You may remember a few months ago I made a wolf cushion based on a fox I saw on the Guardian craft blog. Well I had a request for a friend of my mum’s who has a bit of a thing about foxes and my mum wanted to give her a similar cushion as a birthday present.
I didn’t have time to scout out any fabric to recycle so I ordered some dotty orange fabric from Fabric Rehab, and came up with this foxy creation.
Early readers of my blog might remember my Meditation on Tea post. Well, the one thing that can can make a cup of tea even better is a good biscuit.
I fancy myself as little bit of a biscuit connoisseur actually, and I think the British do biscuits rather well. Yes, America has given us the large, chewy cookie; Italy has given us the biscotti, which I don’t particularly like; but we Brits are the champions of the humble biscuit.
“What’s your favourite biscuit?” became a common question posed to the politicians who swarmed Mumsnet during the last general election. Gordon Brown’s seemingly innocent overlooking of the question might have lead to his undoing. It certainly lead to a new biscuit smiley on the site which has come to represent a passive-aggressive “no comment”. Last year, Sainsbury’s conducted a survey of people’s favourite biscuits. Inexplicably, the overall favourite was the dry and bland digestive. Readers of the Guardian apparently chose ginger and chocolate cookies as their biscuit of choice, and Sun readers like a pink wafer. While I am all for freedom of choice, I fear I may struggle to remain friend’s with someone who chooses a custard cream as their favourite biscuit.
What is my favourite you ask? Well, that’s rather a complex question. I love a good luxury biscuit, like a chocolate chip shortbread from the bakery. or our family favourite, Fox’s Shortcake Rounds. But they are more chocolate than biscuit, which perhaps defeats the object. Surely anyone would chose a lovely rich chocolatey fancy biscuit over anything else? Perhaps more revealing is the everyday biscuit barrel choice you make. In that case it would have to be a Bourbon Cream every single time. Admittedly they taste less of chocolate than you might imagine, and they, like most biscuits, can be quite dry (this was initially the point of biscuits, the word biscuit comes from the Latin words bis (twice) and coquere, coctus (to cook, cooked), and, hence, means “twice-cooked”) and therefore it is imperative that it should be dunked in a cup of tea. For even more biscuity trivia and reviews check out Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down.
I may lose followers by revealing this questionable habit, but I couldn’t write a blog post on biscuits without giving you my ultimate biscuit tip. Make a cup of tea. Take a Twix (which for the purposes of this post I am considering a biscuit product, it’s that grey area along with the Kit Kat). Bite off each end of the Twix, then, ensuring your tea is not too hot, use the Twix to suck up the tea. Finally, carefully eat the remaining melted, soggy goodness, taking care not to drop it into your tea. This, my friends, is a Twix Fix. Your life will never be the same again.
Sadly for me, my years of eating biscuits with gay abandon have caught up with my waist line so I steer clear of the biscuit tin unless it is a very special occasion. Fortunately, biscuity appetites can be satisfied calorie free with these fantastic hand-printed biscuit cushions from Nikki McWilliams:
Based in Dundee, there is a strong Tunnock’s focus to her product line, but she still pays homage to the humble bourbon.
Last year I bought a couple of funky pillow cases for 20p each, with the intention of doing something fabulous with them. Today, while DH took the kids to his mum’s, I had a bit of time to do whatever I pleased, so I finally managed to do something with one of them. I made a cushion cover for a cushion I got at a charity shop last week. The pillow case was the exact width for the cushion so I was hoping I could just do something with the top but in the end it seemed easier the unpick the whole thing. The cover is just a simple envelope type cover, no need for messing around with buttons or zips. Though even with this simple pattern I had to unpick one side where I hadn’t pinned the seams properly. I’m afraid I’m too fast and slap-dash for any decent and complicated sewing!
We live in a rented house. Yes we are mature married adults with two children and we don’t own a house. This mostly doesn’t bother me. In the current climate I am glad we didn’t listen to the family members who insisted that we get one of those 100+% mortgages a quite frankly we’d be screwed right now.
It bothers me sometimes. I can’t think of any of our friends who don’t own their own house. Every now and then I have a bit of a freak out thinking “OMG we’ve got no mortgage we are going to be working until we’re 105 or else we are going to be destitute on the street “. But my issues have only ever been financial ones. The last two flats we lived in were fab. The first one was a raised ground floor Victorian flat. It had an avocado bathroom suite, which let me tell you, I loved. As I went blinking and bleary eyed into the bathroom to do my morning ablutions I was soothed by the calming green and wood panelled bath, rather than a glaring white thing. The flat was in a fashionable area of town, with leafy avenues and poncey shops. The alcoves either side on the marble fireplace were bowed with the weight of our books. I loved it. Our last flat was On the first floor of a beautiful Regency villa. The living room was over 30 long and had 4 original 9ft sash windows. The flat was lovely and bright and big, and we had furniture and wicker baskets slung casually around the rooms, and our furniture was just the right side of shabby chic. We bought a massive 4 seater sofa, which conveniently hid all of Betty’s toys behind it. Both these flats were minutes walk from the fashionable town we lived in. In both these places I felt completely at home.
Both flats were sold from under us. The first when Betty was 3 months old. The second when I was 6 months pregnant and had a toddler. We were devastated. We now live in a boxy new build, nearer to the not-so-fashionable city, in walking distance of a Co-op and the school. One the upside we have central heating and double glazing. Our energy bills are next to nothing. We have a garden for the kids to play in. We have two floors; no snotty cow above us stomping around in her stilettos; no slacker below us, filling our flat with the fumes of stale marijuana. But this house feels a small and boxy, we are crammed into a suburban development in the middle of more suburbia. Our 9ft sofa that was dwarfed by our old flat now looks monstrous, and the shabby chic furniture looks shabby shit against the magnolia walls and plasticky doors. But mostly, it has no soul. It’s definitely what you would call a ‘first-world problem’ to feel depressed by a house, especially a brand new one, but I can help but feel a little down about it sometimes. DH feels the same. The house almost sucks the soul out of us. What an awfully trite complaint, hey?
Anyway, there is a point to this soul bearing, and it is that in this house more than any, we have had to work at making it feel like home. We can afford to move. We’d be mad to. Our landlord isn’t going to sell anytime soon, we have a garden, and a garage, it’s near Betty’s school, and needs absolutely nothing doing to it. Flat no.1 that we lived in hadn’t been decorated or remodelled in 20 years. We just have to make the best of it. But making a place feel like home when you have a constant sense of impermanence is hard. Much of it depends on the flexibility of your landlord, but you have to find ways of making the house feel like it is your home, adding your stamp without the stamp duty.
The reason I’m writing this blog post now is because recently I was discussing the issue with another blogger Life of an Expat Parent and she decided to host a link up. We want to have a series of posts about how to make a house a home. Most home style books and blogs rarely take into account renters and the lack of permanence and control we have over our houses. A lot of the crafting I do is to this end. Some of this will be familiar to my die hard readers, but to those who haven’t been following my blog I hope I can offer some inspiration.
Cushions are a really easy way add a bit of your own style to a house. I prefer an eclectic assortment. I say assortment; I have two currently, but am working on more. Cushions are really easy to make yourself, and simple cushions in bright fabrics can be a quick crafting win. These two took a little longer, more details on the heart cushion here and the wolf one here.
This cute chalkboard is great for keeping track of your shopping list, writing messages to other members of your family, or just doing seasonal drawings. It’s easy to make and easy to put up and take down. For the record, toothpaste is meant to be good for filling holes left by nails (caveat: I’ve never tried this!).
We’ve had this stool since we lived in flat number two, where we could afford to have random pieces of furniture strewn around. Now it just gets moved around the kitchen out of the way according to which cupboard I need to get to. Or else the baby takes it so that she can reach something she shouldn’t have. We originally bought it from an antique shop but I expect a forensic analysis of the paint samples would date it to circa 1990. Anyway, I thought it was time to tart it up.
A lick of paint and some easy crochet circles and it looks fresh and bright to match our new, modern and often messy kitchen.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the vintage/retro/nostalgia fashions that are popular now, nor am I a fan of ultra modern or contemporary fashions that will date. I am really inspired by the bright fresh colours and Scandi sleekness of By Frydd, and the eclectic mix of decor in Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers.
And this one is on my wish list:
And finally for cheap furniture and accessories that aren’t completely devoid of style you just can’t beat Ikea. So in essence, renting a house doesn’t mean you cant make it feel like home. There’ll be more from me on this. My home is still a work in progress.