Friday, 28 November 2014

less is more

The other day, I was bumbling around on Pinterest, pinning DIY Christmas decorations and printables (more on that in another post), and somehow pictures of natural decorations made from branches and foliage led to images of outdoor adventures and camping, until I finally stumbled across the image on the top right; I clicked on the picture of a tiny cabin, and was taken through to an Apartment Therapy tour of a tiny DIY self-sustainable home. Build on 20,000 acres of land by Tim and Hannah's own fair hands, it features salvaged materials, a refrigerator made from a cooler and ice-packs, and a kitchen counter made from an RV table, and it really got me thinking about what we want in a house long-term.

One of my favourite sayings is that you should treasure experiences, and not things, and I constantly find myself fighting against the 'norm' of wanting more electricals, more cars, luxury holidays and massive houses. I've said so many times that my idea of heaven is living off-grid, growing our own food and being as self-sufficient as possible - our planet has a finite amount of resources, and I want us to be able to do as much as we can to limit our impact on it. For now, that's having a composter, growing a few veg and some flowers, recycling the shit out of everything and limiting our consumption as much as possible, but I'm really hoping that over the next couple of years we can start saving for something a bit more sustainable.

I'm really taken with the idea of the tiny house movement; cosy cabins and tiny cottages with clever storage space, attic skylights and VELUX windows that are perfect for stargazing, lots and lots of plants and beautiful wooden floors. We're really big fans of nature and the outdoors, and being surrounded by forest or coastline is the real dream; somewhere the kiddos can explore and adventure, make treehouses and dens, gather flowers and sticks, paddle, swim, run and climb. The whole 'less-is-more' thing seems to be gathering momentum, and there are some great resources online for sustainable living and the tiny house movement, the benefits of nature for children (I've just started reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, which talks about childrens relationships with nature, and how these relationships are becoming increasingly strained - I'm only a chapter or so in, but I'd recommend it for anyone interested in forest schools or the benefits of the outdoors), and there are loads of great seasonal posts around at the moment about reclaiming Christmas and celebrating the season and each other rather than piles of presents (the one over at Seeds and Stitches is REALLY good).

I'd love to hear from anyone else interested in sustainable living and the outdoors - do say hello if this is you!

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

dorset: part two

In a little break from all the festive posts, I'm doing the second part of our holiday to Dorset today; it seems so long ago, and I'm itching to head off somewhere again, but we're a) pretty skint and b) slaves to term time, sigh. Nothing makes me want to homeschool the kiddos more than the ability to set our own rhythms and routines, but in all honesty, I think Ben really benefits from the structure and social aspect of school. It's just my slightly hippy nature that fights against it!

Our time away was ace; we didn't bother whether our clothes were overly clean or tidy, we rampaged across fields and up hills, spent hours on the beach searching for treasures and simply ate when we were hungry. We explored Corfe Castle, went for an evening adventure across the Studland coast and ate more cream teas than is probably humanly possible; the evenings were spent in front of the fire reading and watching films together on the laptop, before tumbling into bed with salt on our skin and tangles in our hair.

I love the outdoors, and the kiddos love the outdoors as well; in my ideal world, we'd live in a small eco-house with one of those amazing skylights, surrounded by open land and deep forests, and rely only on ourselves. We'd grow our food, keep some animals and be as far removed from modern society as possible. Except for WiFi. I'd still need that!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

'tis the season to be jolly

Last year, Christmas almost killed me. I spent the run-up to the festive season upcycling a vintage wooden dolls cot, supervising the Husband giving a second-hand bike a makeover for Ben, trying desperately to make biscuits and cakes and treats because all my social media channels told me everybody else was, writing twelve different craft tutorials for the blog (there actually weren't twelve in the end - some of them were still languishing unfinished come Boxing Day) and trying to keep up with my usual workload, look after the kiddos and attend all the usual school and toddler-group activities. By the time Christmas Day rolled around, I was exhausted, the house was a tip and I had the right hump. 

This year, we're taking a different approach. Adele over at Circus Queen did a great post on how she's simplifying Christmas this year, which I found really inspirational - I guess I was kind of looking for someone to tell me that it's OK not to make everything yourself, and cram the entire advent period with activities, events and trips. It's fine to relax, take stock of all the good things you have in your life, and just enjoy the season - so todays post is all about the things we will (and won't!) be doing to prepare for Christmas. 

Bringing Nature Inside

One thing I really wanted to do last year was find and decorate some branches; I like the idea of mixing nature with brightly coloured craft materials, and had been hugely inspired by Hannah's fabulous branch in her kitchen (see the whole post here, it really is epic!); there's something really nice about spending the afternoon in the woods and then bringing some mementos home to decorate afterwards. I've got two so far, and they've been trimmed with beaded garlands, pompom trims, chunky wooden beads and DIY paper ornaments; it was really therapeutic, and I could probably have cheerfully carried on had it not been for the fact that one of them fell over due to the weight of the decorations.
I've also picked up some holly from a wooded area near our house, and I'm hoping to grab some beautiful leaves to do this with before they all turn to mush on the ground, but I definitely won't be panicking if I don't manage it - I'm more than happy with my cheery sticks!

Wrapping It Up

Last year, I decided that I was going to print my own wrapping paper - not only that, but was I happy with pre-made stamps? Of course not, because why make things easy when you can make them really stressful, right? I spent ages cutting out card templates, then transferring them to adhesive backed foam and making my own flaming stamps; admittedly, some of them looked really nice, but did the paper end up anywhere different to all the other wrapping paper? No, it did not. This year, I'm doing a mixture of brown paper (you can recycle this - ordinary wrapping paper isn't actually recyclable, grrr) and washi tape, felt bows (two rectangles, secured with wool in the middle and glued on with a glue gun) and good old bakers twine. Quick, effective and without the mess and fuss of ink pads and drying time. Boom.


The one bonus of making so much last year was that everything was packed away  once Christmas was over, so I can just pull it all out again. I had some great pom pom garlands and paper chains above the sofa, some cross-stitch bunting which I actually made about four years ago and then lots of little bits and pieces that we've picked up over the last few Christmases, so they'll all be making an appearance again. This year I've cobbled together some simple felt-and-lace scallop bunting, a bead garland (which basically involved threading some beads onto illuminous pink bungee cord) and err, way too many pompoms to be useful. I'm definitely, definitely not going to be staying up until the small hours making FIMO shapes and cross-stitching Christmas cards, weeping into my embroidery silks and hollering, 'humbug!" every five minutes.

The Best of the Rest

We've also got a few fun activities planned, most of which involve sitting on the sofa and eating a lot, but we will be leaving the house occasionally. We're going to be:

  • Reading some new Christmas books with the kiddos; we picked up a couple of bargains a few weeks back, and I'm really looking forward to cracking them open.
  • Heading over to Winchester Christmas market to pick up some little treats for friends and family.
  • Lighting plenty of tea lights and candles to make our lounge as cosy as possible in the evenings; I'm seriously in love with the great selection of recycled glassware tealight holders at Super A-Mart - beautiful colours AND they're recycled. Hurrah!
  • Making some gingerbread (and possibly buying a gingerbread house kit - Ben is pretty desperate to make one this year!).
  • Watching the school nativity.
  • Visiting some nearby little villages to see their Christmas lights.
  • Taking lots of pictures and making lots of memories.
  • Burning lots and lots of winter scented candles (I'm literally addicted!).
What have you got planned this year? Are you making anything nice, or going anywhere special? Whatever you do, relax and enjoy it!

This is a collaborative post.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

sunday style: budget busting winter special

I love clothes, and I reeeeeeally love clothes that a) have minimal impact on the planet b) help me reduce consumption by buying them and c) don't cost a small fortune. Although I'm really not a fan of winter (the cold, the rain, the dark evenings and grey days... ughh....), I do like the clothes that go with it; chunky jumpers, midi dresses, shirt collars peeping out over the neckline of patterned knits, they're all right up my street. So today, in a nod to spending less and helping our beautiful planet, today's Sunday Style is dedicated to the handmade, the recycled, the vintage and the secondhand - and nothing is over £25. Shop away!

From the top:

Left: Kloth jumper on ASOS Marketplace, £20
Right: Revolva jumper on ASOS Marketplace, £18

Left: Follow Your Heart dress on ASOS Marketplace, £17
Right: HOV dress on ASOS Marketplace, £16

Left: Love Buzz Jumper on ASOS Marketplace, £18
Right: Knee length floral dress at Oxfam, £12.99

Left: Little Red Vintage shirt on ASOS Marketplace, £20
Right: Thrift Store shirt on ASOS Marketplace, £20

Clockwise from top left:
Ladybird Likes Polaroid Necklace on Folksy, £12
Girl with Beads recycled leather bow-tie necklace on Folksy, £15
SummerField chunky mittens on Folksy, £9.50
Max's World laser cut acrylic necklace on Folksy, £14
Red embroidered shoulder bag at Beyond Retro, £22
Leopard pumps (brand new, size 5) at Oxfam, £12.99

Friday, 21 November 2014

ten fabulous years of amelia's magazine

If you've never heard of Amelia's Magazine, simply put - you're missing out. Created and run by the wonderfully talented Amelia Gregory, it's a wonderfully creative and eclectic mash-up of beautiful writing, illustration and photography; covering topics such as fashion (the Fashion Week reviews are always a good read), earth and environment, art and music, it's a great alternative to all of the carbon-copy mainstream magazines, and is one of my favourite places on the internet.

I first stumbled across Amelia's a few years ago, and was lucky enough to be able to contribute a few illustrations to some of the open briefs (pictured above); nowadays I just read and enjoy, and couldn't have been more pleased to discover that to celebrate ten years of the magazine, Amelia is planning to print a book full of creative writing and the most exquisite illustrations. Those Which  We Do Not Understand is to be an exploration into the way humans seek to comprehend the things they don't unerstand in their lives; think paranormal activities, the moon, the occult, paganism and herbalism.

The project is currently live on Kickstarter, with a series of amazing rewards for backers, from postcards and rare back-issues of Amelia's Magazine, to copies of the book and limited edition gold-leaf A3 art prints; currently at £9,863 with 309 backers, the project is so close to it's £12,000 goal. Every little helps, so if you can pledge anything (even £1!), or even just fancy spreading the word, get involved by visiting the Kickstarter page here and Amelia's Magazine here.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

the good, the bad, and the ugly

Like most bloggers, I've got a fairly unhealthy Pinterest obsession, and I'll admit right now that there have been times when I look around at our little house and it's raggedy carpet, ugly worktops and UPVC windows and start making a long list of things to change. Pinterest is a really great resource, and it constantly supplies me with heaps of inspiration and information (particularly when it comes to enviromental issues), but I do find that if you spend too long pinning pictures of impossibly perfect homes, it can make you forget everything you love about your own home. So after a particularly long session pinning pictures of perfect Scandi homes, oak floorboards, rustic kitchens and wilderness-style gardens, rather than working out whether it's worth replacing the worktop in a rental property, I decided to just take a few pictures to remind me of the things I love about our (very small) house.

The Conservatory (Top)
Firstly, the fact that we've actually got a conservatory is blessing in itself; it gives me the space to store my craft supplies in a way that makes sense and is easy to acess, and it also means that if I'm working on a photoshoot for work, I can just leave everything out rather than having to tidy away at the end of the day. It's also the lightest room in the house, with three large windows, which means I can get some fairly decent photos even in deepest darkest winter. Admittedly, it's basically just a plastic box stuck to the side of the house, and come November the temperature drops to pretty much sub-zero, but it's nothing an extra jumper and a bathroom heater can't fix!

The Bedrooms
The main problem with our house is the bedrooms - not the size or shape, but the fact that there's only two of them; early next Spring, we're going to swap with Ben and go into the small room, while the kiddos share the big room. They're going to have to have bunk beds, and it's probably going to be absolute chaos - but they're both looking forward to it, and it's a good excuse to buy some more lovely prints and make some crafty bits. The bedrooms themselves are pretty nice; they might not be massive but they're light and airy, and the window sills are big enough to store books and plants on; ours gets the light in the morning and Ben's gets the sun sliding across the wall as it goes down.

The Bathroom
I did a little tour of the bathroom here, and mentioned then how small it was; it also has the worst marbled tiles (seriously, I can't fathom why people would choose marbled over plain white) and these awful old taps. But, for all the marbled horror, it's a relaxing little space with a really deep window sill that's home to my (usually dying) plants and little collection of beachy finds. And if I squint, the marble effect is hardly noticeable anyway (although I'd love to rip them all off and replace it with some of those brick-effect tiles!).

The Flooring
I think out of everything in our house, the thing that gives me the hump the most is the carpet in the lounge and all the way up the stairs; I always crop it out in photographs because it's literally just horrendous. It's brown, brown, and there's literally no hiding it - it makes the whole place seem darker and is just plain ugly. When we moved in, we replaced the tiles in the bathroom and kitchen, and the carpets in the bedrooms, but we're stuck with this one; if money were no object, I'd rip it up and either replace it with bare floorboards or a more neutral carpet which is slightly less, well, ugly.

The Kitchen
The smallest, darkest, ugliest room in the house, I often wonder if I might enjoy cooking more if the kitchen wasn't so... awful. With similar marble effect tiles to the bathroom, and one of the most horrible worktops I've ever seen (mottled green and brown, anyone?), pretty it ain't. That said, it is a massive improvement on the way it was when we moved in; torn lino, cupboards with chipped paint, artex all over the walls.... it looked a little bit like one of the 'before' photos on Homes Under the Hammer. We plastered over the artex, replaced the flooring, painted the cupboards and took some of the doors off to make open shelving, then I added some plants, washi tape and retro crockery and pyrex. You can see the results of the makeover here, and while it's not the best kitchen I've ever seen, it's definitely not the worst either!

The Lounge
The lounge is probably my favourite room; it's where I do a lot of my work, where the Husband and I watch all our box sets, where we eat dinner at our thrifted charity-shop table and where I snuggle on the sofa with some crochet or a book. It is a teeny bit dark in the winter, and that brown carpet rears it's ugly head again, but it's got a mantlepiece (something I've always wanted in a home - finally, somewhere to display my vintage bits and pieces!), and it's a pretty good size and it just has a really lovely feel to it. It feels homely and comfortable and safe, and that's definitely not something you can buy in a DIY store.

This is a collaborative post.
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