Monday, 27 August 2012

Bank holiday weekend pursuits...

Image via Gail's

The lovely long bank holiday weekend is drawing to a close. This year I stayed in London and...

Enjoyed Friday night cocktails with colleagues at the Champagne Bar at One New Change

Home in time to catch the first episode of Parade's End on the BBC - loved it!

A trip to the local library on Saturday morning

Joined friends for a fabulous vegan lunch on Saturday

Temporarily braved the Saturday afternoon storms on Kew Green in an attempt to visit the Kew Horticultural Show - unfortunately we only made it around 1/3 of the stalls before admitting defeat and retiring to the closest pub (completely sodden)

Made the most of Sunday's sunshine - a river walk in the morning, and time spent in South Kensington in the afternoon

Started knitting a little cardigan for C's sister, whose baby is due in October

Pottered around the flat this morning catching up on chores

Headed to Hampstead this afternoon, with a lovely stop off at Gail's bakery for a coffee, tiny raspberry financier and people watching in Hampstead High St, followed by a potter around the book shop.

All in all, a lovely relaxing London prepares itself for the start of the Paralympics on Wednesday. Next weekend I'll be back in the thick of the sporting action with tickets for swimming and athletics - now just hoping that the weather remains as fabulous as it was for the Olympics...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Knitting for little ones...

A good friend of my from school had a baby last month in Australia. For some reason, I had been certain that R was having a baby girl. So, I was very organised and knitted a little newborn cardigan for the the baby in preparation for 'her' arrival (it is winter in Australia, so a long-sleeved cardigan would've been appropriate). However, 'she' proved to be a 'he', so I needed to re-think my gift to welcome his arrival...

This week I finally made my way to Peter Jones to pick up some little mother of pearl buttons in order to finish this project. The pattern is called Kina (long-sleeve version) and comes from a French knitting site called Kids-Tricots (they have some lovely patterns). I used Debbie Bliss baby cashmarino wool in a lovely pink-lilac colour.

So now it is ready and waiting for the next friend who actually has a baby girl!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Finally...the mini-drawer makeover is complete...

Finished...finally! The makeover of the Ikea moppe mini-drawers that I started at least a month ago are finally complete. 

The inspiration and instructions for these are direct from Kristina's lovely blog, The Painted Hive. Her instructions are beautifully clear and easy to follow - so I'd certainly recommend her tutorial to you.

A few observations of my own (or my explanation of why this project became an exercise in perseverance)...

  • Wood staining in the UK is very different from what I'd observed previously in Australia - when I used to watch/help my father with his projects, wood stain was applied with a brush. When exploring the wood aisle of my local hardware store I discovered that brush-applied wood stain only seemed to apply to exterior wood stain. For interior wood products, apparently wood-dye is the product of choice. I've no idea of the actual product difference in terms of composition - but the main difference for me was the fact that you apply the dye by wiping it on with a cloth. It still gave a lovely deep coverage, but I hate to think what is in the formula as it keep causing my surgical gloves to disintegrate.
  • Thanks to Kristina's advice I tried danish oil for the first time - and I'm a convert.
  • Obtaining traditional library-style card-catalogue drawer pulls proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of this project. After much internet searching I finally found one UK supplier - only to find when they arrived that they were too large for my tiny drawers. So it was back to ebay, and a purchase from the US (with the corresponding postage time delay...and the usual exorbitant royal mail customs charge to bring them into the country)...
  • Finally, I eventually succumbed and invested in a drill in order to attach the drawer-pulls. I tried every low-cost option I could think of (bar gluing them on), including a lot of brute force. But, 5mm of plywood was surprisingly difficult to defeat, and the only way to succeed was to make yet another trip to the hardware store to purchase the drill. I'm now having to think of other projects where it may be useful so I see a reasonable return on my investment!

So all of my cords, chargers and odds and ends that used to sit in a disorganised mess in the drawer of my hall table, now have their very own place (and it makes me happy that I've cleared another drawer of clutter)...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sunday baking and other thoughts....

Kylie (who blogs over at Stylish Settings) posted the recipe for this gorgeous banana and walnut loaf a few weeks ago, and I immediately book-marked the page. This afternoon, I finally had both the time and motivation to spend some time baking, and so I turned to this recipe. And it was as good as Kylie promised...see the recipe here on Kylie's blog. I can highly recommend it. I now just need to freeze the rest of the loaf into individual slices so I'm not tempted to eat half of it for supper tonight...

The Olympics is drawing to a close this evening - it has been a fabulous two weeks here in London, though I think I ended up over-dosing on sport over the period of the games. Starting by spending such a lovely day on Friday in Hampstead, I've continued on with catching up on non-sport related activities that have been sitting half-finished on my to-do list.

I've spent a considerable amount of time over the past few weeks attempting to finish the mini-drawer make-over that was inspired by Kristina at The Painted Hive. Completing this project is proving to be a test of perseverance...I'm so close to finishing, but am having trouble attaching the drawer pulls. I made a couple of trips to the hardware store this weekend in an effort to find a low-cost way of attaching the pulls, but I've come to the realisation that I am, after all, going to have to invest in a drill...

I've also finally spent some time sewing-up a little baby cardigan that I actually finished knitting last month. A good friend in Australia had her first baby at the end of July, and for some reason I was certain she was having a girl...and of course, I was proven wrong. So, the little pink-ish cardigan has languished incomplete and un-needed. But, while the loaf was baking this afternoon I finally finished sewing the seams and blocked it. Now I just need to get some buttons and it too will be complete.

So, a lovely, partly-productive and relaxing weekend...back to the non-Olympic and work-reality least for two weeks until the Paralympics begin!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Hampstead Heath...

Is there anywhere more lovely than England on a perfect summer's day?

I changed my working hours this week to accommodate the olympic-affected work commute, and as a consequence was able to spend Friday enjoying this short burst of beautiful weather gracing London.

Given the forecast for such a lovely day (blue skies, 25 degrees), I packed a rug and a picnic and decided to visit a small corner of London which I rarely ever visit - and each time I do get there, I always wonder why it takes me so long between visits. 

Hampstead (in North-West London) is only 30mins by a direct overground train from where I live. When I arrived this morning, I turned first towards the high street, making my way there via a meandering route through the lovely neighbourhood, enjoying the homes and lovely gardens. 

I pottered up and down the high street. Stopped for a coffee and a delightful mini raspberry friand at Gail's Bakery. Had a delightful browse in the bookshop, noting titles for my next trip to the library. And picked up a small gift in Oliver Bonas for my friend C's birthday next week.

Then I turned my steps towards Hampstead Heath...

Woodland glades, quiet ponds, wild flowers, the smell of freshly mown grass, dogs and children playing - it was as prettily bucolic as any English scene one could wish for. I spread my rug in the shade of a tree near Highgate Ponds, and whiled away a couple of hours re-reading a much-loved book.

One could get very used to days like this spent doing very little....

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The bookshelves before and after...

This project seems to have taken an awfully long time to complete - which is mainly as a result of my own procrastination.

When I first moved into this flat I bought a couple of inexpensive Billy bookcases from Ikea to hold my books. I love books, and though I try to cull them every now and then, I always seem to have more than befits the space available. Anyway, after two years, the weight of 20-odd heavy lever arch folders full of PhD references took their toll and the bookcases finally had to be retired due to bowing and warping.

I managed to find a lovely large pine bookcase on preloved for about £100 (which I thought a good deal given that they start at about £300 for a new one).

I do like antique pine, but am not so enamoured with modern varnished pine. So my intention had always been to paint the shelves. I completed my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint painting workshop back in April, but it has taken me until the very end of July to actually get started.

It was the start of the London Olympics that finally prompted me to get painting. I love the Olympics, and so the weekend that it opened I had planned to be at home as much as possible watching all of the action on the television. So, rather than sit unproductively on the sofa whilst watching amazing athletes compete, I had it on as background entertainment whilst I painted and waxed the shelves.

Prior to starting I had been a little anxious of the thought of undertaking another indoor furniture painting activity (mainly due to the thought of spilling a tin of paint on the carpet in my rented flat). Once I started however, I was more distracted by the intricacies of trying to manoeuvre myself around the shelves whilst painting, usually getting myself wedged between the wall and dining table...I was exhausted by the time I was finished...

As you can see I still have far too many books - I'm not sure how I am justifying an entire shelf of cookbooks, when I so rarely cook new recipes - but I can't bring myself to part with any.

The bookshelves are painted ASCP Old White, with Paris Grey on the backboards for a little bit of contrast. I'm quite pleased with the results, and even more delighted that I can now tick this of my to-do list!

Linking with Transformation Tuesday at The Ironstone Nest

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Olympic fun...

Well, the first week of the Olympics has come and gone...and London has been a delightful place to be. The weather has been a little bit changeable, but still much better than it was during June and July. Transport has been fine - in fact my morning commute to work is a lot quieter than usual, and in the evening coming home it seems to be mainly Olympic visitors on the train - which makes me think that many, many locals decided to decamp from London for the duration (or are at least working from home). London itself has that lovely energised feeling that I remember from the Sydney games.

This week I attended two Olympic events. My friend K and I were both lucky to have received tickets in the ballot, and so this week we experienced two very different type of events.

First up on Sunday evening was one of the qualifying rounds of the women's team gymnastics, out at North Greenwich (otherwise known as the O2).

In our session we watched the teams from Romania and Japan. I'm not altogether sure of the choice of the hot pink floor and wall surfacing, but it was a brilliant display of grace and agility...
The uneven bars are my favourite apparatus so we were delighted to have our seats down at this end of the arena.

Yesterday afternoon, we ventured into the Olympic Park proper as we had seats at the Velodrome for the track cycling.

The park was so full of people as it was also the first day of the athletics competition.

After about 20 mins of walking we eventually reached the Velodrome (above), for a fantastic afternoon. The two world leaders in cycling are Team GB and Australia - which could have caused me a little tension in terms of choosing which team to support. But, when it came down to the races I found that it wasn't a difficult decision at all - I just felt extremely fortunate to be a citizen of both nations, and would've been delighted to have either team win the afternoon's events, and proudly cheered for both.
 Australia's team in the men's team pursuit final

 And Team GB

 Gold - and a world record - for Team GB

...proudly singing my new national anthem with about 5000 other proud Team GB supporters.

It was a fabulous way to spend the afternoon and experience again all of the excitement of an Olympic games.

...and some of the beautiful wildflowers in the Olympic parklands.

18-hour days of televised coverage has also helped me accomplish some of my to-do tasks around the home. Last weekend I finally managed to get my bookcase painted - after which I'd actually felt like I'd been competing in a sporting event myself after contorting myself into some odd positions as a result of trying to paint a large piece of furniture inside a small to come in the next post...