Category: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Skulls aren’t just for Halloween!

Skulls are an integral part of Halloween decorations. Of course pumpkins are the main feature associated with Halloween, but with the date being celebrated with horror and gore, dead bodies and bones are also part and parcel of many films, parties and dsplays.

We don’t decorate our home for Halloween anymore. We used to, in the early days of living in the flat. We’d have small Halloween parties which would usually end in absolute carnage, and I used to love buying fake cobwebs, spiders, skeletons and the like.

I’d hoped, when we moved to our house, that we’d get Trick or Treaters. But we’re tucked away in a hidden corner of a quiet cul de sac with no passing traffic, so my dream of doling out sweets to cute little kids was not to be!

Because of that, and the fact we no longer have parties (I don’t think our livers could take it!) I don’t bother with decorating the house for Halloween anymore. I don’t even bother with pumpkins – they’re just so messy.

I do sometimes cook something Halloween themed – you can see my recipe for eyeball meatballs here.

But skulls, on the other hand, are part of our every day decor! The husband loves skull imagery; it’s very prevalent on the rock scene, and the biking scene too. He has loads of t-shirts with skulls on, mugs, hoodies and jewellery.

Here’s a couple of examples that are in our house all day every day – not just for Halloween!

This skull print was a gift the husband received for Christmas last year. It sits perfectly on his record player cabinet, and conveniently hides the door to the meter cupboard too!

Outside, another of the husband’s gifts, this time from his birthday. This isn’t really a threat to anyone, as it’s on the inside fence of our back garden. We can see it from the lounge and it always makes me smile!

The latest addition is this glass skull from Homesense. It’s hollow with a sprayed enamel finish and I bought it with the intention of filling it with fairy lights and using it as a lamp. It doesn’t throw out a lot of light due to the enamel coating, but it does look very cool! We haven’t found a permanent home for it yet, but it will definitely be around all year through.

I know we have other stuff that we still haven’t unpacked from the move, including skull ornaments and a Salvador Dali print. It’s fair to say it’s a metaphorical and literal pattern in our home!

Do you have any particular themes in your home? Or keep occasion decorations up year round? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Grief and guilt

I was 13 when my Nan – my Mom’s Mom – died. I spent a lot of time with her growing up, with all my grandparents actually. She looked after me when I was poorly and my Mom was at work, or during summer holidays, or just because. She had an infectious laugh. She used to let me play hairdressers with her grey curly permed hair and made me cheese sandwiches with sweet pickled onions. In summertime she would sit in a deckchair in the garden while I made up songs and dances with an upturned mop. We’d go for afternoon walks where she’d nose in other people’s houses as we passed. She always had a tin of broken biscuits in the cupboard. She was ace.

Inevitably though, when I think of my Nan, I always come back to a similar memory which makes me feel sick with shame even now, 27 years on. My grandad used to homebrew beer and lager. He had a set up at home with all the kit. And one day me and Nan went to the local town and she had to buy him a new brewing container, like a big plastic bin. On the walk home (Nan didn’t drive) I was carrying this big plastic bin, in a black bin liner, and it was bashing against my legs and it meant I couldn’t walk on the wall like I always did when we came back from town. So I was grumbling and whinging and Nan took it off me and struggled herself with the other bags as well.

If my Nan was around now, or probably even at the time, she probably wouldn’t have even remembered that day. She certainly wouldn’t have held any grudge and would tell me not to be silly. I was just a kid after all, probably about 10 or 11 when it happened.

But it weighs heavily on my mind, and I can’t help it.

I have a different type of guilt when I think of my Dad. I’m sure I did lots of shitty thoughtless things to him when I was a kid, but there’s nothing huge that springs to mind. There was the time, after he and Mom had divorced, that I was supposed to go out to lunch with him (it was his birthday or maybe Fathers Day) but I’d been out clubbing all night and fell into such a deep sleep that I missed my alarm and all his calls. I do feel bad about that, but in later years we talked and even laughed about it. That’s one of the “good” things (if you can call it that) about him being terminally ill and knowing that time was limited. We got the chance to say all the things we wanted to say. I apologised for things like the afore mentioned deep sleep incident. I brought up anything that had upset me or played on my mind but I’d squirrelled away, because that’s what people do, and he was able to explain situations and put me at ease. I can’t imagine losing someone suddenly and having unfinished business or unanswered questions.

Me and Dad

The guilt I have around losing my Dad is mainly connected to what I’ve gained as a result of his death. He was a very switched on and organised man who was saving towards his future retirement, which he was supposed to enjoy with his wife. And obviously his diagnosis stole that from him; from both of them. So I was in the position of losing my Dad at what I think to be a young age, certainly prematurely to what I ever feared but also being left some money. Money that I didn’t need, didn’t want and certainly didn’t want to inherit in such fucking tragic circumstances. Money that, his wife told me, he wanted me to have for my future in the absence of him having a future. The only thing he asked of me, before he died, was not waste it. I know he meant spend it on shoes!

There’s a huge amount of responsibility that comes with inheriting money as a result of such a life changing loss. The thought of using it towards enjoyment when it existed purely because my Dad had died was unthinkable to me. But having money sitting there doing nothing isn’t what my Dad would have wanted either. He wanted me to enjoy it and benefit from it. So we’ve used some of it towards our home. We’ve been able to stay in our chosen area and buy a property with the intention of having building work and renovations done to make it into a perfect home for us. We couldn’t have done that otherwise (well we could, but we’d be living on dust and in a building site while we saved up enough money to do the work we needed). My Dad’s gift has given us a home and garden that we love with all our heart (so much so that we don’t go out anywhere near as much as we used to!) It has given us some financial security and an investment in our future, because the work we’ve had done on our house will increase the value as the years progress.

But how can I be so happy with something that has come at such a huge personal cost? The dichotomy between loving it, and hating the situation that made it possible. Knowing that the person in my life who would have been THE MOST EXCITED for us will never see it. He’d have been involved every step of the way; wanting photos, listening to our builder woes, telling us to give people a kick up the ass. He’d have walked in and done his amazed face where his eyes opened really wide and he said “WOW. Just WOW”. He’d have walked backwards and forwards and around and said things like “I tell you what…” and not finish the sentence because he’d spotted something else to look at. He’d have opened and closed and opened our bifold doors and said something like “these are a bit smart”. He’d have listened while I told him about all the different birds that come to our bird table and how my hydrangea is growing back after a cold winter. His eyes would have crinkled up at the sides like they did when he was happy and he’d have hugged me really tight.

And all of that would have happened because of the money he gave us, but can’t happen because the money he gave us is because he died.

It’s a headfuck.

I feel so lucky to have a wonderful home, but so unlucky to have been afforded it in the way it’s happened. All I can be is thankful and grateful to him. To do him proud. To have invested the money wisely in property, and not in my wardrobe! To be happy and settled. To share it with family. To make it a welcoming and lovely place to be. A place he would have approved of. To try not to feel guilty, because what good does that do? Gratitude is much more useful than guilt.

Somehow though, just like the feeling I have when I think about my Nan, it’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake off.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

My new garden

Remember when I blogged about the building work on our house, and I told you that when we bought it it was really weird?

Well it’s fair to say that the garden had it’s own quirks too, with a higgledy piggledy zoned layout that didn’t make the best of the space at all. These were the online listing pictures – we struggled to even understand how they related to the house until we went for a viewing!

 

We had some use out of the garden last year; getting outside to read/drink/barbecue whenever it was warm enough, and we bought some new garden furniture and prettied the space up with some pots, but it was just a temporary measure until we decided what to do long term.

Obviously, when we moved in, our priority was to complete the building work which would change the house from a 2 bed apartment with 3 garages into a 3 bedroom “normal” 2 storey house. With builders having a habit of trampling everything in their wake and covering it with rubble and dust, we knew that the garden would be a casualty once the work started in October.

It’s now 3 months since the building work was finished, and with Spring just around the corner (surely?!) it was time to start focussing on our outdoor space, which is going to be a HUGE part of of our life during the better weather. We’d had the shed built just before Christmas (it needs painting, we’re debating colours at the moment) and I’d spent many an hour with an axe and a shovel digging up long established but neglected fuschia trees and bushes last summer, so we made the decision to open up the space by moving a fence that split the garden area in two, giving us a big open plan area with a seating level, an upper level and the lawn.

Here it is in progress, after the fence came down.

We’d had bifold doors put in the extension that was built over the winter, which opens up the side of the house onto the garden. As much as I say I like gardening, what I really like is the pretty bits – choosing and planting flowers – so we wanted the area outside the patio to be low maintenance. The existing slabs were covered in a thick membrane, and we had 7 tonnes of dove limestone gravel laid down.

Which is the perfect area for our bistro table and outdoor dining table!

Obviously I had to test out the positioning with a glass of wine! How else would I know if everything was as it should be?

Garden phase 1 finished 2

There’s still lots to do – the grass is in a bad way and we need to plan planting of border with shrubs and bulbs. In terms of prettiness I shall be on the hunt for beautiful plant pots and curios and mirrors as I want it to be a really eclectic space full of quirkiness, but it’s such a massive difference already that I can’t wait to do the next phase.

Are you a garden person? Or do you prefer to be indoors?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

How does your garden grow?

Not gonna lie, this is a blatant way of giving a shout out to my new garden!

We got the keys to our new place on Friday night, and although we don’t have to move in immediately as we’re waiting to complete the sale on our flat, we’ve already been enjoying the novelty of having a garden.

When I was growing up I just assumed I’d get married, live in a house with a garden and have kids. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, at all. It’s just that I realised it wasn’t what I wanted out of life, even though I thought it’s the path I would take, because that’s what grown ups did. Instead, when I got together with the husband (who himself had already had houses and gardens and…shock horror…other relationships (!!) and other houses) we evaluated what we wanted and decided that actually we weren’t in the right headspace for the responsibility of a house and a garden (translates to couldn’t be arsed with the idea of mowing grass and the like) so we decided on a flat with beautifully manicured gardens, looked after by the estate gardener, and a balcony space where we could have a bit of colour in pots and some furniture to sit outside and soak up the sun.

Fast forward 11 years and our priorities have changed. We no longer want to be out and about multiple times a week – we love the thought of being at home in our own space, spending Saturday afternoons outside in the sun, welcoming friends for barbecues, and being more homebody-ish (that’s not to say we don’t still love eating and drinking out – one of our criteria for moving was the location which had to be in our beloved Moseley with it’s proliferation of restaurants, pubs and bars).

Anyway, to backtrack, we bagged our house and garden. It’s very very private – hidden behind a cul de sac so you wouldn’t know it was there unless you knew it was there. No passing traffic. A garden with different areas and lots of scope for al fresco dining and relaxing, plant pots, pretties and all the solar lights.

Here are a few pics!

I have bluebells and daisies – how exciting!

Lots of ivy and trees make the whole space incredibly green

Garden greenery

After a strong start on Saturday, we dedicated Sunday to buying sunloungers, relaxing, and looking up!

Are you a garden person? Do you love outside space?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

We bought a house!

Well, to be technically correct we exchanged contracts on a house, which means that we (or the seller!) could still pull out but it would cost thousands of wasted pounds so isn’t really an option for anyone. So it gives us some peace of mind (at last). Hurrah!

The place we’re buying needs some work (pink bathroom suite, anyone?!) and some structural work to change the layout (it currently has too many garages and not enough living space) so it will be a costly and lengthy process to get it to where it needs to be, but it will also be nice to completely put our own stamp on it and make it into a place that meets our needs.

Plus the location and garden are everything we wanted but thought we wouldn’t get when we first started looking, so that’s great news.

I’ve been in a Pinterest frenzy for the past 3 months, with boards for garden ideas, décor and kitchen spaces, which I now need to revisit and start to narrow down into some sort of plan so that when we complete in mid May we can get cracking straight away. One of the first things to do will be get an architect round to draw up our building plans and submit them for planning permission (please be nice, Birmingham council!) as it can take up to 8 weeks to get approval. We’ll be glad of the garden in the meantime, and I have so many ideas for it, so lets hope we have a good summer!

Here are some of my fave home inspo pics that I’ve collected during the arduous home buying journey, and you can see more on my Pinterest if you’re of a curious mind!

Expect lots more housey stuff in the coming weeks and months, I’m sure!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

The last few days…

…have been up and down to say the least. Mainly down. The weekend started on a high, with a surprise birthday celebration for one of the husband’s old friends. It was great to see people we hadn’t seen in ages, and there was Indian food too, yum!

Unfortunately, from there on in, there was little good to report. The drive home was soured by receiving a property survey which was wildly different to what we expected (see Plans for 2017 for reference) which led to us maturely abandoning our weekend DIY plans in favour of sulking and feeling sorry for ourselves. Spirits were lifted briefly on Saturday night, when we celebrated another birthday, and I was delighted to debut my new velvet flares; I’m nothing if not resourceful/vacuous when it comes to being cheered by trivial things (more about them tomorrow).

A lazy Sunday and roast chicken dinner ended with choosing an early night over washing the pots and pans, which turned out to be a HUGE mistake because we woke on Monday morning – the most evil of all mornings at the best of times – to find a sodding leak under our kitchen sink. A considerable leak, that will no doubt drip drip drip all the way through to our downstairs neighbours (we live in a flat) and piss them off for the umpteenth time since we’ve lived there. So I’ve been unable to use my sink, dishwasher or washing machine until last night when a plumber came and gave an ambiguous response as to whether it’s fixed or not. Sigh.

In the meantime a pile of dirty dishes have built up, I’ve handwashed the husband’s work shirts (and wringing wet clothes out by hand is a workout in itself, I can tell you, and certainly more exercise than I’ve done in months!), and tried to placate the manchild into better spirits with takeaway, beer, wine, fake cheeriness and sitting on my hands to stop myself clonking him on the head in frustration.

On the plus side I scored this little light up beauty from Store TwentyOne for the bargain sale price of £7.

store-twentyone-lightup-carnival-star-lamp

It also comes in white. It’ll look nice in our new home, if we ever get to fecking move…

What’s going on in your world? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Something Christmassy

Following Tuesday’s self indulgent misery-fest I thought it was time to bring a bit of festiveness to the blog, as it’s been distinctly absent in recent posts (few and far between as I have posted).

So I thought I’d post some pictures of my Christmas tree and decorations!

(in case you’re interested, my birthday improved considerably when I got home – flowers outside the front door, everything I need to make cocktails including mixing set, martini glasses, recipe book and booze, a future weekend way in a gothic guesthouse in Whitby and a delicious meal with my husband. Lucky wife).

Tree by day and by night

Close ups of my decorations – all purple, white and silver, with glitter, mirror balls, pine cones, jungle bells, beads and snowflakes

These glass angels are my absolute favourite – so delicate.

glass-angel

I’ve got a snowy white wreath on the inside of my front door (this is entwined with tiny fairy lights which I couldn’t capture on a photograph)

I’ve Christmassed up my tall twigs (an Ikea staple!) They’re usually in the lounge but we have to move them into the hall to accommodate the tree)

festive-twigs

How cute is this sparkly wooden sign? I picked it up in Poundland last week for – you guessed it – £1!

winter-welcome

And, to further Christmas the crap out of this post, here’s a fabulous new (to me) festive ditty from Kelly Clarkson that is sure to have you tapping your foot and ready to crack open the Baileys. It’s a new entry into my top 5! (I’m not actually sure what my top 5 is, but this would definitely be in it).

Are you all ready for Christmas? I’d love to see your trees and decorations- send me your links!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Barbecue on the balcony

As soon as the sun comes out, Brits love to barbecue. It’s a like a rite of summer passage. If you have one planned and the weather forecast changes, tough. You grit your teeth and do it anyway.

Living in an apartment I don’t have a garden, which suits me most of the time. I have a perfect little space in the sky for a garden furniture set for two and plenty of flowers, with views of lovely gardens that I don’t have to do anything with (we have a gardener darling 😉 )

Of course we have to pay a monthly service charge for said gardener and are at the mercy of the dictatorship management company, who come up with all sorts of silly rules like you can’t leave your car parked in the same place for more than 48 hours and…more importantly…you can’t have a barbecue.

Now part of me understands the logic in this, because our balcony railings are made of wood and, if one flat goes up in flames, it’s likely to spread quickly. I also believe that, as a responsible adult (ahem) with a mortage and an insurance policy and a lack of desire to burn myself and all my possessions, I should be allowed to make decisions about my own property and what’s best for it. Unfortunately the gestapo management company obviously has spies everywhere, because last time we flouted the rules and cooked like cavemen, with fire, we received a letter in the post within two days reminding us that we have no power to live autonomously and they will send hungry wolves round to tear us limb from limb if we do it again (exaggeration may have been used here).

Undeterred, the husband has a plan B. An electric barbecue.

Now, the purists and pedants amongst you will spot this for what it is – a grill! But, in the face of adversity, it’s better than giving in to the despots management company and cooking all our meals indoors. Husband is already chomping at the bit for someone to report us so he can gleefully wave the plug at them and smugly return to sizzling his sausages. I think he secretly hopes that we get “busted” so he can go all gangsta and shout IN YOUR FACE. And I would secretly like it too because, although I really love where I live, it can get tiresome worrying if you’ll come back from holiday to a big fat telling off sticker on your car window because you didn’t put it in the garage (yes, that’s another thing, you tell the autocracy management company that your car will be parked for longer than 48 hours and they ask you why it isn’t in your garage? Bloody cheek!)

Now, said electric barbecue was ordered when we had that blink and you’ll miss it couple of days of sunshine earlier this month. By the time it arrived it was raining, and seemingly has done ever since. If it’s been raining where you are then just blame my husband and his silly Amazon ordering finger. Nothing like making summer plans to put a halt to summer, eh? We’d be better off sticking a pole in the lid and using it as an umbrella for all the use we’ve had from it so far. But we clung onto the fact that things can only get better, right? It can’t rain forever! And filing that, we’d just bring it inside and use it on the dining table. An indoor barbecue! You can’t do that with real flames….

Unbelievably, despite the fact I needed an ark rather than a car to get to work this morning, this afternoon tuned into a beautiful summer day which continued into evening, and were able to christen our new purchase. Hurrah!

Here it is all set up, and in cooking action!

You can find the Andrew James electric barbecue on Amazon.

Are you a barbecue fan?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Bedroom inspiration

Whenever I get back from staying in a hotel, I’m always really dissatisfied with my own bedroom. I know hotel rooms aren’t reality but it doesn’t stop me wanting a bedroom makeover!

Probably the easiest and cheapest way to revamp your bedroom is with new bed linen. So when Yorkshire Linens contacted me about their bedding, it was like the stars aligned (or they’d been inside my head!) I’ve been having a look around for some inspiration to jazz up my own bedroom, and picked out some favourites. I’d actually never heard of them prior to their email, but  Yorkshire Linens duvet covers are great, with something for all tastes, and the prices are really good.

This one is really cute, with lots of different colours you could pick out as accents in the room

Yorkshire Linen Love duvet cover

I like the idea of an Eastern style bedroom with lanterns and throws

Yorkshire Linen elephant duvet cover

Same with this one, I think it would work well in a Moroccan theme

Yorkshire Linen ethnic duvet cover

This is really cheery for spring and summer in an all white room

Yorkshire Linen bright stripe duvet cover

And this is very opulent (although a little bit impractical for me I think!)

Yorkshire Linen grey matt satin duvet cover

Now on to Asda’s George at Home range, which I’ve bought from before and always been happy with.

Traditional tattoo print – say no more!

George duvet cover tattoo

And this is just stunning, I love the colours and print

George geisha duvet cover

Finally to Matalan, again a first stop of mine for homewares.

Leopard print, because, leopard print!

Matalan leopard print duvet

More leopard print, because, leopard print!

Matalan bright leopard print duvet

I like the colours in this and the way it’s styled with grey accents.

Matalan grey and yellow blossom

My bedroom actually needs a complete overhaul; walls stripped, floors stripped, THE LOT, so I can’t invest at the mo, but it’s good to know what’s out there so I can start planning an overall look.

And, of course, when I finally get round to it, there’ll be more interior inspo images and photos of the end result!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

My current favourite things

Nivea fruity shine lipbalms. These are just gorge on my lips. I reviewed them here.

Nive Fruity Shine

Selling on ebay. It’s such a pain but worth it when you make a few pennies (because that means guilt free future shopping by reinvesting the profit!)

Ebay logo

Rodizio Rico. A Brazilian churrascaria in the Mailbox in Birmingham. Basically a full on meat fest. Men with meat on skewers carve it on to your plate at your table. I took my Dad for Father’s Day. He went caveman!

Rodizio Rico

Platform sandals. Way easier to wear than you expect, because the height of the sole offsets the height of the heel. These are my most recent ones, part of a mini haul from from Matalan.

Matalan brown platform sandals

Turquoise and silver jewellery. Perfect combination, and surprisingly versatile. Looks great with a tan (which I unfortunately don’t have at the moment; thanks for nothing summer 2015). Lots featured on my Pinterest bejewelled page. This one is a recent purchase from ebay (I’m buying as well as selling!)

Silver and turquoise necklace

My Naked Flame balcony burner. A Christmas present from the husband. Fill it with burning gel and set it alight – it’s mesmerising to sit outside in the dark and watch it flicker away.

Naked Flame gel burner

What are you loving right now?