Beer Can Cacti

In the latest of my ‘anyone can do craft’ posts, a quick project inspired by my friend Sandra Jackson of Absofab Vintage. She mentioned she’d been planting cacti in old beer cans so I thought I’d have a go (I’m sure hers are much neater than mine).

I’m intending one of these for each of the boys’ rooms – I’m always trying to insert a few nice bits into the clutter in the (so far) vain hope they might be inspired to tidy up a bit.

This was a super quick thing to do, and also fits with my money-saving ethos for 2019 – the cacti were £2.50 each, one from a community stall and one from our local florist, and the beer was delicious.

I was experimenting with methods as I went along and I think the second attempt (the cat can) worked better – still not perfect but it gave a neater finish. Obviously care needs to be taken when cutting into metal – but you know that.

Highs and Lows

This shot may seem rather dull, but to me it sums up some of the highs, lows and learning points from our refurbishment.

It includes two of my favourite things in the project, and one of its biggest lessons.

The lesson first: it seems incredible but the boxes for the two fittings below were installed by the same electrician, at the same time. Yes…we asked someone to put two electrical items in close proximity on the same wall, and he thought the best way to install them was (with apologies to Douglas Adams) almost, but not quite, entirely un-level.

You would not have thought I needed to spell out that they should be level, I did not think I needed to spell out that they should be level (and moreover did want to not spell it out, because I was already feeling like the world’s most demanding client, having spelt out so many other things). So I didn’t, and this is the result. ALWAYS SPELL IT OUT.


On the right of the shot is one of our fancy  light switches. These merit a whole post to themselves and I’ll return to the subject another day – suffice to say for now that the best German engineering and design is a lovely thing.

On the left, something that’s only coming into its now – the first full winter in the finished house – a programmable, app-controlled room thermostat.

The ability which the system gives you to set individual room temperatures to the correct ‘Comfort Level’, to switch between settings at the tap of a screen, and to set programmes appropriate for different circumstances (e.g. school holidays versus term-time) is really valuable. It’s good to know we can warm the boys’ bedrooms up for homework time, while keeping ours cool til bedtime. And set the guest bedroom at a steady (freezing) 18 to suit my Scottish mum, who can’t sleep comfortably if it gets even slightly cosy.

I’m also hoping that the selective heating will keep down the winter bills…we shall see…


Art in the Bath(room)

I wanted all our new bathrooms to be clean and simple, but also to have some visual interest. I did a bit of investigation online but none of the bathroom art advertised was really my style – all a bit hotel-y for my taste, or printed on odd shiny materials to make it waterproof.

Obviously though I didn’t want to subject any of our nice pictures to bathroom conditions. Thinking around the problem I came up with… disposable art.

A friend had recently liked a website called Present Indicative, which specialises in academic-themed gifts (stick with me). They stock a range of Italian wrapping paper, based on old schoolroom posters and charts, for around £4 a sheet. The paper is a perfect fit for the 50 x 70 Ikea Fiskbo frame. Et voila…A piece of art for around £10, and minimal trauma if it succumbs to the damp.

Klutzy Craft

I am super-klutzy, so bad at freehand art that my teacher used to hide my work rather than let the side down by putting it up for end of term displays. At the same time I love craft and design. This Christmas I had a go at lino cutting for the first time, and it was nice to do something where my somewhat ‘rustic’ skills didn’t detract too much from the finished article. I was quite pleased with this for two hours’ work, even though some of the people working alongside me produced something a fair bit more refined.

Lino Cut Xmas Card

At the other end of the (time)scale this needlepoint picture took me more than two years. When I started working on it, I needed some shatter proof colour for a corner with a swivel chair, and two boys that couldn’t stop swiveling. By the time I’d finished the boys had calmed down (a little) and the chair had a new home. But what’s nice about needlepoint is that the fabric guides your stitches, so that someone clumsy like me can enjoy putting colours and shapes together without worrying about how neat it is (or isn’t).  The design is my own and made up on the hoof – I just started at the centre and worked outwards.



Adult Nooks

One of the motivations for the move was to create a comfortable space for grandparents to stay – a proper guest room that meant they didn’t have to share a bedroom with a pile of paperwork or a bathroom with the boys.

Another was to create some boltholes…somewhere to curl up with a book uninterrupted by TV or PS4. These three are in our loft bedroom, the kitchen and the guest room respectively.


The guest room chair was an antiques fair find just before I bought my first flat – it’s been through two moves and some reupholstering but I think this is its best home so far. It feels a little oriental in style to me which is not my usual taste, but the black painted wood and square but elegant shape means it fits in anywhere. Very comfy too. Both it and the cushion were done with off-cuts – the chair seat is in spare fabric from our old sofa and the cushion is leftovers from the sitting room curtains.  Santa is a Christmas visitor – picked up from our local market to welcome my mum for the holidays.

The loft room rug was another find – this time from an antiques shop and gallery in Rye. I think it was destined for this room: we saw it when we were visiting a friend for the weekend partway through the project. I didn’t buy it at the time, but once home I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I finally decided it would work I rang the store, convinced it would have gone. By good chance it had been sold on approval, only to be returned that very day, as the customer decided it didn’t work with her colour scheme. Her loss was our gain.


FG Food

One of the biggest changes we’ve enjoyed in Forest Gate recently is an influx of new food shops including Wild Goose Bakery, and Cups and Jars, a grocery which aims to minimise packaging.

And one of the great things about my new kitchen (which I can’t feature yet as it’s in an upcoming magazine) is a sky-lit north-facing table which lends itself to moody food photos.

The vase on the left is a vintage find from local dealer Anagram Antiques, and the flowers are from our neighbourhood florists Molly & Bill Stevens.