Thursday, 14 December 2017

Round here: Rose Clover and the Bureau of Change

I've talked about the amazing Rose Clover and Bureau of Change shop before, and posted loads of pictures on Instagram, but recently they moved premises to Albert Road in Southsea - and oh, my gosh, the new shop is amaaaazing.

The front of the shop is all beautifully dark walls, a spectacular archway and original features, and is the home to most of the plants and baskets. Industrial shelving is stacked with geometric pots, enamel trays and concrete accessories, and there is greenery everywhere; fishtail succulents jostle for space with pilea peperomioides, marantas sit snuggly inside rustic vintage clay pots and the hugest of cacti are displayed in handwoven baskets. There are little extras everywhere; bunches of dried lavender, air plants nestling in corners and the walls are adorned with handmade glass terrariums. In short, it's catnip to plant lovers.

Further back, you'll find the floristry space, where Liz makes up the most beautiful bouquets, and sells flowers by the stem - think the most exquisite blush tea roses, pointed spires of purple veronica, and bunches of scented eucalyptus. There's also the furniture and accessories discovered by Neil, who owns the Bureau of Change; vintage and industrial lighting, glassware, prints, books, magazines and home accessories are all displayed beautifully, and work so well with the plants and flowers. 

It's the ideal place to browse on a Saturday afternoon, and at this time of year, I can't think of anywhere better to find a Christmas gift for any plant-lovers or interiors fanatics in your life - if you live in Southsea, or are visiting in the next week or so, I can't encourage you enough to pop in! 


Friday, 24 November 2017

Our new house - the good, the bad, and the artex

We've been in our new place for a month or so now (we stayed with my Mum for a few weeks when we got the keys, because it was SUCH a state), and although we've done quite a bit to it, it's safe to say we're still a long way off of room tours.

So far, we have:
  • Skimmed the walls in the lounge, painted them and put up shelving, and changed the curtains.
  • Skimmed the walls and archway in the study, and painted them, and painted the radiator.
  • Plastered the walls and re-sculpted the window area, painted it, put up a blind, put up a shelving unit and some picture ledges in Daisy's room. 
  • Skimmed the walls and painted them, put up some shelves and picture ledges, and put up some curtains in Ben's room.
  • Skimmed the walls in our room and painted them, re-sculpted the window area, and put up a blind in our room.
  • Ripped the tiles off of the bathroom, and wept heartily when we discovered that they were two tiles deep, and that somewhere along the line, someone had stuck them straight onto the breezeblocks. (This weekend is basically going to involve scraping and crying.)
  • Brought a plasterer in to deal with the ridiculously high stairwell.
  • Sworn a lot.
  • Suffered from blisters, bruises and bleeding hands.
We are really lucky, though; as anyone who rents will tell you, finding a landlord who not only lets you make changes, but also offers to split the cost with you, is like finding a golden unicorn at the end of a rainbow with a winning lottery ticket in it's mouth. It literally never happens. Some people think we're mad to do up 'someone else's house', but we've got a long term let, and the way I see it is that we're living here and we want it to be nice - plus, Ali's Dad is an architect who built their house himself, so we've got a tradesman on hand!

We're pretty budget conscious, which is why we're doing everything ourselves - think B&Q and Wilkinsons, rather than Farrow and Ball and! - I'm going to do a breakdown with every room post I write, but to give you an idea of how cheaply you can do it, we bought everything we needed for the bathroom for £300. We use trade white paint, which is £50 for a huge tub (like, a gazillion litres or something), and rather than buying proper shelves, we use furniture board cut down and mounted on brackets from good old IKEA. If there is a financial corner to cut, I'm going to find it!

The one thing that's the most difficult, the most time consuming, the absolute worst, is the artex. In this house we have artex for days; it's upstairs on the landing, in the bathroom and on the ceilings, and it's downstairs in the kitchen, the hall and the toilet. Miles and miles of artex walls, all looking like a badly iced cake. So we're doing the only thing you can do - scraping the 'peaks' off with a paint scraper, and then skimming over it with this amazing stuff. It takes a while, but it'll be worth it in the end when we've got smooth, lovely, modern walls. (Also, I cannot believe that they still actually sell artex, and that there are people who might consider it a good thing!)

The other major thing we did was split the cost of new carpets throughout with the landlord; the previous carpets were tatty, dark green and covered in suspicious looking stains, so we decided it might be nice (and more hygienic!) if we got new ones. The only problem with that was because he was paying the majority, he got the final say; thankfully I managed to talk him out of the colour I like to affectionately call 'Landlord Brown', and we met in the middle (I wanted cream!) with some sort of stone colour. It's not too bad, and certainly not the worst we've had to put up with, but it's still not a Scandi white painted floor, so we're buying alllll the rugs.

What I've found on my rug buying journey, is that they're a) bloody expensive and b) ugly and c) often different in the flesh to how they appeared on screen. Rug Mountain is brilliant though; the prices are super affordable (they start around £30 for a 60 x 120 plain rug) and they have tonnes and tonnes of choice. So many, in fact, that I collected my favourites together in case anyone else is looking for rugs on a budget!

1. / 2. / 3. / 4. / 5. / 6. / 7. / 8. 

Disclosure: Many thanks to Rug Mountain for collaborating on this post. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Our first camping trip and top tips for new adventurers

OK, OK, I know it's October now (almost November!), but I'm going to share this post anyway because a) I spent ages editing the photos and b) it's about our first ever camping trip, which the kids loved and I feel deserves a mention.

After years of agonising and umm-ing and ahh-ing, we finally made the decision to buy a bell tent at the beginning of the summer. I did a LOT of research into it, as they're really bloody expensive (I actually got sweaty palms when I clicked 'buy now') and I didn't want it to be something that ended up stuck in the loft for the next few years, gathering dust. We decided on this style for the following reasons:

1. They're one large compartment, rather than separate rooms, which meant the kiddos would be able to see us if they woke up in the night. Daisy is only five, and Ben has autism, and they both get a bit anxious at night time.

2. I'd spent a few nights in a nylon tent before and they only ever ended one way - sweaty and uncomfortable. I was drawn to the fact that the canvas promised to keep us cooler in the summer, but also warmer during chillier nights.

3. They look nice. What? They do!

4. They're hardier than nylon tents, and usually last longer (apparently).

We don't have a lot of money, so we ended up deciding that we'd rather spend what we'd saved on equipment that could take us on holiday for years to come, instead of just going on one expensive holiday - the kiddos love being outdoors, so it was pretty much a no brainer for us in the end.

We had a practice run pitching it in the garden, which seemed to go pretty smoothly, and when we arrived in Dorset, Ali put the tent up on his own while I went off exploring with the kiddos. We opted for Snelling Farm Campsite in Wareham, which was a bit out of the way but utterly lovely; Daisy was fascinated by the pigs in the next field, and both kids loved the rope swing and hay bales that had been left for climbing and leaping purposes. There were eco-showers and a composting toilet - which was fine, but admittedly I would have been happier if there had been a sink to wash your hands in rather than just a tub of hand gel on the shelf. That's honestly the only thing I could find fault with though; the owners were absolutely lovely, I loved the fact that you could arrive and leave whenever you pleased, the fields were absolutely huge and wonderfully flat, and most importantly of all, you could park by your pitch (which I've since learned is paramount to a cheerful camping experience!).  A short walk away was the cleanest river I've ever seen - I'd not packed any swimwear, because the forecast had promised cloud and rain, but we rolled up trouser legs and spent a good half an hour watching Ben and Daisy swishing about in the water, chatting to other kids and sharing fishing nets (nobody caught anything except stones, but the thought was there!). I was thinking how brilliant it was that they embraced the outdoors so willingly, until it came to an abrupt end when the cold water finally got the better of Daisy and she wet herself trying to climb up the bank.

We'd only come for one night, as it was more of a trial run, so we got some local fish and chips, toasted some marshmallows on the firepit (in the drizzle - I was determined that the rain wasn't going to stop us!) and then tucked the kiddos into bed. I was expecting it to be a nightmare trying to get them to sleep, but they were pretty good and slept all night as well - must have been all that wild swimming!

We were due to leave the next day, but there was no specific check out time, so we decided to head over to Kimmeridge Bay, which I'd heard was good for fossil hunting; unfortunately the tide was in when we got there, so we walked over the cliffs instead. The views were amazing, although I did spend a lot of time clutching the handrail and praying the wind didn't blow too hard!

On the whole, our first camping trip was a success; it made us all want to go further afield, and a lot of that was because of how comfortable we were in the tent - the kids absolutely loved that they had somewhere to stretch out inside, and I had enough space to make lunches the next day to take out with us. It was warm, it was dry and it was easy enough to put up and take down - the down side would have to be how heavy the tent was when it was packed away; we got the Soulpad 5000 Hybrid, and it was an absolute beast. I'm not ashamed to admit that there's no way I could lift it on my own, never mind carry it to a pitch with everything else, so we're pretty limited to the times we can go away (Ali works in an office with standard hours, no freelance life for him!) Also, admittedly, bell tents are a bit of a nightmare to dry - you can pack them away wet, but have to re-pitch them when you get home so they can dry off properly, otherwise you risk mould and mildew, and rotting canvas. We were luck - by the time we got back from Kimmeridge, the drizzle from the night before had completely dried, and we just had to give the ropes a bit of a wipe.

Another thing I learned from our first trip, was that although you need a shit-load of stuff for camping, you don't need quite as much as I took. We've got a Vauxhall Meriva, which is a fairly good size, but it was no match for my packing; the kiddos had to sit with their legs out in front of them, as the footwells were all full, and the only way we got the boot shut was by holding the stuff in and then slamming it closed as quickly as possible. The other valuable things I learned from our time in the wilderness (!) were:

1. Pack for every type of weather, even if you don't think you'll need to. Waterproofs, a good thick jumper, wellies and swimwear should all be at the top of your list - this is the UK, after all!

2. If you're keen to get involved with cooking on a fire (or coals, or a camping stove), practise before you go away - and make sure you take plenty of packet soups and Pot Noodles as emergency back up meals!

3. If you can't be bothered faffing about with cooking, research the area you're going to and find out what takeaways there are locally - you'd be hard pressed not to find at least one good chippy nearby!

4. Take more clothes than you think you'll need. Packing for the exact amount of days you're away is fine if you're staying in the comfort of a hotel or B&B, but it's hopeless if you're going to be wading through mud to the loo in the middle of the night. Or you've got a daughter that wees in rivers.

5. Battery lanterns are pretty, and good for lighting inside the tent, but absolutely hopeless for wandering around the campsite after dark. Get yourself a good torch with a strong beam, otherwise you'll end up falling over the guy ropes and landing on the tent. Or something.

6. Do yourself a favour and pitch as close to the toilets as you can, without being in sniffing distance of them; on a later trip (more about that in another post), we were miles away, and I ended up laying awake one night rather than actually getting up to go, because I was so utterly terrified that Leatherface / a zombie from the Walking Dead / Annabelle was going to leap out of the bushes and get me.

7. You can never have too many matches or plasters.

8. Take as many blankets as you can possibly squeeze in. Even in the summer, it was utterly freezing at night, and we had proper outdoors-y sleeping bags. Leave the board games, yarn projects, books and bunting at home, and just take blankets. Trust me.

We did a second trip to Pembrokeshire a few weeks after, which is coming up in another post soon, and we really enjoyed it - Ali has already booked some time off over Easter next year, so we can get going earlier and make the most of the warmer weather. Roll on spring!
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