Thursday, 26 November 2015

Switching things up

After a brief decorating flurry back in October it occurred to me that I haven't really taken many pictures of our house, and in particular our lounge. Having brightened up our spare room with a lick of white paint, we decided to go for something bolder and darker in the lounge - a rich teal. I absolutely adore the colour. It makes for such a cosy room during dark, wet evenings. But those dark, wet evenings are also a pain when it comes to taking blog photos. I'm already finding myself itching to get going during the week and having to cram in all my blog photos on the weekends. Not much good when you have lots of weekends away like me at the moment!

The lounge has been a long work in progress (I'm looking forward to sharing some more photos with you soon). We definitely have a kind of retro teak look going on. The whole room centred around a stunning sideboard that I had my eye on when we moved up to Manchester. We've slowly added to that, buying a nest of tables, footstool, cocktail chair, arc lamp and the retro drinks cabinet you can see in these photos. Once the walls were painted it looked fantastic, but not quite complete, and we've set ourselves to the hard task of collecting some art work for the walls.

I've always been keen on collecting either original pieces or interesting prints that hold meaning to me rather than the generic New York skyline prints offered up on the high street. Recently I was asked if I'd like to review a brand new product from All Posters - SwitchArt - and I was curious to find out more about their new product. The general premise is that SwitchArt allows you to change the prints hanging in your house. The frame itself is magnetic, so you simply roll the print onto the backing and pop it onto your wall.

All Posters SwitchArt

All Posters SwitchArt

I have to admit to being slightly dubious about how the SwitchArt prints would look. I work with print a lot and am known for being pretty picky about print quality (just ask my printer - she had to reprint my wedding invitations because they weren't up to scratch!) I spend a lot of time scouring paper samples, checking wet proofs and analysing different treatments and laminates, so assumed that the quality of the digital print (which can vary from incredible to pretty awful and everything in between) wouldn't be great. So I was pleasantly surprised when the prints arrived and I realised that the quality was good, and I mean REALLY good.

We opted for some Soviet pieces. We wanted bold colour against the teal walls and I loved this old Russian advert for a graphic design company. It feels like such a product of its time - almost a propaganda poster. The typeface and colours are just perfect.

All Posters SwitchArt

Our second print was a well-known piece of abstract Russian propaganda called Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, which was created by the artist Lazar Markovich Lissitzky in 1919. I was drawn to the clean lines and monochrome colouring. It brings a bit more lightness to the dark walls, so perfect if we're wanting to brighten things up a bit depending on how we feel.

All Posters SwitchArt

All Posters SwitchArt

All Posters SwitchArt

All in all I'm thrilled with the quality of the SwitchArt products, and definitely plan to buy some more for the house. All Posters regularly have discounts on thousands of products - you can buy everything from vintage travel prints and well-known painting prints to old advertising and beautiful landscape shots. I hope you like my SwitchArt choices and I look forward to sharing a few more pics of the house soon!

Monday, 23 November 2015

I vow to thee

Two months after our wedding day and the dust has finally started to settle. I've found myself able to relax into things a bit more; shift my gaze from the endless spreadsheets and wedding planning, to look around me with a fresh perspective and say "what next?" I never considered our wedding day to be the end point. I'm only too aware that a marriage takes work. Every day we'll face new challenges and difficulties. What matters now is how we tweak ourselves to grow together. I'm learning to be more accommodating. More patient. More appreciative of what we have.

A couple of weeks ago I was at work when an email was circulated warning that one of the main roads into Manchester had been closed due to a road traffic accident. It was the road I live on. My first reaction was that finding an alternative route home on a Friday would be a pain. Then details started to filter through on the news. The accident had happened right by my house at 1.30pm. It had involved a man and a dog. The dog had died on the scene and the unidentified man was being airlifted to hospital with serious head injuries. My heart jolted.

Frank walks the dog on Friday lunchtimes.

I texted him as fast as my fingers could type, simultaneously scanning the internet and Twitter for a name. Any name. In those brief few minutes before he texted back every possible scenario had played out in my head.

"Please don't let it be him. Please don't let it be him," I thought.

"I'm fine," he replied.

"I'm fine."

My relief eventually gave way to sadness when we realised that the man who was hit was a regular dog walker we passed on a daily basis - Iain and his little jack russell Tia. He died later in hospital. He used to cross the main road with Tia in the same spot. The spot where they were hit by a coach. Tia would bark at our dog Stanley as we walked along the pavement past the church. We'd wave and smile. He would smile and wave back. She was a cute little thing.

My biggest fear in my marriage is complacency. The thought that we might melt into certain roles where we maintain a certain regard for each other that doesn't amount to love or joy, just some sort of platonic companionship. I don't want us to spend our time bickering, discussing childcare, reminding him to put the bins out. I have a plan for our marriage. A plan that involves romantic evenings snuggled under a blanket watching movies, making him a cup of tea without him asking, surprising each other with little gifts and treats. I want to work hard to make him laugh, tell him I love him every day, never let the sun go down on our anger. I want to have adventures with him. Say thank you for everything he does for me and be kind in return. I want to look after him when he's ill. I want to face everything that life throws at us with him at my side. I want to feel this in love with him after 30, 40, 50 years together. I want us to feel stronger in one another. I want us to remember the vows we took and live by them every day. To remember how far we've come since he got down on one knee and slid that beautiful engagement ring on my finger. I want to care for him when he's old and love him constantly. Until death do us part.

Collaborative post

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A guide to Lincoln

It's not often that Frank gets first dibs on a weekend destination. I like to think this is because he's laid back rather than me being bossy and decisive but... In any case last weekend was one of those rare moments when Frank did get to pick a location, being his birthday and all. He opted for Lincoln, partly because he's mad about Roman and Viking history, and partly I suspect because his beloved Tranmere Rovers were playing an away match there. In any case we packed our bags and hopped on the train for a little weekend jaunt.

Despite the brevity of our trip, we managed to pack lots in without feeling too much like a pair of human whirlwinds - Lincoln is small enough to get a really good feel for it in a weekend. The city's origins hark back as far as the Iron Age - one of the its most endearing qualities is the range of history you find here, from Roman walls and a Norman castle to medieval bridges and tudor houses. I'm obviously not a 'Lincolnian' so there are no doubt plenty of hidden treasures that passed me by, but I will do my best to give you a whistlestop tour of some of Lincoln's must-see spots.

Tudor architecture
Lincoln is home to some truly stunning buildings, and it pays to spend a good hunk of time standing and admiring the different architecture. The most striking have to be Leigh-Pemberton House (above), a former merchant's house that is now home to the tourist information office, and the stunning tudor structure below that sits perched on the High Bridge and is home to Stokes cafe. The bridge itself dates back to 1160 and is the only medieval bridge to still have houses on it.

Steep Hill
Lincoln has all your usual high street shops, but if you want to explore the quirky corners of the city, you need to brave Steep Hill. It's a fair old climb, but the rewards are worth it. Voted Britain's best street in 2011, Steep Hill is teeming with cafes, antiques shops, pretty buildings and independent shops. Places worth mentioning are Roly's Fudge Pantry (Frank's tucking into some peanut butter fudge as I speak), Goodies of Lincoln sweet shop, Harlequin Antiquarian Books and The Cheese Society. Antiques lovers should also check out Dorrian Lambert Antiques and The Shambles Antiques Centre on Westgate.

Newport Arch
Head to the top of Steep Hill (and a little further) and you'll come to the 3rd century Roman gate known as Newport Arch. It's a spectacular sight and well worth a visit.

Lincoln Cathedral
Whether you're religious or not, you can't help but gawp at Lincoln Cathedral on a visit here. Once the tallest building in the world, the enormous structure is incredibly striking. Visitors can pop in for free on Sundays. My favourite bit was the vast walls of stained glass windows, which no photograph can do justice. They were just beautiful and worth a trip to Lincoln on their own.

Lincoln Castle
Opposite Lincoln Cathedral lies the Norman Castle. You can get a joint ticket to see both, or else like us simply wander around the grounds for free. Lincoln Castle is home to one of four surviving copies of the Magna Carta. We didn't go to see it this time as we've already had a look at the British Museum, but if you have the time you should definitely take a look at that iconic piece of history.

Eating and drinking
Being a real ale fan, Frank was keen to try a couple of pubs on our visit. We headed to the Wig and Mitre and my personal favourite, The Struggler's Inn for a couple of drinks on our visit. Bunty's Tea Room tops Trip Advisor recommendations and is well worth a visit (I'll be blogging about that in a future post). We had a scrumptious meal in Cafe Zoot while Ribs 'n' Bibs also caught my eye (if only we'd had more time!)

Lincoln is under 2 hours on the train from Kings Cross (nearer 3 for us Manchester types as it requires a change). I can well recommend it for a fun weekend. It's the perfect spot to learn about lots of different periods of history all in one go. Despite the drizzle and the cold we came away with lots of happy memories and a definite itch to go away for lots more weekends!