Friday, 23 January 2015

the year of no fear

We were lying on the sofa last week, wrapped in blankets and coughing into our lemsips, when the Husband and I started talking about travel, and where we'd love to take the kiddos. He said Japan, and I countered that I want to get back to New Zealand one day (I honestly can't think of a better place for children to visit; the history, the landscape, the general way of life...). Then we started talking about getting passports organised, and that's when a little knot of fear started to unravel in the pit of my stomach - one thing I've never really talked about on here is that I suffer from terrible anxiety; it doesn't necessarily stop me from doing things, but I do tend to get in a flap quite often.
This is a fairly comprehensive list of the things I worry about daily:

The Kiddos - particularly Ben, who is on the Autism spectrum, and struggles with social skills, concentration and focus at school. His behaviour is better than it used to be, thanks to his paediatrician and the local speech therapy service, but he has so many quirks that make him stand apart from his peers; he used to have an acute phobia of buttons, which I thought was fairly odd, but according to this survey from Benenden, there are a whole world of strange fears that haunt people (bellybuttons! Cotton wool! Beards!).

My Parents - my dad has Alzheimers, which is worrying enough; on bad days he doesn't know who we are, and thinks his home is where he works (he retired a few years ago), and he seems to have developed an odd form of narcolepsy as well. I worry that the stress is too much for my mum, who also has her own health problems. *Wrings hands*

Travelling - I haven't been all over the world, but I have been to the other side of the world, and a few places in between; New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Venice, France, Wales and, err, Dorset. I'm desperate to take the Kiddos to see the world, experience new things and other cultures, but by heck, the thought of spending hours on a multitude of buses, trains and planes, and then days or weeks in a strange place makes me proper nervous.

They say that actually, fear is good for you, because it drives you to experience things and push your boundaries, but I guess I've just let my nerves get the better of me. I've stopped living a bit lately, and just resorted to existing - and this is something I want to change this year. I started the other day by finally getting hold of the forms for our passports, and I found a few great blogs about travelling with kids (and in particular those with Autism) - and if anyone has any tips, they'd be gratefully received! I'm always going to worry about my family, and ultimately, I think I'm lucky to have such a wonderful one to fret about, but I want this year to be lived as fully as possible - I want 2015 to be the year with no fear.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

This is a collaborative post. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

january in pictures

Cor, it's been a while since the last post! I hadn't meant to leave such a mahoosive gap of emptiness, but we were all struck down with that horrible flu virus that seems to be doing the rounds; we've all spent the last couple of weeks shivering into our hot water bottles and wrapping ourselves in blankets, and to be honest, the last thing I felt like doing was blogging. So I didn't! But we're on the mend now (touch wood), and I've got the laptop on for the first time in ages, so I thought I'd do a little catch-up post.

We've spent most of January (apart from the bit where we were riddled with illness!) eating good food, discovering new local shops and having some ace success on Gumtree. We took a trip to Make and the Craft Kitchen, which moved premises a while ago from a small shop to an amazing open-plan warehouse, which basically means that there's more space, more amazing craft supplies and even more cake (triple win!). We also squeezed in a wonderful child-free trip to our old favourite, Southsea Coffee, where I discovered new magazines Chickpea (a vegan and eco-friendly biannual) and Hole and Corner (crafts and generally interesting articles); the Husband and I spent a peaceful hour drinking tea, eating banana bread and reading, which was a great antidote to the grey January weather.

We had some great luck with Gumtree as well; not only did I get a lovely solid wood table to use as a desk for £20, but we also found a barely used pine table and chairs for the princely sum of £25. I love Gumtree and all it's preloved-second-hand goodness; it's like eBay but without the hassle of having to remember to bid. The desk has beautifully solid legs which don't wobble (the last one did, and it was REALLY annoying) and is the perfect size, and I just love it - and it was a total bargain; the previous owner said that if we hadn't bought it, it would have been chopped up for firewood! Sacrilege! On our way back from picking it up, we stopped in Chichester and found a brilliant shop (which I can't remember the name of now) which sold all kinds of oils, condiments and pasta; the oils were mounted on the wall in great drums, and you just filled and refilled as you like. They also sold retro and vintage style reclaimed glass jars and beakers, and load of little glass bottles designed to take your oil home in - I bought a pretty nice one for a tiny £2,99, but it's going to hold stray flowers in summer rather than fancy oils!

Apart from that, I've been knitting, planning some sewing projects (they rarely get beyond the planning stage!) and just generally hibernating. I hate, hate, hate the winter, and if I could I'd go absolutely nowhere between October and March!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Bloggers at Home: Lulastic and the Hippyshake (and an exciting announcement!)

For my first post of the new year, I've got the next installment of the Bloggers at Home series - and this time it's something a little bit different. I met the lovely Lucy of Lulastic and the Hippyshake over Twitter and blogland a few years ago, and was drawn to her thrifty, eco-friendly, natural-parenting way of living immensely; we finally met in London for tea and cake, and have been friends ever since. Her blog Lulastic is one of my favourites; full of helpful gentle parenting advice, beautiful photographs and pieces on activism, it's a constant source of inspiration and reassurance. Last year, Lucy and her lovely family moved all the way around the world to New Zealand, where they now live in an amazing yurt - and today I'm lucky enough to be able to give you a mini-tour of their beautiful home. 

We have lived in a yurt for ten months now. I heard last night that the mind is a 'discounting muscle' - it's a survival technique, that we minimalise big things over time in order to cope. For example, when we used to live in the treacherous jungle, if we spent our whole time being blown away by the incredible fragrance of the blossom, we would be less aware of the lions stalking us.

So in theory, we should have spent about a week going, "Ooohh! Wow! We live in a beautiful yurt!" Then another week going, "Ahh, yeah, the yurt is pretty cool." And then, by the third week, it should be, "Blablala, yurt shmurt."

But do you know what? Every morning that I wake up in our crazy harem bed (see our bed here > and see the sun oozing in through the canvas, and feel the fresh air on my cheeks I think, "Oooohh! Wow, we live in a beautiful yurt!"

Here are some things we like about it:

Our yurt is plonked in the middle of an orange orchard, and it really feels like we're living in the midst of nature. This comes with a fair share of bugs in the bed - I woke up with a praying mantis on my face last summer. (Read more on the insect life here >  But it means we spend a lot of time high on natures endorphins.

The roundness of the yurt makes it feel kind of sacred. Tthere must be information about this, and if I was a less lazy person, I'd look it up, but I can't be bothered. Living in round spaces must connect with some deep, intuitive part of our minds. Sounds weird, I know. But it's how I feel. DON'T DENY ME MY FEELINGS, GODAMMIT.

I read about this idea of 'democratic architecture' the other day. Inner city, three-bedroom, brick houses (why yes, we did used to own one just like that!) are out of reach for soooo many people. A simple wood and canvas structure like the yurt is the opposite - a very affordable option. I love that changing our lifestyle means we can spend so much time with our children, we explore so much more than we used to, and we all talk each others heads off.

We are off the grid. We do have solar but it isn't the same as having an overabundance of electricity. No WiFi means I am spending an inordinate amount of time reading novels and crafting. It is insane, I am cranking through a book every two days at the moment. (Yet I still don't have a good system of returning them to the library in time. They love me and my fines. I'm basically keeping them afloat. What an act of public service.)

People often think of living in a yurt being a really simple sort of life. And yes, in some ways it is. It would be more so if I wasn't still completely addicted to charity shopping. Ah, more porcelain birds? Sure, we have room for them! Another set of dominos? Why, certainly! A massive Victorian typewriter? HAUL IT IN, BABY!

So yes, it is a pretty magical, cheap and simple way of life. We love it. Insects on our faces is the small price we pay for a life under canvas.

Huge thanks to Lucy for taking the time to photograph her lovely home and send over her thoughts. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and check out Lulastic and the Hippyshake here.

I did mention in the title of this post that there was going to be an exciting announcement; for anyone who already knows Lucy, you'll know that as well as working on Lulastic, she also writes a second blog called Wonderthrift. Just as well written and photographed as the first, Wonderthrift is a daily lifestyle blog packed full of tips and inspiration on ways to live more ethically, sustainably and frugally, and covers topics such as crafts, food and beauty - and I'm incredibly excited and honoured to announce that Lucy and I have joined forces and are now going to co-write the blog together. Eeeek! To read more (and to see a rather large picture of my smiling face) head over to Wonderthrift now. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


I don't really make resolutions as such any more; I never stick to them (currently listing loads of running clothes that I bought when I planned to become a regular runner. Everything still has labels on) so I've decided that instead I'm just going to make plans for the year instead. Plans are the more flexible, friendlier relative of resolutions; they can be changed, moved or postponed with no guilt whatsoever - so while I'm planning to do some yoga at some point, it'll be totally fine if I put it off for a while and sit on the sofa eating biscuits instead. Genius.

I've made a new Pinterest board to keep track of all the things I want to do, which range from learning ancient craft skills to visiting places I've never been to before. The ones I'm most looking forward to are:

  • Finally learning to sew properly. At the moment, I can make an envelope cushion cover, bunting and, err, that's it. I want to be able to whip up tops and dresses, clothes for the kiddos and proper cushion covers with actual zips. I want to be able to nod sagely when someone talks about the benefits of different feet for your sewing machine, and to easily pleat, dart and seam my way through patterns. I do not want to have to cross my fingers whenever I press my foot down on the pedal, nor do I want to spend hours swearing at the machine when it chews up yet another length of my best fabric. 
  • 2015 is going to be the year that I master knitting. It is, it is, it IS. I realise that I've said this every year for the past three years, but this year it's going to be different. Because my God, if it kills me, SOMEONE will be getting a scarf for Christmas next year.
  • I wrote an article a while back on lost crafts for Pretty Nostalgic magazine, and ever since then I've been fascinated by ancient and traditional craft skills - you know; dry stone walling, making wooden spoons and that sort of thing. One thing that I keep reading about is basket weaving though, so I'd really love to have a go at that - even if only to stop me having to buy so many of the things from IKEA.
  • I want 2015 to be the year that we really embrace visiting places around the UK that we've never been to before; we're planning a trip to Cornwall in the summer, and various little weekends and overnights to places like Yorkshire, Cumbria and Wales. Oh, and I am desperate to visit Bristol!
  • I need to learn to cook properly this year; I don't want to just recycle the same pasta-pizza-bolognese-shepherds-pie routine over and over again for the rest of my life. It's boring to eat and I'm bored of cooking it - I'm thinking that maybe starting with some decent utensils might help. Mostly because I've melted all of our plastic ones. 

To see what else I'm planning, check out my New Year, New Plans board over on Pinterest; I think of things I want to have a go at almost every day, so it's pretty regularly updated!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Saturday, 27 December 2014

and so, that was christmas

I had some posts lined up before Christmas about our decorations, handmade presents and whatnot, but as usual, I ran out of time, so I've put it all into one long festive post; the days spent in the woods gathering greenery and berries for our mantle, the (slightly messy and disasterous) gingerbread making in our warm kitchen listening to radio 4, decorating the tree... all of the usual festive wintery stuff. And a slightly shaky, fairly badly edited little video at the end - hurrah! I didn't actually manage to take any photos on Christmas day, because I was too busy eating, reading or napping - I have to admit though, it was nice not to have a camera strapped to my hand the whole time!

Whatever you did, I hope you had a fabulous time, and enjoyed the solstice and festivities - I'll probably be back once before New Years Eve with a post on resolutions and plans, unless I eat myself into a post-Christmas coma!
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