Tag Archives: paint

Stamp revolution

The cottage is in need of some serious love.  So far our list of to-dos include a broken loo, broken shower, fraying carpet, new curtains, damp in the hallway….. I could go on, dear Reader.  After water poured through the ceiling during last year’s storms, we set about sprucing things up a bit but the novelty of decorating every weekend quickly wore off!  Now as we hurtle towards Christmas, I keep thinking that I must declutter, paint and sort out the broken spindles on the staircase after the great indoor sledging competition of 2015.  Sadly, we lost 3 to that game one afternoon!


With colour charts and wallpaper samples littering the dining room table, I marvelled at the haul from my latest little find, the English Stamp Company .  A family business through and through, the English Stamp Company has specialised in making high-quality, bespoke rubber stamps for over 20 years in their workshop in Dorset.  Choosing just the one stamp is pretty much an impossible task as all the designs are unique, beautifully drawn and cut and utterly irresistible to me.  I came away with a few….  These fabulous stamps can be used for almost anything from stationery to crafting, wrapping paper and lampshades to tablecloths and walls.  I hadn’t thought about using a stamp to decorate the cottage with but the lovely Sasha from the English Stamp Company explained to me that when they first started making stamps, they were used to create bespoke wall patterns – a cracking alternative to wallpaper.

Keen to get a move on with the next phase of cottage interior design, Jerry and I armed ourselves with Little Greene paint (perfect for old houses and the colours are simply stunning too) and set to work transforming our tired old bedroom.  With Slaked Lime Deep as the base note colour on the walls, we used French Grey Mid as the accent colour for the design.  Our choice of stamp?  A rather natty pheasant feather.  Perfectly ‘country’.


Working with the stamp was much easier than I imagined it would be.  Paint can be applied to the stamp with a sponge and I worked from top to bottom evenly spacing the stamp in a pattern of five, just like the face of a dice as it gave me a bit more of a guide.  Some of the feathers have a fainter appearance than others too as the stamp started to run out of paint before being reapplied but I think that it adds a bit more interest to the wall.  When finished with stamping, simpy wash the stamp in warm soapy water and leave to dry.  All the beauty of wallpaper and none of the sticky mess and mismatched patterns!



After dyeing the curtains a soft grey too to blend in, our bedroom feels so wonderfully cosy and I am now a complete stamp convert, dear Reader.  The room almost resembles one of those fabulous double page spreads on period properties from Country Homes and Interiors – all 17th century wooden beams and shades of grey (not 50, steady on dear Reader).  I have already bought a fabric inkpad in gold and intend to go mad with an acorn stamp and some lampshades for the guest bedroom, the girls have been badgering Jerry and I to cover their bedroom top to toe with stamped woodland creatures and best of all, both my mother and my mother in law thought that we had used hand printed wallpaper – the effect is so stunning.  I would have shown you the whole room in its glory but it was its usual chaotic state and I thought I might just spare you a glimpse into our life of untidiness, dear Reader – piles of books by the bed, pens scattered on every surface, rogue Lego, clothes draped on an armchair and a cat, trying to look inconspicuous, curled up on the fur bedspread.  Another time.

With Christmas a few weeks away now, I shall be making some hand printed wrapping paper too.  You MUST go and take a look at the Christmas Collection from the English Stamp Company – perfect for cards, wrapping, hand printed napkins and tablecloths.  It’s a wonderful way to put your own stamp on things, so to speak!  I might even get my own Margot stamp drawn up….now there’s an idea, dear Reader.


Chick chick chick

Chicken Licken

Chicken Licken – he’s a little on the ‘egg’centric side….

chicken…..Lay a little egg for me!  Primrose and I adore that silly ditty and were busy singing away when the phone rang and it was Barbara with news of  her 4 new Henny Pennies.  Very soon it will be eggs all round for their little corner of countryside when the weather warms up and the days start to get longer.  (Apparently chickens tend not to lay all that much in winter).  There is nothing that says living the good life more than keeping chickens!  Recounting Tom and Barbara’s news, I did suggest to Jerry that perhaps the perfect moving present for us would be a pair of hens.  Dear Reader, I am sure you can imagine what the response was.  It turns out that apparently, I will have enough on my plate with finding a house to move to and house training a new pup without adding chickens to the mix.  Jerry may have a point but I would hate to admit it….  I might just have to settle for booking myself on a henkeeping course with the lovely Sara Ward from Hen Corner who makes it her mission to spread the Good Life in the depths of urban living.  She really would give Tom and Barbara a run for their money!

With all this talk of chickens and eggs, Primrose turned her attentions and mine towards Easter and eggs of a certain chocolatey variety.  Images of fluffy chicks and daffodils have surrounded us suddenly despite the fact that spring seems to have mysteriously disappeared and we are still dressing for outings in the Arctic Circle.  Primrose has been somewhat perplexed by tales of the Easter Bunny and got very upset when a child at nursery school said that the bunny laid the eggs.  Primrose quite rightly pointed out that eggs and bunnies did not go together and from what I can tell, all dreams of Easter bunnies were dashed to pieces.  Oh dear!  After much cajoling, we settled on the Easter Chicken laying the eggs and the Easter Bunny fulfilling the Postman Pat SDS (Special Delivery Service) end of the role.  Fingers crossed, the Bunny has more luck than good old Pat does on his travels!  That postman is more calamitous than Margot and that’s saying something!  In a bid to while away the long hours endlessly waiting for spring, Primrose and I decided to create some special eggs of our own since we have no chickens to lay some for us (for the moment anyway).  Dear Reader, I have to confess that this quite un-Margotlike burst of craftiness was also prompted by Primrose’s sudden ability to sing all the various theme tunes from CBeebies cartoons off by heart……

How to make your own Chocolate eggs

So here’s how you do it!  We used the most beautiful pastel shaded eggs laid by lovely feathery ladies of the Cotswold Legbars variety from Clarence Court eggs (@ClarenceCourt).  They were really rather gorgeous to look at.

Oooh such pretty eggs!

Oooh such pretty eggs!

1. Pierce the egg with a needle and then carefully peel a tiny bit if shell away so you have a small opening.  Use a chopstick or other long thin object (knitting needle, skewer etc) to burst the yolk and allow egg to drain away into a container.  (Afterwards, we indulged in glorious scrambled eggs and smoked salmon with delicious discarded yolks and whites…waste not, want not)!

2. Once all the egg has drained away, wash the shell inside and out with hot water to make sure that all traces of raw egg have been banished.  Leave the egg to dry ensuring that air can get into the inside so it dries thoroughly.

3. Decorate your egg once dryPrimrose and I used watercolours but you could use poster paints.  Use an egg cup to keep your egg steady as you paint. 

(I must warn you – keep it simple and don’t get carried away with lavish designs if you are utterly useless at painting as I am.  Primrose is so very arty and thoroughly admonished all my efforts.  Apparently, what I thought was a reasonable attempt at a chick was more like a duck)!

A dead ringer for Faberge...don't you think, dear Reader?

A dead ringer for Faberge…don’t you think, dear Reader?

4. Melt the chocolate.  One can do this the traditional bain-marie way (bowl over pan of hot water or use a double saucepan) or melt it in a bowl in the microwave.  If you are using the microwave method, be careful not to scorch the chocolate.  Check and stir at intervals. (I must warn you that filling the eggs takes a fair bit of chocolate so make sure you have at least a few hundred gram bars to hand)

5. Once the chocolate is melted, then spoon it into a piping bag.  Alternatively, I use a small freezer bag (use one corner, spoon choc into the corner and snip the very end of the corner off et voilà, a homemade piping bag).  Working with chocolate is a messy business and I can never be bothered to wash out piping bags!

6. Pipe the chocolate into the egg shell carefully and fill to the top.  It takes a little bit of time so be patient.  Finish with a blob of chocolate to seal the hole and leave to stand in the egg box in the fridge.

7. Once the chocolate has solidified, turn the eggs in the box so that the hole is on the bottom (and noone can see it!).

And there you have it, REAL eggs filled with chocolate.  I can promise you one thing, dear Reader, almost anyone you give these to won’t fail to be impressed and will think that you have worked slavishly on these ‘eggs’elent creations (sorry!).  Primrose and I were pretty pleased with our efforts despite my inferior painting skills and will definitely be making some more in time for our traditional Easter egg hunt.  Poppy was happy to join in too and glancing over to the kitchen table, I can tell you, dear Reader, that she is well and truly busy with one of the most important parts of the whole operation – scoffing the leftover melted chocolate from the bowl!

Happy Easter chickens!

Happy Easter chickens!

Out with the old….


Enough books to start our own library!

What a week it has been, dear Reader.  There has been so much to do in the cottage.  Estate agents are descending on us for valuations and Jerry and I have been frantically trying to tidy and declutter so that the agents value the dear old building at more than 5p for lock, stock and barrel.  6 years we have lived here.  Moving from the hustle, bustle and gritty urban life of an SE London post code to the serenity and predictably middle class suburbia on the edge of Richmond Park.  In that time, the cottage has weathered many storms: Jerry’s beginner DIY skills, my obsession with green paint and not least the arrival of our fluffy prince Bertie, followed by our two little darlings, Primrose and Poppy.  Its four walls have been the source of both great joy and terrible woe as one thing after another ceased to function as it was supposed to.  Yet through all of that, it has remained one of my greatest loves.  Indeed, it was love in the first place, Dear Reader, that caused me to purchase the ramshackle bricks and mortar we now call home.  In a fit of impetuousness, I decided on first viewing to buy it.  Jerry was on a stag weekend at the time and was ‘delighted’ when he received a phonecall from his wife saying that she had purchased a house!  I saw the cottage, fell in love and made a foolish decision that left Jerry and I to pay the asking price even though the house was in need of considerable modernisation.  When asked by the estate agent (and the vendor) whether I wanted to wait until my husband returned to make a formal offer, I glibly said “No, Jerry won’t mind!”  Jerry has never let me forget that moment of rashness in the entire 6 years we have lived here!  I have lived and breathed the house ever since from sourcing Victorian wallpapers to underpinning chimneys, converting the attic into a third bedroom, ripping out the 70s decor, installing a new kitchen (with a newborn Primrose in tow) and weeping every time the roof leaked and water poured through the ceiling and down the walls in the middle of the night.  One can only say that the cottage has been a true labour of love.  Jerry has, on numerous occasions, told me (through gritted teeth) that I would not be allowed to look at or buy houses alone in the future and that the only house he would consider living in now, would be a modern box.  Interesting…as only a few days ago, I caught him trawling through properties on Rightmove which boasted period features and oak beams.  However, I do feel an immense responsibility to prove to Jerry that all the time and effort spent on the cottage has been worth it and that someone as mad as Margot will fall in love with it, want to move straight in and make us a ludicrous offer!

Wondering if I could ever be parted from my beloved cottage, Jerry rather glibly imparted, “Buyers might not love your wallpaper as much as you do.”  What a simply ridiculous notion!  Well if they don’t love the wonders of Lewis&Wood wallpaper then they clearly do not have an eye for vintage beauty and I won’t be selling the house to them!  Hmm.  With all the tidying I missed the whooping excitement of a crisp clean blanket of snow.  I felt a perfect winter Grinch as I watched others sledging down hills in the park, whilst I gave myself white blindness of a slightly different sort, painting the bay window.  DIY capers continued into the weekend when Jerry and I used some tester pots to retouch areas in the kitchen and bathroom.  Sadly for us (we saw the funny side only much later on) it turned out that the Farrow and Ball paint we thought we had used in the first place, did not match the little pots.  Too late to do anything about it when one has painted a great big patch and could only tell the difference in pantones when newly painted area is bone dry…..  Jerry and I spent a few hours mixing different F&B pots together until we finally reached the desired shade and then had to repaint the section all over again!  More grumbling ensued.

Margot's Lewis&Wood joy!

Margot’s Lewis&Wood joy!

Onwards to the decluttering…… I have to confess to liking a little clutter so I knew that this part of the operation was going to be a challenge.  Clean lines have never appealed and I hoard books as if I shall never see another again.  Advice from the lovely Kirstie Allsop’s friend, Phil, on selling a property says that the key to a sale is to ‘declutter’ and ‘de-personalise’.  Buyers want to imagine themselves in your house.  Oh dear, I thought.  Might have to box up most of our things in that case!  “Don’t you like any of your things anymore, Mummy?”, asked a rather outraged Primrose, our resident magpie and lover of shiny pretty things, as she watched me taking things out of cupboards and ramming once loved items into black bin bags ready for the charity shop.  Halfway through, even Jerry was concerned that I seemed to have cleared out half of my wardrobe and had decimated my herculean handbag collection.  (I have always maintained that one needs a good handbag for every possible occasion!  At last count, I had managed to collect in the region of fifty something…).  Nevertheless, I was an unstoppable machine and in one weekend, 6 years of cottage life was streamlined and decluttered.  Poppy did her very best to prevent the proceedings by throwing Primrose’s Mister Maker box onto the floor.  Sequins, googly eyes and heaps of glitter spilled out onto the floor just as the vacuum cleaner had been returned to the under-stairs dungeon.  I can’t repeat the language used but I am sure you can imagine, dear Reader!

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes.  Toddler thrown in with purhcase.

For sale: One cottage covered in sequins and googly eyes. Toddler to be thrown in with purchase.

Hours of cleaning duty later and Jerry and I were more than ready for Gin o’clock!  The realisation that we are selling up has set in.  Surveying our handiwork, Jerry and I felt like our dear little cottage had been stripped bare.   I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to keep the clutter at bay.  Not least because in a fit of impatience, Jerry stuffed the last of the unhomed items (precariously balanced no doubt) behind a few cupboard doors!  Let’s hope any potential buyers don’t feel the need to check out the storage…..

Snow now melted away, a new week dawns and for now, dear Reader, the sun is shining.  The cottage is looking pristine.  You will be pleased to hear that amidst all the clearing out, I did manage to find room for ONE new little purchase.  A country hat.  Well…..it was winking at me from its lonely spot in a shop window and I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.  It was clearly a sign.  Out with the old, in with the new as they say!


No19 on the list : Procure a stylish country hat. DONE!