Thursday, 23 April 2015

lego and scarves and unicorns, oh my

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing up the post announcing my second pregnancy; I remember I wrote something about all the things we'd been doing lately, then snuck a picture of me with a very visible twelve-week bump on the end. That little bump is now a superbly robust, funny, adorable, adventurous, clever three-year-old, who has a passion for climbing, running, jumping, dancing and drawing, and has already developed a taste for clothes with wild patterns and colours (no idea where she gets that from.... ahem....)

I've got a separate post coming up about the day itself, but I wanted to write a bit about the presents we bought her; everyone knows I have serious issues with gender specific clothing and toys, but at the same time I don't agree with trying to coerce, shape or restrict children into what you think they should be. Which meant that when she asked for a princess dress, sparkly sneakers and a Barbie-type doll, I had to grit my teeth, suck it up and get on with it. I literally couldn't bring myself to buy her an actual Barbie, so I opted for a Lottie doll instead; the premise is the same, except Lottie is child-appropriate with realistic proportions, and rather than a selection of outfits in various shades of pink, there are clothes for a superhero (with amazing winged gold boots!), a butterfly conservationist, a pirate and a schoolgirl. 'Now,' I thought as I loaded up my online shopping basket, 'this is a doll I can get down with.' 

Apart from Lottie, there was a unicorn head, some Lego, some cars, the sparkly sneakers and several books. I had grand ambitions to make loads of stuff (I even made a list!), but only had time to get one finished - a suitably loudly printed triangle scarf, complete with blue pompom trim. I made it from an old IKEA pillow case, and it all started rather well - I even made a template from paper first - but soon descended into raw-edge-hell. Still, once the trim was on (look how straight and even it is! Look!), it looked pretty good, and she seemed suitably pleased with it. Although you wouldn't know it from the only picture I managed to get..... 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

the ideal home show 2015 with ekornes

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the Ideal Home Show at Kensington Olympia by Ekornes, so the Husband and I shuffled the kiddos off to the Grandparents and set off for a day packed full of interiors and homewares. Heaven! (Although possibly not for the Husband, who thinks than more than one cushion is too many. Pah.)

I love, love, LOVE getting the train to London, and even though we're only a couple of hours away, I don't go all that often - childcare and school runs and train fares all get in the way a bit too much. The journey is half the fun for me; two hours worth of crocheting, reading and watching the countryside zip past is ace - the best way to start any trip! The best thing was that the overground train took us straight there, so there was no need to go on the Underground - I have absolute Tube-Fear, and always avoid it if I possibly can - and we got the BEST pretzels ever at Clapham Junction station. There would have been a picture, except I was too busy shovelling it into my mouth. Blogger fail.

When we arrived, I found the Ekornes stand straight away; I've never really been familiar with the concept of ergonomic chairs, but the helpful staff explained that the Stressless chairs are designed to adjust to the movement of your body, meaning that you constantly receive the correct support in all the right places. The lumber support and adjustable height basically make them the perfect chairs for naps / watching Walking Dead episodes back-to-back / sitting up at your desk and doing lots of work, and most excitingly for me, they've just released a new design in Petrol. That's right folks, they do a chair in TEAL. You all know I love a bit of mustard and teal, so when I saw this display, I almost felt it was like they knew I was coming:

Once I'd had a good sit down look around the Ekornes stand, we decided to wander around some of the other exhibits; my hands down favourite were the real-life homes, where you queued up outside and then got to nosy round a styled house, Through-the-Keyhole-stylee. We went in the Home for Life produced by House Beautiful, and the Future Proof House, which was built by Trivselhus by Esh, and I can honestly say that I would have been happy to stay in either one forever; geometrics, colours, wood, white and mid-century styling all had me drooling like mad.

The rest of the Ideal Home Show was dedicated to food (waaaaay too much choice - the Husbands face lit up when we got upstairs!) and the marketplace where you could buy things to take home. We had a wander, but didn't have time to stop as we had to get back for the kiddos - any other day and I would have been sampling food and getting my nails done faster than you can say 'interiors'.

As well as kindly supplying my tickets for the Ideal Home Show, Ekornes have also generously donated the prize of £100 worth of vouchers for online Scandinavian store Cloudberry Living for one lucky reader. If you're not familiar with Cloudberry, pop across to the site and you'll find beautiful homewares from brands such as Ferm Living, Markimekko and Sagaform - be prepared to want everything!

To enter, simply complete any of the options below, and you'll automatically be entered into the competition. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Huge thanks to Ekornes Stressless for their generosity and for collaborating with The Owl and the Accordion.

Monday, 13 April 2015

march in pictures

March was a bit of a nothing month, to be honest. I had quite a lot of deadlines, and was trying to get everything for Daisy's third birthday sorted out, so we didn't get out and about all that much - the weather wasn't great either, which didn't help.

I went through my fair share of flowers though; I always get excited when I see stocks starting to appear in the shops because they just smell SO GOOD, and I love how the scent just creeps into every room in the house. We've also had carnations, daffodils, gypsophila and the most beautiful pink tulips which clashed just the right amount with my turquoise jug - March is so good for flowers, and the best thing is knowing that there are months and months of the same to come. Lavender and sweetpeas and pinks, oh my!

I spent a bit of time trying to cram in some (non-work related!) crafting in as well; I made Daisy a simple triangle scarf from an old pillowcase and then edged it with some pompom trim, and finally finished her knitted scarf as well (better late than never!) which I'll probably keep for the winter now. I also made some geometric coloured mini-pinboards from IKEA pan stands - they were meant for the kitchen, but I've got a feeling they might end up in the kiddos room!

I kept forgetting to take pictures, so I've picked my favourites from my Instagram feed for March as well - it's just so much easier to whip out a phone than a full size DSLR!

Friday, 10 April 2015

frugal friday: a thrift-tastic second-hand haul

If you follow me on Instagram (*looks over to the right hand side of the page*), you'll know that I've had some pretty good luck with the old charity shops and eBay lately; I've brought home so many different colours, prints and patterns, and I LOVE them all. During the winter I tend to hibernate inside my jumpers and giant parka, but spring and summer are the months I start to get excited about clothes again. Skirts! Sandals! Pumps! Jackets! Cardigans! Printed trousers! Market bags and printed totes! *Dissolves into an excited heap*

I thought that as I'd found so many good things, I'd make a little video rather than just photographing it all - hopefully it'll be a bit more fun to watch and you can get a better look at my second-hand loveliness in all it's 3D, technicolour glory. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

made: diy woven spring basket with harveys

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely folks at Harveys got in touch and challenged me to come up with a crafty project to keep the kiddos entertained over the Easter holidays; it had to be fun, it had to be simple and it had to be lounge-friendly, and so the easy-peasy cheats woven basket was born. It looks fancy and intricate, but actually, it's soooo simple and works well for children of all ages (and adults!)

You will need:

Different coloured card, or printed scrapbook papers – mine are from online boutique StickyTiger
Haberdashery and trimmings, such as ribbons, pompom trim and ric-rac braid
An empty milk carton, whatever size you like
A selection of decorative tapes
Strong glue
A glue gun and glue sticks
Sharp scissors
A craft knife (optional, but handy!)

1. Start by preparing your craft area; you’ll need a hard surface, so a dining table or coffee table works well – this is a perfect project to do cosied up in the lounge on a rainy day. Cover the table in a plastic tablecloth or newspaper, and make sure there are plenty of paper towels and wipes to hand!

2. Wash and rinse your milk carton well, then remove the label and cut the top off so you have a fairly short container. I used a craft knife, but if you’re working with really small children, scissors work just as well.

3. Decide which paper or card you want to use as your base, then measure the height of your milk carton. Cut a strip of card large enough to cover the carton completely, with a good overlap at the back.

4. Place your strip of card face down on the table, then measure 1cm from the end, and draw a line. You then need to decide how wide you want your weaving to be – I did 1cm, but you can make it bigger if you like – and mark the distances. You should end up with something that looks like this: 

5. Cut along the lines using the craft knife or scissors, so you end up with what looks like a piece of fringing.

6. Make the contrasting strips by sticking lengths of decorative tape to a piece of card, then cutting along the edge. This is way quicker and easier than measuring and drawing loads of lines – and there are some really great tapes around as well!

7. Once you’ve cut out all of your card strips, start weaving them into the main panel; either create the standard checkerboard pattern like I did, or experiment by alternating where you place your strips to make different patterns. If you find they move about, hold them in place with a small blob of glue on each end.

8. Once you get to the end of your piece of card, cut out another strip and glue it down to seal the ends in place. Trim any excess card, and leave to dry.

9. To make the handle, take two of your card strips and glue them together with the right sides facing outwards. Attach them to the sides of the milk carton using a glue gun – your basket won’t be holding anything too heavy, so this should be strong enough.

10. Using the glue gun again, join your woven panel to the back of the milk carton, then slowly wrap it around, gluing as you go, until you reach the back again.

11. Take your haberdashery and decorations, and glue them to the basket to finish off. You’re finished – ta da!


  • This is a really versatile project that works with children of all ages; younger family members with little hands can join in with wider lengths of card to make it less fiddly, while older children and teenagers can try narrower ones, and adding in more patterns.
  • Rather than using patterned or plain paper, you could get the kids to decorate card with painted patterns and colours and use this instead.
  • Experiment with different size and shape bottles; fizzy drink bottles and squash bottles are great for round baskets, and you could even make miniature oval baskets using washing-up  liquid bottles.
We love a bit of crafting and mess in our house, although admittedly both Ben and Daisy tend to get bored fairly quickly; I hate cleaning up afterwards, especially if they've abandoned their project halfway through, but find that baby wipes get pretty much any stain out of any surface or fabric - and if they don't, a baking soda and white vinegar mixture will do the trick. There are heaps more cleaning tips from other Mums on the Harveys website, and they've also helpfully come up with some specialist guides for getting those pesky marks off of fabric and upholstery and leather furniture, and even for removing scratches from glass.

There are some other great crafty tutorials over here, including a fabulous rocket backpack (such an amazing idea!) and a beautiful spring mobile; most excitingly of all though, Harveys have teamed up with Not on the High Street to give away an incredible children's den.

All you have to do is upload pictures of your childrens crafty projects to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, adding the #HarveysHandmade hashtag and you'll automatically be entered in to the competition. What are you waiting for? Get crafting!

Huge thanks to Harveys for partnering with The Owl and the Accordion.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

a week of spring: how does your garden grow?

April is a great month for loads of things; decorating Easter eggs, scoffing hot cross buns, heading outside for the first adventures of the year and trying out new crafts - but anyone who's got even slightly green fingers will know that April is the magic month for gardeners. Sure, by now we've seen the snowdrops and the crocuses pop up, but April is the month that things really get going - the last frosts have been and gone (well, probably - this is the UK!), and it's the month that you can start finally deciding what's going to grow where.
A lot of people get organised around February, but I'm as forward-thinking in the garden as I am in the kitchen (i.e; not at all), so it's about this time that I start getting everything together - these are my top tips for getting your garden off to a flying start in spring.

Make a Plan
By now, you'll probably have already bought your seeds (I get a bit overexcited pretty much the week after Christmas, and order loads online then), but if you haven't, it's not too late. For flowers I usually order from Higgledy Garden, and then head over to Allotinabox and Real Seeds for vegetables - it took a couple of years, but I found these were by far the best quality seeds, and Real Seeds has the most amazing selection.
Decide in advance what is going to go where - I always try to do a bit of companion planting, as I like the garden to look a bit more natural; nasturtiums in with the beans and peas, marigolds in with the tomatoes and so on. Do remember though that making a plan doesn't automatically mean you have to stick to it!

Prepare the Soil
If you don't know what type of soil you've got, now is the best time to find out - good soil is the basis for great plants, and it's far easier to fix any problems before you plant your flowers and veg out. Our soil is really unmanageable clay, which is difficult to maintain and has terrible drainage, so I tend to plant most things in pots, and then scatter wild flowers seeds around the borders. Whether you're planting in a pot or straight into the garden, dig through plenty of good quality (peat free!) compost and a little horse manure and you'll be set - and if you are using pots, don't forget to add the layer of shingle to help with drainage.

Get a Greenhouse
I've got one of those little plastic ones from Wilkinsons, and while they might not have space for a nice chair or a proper potting table, I honestly think using one was the secret to my vegetable success last year. Even the smallest greenhouse will make such a difference; not only is it somewhere to harden off seedlings and keep young plants until they're strong enough to survive against the pests, but it's also somewhere handy to keep your pots and trowel if you don't have a shed - I really can't recommend them enough!

Think about Decoration
Quite a lot of people like garden ornaments, from the traditional garden gnome to slightly quirkier statues and sculptures (Co-operative Insurance recently compiled a list of the most eclectic must-see ornaments across the world, which are definitely different!), but we don't really have the space - I do like those solar lanterns you can buy, though, and this year I'm planning on brightening up the fences with a few oilcloth garland-y things. Towards the end of the summer last year, we found some old wicker-style chairs outside someones house, so this year I'm planning on varnishing them ready to be used, and then hopefully finding a table to go with them for those balmy outdoor summer dinners. Lovely!

This is a collaborative post.

a week of spring: five great outdoor activities with kids

Although I'm not against getting outside in the winter, I can think of things I'd rather do with the kiddos; stay in and watch movies, eat bake cakes or biscuits, make indoor tents under the dining table, have a go at some new crafts, have naps... put it this way, pulling the curtain and being greeted by sheets of rain and howling winds doesn't exactly inspire me to get my coat on.

I do love the outdoors, though, so as soon as the spring rolls around I start to feel relieved; those claustraphobic feelings begin to disappear, the air smells a little bit sweeter and we start piling back into the car for more weekend adventures again. For todays Week of Spring post, I've compiled a list of my five favourite things to do in the great outdoors - just don't forget to pack the raincoats!

The First Picnics

I always think that the first picnics are the best ones of the season; lying on a blanket on freshly mown grass, with flasks of tea and packets of biscuits, thinking about all the things you're going to do over the spring and summer. Closely followed by running for shelter when the weather decides that actually, it still fancies being a bit wintery, and pours with rain.
Early spring picnics are great, but you need to be prepared. We always take the following:
  • A blanket which has a waterproof backing to it - because as they say on the Great British Bake Off, nobody likes a soggy bottom.
  • A good stash of carrier bags to put any treasures or finds in - they're probably going to be a bit soggy, so waterproof bags are always a good idea. (You can also use these to sit on if you haven't got a waterproof backed blanket.)
  • Flasks of tea (or coffee for me and hot chocolate for the kiddos), because those spring winds can be nippy. 
  • Thick jumpers and anoraks - don't let that sneaky British sun fool you into thinking it's a) warm or b) going to stay dry.
  • Lovely food; I know loads of people make their own quiches / quinoa / salads / cakes and whatnot, and hats off to them, but we just tend to go to Waitrose or M&S Food. I'm shit in the kitchen, and really, warm cheese sandwiches are warm cheese sandwiches whether you're eating them on a beautiful beach or not. Yuk. Don't forget a bag for your rubbish either - so many times we've had to come home and clean out the rucksack after we had to put half empty crisp packets and gnawed apple cores in there. *shudder*

Nature Bingo

Nature Bingo is such a simple idea, but sooooo good if you've got little ones (or slightly bigger ones) - it's really good in any season, because it introduces children to the concept of nature doing it's thing at different points of the year. It's partcicularly good in spring, though, because you get to celebrate the whole new-life-starting-over stuff; I find kiddos love to spot the first shoots and blooms coming up, and there's always a ridiculous amount of excitement over the new lambs leaping around the fields. I always get frustrated about living so far away from London, but we're pretty set down here in Hampshire for outdoors-iness!
There are loads of nature bingo cards to download for free online, but my favourite has to be the one over at Seeds and Stitches from the end of last year; I love the illustration style and the beautiful hand-lettering. Hop over for your free download. (They've also got a printable for older kids lined up, so do keep checking back.)

Build a Den

Whether it's in the garden with bamboo canes and blankets, or in the woods with branches and leaves, there's nothing quite as satisfying as getting outside and building the first den of the year. A place to sit and read, somewhere secret to hide from the adults, or base camp for team games; I honestly think dens are a childhood rite of passage!
To get the most out of your branches and bamboo canes, both the Woodland Trust and the National Trust have some great tips on building the best dens that will keep you dry when those April showers appear.

Head to the Beach

My absolute favourite place to be in the spring and summer is the beach; the salty air whipping your cheeks until they're flushed, toes sinking in the warm sand, dozing off behind the windbreak in the afternoon sun.... nothing better. I always think Spring is a really good time to spend days on the beach; it's not so hot that you need to reapply the suncream every five minutes, but it's also not so cold that you need six layers and an overcoat just to stop hypothermia setting in (plus the wind in spring is great for kite-flying!). We pack a selection of food and drinks, our windbreak, several blankets and after Daisy launched herself unexpectedly into the sea last year, towels and spare clothes.

Easter Egg Hunts and Rolls

If you don't go for any of the activities above, get your Easter baskets ready and head out on an egg hunt; if you've got a back garden you can set it up there, if not use a small area of the local park or playground - if you get there early enough in the morning, chances are it'll be pretty empty anyway (a tactic we often use!).
This year, we're going to be decorating eggs and then driving over to Butser Hill for the Great Egg Roll; we've never done it before, and the kiddos are pretty excited (so fingers crossed it'll stay dry!) - plus, they get to spend some time getting good and messy with the paint and stickers when they decorate their eggs. The event is on Easter Monday at 10am, and is organised by Queen Elizabeth Country Park - if you're looking for something local to you, try looking at national parks and woodland areas, they often have exciting things happening for littluns (and biguns who are little at heart!)

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