccia

Having never tried focaccia before, I have no idea what it should taste like, but having seen them in the shops and lots of recipes here, there and everywhere, I thought I would try my own. So keep in mind I have nothing to compare it to, I thought it was pretty darn tasty, a very nice change from French bread with our salad. It also received a big thumbs up from those that have tried focaccia, so this recipe seems to be a winner. As well as a work out with the 500 kneads!

I did originally try this recipe using gluten free flour and am only telling you for comedy value, because it did not work out well. In fact it was very flat. And heavy. I served it at a buffet party and renamed it flat bread given the obvious. Even then, nobody was prepared to venture to the corner and break a bit off so I sent in the pros – the other half and his loyal cousin. They seemed quite happy to oblige my persuasive ‘go on, try the flatbread *snigger, snigger*’, but their reaction really needed slow motion to capture the good bits.

They eagerly picked up a slice each, both realising simultaneously that the bread was in fact stone like, you could see the regret immediately cross their faces, but they quickly reclaimed a polite dignity as they engaged their biceps to lift the bread to their paper plate. And then came the false smile as they scurried off giving each other that little look that says ‘what have we done?’ The moral here - avoid gluten free for this focaccia bread unless you have a video camera to hand and some willing participants in your experiment.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Shout Out to the Smalls

I have not mentioned the smaller rascals in our family for a while, so please indulge me for a moment. Here's a shout out to all favourite furry critters everywhere. As naughty as they are and as much as they keep us on our toes, who could get angry with these two?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Crafty DIY : Simple Flower Arrangement

This little lovely came from Range and cost only a few pounds. The glass bottles are fused together and are quite, quite sturdy for my sporadically clumsy nature. It's perfect for displaying single blooms be it all of a kind or different flowers.

I keep ours in the hallway so that when the blooms have finished I can nip out the front door and rummage around in the garden for new subjects, so we always have fresh flowers to welcome visitors. Dramatic blooms such as tulips, gerberas, daffodils and roses all work well, but so do the more delicate favourites such as London's Pride, Love-in-the-Mist and Cherry blossom.