Saturday, 24 September 2011

Loving leopard print...

Yes, here is yet another trend to which I am coming very late - leopard print fashion. I've toyed with this idea for awhile. I'm generally very conservative in my wardrobe choices - bright colours are only an infrequent purchase, let alone prints.

But, I'd been thinking of some leopard print ballet flats for awhile, but hadn't been able to find any that I particularly liked and were in the price range I was prepared to spend.

Fortunately, this week I was looking at a friend's online shop (Bourgeoie Boheme - Fashion with Compassion) and found this lovely pair above. Bobo (as it is known) belongs to friends of mine and is a vegan fashion label. So, not only were the flats on sale, but I can also feel positive about my ethical purchase!

They came out of the box, straight onto my feet, and are going to have their first outing this afternoon. I'm catching up with a friend to trawl the fabric stores in Soho - and am hoping to perhaps grab some good bargins.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Learning about virtual moodboards...

I was one who for many years collected design pictures from magazines and faithfully stored them in a folder, awaiting the time when I had a home-space that was not rented and that I could actually make changes to. Actually, to be honest, I am still addicted to home magazines and still find myself tearing out pictures...

But, through blogging, I began to be inspired by the virtual moodboards that can be created. So, with a little bit of frustration, I recently attempted my first moodbaord with My sister is in the process of doing some redecoration to her home, and as part of that process my nephew (who is 13 years old) is having his bedroom repainted, and thinks that he might like it to be green.

So, using that as my inspiration, I attempted to put together a moodboard for my sister and nephew to consider. I had most of the ideas of what I wanted to include in my head - the main frustration I had with the website was focused on how to import images to the site itself. Once I had mastered the best way to do that (which was slightly different to what they recommended), then it came together quite easily.

I'm hoping that my nephew likes this (I have to keep up appearances as a 'cool auntie') - but if not, I'm equally pleased that I've mastered a new skill in this online adventure.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pale and Interesting

I was exploring several new blogs today - mostly relating to interior design. One of the things I love best about the blog community is how one blog leads you to another, and another, each filled with inspiring images.

Well, today I cam across the online webstore for a UK company called Pale and Interesting. So many of the blogs I follow are from US and Canadian authors - which often makes tracking down similar home furnishings etc a somewhat difficult task. Even if companies ship to the UK, the UK government's customs and revenue department adds significant cost to each item by virtue of import tax. So, it is always lovely to find a UK-based company for inspiration.

And, given my savings plans, inspirations they remain at present...but such beautiful things to behold...
Pale & Interesting Home 1

Pale & Interesting Home 1

Pale & Interesting Home 1

Pale & Interesting Home 1

Pale & Interesting Home 6
One day...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The end of a very long journey...

I heard today that I have just been awarded my PhD...and I'd have to say, that I am feeling a little bemused...
Image via pinterest

I began contemplating undertaking a PhD almost ten years ago (and even just putting that in writing really makes me feel odd as it doesn't seem that long ago). At the time I was advised that as I hadn't completed an honours programme with my bachelor's degree I would be best placed to enrol in a graduate certificate in research methodologies to demonstrate my research skills to a university admission board. This I completed in 2003 - whilst I was living in Dublin...though sadly I wasn't studying in the library at Trinity College as pictured above.

Instead I completed the grad cert, and subsequently the PhD as an off-shore distance education student through an Australian university. So, my studying was wedged in to evenings and weekends in order to fit around work...
Image via pinterest

...and I can't even claim that it was a beautiful, calm studying environment - more often than not, studying took place with the laptop on my lap, sitting on the sofa with copious references spread out on the floor around me.

So, after enrolling in 2005, the intervening 6 years have seen the PhD being a constant background noise to my daily life. At times it has taken a complete back seat, and at others it seemed to consume all of my non-working waking hours. When I think back to what else has occured during that same period of time, it brings into context just how long a period of time it was. I immigrated (again) from Australia to the UK, was able to travel more extensively, changed my career path, and lost my father to cancer. 

So here I sit now, having just heard today that my thesis has passed. But, fairly quickly following that thought is the 'what next?' question. Practically, gaining this qualification makes very little difference in my day to day work - it is not something I necessarily need for career progression, and it certainly makes no difference to salary levels. Equally, whilst the PhD prepared me for a career in health research - that day to day reality is already in place, and doesn't necessarily give me the option to conduct research into areas that interest me personally.

The topic of my thesis was in relation to supporting parents of premature infants during an admission to a neonatal intensive care unit - this was something that was very close to my heart after working in this area through much of my clinical career. Even during the course of the degree when I was no longer working directly with babies and their families, I found that every time I re-engaged with my research I re-visited my reasons for undertaking this research, and became energised by the hope that the results would ultimately be of benefit to these families.

Image via

So, whilst I try and process what the impact that the news of this award will mean to me - both career-wise, and personally, I know at least that I feel that I have succeeded in one of my aims - to give parents of premature infants in NICU a voice. I have to trust that what else may come from this event will make itself known in time..


As promised, the finished pictures of my first attempt at cable knitting...
The pattern is from Debbie Bliss Simply Baby - I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmarino wool. It was the first time I had used it, but loved the feel of it while knitting.

I knitted a 12-18 month size. The only complaint I had with the pattern was I needed to buy one more ball of blue wool above that specified in the pattern in order to finish off the neck band - though I'm not sure if this is an issue with my tension or the pattern itself.
All in all, I'm quite pleased with the finished product...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The anticipation...

Whilst I feel slightly silly for being so enamoured by a television programme...the second series of Downton Abbey returns tonight - hurrah!! What a lovely way to spend Sunday evenings during autumn as the weather closes in.

Downton Abbey series 2: The cast of Downton Abbey
Image via

I am already looking forward to another visual feast - particularly in terms of the 'upstairs' Edwardian costumes...
Drab in Downton: Laura, left, Jessica, centre, and Michelle in period outfits as the Crawley sisters
Image via

Roll on Sunday evening....

Friday, 16 September 2011

This week

This week seems to have both flown by and dragged at the same time - does anyone else ever have those weeks?

Work has been very busy this week, and will remain so for the next 4-6 weeks...but I'm also desperate to get home in the evenings and focus on other things.

This week has had two outstanding points. Firstly this...
Book cover for ISBN 9781408810262
I cannot tell you how much I adored this book. Yet again, coming several years late to a phenomenon that swept the world (this book was originally published in the UK in 2008), I too sucuumbed to its delights. I would look forward to the moment of leaving work everyday knowing that I had an hour tube ride home during which I could again transport myself into 1946 Guernsey and all of its delightful inhabitants. So, you can imagine my sadness when the book came to an end on my morning commute today - I just wanted it to go on forever.

Secondly, this...
Cable Sweater
Whilst I have knitted on and off since my Nanna first taught me one hot Sydney summer when I think I was about 7 or 8 years old, two things I have never felt confident to try are cables and fair-isle. (Actually, my first knitting experience wasn't the most positive. Nan taught both my sister and I at the same time. My sister, who is 2 years older produced an immaculate striped scarf for her teddy in stocking stitch with beautifully even tension - I think I even recall Nanna crocheting a fancy edging onto it for her. Not to be outdone, I also wanted to make an attempt. Using the delightful(?) combination of orange, green and white, Nanna started me off with plain and simple garter stitch - just 10 stitches across, which you wouldn't think would be that hard. Work away I did, and by the end (about 40cm later) there were at least 30 stitches on the needle and more holes in it than most lace patterns are meant to have. Nanna even declined to put an edging on it - I think she thought that not even an edging would salvage the mess I had made of least Teddy accepted my offering in good grace...).

Anyway, to get back to the cable-knitting, I decided to use the benefit of my mother staying with me in August to finally make an attempt - I also decided to do a child-size jumper in case it went horribly wrong. So for that last week in August, our evenings in the cottage in Cornwall were spent in front of a Agatha Christie Miss Marple film (having purchased the box set specifically for the purpose of our holiday) and knitting. Mum was able to cast the occassional eye over my work, but other than that it was full-steam ahead. This cabling lark didn't seem so difficult at all (though, Mum did let me know that many cable patterns are significantly more difficult than the one I attempted...).

I've continued working away at it during the evenings, and the little jumper is now finished. I'm just sewing through the final wool ends into the seams and then it will be all ready to block over the weekend. I like to think that Nanna would be proud of how far my knitting has come since those early days. I'll post some pictures once it is completed.

Fair isle here I come...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Autumn baking...

Image via Pinterest

Autumn has arrived - and unfortunately it has not brought with it the lovely blue skies, brisk mornings and changing colours of foliage that so epitomises autumn. Instead, we have grey skies, showers and gusting winds.

But the inclement weather at least gives me an incentive to bake. Yesterday I decided that conditions were perfect for...
Nigella's Lemon Syrup Loaf cake...or what I call a lemon drizzle cake, due to the actual step of standing there drizzling a syrup made from lemon juice and icing suger all over the cake just as it comes out of the oven. The only downside to this cake is that you then have to wait until it is completely cool before removing it from the cake tin (and more importantly, eating it).

I now have some little individual pieces parceled up to take to work each day - I've decided that bringing a sugar-hit from home doesn't feel quite so bad as resorting to a trip to the vending machine every afternoon for chocolate...

Sewing summer skirts...the conclusion

Back in one of my early posts I described that I was in the process of sewing some simple summer skirts to take with me to Cornwall.

Well, the weather didn't co-operate particularly well, but both skirts got at least one wear each...and they are now biding their time patiently in the cupboard until they get another chance to come out and play when I fly to Sydney next January.

Here are the before and after images...

The first was using Simplicity 9825. I used a lovely taupe eyelet fabric that I bought from the Cloth House in Soho, and then used a plain white poly-cotton for the lining.
I tend not to like my skirts fitting around my waist, so generally make them so they sit about 2 inches below my natural waist line.

The second skirt was made using Butterick 6834 - for this I used a navy cotton chino fabric. I think I was being nautically inspired and decided to make it a little more interesting by adding two rows of trim to the bottom - a fine navy/white stripe and some white rik-rak.

 Voila - the finished products! (now I just need to start working my way through the rest of my fabric stash)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

And the moonbeams kiss the sea...

When I was in high school (in Australia), the school curriculum didn't stretch to a broad coverage of the English romantic poets - I studied Wordsworth in detail, but my knowledge of the others were pretty scant.

Since school I've come to know the work of Keat's a little more, but have never really read any Shelley. A situation which I think is about to change. When watching a television programme during the week a part of Love's Philosophy was quoted - the flow of the words captured me and I looked up the full poem.

Two stanzas, simply crafted, and simply beautiful...

The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle;--
Why not I with thine?

See! the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
If it disdained it's brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

I'm working on overcoming my ignorance of never having been aware of such beautiful writing before...and thought I'd also share it (whether it be an old favourite, or a new delight!)

Monday, 5 September 2011

A sweet Sunday treat....

I met a friend for a coffee in Notting Hill on Sunday afternoon, and wandering down Westbourne Grove afterwards I stumbled across a little retro deli/cafe that has appeared since I was last in this neighbourhood. As soon as you walked in the door there was a small section devoted to old-fashioned sweets.

...I came across these beauties...

The box was pretty enough, but the contents were even better...

A perfect post-supper treat!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The little cupboard makeover...

I finally have a completed 'after' photo to show you. In an earlier post I described deciding to makeover a piece of furniture after being inspired by all of the creative blogs I had been reading. You can read my earlier post here.

Storage is limited in my flat, as is space, so I was very happy with the purchase of this little glass-fronted cabinet on ebay for £20. 

Of course, sanding and painting a piece of furniture in a small flat with no outdoor space was not without its difficulty. I was stepping over paint tins and painted shelves in my sitting room for the better part of a week...not to mention being paranoid that I was going to tip a tin of paint over the floor. Fortunately, no disasters eventuated.

And here is the finished product...
I used Crown period colours eggshell paint - aged white for the outside, and flagon for the interior.
I love this little detail

And it is proving to be handy storage for cd's and sewing supplies

And a gratuitous shot of the orchid as it is so pretty

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pure Collection

Cashmere Sweater Dress
Image via Pure Collection website

Well, the "summer" here in London is officially over - with news reports that it was the coldest summer in a decade, average temperatures of about 16 degrees etc etc. I tried to keep my optimism intact until the end of August, but was sadly disappointed.

So, as it is 1 September I have decided it is time to embrace the approaching autumn (and therefore, cashmere). I was aided in this by the arrival through my post box of the Autumn/Winter catalogue for Pure Collection - a company which makes the most gorgeous cashmere clothing.

Here a couple of looks that already have me inspired....
Herringbone Blazer

Cashmere Cropped Cable Cardigan

All images courtesy of Pure Collection