Mirror Mirror On The Wall

I love love love love love antiqued mirrors! Those knackered old looking glasses with the staining and holes in the reflective surface have this other worldly quality that I just can’t get enough of (maybe it because it gives a soft glow to my reflection and evens out all the flaws I don’t want to see!).

For years I have dreamt of a antiqued glass backsplash in my kitchen. I saw some mirror-esque tiles forever ago, fell in love, and needed them in my house. I wanted a reflective surface behind my cooker so I could keep an eye on what the family/cats/guests were up to behind my back when I was slaving away, and when we renovated I absolutely had to make it happen.

However, when I was finally able to go back to the shop I saw the tiles in, they had been DISCONTINUED!!! I was so disappointed. I resolved to find them online but the lovely ladies I spoke to told me that they couldn’t recommended them for behind cookers because the backing that gives the mirror element, doesn’t handle the heat very well and then just peels right off the wall. I would have been so so upset if that had happened!

So I when on a hunt to find an alternative and all I could find was super expensive panels of glass. We’re talking £500sqm! Really?! I would have needed about 2sqm so that just couldn’t happen. And then, I wold have to install it. I am extremely clumsy! There was no way I could guarantee it was going on the wall without smashing or falling off.

Looking for other tiles within budget that gave me the feels were a total non starter, I had my heart set and it wasn’t changing for anyone or anyone’s budget. So I got creative!

First I bought a cheap mirror and attacked the backing to see if I could rough it up enough to give the look. I used acids, paint remover, scraped with chisels etc (Note: not all at once – bad, bad idea. Don’t do that folks!). Unfortunately it just looked like I’d gone at it with the business end of a fork!  Not the gorgeous finish I wanted.

But then………TA DA!!!!!! I figured it out! I made exactly what I wanted! And here it is in all its gorgeous glory.

 

I love it so much. It makes such a statement, and means I can look at the rest of my lovely kitchen when my back is to it. But mainly I can make sure that Madam is eating her dinner!

I’m going to write you guys out a How To on this because it is ridiculously easy, so effective, and who wants to spend £500sqm when this whole thing cost me under £120!
Watch this space……

Getting Ecological

I’m not generally one for making New Years Resolutions. Diets never even get off the ground with all the Christmas chocolate still laying around, and exercising in the dark and/or cold makes me furious (in the light and warm too but that’s a Summer issue!). But this year, I committed to making a much more gentle, but much more important, lifestyle choice. And to my surprise, I’m sticking to it! 
In August 2017 I took my daughter to the Arts By The Sea Festival in Bournemouth. It was a wonderful, creative, crazy event show casing all sorts of amazing arts projects, using rubbish found in our seas to promote environmental awareness. I was conscious that we were putting our planet under terrible strain before but attending this with Evie really struck a cord with me. 


I would like to say that I could go Vegan, stop using all plastics and start making all our clothes, but I can’t. My cooking relies heavily on meat and dairy, plastic seems to be everywhere especially having a small child, and my mother and my mother-in-law despaired over teaching me to sew! 
However, I have been taking some small and effective steps to leading a more ecologically conscious life. It’s actually been loads of fun finding all the little changes I can make: it feels great, and as yet there have been no financial or major convenience sacrifices! 

1. The Eco Egg

This little baby uses minerals to clean your clothes rather than detergents, so no plastics are going into the water. Our clothes are just as clean, and softer and snugglier than before even when when I don’t use softener. Get yours, and a plethora of other eco friendly household cleaning products here 
2. Switch From Tea Bags to Loose Leaf

There’s a surprising amount of plastic in tea bags. I always assumed that they were biodegradable but tiny amounts of plastic are still ending up in our seas from them. I also use less as I don’t drink my tea as strong (heathen!) as a teabag allows so it lasts me longer! 
3. Eco Glitter

With a toddler, glitter is a household staple! But I had never given the fact that it’s just masses of tiny plastic a moments thought before. We will be switching to eco glitter going forward – sparkles with a conscience! On a similar topic, I will also be using biodegradable balloons now. 
4. Using Greywater

My cats frequently paddle in the water on my nightstand rendering it undrinkable! So it goes straight in their water bowl or to the plants rather than down the sink. Dropped ice cubes go the same way. Come the summer, we will be using Evie’s bath water to water the garden.
5. Bamboo toothbrushes

If you’re conscientious about your dental hygiene, you’re using 4 toothbrushes a year. Multiply that by the members of your family. In our small household that amounts to 12 toothbrushes a year. 12 pieces of plastic that are never going to go anywhere. In our 3 collective lives, we have used 288 toothbrushes. I wonder how many of our 288 are floating in the oceans? So on the next switch, we’re moving over to lovely biodegradable Bamboo! As an added bonus, they have charcoal infused bristles, so a clearer conscience comes with whiter teeth! 
6. Making Vegan Choices

As I said, Veganism is not for me. I work heavily with butter, meat, honey etc when I cook. However that’s not to say I can’t make vegan choices now and again. Fabric softener often contains tallow, so we’ve moved to Ecozone Fabric Conditioner. As I said above, the EcoEgg has already made my laundry softer, so I use less conditioner than before too. 
7. Ditching The Plastic Bags

This is one we should all be pretty au fait with by now. The plastic bag charge is part of daily life and is probably going to expand to smaller businesses soon. This Christmas I acquired a couple more canvas bags so we can keep some in the car and some in the kitchen, and we’re always ready to go to the shops!
8. Ditch The Straws

One of the exhibits at the Arts Festival was made of straws and the kids (and bizarrely some adults) destroyed it by pulling them off! It was very sad to see families entirely missing the point and creating more rubbish out of something that was supposed to challenge waste. There’s something about straws that seems very attractive to children and Evie is no exception. And they’re useful, they save us from a lot of spills. So we’ve invested in some robust glass ones, and I have a solid plastic one from an old cup that she can’t chew through or screw up, which goes in her bag so we always have one. 

For the adults, skip the straws at the bar. You’ll save money too as they make you drink faster! 
9. Litter pick

We live near the beach and there’s a initiative circulating encouraging people to pick up three pieces of litter every time you visit. This is a little habit that I’m looking forward to getting my daughter into. She’s actually quite fastidious about rubbish at home, so I think she’ll take to it and soon start thinking about the reasons why. However, there is no reason why it should only happen at the beach. We’re also close to the forest and see lots of rubbish left by inconsiderate visitors. 

I think as the weather warms up and the tourists come, we may even organise a Litter Pick with Evie’s friends! 
Check out this link to see if you have a litter picking group already in your area.

So in all it’s been very easy to make switches. And I have more to make. I’m currently investigating having our milk and bread delivered the old fashioned way – although the road I live on means the milk may end up as butter before it arrives!

I would love to hear what other tips and tricks everyone is using.

Big News And A Leap Of Faith

So…. I have some very brilliant, terrifying, nausea inducing news (not pregnant – don’t get too excited!). I AM GOING IN TO BUSINESS FOR MYSELF!!! 
I am about to launch A Country Pile as a marketplace. I have rented space for physically selling, and will be setting up online shortly. This has been borne of a love of seeking out gorgeous vintage household goodness, scoring something unique, and telling people what to do!!! And I’m so excited to start showing people the beautiful items I have for their homes. Plus there is literally nothing I love more than spending time shopping for other people! 

As part of all that, I’m going to be getting more chatty on here! I wrote a handful of posts when I was on Maternity leave and then went back to work and everything fell by the wayside. So stand by for my rambling musings!! 
But I confess, I am kind of freaking out!
I have always had that nagging suspicion that I was going to get “caught out”, that someone was going to out me a fraud, a fake that was guessing my way through life. Despite a very successful career in film marketing in a former life, I always had this sense of waiting to be “found out” and fired. And I have it with my entire life: people are going to find out I’m a terrible mother, a useless wife, a daughter who is a disappointment.
In rationality, I know I am a very good mother, my husband is happy in our marriage (I hope!), and my parents tell me frequently that they are proud of me. And I was damn good at my job before I left. And in the interests of total clarity, this venture has very little real risk. I have very few initial start up costs beyond a small rental and nominal admin expenses. If it doesn’t work, I can bow out and know that I tried. So why the angst? I’m a grown up, very capable person. Ish! 
But I do still that little gremlin in my ear telling me that I have no idea what I’m doing!!! 
So cross your fingers and toes folks. Let’s hope for lucky finds and willing buyers, and hopefully I’ll be able to update soon on all the fun I’m having sourcing bits and pieces and finding inspiration.

A Question Of Art

So I know absolutely nothing about art. Despite two pretty arty parents, I can barely draw a stickman, and my signature doodle (the one I draw in the condensation of hotel bathroom mirrors – you know you have one too!)  is a very rudimentary, childlike drawing of a cat. 

However, to hark to an old adage, I know what I like. And by like I mean love.  I love love love work by Remi  LaBarre and Anna Razumovskaya. And it is my absolute goal to own some. I’ve marked out the perfect places and very recently agonised about what I could sell, body parts or otherwise, in order to buy a Limited Edition print of the very beautiful Auburn Melody. But, being on Maternity Leave and in the middle of ill timed renovations, we will have to put these dream purchases on hold for now. 

However, a few years ago, on our honeymoon, we fell in love with a couple of pieces for sale by the street vendors in the Piazza Navona.  You get a lot of repetition of pieces and subjects across a lot of the sellers, but we stumbled on a very lovely Scottish lady (who thought I was having an affair having clocked my wedding ring and the lack of one on my husband – he’d lost it 3 days into our trip – and skirted gently around the subject until she’d got to the bottom of the potential gossip!) who was selling these gems. 

   
 I wish I knew how to get hold of her, because I would love to see what she has now.

I can’t remember what we paid but it was around £150 for the pair. They needed framing of course, and when you add on the cost of the trip, we probably could have stuck with buying a Remi! But they are beautiful, have wonderful memories attached and I would never part with them. And doesn’t that make them priceless? 

  

An Office(r) & A Gentleman

I’m very fortunate to have a husband that works from home. Those of you in similar shoes will know how lovely this is because he’s always around. If I miss him during the day (and I do – a lot) , I only have to meander by with a cup of tea and a chat about how our respective days are going. 

However, working from home comes with its own pitfalls. The flexibility that it allows for him to work to his own schedule, also means he can get distracted easily and sucked in to doing “house” jobs, when he should be doing “work” jobs (or rather I ask him to do things for me at inopportune times).  Conversely, he’s never not at work. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of working late and during the weekends because he never leaves the office and has the commute to switch into home mode. 

We decided that the obvious thing to do was to build him an office in our garden. It meant that he had a private space to get his work head on but can still leave it at the end of the day and come home for relaxation. It also means that he’s not listening to a steady patter of my aimless jib all day! 

We found Lyme Bay Cabins on Twitter. It was just a chance spot of a retweet (Social Media at its best people!) which led us to the perfect office space. We worked out the size of the garden space we’d give it, how we wanted the room to work (we have a section at the end given over to the shed), placed the order and started digging. ….and then we bought a new house!!! Not the most thought out plan we’ve ever had. 

They could have just sent us the kit and let us deal with the mess of our own making. But Gary at Lyme Bay Cabins was an absolute sweetheart! He didn’t have to, but offered to hold the cabin for us for as long as they could. Which turned out to be just enough time for us to get the purchase through! So thank you Gary, you’re a bit of star in our house. 

So it arrived in our new garden, and Poppa S dusted off his overalls and came over to build it for us (Lyme Bay Cabins do install if needed). A couple of licks of Farrow & Ball in Mole’s Breath and it’s looking gorgeous. Mr B absolutely loves it, and is keen to get to work in the mornings. 

  
We’ve got a huge project on our hands with the new house and it’ll be a while before we can get a lot of things done. Looking out our windows to what is essentially our first complete room gives us the inspiration we need to keep going, not to mention a retreat when it all gets a bit much! 

A Busy Board For A Busy Bear

There is a very good reason that people who are parents have toys strewn all over their house.  If you know a parent who said prior to their little angel’s arrival that they weren’t to going to have loads of toys taking over their space, visit them when said little angel is 6 months old. I bet you a Jumperoo that it’ll look like Toys R Us has thrown up over their place! 

The reason however has nothing to do with the baby needing something to play with! It’s because the parents need the baby to need something ELSE to play with! The baby will play all day with a whisk if you let her (golf balls in a muffin tray is a favourite over here!). But man alive, WE get bored! I can not sit and play all day with a whisk! I may be at risk of cultivating attention span issues with my daughter because I can only go so long before I need her to play with a new toy. 

After a particularly mind numbing day of playing the same games over and over, it occurred to me that these flashy, musical toys (which by the way, have the most horrendous songs that you absolutely can not prevent going round and round your brain at 2am), may well help many parts of her development but are a bit “cookie cutter”.  I’d seen a lot of blogs about Treasure Baskets but wanted to give her an incentive to stand…

So I made this bad boy…

  

 All it took was a mooch around a home store (I used supermarket loyalty points and therefore this cost me virtually nothing), and a scout in the shed for likely looking items that could be cleaned up. 

 We popped it on the wall along with a rail for her to haul herself up on. She LOVES it! 

  
*please note – if you make one of these, play must be supervised. 

The Art Of Kintsugi

On a trawl through a salvage yard a few months ago I came across a rather lovely (yet algae ridden) piece of marble off cut, presumably from someone’s old kitchen. Despite my husband’s misgivings, I persuaded him it would be ideal for a project I was planning and so with the help of the proprietor it was loaded into our car. 

Unfortunately for Mr B, I was heavily pregnant, which meant that I was absolutely no use whatsoever once we got it home. The poor guy managed to get it out the car (with a few scuffs on his leather – so sorry darling), lowered it to the ground, and on the last foot….dropped it! Of course it smashed! Into 3 pieces. 

  
After 20 minutes of my laughing and his cursing, I remembered kintsugi. Kintsugi is a Japanese concept of taking broken and useless china, mending it and making it beautiful with gold and silver resin (great link here). I figured there way no reason the same wouldn’t work for our marble slab. 

Resin is exceptionally sticky (obviously) but it was never going to hold together the weight of the marble so I backed the pieces with a board painted black. However the resin I had was very runny and just seeped through the cracks before it set. So I binned that off and bought a childhood favourite; FIMO! I essentially grouted the cracks with it and then bought some gold paint and a teeny tiny brush and make it look like I’d used gold resin to glue it. 

  
I think it looks great and it’s now a completely unique piece. Mr B loves it and likes to pretend that dropping it was all part of the Grand Design! 

Watch this space to see what we did with it…

New Year Resolutions

Well, another year is almost over and I must say, 2015 has been a whirlwind! It started off in a new house, peaked I the middle with the arrival of our daughter, and ended with me feeling I’ve just about found my feet as a reasonably capably adult! 

But as ever, the turn of the year brings with it the demand to find things to improve about oneself. And although I’m reluctant to make resolutions because I always break them, I’m of a mind that now I’m a mother I ought to at least try and fail, than not bother at all. So, with that said: 

The Obvious One

Is there anyone on the 1st of January who doesn’t have even the vaguest intention of some sort of body improvement? Be it weight loss, healthy eating, increasing their fitness etc. I am absolutely not a dieter. Diets make me very angry and the moment I deny myself something, I immediately want it – such a child!  However, I have found some extremely tasty looking heathy recipes that I will be giving a go. And I plan to walk more with the little one. That’s it. Setting myself an actual workout plan is destined to fail.

The Print Rescuer

My mother installed a strong love of reading in me and I’ve been absorbing books for as long as I can remember. My big brother and I realised we didn’t HAVE to hate each other when we bonded over our mutual literary love. We used to shut ourselves away and he would read Roald Dahl to me, and James And The Giant Peach was never as magical as when he read it!!

Because books ARE magic. They whisk you away to another world filled with amazing possibilities and new friends. You’re never alone with a good book. When I was a child my shelves were filled with timeless classics that I can still read now and be transported, and I can’t wait for my own children to experience the same joy.

I’ve discovered an amazing company called The Print Rescuer. They take old illustrated books that have been damaged beyond repair, and salvage and mount the prints, making a gorgeous homage to their former glory. I spent a good hour pawing through their wares, agonising between beautiful images from The Wind In The Willows, Alice Through The Looking Glass and In Wonderland, and The Tales From Brambly Hedge. But in the end I plumped for these two beautiful prints from Winnie The Pooh.

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Winnie the Pooh contains more fond memories of my brother for me. I just can’t refer to the characters as anything other than Chrisa-A-Ubin, and Wisa-Owl!

I think they look beautiful the nursery!

  
 

Japanese Knightmare

There’s something unpleasant lurking in our garden! Something nasty, and invasive and generally extremely unwelcome. Japanese Knotweed! 

I’d never even heard of Japanese Knotweed before but everyone I’ve mentioned it to has given gasps of horror. Apparently this stuff is bad. Very bad. If it’s near your house it can work its way into your foundations and pull walls apart. Some mortgage companies won’t even lend on a property if it’s found in the surveys!

Unfortunately, once you know it’s there, you can’t just leave it so we’d made arrangements to have it treated (brace yourselves if you need treatment too – it doesn’t come cheap!). Mr Knotweed Man rocked up to start it off and it transpired that we weren’t able to do the landscaping plans we had with just the treatment plan. 

   
That fluffy bush? We wanted that out. The dilapidated sheds? Gone please. The big fir that’s standing by itself doing nada? No thanks. 
But all our plans screeched to a halt because anything we dig out that’s non knotweed, may have knotweed attached to its roots. You can inadvertently spread it all over the place (closer to the house for example – eek!) and it has to be professionally disposed off. So now nice Mr Knotweed Man had to dig the devil out of our garden! 

  
Whilst this is drastic action, it is necessary, and the silver lining is that this “treatment” (read: decimation) happens much faster, so we should be ready to crack on with making a gorgeous garden and turn our Japanese Knightmare might turn into a dream! 

  
Unfortunately, Bruce is not Mr Knotweed Man. It would be much cheaper if he was but sadly there’s a distinct lack of opposable thumbs!