Saying goodbye to my shop and making new plans

String bag

I’ve decided to close my online shop. It wasn’t an easy decision, but in the end I felt that moving on was the most positive option.

Over the last year I’ve learnt a lot. The best thing was choosing the stock. I sourced things from small, independent producers, plus a few larger wholesalers. It was such a pleasure getting to know theses wonderful crafts people – there are some really talented makers out there. That was the easy bit.

I have to be honest with you: the hard bit was trying to sell the beautiful things I’d chosen. I could have kept the shop going, but it was only ever going to plod along unless I made some big changes and invested a lot more money into it. Which doesn’t feel like the right path for me at the moment.

I had no illusions about running a shop – I knew it was going to be tough. But I hadn’t realised just how tough. In the end I decided that perhaps the idea of a portfolio career – where you have a finger in lots of pies – wasn’t such a good idea after all. A bit like being a jack of all trades, but master of none.

A big part of my heart lies with writing. I can still have a shop, but it’ll be one full of words.

I really want to get back to basics with this blog, to fill it with beautiful and useful content. And I want to become a published writer. I hope the two will dovetail together nicely. I need and want to earn a living at it.

Thank you for all your messages of support this week – they mean a lot! Maybe you could help me out by letting me know in the comments below the kind of posts you’d like to see more of? I’m thinking about blogging advice, would that be of interest?              

Plus, don’t forget there’s an amazing 50% off everything in my shop until it closes at the end of the month. Use the code FINAL50 at the checkout to receive your discount!

Get creative with IKEA picture ledges

IKEA picture ledge

I love arranging things. And re-arranging them. Faffing about with flowers and pretty things makes me happy. I like the idea of an ever-changing seasonal display. A bit like one of those inspiring pegboards, but with a bit more versatility.

On a recent trip to IKEA I decided to invest in a few picture ledges – enough to fill a wall. They’re less bulky than traditional shelves, cost only £4.50 each and look amazing placed one above the other.

IKEA picture ledge

They’re just perfect for little vases of flowers and bits and bobs. My favourite way to use them is to display my most beautiful books face out – you can tell I used to be a bookseller, can’t you?

IKEA picture ledge

I have mine in our study, but they’d also look great in a bedroom, bathroom or kitchen. The possibilities are endless!

Do you have some IKEA picture ledges? How do you use yours?

Home Etc

Half-term, snowdrops and Paddington

Snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey

Hello! I’m back after a half-term break with my boys. I always mean to be a blogging superstar and schedule lots of posts in…but it never quite happens. Real life gets in the way, which is just as it should be. But I’m so pleased to be back here in my happy little space .

Half-term with two growing boys is always a bit mad. They don’t really get tired anymore and just keep going and going. The holiday is a great time to let them have plenty of unscheduled time to do exactly what they want. Luckily, they were getting on brilliantly and enjoyed sharing each other’s company in their joint magical world.

The highlight of the week was a day out in London. We avoided the museums as they’re always so packed in half-term, and planned a simple day of pottering. My youngest loves Paddington Bear, so we took them to Paddington station to find his statue. The boys love navigating on the tube and are surprisingly good at it! We stroked Paddington’s nose and visited the (actually quite sweet) shop to buy postcards and badges.

Paddington at Paddington Station

We then hopped back on the tube to take them to Trafalgar Square for the first time. It’s amazing how much children pick up about London just from the stories we’ve read together over the years. My youngest was only slightly disappointed that the lions didn’t get up and fly like the ones in Katie in London.

After Trafalgar Square we walked along the South Bank. It’s such a great place for children: bridges, boats and lots of things to spot – the perfect place for a wander. We had lunch at the BFI cafe (who do a great children’s menu) then pottered back to Kings Cross and home.

London Underground Kings Cross escalator

It was a great day and proved my theory that low-key trips to London are perfect for children. It’s tempting to cram lots in, but I much prefer to keep things short and sweet.

Later in the week we were in snowdrop heaven at Anglesey Abbey. The whole place was a awash with them. Even the hardest heart can’t help but skip a beat at the sheer prettiness of it all. And my heart is definitely very soft when it comes to signs of spring. The boys ran off into their own magical world, while I was left to admire the beauty of it all.

Snow drops at Anglesey Abbey

All in all, we had a really happy week. February half term feels like a bit of gateway into spring, doesn’t it? We’re not quite through the gates yet, but they’re open a crack. There’s a different feeling in the air and it’s like we’re beginning to shake off our dusty winter layers. The first half term after Christmas is always hard and now I feel like it’s downhill all the way to Easter!

Were you on half term last week? Do you feel like Spring’s just round the corner?

 

Our sitting room: a modern vintage update

Last month I wrote about some changes I was planning for our sitting room. I’m now delighted to be able to show you the results.

What did we want to achieve? Two things. James wanted to set up a better sound system. I wanted to freshen the room up, whilst retaining its cosiness. Over the last month we’ve made some simple but effective changes. Surprisingly , there’s been no paint involved, and relatively little expense or mess.

Here’s what we’ve done…

Ercol sideboard

We’ve moved our TV to the other side of the door – which is a better place to to see it from both sofas. It used to stand on a dark console table. We’ve swapped that for a vintage Ercol sideboard, which was in our study.

Ercol sideboard

It fits the space perfectly and has lots of space inside it for the DVD player, CD player and amplifier. Two new (to us) speakers now sit on top of the sideboard . We’ve invested in a Google Chromecast Audio to allow us to stream music from Spotify through the amplifier and speakers.

We’ve acquired a new Habitat coffee table. My parents invested in this great design a while ago, but weren’t using it anymore. It’s a large, classic table in solid oak and has really changed the way the room looks. Usually we have a vintage blanket box. Interestingly, a bigger coffee table has made the room feel much larger. It’s no longer available, but I’d imagine you might find one on eBay.

Ikea coffee table

The antique table which used to hold TV is now tucked between the two sofas. I was a little worried that the dark wood would clash with the mid-century-style wooden furniture, but  I think the room can take it. This fabulous lamp (£29) is a great buy from IKEA.

Antique console table

Soft sheepskins and a new throw make the sofas feel cosy and welcoming. Layering everything up feels luxurious – essential when the weather feels this grim! The sheepskins are faux and cost £10 each from Ikea.

Cosy sheepskins

The sheepskins are faux and cost £10 each from Ikea.

This gorgeous red blanket is £28 from the National Trust:

National Trust blanket

We also invested in a new, coppery lampshade from IKEA (£25).

IKEA copper lampshade\

The room feels more modern, but hasn’t lost the cosy, vintage feel. Our furniture has moved from the nineteenth century to the twentieth – and the technology has finally reached the twenty-first. The palette still includes my favourite greys and yellows, but now with hints of red and copper. I love it. 

Home Etc

The long sleeved dress

White Stuff long sleeved dress

The long sleeved dress is having a moment. Grazia even gave it a double page spread last week. Which is funny because long sleeved dresses are nothing new.

They’ve always been a staple in my wardrobe because they’re pretty, warm and practical. Right now I love them with tights, knits and brogues. When spring arrives I’ll be wearing them with pumps and a denim jacket. They’re the perfect transitional piece.

I recently bought this beautiful long sleeved dress in the White Stuff sale. There are still a few left if you’re quick. It’s a real bargain at £29. It marks a departure from my usual style of dress. As a pear-shape (who’s a bit challenged in the bust department) I’m usually drawn to high, round necks and tunic shapes. So I’ve been really surprised by how much I love the femininity of this style with its low neck and tie waist. I’ve worn this out in the evening and it glides effortlessly between day and night. 

Long sleeved dress

Here are some more I love:

Long sleeved dresses

From left: Seasalt, £59.99 / Warehouse, £36 / White Stuff, £49.95

I love the pink poppy dress! Which is your favourite?

Project Hallway

Image source: Pinterest

Ah, the hallway. Not really a room is it? More of a busy thoroughfare. Every day we pound through it – scooters, shoes and coats are scattered to the wind. I rarely stop to notice our hallway, except to think good grief these walls are filthy. 

It’s sad to think of your hall this way. It should be a happy gateway into your home. 

Our hall is dark and dingy. There’s no escaping it. It has no natural light of its own. It’s not ideal, but it’s very typical of an old Edwardian house. When we moved into our home five years ago it had been freshly decorated and carpeted. A few years ago we ditched the impractical carpet for hard flooring, but other than that we’ve changed nothing. It’s boring, and it doesn’t reflect our personality at all.

A dark narrow hallway

My hall

The paint is a special shade of dingy cream and is covered with all sorts of finger prints and dirty marks which I don’t care to examine too closely. There’s also still the remains of an exploded bottle of bubble bath down one wall (don’t ask).

What do I want?  I’d like to open my front door and smile rather than sigh. I’d like it to be bright, light and witty. As the hall is very narrow, furniture isn’t an option. So I need to create a happy, bright feeling through just the walls and lighting.

The walls. I’d love to have a bright, cheerful wallpaper in the hall, but it simply isn’t practical with small boys. Instead, I want to choose a good light reflective colour in a strong, endurance paint (which can be scrubbed down and endure the rigours of family life). I’m currently favouring brilliant white – but I’m also open to a soft, pearly blue-grey. I love the purity of white in the hall pictured below and would like to achieve the same effect:

Image source: Pinterest

Lighting. We currently have that classic terraced house staple: the single dim pendant light. The light it gives off is pathetic. Instead, we’d like to switch to LED downlights along the length of the hall. I’m a real convert to LEDs – they cost a bit more, but last so much longer than anything else. Plus, the light quality is infinitely superior to dingy, low-energy lightbulbs. Light Supplier has a great range of different options.

Picture source: Pinterest

Photos and art. This is the fun part. Once I’ve created a light bright canvas, I want to bring my hall to life with colourful photos and art. I have some large prints already framed, but I’m gathering more. The more the merrier.

Image source: Pinterest

When you have a big space to fill on a limited budget try framing sheets of interesting wrapping paper. I love the designs by Cavallini & Co. They’re usually about £3 each and they look way too good to just use as wrapping! I particularly love this shell wrap which is available here.

I’m about to get the decorators booked in. I’m so excited. Do you have a dark hallway too? I’d love your advice before I get started! 

This post was written in collaboration with Light Supplier, but all thoughts and words and my own. 

Home Etc

Beauty inspiration on a budget

Boots Seventeen makeup

Recently I’ve noticed I’m not looking as fresh-faced as I’d like. It’s partly age, partly the time of year. Lack of sunlight and fresh air; central heating and comfort food – they all take their toll. I’ve never been one for lots of make-up. I prefer the simple look. But these days simple basically just means looking tired. I need a little helping hand.

I don’t have the budget for a dream-like splurge. I’ve always found it difficult to justify spending lots of money on cosmetics. I invest in good quality skincare from Liz Earle, but I don’t have much left for make-up.

So on a grey, rainy Sunday I went for a little mini-splurge in Boots. The Seventeen section caught my eye for the first time in years. I don’t think I’ve bought anything from there since I was, well, about seventeen.

Anyway, the thing that first caught my eye was a highlighter stick that struck an uncanny resemblance to a YSL Touche Éclat. I had one of those once and loved using it under my eyes, but I hadn’t been able to justify the price tag (about £25) for a while. This one was only £4.99. Worth a try.

Boots Seventeen makeup

How did it compare to the expensive stuff? I have to be honest: it doesn’t feel as nice – the texture is a bit heavier and less silky. But, it did do a good job of covering up the dark circles under my eyes. The packaging is so nice, I could almost kid myself I was using the real thing.

I also bought one of their mascaras in dark brown. I usually wear black, but thought I’d try this  for a more subtle brightening effect. It didn’t do much to lengthen or thicken my lashes, but it did create a pretty and subtle look. It also didn’t smudge at all during the day. I usually wear Maybellene, which probably looks better but always give me panda eyes. Good for a subtle, barely-there look, but not so good if you prefer a dramatic eye.

Boots Seventeen mascara

Excitingly, there was a free lip palette when you spent £6 (or £4.99 when purchased). I love the idea of bold red lips – but they always make me feel ridiculous and self-conscious. These lip stains are a much more subtle and pretty way to wear colour. They are pretty, flattering shades which are really brightening my look and making me feel happier.

Boots Seventeen makeup

Buying something new has reminded me to make more of an effort with my appearance. I’m finding the time each morning to apply highlighter, blusher, concealer, mascara and lip gloss. My Seventeen budget buys are never going to feel as luxurious as the expensive stuff, but I’m really pleasantly surprised by them. It’s perked me up and it cost less than a tenner.

What are your favourite budget beauty buys? I’d love to add more to my collection. 

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#OnePerfectThing in January

Mug of tea

Perfection often feels out of reach. But however imperfect you’re finding life, you can make an effort to find #OnePerfectThing. Something which makes you pause, smile and feel thankful.

#OnePerfectThing is a community I started on Instagram last year.  Looking through your first photos of 2017 has been a real pleasure. And you know what it taught me? That January certainly isn’t that bleak after all. Not if your photos are anything to go by.

I loved each and every picture. Here are just some of my highlights.

Brave, beautiful snowdrops…

Photo by @darwinboerne

Snowdrops

Photo by @margotgoodlife

Winter through the eyes of children…

Pushing the Moon

Photo by @pushing_the_moon

Pretty, pastel-hued skies… 

Photo by @blackberrystone

Cosy moments with coffee and books…

Photo by @crockery_mews

And chilly adventures on two wheels…

Photo by @sallytangle

Thanks to everyone who joined in – I’m looking forward to seeing your #OnePerfectThing photos in February. Accounts are all listed below, why not pop over to Instagram and say hi?

#OnePerfectThing in January

Top row, from left: @pushing_the_moon / @crockery_mews / @blackberry_stone

Middle row, from left: @thetwinklesmama / @jennyseaves / @darwinboerne

Bottom row, from left: @sallytangle / @2worldmummy / @margotgoodlife

To join in simple tag your Instagram photos with #OnePerfectThing. 

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Spare a thought for yellow

Yellow Rose

Greenery. That’s the colour of the year according to Pantone. I’ve always loved green, and I’m looking forward to writing about it. But first, can we spare a thought for yellow?

Yellow has been on my mind a lot lately. What does yellow make you think of? For me it’s sunshine, daffodils, lemons and smiley faces. It’s such a happy colour. And I think we need a bit of that in winter, don’t we?

Is it possible to make yourself feel happy just by looking at a colour? Maybe. It depends what you define as happy. I’m a firm believer in the little things. Looking at a jug of daffodils probably won’t change your life, but it’ll give you a fleeting moment of light and happiness. Catching enough of these moments can make all the difference.

So how about embracing a little bit of yellow this week? Wear it, look at it, eat it.

Wear a hint of yellow with your winter clothes. People always say yellow is hard to wear. But anyone can wear a little hint of yellow. These are my favourites:

Wear a hint of yellow

Left to right: Blouse, £25.99, Zara / Jersey, £35, White Stuff / Scarf, £27.50, White Stuff

Choose a bunch of yellow flowers. A cheap and cheerful bunch of daffs, some carnations or a pretty primrose. Costs less than a cup of coffee and makes you feel better too.

Yellow flowers

Buy some lemons. Make a lemon drizzle cake, drink hot water with lemon or a G&T with ice and a slice. The colour and flavour is so uplifting!

Does yellow make you happy too?

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Finding comfort in winter

Finding comfort in winter

This bit of winter is feeling hard. The novelty of cold weather is wearing thin and there’s plenty of it to come yet. Keeping up the optimism of the new year can be difficult. Just when you think you’re powering through January like a pro you slip on the hard ice and fall headfirst into a case of the winter blues.

But we must hold fast. We haven’t got much choice, have we? Unless you can afford to fly off somewhere warm, the only option is to stick it out.

Remember last Monday I said that we should start every week like it’s a new notebook? Well, this is what’s in my notebook this week: small ways to find comfort in winter.

Try and get out and enjoy it. Even if it’s through gritted teeth. In winter, cabin fever is rife. Make a positive choice to leave the house. Not because you have to, because you want to. Take a walk with friends or family, or a spin on your bike. Take pleasure in the cold – slide on the ice, drink hot chocolate from a flask and run around until you warm up.

Blue tit flask

If you are stuck indoors, then how about doing something to change the four walls you’re stick of staring at? It doesn’t have to be redecorating. It can just be as simple as moving round the furniture. We’ve been doing this lately – swapping furniture between our study and sitting room. Moving things around really re-energises the house and makes you look at things in a different light. Rediscover things you’ve lost and sit on a different side of the room. It really does make a difference.  It does make a mess, but in a constructive sort of way. It feels a bit like moving house.

Bake. Take advantage of time spent indoors and make that cake or bake you’ve been thinking about for a while. That tricky cinnamon bun recipe you’ve seen? Spend a morning at home making it. Recently I made a carrot cake recipe that I tore out of a magazine 14 years ago. I’ve been carrying it around that long and it gave me great satisfaction to finally make it. And eat it.

Carrot cake

Frantic spring watching. In spite of the cold, I’m still seeking comfort in the signs of the (distant) spring. The days are getting fractionally longer – it was still light at 4.15pm here yesterday. Little snowdrops are popping up and the viburnums are flowering (it’s that pink blossom you probably keep seeing in front gardens everywhere).

Flowering viburnum

Bring spring indoors. I love flowers – choosing and arranging them is like putting on my positive pants. I don’t have a lot of money to spare for flowers – but you don’t need to spend much to make a difference. My trick is to go to our local market and buy one little bunch for a £1 – four or five tulips, or some carnations. Or try Aldi for nice bouquets for less than £5. 

Spring blooms

Make a cosy corner to escape to with cushions and your favourite blanket. I really love this new blanket I bought from the National Trust. Red isn’t my usual colour but I’m loving it with the grey-blue of our sitting room. Re-read a book or immerse yourself in an easy-read series to get you through winter. We’re all currently reading Harry Potter books in our house.

National Trust wool blanket

Comfort TV. January’s not the time for anything too challenging.  My current favourite is the Gilmore Girls. People kept telling me I should watch it, so I am. I’m halfway through series one, which originally aired in 2000. How have I never heard of it before? Did it even air in the UK? I’m also amused that I was 16 in 2000 (the same age as Rory in series one) and I’m now the same age as Lorelai (32). Amusing, and also slightly horrifying. I’m enjoying reliving my early noughties wardrobe choices. Anyway, it’s the perfect light viewing for winter.

So that’s what I’m doing. How are you finding comfort in winter?

And don’t forget to join in with #OnePerfectThing on Instagram – the gallery is currently full of winter inspiration! 

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