Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas!

Just a quick post to say Happy Christmas everyone!

I'll be taking a week's break over Christmas and New Year, and am planning lots of useful informative posts for next year. In the meantime, have a really lovley time, drive safe if you're on the road this Christmas, and thanks for reading my little blog and to all of you who leave comments... thanks for the support!

I'll leave you with a picture of a cold Greyhound wearing his brand new Pajamas that I made him for Christmas (he got to open his present early becaus it's so cold). Oh and the stuff on his feet are bandages, we're still having his troubled feet treated - poor thing!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Beanbag Chair Sewing Pattern

Phew, I've finished my nieces' beanbags in time for Christmas. They were such fun to make!
And as promised, below are the instructions to make them.

I recommend also making a lining so that the outside cover can be washed without having to empty out the polystyrene balls separately- I used some old sheets and just made the lining in the exact same manner as the cover minus the handle. The lining also gave me a chance to test how to sew the bag before using the more expensive nice fabrics. The hardest thing about these is pinning and sewing the circles at the top and bottom, but practice on the lining if you need to. And if you're nervous about sewing in a zipper or can't find the right colour/length, use Velcro instead - just as effective.

I did the letters using the fantastically quick 'fusible interfacing applique' method - see this tutorial for help.

The beanbags basically consist of 6 panels sewn together to form the sides, and then a circle and strap at the top, and two half circles at the bottom with a zip.
It's also a little bit more complicated sewing with two different fabrics because you have to get them to alternate when all 6 panels are sewn together - just pin and test as you go along.

They are small children's sized beanbags (as in for 2- 6 yrs), but you could easily adapt this pattern by slightly enlarging the measurements and adding more height to the side panels to adapt it.
To make one child sized beanbag you will need:
  • About 2.5 -3 metres of fabric (I used two colours so bought about 1.5 of each) - it also depends how frugally you can place your pattern pieces on the fabric.
  • Extra fabric for letters applique & fusible interfacing (optional)
  • a 50cm zip/ 60 cm Velcro
  • polystyrene beans (I bought some old beanbags off eBay for this, but you can get them from fabric stores. A 5 cubic foot bag should be enough)
  • plain fabric or old sheets to make lining + extra Velcro/zip
1) Measure and draw out the patterns onto some brown paper. Once cut, pin the paper pieces to the fabric, remembering that the side panels are cut on a piece of fabric folded in half, so line the edge up to the fold. Cut the pieces of fabric.
Click on above image to enlarge.

2) Pin the zip/Velcro in place on the two large half circles, turning over an edge to conceal raw edges. Sew the zip/Velcro on one side at a time, then close the zip/Velcro to make a full circle.

3) If you're doing an applique letter, sew that on one panel now before sewing all the panels together. Then sew together the side panels by sewing along the edges only until it forms a complete circle (like a skirt). Leave it turned inside out.

4) Fold the handle piece of fabric in half, and sew along the long edge to make a tube. Turn inside out and press

5) Pin the handle piece in the centre of the top circle piece. With the handle on top, pin the top smaller opening of panel skirt to the circle and sew together. When you turn it right side out the handle should be visible on top.

6) Now pin the large opening of the skirt to the full circle with zipper/Velcro, and sew together (if using a zip, leave it slightly open so that you can open it from the back to turn inside out).

This is the liner version

7) Turn inside out... and ta-da! Place the liner inside the cover before filling (or you will struggle to get the cover over the already filled liner).

8) Fill the lining bag and cover with polystyrene beans until nearly full and close both liner and cover properly.

I hope these instructions aren't too complicated, I do have a tendency to be a bit wordy in my instructions. Email me if you have any trouble... I hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where am I?

Hello lovely blog readers. I'm so sorry for disappearing and not posting, nor visiting in the land of blogs. I have been busy with all sorts of things (you all know what this time of year can be like) including some Christmas get togethers, Christmas crafting, taking the dog to the vet for his still troubled feet, I've also been doing my twice a week yoga class for my yoga teacher training,

Ha ha - not like this though... I'm still training remember.

I've been shopping in London, and yes I went to the absolutely gorgeous Anthropologie shop...
where I treated myself to this teapot (a girl has got to treat herself every now and then)...

I've been Christmas shopping with a friend of mine and her beautiful baby boy in Reading,

I went Christmas shopping in Oxford

and not forgetting what I ought to be blogging about I, have actually managed to squeeze in a bit of cleaning and laundry. As a matter of fact, just this Sunday at 5:00 in the morning you could find me on my hands an knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. Ha ha, now you must be thinking 'this woman is a mad one'...

... believe me, I believe we all ought to be sound asleep at 5:00 on a Sunday morning, but alas I had no choice. We are currently dog-sitting for friends of ours, and their Greyhound who is friends with our Greyhound had an upset tummy on this very early Sunday morning. The smell was pretty bad, so I really had no choice but to wash and scrub the floor as soon as it was discovered - it was Mr L who went to check on the dogs when he heard one walking around and discovered the unpleasantness... I found out about it pretty soon after hearing some swearing coming from the kitchen. But hey, who could blame the man, most people would swear on discovering that sort of mess at that hour, especially as this is where he wanted to be... (yes, you see, there is no space for me!)

Aha, I feel a post coming on about cleaning pet mess, yes, not the prettiest subject, but those of you with pets will be all too familiar with doing this at some point... so pet owners I will be back with some help, I am well rehearsed now!

I'm also currently sewing some children sized beanbag chairs for my nieces as Christmas presents, and in the spirit of Christmas I will be sharing full instructions and how-to's for sewing these beanbags as soon as I finish them (I'm hoping by tomorrow). They are so easy, and such fun to make.

And lastly, I'm having a small Christmas lunchtime party with Christmas tea and mince pies at our house for my work colleagues... so expect a post about hosting a Christmas tea party too!

Have you been cleaning the house in anticipation of Christmas guests? We're going to Mr L's mom's house for Christmas, but in the meantime I'm getting the house ready for the tea party whilst trying to teach two naughty Greyhounds to stop messing biscuit crumbs all over the living room rug!
I hope you are all well and I promise not to disappear for so long again without warning.
I'll be back soon... lots of love and Christmas wishes for now!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Counter bad habits with good ones for a tidier house...

As I'm typing this, I'm watching 'How Clean is your House?'. I know I've mentioned the show before, but I think there is allot to be learned from these shows to show how quickly a house can get so out of control that it poses a health threat. Not that a bit of dirt is dangerous, but a buildup of dirt, dust and damp is. Most people who's houses are dirty say things like "I'm not unclean, I'm just untidy" or "I actually hate living in an unclean house" and "It's so bad I don't know where to start".

The problem ALWAYS starts with untidiness. Once the clutter takes over, the surfaces are unreachable and things need moving before you can clean, so things just don't get cleaned. You cannot clean an untidy house, and an untidy house is daunting! But can all these untidy people change? Untidiness is normally a result of bad habits, habits that people can't seem to change.
Photo from and episode of How Clean is your House

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have said before, I am not naturally tidy, at all... my bedroom as a child and my student flat both had at times, a floor covered in clothes/wet towels etc. So what has changed? Well, I haven't changed, I still have very bad habits, the difference now is I admit I have bad habits, and I've developed good habits to counter the bad habits. Yes, at times our house does get very untidy, especially when there's a bit of DIY decorating going on. I can sympathise with the above statements, but the secret to a clean house, really is being tidy and clutter-free. Let's be honest there is no such thing as a 'clean untidy house'. So what can be done? The solution lies in first identifying the bad habits.

Here's an example of how a chaotic house starts off.

Let's start with a clean slate and imagine I've just finished my spring cleaning and the house is perfect on a Sunday night. This is what happens.
1- Sunday night I go to bed, and leave my clothes from that day on the floor after I get into my pajamas.
2- The next morning Mr L has a shower, and leaves his towel on the bathroom floor.
3- When we get home Monday evening I leave my coat on the sofa, sit down with a cup of tea and kick my shoes off. Mr L gets home, and after dinner he too kicks his shoes off when he sits on the sofa, and takes his jumper off because the house is nice an warm.
4- Then we take the dog for a walk, and it's raining outside, so he treads through the house with his wet feet, and chews his post walk biscuit on the rug.

In only one day we have gone from a perfectly clean house, to a bathroom that has wet towel on the floor, a bedroom with clothes on the floor, a living room with a coat and a jumper on the sofas, 4 shoes on the rug (and probably their socks too) and muddy footprints along with biscuit crumbs on the rug. And this example doesn't even include the cooking in the kitchen, the toothpaste in the sink or the dog hairs on the sofa. Now imagine another five days like this passes, and you can imagine that you already have a house that feels out of control and daunting to clean. so how do we change this scenario? All it takes is a bit of time to remember to look around and see what needs doing. Here's how we can change the same scenario with the bad habits still in place.

1- Sunday night I go to bed, and leave my clothes from that day on the floor after I get into my pajamas. Just before I put the lights out, I fold my jeans that are were only worn once, and put my undies and top in the laundry basket.
2- The next morning Mr L has a shower, and leaves his towel on the bathroom floor,
I walk past and remind him nicely to hang it up and wipe the shower door down with the squeegee.
3- When we get home Monday evening I leave my coat on the sofa, sit down with a cup of tea and kick my shoes off. Mr L gets home, and after dinner he too kicks his shoes off when he sits on the sofa, and takes his jumper off because the house is nice an warm.
4- Then we take the dog for a walk, and it's raining outside, so
I put a doggy towel at the front door to wipe his feet on. The dog then chews his post-walk biscuit on the rug. Before our favourite program starts, I set my timer for 5 minutes in which time I tidy away anything that doesn't belong in the lounge, and do a quick vacuum of the rug whilst Mr L unpacks the dishwasher in the kitchen so that we can use it the next morning.
Taking time to look at what is out of place, is a great way to start cleaning. so stop feeling guilty for the bad habits, and don't get mad at your partner for theirs either. Some bad habits are so ingrained that you're better off developing a new good habit than trying to un-learn a bad habit. With your good habit in place (give it time, actions take between 20-30 days to become a real habit) without realising it you might unknowingly stop the bad habit, and if you don't, oh well, you know you'll do something about it. And once your house is tidy, well then the surfaces are quick and easy to clean, and the vacuum cleaner can glide over the rug without the risk of getting a sock stuck in it.

Have you got any bad habits you'd like to confess?

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cooking with oils & a warning about pine nuts from China

I hope you have all had a lovely weekend. Mr L & I are trying to be healthy at the moment, and through our attempts we've stumbled upon some interesting information regarding cooking with oils (perhaps you already know this). We use to just drizzle some virgin olive oil in all or pans, thinking we were being healthy... aaah, but it turns out that virgin olive oil is not always the healthier better choice... it all depends on what temperature you'll be cooking your food at. If you overheat your oil, not only will it make your food taste bad, but it looses all it's goodness too, and could contain free radicals that contribute to the risk of cancer. Scary stuff!

It turns out that it's all got to do with the 'smoke point' IE. the temperature the oil can handle. Some oils start smoking at a much lower temperature than others. So leave that extra virgin olive oil for your salads, and use a healthy coconut oil or Ghee for stir fries and believe it or not, bur you are better off with refinde oils for deep frying (who knew?). Follow this link for a list of oils and their smoke point so that you too can make sure that you don't cook all the goodness and taste out of your oils!

Warning: do not purchase Pine Nuts from China!
On Wednesday last week I bought a packet of pine nuts from a Tesco store here in the UK. Tescos import their Pine Nuts from China (and I admit I did not look at the label when I bought them). After nibbling on this lovely healthy snack (or so I thought) between Wednesday and Friday, I suddenly yesterday noticed all my food tasting bitter. At first I thought it was the grapes I was eating, but then all my meals were tasting this way. After doing a bit of research on Google, i found out I am not the only one. There are plenty of people out there who have been experiencing the same horrible after effects (believe me, it's really unpleasant - so much so that even wine and chocolate tastes foul). It seems that it might be due to these nuts from China being oxidised, but there hasn't been enough research done to confirm this. The symptoms can last between 3 days and two weeks, so I'm afraid my meals for the next few days wont be anything I'll be looking forward to too much. Please don't eat pine nuts from China dear readers, I'd hate for you to experience the same thing until this has been sorted.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

A day late I know, but I hope you all had a good weekend, and that for those of you who partake in Halloween festivities, that you had a fun time.

This year we hosted our very first Halloween party at our house. But let me tell you, Mr L and I are not party-throwing people, we're more the small dinner party sorts. But this year we were very social and threw a Halloween party for about 20 people and 5 kids... all squeezed into our lounge/dining room. I was planning for weeks, and by the time the party came around I was exhausted and nervous, but I can also say that I really enjoyed it (and yes... with all those guests attending, I cleaned the house, especially the bathroom, as best as I could). Would you like to see some party photos? Well, I'll share them just in case you'd like to see some Halloween decor (inspired by the Martha Stewart website of course) and some silly costumes.

Lots of black cardboard silhouettes was the theme, and this is our front window.

Mice on the stairs...

The drinks table guarded by our New Zealand masks...Can you tell who I am? I am meant to be the ghost of Marie Antoinette, with my mummy dog...

The food table...
Some more scary decor...The cobwebbed fireplace...

And finally, from Mr.L, Banjo and me... Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cleaning a kettle

When I initially moved to the UK I always laughed at how you get asked if you would like a cup of tea as soon as you step into someone house. You see, in South Africa, as I suspect in many other countries, you just offer people 'a drink' or you 'go for coffee' at a coffee shop.
I've been in the UK for almost 5 years now, and on Thursday this week I received my British Citizenship...

and I'm glad to report that I can indeed make a good cup of tea, and I now too automatically offer people tea when they step through the front door. England is very much a tea drinking nation, and kettles here work overtime. Combine non-stop tea drinking with the hard limescale water most of Britain has and you end up with a furry kettle. Kettle's need cleaning, so here's how.

Let's work from the inside out because it's more important how your tea tastes than how your kettle looks (well, it should be anyway). I've tried all these fancy gadgets to help reduce limescale in the kettle, but the limescale still builds up rather quick. So the best and easiest way to keep your tea from being crunchy (eugh, it's horrible when you get a piece of limescale in your mouth) is to clean your kettle regularly. How often depends on how bad the water is where you live, but this is simple to do, and once a month should be plenty!

Half fill the kettle with water and half fill it with clear vinegar. Leave it to soak overnight, then wipe it out with a sponge or soft wash up brush and rinse. Refill the kettle and boil it once more before using for drinks (unless you like the taste of vinegar in your tea).

Kettles seem to get grubby on the outside quickly too and I'm never sure how or why, but they just do. But a regular wipe down with a microfibre cloth will usually do the trick. If it's a bit dirtier, try these. Plastic kettles ought to be wiped down with some warm soapy water and a soft cloth - anything abrasive will scratch the surface. Metal kettles can be washed with soapy water and polished with a microfibre cloth.

So much to do, so little time eh? This week I am preparing for Halloween - we are hosting a party which I am really excited about. I'll make sure to post some pics of how the house looks when all decorated. I'll also be posting photos of our new updated bedroom soon - yup, Mr L has wallpapered our bedroom, and I LOVE it! Thank you Mr L.
Have a great week, and for those of you who like spooky things, enjoy preparing for Halloween.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Colour choices for a bedroom

I hope you are all having a lovely weekend, I've been cleaning, crafting (for Halloween), shopping and sewing. My reason for doing shopping and sewing was because we are re-colouring our bedroom. The colour choices you make in a house is not only a reflection of you, but can affect your moods, and dramatically change how a room 'feels'. I'll start off with my bedroom story, and then I'll move onto some more information that you could apply yourself, so here goes:

One thing that has bothered me ever since we moved into our house and started decorating is our bedroom. Our bedroom is on the darker side of the house, and initially I was inspired by a photo of a wall painted gold, and thought it would reflect some light into the room. Unfortunately the gold wall, for most of the time, looked like a brown wall and made or bedroom feel really really gloomy. So the gold wall has to go...

Mr L and I have been ordering wallpaper samples off the internet, but the more samples we got, the more confused we became. Then I came across this picture on the Martha Stewart website...

... and I thought 'that's it, we need to use a bright colour like yellow to bring some sunshine into the room'. Of course, yellow is a happy colour, but it's also quite an energetic colour, which makes teaming it with a calming blue in a bedroom perfect. I also fell completely in-love with the yellow bedskirt on the above photo, and knew that with my white bedding it would be a perfect way to bring some extra yellow into the room. And that's why I've been sewing away this weekend to make a bedskirt and some cushion covers (6 metres of bright yellow fabric for £23 from IKEA!).

The shopping we had done was for wallpaper, we decided to try one more time ad go to a shop rather than looking online, and lo and behold we came across this wallpaper that we both finally liked (not too girlie for Mr L, but still nice and soft - and the love bird design is a good omen for a bedroom ;) .
It's quite a heavy pattern, but it's very pretty and the colours are spot on!

So after my sewing frenzy this morning, here are the results so far (I've only made one cushion cover, but there will be two)...
I'll post the photos once the wallpaper is up, and I'm also planning on painting the bedside cabinets an off-white and adding pretty drawer pulls.

Below is a close-up of the bedskirt - it's such a simple project, 3 flat panels, with the tops tucking in under the mattress. I did the edges with a 5cm seam. (I still need to iron both the bedskirt panels and cushion).

The cushion cover has a piping border made from powder blue velvet ribbon. I love cushions with a piping edge, it makes them look a bit more glamorous, especially if the piping is a different texture to the rest of the cushion cover. Click HERE for a great tutorial on how to sew piping (the tutorial is for a handbag, but can easily be applied to cushion covers).

So that's my bedroom looking and feeling sunnier already. I really can't believe what a difference it has made adding the yellow - even with the gold wall that still don't like.

It really is true that different colours have different affects on our emotions, and how we interpret an image, room or object. But it seems that the effect of colours vary between different cultures. Red is considered a relaxing colour in China, whilst in America most people see it as an energetic, even aggressive colour. So choosing red for a bedroom if you feel energised in a red room is probably not the right choice if you value your sleep. Remember that the colours you choose will also be affected by the room itself depending on how much light it gets. A dark room in red can feel cosy and romantic, whilst a room with plenty of light painted in red will feel energised and bright.

Combining colours are the best way to get a balance in a room right. A white and silver room can feel starkly clinical, but add some coral pink accents and the room will feel fresh, modern and welcoming. We're so lucky that with the internet and all the lovely blogs out there we have access to some wonderful inspiration, so start collecting photos of rooms you like to give you an idea of what would suit you best. Here are some wonderful examples of bedrooms that manage to be fresh, warm and relaxing.

What colour is your bedroom? Do you like it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

TOTW: Storing Boots

Hello! I'm back after having a wonderful time with my mum visiting us here in the UK. We went sightseeing in Oxford, relaxed at a spa, then had afternoon tea in the Cotswolds and finished the visit with a trip to Windsor Castle... all in 5 days! More on the Windsor Castle visit later.

For now, here is the TOTW - Tip of the Week: Storing Boots.

When not wearing boots, try not to let them flop over, it will make creases in the leather or suede and will generally distort the shape. You can of course buy boot shapers, but the easiest and cheapest way to store them upright is with a rolled up glossy magazine per boot.

Newspapers work too, but I find with magazines that the keep the shape better. And when you need to wear a pair of boots, just pop their magazines inside another rolled up magazine of one of the other pairs of boots - they can easily double up, like this...

How or where do you store your boots?

I'll be back at the weekend with a longer post!

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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