Tuesday, 26 April 2016

great spots to visit: petersfield

The Blacksmith's Daughter
If you love your plants and flowers, any trip to Petersfield needs to include a visit to The Blacksmith's Daughter. Tucked away behind the main road, this flower-filled haven is the first place I go when I'm looking for something special; buckets of soft white ranunculus jostle for space with colourful hyacinths, and the old wooden table at the front is laden with potted plants and succulents. It's one of my favourite places to potter around in, and I've never left empty handed.

The Happy Cow Farm Shop
If you're a lover of good quality, local produce, then the Happy Cow is going to seem like a goldmine when you visit. Packed full of everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisan bread and locally produced jams and chutneys, it's one of those places that makes you want to potter about in the kitchen, making lovely things to eat (even for me, and I'm absolutely the worst cook EVER).

The Natural Apothecary
We only recently tried this little place for the first time - we usually drive past it on the way to the market, but when the kiddos were at their Grandparents a few weeks ago, we popped in for tea and cake. It was SO GOOD. Firstly, the decor inside is amazing; lots of old bottles, beautiful wallpaper and an incredible set of drawers at the back, and heaps of vintage apothecary tools dotted on the shelves at the front. Secondly, the menu is incredible - we just had coffee, tea and cake (the vegan chocolate - yes, yes, yes), but they also offer breakfast and lunch, with plenty of vegan, vegetarian and wholefood options. You can also stock up on teas and healthfood items to take away and enjoy at home.

The Market
Petersfield actually has two markets, one every Saturday and the farmers market on the first Sunday of every month. The farmers market is basically a foodies heaven; they sell everything from bread and cakes to meats, cheeses and deli items, all locally produced and many organic. The Saturday market is a bit more varied (and my favourite!); the artisan bread stall is incredible (I strongly recommend the cinnamon loaf and the pumpkin bread), and the tea stall next door has a great selection. A quick wander will take you past two wonderful flower stalls, the fruit and vegetables and a vintage stall with amazing flower pots and rugs - plenty to tempt everyone!

Petersfield Heath
Whenever the weather is nice in the summer, we head here on a Sunday morning - with 69 acres of land to explore, it's a great way to pass the time. There are two play areas, a cafe which serves hot and cold drinks, cake and sandwiches (and duck food!), toilets, fishing opportunities, plenty of benches and seats to relax on and of course the lake to walk around. It's always clean, safe and well looked after - definitely one of our favourite places to visit.

Monday, 25 April 2016

five essentials for a heavenly bedroom

We swapped rooms with the kiddos last year, and it's taken me ages to get round to actually doing anything with out new space; it's teeny tiny - there's only enough room for a bed and a wardrobe - which means it's really hard to make it look 'done' without being overcluttered. After all the umm-ing and ahh-ing, I've whittled the list of bedroom decor 'essentials' down to a manageable five - which is practically nothing to a former hoarder like me!

1. Good bedding
Considering we spend a whopping third of our lives asleep (although it might not feel like it if you've got children!), bedding is one of the most important things you'll buy for a bedroom. A lot of people swear by high thread-counts and luxury brands, but honestly, my favourite set is from Wilkinsons - it's the softest one we've had so far. Zara Home and H&M are great for good quality basics (although H&M seem to carry some pretty weird sizes), but if you're looking to spend a bit more, try Soak and Sleep or The Linen Works.

Image courtesy of Bruno

2. A decent mattress
I've slept on budget mattresses before, and I can tell you that it's much better to spend the extra money than it is to lose feeling in one side of your body every night. A good mattress is so important, and can make huge differences to everything from standard aches and pains to posture and body temperature. Based in Germany, Bruno is a company that manufactures mattresses with a difference - combining a removable, quilted cover, a hypoallergenic top layer and a unique 7-zone support base, they've managed to design a single mattress that suits everybody. (They're also hugely environmentally friendly - the latex is organically farmed and the fabric manufacturer is a family-run firm, AND they've designed their packaging to save energy. Top marks!)

3. A rug (or two, if it's a big space!)
The bedroom in the top picture is my idea of perfection; it's airy and uncluttered, but still manages to look 'finished'. What makes it really great, though, is the rug - our room is nowhere near big enough to have a rug (maybe a bathmat at the end of the bed?), but if it were, I'd definitely choose the one in the picture (it's the Belle by Modern Rugs). Rugs are great, not only for adding texture, but they can also work brilliantly to hide an ugly carpet or chipped laminate.

4. A row of hooks
I love hooks on the wall - I've got loads of nice straw bags and baskets, prints, scarves and so on that I like to rotate on display, but all the ready-made hooks we found were really small, and just made everything look all squashed together. In the end, Ali made a huge set from an old floorboard (you could easily just get a piece of furniture board from B&Q which would do the same job) and seven Svartsjon hooks from IKEA screwed into it - I love it, because it almost covers one entire wall, and there's enough room for everything. If you can't be bothered with faffing around, IKEA have also just brought out the Falsterbo wall rail with hooks - one isn't that large, but they can be screwed into the wall with the ends flush, so several would look like one long item.

Image Courtesy of IKEA

5. Plants, plants and more plants
A room without plants is not a finished room, fact. They add a bit of nature and colour to the room, they clean the air and they look great. What more do you need?!

Many thanks to Bruno for collaborating on this post. 

Friday, 22 April 2016

gardening with kids: five top tips

The weather here today is awful, but it's supposed to pick up over the weekend, so I'm planning to spend the whole time at home - we've got heaps of little DIY jobs to finish, and I've not started on the garden at all yet this year (so behind!) so there's not really any time for coffee shops and pottering (boo!).

Whenever I do anything in the garden, the kiddos immediately want to be involved; Ben will sow a couple of seeds and then wander off to look for insects, but Daisy wants to have a go at EVERYTHING. In the beginning, it was a bit of a power struggle between us; she'd want to do something her way, and knowing that it wouldn't work, I'd try and persuade her otherwise. It would usually end with compost everywhere, scattered seeds and tear stained faces - but over the last couple of years I've picked up some ways to make things a whole lot easier.

1. Get a set of mini garden tools
One of my biggest problems was Daisy charging around the garden, using the rake as a pretend horse - I couldn't relax in case she fell over and impaled herself on the damn thing. A set of mini tools will make them feel like a gardener in their own right, and will be easier for them to handle - you can buy anything from simple trowels and forks to rakes, hoes and wheelbarrows (which will, let's face it, be used more for wheeling siblings around than anything else).

2. Involve them in choosing seeds and plants
It might just be me, but I think there's something really exciting about poring over seed catalogues and staring at the racks in the local garden centre (plant geek!) - all that possibility in such tiny packets! You might already have a rough plan of what you want in your garden, but letting the kids choose some seeds of their own will mean they're invested in the whole growing process from the very beginning.

3. Teach them about garden safety
One of my biggest mistakes was trying to remove everything that was hazardous from the area, rather than educating the kids about it. Obviously with toddlers, this isn't possible, but once they have a basic grasp of danger, you can teach them about poisonous plants, thorns, stinging nettles and any chemicals that you might have in your gardening arsenal (we don't use anything chemical-based, but I know a lot of people do).

4. Buy some children's gardening and nature books
In the same way gardening is a learning curve for adults, it's the same for children - they're probably not going to want to sit and watch Gardeners World with you (although you can try and convince them, like I did!), but there are plenty of books aimed at youngsters which will get them fired up. We love Miffy in the Garden, The Little Gardener, Eddie's Garden and The Tiny Seed.

5. Give them their own area of the garden
Nothing makes children want to take care of something more than when they feel like it's their own - section off a sunny corner of a flowerbed, give them a long trough to fill with compost or supply them with a few flowerpots and let them do with it whatever they like. Even if that does just mostly involve digging holes!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

weekend in pictures: sunshine and DIY

I haven't done one of these posts in absolutely ages, so last weekend I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures. Here's what we got up to!

1. We pottered about in Southsea, spotting loads of hanging baskets and planters bursting into life. I found these outside a local coffee shop, and now I'm thinking about doing something similar on the wall in our garden!

2, 3 & 4. I popped into Home Coffee in Southsea to grab some goodies to take away, and then we wandered up to the park on the seafront. It was soooo sunny and lovely - the first time we've been in months and I've not felt absolutely freezing!

5, 6, 7 & 8. I spent a happy hour browsing through the plants at our local garden centre; I've been so slack this year with sowing seeds, so I bought a few 'backup' seedlings - sweet peppers, peas, tomatoes and kale. Oh, and two more succulents - because what I really need is more houseplants to kill!

9. I've been working on a crochet project for myself, and finished blocking it over the weekend - you'll be able to see it in the bedroom makeover post on the blog next week!

10 & 11. Our neighbourhood is absolutely full of blossom, and I can't walk past a tree or bush without snapping a few pictures!

12. We've almost finished our bathroom, and were lucky enough to be gifted this amazing mirror from One World Trading - it's got a shelf attached, which is a great place to put toothbrushes and little soaps. And more plants, obviously!

I've also joined Snapchat in the last week or so - I'm on there as owlandaccordion if you want to follow along. I'm probably more active on there than here - I love that you can have loads of fun with all the filters, but don't need to edit anything!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

top kidswear picks for spring

It's no secret that I'm a real spring and summer lover - I hate, hate, HATE the winter months, and spend the whole time hibernating with books and moaning about the rain. I mean, I love knitwear as much as the next person, but it's hard to have fun with clothes when everything is hidden under a coat!

Spring and summer are sooooo good for kidswear - dungarees, shorts, cool sandals and sneakers, printed t-shirts and LOADS of accessories. Today I've rounded up my latest favourite finds for the little people in your life.

1.Printed Plush Trousers, £10.99, Zara
We've had these from Zara before, and they're such good quality - and the style means that when they get a bit short, they work well as cropped trousers as well!

2. Rainbow Sneakers, £34.50, Boden
They're high tops with polka dots and rainbows - what's not to love?!

3. Chocolatine Striped Smock Dress, £34, Tootsa MacGinty
I love Tootsa MacGinty for their age appropriateness, their gender-free approach to design and the fact that the quality is so good that everything lasts for ages. They're pricier than the high street, but well worth it - we head there for birthday presents and special occasions.

4. Short Dungarees, £28.50, Boden
I love dungarees (I've just bought my first pair! Bit late to the party, as usual....), and if they made these in my size, I'd totally wear them in the summer.

5. Leather Sandals, £19.99, H&M
I've not seen these in store, but they caught my eye online last week - I love that they've got that whole Birkenstock style thing going on, but at a fraction of the price!

6. Up and Away Slub Jersey T-Shirt, £17, Little Green Radicals
Little Green Radicals are another one of my favourite online brands - again a bit more pricey, but they're completely organic and earth friendly, and the designs are always beautiful. Another one for birthdays!

7. Adventure Raglan T-Shirt, £14.50, Boden
This t-shirt comes in a few different prints, but I liked the campfire one best - I think it sums up our kids love of the outdoors pretty well! It was in the boys section, but I'd totally put it on Daisy (although she'd probably want to wear it with a tutu or princess dress, but whatever!)

8. Sequinned Bomber Jacket, £17.99, H&M
We actually bought this for Daisy, and so far it's worn pretty well - no missing sequins (although there are so many you might actually not notice!) and it's still as bright and sparkly as the day we got it.

9. Lightning T-Shirt, £6.99, Zara
I love Zara for clothes, and often buy from the boys section for Daisy - they're a high street shop and not too expensive, but they have an excellent environmental and social policy, so I'm quite happy to hand my money over!

Friday, 15 April 2016

glasses for kids: my top tips

Although my two love books and reading, what they really like to do is run, climb and jump - like most children, they're never happier than when they're leaping off of sand dunes or lying on the ground making homes for the insects. So when we discovered that Ben needed glasses, the first thing I thought was, 'bloody hell. Do they make indestructable ones?' As well as being a real outdoorsy boy, he's also pretty clumsy - he's forever tripping over or losing things, so I knew from the start that we were going to spend a lot of time at the opticians!

He's had glasses since the start of his time in reception, so it's coming up to three years now. In that time many, many pairs have come to a sticky end; they've been sat on, trodden on and knocked off, they've been stolen by his sister and some have disappeared entirely. We've had to deal with wonky arms, missing screws and scratched lenses. So when Vision Direct got in touch about their new baby sight tool (I'm coming to that in a bit!), I thought it was a great opportunity to write down my top tips for anyone starting on the glasses journey with their child.

1. Think about their personality
You know your child and their hobbies better than anyone - if they're keen on wrestling with their friends, racing around the park or climbing trees, then they're going to need something a lot more robust than a child who prefers to sit and read or craft quietly.

2. Know that there's no such thing as 'indestructable'....
... but there are glasses that come pretty close. Ben started out with some really nice, smart brown frames, which lasted about five minutes - and then his wonderful optician introduced us to the flexi-frames. While they might not be able to withstand everything he throws at them, they're definitely stronger than rigid frames; they can be bent, sat on and stood on, and they still survive.

3. Get them involved
The wonderful thing about childrens glasses is that they come in a whole range of colours and styles - and those ace designers have even thought to include some favourite characters as well. When he was in reception, Ben was obsessed (and I mean obsessed) with Lego, so one of his first pairs had Lego bricks along the side (miniature ones, not actual bricks!); I also remember seeing Disney, Frozen, Marvel, Moshi Monsters and Winnie the Pooh over the last couple of years, so there's something for everyone. If your child is really against the idea of wearing glasses, being able to choose their favourite character might help to win them round.

It wasn't until Ben started wearing glasses that I realised just how much children's eyesight changes, especially when they're young babies. Vision Direct have designed a really cool slider tool, which lets you see the way your baby sees between the ages of newborn and twelve months, and offers tips to help with their development. It's packed full of interesting facts as well; for instance, I didn't realise that newborns only see in shades of grey! To have a go with the tool and find out more, click the image below to head over to the website.

Baby Sight

Many thanks to Vision Direct for collaborating on this post.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

What's in my bag?

I've been meaning to do one of these for aaaaages - my favourite type of post on other blogs is any type of home or wardrobe tour, or a look inside bags or makeup bags. What can I say? I love a good nosy!

The Bag
I change my bag around quite a lot; I've got a collection of totes that I chop and change my way through, and at the moment I'm loving a small black cross-body bag by Monki - I bought it purely because it looked a bit like the half-moon bag by A.P.C! I mainly use my jute tote bag from The Future Kept though; Ali bought it for me for Christmas and it's so handy - I like to carry a LOT of stuff (as you can see), and this has room for anything I find when I'm out and about as well.

1. A Hat
I always carry a beanie or bobble hat around with me, unless it's the summer and it's really, really hot. It's partly because I get cold really easily (I'm anaemic), and partly because I'm horribly lazy when it comes to hair in the morning - it's way easier to shove a hat on and not worry about it until after the school run!

2. A Magazine
I always pack my bag like I'm going to be stranded somewhere for a month and need constant entertainment, so there's usually a magazine or two in there. I love loads of different ones, but I've just discovered Woven which is utterly brilliant - it's about art and crafts and creative people, and is just a really good read.

3. My Camera
The one in the picture is actually a stand in, because I was using my normal one to shoot with (if you're into vintage cameras, this is a Halina Rolls, and you can find them on eBay quite easily). I mainly use my Canon EOS-M because it's light and easy to carry, but does almost everything a DSLR does - but if I want to get some really good portrait pictures I take my Canon 400D out with me.

4. Sunglasses
I've got a bit of a thing for sunglasses - my favourites are the Henning classic black by Lines and Current, but I packed them away at the end of last summer and can't find them. Waaah! These ones are from last years collection by Monki.

5. Small Bag
I carry lots of little things around that kept getting lost in the bottom of my bag; lip balm, Rescue Remedy, lavender oil, under-eye concealer (I use Benefit Erase Paste - it's the best!), keys and so on, so I decided to get a small bag to keep it all in. This one is the jute makeup bag from The Future Kept.

6. Notebook
Oh. My. God. I love a notebook. I do. I get through loads of them for work, so I try not to buy anything too nice or expensive - this one was £10 from Paperchase but it's got like a gazillion pages and I love the colour. So there you go.

7. iPad and Case
I was so late to the iPad party, but I eventually got one in a package with my iPhone upgrade and I love it. I do. I read books and magazines on it, post social media updates on it, blog on it, watch TV and listen to the radio on it... basically do pretty much everything I do on a laptop but without the hassle of carrying it around. The case is from Cath Kidston.

8. A Book
Yes, for some reason I carry an actual novel, as well as my magazine and iPad. I don't really know why - it's just a habit I've always had! At the moment I'm reading The Shadow Hour, which is really good - one of those books about old houses and family mysteries. Easy to get lost in!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The family sofa: five top tips

When the lovely folks at Argos got in touch and asked if I'd like to be involved in writing about my top tips for choosing a family sofa, I thought yeah, why not? Take a few nice photos of us all curled up together, some of the kiddos and then write about what makes a really good place to park your bum. How hard can that be?

Those three photos sum up quite well why I really don't bother trying to involve my lot in anything; as you can see, it all turned pretty quickly into sofa carnage, which is actually a fairly good representation of our life - noisy, boisterous and downright daft.

I was going to ditch the photos, and threaten the removal of television privileges until all three of them behaved, but then I realised that actually they showed exactly what a family sofa has to go through; wrestling, fighting, leaping, squashing up, settling down, crumbs, spillages and general chaos. I think any sofa that's going to deal with small children needs to do the following:

1. Have removable covers
Your sofa is going to be a dining table, a desk, a place to colour, a sickbed and a craft room - if it has nothing else, it's going to need removable covers that can be washed, and preferably ones that dry fairly quickly as well! (This is doubly important if you've got pets!)

2. Be robust
OK, so it doesn't need to be built like a tank, but it's going to have to withstand some pretty heavy usage. It's going to be a den, a rocket and a wrestling ring, it's going to be pummelled, jumped on and rolled over. Forget anything with flimsy wooden arms - they're not good for using as a horse anyway - because they'll probably end up in a splintery mess.

3. Be spacious
You're going to want to avoid those teeny decorative sofas, and instead go for the biggest thing that fits in the room - if you need to get rid of the rest of the furniture, so be it. If you've got small children, they're almost guaranteed to want to snuggle up on your lap or by your side, even if you've bought them their own mini-armchairs or beanbags. If you've got big children or teenagers, they're going to want to spread out with their friends, so they can grunt at each other in comfort. Basically, there's one size for a family sofa, and that's huge.

4. Have space for storage
It doesn't necessarily need to be built in (is that even a thing with sofas?), but if you've got small children, try looking for a sofa that has some space underneath for keeping toys or games out of sight. It doesn't have to be masses - ours is about 4" off of the floor on sturdy wooden legs, and it's brilliant for hiding away our gazillion jigsaw puzzles.

5. Be a sensible colour
You weren't thinking of choosing a white sofa were you? Or cream? That's lucky, because unless everyone is going to sit on the floor, and you're going to put Police tape around it, the whole thing would be ruined before you could even get the packaging into the recycling bin. Dark colours are the key when you've got children - they hide a multitude of sins, from ice lollies and spilled juice to dropped chocolate (ahem) and spilled paint (double ahem).

Many thanks to Argos for collaborating with me on this post. You can see tips from other lovely bloggers on the Argos website right here.


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Daisy turns four

Ben wears: Jumper - H&M, Jeans - Tesco, Shoes - H&M // Daisy wears: Jumper - Tootsa MacGinty, Jeans - H&M, Sneakers - H&M // Mama wears:  Jacket - eBay, T-shirt - ASOS, Necklace - Peggy on Folksy, Jeans - H&M, Shoes - H&M.

Last Friday was Daisy's fourth birthday, and we had planned to go to Brighton, but the weather forecast was absolutely grim (I keep looking back at last years photos and it was a heatwave round about now!). We decided in the end to stay local and head off to all of our favourite places instead - which was lucky as we spent half the day dodging heavy rain and hail!

At her request, we ate burgers for lunch, had giant ice-creams on the beach, skimmed stones and waved at the hovercraft, fed two-pence-pieces into the slot machines in the arcades and finished off by riding the carousel in the fairground. Present wise, she had an Elsa dress (God help me), some Duplo, a stuffed cat (the toy variety, as opposed to a piece of taxidermy!), loads of books and some clothes. The lovely folks at Tootsa MacGinty sent her the horse and flamingo sweater in the photos above, which I knew she'd adore - she's been obsessed with flamingos (she used to call them 'Mingos' when she was small, ahhhhh) for ages, and spends a lot of her time either watching My Little Pony or whinnying around the house pretending to be a horse. It's such good quality, and kept her warm on the beach while I was shivering into my eBay coat - if only it came in adult sizes!

In the spirit of honesty, though, there were a few tears; it's tough being four, especially when you're not allowed to stroke every dog that walks past, or you can't go on the fairground ride that's too big for you, or you're full of sugar and tired out and everything is wrong.

'It's my birthday and I'll scream if I want to.'

We did end the day with lots of cuddles and three new stories though, so I think four turned out to be pretty good!

Tootsa MacGinty were kind enough to gift us Daisy's sweater, but I would have bought it for her birthday anyway. Who wouldn't?!
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