The Garden of Eden

The old cherry tree is absolutely alive with cherries and birds with whom we are engaged in all-out warfare, and the orchard ladder kindly donated by the previous owners is on constant standby, so that we can grab the fruit the instant it ripens and before the birds make off with it.

We picked our first bounty at the weekend and this is what we made.

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A Star Spangled Party

Image from Flickr

Help!

We appear to be having a Fourth of July party.

So many people have remarked to us that our deck would be a fabulous place from which to see Seattle’s Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Union (apparently one of the top five displays in the country) that we decided, sort of on the spur of the moment, to invite a bunch of people.

The problem is I’ve never even been to a Fourth of July celebration before, so have absolutely no idea what one is supposed to DO.

Please let me know what, in your opinion, are the critical components of a successful Fourth of July party.   Are there traditional things you always eat, or drink or do?  Do I need to learn the words to the ’Star Spangled Banner’?

I have already bought the first accessory with which to decorate the deck.

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Watching Whales

Friends are visiting from New Jersey, so off we went to the San Juan Islands just off the coast here in search of killer whales (which sounds so much more daring than orca-spotting).

People have raved to us about the San Juans ever since arrived, but it’s the first time we’ve been.  It was an absolutely glorious day as we drove to Anacortes, jumped on the ferry to Friday Harbor in San Juan Island (a beautiful trip in and of itself) and then finally onto the whale watching boat. The islands themselves reminded me very much of the Greek islands – the water was the same dark blue as the Aegean and the islands are quite craggy and loom high out of the sea. 

The only differences were the fir trees clinging to the sides and the fact that the water was apparently only 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you could swim in the sea in this place I would definitely never go back home to the UK.

 

The Minx had a whale of a time (all puns intended) careering round the boat.

 

And bald eagles and seals were observed (I definitely need a telephoto lens).

The black blob is a seal’s nose

You may have noticed that the only things missing were the orcas themselves.  Apparently three pods of whales live in and around the islands and on the whale watching trips you have about a 90% chance of seeing them.  But yesterday they eluded us, even though we zoomed right out into Canadian waters. 

Unfortunately, that just means we’ll have to go again.

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Shuffling the Deck

So first the good news.  The deck is FINALLY finished.  A project that was supposed to take 3 days has ended up taking about six weeks (not continuously). During which we’ve had enormous loungers lounging in our bedroom.

This what the deck looked like when we first moved in.

The built-in furniture was very weathered and dirty and dangerous for a small child, who could potentially climb from the benches onto the tables and then topple over the sides.  The horizontal railings were also an invitation to toddler suicide.  There was also a large gas grill just hanging about in the middle of the floor.

Our initial spec to Mr Handyman was to power wash the deck and furniture, fix glass over the railings, remove the ends of the benches so that it would be impossible for a child to climb from the benches onto the tables, build some sort of small barrier across the back of the benches and stain and paint everything.

And then we asked him to see if he could actually remove the railings and insert plexiglass between the uprights, and then the safety barriers became much smarter than I had envisaged, and we decided to embed the grill into the table.  All of which needed a lot more carpentry than originally planned for.

And then poor Dan the Handyman was either collapsing with heat exhaustion from working all day on a deck with no shade or else dodging torrential rain showers, not exactly ideal weather for staining and painting (this is Seattle, remember?)

But I’m super thrilled with the results.

The ‘windows’ at the front work really well – completely toddler proof and yet maximising the view. 

The ‘windows’ round the edge are what I’m most pleased with.  We thought they were a necessary evil with a toddler, but they have turned out to be very unobtrusive and like they’re meant to be there, not just an ugly safety feature.

I also nearly had kittens when the woodstain first went on.  We’d chosen a very dark stain because of the condition of the wood but halfway through the process I was having SERIOUS second thoughts and wondering how on earth we could get rid of it.

But it looked a load better once we lightened the colour on the railing (from its original bilious yellow) and painted the floor a much lighter colour.

I’m hoping it looks quite chic and contemporary and, what with the million dollar view, it feels at the moment like we’re on holiday at a luxury hotel.  I have to pinch myself to remember that we actually live here.  How lucky are we? 

And the bad news? 

I’m really not very happy with the loungers.  I was looking for something more sleek and contemporary but couldn’t find anything which wasn’t either imported from Europe at vast expense or very uncomfortable-looking. (UK readers, do you have any idea how lucky you are having Habitat?  It’s one of the things I miss most about the UK).  

In the end I succumbed to the blandishments (and moving-in discount) of Pottery Barn and now really wish I hadn’t.  The loungers are extremely comfortable and well made, but very large and solid and clunky-looking. 

And I don’t know what on earth possessed me to buy them in red.  I bought them online and it looked like a darker, pinkier red on screen.  But these are very red indeed.  I’ve contacted Pottery Barn and they’re going to change them for cushions in a very unappetising sounding Sprout Green (their customer service is truly excellent), but I’m seriously considering sending back the loungers themselves.  Now that I’ve discovered Teak, Wicker and More, I can see that I have some much nicer options at affordable prices. But I’m not sure I can go through the hassle of lugging the loungers downstairs, sending them back and waiting for new ones, when there are chocolate martinis to be drunk and lounging to be done.

What do you guys think?  

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SoyGel Paint Stripper

                                                            Or magic in a bottle.

And so, against the advice of the majority, I decided to experiment with stripping back the bright red fireplace.

After lots of online research, I came across a product which is apparently 100% made from soybeans, is non-toxic and practically odour free ie. the perfect thing if one has a small girl running about.  The thick gel also encapsulates the paint, reducing the risk of airborne particles, which is particularly reassuring when lead paint might be involved.

So I bought some, not believing for one moment that it would work.  We spread the gel on thickly overnight and woke up the next morning to find this  

Which a bit of work with a scraper (the paint by this stage is all soft and gloopy) and a wire brush in the grout, soon turned into this.  They still need another clean and a wax, but I think they’re pretty much there.  And no paint to be seen.

So what do you think?

Should I persevere?  They’re not the most beautiful bricks in the world and I’m a bit worried about the whole thing seeming too heavy and dark (will definitely get rid of the horrible dark stove at some point), but I think they have a certain charm.

If I do continue, has anyone got any ideas as to what I could put into those three recesses?  Something interesting and fun which will lighten the whole thing up and break up the big expanse of brick.

I’m currently thinking something syroco, spray painted lime green or tangerine (thanks to Pink Loves Brown for the idea).  In fact something like those bronze panels she’s just bought would be perfect.  (I haven’t run this past the Husband yet though).  But has anyone got any other thoughts?  Tiles?  Plaster reliefs? Ironwork? Mosaic?

Excuse the prosaic title of this post, but I really want people to be able to find this post when they search.

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Nessun Dorma

This is going to be tremendously old hat for any UK readers, but here, for the viewing pleasure of any Americans reading, is the first audition from the winner of Britain’s Got Talent.

Watch it and weep.

I know I’m an absolute sucker for cheesy Italian opera but this has me in FLOODS every single time.

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Hannah Tofalos

Hannah Tofalos is a young UK ceramics designer who’s been going from strength to strength since graduating in 2005. 

She combines clean modern shapes with traditional chintzy patterns and many of her products stack, allowing her to experiment with pattern combinations.  We first came across her at 100% Design – I think the first show she did following her degree – and we’ve been stocking her incredibly popular stacking eggcups and salt and pepper pots ever since.

We’ve now added her little storage jars to the collection.  They make a wonderful alternative to a jewellery box, or use them at the table for sauces, sugar or jam.

I’ve been shopping for quite a few new products recently.  It’s SO nice to have money to spend after getting rid of the PR company, so look out for more goodies in the coming weeks and months.

 

 

 

 

All the eggcup designs we are currently stocking
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Father’s Day

And off we went for brunch in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. 

The food was pretty average and it was a cloudy day, but still, there is something rather gently thrilling about being in a slowly revolving restaurant without being drunk. 

It seems such a shame that London’s only revolving restaurant, at the top of the BT Tower has been closed for nearly 30 years and will probably never be opened to the public again. 

The Minx and I worked hard to present the Husband with something appropriate to the occasion.  

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Much Rug Excitement

Sometimes I’m really pleased I started this blog.

After I wrote my post about my Emma Gardner rug pipedream, the wonderful Patrick from the company emailed me and offered me a trade discount. And then I measured up and found that I could get away with a comparatively small rug, and that if we didn’t eat for a hundred years, we could just about afford it.

And then I focused on the fact that a silk rug really isn’t compatible with a small girl in the main living area, and that it doesn’t really fit into my mood board at all and decided to commission it for the small sitting area in our bedroom instead.  It should be ready in 16-20 weeks time and I am completely beside myself with excitement.

Do you think it goes with that Designer’s Guild wallpaper? From these images it looks like the blues are not quite compatible and that it might be altogether too much of a good thing.  But samples of both will be obtained for your consideration.

 

 

In the meantime, I think I’ve sourced a rug for the main room.  What do you think of this?

It’s an Angela Adams ‘Lulu’ rug – strangely appropriate some might say.  

I’ve only seen them in blue before but saw this online and think the colour and the contemporary curves would fit really well into the scheme below. (That’s what I love about mood boards – they make decision making so much easier).

The only problem about ordering this now is that I’ve still got a red fireplace and yellow walls and I think a lime green rug might be altogether a bit much. MUST.FIND.PAINTERS. 

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Felt Cookies

Since, as you know, we are rather partial to a cookie round these parts, I was thrilled when I came across this jolly jar of felt play cookies on Etsy made by nanacompany who also make the most beautiful little girls’ aprons and other baby accoutrements.

Such a simple but pretty idea – they come all decorated with hand-sewn ‘sprinkles’ in a lightweight plastic jar, all personalised with her name on the top.

You have never seen a child so besotted.  I seem to spend my whole life at the moment being served cookies, pretending to eat cookies, counting cookies, discussing which cookies are most delicious, which ones have the prettiest sprinkles etc. etc.

Funnily enough we are not the only people who are having a felt food moment.

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