Monday, 30 April 2012

The last of the April Showers

Just one day of sunshine has been enough to lift my spirits and just confirm, as if I didn't already know, that I like the warm weather and not the rain. I know there is supposedly a drought and a hose pipe ban and the environment desperately needs each and every drop, but on a purely selfish level, it really can't be too warm for me. I don't want to wear my coat or my gloves or a wintry wardrobe, I would like to skip through the park with a breeze in my hair and the sun on my back. Too much grey is not good and without those glorious golden sun rays it is practically impossible to appreciate the full spectrum of all those stunning spring blooms. The bluebells are beginning to fade and I haven't really had a chance to simply love the delicate shades of blue against the vibrant green stems. I do feel I have missed out on the enchanting way the shadows dance through the dappled shade.

Without that vibrant sunlight, the subtle pink of the apple blossom is almost undetectable. The apple blossom buds have formed, opened and now being battered without me finding a moment to enjoy them.

I am not asking for a heat wave (well I could actually manage one) but really please could there just be a little bit more of the sunshine and a little less of the showers. Fingers crossed for May.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

A walk in the woods

It has been raining for so many days now. I am starting to get quite down about the lack of sun and the endless rain. I know that it's good for the allotment and the garden but it just really isn't that cheerful. Everywhere is becoming so green and there is nothing more lovely than a walk in the woods to completely appreciate everything April has to offer. We were in fact on the road to Riverhill Himalayan Gardens but the rain was so intense that visibility was significantly impaired and we decided to rethink our plans and stop off at Shorne Country Park. We ate our picnic in the car and the rain eased enough for a walk in the park, a bit of tree climbing and plenty of jumping in muddy puddles.

Waterproofs and wellies

A ready-made secret den in a clearing in the woods

Sunshine and showers

The deliciously delightful flush of new green hazel leaves

The boy with a stick

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Sunshine yellow Tupperware

I had a happy childhood. I know this is not the case for everyone but I was lucky. I was surrounded by family and friends of our family and had more opportunities than are open to a lot of people. I did well at school, lived for ballet and loved to read and draw. I was happy. Perhaps that is why that now I have my own family, I want to capture some of that happiness and pass it on. I was a child of the seventies. I played in the street, my wardrobe was filled with the kind of retro prints I would die for now and Tupperware was a big part of our lives.

Tupperware parties were these exciting things that happened after I had gone to bed. The lounge would be filled with friends, cheese, wine, nibbles and Tupperware. I could hear everyone laughing and talking from my room. This mysterious adult world was completely intriguing. Sometimes I was allowed to come out to say hello but always had to go back to bed before the demonstration started. I think that I am going to have to ask my mum what exactly went on and whether she was in fact a Tupperware agent.

Tupperware was not a cheap transparent plastic that quickly stained and looked worn in a short amount of time. It was the epitome of the 1970s palette; warm oranges, sunshine yellows, rich browns and forest greens. The plastic was thick and textured and everything had a lid. These are items were used on a daily basis in our house and are so clearly etched in my mind that I could probably recreate the entire collection from my childhood through searching on eBay and other vintage kitchenalia websites. The other day, much to my delight, I stumbled upon a similar sunshine yellow container from the Harvest Range that was our biscuit tin. An item of such iconic importance, could not be allowed to slip through my fingers.

Although now it has arrived and I am researching more exciting and essential items to add to my collection, I am wondering whether we did in fact have one with a slightly different logo in "butter".

Either way I suppose it doesn't really matter as it is the fan lid that I love and perhaps I will keep on the look out for the "butter" container as well. I did read recently that if you are going to collect things, it is even more pleasurable if your collection is practical and functional.



Sunday, 22 April 2012


Today I have had a complete mum day. I was awoken to a request from Charlie to tie the Ammo belt I made for him and his Nerf gun last night around his waist, followed by a request for pancakes for breakfast. I really am not sure why he feels the need to suck lemons but nevertheless he does and I love how Josie eats pancakes, minuscule piece by the tiniest speck and Charlie tries to put the whole thing in his mouth in one go.

The children completely and totally love pancakes for breakfast with lemon and sugar. They also like them flat on the plate and it is a crime to role them. This whisk is one that belonged to my mum and has been making pancakes and cakes for longer than I can remember and I really hope that this whisk gets to survive another generation of mothers and their crazy Sundays.

Saturday, 21 April 2012


You have to be a particular type of person to wear Birkenstocks, nothing notably special but I could definitely divide my friends and family into those who wear them and those who don't. My brother wears Birkenstocks. My husband does not wear them. I love them and could quite easily have a pair in every colour but my favourite are my red ones. They are special. I bought them the summer I was pregnant with Jack. It was a truly happy time of my life and I feel that my red Birkies still contain a little bit of that happiness and a little bit of the memory of Jack. It was the year that my life changed forever and I am still trying to learn to live with that.
At the end of last summer my red Birkies were looking a little worse for wear and I promised myself that I would get them repaired. So a few weeks ago I posted them off to the repair shop and they returned yesterday.
It's almost an unwritten law that your toenail varnish must match or at the very least coordinate with your Birkies. Although the self portrait of Birkies is not the most original photographic composition, here's mine.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Made in the United States of America

The other day Josie wanted to check that UK stood for United Kingdom and USA stood for United States of America. It was just one of those brief moments you get as a parent where your child needs that confirmation of their expanding knowledge. These moments are a fundamental part of my day. Sometimes I am simply able to answer "yes" and other times the answer is a complicated concept that sparks a barrage of questions and can tax my brain to such an extent that I need a cup of tea. Since my Made in England post the other day, I have been wondering where items are made and who designed them. Then on my internet travels to other blogs, I came across this beautiful dress.

This dress is by a British design duo Trollied Dolly

The dress linked to the most amazing website Modcloth and really I could have any one of the delightful dresses. There are pages and pages of the most beautiful patterns and designs and then there are the shoes. This website has over a thousand items made in the USA , the company was founded by someone called Susan with the aim to sell vintage inspired clothes by indie designers and was influenced by her Grandmother. Need I really say any more, other than it may take me a long time to discover all the things I love at Modcloth and I need this tea towel.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Made in France

As a teenager in the 1980s I was lucky enough to go camping in France every year which suited my young cosmopolitan spirit and sense of adventure. Apart from the limited vegetarian options in restaurants (salade de tomates avec pommels frites) I was very much at home in the more liberal European countryside. This was in the days before Tesco had taken over the world and French hypermarkets were more stylish, advanced and well stocked compared to the ones in England. The food was interesting, new and exciting; prickly pears, horse meat burgers and cheese made with champagne stick in my mind. They sold kitchenalia, clothes, electrical goods, stationary which was not common place in the UK.

My mum was quite taken with the Arcopal white glass crockery, especially the Veronica ditsy blue flower design and built up an extensive collection over the years. At the time I found this quite bizarre but now I could happily follow her example and head off to France to collect such delights. Years ago she gave me all the plain white plates from these expeditions but there are rather delightful items that she still uses daily that are quite charming. Enchanted by the thought of vintage Arcopal glass wear, I though I might have a go at drawing my old casserole dish which is always used for rhubarb crumble. I'm not sure either of my children would be impressed if a casserole actually came out of it. I discovered that I am not very good at drawing casserole dishes but I did give it a good try.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Should I continue?

My children appear to be in disagreement over my continued sketching efforts. As I sat in our comfy new reclaimed leather arm chair sketching our most fabulous piece of seventies veneer furniture with tinted glass, gold detail and back lighting, Josie hopped on the arm and clearly told me that the Easter holidays are now over so why was I still sketching. However moments before Charlie had been trying to work out what I was drawing and suggesting several topics for what I might draw next. Josie is correct, I did say that I would simply try to draw one picture a day during the holidays but I am quite enjoying recording snippets of our lives, everyday items that surround our world, constant or fleeting, windows through time. Perhaps I should just see how it goes, no rules, no restrictions, just drawing.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Made in England

There is nothing more relaxing for me than wondering around a car boot sale looking for treasure. Car boot sales are one of the few places left, where you can guarantee to find products that  are "Made in England". It would be almost impossible to write about the decline of the British manufacturing industry without wandering where it all went wrong and who was to blame. However considering the political implications of these questions and because the purpose of this post is to be a celebration of "Made in England" as opposed to damnation of the rich and greedy corporations profiting by exploitation of the people who aren't protected by EU legislation........

I do actively seek out things that are "Made in England" because they should be saved and I am proud of our manufacturing heritage. After all for some of my teenage years, I lived in the Black Country where I went on school trips to learn about the role the local community had as the heart of the industrial revolution. My parents met when the both worked at Rotax Plant in Hemel Hempstead and my mother wedding dress was made from Notttingham Lace. My Grandad was a carpenter on the sets of films shot at Pinewood Studios. Vintage items are beautiful because they were designed and made as an integral part of the community and not shipped in from a far, sold for pennies and broken in moments.

Small money tin "Made in England"

Manicure set "Made in England"

Including a nail file "Made in Sheffield, England", the birthplace of stainless steel

Fabulous flask "Made in England"

Super special retro spotty design

With the word "sunshine" embossed on the lip cup

Finally, I'm not really sure if the pearls were made in England but they were pretty and well, I do like pearls.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Real games

I am all for technology and electronic gadgets but in moderation and carefully balanced with some real games. Today both Charlie and Josie had friends round and there was noise and craziness throughout the house. They played on the Wii, the computer, watched TV and then there were the real games.

Charlie and his friend fishing with earth worms in a net.

I made four toys which inspired games for the rest of the day. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I pinned a piece of ribbon to a stick for each of them. The girls turned theirs into ribbons for the 'out the back' Olympic rhythmic gymnastics championships and the boys had whips belonging to Indiana Jones for fighting snakes and baddies.

Before Charlie went to sleep he asked me to tie a piece of yarn to the leg of a toy giraffe and then tie it to the bed. When I asked him why he explained that it was because the giraffe was his horse from the olden days and his bed was his wagon that he lived in and he needed to whip the horse (giraffe) so that he could pull the wagon across the desert.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Unfinished projects No. 1 - Scraps quilt

I do have slightly more than one unfinished project so the title is a little misleading and once again it is a quilt that lays at the bottom of one of my "to do" piles.  Having already wimped out on the knitted garden quilt, I started for Josie in 2009 and subsequently missed the Christmas deadline that I originally set myself, I really am going to do my best to get this Scraps quilt completed by Josie's birthday.

Sewing machine close up sketch

Pile of large squares ready to be laid out

Smaller squares for the border

Possible layout?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Spring Cleaning

During the Easter holidays, it has been almost impossible to not be inspired to do a bit of spring cleaning. When you are at home instead of at work and the house is filled with sunlight (not today though I might add), the cobwebs, dirt and dust simply cry out to me to be removed. My children have prevented me from becoming overly precious about having a beautifully clean and tidy home (clearing snow in a blizzard is still the most accurate description) but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't like it presentable. I were to spend every second on housework, I would still be fighting a loosing battle so I settle for small corners and pockets of perfection here and there and my husband does an amazing amount of washing up, hovering, laundry, cooking and cleaning (he really does and I am eternally grateful). Yesterday was the turn of the room on the back of our house that I like to think of as my studio. It also contains the fridge, the washing machine, all the laundry (clean and dirty) and acts a general dumping ground when people enter the house.

It is rarely organised out there so after a good sort out, I did feel inspired to complete a sketch to celebrate the fact that you could actually walk through the room without falling over.

In the spirit of the seasonal spruce up, I thought it was time for my blog to get a fresh new look. For a long time now, I have been thinking that the decor was rather dark and despite the banner featuring my nan's stunning embroidery from the 1950s, it was hugely amateurish and the best I could do in 2010 when I started my blog. So I set aside some time to learn how to make a slightly more complex banner and now know how to make a collage photo.

Friday, 6 April 2012


Recently Josie and I had a discussion about what special power we would have if we were super heroes. We both agreed that to be able to travel through time would be ideal. If I were to travel back in time and were only allowed one turn in the Delorean, then I would go back to the 1970s and spend an afternoon at my Grandparents where I spent so many happy times as a child. I often see their house and gardens in my dreams and I was especially fond of my Grandpa's greenhouse. I loved the way it smelt of tomato plants and was gloriously warm. It was filled with terracotta pots and red geraniums, there was even a door half way down which led to the second greenhouse and the wonderful water tank surrounded by a myriad of coloured watering cans which invariably had a surprise toad or frog hiding nearby. It was the most spectacular greenhouse, set against an enormous white brick wall of the garage workshop next door and ran almost the length of their garden. In my imagination, it was enormous and easily matched the greenhouses we saw at Quex Park today.

My Grandpa's greenhouse was very similar to this lean to style, made of wood, brick and glass.

We went to Quex Park today for the Vintage Fair which was the most bizarre mix of vintage clothing, kitchenalia and jewellery against the backdrop of gigantic Victorian glass cabinets filled with stuffed animals, hunted and collected by Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton. 

As a pioneer of diorama, he created naturalistic environments for his natural history specimens which he displayed alongside his mass of guns and other weapons.

Vintage 1960s curtain fabric and crockery set against the Serengeti

Could we really expect Charlie to go in a vintage caravan filled with real cakes and not at least try to eat them?

And the gardens were beautiful and the weather was glorious.

Dedicated to my lovely friend who was at work and not at Quex Park

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The decommissioning of library books

Today I am having a day at work and really I could not have picked a better day. It's a little cold and a slightly miserable outside and the staff in the LRC are decommissioning books. Any book that has not been taken out of the past 12 years is being recycled or rescued and re-homed. I am not officially a member of the LRC but as a Drop in Support Centre Lecturer, I am based in the library and therefore have been invited to save any of the books I like the look of and there are quite a few.

I am rather fond of any book that comments on the history of domesticity in the home and have managed to pick up some real gems:

  • Laundry Work (Third edition printed in 1974)
  • Modern Home Laundry Work - the latest and completely revised edition which covers the thinking and methods in this field right up to the end of the 1960s
  • A Woman's work is never done - A history of housework in The British Isles 1650 - 1950
  • The Kitchen in history (Published in 1972)
  • Complete book of cleaning - which includes a whole chapter on the lazy's person guide to housework
  • Tacheometric Tables - Reprinted 1950

    I had to do a little sketch and take a few pictures. There is just something about old books. The print is different, the quality and texture of the paper is appealing. I love the sketches, the old photo plates and advertisements. The students for whom these books would have been bought will have lived their lives, established their careers and dreamt their dreams. Young people who attended Canterbury Technical College (as it was once known) would have had different aspirations to the students who I work with today but they would have still possessed that excitement about the future. I do wonder how many dreams were realised, what became of all those students who read these books that are now being recycled. In 1959 this college was organised into two departments: Building and Engineering  and Women's subjects.

    Domestic science is no longer one of the subjects available on Canterbury College's modern app, website and prospectus but it is something that I learnt at school. I did sewing, cooking, home economics (cooking and budgeting), woodwork, metal work, technical drawing and domestic science. During my education which has spanned from the 1970s to now, I feel that I have learnt a huge variety of subjects, some useful and some which are locked in a dusty cupboard at the back of my brain. And now I have a whole pile of old books full of stuff, I would never have even thought about........

    "They that wash on Monday have all the week to dry;
    They that wash on Tuesday are not so much awry;
    They that wash on Wednesday are not so much to blame;
    They that wash on Thursday wash for shame;
    They that wash on Friday wash in need;
    And they that wash on Saturday, Oh they're sluts indeed." -- Robert Hunt