Wednesday, 30 September 2015

styling the seasons: september

Every month, I plan to join in with Katy and Charlotte and their wonderful 'Styling the Seasons' posts, but every month, the last day rolls around and I find I've missed it again. But, not this time - I finally managed to get organised for September. Hurrah!

I always think of September as a pretty funny month; it's not quite summer but not quite autumn - especially this year, as the last week or so has been warmer and sunnier than most of August was! On our walks we've found heaps of treasures that represent both seasons beautifully, so my Styling the Seasons post is celebrating the best of both worlds; gloriously vibrant leaves, dried teasels and seed heads, dusky hydrangeas, the last of the antirrhinums and pine cones galore. We're planning on using the leaves to make prints and autumn garlands, but for now, I popped them into these double-sided frames from the lovely Tigerlilly Quinn shop. The theme this month was vintage treasures, so I included my (admittedly rather small) collection of Observer nature books, my vintage earthenware pot from Wild Damson in Petersfield and a couple of old glass bottles. They're regulars on the mantle anyway, so nothing new there!

To find out how to join in with Styling the Seasons, visit Katy's blog, and get involved on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the #stylingtheseasons hashtag.

Monday, 28 September 2015

london: libertys, the lifestyle wall and meeting george clarke

A couple of weeks ago, an email dropped into my inbox that I skimmed over quickly, then read again. And again. And again. 'Come to London,' it said, 'come and see our fabulous new product, scoff some cake and meet your other favourite bloggers. Oh, and George Clarke will be there too! Chin, chin!'
Actually, it didn't say that, but that was the gist. So a week later, I found myself sitting across from one of my friends, eating pizza, wringing my hands together and sweating profusely at the thought of making a fool of myself in front of my favourite architectural and interior heroes of all time. Ha!

The event was hosted by British Gypsum, and was held to promote the launch of their latest Rooms Made for You product: the absolutely ingenious Lifestyle Wall. After being greeted with drinks and a seriously impressive array of refreshments (too busy eating to take any photos, bad blogger!), we were introduced to the product itself - designed to be stronger and more durable than standard plasterboard walls (the absolute bane of any interior fanatics life), the Lifestyle Wall has a reinforced core that can hold really extreme weights - there was a sample board which had a 12kg weight hanging from a single wood screw. 12kg!

In his talk, George Clarke called the product a 'game-changer', and it really is; we live in a relatively new house (early eighties, I think) and every single internal wall is cheap, flimsy plasterboard - the wall in the bathroom isn't even strong enough to hold a bathroom cabinet. Long term readers will know that I tend to change my mind a lot, and switch around hooks, displays and shelves as our needs as a family change - Ali spends so much time trying to squash rawl plugs into the wall to support this picture or that mirror, and with the Lifestyle Wall it would be so much quicker. There's no need for reinforcements or rawl plugs, no cracks or splits in the wall afterwards - simply fit the screw and you're good to go. It's seriously the stuff of dreams!

We were split into groups and asked to create our own gallery wall, using just a selection of screws and a screwdriver - our team sadly lost (which may or may not have been down to my picture being 'on the wonk') but we managed to find comfort in the desert stand, which had the best brownies I've ever eaten. After saying goodbye to some of my favourite ladies (Lori, Fritha, Kerri-Anne, Lucy, Amanda and Katy), I hopped back on the train, complete with a brand new signed copy of Georges latest book to keep me entertained on the way home.

Huge thanks to British Gypsum for the kind invite, a wonderful afternoon and collaborating on this post. Oh, and for the opportunity to meet George Clarke, obviously!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

five top tips for university interiors

When I was at university (many, many years ago!) I lived locally, so I didn't experience the whole halls-of-residence thing; I never had to share a tiny kitchen, didn't have to queue for the bathroom and didn't have to worry about trying to cram everything I owned into a tiny single room. Back then (we're talking early 2000's), the height of interior sophistication was a poster of your favourite band, some photographs from home and a floor cushion or two; nowadays, there's way more choice for anyone on a tight budget -  today I've come up with five great tips for making your university room as stylish and cosy as possible.

The items above are all available at HomeSense, who manage to cleverly combine purse-friendly prices with unbeatable quality. Check out that terrarium!

1. Choose some accessories
Deciding on accessories is one of the best things about styling a room; bedding is the biggest decision, and if you've got a small room (from what I remember, most rooms in a halls-of-residence are pretty teeny), it's good to keep it fairly calm and neutral or the pattern will take over the whole space. Mix it up with some geometric cushions and throws, coloured lighting and candles, and an all-important clock to make sure you get to lectures on time.

2. Think about storage
Any small room needs careful thought when it comes to storage; wicker stacking baskets are great for books and magazines, wire baskets are perfect for accessories and kilner jars can be used for everything from your toothbrush to pens and pencils.

3. Consider some greenery
Even if you don't have partcularly green fingers, adding plants to a room introduces a sense of calm (ideal for exam time!) and if you choose the right ones, helps to cleanse the air. If you're notoriously bad at keeping plants alive, succulents and cactii need barely any attention and can survive even the harshest neglect!

4. Remember to clean!
Living in a small room has a few clear advantages; one being that it's easy to keep clean. Whip a duster round, polish the surfaces and sweep the floor once a week, and you'll find it easier to both study and relax. (Or, at least push stuff under the bed so you can't see it.....)

5. Don't forget the lighting
When you arrive in your new room, you're already going to have a main overhead light, but adding a few lamps can completely change the atmosphere of the room. A good desk lamp is essential for late-night study sessions, and it's always good to have a reading lamp and a few candles to dot around for those times y

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

the kids room: walls

The other day I posted photos of a few of the handmade and vintage things I'd found for the kiddos room, and today I'm back with some of the bits and bobs we found to put on their walls. It's a good sized room, but once you take into account the bunk beds and triple wardrobe, there isn't much left to cover; we've got some shelves from IKEA that are full of animals, books and knick-knacks, and some front-facing bookshelves for the larger picture books, an ace little pegboard from Zig Zag and Zebra (more details on this later in the week!) and a bunk-bed tidy for Ben in the top bunk, and to be honest, that leaves pretty much no space.

We're really into nature and the outdoors, so when I saw the Ingela Arrhenius postcards in the top photo on lovely Artemis's blog, I went on a mission to find some. I eventually tracked them down at The Hambledon in Winchester (if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know how much I love this shop!); they come in a pack of seven and are perfect for sitting on shelves and in smaller gaps.

Although our front facing bookshelves are primarily for books, I've used this as a way to get some colour and life into the room; everything is fairly pale and neutral (Ben has ASD, so I try to stay away from too much colour and pattern that might overstimulate him), so I like to find really gorgeously illustrated books which will double as artwork.
I found some vintage cards at the Vintage and Very Nice Market in Chichester, and was lucky enough to be able to spell out both kiddos names. These were going to go on the door, but they've ended up on the shelves as well!

I ended up saving loads of links when I was planning the room, and to be honest, I'm a bit disappointed that we couldn't fit more on the walls. Especially as the lovely folks at Room to Grow have just launched a free (yes, free!) set of downloadable wall stickers; you can choose from four different themes, including Under the Sea and Woodland Friends. I love a good wall sticker, as they're so easy to put up and take down - I honesty think they're literally the renters best friend!

If we'd not run out of space, I would have had one or two (or all!) of the lovely things in the collage above. Baskets that hang to keep toys and lego (so much lego!) off of the floor, garlands, prints and hooks galore; there's SO much good stuff to choose from when you decorate kids rooms!

1. Creature Kingdom Owl Hook, £20 , Anthropologie
2. La Mer Print by Double Merrick, £50, The Calm Gallery
3. Morkt Lantern for Tealights, £14, IKEA
4. Arrow Wall Flag by Ferm Living, £17, The Pippa and Ike Show
5. Shelf with Drawers, £39, IKEA
6. Natural Belly Basket in Medium by Olli Ella, £25, Molly Meg
7. Basket for Wall Rack, £4, HEMA
8. DIY Light Box by A Little Lovely Company, £30
9. Powder Tassel Garland, £13.95, Molly Meg

This is a collaborative post.

Monday, 21 September 2015

ten ideas for outdoor autumn fun

I'm not afraid to admit that once August is over, it takes a lot for my usually nature-loving self to make the effort to get outside and spend time in the woods or at the beach. When the sun is shining and it's warm, it's so easy, but once the rain appears and the temperature drops and you suddenly find you need six blankets, puddlesuits, hats, umbrellas, wellies and raincoats just to leave the house, it all gets a bit much. The hermit in me peers out of the window at the rain, screws up her nose and hides under a blanket on the sofa, vowing not to leave the house again until spring - but this year I've been inspired by blogging favourites Hannah and Davina, and Lucy's brand new book (more on that in a future post), to enjoy the seasons for what they are and make sure we don't get bogged down (pardon the pun!) in the autumn blues. Here are the ten things we'll be doing this September and October to make the most of the most colourful season of all.

1. Make dens to shelter from autumn showers
We live literally minutes away from a country park, which coppices trees and then leaves the branches to use as den material or firewood; we've seen some amazing hideouts, treehouses and dens, and this year we're on a mission to build the biggest one yet.

2. Collect conkers
Aahhh conkers. Once the favourite autumn playground game, now banned due to 'health and safety reasons' in most schools, we're not going to let Michael Gove and his motley crew ruin our fun. We're planning on making conker people, garlands, necklaces and finishing the whole thing off with a ruddy good conker tournament. I am not in the least bit competitive. Cough, cough.

3. Make a nature table
Nature tables are the BEST (apart from when you forget about them, and the leaves go all crumbly and that stick shaped like a bird is suddenly just a stick covered in three-weeks-worth of dust....), and they're great to make with kids. Our nature-finding missions usually end up with an abundance of stones (always good for painting!), but we also try to look for impressive leaves, pine cones, conkers, driftwood, shells and so on.

4. Forage for blackberries
My blogging friend Mel mentioned the other day that she'd been on a foraging workshop, and I immediately thought, 'I'd love to do that'. At the moment, the only thing I feel safe picking are blackberries, so they're going to make up our autumn foraging adventures, then we're going to turn them into jam (err, maybe), cakes and crumble (definitely).

5. Make nature prints
Never mind soggy potatoes and overpriced craft stamps, we're going to be printing with whatever nature is offering up this autumn. Dried flowers, leaves, sticks and seed pods all leave really distinctive patterns, and work equally well with paint or ink pads.

6. Try stargazing
The one thing I really hate about the end of summer is how quickly those long, balmy evenings seem to come to an end. Suddenly, you're waking up in the dark and going to bed in the dark, and if it's raining, doing everything else in the dark as well. The one good thing about the sun going down earlier is that you don't have to wait until gone 10pm (I'm an early bedtime-r!) to go out and have a look at the night sky - we're going to be getting Bens telescope out (it's a child's one, we don't have an observatory in the back garden or anything!) and seeing how many constellations and planets we can see. Probably with the help of some hot chocolate and lots of cake.

7. Have an autumn picnic
Picnics don't just have to be a summer thing; pack a backpack full of blankets, pop on some chunky knitwear and head off to the woods or the beach to have lunch outside. Think flasks of homemade soup (we like spiced butternut squash and sweet potato), chunks of crusty bread, fruit pies and some gooey sugar-free brownies (I found this recipe on Pinterest and am itching to make them!).

8. Play nature bingo
Nature bingo is a great way to get everyone motivated into heading outside, especially if there's a prize for the winner. There are some great boards on the internet, but my favourites are here and here, purely for the lovely illustrations!

9. Make leaf piles and leap in them
Do you need a reason?!

10. Cosy around a campfire 
Either light a fire and cook your lunch outside, or head out after dark to toast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate; one of the best things about plummeting temperatures is bundling up in coats and knits, then huddling together around a crackling fire. Nothing quite beats the crisp autumn air and the lingering smell of woodsmoke!

Friday, 18 September 2015

beautiful brighton

A few weeks ago, Ali and I got the chance to escape to Brighton for the day; the kiddos spent the day with their Grandparents, while we passed the time eating as much as humanly possible, pottering round the lanes and pondering over home accessories. (It was heavenly, but we actually left at 3pm so we could get home in time for dinner with the littlies!)

It had been raining all week, but that morning the sky was deep blue and cloudless, and the sun had reappeared; the perfect weather for pottering. We ate far too much (a huge breakfast at Breakfast Club, followed by pre-lunch gelato and then actual lunch in the Flour Pot Bakery), and wandered around our favourite shops, only stopping to watch a man dressed as Rolfe from the Muppets playing a piano and waving at us (I videod it for the kiddos, they thought it was hilarious).

We go to Brighton quite a lot, so I thought I'd include some of my favourite places to go in this post; some of them are old regulars, and a couple are new recommendations that we've been saving up.

To Eat
Whether we're going for a day or a week, I always look forward to finding new places to eat - although I'm not a vegetarian, I always opt for veggie food when we're out because I find I enjoy it more. Brighton is ridiculously good for food; there are a gazillion different places to eat, and when you're wandering through the lanes you could probably do each course in a different place (if you could be bothered!)

The Breakfast Club: 16-17 Market Street, BN1 1HH
We arrived in Brighton really early, around 9am, and hadn't had breakfast yet, so when we stumbled across The Breakfast Club it was a really happy coincidence. If you've never been there before, you'd be forgiven for thinking that they literally only sell breakfast foods, but they're actually named after the eighties film of the same name, and have an amazing retro interior to match. One of a few restaurants (there are others in Hoxton, Angel, Soho and Spitalfields), the menu is lengthy (dedicted carnivores, vegetarians and vegans are all well catered for), the food is plentiful, the seats are comfortable and the staff are friendly. We'll definitely be going back!

Bills: The Depot, 100 North Road, BN1 1YE
Whenever we go to Bills, I always have the same thing; the halloumi and hummous in a sesame seed bun, served with skin on fries. That thing is so consistantly good that it makes my mouth water just thinking about it. The menu is really extensive, and I noticed last time that kale and quinoa have popped up in a couple of dishes, so they're obviously getting into their superfoods - what I love most though, is that Bills is not only somewhere to relax and eat, it's also an amazing grocery store packed full of fruit and veg, sweet treats, jams, chutneys, teas and coffees and other organic delights. I challenge you to go home without succumbing to the chocolate section.

The Flour Pot Bakery: 40 Sydney Street, BN1 4EP
This was another new visit, but definitely one we'll be returning to; Cat from the beautifully inspiring Triple Triangle blog had mentioned it, and said that the decor was lovely, which was enough for me. She was right, as well; vast white walls and reclaimed wood tables, cushions in shades of grey, and shelves heaving with artisan loaves, delicate cupcakes and golden pastries all made for a very happy lunchtime indeed.

Gelato Gusto: 2 Gardner Street, BN1 1UP
If I'm honest, I'm still not entirely sure when or why ice-cream morphed into gelato, but at the same time, I couldn't care less because it tastes like heaven in a pot. We wandered past Gelato Gusto at that awkward time between breakfast and lunch, and I was drawn in as much by the beautiful scandi-white floorboards and exposed brickwork as I was the gelato itself. I went with chocolate (yum) and Ali went for banoffee (double yum), and the guy across the room from us had waffles, followed by a sundae roughly the size of my head. They also offer a range of juices, teas, coffees and hot chocolate, and at the weekend you can sit outside and sun yourself while you eat.

To Buy

Bluebird Tea Company: 41 Gardner Street, Brighton
Award winning tea mixologists Krisi and Mike expertly blend everything from herbs and flowers to fruit, chocolate and even cake sprinkles to create a huge range of loose leaf and bagged teas. (We came home with rhubarb and custard, and it is immensely good!) They also have a zero-waste policy, and make all local deliveries by bicycle, hurrah!

Utility: 28A North Road, BN1 1YB
Perfectly named, Utility is a whole shop full of no-nonsense household goods; Falcon enamelware jostles for space on high shelves with mid-century style exercise books, while dish brushes of every kind sit alongside traditional soaps, linen tea towels and robust oven mitts. Storage lovers are also well catered for with a huge range of jars, pots and tins, and I was overjoyed to find a pair of embroidery scissors shaped like a stork!

Workshop Living: 13A Prince Albert Street, BN1 1HE
One for real homeware lovers, Workshop Living is probably my favourite shop in Brighton. From the beautiful ceramics and enamelware to the handmade chopping boards, wooden utensils and household tools, everything is exquisitely simple and understated. We came home with some gorgeous-smelling olive soap and soap dish, and a pair of herb scissors (because more scissors are obviously what I need!).

Magazine Brighton: 22 Trafalgar Street, BN1 4EQ
I'm a sucker for magazines, but living in the arse end of nowhere (the most exotic thing our town centre sells is Oh Comely) means that I have to have everything shipped from London - so I was pretty overjoyed to find that Brighton had a shop dedicated to independent titles. I saw Cereal, Kinfolk, Open House, Uppercase, Milk Design, Smith Journal, Frankie and Flow - all my favourites in one happy place.

Beyond Retro: 42 Vine Street, BN1 4AG
The Brighton branch of my favourite vintage store is absolutely huge, and you'll need a good couple of hours to go through everything; my favourite is the huge bag section, and obviously, the knitwear!

Infinity Foods: 25 North Road, BN1 1YA
If you're into whole foods, healthy living and an organic approach to life, Infinity Foods is one place you definitely need to visit. They stock everything from local produce and vegetarian and vegan food, to handmade bread, bath and body care and earth-friendly cleaning products - even if I never buy anything, I always go in for a good look around.

If you've got any other great places to eat or shop, do let me know - I'm always looking for new discoveries!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

ten great autumn essentials

I'm the first to admit that I really don't love autumn; I'm way more of a spring and summer person, and really struggle to get even a teeny bit excited about the colder months. Dark mornings, dark evenings, the inevitable lurgy and endless rain just ain't my thing (I saw this article from Huffpost this morning on autumn anxiety as well, definitely worth a read if this time of year gives you the hump), so every year around this time I try to find a few bits and pieces to help me get through the seasonal change.

1. A good supply of books
I find the dark, cold evenings much easier to deal with if I've got a good supply of books to work my way through; rather than staring wistfully at the flowerless garden and dreaming of balmy nights, I'm busy settling down on the sofa with something good to read. I usually like to have a mix of cookbooks, novels and interior books, and my reading list this year includes:

  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
  • The Green Kitchen by David Frenkiel & Luise Vindahl
  • Anything by Shirley Jackson (my latest obsession!)
  • The Accidental by Ali Smith
  • Simply Scandinavian by Sara Norman
  • The Jewel Garden by Monty Don

2. A cosy, oversize cardigan
Throw it over a midi-dress or plain t-shirt and skinny jeans in the morning, or pop it over your pyjamas for an evening on the sofa - a supersize, super warm cardigan is one of the best things you can buy in autumn. I've got loads, but cardigan are my weakness, so there's always room for one more!

Cardigan, £79, & Other Stories

3. A few scented candles
Although I love having scented candles around, I don't usually light them during the warmer months, so this is one thing I do really look forward to come autumn. Before the weather gets really cold, I like to light something fresh and floral that reminds me of summer, and then during the winter I like richer, spiced smells - anything with cloves and cinnamon always gets my vote. I've heard about candles that smell like woodsmoke though, and I'm quite looking forward to trying those this year - I'd love to have an open fire, but I think this is about as close as we're ever going to get!

Nota Bene Cedar Embers Scented Candle, £28, The Future Kept

4. A colourful Fair Isle jumper
I've been searching for a really good Fair Isle jumper for years, and have never managed to find one that I really love; I always think of it as THE pattern of the season when it gets colder - it's always great to find a nice colourful piece of knitwear to brighten up the dark, rainy days.

Fair Isle Jumper, £99, Boden (Vintage shops like Rokit and Beyond Retro also usually have good versions)

5. A good bobble hat
One thing I do love about autumn and winter is that the weather is the perfect excuse to pull out the hats - mine has to be a beanie, and it has to have a bobble, but apart from that, there are no rules. I like bright, coloured or striped ones for the days I'm wearing a dark coat, or a simple grey or black version for when I want something a bit more understated. I love hats in the winter because it gives you the perfect excuse not to worry too much about what your hair is doing!

Pompom Beanie, £19, & Other Stories

6. A long-strap bag
I'm a complete tote-addict when it comes to bags; I tend to carry A LOT of stuff around, so the bigger the better, I say. The only thing is that when you're struggling with a toddler, a six-year-old, a lunchbox, a bookbag, an umbrella, horizontal rain and force ten gales, a great big soaking wet tote bag falling off your shoulder every five minutes isn't going to help - not to mention the fact that everything inside is going to be soggy. A long-strap bag with a zip top is easy to carry and will keep everything dry, leaving you hands free and with no more wet magazines or soaked smartphones.

Shoulder Bag, £19.99, H&M 

7. A super-comfy tunic dress
I hate getting up at the best of times, but when it's dark and rainy it just seems so much more difficult; every precious second snuggled beneath the duvet counts, so I want easy clothes that take absolutely no brain power. A good tunic dress, some nice thick tights or leggings, a chunky cardi and some boots or sneakers and I'm done - which means I can snooze the alarm for that bit longer.

Cocoon Dress in Green, £45, & Other Stories

8. A collection of blankets
The key ingredient to a good night on the sofa is a good pile of blankets; from traditional checks to modern geometrics and hand woven beauties, I stack ours up in a basket at the end of the sofa and then make myself a fort cosy down with books, the TV and a huge cuppa. Autumn heaven!

British Made 100% Wool Cabin Blanket, £49, The Future Kept

9. Some good jeans
Apart from an adult-sized puddle suit (definitely on the list for those winter wood adventures this year!), nothing is going to keep that annoying autumn drizzle off like a good pair of jeans. I've been looking forever for the perfect pair; I've tried everything from ultra-skinny jegging types to looser-fitting 'Mom' style jeans, and nothing has been quite right. I've got high hopes for the pair above from COS - they're not too high waisted, they're not skin tight and they're not covered in rips (I want to keep water out, not let it in!).

Slim-Fit Cropped Jeans, £59, COS

10. The essential scarf
I couldn't have had a list of autumn essentials without mentioning the humble scarf; they keep the rain off, keep you warm and often double as a blanket or shawl. Oh, and if you get one big enough, you can use it as a throw for the end of the bed or back of the sofa!

Tube Scarf in Dusty Pink, £6.99, H&M
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