Sunday, 23 November 2014

DIY Tile Backsplash

Back in September I was whisked off to Lisbon for three days for a conference at work.  I’d love to say that us lawyers regularly get to live the jet set lifestyle, but sadly that’s just not the case – after two years of lawyering, this was my first and only trip abroad on the firm!  Given the rarity of these trips, I had organised to extend my stay so that I could enjoy more than just the hotel’s conference room.  Unfortunately, though, Lily was very unwell at the time so I ended up coming home earlier than planned.  I had just four hours on a Saturday morning to squeeze in my fill of the city before flying back to London, and there was no contest about what I was going to do – I went to the early morning flea market, of course!

The Feira da Ladra was amazing, and is reason alone for me to go back to Lisbon as soon as I can.  I had only a tiny Easyjet-size carry-on case, but by jove I wasn’t going to go home empty handed!  I came away with a bunch of old photos to add to the collection, a big straw bag with leather handles (for three euros!) and 12 beautiful and old ceramic tiles.  I almost broke my back bringing back these tiles, and spent about an hour picking out the ones I wanted, but for two euros each I couldn’t let these get away.  And I knew instantly what I wanted to do with them…

You will need  |  Ceramic tiles (as many as you want!)  |  MDF board, big enough for your tiles  |  Four strips of wood, deep enough to frame your tiles  |  Grouting  |  No More Nails  |  Wood varnish  |  Drill and screws  |  Plastic scraper  |  Piping bag  |  Pencil 

Step 1: Arrange your tiles on the MDF, trace around them and then place them to one side in the right order.

Step 2: Squeeze out a cross-shape of No More Nails on each traced out square, and carefully affix the tiles to the MDF by lining them up with the tracing and pressing down firmly.  The No More Nails works quickly, so make sure that you've got each tile in the right place!  A good tip is to start with the tiles on the outside, and leave the tiles in the middle until last - if, like me, you have a mix of old tiles then it's likely that they won't all be the same size, and so this allows you to control the spacing between each tile.

Top tip: Keep your kitty locked out of the DIY room (aka the kitchen) while doing this part!

Step 3: Fill the spaces between the tiles and the frame with plenty of grout.  I found this was most easily done by filling up a piping bag with the grout and squeezing it into the spaces between the tiles - it's just like baking!  Smooth the top edges with a plastic scraper, and tidy up with the tip of your finger.   Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy at this stage, you will be able to clean it all up once it’s dry.

Step 4: Paint the wood strips with clear varnish (or you could use a stain, if you want) so that they become waterproof, and leave to dry.

Step 5: It's best if you can leave the grout and the varnish to dry overnight, so put your feet up and have a nice cuppa.

Step 6: The next morning, attach the wood strips around the MDF board with No More Nails.  Secure by screwing a nail in each corner of the frame, and two nails centred on each of the long sides to make sure the frame is attached to the MDF.

Step 7: Clean up any excess grout from the surface of the tiles with a damp sponge.

Step 8: Place wherever you want – behind the sink, over your cooker, in the centre of your dining table – and feel smug about your lovely new backsplash!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Botany Bay

Another weekend, another getaway in the Zip car!  The poor Texan has been working like a dog lately, with late nights in the office on Fridays, and weekends ruined by endless meetings, so I wanted to treat him to a well-deserved spa day.  Thanks to Virgin Experience Days, we headed down to the coast on Saturday, our work troubles melting away with a massage and a dip in the pool.  We then took a detour to Botany Bay to take photos in the rain - it was completely deserted, which made me happy because I hate people watching as we take photos.  The cliffs there are just beautiful.  Sadly for me, though, the R&R didn't last long - I sneezed the whole way home and I've been bed-bound since!

What I'm wearing  |  Jumper: c/o Uniqlo  |  Skirt: Topshop  |  Bag: Michael Kors  |  Boots: Next  |  Scarf: Made by me  |  Umbrella: Cath Kidston

Sunday, 9 November 2014


We all know that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and work has taken over in the Take Courage household a little bit too much for my liking lately.  Since qualifying, both the Texan and I have been chewed up by the big bad corporate machine, slaves to its intolerably long hours and Outlook message pop-ups.  When we’re not working, we’re pale-skinned zombies, surviving on caffeine and shish kebabs, living in constant fear of the little red light flashing on our BlackBerries. 

But not this Saturday, oh no!  This Saturday, we called the shots.  The Zipcar right outside our flat was booked during Monday's commute to work, and there was no going back – come the weekend, we were escaping this concrete jungle, seeking out fresh air, tranquillity and a oneness with nature.  Alright, you and I both know I’m not that much of a hippy, but boy did it feel good to jump in that Golf, cast my BlackBerry out the window (ok, that’s a fib) and get away from it all.

We headed to Leith Hill which is a comfortable hour or so from London, but feels like a million miles away from the hustle and bustle.  We’d heard that the autumnal colours are incredible there at this time of year – and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  For a brief moment, I no longer cared about late-running witnesses or updates to counsel’s bundles or the trial timetable.  I wasn’t a lawyer, I was a lumberjack, wandering through the woods in my checked shirt and UNIQLO Ultra Light Down jacket.  All I wanted to do was walk and take pictures.  And that’s what I did.

Admittedly, all this lumberjacking around did make us hungry, so it wasn’t too long before we were back in the car in the search for the local pub and a kebab-free lunch.  A burger and chips certainly did the trick, and – dare I say it – it may have breathed some life back into this corporate zombie.

What I’m wearing  |  Jacket: Ultra Light Down, UNIQLO  |  Shirt and jeans: Topshop  |  Chelsea boots: Next  |  Satchel: Vintage  |  Watch: Michael Kors

Psst – UNIQLO are running a competition where one lucky winner will receive £500 to spend on a UK adventure, as well as £100 to spend at UNIQLO.  Where would you go for your UK adventure?   Without a doubt, I would use that 500 quid to hop on a ferry and visit the Giant's Causeway.  It's a bit of an in-joke with my family, but ever since I was five years old and saw Michaela Strachen on the telly wandering those incredible balsalt columns, I've wanted to go!  The photo opportunities would be amazing (and are 22 years in the making!).  Share your adventure on Twitter using the hashtag #ULDAdventure – entries close on Friday so you better get cracking!