Sunday, 28 September 2014

sunday style: boden special

I first came across Boden when I had Ben in 2008; I was searching for kids clothes that weren't plastered in slogans or animals or cartoon characters, and they ticked every box. While we don't have the budget to buy everything from there, they're now my go-to place for those extra Christmas and birthday presents (admittedly not much of a present for the kiddos, but the only way I can justify spending more than we usually would!) - the quality is always top-notch, they wash marvelously and seem to last forever. They also do great gender-neutral jumpers and t-shirts, which are great because I can buy for Ben and then keep them for Daisy. Result!

These days, I get equally excited about the womenswear as well; the new season pieces are amazing, and include quite a few things that I've had on my wish-list for ages; I've been searching for the perfect metallic and leopard print boots for almost my entire twenties, and now Boden have produced both in the same season *squeal*. The yellow cardigan is pretty much the ideal shade (mustard-y but not too close to tan), there is a jumper with pom poms, and let's face it - who doesn't want a chevron coat?!

They've also launched a blog recently, which is a great read, and includes Olivia Purvis and Sasha Wilkins as contributors (two very stylish ladies who write great fashion blogs). My favourite feature so far was the piece on five different bloggers and their personal style; as well as discovering the fabulous Stylonylon blog, they also included the lovely Kat from Kat Got the Cream and her smashing daughter Flo. If you've never read the blog - check it out!

PS I've had a quiet few days working on some exciting magazine pieces, and also some not-so-exciting copywriting assignments, but I've got some great posts lined up for this week; another fantastic Bloggers Homes feature, a DIY project and a peek inside our own house (only two years after we moved in!).

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

bright and cheerful kids wall art

Helen Dardik Circus Print : The Pippa and Ike Show // Soft Green Lemonade by Jessica Nielsen : Hus & Hem //
Cat Print by Anna Kovecses : The Pippa and Ike Show // Ingela P Arrhenius Tivoli Poster : Hus & Hem // Confetti Garland Stickers :  Molly Meg //
Ingela P Arrhenius Print : Hus & Hem // Reading is Cool Print : Houzz //
Raindrops, Boats and Triangles Stickers : Molly Meg // Tad Lapin Poster : Molly Meg
Continuing on with the kiddos shared room theme, today I've rounded up a selection of my favourite pieces of wall art; I've got loads of postcards and little prints already, but want to find one big one for the main wall in their new room.

I love Ingela P. Arrhenius as much as anyone else, and the 'Be Nice to the World' is my favourite, mostly because it sums up nicely what I'm tying to teach the littlies (although after watching them wrestle ferociously over the wooden play food, I'm not convinced it's working). The 'Reading is Cool' print by Studio Mela has been on my wanted list for absolutely ages (because, you know, reading is cool), and I love the cat print by Anna Kovecses for its smiley face and beautiful simplicity. I've also been thinking about some wall stickers; I'm tempted to get some to create a kind of mosaic somewhere, but then I spotted the amazing designs on Molly Meg - boats and paper planes, how cool are they?!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

bloggers at home: tigerlilly quinn

There are a few bloggers homes that I'd give my right arm for a rummage inside; Hannah from Seeds and Stitches always has the best fabrics and upcycled furniture, Natasha from Candy Pop includes the most amazing snippets of her home on her IG feed, and Rebecca from Futurustic is the master of that wonderful simple, contemporary style that I aim for but never quite manage. Today, though I've been lucky enough to be able to bring you a little look inside the gorgeous home of Fritha from Tigerlilly Quinn; one of my oldest blog favourites, she covers fashion and style, interiors and pregnancy and parenting. With an Instagram feed full of colour and pattern, her home has been at the top of my list to nose around for a long time, so I'm excited to bring you a little peek into the home she shares with her fiance Tom and little boy Wilf. Enjoy!

I love living in a Victorian home because they have so much character; I love the high ceilings and detailed fireplaces the most. We live in a cul-de-sac and all of our neighbours live in identical houses; it's really lovely to see all the Victorian architecture on the street and everyone paints their doors lovely bright colours. Our living room and bedrooms are really large and spacious and give us lots of scope for interior design, and I love that we have both a front and back garden which is a rarity in the city.

My living room is my favourite room in the house; I think my home style is quite retro, and I'm really drawn to mid-century and vintage items. We often scour vintage warehouses and carboots for one-off pieces but we also like to mix them with vintage inspired modern items - I'm very much influenced by the sixties in terms of my clothing style, so I'd definitely say that my interior design tastes and fashion tastes are very much suited.

When we brought out home it was quite a wreck, so we literally had to start from scratch by concreting floors and plastering walls - it was originally in the worst shape of all and now it's the room we're most proud of.

Our living room is the place we feel the most relaxed in. It's actually two rooms cut through to make one, so is very large - I tend to work from one side of the room, answering emails whilst Wilf will play with his jigsaws on the rug, or on the weekend we read together on the sofa. Our bookshelves are full of all sorts of things, there really is no order - I love that it is full of all the things we love, and that make up our home and lives together.

Huge thanks to Fritha for taking the time to join in with the Bloggers at Home series; to see more check out her blog, shop or Instagram feed.

Monday, 22 September 2014

written: the top five myths about having two children

When I was pregnant with Daisy, I lost count of the amount of things people said to me that filled me with hope about how simple and joyous life with two children would be. She was due at the end of March, so of course my head was full of lovely spring adventures; visions of trips to the park, Ben racing ahead with Daisy snuggled to my chest in her sling; the three of us lying on a blanket, bathed in dappled sunlight glinting through the trees; glorious afternoons spent baking cakes with Ben while Daisy slept peacefully in her basket in the lounge. What actually happened was that I had a post-partum hemorrhage that left me weak and anaemic, Daisy had tongue-tie and couldn't breastfeed and it rained almost constantly for the entire month of April. I can't remember ever going to the park, and the only cakes we ate were the ones soaked in my tears of disappointment; 'this,' I thought, 'was not how it was supposed to be.'

I felt cheated, more than anything. People had told me that there was very little difference between having one and two children, and this was the biggest porky I heard; there is a world of difference, notably because you're suddenly outnumbered if you're on your own. To this day, they're like miniature tag-team wrestlers; working together, they'll take it in turns to cry, whine, complain, demand, shout and finally do something heart-stoppingly dangerous. My nerves are frazzled, I spend so much time counting to three that our neighbours must think I can't go any higher ("I'm going to count to three, and if you don't stop poking your bottom / picking your nose and wiping it on the sofa / burping in your sisters face there will be NO PUDDING. One. Two. Three.....") and I can't remember the last time we had a whole night's uninterrupted sleep, but I still wouldn't change it for the world.

What I would change, however, is the fact that I was duped by people and their dirty fibs about how life would be. So for a laugh, I decided to list the top five myths associated with having a second child and then bust the shit out of them with the hard truth.

1. Your second labour will definitely be easier, and the recovery will be much quicker.
I thought I'd break you in gently with something that actually turned out to be half true; my labour with Daisy was easier, and way quicker - it was a few hours as opposed to three days, and I actually don't remember ever feeling like I couldn't cope with the pain. As I delivered her, I remember thinking, 'cor! I've had worse poops than that!'.... and then came the rather bloody aftermath. A post-partum hemmorhage and a placenta that refused to shift resulted in me looking like an extra in a slasher film, and the bathroom looking like a kill-room in a Hollywood blockbuster. The thing is though, this was all down to bad luck and could have happened with the first baby, the second baby the fifth baby or the tenth baby. There's no set rules to labour, regardless of which baby you're having - likewise, if you had a terrible labour the first time around, there's absolutely nothing to say you won't sneeze the second one out. Adopt 'different baby, different labour' as your mantra, and you'll be grand.

2. The baby just 'slots in' to the routine you already have.
Err, no. Quite the opposite actually, sorry. The only way your new baby will slot into your own routine is if your day currently consists of never leaving the house, shitting yourself regularly and eating every two hours - expecting a newborn to just fit around you is like expecting Santa to pop along on a unicorn and deliver you a lottery win; it's simply not going to happen. Stock up on tinned goods and biscuits, sign up to Netflix and make no plans to leave the house until your new baby is at least school age, and you'll be fine.

3. Your older child will adore the new baby, and you'll all bond together during feeds.
Another half truth here; Ben (and quite a lot) of children adore their younger siblings, and thankfully we had no incidents of attempted smotherings, but bonding together during feeds was way out of the question. Mostly because of the truth behind lie number four.....

4. Breastfeeding a second child is ALWAYS easier.
Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No. I posted elsewhere about my breastfeeding woes, but the sad truth is that no, breastfeeding is not necessarily easier the second time around. Granted, if you successfully managed it the first time, you'll have a better idea of what to expect and how to deal with any problems, but if you didn't get to grips with it then you might find it just as tough the second time around. I thought everything would magically just work out, and at first it was fine - but then all the old problems started to surface again; the agonising latch, the cracked and bleeding nipples, the constant hunger (her), the desperate sobbing (me). It turned out that she had tongue tie, and nobody had thought to mention it to us or offer the corrective surgery - so at six weeks I popped a bottle in her mouth and we never looked back. I guess my point is that breastfeeding is almost never easy, regardless of whether you're expecting your first or fifth child - you can do everything they tell you and sometimes it's just not meant to be. And that, my friends, is that.

5. They just entertain each other - if anything, life with two is easier than with one!
Hilarious! Oh, how you joke. First off, a newborn can't even work out that it has hands, let alone how to play with anything successfully. Once they're a few months old, they'll be crawling, dribbling monsters, interested only in offensively loud, garish plastic toys and bumping into things, and after that, they turn into toddlers that want to have everything their older sibling has RIGHT NOW IF NOT SOONER. I can count on one hand the amount of times my two have played the same game together nicely, with no shouting / screaming / clobbering each other with wooden saucepans, but the fact of the matter is that those few times make my insides turn to mush. I'm a sucker for cute, what can I say?

I realise that I might have made having two (or more) children sound pretty stressful and tiring, and I suppose it is - but isn't parenting always a bit like that, no matter how many children you have? There will always be good and bad days, but when I see their two blonde heads nestled together, sharing a book or giggling at something, it makes the failed breastfeeding attempts, the nightmare mornings and the tantrum Olympics more than worth it. Now, pass the wine...

Friday, 19 September 2014

written: an open letter to first time mamas everywhere

When I was expecting Ben (and probably Daisy too, if I'm honest), I read so many blogs, books and magazines that gave me conflicting advice; if you eat this when you're pregnant, your arm will fall off; if you don't use cloth nappies, you'll single-handedly destroy what's left of our ozone layer; if you don't breastfeed, your child will grow up to be a sociopath... the list was pretty endless. So, in honour of all my friends that have just announced that they've got one in the oven, I've written an open letter that includes five of the things that I wish someone had told me - but if you're looking for advice on placenta recipes, you're pretty much going to be out of luck....

Dear Mama,

First up, let me give you a frickin' big high-five; you only went and made an actual human being! Admittedly, depending on what stage of pregnancy you're at, it might be the size of a biscuit crumb / fingernail / grape but still, you're building a person - you're like Dr. Frankenstein, but, y'know, less freaky. Fist bump!
Now we've got the celebrations out of the way, I'm going to dispense some advice. I know, I know, since you announced you were t'up the duff, you've had nothing BUT advice; from well-meaning Auntie Jean to that one friend who ALWAYS thinks they know best, nobody is ever backwards in coming forwards with advice for a pregnant lady. But the thing is, I'm going to give you a few pieces of information on the things that REALLY matter; like what biscuits are best to eat one-handed while feeding and where to buy leggings that accommodate the biggest of bumps and don't give you a camel toe (because, let's be frank, you've got enough to worry about without showing off your lady-bits).

1. Leggings are a more than acceptable wardrobe staple for pregnancy.

I've had lots of friends who swear by pregnancy jeans, but I just couldn't bloody well stand them. With their stupid elastic panels that made you feel like you were being slowly suffocated from the waist up, to the fact that the only place they fitted properly was round the ankles, by the time I had Daisy my thoughts on maternity jeans had gone from indifference to hatred. I also suffered terribly with hot flushes, which meant that denim was a complete no-go - remember that episode of Friends with Ross and the leather trousers? That was me, but I was fatter, and crying. Leggings were their softer, cooler, easier counterpart, and the best thing was that I could literally just wear them all the time. Work? Leggings with a dress or tunic. At the weekend? Leggings with an oversize t-shirt or long top. At home? Pyjamas... but you get my drift. You can buy special maternity leggings, but just try buying a normal pair in a size up and wearing them under your bump first - I challenge you to tell me this isn't more comfortable that squashing your thighs into hot, sweaty denim. Some people are sniffy about leggings, but when you're smuggling a beach ball, being comfortable is the most important thing.

2. You won't need three novels in your labour bag. Or a crossword book. 

Packing a labour bag is like packing for a month long mystery holiday - because you know literally nothing about what's going to happen, the temptation is to just put everything you've ever touched into a suitcase. This is pretty much what happened when I was expecting Ben; I had a suitcase, a holdall, a pillow, two dressing gowns and a pair of slippers - and my labour had three false starts so we spent almost three days just loading and unloading the car. When I arrived home with him, a good 80% of everything in the suitcase hadn't even been touched; from the sixteen bottles of Lucozade and the healthy 'energy' bars to the book about Kate Moss and the three back issues of Elle magazine, I didn't use any of it. Instead I spent most of the time sucking on the gas and air, laughing and weeping intermittently. My top essentials are:

  • Comfy pyjamas or nighties with a button-front top. I'd pack three - chances are you won't need any more than that, and you can always have someone pick you some up from home.
  • Your favourite juice or flavoured water - hospitals are HOT, so ditch the sugary energy drinks and just go for something refreshing instead.
  • A book or magazine, or if you have one, tablet, kindle or iPad. You might need some sort of boredom-buster until things get going, but put it this way - you won't be working your way through war and peace.
  • Straws - if you're having an active labour (and quite a lot of people do), you might find yourself in a variety of positions that make drinking from a cup or bottle nigh on impossible. Find the longest, bendiest straws you can and you'll be well away. Plus, you can always ram them up your partners nose if the mood takes you. Result!
  • A camera and charger or spare batteries. 

3. Your labour probably won't go according to plan - but that's OK!

I know a lot of parent bloggers who have very different ideas about how labour should be; some like homebirths with no intervention, while others like the safety of the hospital and the chance to get off their faces on every form of pain relief for miles around. The thing is, you can plan and plan and plan for L-Day as much as you like, but the chances are that things won't go as you expect; if you're keen on a natural birth with no pain relief, and you end up with an epidural, don't worry. If you're adamant you're going to have a homebirth, but end up having a C-Section, it doesn't matter. If you don't get time to have the pain relief you were so set on, then chest-bump to you lady, because I didn't manage to be that hardcore. If things don't go according to plan, don't beat yourself up about it; however your little round-cheeked milk monster gets into the world, you should just concentrate on the fact that you MADE A HUMAN BEING. Like, from scratch. You're spectacular. Come here, give me a high five.

4. Breast isn't always best. Except when it is.

Crikey, I could write reams and reams on the subject of breastfeeding; not because I'm a huge boob expert, you understand, but because if anybody has failed spectacularly at breastfeeding, it's me. *Stands up and waves* I wrote my own story about breastfeeding here, where you can read in detail about why I didn't manage to feed either of my children for more than six weeks, so I'm not going to rehash all that - I'm just going to say that you should decide on a feeding method that works for you. Yes, breastmilk is the best option, but no, your child will not grow another head / turn out to be a sociopath / hate you forever if you ditch the boob juice for formula - I formula fed both of mine, and they're both (fairly) well adjusted, bright, happy children who are ill incredibly rarely *frantically touches wood*. I spent a long time feeling guilty about my decision to bottle feed which was ridiculous; they were both much happier with bottles, as was I, which ultimately made me a better mother - seriously, I've done a bit of both, and nobody gives a shit how you feed your child, as long as you're both happy. If you do decide to breastfeed and it works out well for you, that's great - just don't let ridiculous corporations or people tutting force you into feeding your baby in a public toilet. You have every right to breastfeed in public, regardless of what anybody thinks - whop that boob out and be proud!

5. Not using cloth nappies doesn't make you an environmental criminal.

Again, another guilt inducing subject that gave me sleepless nights. As someone who is fairly concerned about the planet, I'd decided that I was going to cloth nappy Daisy as soon as she was big enough; I stocked up on various sizes, found liners and boosters, sorted out the bucket and the cleaning liquid.... and we used them for a week. I had roughly three different brands, and could not get them to stop leaking - one time it was like a leakage in a shit factory, and I couldn't find the source, it just kept on coming. It could have been that I wasn't putting them on right, or packing them in the right way, or that the covers weren't tight enough around her legs, but either way we gave up and switched to disposables - Nature Babycare for a while, but they were pretty pricey and in the end we swapped to a supermarket brand which did the job perfectly adequately. Do I feel guilty about the environmental impact? Yes. But not so much that I would have kept Daisy in nappies that weren't working for her, just to limit my contribution to landfill - my priority was her being happy and comfortable, and she certainly wasn't either of those things in nappies that constantly leaked. There are other ways of offsetting the carbon from using disposables, such as using the car less and walking more, composting household and food waste and about a hundred other things - so it's not all bad.

So there you have it, My only piece of advice to you is to follow your heart, and your instincts and do what feels right and makes you and your baby happy. There are more than enough people out there waiting to tell you what to eat /drink /do, so I thought I'd give you a heads up on the really important stuff like, y'know, camel toes and shit.

See you on the other side, Mama!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

super duper gender neutral bedding

From Top Left: Triangle Bedding : Wilkinsons // Arrowhead Bedding : Urban Outfitters // Cushions : IKEA //
Diamond Bedding : H&M Home // Zig Zag Bedding : Wilkinsons // Geometric Bedding : H&M Home //
Colour Splotch Cushion : Urban Outfitters // Monochrome Cushion : IKEA // Spot Bedding: H&M Home

As I mentioned a few days ago, we're going to be shuffling the kiddos together into their shared room over the coming months, and while we're not really in any rush, I've started gathering little bits and pieces slowly, so we don't have to pay out for everything in one go.

The bedding in particular was giving me a proper headache; I'd featured a star print set by H&M Home on the blog, but when I went back to actually buy it, it was sold out. Gah! So then began my long and tiring search for great gender neutral bedding that was a) not too loud b) not too age directed (I don't want to have to change the bedding again when they get a bit older) and c) was ideally not over £25. It was a challenge, to say the least, but I finally decided on the triangle set and zig-zag set, both from Wilkinsons, pictured above. As well as being beautifully geometric and suitable in a mixed-sex bedroom, they were also both only £9 each - and I guess if I'm honest, that was the real clincher!

Monday, 15 September 2014

found: ena and albert

Last week I stumbled across the most amazing shop on Etsy called Ena and Albert; full of huge, bold and brightly coloured statement necklaces, crafter extraordinaire Therese makes every piece by hand from polymer clay in her sunny Sydney studio.

I've played about with polymer clay before, most lately when I made collar clips over on Fritha's blog, but my experiments with making beads have never been very successful; everything ends up a bit squashed and lopsided, and not in a cool, arty kind of way either. Just in a 'my-two-year-old-made-this' kind of way. Therese's beads are the complete opposite; smooth, spherical, textured, colourful and perfect - I love the different shades and tones, the colour combinations that make me think of sugary candy treats and the fact that they're so unapologetically bold.

Head over to the website to take a look behind the scenes, or flex your credit card at the Ena and Albert Etsy shop.