A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

World Book Day Books for Grown Ups

Now I’ve waved my kids off to school in World Book Day costumes we scrabbled together last night, I thought I would take 5 mins to reflect on some books for grown ups I’ve enjoyed lately. I’ve been trying to make a bigger effort to switch off from screens and read at bedtime, and to let my kids see me reading too.

Here are some books for grown ups I have enjoyed, and some my friends and blog readers have suggested over on facebook too. Sometimes it is just a case of finding the right book to get you out of a rut.

We are all completely beside ourselves

cover

Can’t tell you too much about this book as part way in a big secret is revealed that makes sense of Rosemary’s troubled life. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. Fascinating subject matter, which again I won’t spoil, you just have to read it!

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson

life-after-life

My favourite author by miles, my Mum introduced me to her and I’ve always loved the way she sees the world and the wonderfully satisfying ways in which she plays with time and interweaves characters lives. Life After Life takes on World War Two, Atkinson reaches dizzying heights of interwoven layers of story. An absolutely incredible book that made me reconsider war from so many, very human angles.

 

The Deaths Mark Lawson

61kkzeCjDuL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

 

A present from my brother and his wife. Skillful social commentary, but also makes you think twice about those who seem to ‘have it all’ Great premise too, four families live in an idyllic Cotswolds village, one family is found dead at the start, it takes another 300 pages to work out which family and why. A very, very clever thriller.

 

The Rosie Project

71akyIAUObL._SL1500_

Liz from The Mum Blog suggested this. I devoured it. A genetics professor with unconventional social skills sets out to find a wife using scientific methods with hilarious consequences. The tone is pitch perfect, witty and touching in nearly equal measure.

 

The Woman Who Stole My Life  - Marian Keyes

9780718155339

While not usually a fan of chick lit I make a complete exception for Marian Keyes. She knows how to create the most believeable family set ups and funniest characters , whose self depreciation makes them totally likeable. While this wasn’t my favourite of her books, it was just what I needed to get me out of non reading rut and back into reading. Marian spoke very openly about her depression and having followed her as an author since my 20s, I will always have a soft spot for her.

Also on my pile, as recommended by friends and blog readers

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, As recommended by Donna, Ordinary Cycling Girl

H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald by Emma my yoga teacher, who also went to Uni with Helen.

My Struggle. Karl Ove Knausgaard by my friend Martha who says they are the books of this decade for her.

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, as suggested by my friend Nikki.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker, as suggested by Lucy of Wonderthrift

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, as suggested by Vicky of The Owl and the Accordian

Wild: The Journey from Lost to Found (about the woman who walks the Pacific Crest Trail) by Nancy from Glorious Twelve wedding florists, ironic given at the time we were attempting to walk more than a km of Wollaton Park with our reluctant families.

I’m told the The Goldfinch very gripping by Helen who I used to teach Drama with, while others are struggling with it being a long book.

What have you read recently that you’ve enjoyed? What have you given up on? I have been trying the new Bridget Jones, but it is quite a different book to the first two, or maybe I am not ready to accept, like Bridget I have grown up?

Happy World Book Day!

My Home Rocks – A Treasure Trove

Finally this is where every day ends - our bed. It's my favourite item in the whole house. We had it commissioned to be hand carved in France in the traditional 18th century roccoco style.

Who would sleep in a bed like this? Today’s My Home Rocks is by our first Dad Blogger, he mentioned on Twitter he loved the real homes features on the blog and I asked him would he like to take part. I had no idea what a treat we were in for, what a stunning home and a wonderful reflection on building a family home.


 A Treasure Trove

We were cooped up in a small 2 bedroom mid terrace and were rapidly outgrowing it. My wife moved over from the States to be with me and the coming together of 2 people that both loved to collect things, travel and all things fashion meant a very crowded household. We lived amongst clutter, and that was ok.

Clutter of the right kind can be a good thing. It can show off all the different aspects of your personality, prompt memory after memory and start story after story. But as much as we liked our crowded little house, we had a newborn baby and were already pregnant with another; We had to move. At the start of last year we bought a spacious 5 bedroom property spread across 3 floors and instantly attempted to fill every one of the generously sized rooms.

The typewriter is cast iron and seriously heavy. Old typewriters aren't hard to come across, but I like the fact that this one was made in America but has a French key set as opposed to the typical QWERTY lay out. We bought new ribbon for it and it still works just fine; I can't wait to send notes with our children to school quickly punched out on this piece of history.

The house we bought was a new build and fresh, but we decided to fill it with old things. We spent week after week browsing antique shops and vintage fairs. We turned our new home into a treasure trove of windows to the past. This little corner of our living room might just be my favourite corner in the whole house.

The typewriter is cast iron and seriously heavy. Old typewriters aren’t hard to come across, but I like the fact that this one was made in America but has a French key set as opposed to the typical QWERTY lay out. We bought new ribbon for it and it still works just fine; I can’t wait to send notes with our children to school quickly punched out on this piece of history.

The candlestick phone next to it finishes the scene and together they set my mind racing, creating scenes of an old New York newspaper office. The telephone was made in the 1920′s and has been rewired to work with todays modern telephone lines, without losing it’s original ring. It cost more than my new iPhone 6 plus, but is a real conversation starter (pun intended).

The 1930's wind up gramophone makes a nice treat from time to time in this modern world that demands everything in HD. The crackling and old fashioned jazz music we play on this is our favourite dancing music with our toddler.

The 1930′s wind up gramophone makes a nice treat from time to time in this modern world that demands everything in HD. The crackling and old fashioned jazz music we play on this is our favourite dancing music with our toddler. He loves the music that comes from the magic wooden box and gets excited whenever he sees it being wound up and ready to play. My only frustration is the fact that the 78rpm records it plays only manage one song at a time. I guess I still need modern technology more than I pretend to.

These vinyl decal stickers took hours to piece together in our baby girls room, and this is just one of the 4 decorated walls. We love wall stickers and have them in both of our children's' rooms. Our kids grow quicker than we would perhaps like, and we were aware that their bedrooms would change time and time again. Wall stickers make it easy to be creative and peel away to leave a blank canvas for the next transition

These vinyl decal stickers took hours to piece together in our baby girls room, and this is just one of the 4 decorated walls. We love wall stickers and have them in both of our children’s’ rooms. Our kids grow quicker than we would perhaps like, and we were aware that their bedrooms would change time and time again. Wall stickers make it easy to be creative and peel away to leave a blank canvas for the next transition. I wanted to share this photo because it’s the most familiar view I have of our house. We haven’t long lived here, but a large proportion of our time is sat feeding our little girl facing this wall.

Finally this is where every day ends - our bed. It's my favourite item in the whole house. We had it commissioned to be hand carved in France in the traditional 18th century roccoco style.

Finally this is where every day ends – our bed. It’s my favourite item in the whole house. We had it commissioned to be hand carved in France in the traditional 18th century roccoco style. The bed has that wow factor for us even today and seeing it is a great way to end the day. The lamps on the bedside tables are a pair of antique lamps that held candles years ago and are carved from wood. They’ve been converted for us and wired so we don’t have to worry about the place burning down and still have to use candlelight. We might like old things, but it’s 2015 after all!


I am sure you are itching to learn more about the person who lives here. I absolutely love the idea of typing notes to my kids on an old fashioned typewriter, takes me back to playing at my Gran’s house – every home should have one.

The owner of this gorgeous home, is Ryan Costello, he lives in Daventry, with his wife and two children. His blog Dad Creek is an engaging mix of reflections on family life, fitness, travel, adventure, and letters and poems. He describes it as ‘merely an experiment to cleanse the soul as the scariest journey I’ll ever face in life opens its doors in front of me’  - being a Dad.

Do follow and chat to Ryan on Facebook and Twitter.

If you don’t have room for a real typewriter, well, I love this Typewriter canvas wall art by Barry Goodman at WayfairUK

Art-Group-Typewriter-Canvas-Art-by-Barry-Goodman

What inspired YOU about today’s home? Please share in the comments or join the conversations #myhomerocks @pennyalexander_ @costyy2k

To be featured on #myhomerocks, please contact me using the email/social icons at the top of the left sidebar.

My Home Rocks at A Residence

 

Mr A’s Baked Camembert recipe

Baked Camembert Recipe - proven to cheer you up and perfect for easy entertaining

It’s smiling at you right?

This weekend I was feeling glum, we’d just come back from an amazing week in a thatched barn we rented for Dad’s 70th in Kent. I loved that space, I think I was born to live in a barn. Coming home to our house, which is in a state of chaos due to the decorating we have going on, was depressing. The hallway at least was welcoming, but inevitably sorting one area displaces lots of stuff to other rooms.

So Mr A made baked camembert to cheer me up in the camembert baker I gave him for Christmas (something o buy the man who has everything). This is a dish we love to share when we eat out, and we love to cook this, or fondu for for friends – it is so easy and guaranteed to impress. There is nothing better than digging into hot melty cheese when the world seems overwhelming and sharing it with friends or loved ones adds to that feeling.

The-DRH-Collection-Bia-Camembert-Baker-with-Lid

After that we started to slowly tidy, and before we knew it I was in the cupboard under the stairs clearing out three bin bags of junk, recycling and charity shop goods. Project reclaim the kitchen is happening. Thanks to all those who chipped in paint ideas on the blog’s facebook page (no pun intended). I look forward to sharing the results of February’s labours in early March.

Here’s the Baked Camembert recipe Mr A uses:

Serves two greedy adults.

Ingredients – one 250g camembert, 1-2 cloves of garlic (most recipes say one, we like two), sprigs of thyme or rosemary tips

1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6

2. Take off the plastic film and place the camembert back in to its box or into a camembert baker.

3. Make slits in the top using a sharp knife.

4. Slice up cloves of garlic and place them in the holes, do the same with sprigs of thyme or rosemary tips.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Some recipes said ten minutes, but Mr A said it took 20 – probably best to check after 10 and pop back in if it needs it.

Serve with crusty baguette or even garlic bread and masses of salad to alleviate guilt. For a dinner party just make more, or buy a giant camembert.

Fair Trade

Tanzania Batik Comic Relief - 40

This photo always takes me right back to a leafy garden in Tanzania, the smell of a fire burning, birds cheeping, the blazing sun and watching batik being made from the shed at a bottom of this inspiring woman’s garden. I came back from visiting Tanzania, with Comic Relief for International Women’s Day, loaded up with handmade batik and soap.

I had watched Elifura painstakingly make the Batik in her back garden, seen it dry in the sun. Claudia welcomed us into the shed in her garden where she makes soap and we were lucky enough to help. When we returned to the UK, everyone was keen to donate to Sport Relief in exchange for a tiny piece of either soap or batik, what we called lasting change.

Claudia makes soap in a Comic Relief funded project in Tanzania

While we were there we talked a lot about how we might help women sell their crafts over here. It is still an idea that is mulling in my head as I think some of the crafts I saw in Africa were stunning. Buying for ourselves can be such a guilty experience sometimes, and it would be wonderful to think that our gifts to ourselves or others gave twice. My travels to Africa have been full of the most amazing crafts and it would be amazing to get them to a wider audience.

Many years ago a I used to babysit for a couple who ran a shop and imported all sorts of amazing things from round the world. That experience of seeing beautiful things arrive behind the scenes has always stayed with me. Since I came back from this year’s trip to Kenya I haven’t quite settled, there seems like so much more I could be doing. Working alongside Comic Relief made me want to do more work with charities.

So I was really inspired to read about Ian Snow’s story, they must be my favourite supplier at Wayfair, I often search for something and find my eye drawn to an Ian Snow piece.

Ian Snow started his business in 1978 selling from a trestle table on Machynlleth market. It’s now grown into three shops and a small wholesale business, with the main shop situated in Machynlleth.  

Ian’s love of India stems from living in India for two years in the early seventies, regular visits  ensure a riot of colourful products with a cool, contemporary twist while ensuring quality and working conditions by following fair trade principles.

After forty years many suppliers have become family friends.

Just goes to show that a seed of an idea can really grow. Gives me lots of food for thought.

Do check out the other products I highlighted for Go Green week – everything from blankets to boats recycled into stunning homewares, and the suppliers use fair trade principles too.

 

Giveaway

To celebrate fair trade fortnight, WayfairUK have donated one of Ian Snow’s fabulous cushions, just follow the rafflecopter instructions to be in with a chance of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Asian Mix – from runway to hallway

Asian Mix Trend by Christiane Lemieux

Christiane Lemieux, Executive Creative Director of Wayfair has been describing how the Asian Mix trend – of mixed scales of traditional asian textiles and patterns on the catwalk – transfers into home fashion at Dwell Studio and High Point, Wayfair’s sister brands. You can see a page of her notebook here – I love the use of cranes on the cushions at Dwell Studio and the mix of bright colours and asian accents on the furniture at High Point. 

Oriental Influences in the Home

WayfairUK have some stunning Oriental pieces.  I love the blue and gold of this patterned chest and the mix of white console table amongst the more traditional black lacquer trunk which just seems like a magical thing to have hiding your clutter in the corner of a room. The wave blanket box immediately makes me want to stroke it. The apothecary black lacquer chest reminds me of the one I used in my travel themed hallway makeover, once we start exploring the East – perhaps I should update to this – it would bring some shine and a whole new character to a room.

More on the suppliers

 The Nine Schools has been producing interesting and traditionally designed Chinese and Oriental influenced furniture since 1995. As well as ranges of cabinets, sideboards and tables, they also produce beautiful accessories for the home and office, all with the same respect, sensitivity and attention to detail. The Nine Schools works sustainably and ethically with craftsmen, workshops, collectors and dealers in Northern China, with whom they have a close working relationship.

Ethnic Elements collection is spicy mix of furniture from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Ethnic Elements provide bold colours and designs that add zing to create a unique home.

#MyHomeRocks Warmth Play Love

THR secret garden

Through The Keyhole was a real hit, I think we all love looking though a real home for inspiration, and sometimes reassurance. I wanted to give it a twist this year. Although the anonymous element was fun, it was also frustrating for the homeowners who all wanted to join in the conversations about their home on social media. So #MyHomeRocks is a now the place to celebrate and be inspired by real homes, lots of snooping guaranteed.

So I’m really excited to introduce the first #myhomerocks, enjoy having a look round this home, it’s full of warmth and love, and a few secrets, let me hand you over…


Warmth Play Love

My home is full of warmth, and play, and love, and creativity. I have a secret longing for stylish minimalism but ’tis not to be…. as life just seems to burst out and make a riot of colour and piles of stuff in our home!

My lounge is colourful and cosy, full of our beloved books, and a place to have fun play and hang out together. I sometimes think I long for taupe and serenity but red sofas always sneak back in. Have had many over the years, I like a splash of colour!

cosy red lounge

The kids’ playroom is stuffed with games and crafty bits and bobs and is a room full of fun just waiting to be had, it rarely stays tidy for more than 30 seconds, but that’s okay, I like my kids to play! I fight a constant battle with storage and I never win!

TRH playroom

I love my bedroom it is cool, calm and restful which is exactly what I need it to be. I have two colourful lively kids and a rather chaotic creative life and I need utter peace to sleep and rest my mind.

THR bed

My favourite part of house is this tiny secret garden that cannot be seen until you make your way to the end of the garden and peek round a little corner. My husband made it last summer as little oasis amidst the chaos. A perfect place to write and to relax away from everyone.

THR secret garden

Think I live a nice ordered life? Not at all, check out my desk!! It’s a wonder I get to the computer to do any blogging at all and I have a lot to do (6 blogs at the last count!)

Messy desk


Picked up any clues as to this blogger’s identity? She left a little clue in that last photograph! Do go follow her on Instagram!

Becky Goddard-Hill is an expert on all things thrifty and home. She runs four very successful blogs including Thrifty Home and A Beautiful Space.  She is the author of How to Afford Time Off with Your Baby and lives in Nottingham with her husband and two children. You can also see her desk when she’s tidied it, in my real home office inspiration post.

I have been lucky enough to visit this home and it truly is a place of warmth, love and creativity, the first thing I noticed was the big red sofa and the beautiful notebooks scattered around. The secret garden is as magical as it looks.

Here are a few items inspired by Becky’s home over at WayfairUK:

Warmth Play Love #MyHomeRocks

Eames Rocking ChairBistro Dining SetBird CushionRed SofaRed Storage CubeCowboy Print Storage cube. Objects not shown to scale, please check measurements if ordering.

What inspired YOU about today’s home? Please share in the comments or join the conversations #myhomerocks @pennyalexander_ @babybudgeting

To be featured on #myhomerocks, please contact me using the email/social icons at the top of the left sidebar.

My Home Rocks at A Residence

How to choose a perfect site for your nest box #NationalNestBoxWeek

Making a nest box and finding the perfect spot in the garden

Traditionally, nest boxes for small birds are put up in the spring - although a box put up at the end of the winter stands a good chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box and half term break is the perfect time to do this with children. 

Last summer we made bird boxes at an RSPB event and have been meaning to put them up ready for the birds. Currently my son’s is full of Lego, which he loves, but I have convinced him birds need habitats more than Lego figures.

Making a nest box and finding the perfect spot in the garden

I popped over to the BTO British Trust for Ornithology who run National Nest Box Week every February, with help from bird food and nest box experts Jacobi Jayne, to pick up these tips on finding the perfect site for your next box. Do check out the site for more tips and hints. Valentine’s Day is when it all kicks off for birds too, so that’s the day National Nest Box Week starts.

Choosing the perfect nest box

To attract nesting birds, your box should be wooden, not ceramic or combined with a feeder, with walls at least 19mm thick and at least 130cm squared floorspace. A 32mm entrance hole is perfect for all small nesting birds, to attract blue tits only, go for 25mm.

Not all bird boxes are suitable for birds and not all ornamental nest boxes are purely for decoration! The specification of this beach hut nest box makes clear it can be easily cleaned out and that the holes are 32mm and the floorspace of each section is well above the minimum birds need at roughly 207cm per section.

Garden-Bazaar-Beach-Hut-Bird-House

Choosing the perfect site for your nest box

  • Not too close to another nest box - nest boxes of the same type should not be sited too close together as this may promote aggressive behaviour between neighbours.
  • Sheltered – the front of the nest box should be angled vertically or slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box. Make sure it is sheltered from prevailing wind, rain and strong sunlight.
  • Height from the ground should be 3 metres - small-hole boxes are best placed 1-3m above ground on tree trunks, but avoid sites where foliage obscures the entrance hole. If there are no trees in your garden, the next best option is to place your box on the side of a shed or wall.
  • Open-fronted nest boxes should be hidden from view - attach your box to a wall or fence that has shrubs and creepers growing against it.
  • Make sure cats cannot get into the box - ensure that it is not easily accessible to predators such as cats and squirrels.
  • Consider a metal plate around hole to deter squirrels - this preventive measure that can be used to deter squirrels from gaining access. These can be purchased cheaply from any good garden centre very little cost.
  • Keep nest box away from bird feeders - as high levels of activity of visiting birds could disturb nesting pairs.
  • Use galvanized or stainless steel screws or nails that will not rust. If fixing boxes to trees, galvanised wire can be used to tie the box to the trunk or hang it from a branch. Make sure to regularly inspect these fittings to ensure the box remains securely attached.

 

Giveaway

Garden Bazaar Post Box Peanut Bird Feeder

I have one post box bird feeder to give away.  Just follow the rafflecopter instructions below, tell me what you are doing to welcome birds into your garden.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More nest box ideas over at WayfairUK. Now, get me away from that chicken coup I just saw – one day I WILL have chickens in my garden! Check out the other competition to win a Pancake kit!

Thanks to BTO for the tips.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/red-post-box-bird-feeder-wayfairuk#sthash.7qtYO0pd.dpuf

Pancakes make people happy!

Pancakes make people happy

 

Oh yes, the world is about to go mad for pancakes…but we think they are awesome any day, especially now that WayfairUK found us the best pancake pan ever to review – it really does make you go WOW! We have a little prize too, to celebrate our new discovery.  Saturday in our house was wonderful, take a look.

The Stonewell double hinged pancake pan is brilliant. We were all really enthused by how easily and neatly it makes pancakes. You don’t need fat, as it has a lovely non stick coating. Flipping them is so easy. Continue reading

Finds of the Week – Nautical and Nice: Recycled Homewares

Recycled Homewares from WayfairUK

My finds of the week have three things in common, they are all recycled. They nearly all have a sea theme. They all come from suppliers with an ethical and green outlook.

Just because you want to be green doesn’t mean you have to compromise on design, or resort only to upcycling or second hand shops when it comes to furniture. There are some great suppliers out there who have done the hard work for you.

Oceans Apart recycle metal drums and old boats into seriously cool furniture with an industrial look. My favourite has to be this chest made out of old boats, I know a 6 year old who could spin some stories about it’s history. The writing desk is a real taking point too, and I love the idea of writing on a surface that already has stories.

Oceans Apart are committed to promoting and improving good working conditions and wages for craftsman involved in making their products.

Ian Snow trades in a way that is consistent with fair trade principles and many of the products are recycled. Ian started his business in 1978 selling from a trestle table on Machynlleth market. The business is based on a love of India, but trade has spread further afield to Afghanistan and Ghana.

I’ve seen first hand on trips to Africa with Comic Relief, how constraint leads to creativity with resources. Every last scrap is turned into something.  Old tyres become flip flops, bottle tops become ornaments, scrap becomes treasure. I love this blanket footstool, it is so comforting. I have a patchwork one made with bright Indian fabrics and it really makes this room come alive.

This unusual Pacific Lifestyle glass vase is also recycled. Worn down glass has to be my favourite thing to collect on the beach. These recycled Oceans Apart beach letters are calling to me for my travel themed hallway. Spotted too late in the day to make my collage, but there are also lots of recycled homewares made with driftwood, from mirrors to bedsteads, to stag heads.

Do you have furniture that tells a story?

A Travel Themed Hallway – Reveal

 Hallway-Makeover-rethinking-hallway-storage-and-introducing-a-travel-theme-to-make-this-hallway-a-practical-and-inspiring-launch-pad-to-new-adventures-and-a-tidy-space-to-come-home-to

Back at the end of 2014 I set myself a monthly challenge to revamp one area of my home. If you want to join in with this challenge it is never too late, you can pick up the monthly planner here. Travel is the theme I went for in our hallway, I travelled to Kenya and Cardiff last month, but I found time for some creativity and some decluttering.

This approach is changing our family life. Our home is slowly transforming under our noses. Experts advise you to start from the hall, as it gives the right impression when you walk in and motivates you to keep going with home improvements. Our hallway was messy and made me feel stressed. One thing I did love was the map wallpaper, which you can see reflected in the mirror below, and in more detail here. Continue reading

Older Posts     |