Monday, 31 October 2011

Early evenings...

The clocks went back here yesterday, so the time of year has come when the evenings close in ever more quickly...and I have begun contemplating some small decorating changes in my sitting room.

Given that the seasonal changes are minimal in Australia, changing decor and soft-furnishings based on the season wasn't part of my childhood. Here in the northern hemisphere however, it seems much more pertinant - the need to feel that cozy welcome as you walk in the door from the cold, dark evening.

Whilst there are a limited options as to what one can do when a) on a budget, b) restricted by space and c) living in a rental, I'm currently toying with a few ideas....

The image above is from Trina's gorgeous home as featured on her blog A Country Farmhouse. I love so many things about this - the traditional style of the sofa and chairs, the beautiful polished boards, the light streaming in the window... But, in my current musings, what I take most from this picture is that a room need not necessarily be cluttered with furniture and soft furnishings for it to feel cozy.

So, I'm planning on swapping a few cushion covers (making one from an old jumper of mine and thinking about other embellishments), and perhaps adding a different throw to increase the sense of warmth.
Mohair Blankets
soft furnishings
Image via pinterest

...and of course, completing the decluttering project so that the space feels much more calm and cozy...

Saturday, 29 October 2011

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

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Image via

...that the viewing of too many Jane Austen-related films and adaptations may begin to influence one's wardrobe choices...

Austen is my favourite author, and equally, I love nothing better than watching a tv/film adaptation of her work - not purely for the wit of her stories, but also for the fashion.

Gywneth Paltrow as Emma (image)
Who can go past Jennifer Elhe and Colin Firth as
Elizabeth and Darcy (image)
Kate Winslet and Greg wise as Marianne and Willoughby
Romola Garai as Emma (image)
Romola again with Johnny Lee Miller as Mr Knightly (image)

I mean really, who has never imagined themselves in a regency gown being courted by Messers Darcy, Knightly, Brandon, and Tilney??? (...or perhaps I'm over-sharing here?)

My love of regency fashion came to fruition several years ago when I attended a costume ball in Bath during the Jane Austen festival. Below is the gown that I created using a Sense and Sensibility pattern...

This seemed to allay my Austen fashion tendancies for a few years. However, a few weekends ago I was beguiled by the gorgeous burst of late summer weather and some fabric that I had been saving to make a casual summer dress using the same pattern...
 I made a few concessions for modern day wear, replacing the back button placket with a side zip, and reducing the gathers across the back to a few simple pleats... there we have a new addition to my summer wardrobe (and another unfinished item ticked off the list).

So far, despite my Sunday night viewing of Downton Abbey, I've yet to come up with an idea of adapting an Edwardian dress pattern - Any suggestions...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sunday in Chelsea...

In continuing to enjoy the beautiful, autumnal weather, my friend G suggested that we visit Chelsea Physic Garden on Sunday afternoon. G lives just across the river from this delightful corner of London.

The garden is about 4 acres in size and sits between the Royal Hospital in Chelsea (where the Chelsea Pensioners live) and the Thames. It was originally started in 1673 by the Society of Apothecaries in London, so that their apprentices could learn to grow medicinal plants and study their uses. Sir Hans Sloane became a patron of the garden in the early 1700's, and instigated many of the developments in the garden that can still be observed today.

The Apothecaries gave up management of the garden in 1899 when its care was taken over by the City Parochial Foundation. During this period the garden continued to be used by university and college students for scientific research, but it was not open to the public. In 1983 the care of the garden was assumed by a new independent charity, and the garden became accessible to the public for the first time.

It is now a lovely, tranquil corner of South West London - particularly so on such a lovely afternoon...

 A seasonal reminder

...and something to make my mother and sister happy...

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Saturday of contrasts...

London was blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather this past weekend, and for once, I got outside and made the most of it.

Saturday was a day of complete contrasts. I made an early morning trip into Notting Hill for a wander down Portobello Road. So early in fact that many of the stall holders were still setting up.
I don't think I have ever seen Portobello Road so empty!

There were some lovely things - I was quite taken with some of the silver, and there seemed to be many more stores selling silver than I recall from my last trip. However, I actually came home empty handed as I was busy abiding by my William Morris adage - there were some lovely items but nothing that actually really spoke to me in terms of its beauty. So I was content to wander and look, and listen to the gossip amongst all of the traders.

My favourite view of the morning was the large picture window of the All Saints store on the corner of Portobello Road and Westborne Grove. I noticed it when I was in Notting Hill a few weeks ago, but didn't have my camera with me.
Every window was simply full of old sewing machines. This is just one small section. The entire corner shopfront is probably about 8 window panels of this size - that is a lot of vintage sewing machines.

From the old to the new, I spent Saturday afternoon completing a guided walk with some friends in the old section of East London that is undergoing regeneration as the London Olympic site.
This was our final view of the walk - looking out of the rapidly developing main Olympic site. It was interesting to see, but there still seemed to be a lot of work left to do, particularly with landscaping etc, given that the games are now less than 12 months away.

I was fortunate to be living in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics and still recall what a fabulous vibe the city had during those weeks. I never thought I'd be going to another Olympics, but have somehow managed to have some success in the ticket ballot and I'll be back here next year for an evening at the velodrome (and hopefully the chance to see some swimming at the paralympics - still awaiting the outcome of the ballot for those).
 Designed by Anish Kapoor - it will have a viewing platform and cafe at the top.

Our route saw us wend our way through some of the heart of East London, with its mix of council tower blocks, industrial areas and the regeneration associated with the Olympic site. But, like all areas of London, you occassionally stumble across a little gem that reminds us of an earlier time...
In this case, the old lock-keepers cottage...

Friday, 21 October 2011

Life Laundry

I'm in the midst of undertaking a 'life laundry' - a phrase adopted from Lou, Boos and Shoes (whose lovely blog I have just discovered). The terminology seemed to capture and link together some otherwise seemingly random thoughts I had been having this week.
It started with my discovery and reading of be more with less - a blog written by Courtney Carver focused on minimalism living. Until earlier this year I had been leading a consumer-focused lifestyle, where instant gratification was the norm. However, with the decision to finally get my act together and start saving for a home deposit, I have over the past months found myself welcoming the shift from immediate consumer to someone who is more appreciative of both the things I have, but also the anticipation ofSitt saving for things I need or want. The austerity measures introduced by the British government, have merged into my own lifestyle, albeit in a much softer and palatable way. Through it, I've rediscovered my interest in sewing my own clothes and soft furnishings, and the pleasure I gain through hand making gifts for loved ones.
So, reading Courtney's blog came at an interesting time. Whilst I'm not ready to embrace minimalism in its entirety, there are certainly a number of elements that have resonated. I started to look around my flat with new eyes, and think more consciously about what I have, and how I use it. Given that I live in a reasonably small space, timely uncluttering never goes amiss. I've realised I have many, many things - even more so, when I think about the household possessions and furniture that are kindly being stored by my mother in Sydney.
At the same time, my love of design blogs keeps drawing me to roomscapes that are just so lovely - but this week, I've been trying to look at them through different eyes. Rather than focusing on whether the same element would work in my home (and then seeing if I could track down something similar), I've instead focused on what it is about the room that draws it together as a lovely space that expresses the owner's personality. Doing so has made me look at my own spaces with new eyes - what is it about these spaces and what fills them that expresses my personality, and what is extraneous.
So, what was originally planned as an uncluttering project, has metamorphosed into a life laundry project. I am going to attempt to abide by the advice of William Morris and have nothing in my house that I do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. I plan, over the coming weeks, to look at everything - from clothes, to homewares, books and even furnishings. I imagine some decisions will be simple, others will seem more challenging - I am sentimental by nature and know that I may have a hard time letting go of some things. There are other things (such as furniture) which I originally purchased as an expedient way to furnish the flat, rather than them being things I love. They will be longer term projects as I savour the anticipation of hunting at various antique fairs, second-hand shops and ebay to find replacements that have much more resonance for me (and fit with my budget-conscious wallet).
I do think this could be something I quite quickly run out of steam with (or at least procrastinate about getting around to). So, posting the pictures below is essentially about setting the starting mark for me - once these photos are up on this blog, I actually have to do something about it. This is the current state of the overloaded bookshelves in my tiny dining area.

 The two piles of books on the table are from my initial 5-minute cull
As you can see, no attempt at tidying was undertaken. This is the reality of my flat when sewing projects are underway (the machine and other paraphernalia also clutter my living space!). Books have always been a weakness for me. When I moved to London nearly 6 years ago I decided I would only keep books that I absolutely wanted to read again. The others are routinely donated to charity shops. But, given that I did a quick 5 minute cull the other night and ended up with the two big piles on the dining table, I obviously wasn't as strict as I thought I had been. This space also needs to double as storage for books, office/study supplies as well as photos etc. At the moment it is an unordered mess.
By the end of this project I am hoping it might look a little more like this...
 Guest Bedroom
 Image via windlost
Image via pinterest
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Image via pinterest
In addition to breaking my amazon addiction (I'm sure it is not normal to have 40 books routinely sitting in one's online shopping basket) and returning to my local library, I'll report back on the outcome when completed...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Weekend mornings...

What a lovely, restful, rejuvenating weekend I am having. The last two mornings I have spent like this...
Saturday dawned as such a beautiful morning (and the fabulous weather continued all day). It was so lovely I was inspired to take myself for a walk along the Thames path in this little corner of south-west London where I live - this path is literally only a 5 minute walk from my flat, but one of the places I keep forgetting to appreciate. There were a lot of people out running, cycling, walking dogs, and lots of rowing boats on the river (which you can just catch a glimpse of in the gap in the trees ...I would have taken more photos, but the camera battery went flat). I will have to hope for an equally lovely morning in the coming weekends so I can share more pictures with you.

Saturday afternoon and evening were spent in a lovely old church in South Kensington, tucked in just behind the Royal Albert Hall. I play in the London Doctor's Orchestra and we had our autumn concert last night (Mozart Vespers and Tchaikovsky 5th symphony) - apart from being inside, and not outside enjoying the beautiful sunshine, it was a great way to spend the day - the orchestra is one of those things that helps me keep a positive balance between work and the rest of my life.

Sunday morning was spent like this...

A much softer, misty start to the day today... and a nice time to spend in the kitchen making my first ever batch of granola to take to work for breakfast (I leave the house too early to be bothered with breakfast at home, and have been getting a bit tired of yoghurt which is my standard breakfast fare). So, now I have some lovely toasty granola to take with me to work each day (recipie courtesy of Sophie Dahl's cookbook).

I'm off to have afternoon tea with a friend this afternoon whose flat has a view of the Thames so that will be a nice way to while away the afternoon, followed by church in the evening...and not forgetting my compulsive Sunday night viewing of Downton Abbey...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Unfinished objects...

One of the purposes of this blog was to 'gently' encourage me to get my various sewing/craft projects finished. Over the past week or two I've managed to fall into the trap of having three projects on the go concurrently...a dress for me, a smocked baby dress as a gift for a soon to be arrival, and my first attempt at fair-isle knitting.

Unfortunately, I've managed to get each of them to a stage where I need to give them some time and concentration...rather than just a means of relaxation in the evening when I get home from work. Consequently, I'm not working on any of them, but enjoying catching up on some long overdue blog-reading!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

London living...

Wherever I have lived in the world, I've found that I often become so accustomed to my surroundings that I forget to appreciate all that they have to offer.

London is a case in point. Whilst it is, without doubt, an amazing city, it is also nosiy, dirty and cumbersome to get around. Navigating oneself from one side of the city to other more often than not requires a great deal or patience and fortitude (as an example, London underground has had some epic failures this week, with my commute to work taking over 2 hours rather than the normal 1 hour on two separate occasions).

I do find that these inconvenieneces can mean that I forget to stop and soak in the sights that form part of my world. The above photo is an example - snapped on my phone while I was walking the bridge across the Thames last night from Embankment to Fesitval Hall (I was on my way to a London Philamonic Orchestra concert - yet another thing to feel grateful class entertainment so readily available).

The wind that had been gusting all day had died away, dusk was falling, just a few wisps of clouds in the sky - so I took a moment to admire the vista. From the dome of St Paul's on the left, the Thames, the National Film Theatre, and finally, Festival Hall is times like these that I do remember to remind myself how fortunate I am to be living in such a fabulous city...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


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Image via pinterest

I received an email from my favourite cousin N yesterday, which has me reflecting on the concept of bravery. N and I are only 4 months apart in age, and are consequently very close. While my sister and I are quite close in age, N’s siblings are quite a bit older than her. As we were growing up we frequently spent our school holidays staying with each other’s families. The bond between us has continued into our adulthood, despite the widely diverging life paths we have each followed.

Two years ago, events transpired that changed both of us forever. For me, it was my father’s diagnosis with an aggressive brain tumour. For N, it was her own diagnosis with lymphoma. As events would have it, the end stage of my father’s illness coincided with N’s own period of investigation and diagnosis.

And it is from this standpoint that N’s truly remarkable story comes into its own. Firstly, I cannot even begin to comprehend how one faces, adjusts to and accepts this type of diagnosis when one is the mother of 3 young children – one of whom has a life-defining illness which has already meant an unanticipated journey as a family. I can only imagine that it is one thing to try and come to terms with one’s own mortality – but how much more difficult does that become when it is overlaid with the need to consider what the outcomes might be for your children if your treatment is unsuccessful? Secondly, how can one possibly find a way to continue on with the same optimism and vitality that is so much an inherent part of your personality?

Which brings me back to the concept of bravery – whilst N did not complete any of those treacherous or amazing feats that our society usually classifies as brave, what she did was much more subtle and enduring. She remained true to herself. Be that being wife to J, mum to her three children, loved daughter, distance university student, and available support to me during the end-stage of my father’s illness, the essence of N never waivered. I know that there were dreadfully hard times which she and J faced throughout her treatment process. But I also know the immense effort that she put in continually over many months to show that smiling face to the world.

So, here we are nearly 2 years on, and happily N is in remission. Having continued with her studies throughout her treatment, N has recently added a Graduate Diploma in teaching to her original degree in communications. I had enough trouble fitting study into my life successfully – I can’t even begin to imagine how one balances a study load with rounds of chemotherapy, blocks of prac-teaching and trying to retain a semblance of normal family life. She is also now well on the way to completing a Masters degree in teaching. Taking to her new profession like a duck to water, work offers are now flooding in for her.

N said to me in her email, “After all I have been through I appreciate and get excited about the smallest things. It has been a humbling few years I must say”.

Well, I appreciate and get excited about the times ahead for my cousin and her family. It is her bravery that has been humbling and inspiring for me…

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The village market...

I am very fortunate to live in a very pretty, sleepy corner of London. Despite only being half an hour from the centre of London, I live in what amounts to a small village - both in size, but also in atmosphere.

Building on the notion of a small community, today saw the lauch of the Kew Village Market. Initially it is being held monthly for the coming 3 months, but I'm hoping it will become an ongoing event.
They closed off the centre of the village to traffic and there was a range of stalls selling produce, craft items, jewellry, and of course some sweet delights...

Added to the fact that London is enjoying the most beautiful weekend of weather. Two full days of complete sunshine, cloudless blue skies and warm temperatures meant that wandering around the market this morning was a lovely way to while away some time on a Sunday morning...

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A welcome weekend...

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Image via pinterest

What a week...avery busy week at work combined with managing to schedule something on every evening during the week. As a consequence I felt like I'd get home each night, fall into bed, and then get up and do it all again the next morning.

So, I was very much looking forward to this weekend. Chores and groceries already complete. So, I can now spend the rest of the today and tomorrow enjoying some R&R - reading, a trip to the theatre this afternoon, probably a little bit of sewing, and of course, my weekly tv indulgence of Downton Abbey...
Upstairs or downstairs? The sisters of Downton Abbey - Lady Edith, Lady Mary and Lady Sybil. We look at how the backgrounds of the actresses who play them compare to fiction
Image via

Still loving these costumes...