Friday, 30 October 2015

latest loves: october

I've been reading a lot about 'hygge' lately, which is the Danish word for cosiness or comfort; think blankets, fires, candles, plenty of tea and soup, reading a good book or eating dinner with friends... simple and nourishing, things to make the dull, cold months a bit more pleasant. My latest loves for October all seem to be a bit hygge-ish - this is what I've been enjoying in the last month:
  • Stockpiling fabrics to make cushions for the kiddos room and a robe for me (how gorgeous is that woven fabric? Thanks eBay!) I don't usually like sewing, but there's something quite nice about sitting at the machine in the evening, with plenty of tea and biscuits to hand, and Radio 4 playing in the background. Who would have thought sewing could be 'hygge'?!
  • Adding some more jumpers to my collection - the one above is probably my best eBay find ever, and makes me feel a bit like Sarah Linden when I'm wearing it (if you've not watched The Killing, you definitely should).
  • Covering every available surface in blankets; blankets on the beds, blankets on the sofa, over chair backs and piled in the corner. The one in the picture is from The Future Kept (rapidly becoming my favourite shop!) and is a little recycled bargain at just £16.
  • We've come home from almost every trip out with an abundence of autumn finds; pockets stuffed full of pine cones and feathers, bags littered with giant maple leaves in red, gold and green, and hands prickled by opening chestnut cases. There's nothing quite as lovely as arranging everything on the mantle and then lighting candles in the evening, the flickering light bouncing off of shiny burgundy leaves and giant seed heads casting glorious shadows on the wall. 
I've got so into all this cosiness malarkey, that I've decided to take a break from blogging and social media, and in fact the internet entirely. I've found everything a bit of a struggle lately; too much work, too many distractions, feeling woolly headed and despondent about a lot of things - I don't know where I'm going with a lot of my projects (including the blog), so I decided to take some time to myself to think everything through and work out what's important. I'm planning on getting in some serious crafting time, watching a lot of box sets with the Husband, wading through all the books on my reading list and drinking a lot of tea; generally taking more time for myself and my family and spending less time in front of a computer (or iPhone!) screen. I'm starting with a week, but it might end up as more - I will be back, though!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

styling the seasons: october

October's 'Styling the Seasons' post had to involve Hallowe'en somehow, but I'm not really into faux cobwebs and plastic skeletons, so I included these miniature gourds (the small pumpkin is called a 'munchkin'!) instead. We went on a bit of a foraging mission last weekend (which saw me edging along a country lane trying to collect some Old Man's Beard without getting squashed by passing cars) and I found the little gourds at Waitrose on the way home - I had to be really restrained as they had LOADS, and they were pretty cheap as well. I was hoping they'd be able to be packed away for next year, but I'm guessing that's probably not going to happen!

As well as the gourds, I've included my prized Old Man's Beard, a few of my gazillion pine cones, my treasured dried hydrangea, some rosehips, Michaelmas daisies, dried honesty and some seed heads. What I love most about collecting at this time of year is that a lot things are already dried, which means they last ages longer - which means you don't have to spend quite so much time sweeping up dropped petals!

Styling the Seasons was started by Katy of Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte from Lotts and Lots, and anyone can join in by using the #StylingTheSeasons hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Friday, 23 October 2015

blossoming gifts

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the lovely folks at Blossoming Gifts about their new floral delivery service; based here in the UK, they specialise in beautiful bouquets offered at budget friendly prices. They asked if I'd like to review one of their products - obviously, being completely obsessed with flowers and foliage, I jumped at the chance to spend a couple of hours photographing and faffing around with some beautiful blooms!

The one thing I was most impressed with was the delivery service; they really go out of their way to make it easy to fix a delivery time that suits the recipient - and what's even better is that they actually arrive when they're expected to (cough cough Hermes, I'm looking at you). Plus, they're great for last minute gifts, as you can request the next-day service if you order before 9pm - just what you need for 11th hour birthday shopping!

I have to be honest, I'm always a little sceptical of receiving flowers by post; (Ali is a big fan of supermarket flowers!) I always think they're bound to get squashed on the journey, or arrive starved of liquid and clinging to life. So when my chosen bouquet (Creme Brulee from the Grandparents Day range) turned up at the door, I was pleasantly suprised - they were packed tidily, and sprung out of the box like they'd just been picked. There were a couple of droopy daisies (but then they're ridiculously hard to keep perky, so it's to be expected) but there were no broken stems, curled petals or brown leaves at all. Everything was as fresh as a daisy (sorry!).

Once I'd finished faffing about, trimming stems and taking pictures, I gave the whole thing to my lovely Mum; not only is she my best friend and favourite person, she also looks after Daisy when I have to work, and cares for my Dad who has Alzheimers. She's amazing, and I couldn't think of anyone that deserved some beautiful flowers more than her - I'm pleased to be able to report that the chrysanthemums are still going strong, almost three weeks later!

Aside from the quality and delivery, there were a few other things that impressed me about the Blossoming Gifts service:

  • The chocolates that accompany the bouquet are VERY tasty (depending on which one you select, these are often free!)
  • You can choose add-on gifts, such as balloons, enamel jugs and cakes; these are really well priced as well
  • The cost of the bouquets are more than reasonable for the quality of the flowers - I'd definitely order from there again. I've not come across cheap flowers that last three weeks before!
  • The website is easy to navigate, and there are a few different ways to shop - they also stock items such as hampers, wine and plants, so you could literally get everything in one place.
I tried desperately to think of some negative points, just to balance things out, but I couldn't. Erm. They don't sell tea?

The kind folks at Blossoming Gifts have given readers of this blog a code for a special 33% discount on any bouquet on the site, apart from the 'Flowers by Post' range. Simply head to the website, and enter the code at the checkout to receive your money off.

I received the 'Creme Brulee' bouquet for review purposes, but as usual all thoughts and opinions are my own. You can see from the pictures how amazing the flowers were!

PS: There's probably nothing harder than shooting white flowers on a white table, in front of a white wall. It might be time to get some tablecloths and paint!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

five ideas for a rustic style christmas

I know, I know, we've not had Hallowe'en yet, and I'm already talking about Christmas - but, in my defence, last year I left everything until the second week of December, and I ended up in a sweat with sticks glue-gunned to my hand and almost missed the festive season entirely. This year, I want to do everything slowly, plan ahead and enjoy the whole experience, rather than panic-crafting two days before Christmas in a huff in front of National Lampoons (which means that naurally I've started a Pinterest board as well.....)

I love everything rustic and nature-filled, so obviously my Christmas decorations are based around foliage, wood, natural fabrics and simple homemade decorations (and we add some glittery stuff for the kiddos!) - this sort of thing does take some advance planning though, so based on my experience of last year, today I've got my five top tips for rustic-style festivities.

1. Collect pine cones now for free crafts later
Pine cones are the quintessential festive accessory, and there are SO many things you can do with them; display them in beautiful bowls, make garlands from them, hang them on the tree, spray them gold, dip-paint them.... the list is pretty much limitless. You can obviously buy them on eBay, but why pay for something later than you can gather and keep now for absolutely nothing?!

2. Invest in some good blankets
I do tend to go on about blankets quite a lot, but they're literally one of my favourite things. There's nothing better than snuggling up with a glass of mulled wine, a plate of mince pies (or the festive chocolates!) and the Christmas specials in the evenings, and for us, this usually carries on way after the big day. If you're feeling crafty, or fancy learning a new skill, there's plenty of time to knit or crochet your own blanket - YouTube has plenty of helpful tutorials, or check out websites such as Lion Brand or Ravelry for patterns.

3. Bring the outside in
It might sound odd, but sticks and twigs are the basis of a lot of rustic style decorations; this star I made for our mantel last year had a base made from twigs I'd found at our local country park, and many homemade wreaths are formed around similar things, so it pays to start collecting early. It's also a good idea to collect plenty of beautifully coloured leaves now, then preserve them for Christmas crafts and decorations in a month or so. Later on, look around at places selling live trees for offcuts to decorate your home with - they're usually more than happy to give them away for free!

4. Buy or make some lanterns
There's nothing better than the lights twinkling on the tree, and a few candles dotted around for creating a cosy atmosphere. If you're the crafty type, start collecting tin cans now to make simple DIY versions later on, or alternatively pay a visit to the lovely folks at Houseology, who have an entire department dedicated to tea lights and lanterns; I'm in love with the Miners Tealight Holders (£22 for three! Such a bargain!) which have festive shapes cut out of the sides - great for casting Christmas-sy shadows on the wall. (The gorgeous images at the top of this post have been sent kindly from the Houseology team and you can see the entire lookbook here - vintage ice-skates, trunks, lanterns, wooden decorations and foliage galore. Heaven!)

5. Add some festive cheer
I used to be all about colour, but now that my style is a little more neutral, Christmas is always a bit of a challenge in that department - wood and foliage are great, but you definitely need something to make it sparkle. I'm going to be sticking to traditional colours; deep reds, silvers and golds, white fairy lights and a little bit of glitter (well, a lot of glitter in the kiddos case, lets be honest!). There'll probably be quite a bit of washi tape in there as well!

Many thanks to the team at Houseology for the kind use of their images and for collaborating on this post. 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

tigerlilly quinn shop and a giveaway

One of the first bloggers I stumbled across way back in 2011 was Fritha from Tigerlilly Quinn; I was pregnant with Daisy at the time, and spent ages reading all of her pregnancy posts - I remember wondering how she managed to look so 'glowy' while I looked like a tramp! Four years on, and not only am I still an avid reader of her blog (baby number two is expected soon! Exciting!), but I'm also a big fan of her online shop; with stock ranging from clothing and bags to jewellery, stationary and childrens items, it's one of the first places I look when I'm searching for presents (or stocking fillers!)

Fritha is going to be taking some time away from the shop in a month or so, but before she does, we've teamed up to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a £50 gift voucher to spend on whatever they like. That's a large chunk of Christmas taken care of!
In case you're just not sure what you'd spend your winnings on, I've created a collage below featuring all of my current favourite items - happy shopping!

1. Tivoli by Ingela P Arrhenius, £16
2. Chalkboard Style Thank-You Card, £2.75
3. Mix and Match Folk Stamped Bowls, £6.25
4. OMM Design Memory Game, £7.99
5. Studio Matryoshka Christmas, £19.99
6. Frida Kahlo Brooch, £7
7. Mix & Match by OMM Design, £11.99
8. Amy and Ivor Moccasins, £38
9. Toucan Necklace, £8.99

To win, all you have to do is complete any of the entries on the Rafflecopter widget below - you can either do one or all of them. The more you do, the more chances you have to win - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 17 October 2015

an autumn and winter reading list

I love writing posts about books; those I've read and raved about, those I've had on my reading list for ages and those that I just couldn't get on with. I've just discovered the #theyearinbooks hashtag on Twitter, run by Laura who writes the Circle of Pine Trees blog; there are monthly blog posts and an accompanying Twitter chat, and last time I came away with a huuuuuge list of books to add to my (already heaving) collection. I'm trying to force myself to switch off from work in the evenings, and read at least two books a month (my current novel actually has dust on the cover, it's been neglected for so long), and I've got a pretty varied list to get through.

1. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
I've not read many of Sarah Waters books, but I did get through The Little Friend at lightning speed, so I'm going to give another one a go; The Paying Guests is set in the twenties, one of my two favourite periods in history, which is pretty much how it made it on to the list!

2. The Taxidermists Daughter by Kate Mosse
Ali has read (and loved) Kate Mosse's first books, but I just couldn't get to grips with them. I did LOVE The Mistletoe Bride, though, so I'm going to have a go at this one as well.

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Because everyone I know who's read it has absolutely raved about it, so I feel like I should at least give it a go!

4. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This has been on my list forever, but it's another one I've just not got round to - Hannah of Seeds and Stitches read it recently in a weekend, and she has excellent taste, so I'm determined to tick it off this year.

5. Second Hand Stories by Josh Spero
This isn't actually released until later this month, but I saw it in The Simple Things magazine, and thought it sounded like something I'd love - author Josh Spero decides to track down the previous owners of some of his second-hand books, and the resulting stories are held in this book. Intriguing!

6. A Winter Book by Tove Jansson
I saw this one on the #theyearinbooks chat, and looked it up straight away (because there's something really nice about reading seasonally, I think - I can't read Christmas books in any month other than November or December!); it's a collection of short stories, which is handy for dipping in and out of - the only thing I've ever read from Jansson is the Moomins, so I'm looking forward to seeing how she writes for adults.

7. The Shopkeeper's Home by Caroline Rowland
Strictly not a novel, but it's probably my most wanted book right now, so I had to add it!

8. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Set in my other favourite period of history, the 1940s, Alone in Berlin is inspired by a true story, and tells the tale of a man who was determined to defy the fascist Nazi rule.

What's on your reading list for this autumn and winter? Any recommendations?

Friday, 16 October 2015

zigzag and zebra

You all know by now that I love championing independent designers, makers and shopkeepers; I'd much rather my hard earned pennies went to them than huge corporations. I've already got a few childrens shops stored in my bookmarks, but when the lovely folks at Zigzag and Zebra got in touch to find out if I wanted to review some of their products, they went straight on my favourites list.

They sent over one of their wonderful Block pegboards, along with the Mr  Frank Fox card, which sat quite nicely on the bottom pegs. I'd seen Block pegboards before, but never got round to looking into one (it was one of those things that I just thought I could make myself - a large bit of plywood and a drill, bish bash bosh!), but they really are as good as everyone says. What I loved most was that the peg styles made it possible to display almost anything; I hung a bag, balanced a card, wooden house and shell, and strung up some washi-tape bunting. Both kiddos love it, and since I took the photos we've lined up other cards, nature finds and garlands to hang up - the genius pegs mean almost anything can be sat up neatly, so I'm hoping the chestnuts in their shells will stay balanced!

Zigzag and Zebra sell way more than wall decorations though; prints and cards, stationary, cushions, bedding, toys and storage in all different colours, patterns and fabrics mean that there's almost certainly something for every youngsters bedroom (AND they've just opened their Christmas shop, and the decorations and stocking fillers are utterly glorious!) I've picked out my five favourite things in the shop at the moment, just in case you're looking for a little Christmas inspiration...

1. Elephant Dumbo cushion, £39.50
2. Synchronised swimmers print by Rifle Paper Company, £20
3. Woody sheep grey, £23.95
4. Wigwam cushion, £39.95
5. The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan, £9.95

The Block pegboard and Mr Frank Fox card were gifted to us, but as usual all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

the autumn home

If I've said it before, I've said it a thousand times; I'm a spring and summer girl, through and through. I'm way happier when the sun is shining, and the garden is full of sweetpeas and delphiniums than when it's grey, raining and cold. That said, there is something nice about making the house cosy for the colder months; pulling blankets out of storage, finding the perfect pair of slippers and lighting a dozen tiny candles every evening. Today, I've got my top picks for warming up your home this autumn, from the comfiest chair to the best candles around.

1. Obligatory tea and a nice chunky mug
One of the best things about autumn and winter is searching out new tea; Ali and I discovered Bluebird Tea in Brighton when we went a few weeks ago, and we're hooked. Warming spicy blends are perfect for cold weather, an even more so if they're served in a beautiful handmade mug.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie Tea, Bluebird Tea Company: £ 5.70
Mali Dipped White Mug, Quince Living: £12.95

2. Piles of blankets
We always have loads of blankets in the house (because, dens, right?!) but they're usually stored in market bags and baskets from IKEA; I love getting them out and stacking them on the end of the sofa and draping them over the backs of the chairs, ready to be pulled over laps and round shoulders.

British Made Recycled Eco 100% Wool Throw, The Future Kept: £16

3. Dozens of cushions
I love piling the cushions up and making little nests on the sofa in the evenings, and a good woollen one is ideal for autumn.

Moss Knit Cushion Cover, H&M: £14.99

4. A good wicker basket
We aways have loads of baskets around the house; I've got a bit of an addiction, and they're great for storing everything from toys to magazines and the ever-expanding lego collection. Autumn is the perfect time to invest in a wicker basket for storing logs, if you have a wood burner or open fire, or blankets if you don't.

Wicker Valley Dulwich Log Basket, Tesco: £18.99

5. Plenty of candles
I do use candles in the summer, but definitely not as much as during autumn and the festive season. I always think a room isn't quite ready for the colder months until you have a good selection of candles dotted around; choose from warming spicy scents, the smell of an open fire, tiny tealights and pure beeswax tapered candles.

Beeswax Stubby Candles, Workshop Living: £4
Woodlot Heat Candle, Workshop Living: £25
Hand Poured Botanical Candle - Hibernate, The Future Kept: £12

6. A good, solid chair
In our lounge we've got a big leather armchair, which I don't very often sit in, but when it gets colder it's the perfect size to curl up in. It sort of hugs you in, especially if you've got cushions and blankets around you as well - I never sit in it if we're watching anything on Netflix though, because I'm usually asleep before the titles roll!

Halo Gable Chair, Oldrids: £915

7. The perfect slippers
Last year, I had these great big, fairisle patterned, knitted slippers - they were great, but the soft sole wore through really quickly, especially as I kept nipping out into the garden in them. I love these ones from Toast; they're a bit more than I'd usually pay, but they're handmade from wool felt, and have a thick, solid sole.

Damson Wool Monika Slipper, Toast: £59

8. A cosy lantern
If you're all candle-d out, lanterns can give them same effect but with less mess; I love the vintage style ones - but do put them somewhere safe as they run on oil!

White Storm Lantern, Workshop Living: £25

This is a collaborative post.

Friday, 9 October 2015

weekend plans

Weekends for me usually include a combination of work, errands, cleaning and separating two wrestling children; this weekend though, we're lucky enough to be heading off to rural Wales to stay in the beautiful Welsh House cottage, Bryncyn. There's no TV, no WiFi, no neighbours and no noise (apart from the noise we'll be making!), and according to the website it offers 'complete rural seclusion', which is fine by me. We're taking board games, books, magazines and waterproofs, and plan to spend two days doing as little as possible for as long as possible. While we're there, we're hoping to:
  • Visit Caws Cenarth, a local artisan cheesemaker. Cheese is my absolute favourite food (apart from Chocolate!) and I'm planning on bringing a haul home with me!
  • Head into Newcastle Emlyn for a wander, and hopefully find some lovely handmade bits and pieces.
  • Play cards, scrabble, read and snooze in front of the woodburning stove (an absolute luxury!)
  • Get our wellies on and explore the local countryside, gathering flowers and foliage.
  • Eat an absolute shitload of lovely local food.
  • Drink a ridiculous amount of tea.
  • Knit and crochet - this is actually work, but it never feels like it!
What are you up to this weekend? Have a good one, whatever you're doing!

The beautful image at the top is by Katy Orme, who writes the lovely Apartment Apothecary blog. You can see her post on Bryncyn here (and then head off and feast your eyes on the rest of her posts!)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

new desk space: a short tour

One of the rooms in the house I've been changing around is the conservatory; this is my working space, and it's where I have my desk, craft supplies, yarn, printer and teetering piles of paper beautifully organised accounting records. Like the other rooms, I've been having a clear out, and have gone from having something on every surface to lots of clear space for working, photographing and filling with plants. I took everything off of the wall, filled in the holes and ripped off the wretched wonky dado rail, and now I've got a lovely white background for photographing against. I've also added some more plants, in the hope that they survive longer this time, and my beloved Bush radio (usually tuned to Radio 4, I'm a sucker for the Archers and the Afternoon Play....) is perched on the desk as well. Everything else is stored in cupboards elsewhere in the room, and the whole space looks so much lighter, brighter and fresher.

One of my favourite things is the lamp that the lovely folks at Houseology (if you've never been on the website, seriously, you need to have a look!) sent me to review; it's by Garden Trading, and is called the Bermondsey - unsurprisingly, it's one of their best sellers at the moment. I love anything rustic, so I loved the adjustable arm straight away; the best thing is that not only does it look great, it's also really well made, and stays in one place when you position it - I've had so many desk lamps that just tend to flop about, but the Bermondsey does exactly what you want, every time. The other winning feature was the braided cord; I'm a bit (ok, a lot) OCD about things being tidy, and wires are one of the things that annoy me the most - so it was nice to finally find a designer that had thought about that!

Other items featured above include:

Desk: Linnmon and Odvald, IKEA (I love that you can change the colour of the table top to a wooden one, if you fancy it!)
Bicycle print: A sheet of wrapping paper from Eternal Maker
Left succulent: IKEA
Radio: Argos
'Hello' postcard: Paperchase
Right succulent: B&Q (the saucer is vintage)
Glass bottle: Rose and Grey (I think, they've sold out but have plenty of other lovely alternatives)
Stoneware pot: Wild Damson
Expanding ruler: The Hambledon
Stationary: Fox and Star

Many thanks to Houseology for collaborating with me on this post, and for the Bermondsey lamp sent for review. As usual, all thoughts and words are my own (but seriously, how could you not love that lamp?!)
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