Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone who has stopped by my little space in the blog world in the past few months, a Happy New Year. 

Thank you for visiting and leaving comments and I look forward to carrying on this journey in 2010.

I have a night ahead of me with good friends and a game of poker.....enjoy your celebrations whatever they may be.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Bay Tree House

These two bay trees arrived today.  They are a Christmas present that I didn't get round to ordering before Christmas Eve, hence their late arrival.  I need to organise pots, but they look quite sweet with the hessian and gingham ribbon for the moment, don't they?

Our house is actually officially Bay Tree House, but when we moved here 18 months ago we didn't have any bay trees (couldn't afford them!) and so we took the sign down as we thought it looked a bit odd.  But now we have the trees I am regretting taking the sign down. 

It wasn't a great sign to be honest, one of those cast iron ones that everyone had in the 80's.  But perhaps one in slate...........?  Yikes, just checked the price of those.  We will stay as plain old No.9!  Who wants a house with a name anyhow?

As you can see the front door needs painting, I am thinking of a heritage pale green colour.  I also want to change the knocker and letterbox to silver.

And in case anyone is interested the trees were purchased from here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

These shoes inspired my first ever blog post here.

I can still remember their arrival and my excitement....and taking this picture.

But the truth is I can't wear them.  They are just too uncomfortable.  There have been 2 occassions were they have made it out of the wardrobe.  Their first outing was at work, and my colleagues promptly placed bets on how long I would last in them.  I think I even made other people go to the printer for me as I was in so much agony.  I made it until 1pm and then switched into my faithful ballet pumps.

The second time was a friend's birthday meal.  When the waiter announced we would have to wait another 20 mins for our table I almost cried.  The Queen of Clean rescued me with a barstool.

So it's time to accept the inevitable and move on.  They will shortly be appearing on ebay.

I'm posting this as a reminder to myself that things I often want desperately, and think will complete my wardrobe/life etc etc (I'm sure we've all been there) usually don't live up to their promises.  So next time I will resist the calling of the coloured shoes...........

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Some random stuff I want to remember about this Christmas

And so another year passes, and I hope you had much fun in your celebrations.  I wanted to remember some of the things that stood out for me this year, so in no particular order........

  • Our sofa collapses during 'Elf' on Christmas Eve.   We don't really care, due to feeling festive.  The Queen of Clean manages a hasty repair and all is well (ish).
  • The eldest and his cousin put on a quiz after Christmas lunch.....much chaos ensues organising teams, questions, scores, but they pull it off.
  • Yoyo asks me 'I've heard the word comprehension, but I don't know what it means'.  Oh, the irony.
  • I sit with my 94 year old Grandma and talk about how the games she used to play with me, I now share with the children.  We play one of them together which involves pretending Yoyo is a roast chicken and eating her.
  • The kittens spend much of the day chasing a GoGo Hamster around the house.
  • The Queen of Clean and I stay up to the small hours this morning with his parents, playing Mexican Train Dominoes.

  • Our eldest creates the scene above for his brother and sister on Christmas Eve with flour, a sieve and my wellington boots.

  •  My Dad creates this envelope to house his gift to my eldest - a magazine subscription.
  • The familiarity and warmth of the mismatched table setting at my parents, below.

  • My Aunt gives me some La Prairie cosmetics,  I cannot contain my excitement (but assure The Queen of Clean they will not become a regular feature in my beauty routine).
  • I receive yet more personal finance books, that I can't wait to read.
And that as they say, is that.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The evidence

We captured this shot of Father Christmas in our old house, I think it was 3 years ago.  We did it to 'prove' that Father Christmas there was some doubt creeping in. 

Note the snowy (icing sugar) footprints to the front door (no fireplace in this house!)

The kids still talk about this photo that we showed them one Christmas morning, before we went down to open the presents. It makes me happy remembering the efforts we went to to get this shot.....the borrowed costume, the cushion stuffed down the trousers, the light readings to get the image, but make Daddy just unrecognisable enough.

This year there was debate with my eldest about the truth behind Father Christmas.  He had bought the question to us....and we felt it was time to come clean. 

His response, after being triumphant that he had the truth, was 'But what about that photo you took?'.  I explained that we had taken it......and he laughed for a good 5 minutes.  It felt good to let him in on the secret, and he has promised to keep the truth from the little ones.

Merry Christmas to you all, however you will celebrate.

Hope that you have some magical moments in your celebrations.

Anna x

Monday, 21 December 2009

Martha, flying goats and a rescue

Again drawing inspiration from this wonderful blog, I'm going to try and do this every week. So for today my three beautiful things are.......

1. Martha contemplates going out in the snow - my kittens haven't seen anything like this before and it is so funny watching them trying to work out what on earth is going on.

2. Laughing with my eldest about how he used to call reindeers 'flying goats'.  Believe me there is not much humour in parenting a child with a serious language disorder, but when you do find it....well it's priceless.

3. My husband (aka the Queen of Clean) comes to pick me up from work, he knows I don't like driving in the snow.  A rescue of sorts.

Am I allowed another - just for today?  Listen to this song. Melancholy, but also beautiful.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

What I did with all those paper snowflakes.....

 We have had *a lot* of snowflake creating around here, since we found the tutorial mentioned in this post. The scissor action is mainly instigated by Yoyo, but the boys have also had a go (I admit somewhat reluctantly where my eldest is concerned).  This has resulted in their little masterpieces waiting for a purpose.....hence my snowflake wrapping paper!

I am determined not to buy a single roll of paper this year, it is just so expensive for anything remotely nice isn't it? So I'm using brown parcel paper with the kids snowflakes glued on.   A little bit of homemade Christmas goodness. The only thing I've had to buy is the red raffia which was £2 for 3 x 10 metre lengths.  The luggage labels I already had, so feeling rather smug about my frugal wrapping method.

It's not the most stylish presentation, but I'm hoping anyone who receives their parcel will know that snowflake on it was crafted with a whole lot of love.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Personal Finance books I have known and loved

I found myself in Waterstones today, and realised my first port of call in a book shop is always the personal finance section.

I'm not sure when my 'thing' for personal finance books began.  It was probably around the time I discovered Alvin Hall about 10 years ago. Anyway I thought I'd list some random musings about them here - I won't go as far as declaring this a book review.  If there are any others you think I'd enjoy please do leave a note in the comments below.

I love this book.  It is so well thumbed it won't even close anymore - that's why it is bottom of the pile in the photo. Okay this is written some time ago, and is very US centric so is less relevant than other books - but it is the 'can do' attitude of this author that is so inspiring.  If you haven't read this and are interested in living on less it really is worth the money - it is often referred to as the frugal living 'bible'. 

An interesting take on personal finance.  Explores womens relationship with money and moving away from the 'my knight in shining armour will come rescue me (and contribute to a stakeholder pension fund on my behalf)' approach.  Gosh that was a long sentence.  But I hope you get the point.  I liked this book a lot. 

Harry bought me this last Christmas. Beautifully presented.  Perhaps aimed at the Boden crowd who usually shop at Waitrose and need to cut back on the champers.  So worth the read but you are not going to find any earth shattering revelations in here about your relationship with money.  

Now this is good - particularly the first section that discusses prevalent attitudes to money in society why we are all motivated to be spendthrifts.  The second section is devoted to practical ideas - and some of them were rather far fetched, and dare I say it somewhat preachy.  But the first section makes up for this, so again worth the read.

The secret, in case you're wondering is this, 'don't spend more than you earn'.  Simple enough, but a nice story leads you to this revelationThis book had me cutting up my credit cards before I had finished it.  This was some years ago (and sadly the cards are partly back in use.....perhaps I should read this again!)

This book is a compilation of tips from the 'Old Style Forum' on Martin Lewis' site, Moneysaving Expert.  Whilst I have a lot of time for him, I felt a bit dissappointed with this book.  It was as if he had paid some work experience student to trawl through the forum and turn individuals comments into a book, but they didn't edit the rubbish out.  Is that too harsh?

So tell me...can you recommend any other books I can add to this list?

Friday, 18 December 2009

The white stuff



Lots of fun this morning - for about 10 minutes or so! I went out to capture the moments with my camera phone and some gold ballet pumps.  About 2 snaps later and with frozen toes, I came back inside and the Queen of Clean took over with the 'proper' camera. 

And he caught these moments.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Gordon Ramsay

Last Friday morning didn't start well.  My eldest announced he had to take a Chef's outfit in that day for his starring role of Gordon Ramsay in the school play.  Things is (bless him), he hadn't given me any notice that a costume was required.

Now I know as a responsible mother I probably should have investigated this further when the lines came home to rehearse.  But I already had a present costume (Yoyo) and a Star (Littlest One) to sort out.  And my eldest is 10, and I thought perhaps he may have mentioned it earlier.

So back to Friday morning. know those moments where you want to scream, but know actually that would be of no help whatsoever.  It was one of those moments.  I had to play brave, capable Mummy who would resolve situation easily.  I smiled, told him not to worry and assured him I would phone the school and sort it out.

There was lots of frantic searching on the internet that day, I had most of the HR team on it at one point (!), and eventually the Chef's hat above was located.  £4 - result!  A friend lent me a stripey blue apron and the problem was solved.

And he made a fabulous Gordon Ramsay (there was lots of 'bleeping' as you can imagine, but it made everyone laugh!)

Monday, 14 December 2009


 Must stop blog-hopping.

Must write christmas cards.

My poor friend Harry - tonight I have used her as a human address book.  Managed to condense my endless queries to two phone calls.  I'm rubbish with postcodes and numbers and all that 'detail'. 

Love choosing a pretty card though.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

3 Beautiful Things for Sunday

I found this blog today and felt inspired to post my own 3 beautiful things for today.......

1.  These lights on our bed (little christmas trees if it's hard to tell).  They were a bargain found by a girl at work who passed them onto me. I fell asleep with them left on last night and awoke to find my two youngest had crept in with me....they were bathed in this lovely red light.

 2.  This note by Yoyo to her brother.  'I howp yuo lik my pichir'.  He was indifferent to be honest....but I will treasure that spelling forever.

3.  These tea towels which I asked my friend to pick up from Bicester for me to give as teachers gifts.  I am in a Cath Kidston induced state of bliss.  And of course in a dilemma now whether to keep them for myself or pass them on as intended. 

Reading this back I realise that two of my things are material items.  No wonder I am trying to create my home on a shoestring......too much spending I think.   So the teatowels - should they stay or should they go?

Birdcages and pudding heaven

I wanted to show you this picture of the decorations at our Christmas do.  Excuse the focus, angle etc etc - this was at the end of the night so as you can imagine capturing a good shot was not forefront in my mind.

This is just a tiny corner of the decorations in the reception area - lots of trees sprayed white with painted birdcages and white birds...interestingly none of the birds in the cages.  I am sure there is an important metaphor there but it was lost on me after drinking champagne.  Anyway it was just lovely and I spent too much time in the taxi home thinking 'I must get some white spray paint'.

The best part of the meal had to be the pudding buffet.  There were probably 20 or so things to choose from.  Below is my friends selection - I had actually eaten mine at this point (anyone who knows me that where pudding is involved, there simply isn't time for taking photos beforehand!)

All in all a lovely evening at the most stunning venue with fab work colleagues :)

Friday, 11 December 2009

I can smell biscuits

Upon waking this morning, 'I can smell biscuits' said the Queen of Clean.

'No - it's just me' I replied. 'It's my fake tan'. 

The Queen of Clean groaned, rolled over and went back to sleep.

You see, its my work do tonight.  The Queen of Clean isn't used to me making such efforts so the biscuit smell is unfamiliar.  I have a new dress (early xmas present from Mum), a fresh haircut and I smell of biscuits.

I'm looking forward to it.....although should be getting ready rather than doing this........the kids think I look like a mermaid in my sequin number (shown above) so I need all the help I can get.

P.S - the birdseed decorations from the post below - they're not great.  Okay(ish), but perhaps not gift worthy.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Birdseed and cookie cutters

A cheap gift idea here - teachers, grandparents etc.  I got this idea from a Sunday supplement a friend at work gave me. 

You will need:-
  • 1 pack of gelatine (20g - I got mine from Tescos for £1.49)
  • 600g birdseed (I used Field Fare Wild Bird seed as it had lots of variety - 2.3kg for £2.39)
  • cookie cutters

And this is what you do:-
  • dissolve the gelatine in 200ml boiling water.  Leave for 5 minutes.
  • pour gelatine mixture over birdseed and ensure it is all thoroughly coated.  Leave this for 40 mins stirring every so often (I forgot this continual stirring....not sure what impact this has had yet!)
  • place cookie cutters on chopping board and spoon mixture into them pressing down with the back of a teaspoon.
  • leave for 48 hours to dry
  • release from cookie cutters, make hole with a skewer to thread a ribbon for hanging

This mixture made approx 10 shapes.  I'm a bit nervous about getting them out of the cookie cutters because I feel they are well and truly stuck in there.  Ah well, the process of making them was still fun.  Kids loved it - even though there were a few disagreements over whose turn it was with the teaspoon...........

I will update you on finished result.

Monday, 7 December 2009

When things seem a little muddled

My littlest one chose to use all the zoo animals in his farm set last week.  It's good to put your own spin on things, especially when you're three.

Don't you think?

At the moment I kind of feel I  have things in the wrong place, or haven't done things in the right order or at the right time.  I'm putting it down to time of year.  There is a lot to do and I'm not good at making a proper plan, I talk a good talk, and will get there in the end, but will manage it in my long winded and unorganised way.

You could say I permanently have my zoo animals in the farm buildings. 

So in order to get things moving in the right direction this week I will:-
  • buy my Christmas cards 
  • try and get my haircut before our work party on Friday
  • post the parcel I have been meaning to (for weeks) to my dear friend in Hamburg 
  • actually write a christmas shopping list rather than carry it round in my head.  
  • write a very important letter about to the local education authority about my eldest son's statement of special needs that I keep putting off and off (sometimes it easier not face these things).  In fact this is so important I'm going to do finish this post and do this right now!
Any tips for feeling more organised please do share!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

It's beginning to look.....

christmas puddings......

Jingle Bell trees.....

artificial tree making another appearance due to budget constraints (!)....

children running round with colanders on their heads due to festive high...........

.......It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Christmas Shopping


Photo by Metania99

I approach Christmas shopping in rather a haphazard way.  I may half heartedly write a list, but the list doesn't then really feature in the shopping itself.  I much prefer just going out and seeing what's out there and if I see something I love, then try and match it to someone I need to buy for.

A back to front approach, I admit.

Today I went  to Westfield shopping centre in London, with my friend Harry.  Another good friend was supposed to join us, but bless her at nearly 8 months pregnant it wasn't the best of plans.  (Sarah, my love if you are reading this you wouldn't have kept up the pace!!).

Harry actually came home with one of those little blue boxes above, yes a Tiffany necklace.  I refused to try one on even when the salesman pushed me as I know once you have touched something you want it all the more, and anything in that shop is completely out of my budget.

I did buy this below though, both the frame and the postcard are from Paperchase.  A purely self indulgent, unnecessary purchase.  A present for myself.


The little girl reminds me of Yoyo.

And Harry, if you read this...there is no need to mention *any* of my other purchases.  Let's leave it at the frame and postcard.....I've blanked the others out.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Apartment Therapy Cure Week 7 and a confession

Paper snowflakes from RE(unrelated to this post but aren't they stunning?)

It's time for me to confess - I've officially abandoned the Apartment Therapy cure with only 1 week to go.  This weekend there was such a lot of other important stuff going on and I just realised I couldn't sustain all this domestic goddess stuff!

So to finish off officially I just wanted to look back and capture what I've learnt along the way:-
  • I love fresh flowers in the house - particularly in my little bathroom where they are now an almost permanent feature.  A £3 bunch of flowers can be split up between vases and make a huge difference in how a room looks.
  • Organising is not a one off process - my cured kitchen cupboards, coat cupboard etc need maintenance to stay that way (I think I overlooked this part).
  • Getting rid of clutter has a much greater effect than you anticipate it will.
  • My husband, The Queen of Clean is extremely useful.
  • Any home project takes longer and costs more money than you intend.
  • Life still needs to go on and you need to accept when enough is enough and you're done.
Thank you to all the comments from fellow cure project bloggers - cowgirl in wellies, This Home Sweet Home, Alana in Canada and Misadventures in Procrastination.  I have enjoyed looking in on your progress and will continue to follow you all.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Festive highs and lows

I'll start with the highs.  My lovely friend in Hamburg sent me these fabric hearts and I just adore them.  I am hanging them on my sash window locks for the moment.  They may make their way onto the tree at a later date....

Onto the lows.  Yoyo had an accident at our town's annual Christmas festival on Friday.  She cut her chin quite badly tripping over a wall and we ended up having to take her to hospital. She was *so* brave and after some glue and butterfly stitches was her old self again. I promised her I would buy her a present as she had missed out on the festival (the accident happened within 20 minutes of arriving there).

So the following day just before we ventured out to choose said present, she handed me this note.

I think I cried.  Now, between you and me I appreciate the motivation behind this note may have been around getting a really good present for being brave.  But she hid that quite well.  I think the combination of the 'fank you', the coloured in heart and the stream of kisses was what bought the tears on.

And on a lighter note......we made these snowflakes today.  I'm going to iron them and stick them on my front bay windows on the bottom panes.  For a great tutorial have a look here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


An unusual morning for me - I had an empty nest for just a few minutes.  I think it was about 10.

Mornings are quite frantic here - making packed lunches, searching for shoes, endless rounds of peanut butter on toast.  But today my husband (aka The Queen of Clean) had taken the kids to my parents and I just had a few moments alone before work.

And this was the scene before me........everything perfectly still.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A little polka dot goodness and some repurposing....

As part of our garage clean up this weekend, we rediscovered these canvas pockets that we have had for years.  We bought them pre-kids and never really found a good place/purpose for them so they ended up in the shed in our last house.  We used them to hold trowels, garden clips and all that jazz.

So, as a result of being in the shed for several years they had got mildew at the bottom.  Very sad.  But I felt too sentimental to throw them out - and with all our new storage in the garage there was no need for them in there.

Now for the brainwave.  I'm going to use them in the coat cupboard for each childs hat and gloves.  3 pockets and 3 children - very convenient.  So I decided to disguise the mildew part with some polka dot loveliness..............

I chose 3 different colours (my littlest one has 'reserved' blue already), and cut equal size rectangles to make a cuff.  I placed a little wonderweb along the middle and ironed them which gave a nice firm fabric that was a little easier to work with.

 I folded over the ends also so I had nice neat edges all round.

This is when it all went a bit pearshaped.  I was trying to iron the whole 'cuff' on using wonderweb to the canvas pocket. And trying to make dinner and negotiate with a three year old over having a biscuit before dinner.  And explaining to Yoyo that it was not a good idea to lean on the ironing board.....

So take this into consideration when you see the above.  I am going to have to secure each end with thread as it's not bonded as well as I'd liked...but it's enough.

Now have to just get it in situ.  A task for another day.

Monday, 23 November 2009


 Kids this summer at a windmill near to our home

There is a delicate balance for me between motherhood and work, family and friends; time for oneself, for home projects and of course, The Queen of Clean. 

I have yet to find it.....but in everything I do I am trying  to achieve it.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Garage - The After


The garage has been rather a labour of love this weekend.  Our thinking was that once it is sorted, everything else inside the house will run smoother.  We can store things more efficiently, get going on DIY and gardening projects and save money by buying in bulk.

The whole exercise was prompted by The Queen of Clean getting some free industrial shelving and plastic boxes from the warehouse at his work.  So this transformation involved:-
  • taking a people carrier sized boot of rubbish to the local household recycling site
  • fixing the industrial shelving securely to the wall so there was no danger of it collapsing on us!
  • moving stuff we don't often use up into the rafters
  • rejigging things so the tool chest is on the workbench at the back of the garage
  • lots of sorting out wires, tools, equipment and general garage 'stuff'
I'm sure it's fairly obvious that my part in this was limited - I was more of a teamaker and general cheerleader.

I love this little area at the end of the industrial shelf.  He left a gap in the chipboard shelf so there is a little nook for our garden tools.  No risk of them falling out on you.

 This metal shelf at the end we are using for biking equipment, shoes and helmets.  It is actually a Habitat kitchen shelf that we had 2 houses ago.  How I loved that shelf! (I threaded it with fairy lights one Christmas and left it like that all year).  Sadly it hasn't fitted into any of our kitchens since, but now it again has a purpose.

So whilst all of this was going on outside......I was doing lots of this with the kids inside.

I hope those of you on the Apartment Therapy Cure journey are still sticking with it!  Let me know how you are getting on?


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