Archive for the ‘House and Garden’ Category

The House of Dun is near Montrose in what I think of as “Golf” Country (Carnoustie and a billion other golf courses).  The Montrose Basin is nearby, with the nature reserve.  However, what I found most impressive about this National Trust property was the espalier fruit trees against the kitchen garden wall.

I have honestly never seen such amazing fruit.  The leaves were dark and glossy.  The fruit looked sumptuous – rich, ripe and plentiful .  My garden envy was at an all-time peak.  I want their secret!

It must be the climate, and I was quite prepared to up sticks and move to Scotland that instant.  That day, my eyes were opened to the possibilities for fruit trees, and one day I will fulfill those.

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Goodbye Albion Road

Well, after years of pondering the future of the housing market, and fretting over whether we could leave our lovely flat behind for pastures new, we have taken the plunge and sold our flat.  Even though we have spent tens of thousands on improving the bloomin place, it was the garden that is hardest to leave behind.


We moved here before we had children, and looking back our plants were more like pets than plants.  We collected, we categorised, we watched them grow.  We poured our hearts into this garden, and to be honest we filled it with our dreams and aspirations of life.

May 08 001

As our first garden, it gave us the chance to put into practice all the garden designs we had locked in our heads over the years of living in flats without gardens.  All the plants we were desperate to grow, all the ideas we were desperate to try.  Now it is time to move on.  The children need more space (as do we), and the new garden will give us the chance to design it around them.

I hope the new owners enjoy the garden as much as we have.  It has become rather neglected of late, because we spend all our garden energy on the allotments, but I hope they will restore it to something of its former glory.  I daren’t post a photo as it looks today – it is a ruin and a sad shadow of its former self.   Five years ago, our cleaners thought we were gardeners for a living, which was flattering.  Since then, all our tender plants have been killed off by two successive freezing winters.  Now no-one could think this garden was cared for – as we have become more and more frustrated by all the setbacks in trying to move house, we have become more and more resentful and neglectful of the place we once loved.

This makes me reflect on how quickly nature takes over where man leaves off.  The circle of life and the way that we busy ourselves creating stuff during our lifetime and then hand it on to someone else to do their own thing when we depart.  Moving is a time of reflection anyway, so my emotions are finely tuned.

So here is the swansong of our flat garden, a place where many many happy times have been had and many memories will remain, before we say a welcome to the new garden at the new house, pictured below.

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Charity shops in areas where rich people live can be a great source of quality cast offs.  I love charity shopping in Wimbledon Village, and then window shopping in the boutiques there.

Oxfam and British Red Cross have shops there, where I have picked up some fabulous stuff in the past.

Cath Kidston is always worth a look:

The stuff in the window is always an inspiration:

As well as a good browse to see what is new:

Some of the hand made stuff looks lovely.  In particular I loved these little children’s slippers.  They look quite easy to have a go at making (or do they??):

I wish my home looked more like this:

There is also a vintage shop, which was closed the day I went:

The ties and scarves alone look worth a visit (sorry about quality of photo):

As well as the vintage tea dresses:

Graham and Green have lots of quirky interior decorations:

I found these cushions in the sale:

There are lots of lovely places to go for a coffee stop.  Boulangerie Paul do the most amazing French patisserie and pastries:

If you want something more substantial, Strada do great pasta and pizzas and even offer free filtered water on the tables:

I have never been to Giraffe, but I have heard it is very child friendly if you have little ones in tow:

My final stop before heading back was to get some knitting inspiration from the fabulous and expensive Brora shop:

I was not disappointed, and although cripplingly expensive, the stuff there is absolutely gorgeous:

The little fair isle gloves were just adorable:

And the teddy has to be worth making:

I went home full of inspiration for knitting and sewing.

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Last time I posted about Columbia Road Market, I had forgotten to take my phone or camera, so when we went back today I took some photos of my favourite haunts there.  The iphone isn’t the best camera for a dull day, so I apologise for the quality.

I will start with a general overview of the market, before taking you round some of my favourite haunts.  First and foremost, the Sunday morning market is a fabulously cheap place to pick up plants and flowers.  It’s a gardener’s paradise.

There is a mind-boggling range of market stalls offering everything from bedding plants to seeds to herbs to cut flowers.  It reminds me of Hampton Court Flower Show in the variety and quality of the items for sale, but about half the usual price.  Most of our favourite specimen plants have been lugged back from here at some point in the last 10 years or so.

But although the flowers and plants attracted us there, it is the boutiques and shops that bring us back time after time.  Here are some of my favourites.

First up, the Fleapit, one of the fantastic retro coffee shops in the area.

All the furniture and even the crockery feels like it is straight out of my childhood home.  Well, if my parents had stuck to their original 1970s style, I suppose.

It is a great place to get a home-made cupcake and a coffee to start you off on a cold morning.

First stop after coffee was Vintage Heaven, where they have the most fabulous collection of vintage crockery, kitchenalia and fabrics.

It’s an absolute treasure trove of bits and bobs, and not so expensive that you can’t pick up something quite reasonable to add to your rapidly expanding vintage fabric collection (eek).

This time I got a set of chair covers for some dining room chairs that haven’t made it out of my head into reality yet.

Next up, Treacle the cupcake shop, which is the only reason my girls still get excited about the whole experience.

They definitely have a way with icing and pink sparkles that hits the spot:

The smaller cupcakes are £1.  Although it’s a lot of money for a mouthful of cake, it is worth it for the rapturous reception the girls give it, and the 10 minutes peace and quiet it buys me to browse the other shops and galleries to follow.

Fred Bare, a shop dedicated to interesting handmade hats:

Lots of shops full of vintage inspired nicknacks:

A retro sweet shop:

Beyond Fabrics sell a range of haberdashery supplies and lots of fabrics sold by the metre:

I love the range they have, again many either vintage or retro-inspired designs.

This is really just a very small selection of some of my favourite places.  There are baby boutiques, vintage clothes shops, as well as many places to buy unusual gifts.  It’s very hard to come away without buying anything, but you also bring with you a hoard of ideas and inspiration.

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Apologies for the long break in blogging.  There are various reasons for this, some important and some trivial.  The main one is that I was involved in an accident in November where I lost the end of my right little finger (eek).  I have had various operations since then (including one on Christmas Eve), and I had effectively lost the use of my right arm until now as I was having to wear it in a sling and with a huge bandage.  I am starting to get some use back, and am testing the waters by entering this post, but it is going to be a long road to recovery.  I am tentatively starting to type again, a bit slower than before, but thankfully with less agony than it was late last year.

But enough of that already.  It is now thankfully 2010, and I am making a fresh start on many fronts.  As there is very little to report on the plot at present, I thought I would do a series of some of my favourite pastimes when I can’t do much on the plot.

The cold makes the finger very painful, so there will be very little going on this winter.  Come April there will be a frenzy of activity!  We are trying to move house, so this may be the first year that we are able to grow seedlings in a greenhouse at home.  The reason we haven’t put a greenhouse on the allotment already is that we don’t get to visit reliably as often for watering as I think you need to.  Really for us it needs to be out the backdoor or on a windowsill.

Our flat is now just too small to accomodate the various propagators we have acquired over the years, so we have waited until we get a small garden with at least one sunny spot for a greenhouse.  Anyone who has ever tried to sell and buy a house can imagine how fraught and stressful the whole process is, and so the sooner it happens, the better for our sanity.

Onto the main topic of the day:

Idea 1.  Visit Columbia Road Market

A fabulous market for garden and plant lovers, and well worth a visit to London if you live further away.  Every Sunday morning, rain or shine, the market is a hive of activity, from fantastic value plant and bulb stalls, to flowers seemingly straight from the suppliers.

In addition, the road itself is lined with shops selling vintage and handmade stuff, as well as a sprinkling of unique and interesting cafes.   Nearby at Bethnal Green, is the recently refurbished Museum of Childhood.  The V&A have taken it over and made it a fanastic experience for young and old alike, with vintage toys  from your childhood as well as lots of sensory and play areas for children of all ages.  Well worth a visit while you are in the area.

Photo Gallery of the Museum of Childhood:

Thankfully there are still lots of toys before my time!

My kids still play with these classic building bricks, although the packaging has changed over the years...

Enid Blyton - Essential To Childhood

Snoopy Dog - how many of you remember this one? We had one at home.

Who could forget the story of Dogtanian, which brought serious literature to pre-schoolers?

This set brought back memories that I didn't even know I had until I saw it!

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