Thursday, 15 September 2016

read: paper home

I follow quite a few crafters on Instagram and in the blog world, and while most of them tend to be the woolly variety (I spend way too long falling down the crochet and knit rabbit hole on there!), there are a few weavers, illustrators and paper artists on there. One of my absolute favourites is Origami Est (@origami_est on Instagram - go and follow along!), who makes impossibly wonderful things from paper; we're talking intricate vases, beautiful lampshades and the eternally popular paper diamonds.

Image Credit: Kristy Noble

Image Credit: Kristy Noble

Origami Est is the super talented Esther Thorpe, who has just released a book packed full of her origami patterns called Paper Home - I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to the launch, but as I couldn't make it, I was sent a copy of the book to review instead.

The closest I've ever been to origami is when I made some paper fanwheels at Christmas last year. It's always a craft I've admired and wondered about, but the lengthy baffling instructions and need for precision has always put me off a bit. The first thing I noticed about the book was that for every instruction in EVERY tutorial, there is a corresponding picture - this meant I instantly felt more confident before I even started, because I knew I'd have something visual to follow. There's nothing worse than trying to follow a complicated craft tutorial, and feeling that frustration that comes with not having a clue what the author is talking about! 

The book is laid out in a way that makes it really easy to get started; the introduction is a letter from Esther, where she talks about her history with origami and paper, and then goes on to advise beginners which projects to start with. Following that is a really helpful page on the type and quality of paper to use, and then a brilliant guide to accurate folding techniques. I'd never done actual, proper origami before, but after such a thorough introduction, I went into the first project feeling really confident.

I started with the triangular basket, and while mine didn't turn out quite as good as the one in the book, I was still pretty impressed with it. It was really simple to do, it looked great and more importantly, it didn't collapse when I picked it up! I followed it up with a couple of the party diamonds, which were trickier, but so worth it - our house is going to be absolutely full of these at Christmas this year!

There are heaps of projects I'm still dying to try; the book is laid out in three sections - Hang, Shelf and Wall, and there are some brilliantly imaginative projects. On my list are the pyramid fairy lights for the kiddos room, the star garland for our Christmas tree (OK, it's a bit early, but I like to plan ahead!) and the lampshade for my workroom. The photography is gorgeous and really inspiring, and the whole book was just as good, if not better, than I'd expected - definitely one to put on the Christmas list (or as a payday treat!)

I was sent the Paper Home book to review, however all words and thoughts are my own. Seriously though, I was always going to love it! 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Five Top Essentials for a Cosy Garden Room

Above: Inspiration at H&M Home

If there's one thing I look for hopefully every time we move house, it's a place that has a garden room, shed or some sort of outbuilding (I'm talking warm and weatherproof, not old metal bicycle store!) We've got a conservatory in our current place, which is nice, but until recently it's just been my work area - which basically means it's packed full of old craft stuff I don't use anymore, and is usually a total mess. I've been having a pre-Autumn clear out though, which means I'm going to be making it a bit less work-y and a bit more home-y - I'm thinking somewhere bright and airy in the summer, and cosy in the winter. I've been trawling Pinterest and my favourite online shops for inspiration, and have come up with five easy tips to make the perfect garden room - so if you're creating a similar space read on!

1. Invest in a good building
If you're planning on using your shed or garden room on a daily basis, all year round, it makes sense to spend a little bit more on a well-made building; Lidget Compton have spent over thirty-five years perfecting the art of the outbuilding, and offer a wide range of options when it comes to garden rooms. Everything is customisable, from the size and roof height, to the finish; choose from brick, stone, texture or even timber-effect cladding for anyone who's looking for a more rustic-style retreat. Best of all, Lidget buildings are double-glazed and designed to be maintenance free, which means no sanding, treating or painting. Hurrah!

2. Choose comfortable furniture
A garden room should be somewhere you can relax, so it's important that any furniture not only looks good, but is also practical; opt for comfortable seating with plenty of cushions, and some shelves and baskets for easy storage. If you're on a budget, try local charity shops, eBay or Gumtree for second-hand bargains, or check out any house-clearances - if you're into vintage, these are usually a goldmine for great chairs, plant pots and even lamps. Better for the environment, too!

3. Add pile of cosy blankets
I think about blankets the way my friends think about shoes; you can never have too many. If you're going to have a shed, conservatory or garden room, you're going to need blankets - no matter how well insulated it is, it's going to be nippy in winter, and even the summer evenings get chilly. The ones above are from The Future Kept, who have pretty much the best selection of blankets in the world - pile them high in the corner, then cosy up on a chilly evening with a great book or some knitting or crochet. Heaven.

4. Include a good selection of books (or magazines!)
Because what could possibly be better than losing an afternoon surrounded by the outdoors, settled on a comfortable chair with a great book?! (I've got a big post on Autumn reading coming up next week - I've spent ages browsing Persephone Books lately!)

5. Don't forget the plants
Merge the outside with the inside by adding loads of plants to your garden room; if you're not great with keeping them alive, cacti and succulents are a brilliant option - they require almost no care - and spider plants are pretty hardy as well. Trailing plants like string of pearls or string of hearts are great for weaving along the top of shelves or hanging in a macrame planter, and a pilea plant is always a nice addition to any room (I've just found a great one, after years of looking!) Try Botany Shop or Geo-Fleur online, if you can't find anything local (be prepared to have a seriously long lust list after looking at their websites, though!)

Many thanks to Lidget Compton for collaborating on this post.


Friday, 26 August 2016

stitch and forage

I've known Hannah at Seeds and Stitches for about five years; we met when I stumbled across her wonderful blog in 2011, and bonded over crafts, the environment (although she's far better at her ethical efforts than I am!) and gardening. She's now working as a stylist and writer, and has teamed up with Natasha Richardson of Forage Botanicals (definitely check out the podcast if you haven't already - there's so much to learn) to produce a summer e-course titled Stitch and Forage.

Made up of four modules, the course teaches you how to pass the summer in a more ethical and thoughtful way, focusing on crafting, cooking and enjoying the natural world; working through each section you'll learn to make simple sewn projects, discover the joys of foraging for food and find out how to make the perfect fire. As well as the tutorials, there are also added extras such as printables, planning guides and resource links, so everything is as easy as possible, even for the absolute beginner.

As we're heading towards the end of the summer, Hannah and Natasha have reduced the cost of the course to £15 - but it's only available until August 31st, so don't leave it too long to take advantage of such a brilliant bargain!


Thursday, 25 August 2016

saving the bees with Taylors Tea

I've not had much success in the garden this year; I've not had the time to dedicate to growing lots of veg, and to be honest I've really missed the evening watering and the gentle therapy of digging, but I did manage to get some flowers planted - I always choose the ones marketed as 'bee-friendly', because the thought of living on a planet where bees have declined by 50% in the last twenty-five years is frankly terrifying. We've got several large lavender bushes, a huge (I'm talking tree-sized!) fuchsia, towering 6ft hollyhocks, laden with palm-sized pink flowers, and some deep purple and pink veronica, and I also added some bishop's weed, trailing lobelia, alyssum and nasturtiums. The RHS have a brilliantly comprehensive list of plants and flowers that are perfect for our pollinators, and can be found at any good garden centre or DIY store - you can find it here.

The plight of the bees is something that people are starting to take more seriously, and quite rightly; bees are largely responsible (with some assistance from butterflies and other insects) for pollinating flowers and crops - they're natures way of providing us with food, and without them, we're looking at a very bleak world with rising food prices and increasing chemical use. Taylor's Tea, famous for their incredible fruit and herbal flavours (we've been drinking the sweet rhubarb every summer for years!), have dedicated their most recent campaign to saving the lives of bees everywhere, with their 'Grand Beedapest Hotel' - it's one of the most impressive and intricate things I've ever seen, so do make sure you watch the video below!

When they got in touch and asked if we wanted a bee hotel for the garden, I jumped at the chance (they also included a few boxes of tea, a beautiful handmade mug, a beeswax candle - my favourite! - and some wildflower seeds); we nailed it to a small piece of dowel, and nestled it amongst the lavender, mint and hollyhocks ready for the bees to move in. Bee hotels are vital for the survival of lone bees - while most tend to reside in a hive, there are a few that choose to go it alone, and bee hotels give them somewhere to nest and shelter. They're also great for urban bees that live in cities and towns, because they replicate the natural environment that they choose to live in.

I think this is probably one of the best campaigns I've come across in a long time; you all know I'm mad for nature and the environment, so this really made me smile. For more information on any of Taylor's wonderful teas, or the campaign, head to the website - you can even win a trip to Kew Gardens! 

Many thanks to Taylor's of Harrogate for collaborating with me on this post. I was honoured to be included in the campaign! 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

summer fun: staunton country park

If you don't like flowers, then you're probably not going to like todays post much - so sorry in advance for being a botanical bore!

I've lived round the corner (and I do mean literally round the corner!) from Staunton Country Park pretty much my entire life, and I'm ashamed to say until recently I'd never been. (Actually, my Mum said we went on a school trip when I was in the infants, but I definitely don't remember that!) It's a really great place to go for the day; there's a whole load of farm animals that you can feed, two giant play areas for the kiddos, plenty of outdoor space to explore and roam, and the most beautiful walled garden I've ever seen. Something for everyone!

We bought some grass nuts on the way in, and the kiddos had a grand time pottering about feeding the sheep and goats - they made the most of the walk-through encounter area, where the animals were roaming around. (I stayed outside with the bags and prayed that nobody trod in anything nasty!) I left the three of them at the adventure playground and wandered round to the garden, which was HEAVEN. It was a beautifully warm day, and the air was filled with the heady scent of lavender; the tallest aliums waved in the breeze alongside deep purple spires of Veronica, and a sea of golden flowers nodded their heavy heads. I could have quite happily spread out a blanket and taken a nice long nap!

We've decided that we're going to make more of an effort to start venturing out to new places; it's easy to fall into the habit of going to the same old favourites, but that's not much of an adventure is it? I've got a whole list of houses, gardens and outdoor spaces to visit, and this Saturday we're off to Lewes for a look in the independent shops and cafes (the weather has forecast rain, so why not!).

Whatever you're doing, have a wonderful weekend - I've got some great posts lined up for next week; a shop feature, book reviews, and a few other things. Hopefully I'll get them finished in time!


Friday, 12 August 2016

summer fun: the Hogwallops and some beach time

Hello! I've not been around for absolutely ages - I tend to be an even worse blogger over the summer than I am usually! As well as still having to work, both kiddos are at home at the moment, and there's pretty much never a time where I'm going to stay in at the laptop to blog rather than going out in the sunshine with them. I think now more than ever I'm aware that childhood is fleeting; Daisy is starting school next month and Ben moves up to Juniors, and this sort of feels like a 'last' holiday - even though it obviously won't be! - but I wanted to make sure we all enjoyed it.

We've not been anywhere exotic, so if you're holding out for tropical photos, you're going to be disappointed - none of us have passports (yes, really!) and we seem to always be more on the skint side. We're really lucky with where we live though; Portsmouth is an hour away from London, Brighton and Bournemouth, and ten minutes in any direction can take you to beautiful beaches, rolling countryside and lovely towns - and we've had some pretty decent weather this year as well.

Ali had the week before last off work, so we planned loads of day trips and had a mini local holiday - starting with a trip to the circus on the Saturday. The lovely folks at Hampshire Cultural Trust had got in touch a couple of weeks before to see if we'd be interested in going to see a slapstick comedy circus show, and of course, we were - acrobatics and humour, what's not to love?!

The Hogwallops is performed by the very talented Lost in Translation circus, and tells the story of a family of misfits and their attempt to celebrate Grandpa's birthday; over the space of an hour, we watched incredible balancing, spectacular aerial acrobatics and impressive tumbling - and on top of that, there was the ongoing mystery of the stolen banana. The whole thing was brilliant, and I know the kiddos loved it purely because neither of them moved for the entire time (massively rare!). What we also thought was great was the seating layout; both of our kids are pretty fidgety (especially Ben, being autistic), so I always dread any kind of event where they need to sit in an enclosed space for a long period of time - but they'd arranged the inside of the big top with a row of folding chairs at the back, and then left lots of open space at the front to spread blankets and cushions for people to really get comfortable. There were people with small babies who were rolling round happily, younger children sitting cross-legged and older children lounging on piles of cushions - it was probably the most comfortable performance I've ever been to!

We've been to a few circus events before, but I think this one was the most enjoyable so far - the length of the show is ideal for children, and it's nice that there's a story to follow rather than just series of tricks and acrobatics - I think perhaps that's what kept the kiddos interested; they wanted to see where the banana ended up and what happened in the end! I can't think of a better way to have kicked off our stay-at-home holiday, and we thoroughly enjoyed it - if you ever get the chance to go, do!

On Sunday, we woke up early to glorious sunshine, so we threw everything in the boot and headed off to Whitterings for breakfast. Just twenty minutes away, this gloriously sandy beach has rolling dunes, beautifully clean water and plenty of opportunities for beachcombing, and the drive is one of my favourites - lots of thatched cottages, winding paths and open fields full of wildflowers. Heaven!

Hope you're all having a good summer, I'll try not to leave it so long between posts next time!

Many thanks to Hampshire Cultural Trust for sending us off to the circus - you certainly got our holiday off to a good start!

Friday, 29 July 2016

the #ethicalfashioncollective: ethical on a budget

One thing that puts most people off of buying ethical and organic clothing is the price point; granted, most clothes are pretty expensive compared to your H&M or other high street favourites - and it's all very well people saying that everyone should just 'buy to last', but that's not always an option if you're on a low income (like, err, us).

Which is why I've dedicated this months #ethicalfashioncollective post to my favourite eco-friendly and organic sale pieces - it took a while, but I narrowed it down to my top five. And there's absolutely nothing over £50, either! *sounds shopping klaxon*

If you want to join in with me and Mel on our journey to a more earth-friendly wardrobe, either blog, write a Facebook post, tweet or Instagram your ethical fashion buys and finds using #ethicalfashioncollective, so we can see all your lovely stuff.
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