Wednesday, 25 February 2015

room for one more

I mentioned a while ago that we were moving both kiddos into a shared room , as we're only in a two bed house, and last week we finally started measuring up for furniture. We're not sure if our double bed will fit into the smallest room, so they might end up being in there, which means being really clever with space and storage; the freestanding bookshelves will be replaced with wall shelves and we'll need to find some bunkbeds which aren't so high they give Ben vertigo, but after my massive clear out, it shouldn't be too difficult.

Ben is six, and Daisy is (almost) three, so I don't want it to be covered in animals and whatnot; I like the idea of everything being bright, white and simple, with coloured accessories - it obviously needs to be gender neutral, so as much as I love the idea of hanging Daisy's vintage dresses out on display, I'll have to make do with fab unisex clothes from Boys and Girls (I bought this sweatshirt for Daisy the other day - so cool!) and Zara. The other constraint we have to work with is that Ben is on the autism spectrum, and so his space needs to be as calm as possible, otherwise he tends to get overstimulated at bedtime; I think bedding will have to be plain or with a relatively small pattern, and I'll have to get used to the idea of not having a full gallery wall. (*weeps into a hanky*)

Both bedrooms are carpeted at the moment, but I really like the idea of putting floorboards down; the idea of a cream carpet and Daisy loose with pens and playdough quite frankly gives me the absolute fear - there's only so much baby wipes can cope with! We were looking at floorboards in a few shops, but then discovered after reading reviews that not all of them are that resilient, and have to be completely replaced if they get damaged. Luxury Flooring and Furnishings online sell heaps of different floor coverings, but we were really taken with the oiled engineered wood flooring, which is way more hardwearing and also doesn't have that awful sheen that comes with laminate. I figure if we're going to be here for another five or six years, we might as well make it the best we can!

I found quite a bit of inspiration for calm, gender neutral spaces online lately; Design Mom had a feature on an AMAZING Scandi style house, where the kids share bedrooms, and Jodi from Practising Simplicity has just moved her son and daughter into a room together which looks incredible. I also found a great room on Houzz, which has great polka dot bedlinen which I've completely fallen in love with!

We're planning on buying the beds over the next couple of weeks, so hopefully next time I talk about this, I'll be able to show you some snippets of how it actually looks!

Image Sources: 1: Design Mom2: Houzz, 3: Practising Simplicity

This is a collaborative post.

Friday, 20 February 2015

mollie makes issue 050

The new issue of Mollie Makes is a proper good one; there's instructions for crochet hexie wall hangings, a pattern for some amazing fringed slippers, a tutorial on how to cross-stitch a stool, some super colourful origami and a great house feature by Seeds and Stitches blogger Hannah and her photographer partner-in-crime Kristy. If you've still got some crafty energy left after all that, settle down with some cotton yarn and a hook, and whip up my colourful crochet planters that are featured as well - it's an exclusive pattern for the magazine, so you won't find it anywhere else!

To grab your copy, head to the Mollie Makes website, or alternatively, go old school and pop to the newsagents in your lunch break!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

inner calm

I mentioned in a few previous posts about suffering with anxiety, and in the spirit of honesty, I'm going to come clean and admit that actually, it was a bit more than that. For the past ten years or so, I've been on medication for anxiety, depression and OCD; various life events have meant that my dose has gone up and down several times, but now I'm in a relatively positive place, and I've decided to attempt to (*breathes into a paper bag*) go medication free. Anyone who has been on anti-depressents and SSRI drugs will know that it's a slow process, and you have to basically wean yourself off of them over time - it's difficult, but I've just got to the point where I don't want to pump my body full of chemicals anymore. My earth-loving, slightly hippy nature and a cocktail of manufactured drugs just don't seem to mix - but more than that, I honestly don't think I need them anymore. We might not be wealthy, but I'm rich in a lot of other ways, and that should be more than enough, right?

So, todays post is dedicated to all of the natural ways I know of to try and combat anxiety; those nail-biting, spine-tingling, scalp-prickling, heart-racing, sweaty-palmed, self-doubt-filled, shallow-breathed moments that we all know and hate. Screw you, anxiety, the herbs are coming for you!

(Images: Left - an illustration by the very talented Jongmee. Right - The Free People blog)

1. Herbal Tea
I've never been a great fan of herbal tea until recently; peppermint always tasted a bit odd, and I thought chamomile smelt a bit like cooked grass. I'd had tonnes of raspberry leaf when I was pregnant and overdue with both kiddos (not that it worked!), and I used to drink quite a bit of apple and ginger when I suffered from bad IBS, but that's about it. Over the last few weeks though, I've dabbled in green tea with honey and lemon for my shocking immune system, and green tea with jasmine for inner calm. I've also bought a few Pukka teas, and I am a SERIOUS convert; my favourite so far is the Womankind, which is designed to help us gals 'balance and bloom', and I really did notice I felt a lot calmer once I'd had a cup - it does have chamomile in it, but doesn't have that grassy-tang!

2. Breathing
There are loads of breathing exercises you can do, and I've pinned a few tutorials for these on my  'Inner Calm' Pinterest board, but until now I've always gone with the 'in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth' method. It doesn't require too much thinking, and I count backwards from one hundred at the same time which seems to work - I think that as long as the emphasis is on regular, controlled breathing, the job's a goodun.

3. A Hot Water Bottle
I honestly think hot water bottles are one of the best things ever invented (although it has to be said, I'm pretty glad they're made of rubber now, and not ceramic or stone!); they can get rid of back pain and achey limbs, they can warm you up in seconds, and they're just pretty fab. I always find them comforting, and if I find myself starting to feel anxious, they just seem to help me feel a bit more reassured - I'm not claiming they'll work for everyone (or actually anyone else at all!), but it always makes me feel a it better.

4. Rescue Remedy
I should have shares in Rescue Remedy. I've used it for years and years, and whether it's psychological or it really works, I have no idea - but it does the trick for me. There are a few different types, but I find the original one in the cheery yellow bottle is the best - a few sprays on the tongue, and I just feel instantly calmer. Aaahhhh.

5. A Warm, Scented Bath
Obviously you can't just be jumping into the bath in the middle of the day (unless you work from home / have a day off / have no children), but I find regular sessions with candles, a good book and some essential oils or herbal bath soaks help when it's been a particularly bad day or week. There are loads of really good, earth-friendly, skin-kind products out there; anything with lavender in it from Lush is always a winner, and I'm dying to try the Neal's Yard foaming bath. I also saw last week that Napiers (the lovely folk who healed my cracked winter hands) do a Chamomile Honey Heart bath fizz, so that's next on the list.
The great thing about bath soaks is that they're really easy to make yourself using all-natural ingredients. A quick search on Pinterest will reveal loads and loads and LOADS of recipes, or you could pop over to Seeds and Stitches where Hannah recently posted a couple of great looking tutorials.

6. Lavender, Lavender, Lavender
If you suffer from anxiety and you don't have lavender in your life, get to the shops, pronto. A few drops of essential oil on your pillow to aid sleep, some on a hanky to inhale for an instant shot of calm, dried lavender in bags to create heat pads for the neck and back, a few drops of oil in the bath.... oh, the possibilities!

7. Sleep and Rest
Sleep deprivation is a known anxiety-driver, so it's really important to make sure you're getting enough rest. Obviously if you work long hours, or you've got small children this isn't always possible; we've all been in the situation where you have to finish 'one last report', or the toddler has woken on the hour every hour throughout the night, but the key is to make sure you give yourself time to catch up. If you can't nap during the day (and let's face it, how many of us can realistically manage that?!), make sure you go to bed early at least once a week instead, and dedicate one evening to completely switching off - no work, no internet, no smartphones.... just you and something you love doing.

8. Relaxing Music
I've been a Radio 4 fan for years now; Womans Hour, Any Questions and, err, The Archers are all favourites, but recently I've found myself hovering on Radio 3 more and more. When my anxiety peaked back in January, I spent a few evenings knitting or just lying on the sofa listening to classical music; I couldn't have told you what it was, and I don't know my Bach from my Beethoven, but something about it was incredibly soothing and just seemed to make me feel better.

9. Chocolate
I'm pretty sure there aren't many of us that need encouragement in this area, but it turns out that chocolate is actually one of the best things to include in your diet if you're suffering from anxiety and depression. One of its key ingredients (especially in dark chocolate) is seratonin, which is also contained in most anxiety medications - so it's basically like natures antidepressant. Pass the Wispas!

10. Exercise
So, this is actually one thing I've never tried myself (my idea of exercise is walking to the kitchen to get the biscuits), but all the research points to exercise being amazing at banishing anxious feelings. Things like yoga, pilates, meditation and running are all reported to help clear the mind and channel your inner energy, and it does make sense if you think about it. I've had a yoga mat stuffed behind he sofa for years, and I bought some proper running clothes and shoes last year, but the thing is, I've been a bit too busy with tip number 9 to find the time to get them out.....

If you're looking for tips on beating anxiety or depression without medication, I've started a new Pinterest board which has loads of yoga tips, positive affirmations and breathing exercises. Lovely stuff!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

great reads #1

My January slump seems to have stretched into February; I'm not sure whether it's the neverending stream of germs, the bitterly cold weather and endless grey skies, or the fact that it's STILL WINTER, but I'm just not feeling it at the moment. I've taken precisely zero photos this week, but I have been pottering about on the internet quite a bit, so I thought it'd be good to start a regular feature with all my favourite articles, crafty finds and whatnot from the week.

First up, I loved the first installment of Parenthood Unplugged over at Mel Wiggins, a new series which explores how other families in various locations live and deal with parenting. I'm a self-confessed nosy parker, and I love hearing about how other people are doing things, so this was right up my street; the series begins with Sheena and Dave who live and work in a remote area of East Africa - about as far removed from their native Ireland as you can get!

I don't read many style blogs, but one I look at religiously is Lady Moriarty, and I loved her latest post - I'm absolutely in love with the amazing hat!

I used to buy The Green Parent magazine religiously, but it seems to be fairly impossible to find in our little town now, so I tend to make do with the website and blog. This week, I thought the article on intention for change was really interesting; 2nd February was Candlemas (also known as the Celtic celebration of Imbolc), and is the celebration of the midpoint between winter and spring. It's basically the time to start looking to the future and planning for new beginnings; this resonated with me particularly this year - to say I'm looking forward to leaving the darkness behind is an understatement! The article suggests lots of ways to continue the celebrations, including lighting fires and candles, looking for signs of rebirth in nature and sharing food - quite handy considering I'm still burning my favourite winter candles.....

Images: 1, 2

I've been a fan of Carey Mulligan since I first saw her in An Education, and I found this article she wrote for The Huffington Post about her trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo with the charity War Child. Heartbreaking and eye-opening in equal measures, it reminded me yet again how lucky we are to be living in a country with access to brilliant, free healthcare, life-saving drugs and basic human rights.

I've mentioned a few times recently about how I've been struggling my way through January, so this post from Hannah at Seeds and Stitches about the value of loving yourself was perfectly timed. This is one of my absolute favourite blogs, not only for the beautiful writing and photography, but also the realism that runs through every post; I suggest sitting down with a tea and biscuits - it's more like listening to an old friend than reading a blog.

I really like the Modern Craft Workshop blog, and this interview with super-talented weaver Catarina Riccabona was a really good read. I'm mildly obsessed with weaving at the moment, but still haven't actually got round to having a go!

Monday, 2 February 2015

#brighterlives4refugees: the ikea foundation and the UNHCR

Over the weekend, I spent some time watching various TED Talks (if you've never seen any, definitely have a look - so many interesting topics are covered, from the environment and the Middle East to design and technology) and pottering about on YouTube, and I discovered that the UN have their own channel. I added it to my subscriptions, and when I logged on this morning, this video had been posted:

I read quite a lot about the situation in the Middle East, and the one thing that always makes me despair is the situation with refugees and displaced people; the UNHCR (the refugee arm of the UN) provide as much care as they can for an incredible 11.7 million refugees around the world, and half of these are children. Children who have lost everything; one or both parents, their siblings, their homes, their posessions.... childhood is supposed to be a carefree, magical time full of smiles and laughter, learning and play, but that's not the case for so many, and as a parent, this is something I find hard to deal with.

Many refugees are forced to live in camps which have no power whatsoever, which means that once it's dark, it's dark until the next day. No streetlights, no lamps, nothing - so simple tasks that we take for granted like reading, writing, playing games and even going to the toilet all become virtually impossible. One solution is solar lights, which allow people to carry on with their daily lives once the sun goes down; they can socialise, cook and study easily, and feel safer and more secure in and around the camps. The UNHCR and IKEA Foundation have teamed up on the #brighterlives4refugees campaign, which aims to provide refugee camps with sustainable lighting, subsequently improving quality of life for millions of displaced people across the world. Between now and March 28th, for every LED bulb sold (they're really fantastic - they use 85% less energy than a usual light bulb and can last up to twenty years!), the IKEA Foundation will donate one euro to help light refugee camps - so by simply switching from your usual light bulbs you can contribute to energy conservation AND improving peoples lives - pretty great, huh? The campaign was run for the first time during the same period last year, and a total of around 7.7 million euros had been raised by the last day.

For more information, check out the Brighter Lives page on the UNHCR website, and there are some great testimonial videos on the related IKEA page.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

five great makes for 2015

This January is seriously kicking my arse; in my last post, I mentioned that we'd all had a horrible flu virus, but were on the mend - two days later I came down with a kidney infection, and Ben got conjunctivitis in both eyes. We've done pretty much nothing all month, so I spent a bit of time curled up on the sofa, falling asleep to the gentle sounds of Radio 3 trawling through Pinterest, Ravelry and The Purl Bee for lovely things to make. My usual approach to making is to get excited about an idea, start it enthusiastically, get bored a week later and abandon it in The Basket of Doom, which is a bit like a work-in-progress graveyard - this year, I'm determined to actually finish things, so I came up with a list of five projects that are (hopefully) fairly quick and easy, and won't give me enough time to get bored!

A Knitted Scarf
I pinned this scarf tutorial from Maker Land ages ago, when knitting was still something that left me confused and cross. Over the new year, I had a look at it, googled a few of the stitches, and just got stuck in - I was casting on! I was knitting rows! I was increasing by knitting the same stitch twice - and better yet, I understood what that meant! Admittedly, I have undone some of the rows three times because I haven't quite mastered keeping my tension the same, but it's already about half finished (you can see early progress in this post, towards the bottom) so I've got high hopes for this one. (Artemis of Junkaholique has made a couple as well - one for her and one for her lovely daughter Pehr. I don't think mine are going to turn out even nearly as neat as hers!)

A Tablet Case
We don't have an iPad or a Kindle (long live books!) but we do have a Nexus, which until now has been wrapped in a pillow case before being shoved in my bag when we go out. It's pretty well travelled, and goes most places with us because it helps Ben sit still when we're in public (children with ASD tend to fidget and have a really short attention span, and obviously some people get irritated...), so I've decided it's high time it had a proper case. I was going to make a fabric one, but as we all know I'm not the most patient person when it comes to sewing (and I've got two other stitch-y projects lined up), so I thought it'd be a better idea to stick to what I know and go for crochet. I found the amazing bobble case at Lutter Idyll above via Pinterest; it doesn't lead to a pattern but it should be pretty easy to work out, and I do like a bobble or two - I'm thinking maybe a nice soft grey mixed with mustard or teal (surprise, eh?!)

Lemon Bundt Cake with Rosewater Glaze
A few weeks ago when we were in Southsea Coffee, I started reading a magazine called Chickpea, which covers vegan food and living. I'm not vegan, but I do like vegan and vegetarian food, so when I spied a recipe for a lemon bundt cake, I decided to make a note of it; I've bought my bundt tin (probably more excited about making a cake in a fun shape than anything else....) and got the ingredients, so I just need to find the time to actually make it. The pictures above are of another lemon cake from the incredible Carnets Parisiens blog (which is full of seriously amazing photography, I highly recommend spending a bit of time over there), which is almost certainly not going to resemble mine in any way, shape or form. But I can dream.

Simple Summer Tops
In the summer I tend to go a bit hippy-ish; floaty skirts, flat sandals, and loose smock-type-tunic-top-things (technical term right there), but I can never find simple, plain ones that aren't covered in flowers or finished with elasticated necklines or aren't designed to be 'fitted', so I decided this year to sew my own. I'm definitely going to have a go at the one on the left, which I found at the Sanaeishida blog, and is taken from this Japanese sewing book - I've found loads of others that look great as well, but I think I'm just going to stick with one at a time! I'm thinking about the ones on the right as well, but I'm put off a bit by the pleats to be honest - anything that involves technical instructions makes me a bit nervous to be honest!

My last project is another sewing one (God help me), and is for Daisy - I kind of despair at the clothes available for toddler girls once they get past the age of two; everything seems to be covered in slogans, cartoon characters, glitter and loud patterns, and nothing seems to last very long either. I found this pattern on Etsy, which is an instant download, and I love that it can be a short or long sleeved top (or sleeveless, I guess?), or a little tunic dress. I've already got loads of nice fabric and in my eyes, that makes it half finished!

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. 

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