Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Rainy day ideas for little hands...

The rainy weather has had the little man climbing the walls, literally. Toy cars have undertaken some spectacular aerobatic displays and hide and seek has taken on epic proportions in the onslaught of the deluge. We now have an attractive moat around the backdoor and my vegetables are staring forlornly at me from the other side of the river bank.  The moat has been compounded by a glamorous blocked drain. And so the little one and I are sitting in state like our feudal ancestors, in our castle, and we too are going back to basics with our rainy day activities.

Bodiam Castle

So the toys are no longer acceptable, plug sockets are now far more appealing and the new found joy of assailing the dizzy heights of our furniture now all need distracting from. And so in the spirit of Duck Egg and upcycling, I have utilised the rare empty packing boxes for a series of play items. Cutting a curve lengthways along the box we create the sleek lines of a 1920s car, combined this with a Porsche inspired side door, the robust square shape of an old Land Rover and the large cartoon-like wheels of a Monster Truck (these however were prone to falling off and the breakdown unit were called out frequently as we left wheels dotted around the house.) Try it out and push along on smooth floors for very excited exclamations of 'Weeeeee'! You could use a split pin for the steering wheel, ours was fixed and I gather a little bit of a disappointment! the cardboard was perfect as a place to snuggle in and scribble on the sides, the crayons did tend to meet up with our newly painted walls at times but it was an excellent place to try out some colouring! Older toddlers could try paint for a less Lascaux-esque effect!

Cardboard boxes from larger items such as washing machines etc are perfect for the next stage, the cardboard house. Use the lid to create sloping eaves and tissue paper for roses around the door. All this creativity has compounded what I am beginning to understand about toddlers, it's the simplest toys that are the most fun!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Ideas on practical, yet beautiful family storage!

There are constants in life I have come to accept; that the slugs will eat my vegetables, however inventive I am with copper and lager, that there will always be some unidentified rice cracker/bread stuck to the bottom of my foot, however fastidious I am with the housework and that I will never find my eyeliner pencil sharpener and I will keep using it's blunt end, however interesting the results! One constant that I refuse to give in to is the mountain of life's detritus that we are accumulating on our dining table. Placed in the middle of the table supposedly away from little hands that exuberantly brandish their latest spoils, we are currently hoarding tape measures, a jug, various computer leads, and our post from the last month. So I am tackling the question  of storage head-on. We recently launched on Duck Egg our vintage crates for storage and I love these for the garden, or for magazines or even vegetables in the home.

Vintage Apple crates from Duck Egg

So on a quest to sort out our home (and trying to forget the forlorn packing boxes that are still in the attic!) here are  some other vintage inspired solutions for Spring Cleans...

For those bits and bobs that are essential yet small and hard to pigeon hole, why not do exactly that! This wall unit from Cox and Cox is perfect for USB sticks, keys, pens and all delightfully out of harm's way (or reach!)

For busy families, we love this combined blackboard and post holder...

My little one is now able to say, "shoe", the  gloriously exaggerated vowels are often accompanied by the presentation of the articles involved, so for shoe storage, that seems to have exploded out of the under stairs cupboard and the most frequently worn shoes, we definitely need one of the below!


So the shoes are away, the letters are sorted, but the inevitable to do list remains in a place where it can be studiously ignored by all parties so we are on the hunt for a huge chalkboard! One so large it can't be ignored but can also be a feature. For a country feel keep the colour scheme creamy and neutral and use a chalkboard with a white, ornate frame, or, for vintage style , we like a plain frameless board, surrounding it with enamel signs and old posters to complement the chalkboard; here are some of the best ideas for big chalkboards that we have found.


 We were very taken with the image above from mysweetsavannah.blogspot.co.uk for their ideas on chalk paint. Use it on doors on walls for a bespoke look or maybe even a whole study wall to create an intimate working space... Whatever you choose I think chalkboards are invaluable and the organised family's secret weapon especially since my second Blackberry has fallen victim to the hands of doom, they seem to be great for emails, social media and teething toddlers. So I am embracing 'vintage' communication - a 1990s Nokia and handwritten notes, which of course need appropriate storage!

Monday, 9 April 2012

What to do with leftovers-Tomatoes and other stories

Our fridge regularly accumulates packs of tomatoes. I am not sure what disaster this might hope to avoid, but whatever reason we have a great variety of tomatoes in our fridge! I have, rather proudly, grown some tomatoes from seed. Packed onto the window amongst various flower jugs, a now redundant hosepipe attachment which saw the un-banned months of me on a chair looping a hose-pipe through a small top window (The rest remained firmly shut due to lost window keys!) and then attached to our wobbley taps. There were some interesting episodes when I stared at the empty, dribbling hose outside and inside chaos reigned and the whole kitchen was treated to a vigorous sprinkler effect. (Flood No. 2 in our kitchen!) The hose also took to sweeping anything off the window sill beneath it's belly like a great boa constrictor, yet somehow my 10 seedlings have survived and been transplanted into a motley collection of pots I have collected from old plants and some rather eco friendly newspaper ones I have made. They look ready to burst but I filled with pride at their novelty and frugal-friendly qualities. So tomatoes are going to be the order of the day. I am rather at a loss for the rest of the garden.

My cottage garden filled and subsumed by swathes of heavy-headed peonies, foxgloves and blousey blooms, has had a false start. My wonderful resident gardener who is extremely handy with a watering can, not only is an ardent dead-header, he does love a good chew on a plant. So my mini Alan has put paid to some of the plants we might grow and I am drawing up plan B of a garden decorated by only edible herbs and the smaller list of non-toxic plants I have found on the Internet! I also had no idea some plants were so dangerous for pets! http://www.safekid.org/plants.htm This list was very useful and i am off to stock up on some hollyhocks for added drama! So in order to provide something for our resident caterpillar I am growing tomatoes and have a little recipe for the extra we grow or if, like me, you have amassed some for a salad (I never had time to make) here is a wonderful hearty soup I have adapted!
Jean-Baptiste Chardin sets the mood for our rustic fare..

For a starter for 6 or 2 big bowls for two indulgent adults
2.5 kgs tomatoes, we used cherry tomatoes but you can use bigger ones for a more watery soup
1-2 white onions chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, sliced(2 for small people soup)
Olive oil
Stale bread (Again another item I seem to collect..)
Caster sugar

  • Roast the tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil in a baking tray. Drizzle oil and add salt and pepper.
  • Roast at 190oC (Or the permanent 250oC that our oven is set to..) for 30-40 mins.
  • Pour everything and the roasting juices into a liquidiser or use a hand liquidiser with 5 tablespoons of olive oil or a big glug, a full teaspoon of caster sugar and whizz.
  • Place roughly torn off bread into the same tray and drizzle with a dash of olive oil. Bake until toasty probably 5-10 mins.
  • Pour soup into bowls and place the croutons in a large pyramid. We drank Rose out of a tumbler for an authentic French cafe feel...(We probably need to get out more!)
For more visit www.duckeggdesigns.com  

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Vintage Eggs...

We recently blogged on the art of decoupage and carrying on that idea I have started making papier mache eggs to decorate the house with this Easter. Whether you are creating an artistic collection of delicately painted eggs in a pastel coloured wicker shopper or in m y case stringing up strange oblong looking shapes with interesting daubs of paint with the help of my little helper. There is something very appealing in creating these little decorations. We have been confined to the house due to a variety of strange and exotic sniffles we seem to be accumulating so we thought in a vain hope we would really celebrate this lovely long weekend in the face of snow forecasts, frosts that are to due to wreak havoc with the first seedlings we have ever planted and our enduring germs! So with bunches of daffodils in blue and white jugs and cherry blosssom in clear vintage vases we are spreading our Easter Eggs around the house, and hopefully distracting from the lack of painting we have done recently and the torn gaps of wallpaper, which my decorator son has taken to stripping off the walls...

You will need some balloons, newspaper and/or tissue paper (depends on whether you want a background colour or not..) PVA glue and a brush...ooh and possibly a apron, which I needed rather more than my little man!

Decide how you would like to paint your egg, polka dots are fun and quick or you might want to paint it white and decorate with a beautiful intricate chain of flowers.

Blow up the balloon and tear long strips of newspaper about 3 cms wide.
Dip the strips into the glue and smooth over balloons. 3-4 layers should be enough. Leave to dry on a rack.

If it's sunny outside, leave to dry in the Spring sunshine.

(You can add an extra layer of tissue paper or white paper for different effects).

Paint the egg it's background colour, it might need 2 layers. Decorate how you would like and I think the more garish the better. We have started polka dot eggs, but now graduating to glitter, ribbons and finger painting!! For a more vintage look you could add vintage typefaces and prints to the outside.