Monday, December 20, 2010


This is what our house looks like today, isn't it cute? We have had more record breaking snowfall here in South West England, which is great for enjoying cozy days snowed in by the fire. We just hope that Mother Nature sorts herself out by Wednesday so we can drive up to London for our flight to Houston on Thursday. It looks like we should be okay, but it's a bit concerning for the obvious reason that if I don't get Mexican food soon I'll most likely wither away and perish. But since there's nothing we can do about it and since I can't get into work today and since we have plenty of sloe gin in the house, Sam and I are going to enjoy the snow day. We will probably also spend the day helping people get their cars unstuck outside our house which is what Sam is going right now...

P.S. This is my 100th post.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

mi cocina

For those of you who don't know, mi cocina means my kitchen in Spanish. It's also the name of one of the best Mexican food places in College Station, Texas, and I wish I hadn't even thought of that because I'm starving right now. I'll probably feel grouchy for the rest of the day.

Anyway, I realized that I never posted pictures of the kitchen after it turned red. The redness of the kitchen came about back when Sam and I were in our local home improvement store buying supplies for our banish-the-wallpaper project which I believe took place during most of May of this year. We were choosing paint for the hallway and I really wanted a nice shade of light sage-y green to spice things up and Sam wanted white because that's the colo[u]r walls should be. Toward the end of this discussion, when I realized I was most likely defeated, I defiantly said something like , "Fine, but this just means I'm going to paint the kitchen red," which in my mind was a bit of a crazy thing to suggest--so crazy that it would convince Sam to let me have my way with the sage-y green hallway. To my surprise he said something like, "That's a great idea, I think that would look really good." And that is how we found ourselves painting the kitchen red before we had even finished the hallway. When I put the first coat up I had my doubts, it's a deeply saturated red--think blood. But we have light coming from three directions in that room so it's actually quite bright and cheery in there, and I apologize that these photos really don't do it much justice.

I really like our kitchen (in spite of the shocking back splash tiles which I haven't saved up enough money to replace yet) because we have lovely solid wood cabinets which must have been pricey (thank you very much previous owners) and because it's huge compared to most kitchens you find in England--especially cottages of this size. We have tons of storage space, and I like being able to have our table in there. If only our bathroom would take a hint from this space and not be such a dire, wretched little hole. But I digress.

Please also note our new refrigerator, complete with a freezer, which we lived without for over a year. Can you even believe that? Although it was probably good for my waist line, now we have no excuse not to buy ice cream.

And just in case you forgot what it used to look like, here it is in Magnolia.

I kind of like it this way too. Uh oh. Oh well, I always knew I'd probably paint it a different color some day. I'm crazy like that, I like change and I like it often. Anyway, the white/natural look is in these days, which I think would really emphasize our lovely cabinets. But first I think we'll banish that linoleum...

I also have big plans for that table and those chairs.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

a heartbreakingly beautiful walk

The day after Thanksgiving (which is celebrated on the Saturday after by our family here) we went for a nice long walk to try and burn off some of that pie. And because it happened to snow and it was too beautiful to miss. I couldn't take enough pictures. I am thankful I get to live here and have walks like this in my back yard.

Monday, October 11, 2010

the £6 couch makeover that took 8 months

Way back in March I posted this post with the picture below as a preview of a project I had started.
It all began with the picture below. This picture is of our first meal in our house the day after we moved in. Please note the sofa, it is approximately 20 years old and had belonged to Sam's parents, then later his sister who gave it to us when they were remodeling their house which was conveniently around the time we were getting married and moving into ours. It's a massive comfy couch, the only problem was that it was absolutely ______ fill in the blank. I can't say the words I truly feel because I don't want to offend anyone.


And by after I mean 8 months after I started I finally finished. What happened was we were in Ikea looking at duvet covers and blankets and saw some huge cotton "throws" and I realized they would be the perfect material to cover the couch. And at £2 per throw it was a bargain. We got three and it was more than enough material. So when we got home that night I began the process of covering the cushions and scratching my head as to what to do with the rest of it. After a couple of days I had all the pieces cut and most of it sewn together but just never made the finishing touches of hemming the sides or securing the front "flap" if you will. Unfortunately I can't explain how I did it because there was no method or pattern, I just pinned the fabric over the couch and then took it off and sewed it. I had to put it on and take it off to adjust it quite a bit, and just kind of worked little by little until it fit. It's basically just a slip cover.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ye Olde Country Lanes

Welcome to the new Ye Olde series on the Laughing Songbird. I'm calling it a series because I plan on writing posts about many of the endearing and iconic elements that are associated with life in England. Don't get your hopes up too high though; while it is a series I can't promise any kind of regularity in the posts.

I begin today with Ye Olde Country Lanes, for I have a hate hate relationship with them. I have had several unsympathetic responses to some of my earlier posts about the horrors of driving in this country, so here I would like to provide photographic evidence of the perils that exist in real life on English roads on a daily basis.

Consider the photo below. At first glance it appears to be a lovely peaceful little road where there are bound to be serene spots to pull over and enjoy a picnic by a gurgling brook. While that assumption is 100% true, it is also a paved road of death. When approaching blind corners like these it is recommended that you go into the lowest gear possible and inch around the corner at no more than 1/2 mile per hour as you may very well encounter a tractor, an intoxicated farmer in a land rover, a little old lady who cannot physically stop or reverse her car, or worst of all; a foreign driver who doesn't realize cars might be coming in the opposite direction and therefore are driving at 70 mph admiring the scenery. If you have an accident on country lanes such as these it is automatically 50% your fault. No one can be bothered to figure out what really happened, it's simply split down the middle to save time. Best not to get in accidents.

Here you can see my arch nemesis, the dreaded tractor trailer combo. This beast does not reverse, even if another tractor trailer combo is coming in the opposite direction. In fact, that never happens because before they go out they send up smoke signals to alert other tractor drivers to stay off the road for the next 6.5 hours while they drive 2 miles up to the north fields. I heard somewhere that the last time two tractors met both drivers got out and walked away from them just like that, leaving time and rust to deal with the situation. No kidding. So it really stinks when you come upon one because you will be reversing for miles until you reach a lay-by. A lay-by is a passing point, scroll down to see one in real life.
You can pretty much see from this picture how much of the road my little tin can of a car takes up on its own. In the left of the picture is a lay-by. In fact, it is the same lay-by in which I stalled repeatedly in the days before my driving test. To read that story click here.
Below is another hedge lined country road. When they come along with giant beastly tanks to cut the hedges back you have to be careful because it is common to puncture your tires on thorns that have been cut from the hedges and left on the road. If that happens, send a smoke signal as some of these roads aren't driven down for days at a time.
Here is another one of my least favorite combos--the tractor with the thingy that cuts stuff on the back. The thingy that cuts stuff on the back has sharp prongs that stick out and are excellent car scratching mechanisms--you are pretty much guaranteed having to get a new paint job if you pass one of these puppies. As you can see from this picture, we came up to the tractor at an ideal time because it was able to pull into a lay-by and let us pass. And it was extra lucky because there was a gateway on our side of the road so we were able to pass and not have to get a new paint job. I live for magical situations like this.
Here is yet another hideous combo--the tractor with a trailer to carry an optional additional trailer. These are long and slow and are prone to not being able to make it around sharp corners. When that happens you better hope you have a packed lunch with you.
And here is one last photo illustrating the narrowness of these roads. I am super upset because I didn't get a picture of a tractor pulling a trailer loaded with hay bales. Those things are the size of two story houses and sway like a sail boat at sea during a mighty gale. I never got a picture of them because usually when I encounter them I have to reverse home and change my pants--there's no opportunity for picture taking.
**Disclaimer** All of these photos were taken by me while Sam was driving. I don't shoot and drive. Also, these were all taken on one 4 mile trip from our house to Sam's parents'.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wales Family Vaca

We went with Sam's side of the family to South Wales and stayed on the Gower Peninsula for our family vacation this year, and it was pretty spectacular for a cold, rainy place! The beaches are incredibly vast and pristine, and even on the hot sunny days we had they weren't crowded. This is Rhossili which is 3 miles long and the best surfing beach in Britain:

The walk to 3 Cliffs Bay is outstanding; you walk over sand dunes, cross a stream, pass the ruins of a castle, walk along a boardwalk...

And end up here:

Another massive, gorgeous beach where there are lots of caves and tidal pools to explore--and even some herds of cows that come down to the water from the fields nearby!

Monday, September 6, 2010

don't laugh...

I've been obsessing over this shower curtain from Target for quite some time:
I love it, and can't get it out of my mind. Unfortunately for me, however, I live in a land without Target--I know, sometimes I just don't know how I survive either. So while it's perfect for me (ahem, for us, because Sam's decorating opinions matter too, and luckily for him he likes this one), and it's really a reasonable price, I have had a hard time sealing the deal and ordering it because when I add on shipping to my parents, and then calculate how much it will then cost my mom to ship it over the pond to me, it's kind of a lot of effort to go through for a shower curtain (although I don't think twice when putting in a request for hot tamales). Anyway. I had a weekend to myself at home recently and the idea came to me that I could make my own tree shower curtain--yes, yes I could... So I did...

**This is the part where you're not supposed to laugh**

Before I say anything else, let me just say that I realize this looks like something a kindergardener would produce in art class. I simply used a brown permanent marker (which was trying to die) to draw a tree onto our £1 gross "fabric" shower curtain. It's obviously not a fantastic outcome, and I'm still pretty desperate to have the real thing, but it gave me the idea that it would be really cool to draw all kinds of things on £1 "fabric" shower curtains. Like stripes, or words even, or cool geometric designs--the sky's the limit really. And this one will have to do until Christmas when I get the real tree shower curtain of my dreams as a gift:) Just kidding. But seriously.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

bathroom improvements

This is not the bathroom of my dreams, it's the bathroom of my reality, so I have to make the best of it. We recently found an old mirror at a car boot sale for £5 that I sanded down and repainted, it weighs about 30 pounds because of the glass. I have been trying to find some shelves for our bathroom above the toilet pretty much ever since we moved in, and everything is either boring, expensive or impossible to find. I wanted to put up two old wooden wine crates but they fall under the "impossible to find" category. So I spent 2 whole days at work last week on the internet looking for a suitable alternative (as you do), and then when I was driving home one day the answer came to me. We bought two of these bins from Ikea a few months ago and they have just been on our bookshelf not really doing much. They are the perfect solution; they're not plain old shelves and they're items we already own--score! The best part was that it gave Sam another chance to use his power drill to make more holes in our 134 year old plaster walls, which is always an enjoyable experience for him:) Anyway, here you go, it's not really a completed product but it's miles better than before.



cabinet memo board

Today I copied a super idea that I got from Ashli at Maillardville Manor who got the idea from here. I found it was actually cheaper to buy a bulletin board--all I had to do was take the frame off (to use for something else??) and cut the cork down to size. Then I covered it with some fabric and put it up on the inside of one of our cabinet doors like so:

Now I just need to figure out a good way to organize all of our spices...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

a little apron for a little person

I made this little apron for my niece who turns two next week. It will be the perfect accessory for the awesome kitchen set she's getting!!

how to water your plants from afar

Now I know what you're thinking and you're right, I live in England, it rains here all of the time why would I ever bother watering? But tomato plants are needy little things, so I want to leave them with an extra boost of water while we are in Wales next week. All you need is a plastic bottle, a nail and a hammer to poke a hole through the cap and you've got yourself an automatic water drip.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

harvesting and picking

runner beans
purple and baby carrot
peas (not sure what kind but you eat the shell and they are beautiful)
cherry tomatoes
Sam digging up our potatoes, yes he is wearing his slippers--that's how we roll.

Our first wild berry pick of the season and we got enough blackberries and blueberries for a whole pie. It was DELICIOUS, and I was so excited to eat it I didn't take a picture.