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Thanks for visting Simply The Nest. I'm an English girl married to an Portuguese boy, and when I'm not working or taking care of our two adorable daughters, I blog about our house renovation, DIY projects, delicious recipes, inspirational interiors, and family life in a Victorian Manchester nest.

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I'm not a Facebook person, so instead here's a link to some kittens singing Beyonce in Northern accents.

Wednesday
Mar042015

Willows, Wildlife and Wardrobes

I've seen a few bloggers recently that I've been following for years posting about how they are updating their blogs less and less - most citing the immediacy and ease of alternative social channels such as Instagram as a primary reason. Personally I'm not a fan of Instagram due to the policy that anyone uploading photos automatically bestows upon Instagram the right to use the photos for any purpose, royalty free. I also sometimes wonder what future historians will make of our obsession for capturing the details - and that we're reducing the story of our generation to deliberately blurred photographs of our shoes, manicures, food and cats. You don't often see wide-angle shots on social media - it's not really designed for that purpose as we're mostly viewing images on a small glowing screen - and I think as a result there's a lot going undocumented. I still like reading blogs, and blogging myself, as it's a medium that records not only a fragment of an image, but usually higher-quality pulled-back shots, along with various musings that give far more insight into the personality of the writer than a bunch of hashtags. 

I came across a mildly horrifying article recently (on Twitter, of course) about how the Oxford Junior Dictionary has dropped words like acorn, conker, willow, buttercup, dandelion, catkin, kingfisher and magpie - all words that I strongly associate with my own childhood - and replaced them with cut and paste, broadband and analogue: blackberry with Blackberry. Feeling both alarmed and saddened by this, I turned to Eva, who was sitting next to me watching a Playdoh video on Youtube on the iPad (yes, really) and asked if she knew what a conker is. "They grow on trees, Mummy", she said. Close enough, little one. Even though we live in urban Manchester, we spend a decent amount of time scuffing through autumn leaves, collecting conkers, blowing dandelion clocks, holding buttercups under our chins and making daisy chain necklaces, because to me, this is what childhood means. Kids these days have to know how to operate touch screens because that's how the world works, but I also want mine to recognise an magpie when they see one (they can). 

We spend so much time looking at screens (often two at once), executing fiddly copy and paste between windows, and flipping seamlessly between Twitter and Chrome and Facebook and Outlook and Sonos and any one of a hundred apps because it's all available on your smartphone, right there next to you, from the minute you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. I've been feeling quite strongly recently that I need to step back from technology and become more mindful, more present for my children. I'm very much a crawl-around-on-hands-and-knees kind of parent anyway who likes to keep things as simple as possible, not for me the constant need to entertain kids with a stream of stimulating activities and excursions, but you can always do more to be present in the moment. More conscious of what's happening around me, more deliberate, and in general more observant and responsive to my own well-being and mental state. 

Which is a very long introduction to the purpose of this post - namely that after a couple of months of planning and procurement, we have finally started building what is possibly Manchester's most giant wardrobe ("it's a tower, Mummy!"). After three years of living with an absence of wardrobe and my clothes piled in random unruly heaps and stacks all over the house, knowing that in a few weeks I will have the ability to hang and store all my dresses, jeans, sweaters, tops, skirts and shoes on carefully curated and installed rails and shelves that have been designed specifically to accommodate the length of my Anne Fontaine shirts somehow gives me the same sense of mental serenity that I got as a child from sitting on the side of a brook on the moors, dangling my feet over the side and watching the water bubble endlessly past the time-smoothed pebbles. 

Here it is so far - main frame built, and drill-wielding blogger included for scale. Blurred and vignetted for ironic purposes.

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Monday
Feb162015

A Weekend in Portmeirion, Wales

This weekend a couple of very exciting things happened - first of all, Manchester City Council has agreed that Withington Baths, a local Edwardian swimming pool, can be run by the community instead of being shut down (wheeeeeeeee!), and secondly, Andre and I sneaked away to spend the night in Portmeirion, a little village in the Welsh national park, Snowdonia.

The amazing thing about Portmeirion is that it was purpose-built between the 1920s and the 1950s in the style of an Italian village with a central piazza, tower and an array of attractive pastel houses. 

Here's the main square:

And the bell tower:

I wonder where this little arch goes? (We didn't find out because we were in search of the spa and our pre-booked mud wraps).

A row of delectably coloured houses:

We stayed in this castle:

I've never stayed in a hotel bedroom with a window like this before:

This is my 'this photograph is standing between me and my prosecco' face:

The main hotel at the bottom of the village. I'm wearing a (faux) fur vintage coat that belonged to my Grandma and makes me feel happy whenever I put it on.

Portmeirion is located on an estuary with stunning panoramic views:

One of the most noticeable features of Portmeirion is the very high proportion of benches and resting spots to inhabitants, perfect for people who have had a little bit too much prosecco the night before:

The view from the beach up to the village:

We feel rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to wrestle the large pile of wood resting patiently on our bedroom floor and turn it into a fitted wardrobe. Bring it!

Sunday
Feb012015

Choosing Marble Bathroom Tile

This weekend I finally managed to make time to visit Alberti Pavimenti in West Didsbury and look at potential bathroom tiles in person. I'd visited Topps Tiles, looked at loads of tiles online, and drooled over the Fired Earth catalogue, but couldn't find anything perfect at a sensible price. Fortunately Alberti Pavimenti, in addition to possessing possibly the most awesome name for a tile shop ever, carries an huge range of tiles that can be inspected at close quarters, stroked, pored over, and as it turns out, loaded into your illegally parked vehicle in order to mull your choices over in the privacy of your own home for a week. 

Here's the look we're going for. My challenge will be to recreate this on a budget because this bathroom is for the kids and most likely the dogs too and although I'm sure some people lavish marble bathing environments upon their children and canines, we are not those people.

Here's the tile in our bathroom. The girls were fascinated by it and insisted on getting in on the action.

Natalia polishing the tiles with her flannel.

The plan is to mix marble with a cheaper, co-ordinating alternative such as ceramic metro tile in order to get the neutral yet mildly eclectic look we want. So for example, we could have marble squares on the floor, bevelled white metro tile on the walls, and marble hex in the shower enclosure. 

I'm a bit worried about having slippery marble on the floor of a bathroom used by two girls who love nothing more than splashing water all over the place with reckless abandon, so an alternative option we're considering is to use these whitewashed wood plank effect tiles on the floor as these are significantly less slippery and are also around half the price of the marble squares. While I'm not keen on ceramic masquerading as marble, for some reason ceramic masquerading as wood is A-OK with me, perhaps because of the novelty factor? Go figure. 

With the wood option, we may then have marble squares and/or marble metro tiles on the walls with marble hex in the shower, or if that works out too expensive then have wood-effect on the floor, white ceramic metro on the wall, and marble hex in the shower. Or wood on the floor, marble AND white ceramic metro on the wall and marble hex in the shower. The latter might feel too busy - I need to mock it up and see. The metro tiles we're considering are the same shade of white as the marble, come in exactly the same size as the marble metro tiles, and would be installed using grey grout in the same shade as the marble veining so having three materials instead of two might look fabulously co-ordinated and gorgeous or it might look insane. More thinking is definitely required. I really love the bevelled metro tiles, though, so I'd really like to fit them into the scheme. 

Decisions, decisions! I don't really have a process for figuring these things out, I just mull it all over and go with whatever my gut tells me. Right now my gut has vetoed slippery marble on the floor, especially after I sprinkled water on it this morning and gingerly applied my bare foot to the surface to see what happened (hello, marble ice-rink) so we're definitely going to need an alternative. 

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