Monday, 27 October 2014

winter warmers

Although I don't go out much in the evenings anyway (two kiddos, plus a husband who works reeeeeaally long hours make it virtually impossible), I always look forward to nights on the sofa once the weather gets colder. Snuggling under one of my charity-shop-bargain crochet blankets with a boxset on the TV and a crafty project on my lap is my idea of heaven, so I thought I'd do a little post on my essentials for a cosy night in. Pyjamas mandatory!

1. Pyjamas at Toast, £75
OK, so these might be a teensy bit (read: massively) out of my budget, but the pattern is so amazing that I couldn't leave them out. Pyjamas are the number one ingredient for a good night on the sofa; the softer, bigger and cosier the better.

2. Orla Kiely Mug at Wayfair, £11
Whether you like wine, tea or hot chocolate in the evening, you need something to put it in, and this Orla Kiely cup is perfect (OK, possibly not for the wine...) It's a good size, the pattern is amazing, AND it comes in three colours, one of which is mustard. Yum.

3. Festive Socks at Boden, £25
I get really cold feet in the winter, so I've always got a good supply of socks on the go - these ones from Boden are pretty much the ultimate in foot-warming. They're a bit pricey, but they're 80% wool and they're so thick that you could ditch the slippers completely.

4. Ethnic Cardigan at Esprit, £45
A lot of people like dressing gowns and robes to huddle in on the sofa, but personally I prefer a nice, big cardigan - there's less fabric to get tangled up in, and they always just seem that little bit cosier. This one from Esprit ticks all the boxes; oversized with an amazing geometric pattern (you know I love a good geometric!), it'd be perfect for a night on the sofa or a morning at the park.

5. Soap and Glory Fab Pore 2-in1 Facial Mask at Boots, £10
I turned 31 this year, and the years I spent existing on coffee, cigarettes and alcohol, staying up all night and basically taking the right piss out of my skin have caught up with me. My pores are like craters, I have more wrinkles than an old shoe, and the dark circles under my eyes make me want to put a bag on my head. While I can't turn back the clock, I'm hoping I can slow it down a bit with some clever beauty products  - when I mentioned my pores, someone recommended Soap and Glory, which was a brand I'd never really bothered with. I tried this mask last night, and while my pores haven't disappeared in a puff of smoke, my skin feels soft and a bit.... zingier. I popped it on before Homeland started, and then washed it off in the first ad-break - no mess, no fuss, and the perfect addition to a night in.

6. Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Yarn at John Lewis, £4.95 per ball and Alarm Radio Sewing Basket at Cath Kidston, £49.30
A night in isn't a night in for me unless there's some kind of crafting involved; I do a lot of making for work, so when I'm trying to relax, I pick up some yarn from my stash and make simple granny square blankets or pot holders. A lot of people love Rowan yarn, but I really like Debbie Bliss, and it's a way friendlier price point as well (although currently I'm on a Stylecraft budget...).

7. Jo Malone Lavender and Lovage Scented Candle at John Lewis, £40
I am really, really into candles, to the point where the Husband is eternally frustrated by how many we have. A lot of people rave about Diptyque, but I really like Jo Malone - I'm currently burning a
Blue Agava and Cacao scented one that my lovely friend bought me, and I love how they fragrance a room but not in an overpowering way. That said, I get ridiculously excited by those Glade winter candles that come out every year - it's not Christmas until you've got one of those on the go!

8. Rimmel Salon Pro by Kate Nail Polish in Punk Rock and Rimmel Velvet Matte in Sumptuous Red, both at Boots, £4.49 
I've recently got quite into painting my nails, and I know lots of bloggers rave about Barry M nail polishes, personally I prefer Rimmel; the Salon Pro ranges are really hardy and usually last a good few days, and they have super wide brushes making it easy to get a nice even finish. I'm quite into matte finishes at the moment, so I'm hoping some of the new velvet matte polish turns up in my Christmas stocking (OK, it's only October, but I like to think ahead!).

9. Essie Quick-e Fast Drying Drops at Boots, £8.99
One of the reasons I've never spent much time painting my nails until now is because, put simply, I'm a clumsy smudger. I get them looking great, with a nice shiny top coat, and then 99.9% of the time forget they're wet and fiddle with my hair / shove my hand into the biscuit tin / go to the loo and wash my hands. Then it's smudge-city, and I end up getting cross and taking the whole lot off. If I could recommend one beauty product to anyone, ever, it would be the Essie drops - gone are the days of waving your hands around for an hour to dry your polish, these speed things up a LOT. When I opened them, I just couldn't fathom how putting some sort of oily stuff over tacky nails could possibly work - but it just does. It's like some sort of magic-science-wizardry.


Friday, 24 October 2014

home: the wonderful world of wall stickers

For ages and ages, I've been deliberating on what to do with the big blank space behind the kiddos IKEA play kitchen; I thought about yet another print, but decided I wanted something a bit different, and had started looking at different decals when I got an email from the lovely folks at My Wall Stickers, asking whether I fancied trying out some of their products. Talk about well timed!

The only time I've ever come into contact with decals or anything in that area is when I had to apply the stickers to the windows in my old job as a merchandiser - and they were a total headache. They often refused to sit straight, and pretty much always ended up with bubbles underneath, or worst of all, just refused to stick on at all - so when they actually arrived, I expected it to be a long and difficult road to beautiful walls.

They had loads of different designs, but I went with the turquoise stars because a) the colour was perfect and b) I had a few DIY plans up my sleeve, and this shape was best suited to the job. They arrived on a roll with a special plastic tool for smoothing out any bubbles, and a pretty clear set of instructions that turned out to be easy to follow; a couple of snips and some rubbing later, and my test star was on the wall - and more to the point, it stayed there!

There were a few different designs and sizes on the roll, and I started by cutting out a few of the largest stars, and then making myself a raindrop template which fitted nicely into the centre. Ten minutes later, I had a pile of the most perfect turquoise raindrops, and ten minutes after that, they were trickling down the wall beneath a washi-tape cloud - it was pretty much one of the quickest and most fun DIY projects I've ever done!

Then, I got a bit carried away and got happy with some pom poms and washi tape...

There were 110 stickers on the roll (for the absolute bargain price of £19.99), and they literally go on forever - I could have easily covered the entire wall in different sized raindrops, but I had another idea in mind....

The handy thing about the stars is that the points on the triangle are pretty much the same size (with a little trimming in some cases), so the possibility for geometric patterns all over your walls (cupboards, drawers, desk, fridge, pots, husband, cat....) are absolutely endless. I'm already planning on buying a second set in a different colour to make some sort of triangle marvel on our kitchen cupboard doors, and I've got at least three plant pots that are going to get the same treatment as the one above.

I honestly can't rate these stickers highly enough; the delivery is fast (the very next day, actually!), they're really, REALLY easy to apply, and the quality and finish couldn't be better. As well as being easy to remove (fab for any fellow renters out there), it does say that they're non-reusable, but I managed to peel a couple off and re-attach them with no trouble when I'd stuck them to the wall a bit lopsidedly. (Although this might be something to do with the fact that our walls are covered in a washable satin paint, rather than a matte, so don't hold me to that!)

Huge thanks to the lovely team at My Wall Stickers for their patience in answering my endless DIY questions, and waiting so long for the review due to three sets of bad photographs. I received the Super Stars pack free of charge for the purpose of this review, but as usual, all words and thoughts are my own. I really, really recommend you grab some for your walls! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

bloggers at home: candy pop

The next instalment of Bloggers at Home is a real treat; I've been following the Candy Pop blog for a while, and was so honoured when writer and photographer Natasha agreed to be part of the series. If you've never checked out the blog, you've basically got a huge vintage-shaped hole in your life; full of interiors, adventures and collections of loveliness, it's definitely one to add to the blog reader. Also make sure you track her down on Instagram; Natasha's feed is easily one of my absolute favourites, with plenty of cheerful kitsch and eye-popping colour. 

My boyfriend and I live in a modern, spacious, top-floor apartment in Oxford, and I have to say it's the loveliest home I've ever lived in. I say this having resided in fourteen different properties, ranging from a studio flat on London's trendy Kings Road, to a large Victorian town house in Worthing on the Sussex Coast.

As with all the spaces in our home, the bedroom is quite minimal with just a few of my favourite things on display. I love the calmness and tranquility of a white interior, and so I always opt for white walls, bedding, towels and so on. The colours tend to come from my vintage trinkets; just a few carefully chosen things to add interest.

My favourite item is the French style dressing table, because it reminds me of the Sindy one I had in the 1980s; I actually bought an original Sindy one from eBay shortly after, and sure enough, they were the same!

The wall hanging was made by my Mum for my sister's wedding, and the patchwork cushions were made by my sister - who works as a textile designer - from a mix of vintage fabrics and her own designs. I have a passion for vintage prints, and I guess you could say it runs in the family!


Sunday, 19 October 2014

sunday style: winter coats

One of my favourite things about Winter is a good coat; I've had loads of luck over the last few years with finding some great ones in charity shops - most of them 100% wool, some of them vintage and all of them deliciously oversized and brightly coloured.

There are some amazing coats on the high street this year, though; I'm completely in love with all of the collarless ones, and the cream Pull and Bear version above has been in my ASOS saved items for the last month (it's now sold out in my size, pah). I've also been tempted by all the checks that are around at the moment - the coat above is from New Look and is probably the one that I've spent the most time drooling over!

1. Ganni Coat in Boiled Wool Animal Print at ASOS, £225
2. Blue Premium Check Print Boyfriend Coat by New Look, £64.99
3. Leopard Print Oversized Faux Fur Coat by River Island, £100
4. Pull and Bear Teddy Coat at ASOS, £59.99
5. Burgundy Wool Collarless Coat by New Look, £49.99
6. Black Leather Biker Jacket by River Island, £100

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

home: wardrobe tour

I love this time of year; aside from the beautiful landscapes, evenings spent on the sofa buried beneath thick blankets and bowls of steaming soup, the arrival of the colder months also means it's time to pack away the summer clothes and rediscover my lovely knitwear. As I was shuffling stuff around, and trying to pack everything in, I thought it might be nice to write a post on how I organise my clothes and accessories, and give you all a little look inside my wardrobe.

Does anyone remember in the Sex and the City movie, where Carrie finally gets her humungous walk-in wardrobe? In my dreams, that's exactly what I'd have to keep all my charity shop finds, vintage lovelies and eBay bargains safe; I'd spend ages in there organising and re-organising, stroking the fabrics and occasionally hiding amongst my coats so the kiddos can't find me. In reality, if I tried to get into my cupboard as it stands, I'd end up scrabbling around like a trapped cat - it's pretty small, which is why I've had to utilise as much space as possible to keep everything organised.*

You can buy loads of fancy hanging equipment to add to your wardrobe, but I'm basically too tight to pay for it, so I just stuck some of those adhesive hooks on the inside of my doors to keep scarves, bags and necklaces safe. I've been trying to turn an old wire-coat hanger into a jewellery rack to hang in there as well, but every time I think I've mastered it, it pings back at me defiantly, pah.

I also use the outside of the doors as a kind of storage-display mash-up. You can fit a good four dresses or tops on the outside, so I just rotate things every week; at the moment my favourite things are a printed dress from ASOS, any vintage blouses and my best ever eBay bargain - the Topshop skirt pictured above; it's absolutely huge and has embroidered squirrels and birds on it, which actually sounds way more twee than it really is.

On the top of the wardrobe is a huge suitcase, which is full of the kiddos artwork and other crap beautiful vintage silk dresses and hand-embroidered velvet capes, and some wire baskets from IKEA, I spent literally months trying to find huge wire baskets to store bags and accessories in, but they were either too small or ridiculously expensive - the day I found these, I could have cried with joy. They're absolutely massive, so they fit everything in easily, and I love how they have gaps in the corners - it meant I could use the front panel to tie my favourite belts around to keep them tidy.

Hope you enjoyed the tour - if you've got any tips for small space organisation I'd be really keen to hear them, so feel free to leave them in the comments!

*And borrow half of the Husbands cupboard.

This post was written in collaboration with Urban Wardrobes.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

sunday style: winter boots

I've been spending a ridiculous amount of time lately looking at winter boots; I'm drawn to big platform heels, chunky soles and leopard print but in reality have to pick something a little bit more foot-friendly to do the school-run in. Sigh.

I actually gave in to the ones on the top right, which are from ASOS; my main requirements were that they were a) waterproof, b) quick to put on and c) easy to walk (or run!) in, and these were literally the only ones I liked that ticked all the boxes. I'm also hoping that the big sole will keep them warm if we get the big freeze they're predicting (although how they can guess weather months in advance is beyond me!), and I love how despite not having a platform heel, they still look suitably bulky. I'm not a big fan of delicate boots; I just prefer the way chunky ones look with jeans and tights.

Have you got your winter boots yet? If you've seen any good ones, leave a link in the comments!

1. Black Leather Leopard Ankle Boots by New Look, £54.99
2. Across the Board Suede Monk Ankle Boots by ASOS, £50
3. Alter Ego Leather Chelsea Ankle Boots by ASOS, £55
4. Patterned Fabric Boots by H&M, £19.99
5. Dark Red Caged Leather Boots by New Look, £44.99
6. Giazzera Leopard Ankle Boots by Aldo, £80
7. Road Trip Desert Boots by ASOS, £55
8. Soho Ankle Boot in Black Glitter by Boden, £116


Thursday, 2 October 2014

written: feeding time at the zoo (or 'how to eat dinner with a toddler')

Ham sandwiches are SO DULL
Before we had children, mealtimes in our house used to consist of the two of us balancing our plates on our laps after work, feet on the coffee table and our latest box set on the TV. In the winter, we'd wriggle our toes under blankets, bellies full of soups and casseroles, pies and puddings, and in the summer we'd throw the windows of our flat open wide and inhale the balmy evening air, feasting on ice cream, lollies and fresh fruit.

And then we had children.

Ice lolly fun (no, not homemade)

Now our mealtimes go a little something like this:

Tell toddler dinner is ready, and gently explain that they need to come to the table.
Wait patiently while toddler chooses a toy to bring to the table with them.
Lift toddler into seat.
Explain to toddler that they don't need any more toys at the table, and that they're not getting down again.
Attempt to restrain toddler with chair harness while feeling like you're wrestling an octopus.
Catch a foot to the ribcage. Resist urge to swear.
Tell toddler that kicking is not allowed.
Fasten strap. Feel smug.
Put dinner on the table. Toddler eyes plate and declares it 'yucky'.
Arrange toddlers food into a fun pattern.
Toddler looks at you pityingly and pushes plate away.
Make food into series of shapes, patterns, faces and sculpture of landmarks, while Toddler clamps their lips shut.
Toddler notices your dinner and claims ownership.
Swap plates with toddler.
Toddler tries to feed you.
Toddler smears mashed potato across your mouth. Wipe potato away.
Toddler laughs and throws a piece of food at you.
Tell Toddler that throwing food is not allowed.
Tell Older Child not to laugh at Toddler.
Toddler scatters food like confetti and throws plate on the floor.
Wonder how it is that you came to live in a zoo with chimpanzees.
Pick up food from floor. Tell Toddler they have to eat something.
Toddler asks for scrambled egg.
Make Toddler scrambled egg.
Toddler refuses to eat scrambled egg.
Put egg on fork and make series of aeroplane noises.
Toddler knocks fork out of your hand and turns plate upside down. Egg now everywhere.
Toddler laughs.
Tell Toddler this is their last chance to choose something.
Toddler asks for toast.
Tell Toddler toast is not a meal.
Tell Toddler not to scream.
Beg Toddler to stop screaming.
Make Toddler toast.
Toddler starts to eat toast.
Retreat into kitchen to find something to eat.
Look at wine longingly. Stroke wine.
Return to find Toddler poking toast behind the radiator.
Tell Toddler not to poke toast behind the radiator.
Toddler laughs and throws toast at you.
Try not to weep. Wonder how easy it is to get hold of valium.
Beg Toddler to eat something.
Toddler asks for crackers and cheese.
Make Toddler crackers and cheese.
Toddler refuses to eat crackers because 'butter is yucky'.
Resist urge to punch self in the face.
Toddler eats cheese with dry crackers.
Consider that there are carbs and dairy, and decide that it counts as a balanced meal.
Pick food out of hair / clothes / ears / nose / radiator / carpet and prepare for bedtime.

Of course, not every day is like that; sometimes Daisy will eat everything that's put in front of her with no fuss. By sometimes, I mean roughly twice a week. Sigh.

The table is WAY better for drawing than eating. 


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

home tour: ben's room

I've been meaning to do a tour of Ben's room for a few months, but most of the time it's such a Lego-strewn state that I can't find anywhere to stand to take the pictures. So the other day, I put work aside for a few hours and got down to sorting out the old toys, stray socks and broken crayons; I emerged sweaty, flustered and tired, but quite proud of myself. There were surfaces! A carpet! New bedding! After high fiving myself profusely, I got the camera out and got snapping - no point in wasting a golden opportunity, eh?

I love our little house, but man alive, it's dark. Not so dark that you need lights on, just dark enough to make taking pictures inside a challenge; luckily, the sun came out around the time I finished (like some higher being was rewarding my hard work!), so I managed to capture it in all it's bright, colourful glory.

I bought the bedding recently from Wilkinsons; his old set was nice, but he's had it since he was three and I thought it was time for an upgrade. I actually bought two sets the same, as the kiddos will be sharing bunkbeds eventually, and I wanted something fun but gender neutral - and at £9, it was hardly going to break the bank. Also - geometrics! Who doesn't love a good triangle?! The crochet blanket hops around the house depending on my mood; it usually sits on the back of a chair in the lounge, but I thought it looked pretty good upstairs - it was actually one of my best charity shop bargains, and cost the princely sum of £2.50.

The lights are from Cable and Cotton, who got in touch and asked if I'd like some to review. I had a browse on the website, and was massively impressed to see that not only are they beautiful and extremely well priced, but they're also ethically made. Win! The lights are handmade in Thailand by skilled craftswomen; each employee works outside in the fresh air, has their own insurance policy and is paid a fair, living wage - they work in conjunction with the Government's OTOP programme, which is designed to support small sustainable business, and allow workers a year round income and decent working conditions. Regular readers will know I'm always keen to promote any kind of fairly traded, sustainable or handmade items, which is why I did a little excited dance and said I'd be more than happy to review them.

They arrived beautifully packaged, with detailed instructions on assembling them; it literally took five minutes (OK, five minutes to assemble, twenty-five minutes of faffing around deciding how to arrange the colours), then I hung them on a hook on the wall, plugged them in and pretended it was Christmas for a bit. I love how they look when they're switched off; like a mini art installation in Ben's room, but when they're switched on at night they're just magical. I chose the Mexican set, but there are so many different options; sea greens, relaxing blues, calm pastels and acid brights, or you can even just go maverick and choose your own colours. I love them, Ben loves them, and I honestly cannot recommend them enough - there are plenty of companies selling similar things, but the real deal-breaker for me was that they're ethically made. Who can argue with that?

Ben's room is pretty small, so I didn't want to overload the walls with too much and make it seem ever smaller; I picked a few prints and cards, and then made them into a mini-gallery wall, topped off with a cowboy garland made from the pages of an old kids annual. I made a little window-thingy (actual technical term) to cover the top of the roller blind; it started life as an old quilt cover, and now it makes the window look a bit more interesting.

Apart from the little table, which I found in a charity shop and jazzed up with a bit of DIY chalk paint, the furniture in Ben's room is all from IKEA; a lot of people are sniffy about IKEA, but I love them - they're trying their best with regards to the environment, and they make cracking storage. The wardrobe holds all of Ben's clothes, all of Daisy's clothes, and a whole load of books and games - it's literally huge, and is the closest I've ever come to a real-life Tardis. The upright book storage is actually the wall-mounted Trofast system turned on it's side and covered in washi tape - I wanted some crates but couldn't find any, so this was the next best thing.

Hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our home - next up, the bathroom!

Cable and Cotton were generous enough to send me one set of 20-light strings, but as usual all thoughts and opinions are my own. In case you couldn't tell, we loved them and will definitely be going back for more!

Joining in with the #LoveYourHome linky hosted by the lovely Jen at Love Chic Living. Come and join us!

Love Chic Living and Love Your Home
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