Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Five easy ways to give yourself a break

Image credits: @siobhanwatts (left) and @fleaandbear (right) via Instagram

I mentioned in my last post that I had a bit of an off-week last week; I felt like I wasn't achieving as much as I thought I thought I should be, I'd lost my way a bit parenting-wise, the house was a mass of unfinished DIY projects and crochet deadlines - oh, and we were skint. I spent a good few days in a monstrous huff, but did stumble across a few things that helped me work my way out of it, so I thought I'd share them here.

1. Take care of your mind and body
I used to think that the only way to make myself feel better about things was to sit in my pyjamas and eat as much chocolate as I could get my hands on; people told me that I'd feel better if I ate and drank things that were nutritionally good for me, and maybe even thought about a bit of exercise, but I just scoffed and hollered, 'pass the biscuits!' Turns out though, they were actually right - I've recently cut down a LOT on sugar and caffeine, and have started eating way more fruit and vegetables, and drinking green tea.... and, well, it works. Aside from that, I've also started trying to go to bed earlier, rather than sitting at the laptop until gone 11pm, and have been finding time to declutter (six years worth of craft stuff gone in an afternoon!) and craft for joy rather than work. One of my favourite bloggers, Siobhan from Bless the Weather has started the #mymonthofselfcare hashtag on Instagram with Eve from House of Smilla, and it's a great place to see what others are doing, and to get inspiration.

2. Give up on perfection
Ever since I was young, my Mum has watched me drive myself to distraction over my quest for perfection; school work had to be perfect, my bedroom had to be perfectly tidy, my clothes had to be perfectly crease free.... now I'm grown up, I find myself telling my children that they can't always be the best at everything, and that what counts is doing your best - but I still berate myself a LOT when a craft project doesn't quite work out how I planned, or when I don't get a particular work commission. I think the thing I've found that helps the most is to recognise the fact that actually, perfection doesn't really exist and that my best IS good enough - I try to be happy with the fact that I've tried my hardest, and simply move on. (Which I have to admit, is a struggle - I find that steering clear of social media when I'm feeling not-quite-good-enough is an amazing help!)

3. Accept financial help
We don't have a lot of money; my income is pretty sporadic, as any freelancer will know, and Ali works in insurance which isn't massively well-paid. We manage, there just aren't really any holidays, meals out or takeaways, and most of the kids days out involve the beach, woods or park - and if there was ever an emergency, we're lucky in that Ali's parents would be in the position to help. A lot of people aren't in the same boat, though, so something like a car that suddenly refuses to start or a washing machine that floods the kitchen can be disastrous - luckily, in a sea of unscrupulous banks and pay-day lenders with sky-high fees, there's now another option. Peer-to-peer lending is basically banking without the banks - loans are provided by other human beings prepared to put up their own money, and there are no sneaky fees *blows raspberry at banks* Lending Works is one of the leading peer-to-peer lenders, and they're probably the most ethical money service I've come across; they only lend to creditworthy borrowers, there are no repayment penalties, and they provide insurance against borrower defaults, fraud and cybercrime. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having to seek out financial help; almost everyone does it at some point in their lives (and let's face it, what's a mortgage if not a whacking great loan?!) - just make sure you get it from the right people.

4. Realise that you can't do EVERYTHING
Aside from my quest for perfection, trying to do too much is one of my biggest flaws. Last spring I decided (despite having pretty limited gardening knowledge and even less money), that I was going to grow enough food and flowers in the garden to make a pretty big dent in our shopping bill. This was ridiculous for two reasons; firstly, our garden is little more 20sqft, with extremely bad soil and secondly, I had barely any spare time. Seeds went unsown, plants wilted in the greenhouse and as the summer went on I got more and more despondent - not realising that the reason for my green-fingered failure wasn't because I was a crap gardener, but because I was also trying to look after two children, organise school commitments, work full time, finish DIY projects, deal with my Dad's Alzheimers and Ben's autism and keep the house clean. Then I discovered the quote above (which is available as a brilliant desktop wallpaper from Mermag Blog) and decided to stop being so ridiculous - the key is to be realistic with your time, and realise that you're only one person. You can do anything you put your mind to - you just can't do it all at once.

5. Take the time to have digital breaks
This is a biggie for me; as a copywriter, blogger and magazine writer, I spend a LOT of time online and on social media, which can either be utterly brilliant and inspirational - or it can be mind-bogglingly soul-destroying. The shiny worlds of Pinterest and Instagram can be a tough place to be, especially if you're having a bad week and it seems like the rest of the universe is winning at life and absolutely killing it. I can't recommend time away from the world of the internet enough; my favourite thing to do when it gets really bad is to delete all social media apps from the phone and then get back to the real world, whether it's out with the kiddos, off to a local coffee shop or to hide on the sofa with a good book.

Many thanks to The Lending Works for collaborating with me on this post; a true dolphin in a sea of financial sharks!


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

worn: striped shirt and pre-loved bargains

Shirt: H&M // Coat: eBay // Jeans: Leigh at Topshop via eBay // 
Shoes: H&M (last year but similar here) // Bag: Monki (last year) // Sunglasses: Monki (similar here)

I haven't blogged in almost a week now; not because I haven't wanted to, but partly because I've not felt particularly bothered, and partly because I've been busy doing other bits and pieces. I had a couple of magazine features to finish, but it was more to do with the fact that I just wasn't feeling it; I felt like nothing I was doing was good enough, I wasn't pushing myself creatively and all my ideas were rubbish. I know from past experience that the only thing to do in this situation is to completely switch off of the internet, so I deleted my social media apps and went off for a private huff. It helped, and so I'm back today with an outfit post - I don't usually do many of these, because I feel awkward in front of the camera rather than behind it; I spend too long fretting about the size of my forehead (gargantuan, needs it's own postcode) or whether my photos are sharp enough (shaky-handed-husband) or whether my clothes are 'right'. But I've recently decided to try and push myself outside of my comfort zone a bit - so here I am, pushing.

I rarely buy things new these days; my first stop for anything is eBay, partly for cost effectiveness (i.e, I'm skint) and partly for environmental reasons - but I've fallen out of love with it a bit recently. Things have arrived and not fitted, or not looked quite how they did in the photo - I still love the coat in the pictures above, but that was a rare good moment in a sea of mistakes. I've been thinking about the phrase 'buy less, buy better', and I love the idea of buying one really beautiful, well made item instead of spending the same amount on ten cheap tops that will fall apart after a few months. I've also been reading loads of articles about capsule wardrobes, and I've sort of fallen in love with minimal style - the thought of being able to get up and have a wardrobe where everything goes with everything else is the ultimate dream!

I've had (another) good clear out, and have made a list of things I'd like in my wardrobe; it seems to be mostly simple things like a white shirt, loose black trousers, a longline blazer - easy, comfortable clothes. I'd also written down a stripe shirt, and then found this one in H&M - I'm not sure it falls into the 'longlasting' category, but it fits exactly how I wanted it to (slightly oversized) and could easily be tucked into high-waisted jeans or trousers.

We took these photos on one of my favourite streets in Southsea, where the houses are huge and beautiful, everything is crisp and white and there are loads of flowers and blossom. It doesn't hurt that it's not far from my favourite coffee shop, either!

PS: I've just spent almost a year growing my fringe out, and have just decided to get it cut back in. Ha!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

trend: monochrome art prints

Nobody has been more surprised than me that I've swung over to the dark (and light, badoom tsss) side of monochrome and minimalism lately; a self-confessed former hoarder, pattern addict and colour lover, suddenly I'm craving everything plain and simple. 

I've been looking for prints for our bedroom, which happens to be full of plants - our bedding is white and grey (with the odd blush pillow case thrown in), and there's a lot of wooden accessories, copper and ceramic pots, so any prints need to be as plain as possible - the room is teeny tiny, and I want to avoid it looking overcrowded. After trawling the internet, I narrowed it down to the six prints in the collage above - they all look really expensive, but they're cheaper than you might think!

I love botanical prints, but didn't want anything coloured, and it was quite hard to find a good black and white one. This one is from Mink Interiors (which happens to sell homewares that make my heart beat a bit faster!), and I really like that although it's on the modern side, it still has the lettering underneath that vintage prints have. 

2. & 3. London Co-ordinates and Scandinavian Triangles, DreamPrintDesigns on Etsy, £4.25
I'm going to start by saying that DreamPrintDesigns is an absolute goldmine for Scandi-style art; they have everything from geometric shapes and quotes to city coordinates and maps - and the best thing is that you only pay for the file, so there's no expensive postage fee, or fretting about it getting damaged in the post. Your £4.25 buys you the instant download, and then you simply print it out yourself, or take it to a printing shop, depending on what size you want. So good!

While I do love simple graphic prints and geometric shapes, I do really like this - there's something gentle and peaceful about it, and the detail is beautiful.

Who doesn't love a simple city print? I can tick one of those off of the list, and the rest could act as an inspiration to motivate me to actually apply for a passport!

This is the second Etsy shop on the list, and another one that operates by sending you the files only. To be honest, I could quite happily have included half the shop on my list of favourites; they've got city coordinates, letterpress designs, typography, quotes.... I honestly think you'd struggle not to find something you love. 

Monday, 16 May 2016

a day in Brighton with Fat Face

Brighton is honestly one of my favourite places, and I always think how lucky we are to live so close by - we can hop in the car and as long as traffic is good, be there in just over an hour. Usually in time for breakfast!
Ali and I usually try to spend a day there every so often during the spring and summer months - Brighton with kids is great, but it's lovely to be able to potter around the shops, wander along the pier and sit in a cafe or restaurant without having to worry about tantrums! We went a couple of weeks ago, and it was as brilliant as always; we got there around 9am, and headed straight for The Breakfast Club for one of their amazing half-English breakfasts (it would have been a full, but we were saving ourselves for lunch!) If you've never been there, you HAVE to go - they have all kinds of options, from traditional bacon and eggs and breakfast burritos, to healthier options such as granola, porridge and everyone's favourite, poached eggs on toast topped with avocado.

After breakfast, we wandered down through the high street and along into the Pavillion Gardens, which are beautiful at this time of year; all the flowers are bursting into life, and the trees are full of blossom. We popped into the museum shop as well for a browse (I've got a real addiction to gallery and museum shops, they always have amazing books and prints!), and I bought Daisy a book on Frida Kahlo, which we've read most nights since. That's my girl!

A few weeks before, the lovely people at Fat Face had got in touch, and asked if I wanted to be a part of their Washed in Happiness campaign; my first thought was, 'I'm not really the surfer type', because the only thing I knew about the brand was that they were associated with active wear. Then I logged onto the website, and was so surprised; there were dungarees (with and without busted knees!), pinafore dresses, loafers, chelsea boots, leather backpacks, amazing sunglasses.... so many good things!
After a bit of back and forth with the sizes (my bottom refused to cooperate...), I went into the Whitely store to try some pieces on, and it was honestly one of the best retail experiences I've ever had. The staff were so friendly and helpful, and really knew their stock, and the decor was amazing as well (think vintage metal trolleys, wooden floors and gorgeous fitting rooms). I ended up going for the leather rucksack, which I've used almost non-stop since, the busted knee dungarees and a beautiful peasant blouse (I'm mad for them at the moment, but that's another post!) - everything is so beautifully made, and the dungarees are by far the best fitting ones I've come across. Their price point is great as well; the dungarees were £50, dresses are around the £35 mark, and tops are roughly £25 - the same price you'd pay in Topshop, but with much better quality!

I think the best part of the day was finally getting to go to Spider Plant Shop, which I've been dying to visit for months and months. It's in the back of Flock, which is an amazing vintage shop on Sydney Street, so you really get double the joy when you go there. I was expecting it to be good, because I'd seen a few pictures online, but it was actually even better; it's a pretty small room, but it's absolutely full of amazing plants, cacti, succulents, pots and macrame planters. I could have stayed quite happily all afternoon, but had to make do with taking a few (hundred!) pictures and buying a string-of-pearls plant - which made me incredibly happy, because I've been after one for ages!

The rest of the day was taken up mostly with eating (we had our first GBK, which was deeeeelicious, and then decided on desert from Gelato Gusto) and drinking, and pottering around in the sunshine. I nipped into COS and bought (another!) striped t-shirt, and we spent a bit of time looking at books in Waterstones - the Brighton shop has the most incredible kids section, so we added to their already heaving collection. Then, home and back to the role of peacekeeper, chief cuddler and storyteller.

DISCLAIMER: Huge thanks to the lovely team at Fat Face who kindly included me in their Washed in Happiness campaign, and gifted me the clothes to review. All words and thoughts are my own, as usual. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

latest loves: may 2016

I haven't done a latest loves post in a while, so I thought it might be nice to pop one up!

Decorate with Flowers by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring
I've had this book for a while, but I've really been enjoying looking through it again - I grow a lot of flowers in the garden over the summer, so I've been trying to find inspiration to join in with Styling the Seasons again (I haven't done it since November, I don't think, and I really miss it!) The photography in this book is so beautiful and bright, and I love that it's divided into different styles - definitely one for anyone who loves flowers or interiors.

Rug and plant, both from IKEA
I've been searching for a rug to go in our lounge since we moved in three years ago, and I've never been able to find anything that looks right. It's quite a small space with not a lot of light, and we're stuck with the WORST brown carpet (we rent, ugh), so it was hard to find something that fitted in. In the end, I found this one from IKEA - it's really pale, flatwoven and with dark flecks for a bit of interest. And it was only £45!

Frida Kahlo picture book 
Last Saturday, the kiddos spent the day with their grandparents, while me and Ali pottered off to Brighton. Whenever I go anywhere without them, I always feel like I should bring them a souvenir, which is basically an excuse to buy them nice books! I found this picture book about the life of Frida Kahlo in the Brighton Museum gift shop, and Daisy loved it  - she's a big fan of colour and pattern (usually all at once!). Ben got a Minecraft book, which I didn't think really deserved a photo. Ha!

Relaxed striped shirt from H&M
When I got rid of most of my clothes during The Great De-Clutter of 2015, I made a list of things I wanted to buy; a decent blazer was one thing, a good shirt was another - which I found in H&M last weekend for £14.99. I love the soft grey stripes, and how light and airy the fabric is - I sized up because I wanted more of a boyfriend fit, and it looks ace with the sleeves rolled up to the forearms.

Tasseled loafers from Fat Face
I've been after a pair of tasseled loafers for absolutely ages, but never found any I really liked - then I started working with Fat Face, who kindly sent me these as part of their 'Washed in Happiness' campaign. They're super soft and so comfortable - they'll be appearing in a separate post very soon!

Lovely stuff on the internet

I loved this post by Alexandra at The Frugality on breaking bad habits - I'm hoping this will inspire me to give up my own bedtime iPhone addiction!

Following on from bad habits, Siobhan from Bless the Weather has recently embarked on a month of self-care, and I'm thinking of joining in - it's basically the idea that you remember to nourish your mind and body, no matter how busy you are. If you fancy joining in, use the #mymonthofselfcare on Instagram or your blog.

I'm completely in love with the espadrilles at And Other Stories - especially the black platform version!

I don't usually go in much for trends, but I'm loving all the wide-leg cropped trousers and culottes around at the moment - I'm so lazy when it comes to choosing clothes in the hot weather, so these plus a breton t-shirt or peasant top are going to make up most of my summer outfits, I reckon. I've got my eye on these ones in navy from Marks and Spencer, but ASOS have loads of good ones as well.

Finally, I've really been loving the latest series of Gardeners World - Monty's new dog Nell is so funny, and spends most of her time weeing where she shouldn't, or chewing up packets of seeds! Check it out on the iPlayer if you've missed any - I've bought some great plants this year that I'd not heard of before!


interior refresh: five ways to update your home for spring

Indulge in some bedroom florals
The easiest way to bring a touch of spring inside is to add some flowers - and not just the type that sit in a vase on your table. Whatever your home style, there are florals out there to suit you; Zara Home has got the whole trend nailed with everything from clashing tropical prints to subtle monochromes, while the gentle vintage style at Soak and Sleep is ideal for anyone who likes their prints a little more on the calm side. I used to love a good retro floral (the louder the better!), but over the last year or so I've started to prefer plain cotton bedlinen - if you're like me and don't fancy a bedroom that looks like the Chelsea Flower Show, add a couple of pillow cases, cushions or a throw for the end of the bed.

Shop smart for new accessories
A new season is such a good time to add some lovely new things to your home - besides, all that spring cleaning is going to mean that you've got a few gaps to fill! Oliver Bonas have got some amazingly beautiful things in stock at the moment; the Fika dinnerware range is bright and cheerful without being too overpowering, and the pastel frames are great for housing family photos, postcards from trips away and even wildflowers foraged on a sunny walk. Fellow gardeners and plant fans (I know a lot of you are!) will love the terrariums as well - beautifully geometric and available in both black and gold.

Give your windows a special treatment
Obviously it's good to get the glass cleaner out and give your windows a bit of sparkle, but I was thinking more along the lines of investing in some new curtains or blinds. Urban Outfitters and IKEA both have great selections of lightweight curtains, ideal for billowing gently in the summer breeze while keeping the insects out. If you want something a little more tailor-made, Luxaflex provide custom blinds and shutters for windows in a huge range of styles, materials and colours - if we didn't rent, I'd be all over their interior wooden shutters!

Bring the outside in 
One of the things I love most about spring is just how much nature offers you for absolutely nothing; a short walk can leave you with baskets full of flowers, foliage and branches laden with blossom (I'm obviously talking about what you find on public land - definitely not suggesting that you should be leaping over peoples walls to rob their flowerbeds!). There are some really great ceramics around at the moment to pop your sweetpeas in, but my favourite has to be the range at Rigby and Mac; the pastel dipped vases by House Doctor are colourful without being sickly, and would look great next to vintage glass bottles and smokey grey pots.

Freshen up the paintwork
You don't need to be making over a whole room to get out the paint cans - our walls are always white, but every few years we redo them to keep everything looking fresh, and to cover up any marks (read: crayon and handprints) that might have been left. If you really can't face repainting a room, try making over an old piece of furniture using specialist paint to do the job; I really like the Colours range (pictured above) from B&Q for anything wooden, and Plastikote spray paint for plastic and metal.

Many thanks to Luxaflex for collaborating on this post.

Friday, 6 May 2016

the #ethicalfashioncollective: the pre-loved leopard bomber and woven bag

I've always loved clothes; I trained in fashion journalism back in my university days, and spent years working in retail merchandising, faffing about with displays and colour stories for hours. I was a serial shopaholic, and had two packed wardrobes full of things I didn't know I owned - some still with labels on them. Back then, I knew very little about ethical clothing or the environment, and I didn't much care - it was only when I had children that I began to take more of an interest into where my clothes came from and how they were made.

These days, I love clothes just as much, but I try to be way more restrained (to be fair, I don't have much choice as we have way less disposable income!) - I've also read a lot about how garments are produced, and the impact they have on the earth and the people that make them, which has definitely changed my attitude to shopping.

There are so many ways you can embrace a love of fashion and creative dressing while staying as sustainable as possible, and this is why Mel and I have started the Ethical Fashion Collective - we're going to be cover everything from the ethical and environmental labels to handmade and artisan clothing, vintage and retro clothes to secondhand goodies, outfit posts to flatlays and spotlights on brands. We'd love for you to join in, either via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or your blog, using #ethicalfashioncollective - it doesn't have to be a full on outfit post, it can be whatever you feel most comfortable doing.

The majority of my posts are going to be showcasing my pre-loved bargains and vintage finds - everyone knows that as lovely as ethical labels are, they do tend to be a little on the pricey side, and in short, we're skint. In this months photos, my Topshop bomber jacket was a £10 eBay bargain, and my basket bag was £20 from a vintage shop - I'd been looking for a leopard bomber jacket for absolutely ages, so this is probably one of my greatest finds!
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