Three things I’m loving this week…

Wooden heart decoration

Anyone else feel like life is on fast-forward at the moment? I wish I could slow the month down a bit.

This week my eldest has been performing his Christmas play in the evenings and we’ve also managed to squeeze in all sorts of other things like Beavers, haircuts and twinkly light shopping.  I’ve also been whizzing round the house trying to get everything tidied and clutter free before we get the decorations out. But I love Christmas, so all the running around is for a good cause!

Here are three things I’ve loved this week…

Frosty mornings… it’s been quite mild here for the last few days, but back at the beginning of the week we were treated to some beautiful winter scenes. I never grow tired of bright, cold mornings – when every hedge, branch and leaf glitters with frost.

Frosty hedge

History lessons over breakfast… a proper breakfast is so important and the boys have been enjoying Alphabites by BEAR this week. They taste great, but my boys particularly love the cards you get inside the box, which are packed with random historical facts. So far this week we’ve discussed Guy Fawkes, the internet (yes, I’m afraid that is classed as history now) and the bubonic plague. All before 9am!

BEAR Alpha Bites

A little bit of Christmas creeping into the house… We haven’t got a tree yet, but I’m enjoying watching little festive bits creep into the house. Christmas cards, a bright red poinsettia and twinkly fairy lights.

Fairy lights

What have you been loving this week?

#OnePerfectThing in November

#OnePerfectThing in November

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. Since starting this idea, I’ve really taken the time to find the beautiful in the everyday – that little moment that makes your day, nested in amongst the mundane things. 

I know we’re all really excited about Christmas, but can we just pause for a moment and look back at November? So many of you have been sharing your #OnePerfectThing photos over on Instagram – our little gallery now has over a thousand photos in it! Each and everyone makes me smile.

November was a really good month – full of frosty leaves, sunny skies and plenty of cosy moments. Here are just some of my favourite photos from you all…

#OnePerfectThing in November

Top row: @thetwinklesmama  / @sallytangle  / @thetwinklesmama

Middle row: @tracy.mummyofthree / @emiliemaguin / @snappycutter

Bottom row: @beautifulclutter / @rainbowsR2beautiful  / @mimmironning

I can’t wait to see your December photos. Just use the tag #OnePerfectThing over on Instragram to join in.

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Creating light and space in your home: advice from an expert

creatinglight

What do you crave most for your home? For me it’s light and space.

I live in a terraced house built in 1903. It’s pretty roomy but because it still has its original layout it always ends up feeling cramped. We’ve got lots of dark rooms, without much of feeling of light or flow – which gets even worse during winter when there’s only a few hours of daylight.

I’m always on the look out for new inspiration so I was delighted to have the chance to talk to Linsday Biondo – an expert on interior design. Lindsay runs the online interior design service, Get Decorated, and specialises in utilising small spaces.

So, how can I create that much-coveted feeling of light and space?

“Accommodating small spaces is a speciality of Get Decorated,” says Lindsay. “More often than not, proper utilisation of space is the first element of design that we apply to an area. We want to focus on using every sector of the room to its fullest capacity. Then, we work on maximising light, because like in the UK, we have short and dark days throughout the winter. Which means that it’s very important for us to make sure that our clients’ homes feel light and bright throughout the entire year!”

And what are Lindsay’s top tips for achieving this?

“Invest in a big mirror,” says Lindsay. “It helps the room appear larger through its reflection. It also helps bounce any natural and artificial light as well helping to create a brighter space.’

I’ve got a large overmantel mirror in my sitting room and it really helps to brighten the room (which only gets the light in the late afternoon). I’d also like to try this trick in my narrow, dark hallway.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Next up, storage. “Go modular and go vertical,” says Lindsay. “This helps to utilize wall to wall space and ensure you capacity for storing clothes, books, etc.’

This is such a great idea and I’d love more of this kind of storage in my house. We have a lot of books on shelves in the alcoves. I think it would really help open the rooms up if we had then displayed across one wall in modular storage.

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Image: Pinterest

When it comes to large pieces of furniture like sofas, armchairs and sideboards, Lindsay suggests choosing pieces with thin legs. Furniture that is off the floor feels less heavy.

I’d never really thought about this before, but actually it makes perfect sense. I’m always drawn to little mid-century style legs on my furniture. It works so much better in my house than squat, dumpy furniture.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

When it comes to lighting a space with poor natural light, Lindsay’s advice is to incorporate artificial light through strategically placed floor and table lamps. “Overarching floor lamps are great because they spread the light over the span of the living room. Wall sconces beside the bed are also an easy install, functional and look great.”

I love lamps at this time of the year and have at least three on in most rooms during the day. I’d love to get more giant, overarching ones.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

And colour? “Stick to a monochromatic color palette and light colors, like white, taupe and light grey.” I completely agree, I think white and grey are the perfect colours. You can always add colour, depending on the time of year, with accessories and soft furnishings.

Image: Pinterest

Lastly, “de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter! The less stuff you have to figure out where to store, the less fuss.”

I quite agree, but decluttering is such a monumental challenge which I often find overwhelming. Lindsay suggests really thinking about your possessions and working out if an item is “essential to helping you live fully functional and happily within your space”.

Which basically means: does this pile of old magazines make me or my home happy? If it doesn’t, then it has to go. I’m terrible at just walking past the piles of junk in my home. Lindsay’s advice has reminded me to stop doing this and really start making my house the place I want it to be.

What should we look out for in 2017? “We are particularly excited to see a trend in mixing metals and metallic with other finishes (such as marble and wood),” says Lindsay. Keep an eye out for “rich colour tones, such as emerald green, burgundy and earthy browns incorporated in furniture and accessories like drapery, wallpaper, throw pillows, bedding, etc. The feeling will be more sophisticated and elegant.”

I love the idea of all of this, and only yesterday spotted a beautiful lamp with copper and marble textures. It’s from Aldi (of all places!) and I’m hoping to find one locally this week!

vintage-floor-lamp-b

Thank you very much to Lindsay for all her advice! What will you be trying?

This post was written in collaboration with Get Decorated’s online home decor.

Gorgeous greenery: a quick and easy display for your door this Christmas

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Wreaths aren’t the only way to decorate your front door this Christmas. How about trying a gathered, rustic bunch of greenery this year? They’re great if you’re short on time and money – it’s possible to make one in ten minutes for less than ten pounds. It’ll look and smell amazing.

All you need is a branch of spruce (trimmings from your Christmas tree are great), long strands of eucalyptus, ivy, rosemary and a few delicate twigs or seed heads – plus some string, ribbon and simple wired decorations. I bought my greenery from the local market, then gathered the ivy and twiggy bits from my garden. I got my decorations very cheaply in Wilkinson’s.

Start with your pieces of pine, then gradually lay your twigs and eucalyptus over the top. I used one large branch of spruce, but you could use lots of smaller pieces depending on what you have.

Make a gathered bunch of greenery

Once you’ve arranged your main pieces of greenery, add a sprig of rosemary and some ivy…

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Tie the whole bunch together securely with some twine, making a loop at the back for hanging.

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

Add a few simple decorations (if these are on wires, wrap them round the string or greenery) and complete by tying everything together with a ribbon.

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

I chose a simple cream ribbon…

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

But red velvet also looks amazing!

Make a scented bunch of greenery for your door

I think I love these kind of gathered displays more than wreaths. The variations are endless – you could add berries and holly, or perhaps sparkly twigs and baubles. What do you think? 

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Thick jumpers and swishy skirts

Pleated skirt and woolly jumper

Pleated skirts have been on my radar for many a year, but for some reason I’ve never bought one. Mainly for boring reasons of practicality. But sometimes a swishy skirt is just what you need. And who says they have to be impractical?

I recently invested in this one from H&M. It’s dark grey, with a subtle sparkly thread running though it. At £14.99, I was happy to take a chance on it. It’s pretty, yet comfortable (got to love an elasticated waist!) and works equally well for day or night.

Chunky jumpers and pleated skirts

By day, it’s great with lots of layers – a chunky jumper, scarves, thick tights and a baggy coat. It’s general swishyness stops all the things keeping me warm feeling too boring and dowdy. What to wear on your feet is mildly tricky – I want to avoid looking overdressed. I’ve decided that simple trainers are the best thing.

Your basic fomula is…

Chunky jumpers and pleated skirts

Skirt, £14.99, H&M / Jumper, £14.99, H&M / Trainers, £14.99 by (you’ve guessed it) H&M. My coat in the previous pictures is also from H&M and is £39.99.

The whole thing – minus a few layers – also works really well in the evening. I wore it recently to an early evening event with a simple black jumper and the succulent necklace (from my shop).

Pleated skirt and woolly jumper

It’s pretty and practical…with just the right hint of sparkle. Perfect for the busy month ahead! 

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Things to do before Christmas: visit a gallery

Visit an art gallery

Already a bit tired of the high street’s generic offerings this Christmas? I know I am. And it’s not even December yet.

How about trying something new? Most towns have an independent gallery. They’re not scary places, I promise – and they’re a fantastic place to buy beautiful and unusual Christmas presents. Most galleries will have a great range of things – from small paintings and more affordable prints, right down to little handmade craft items, jewellery and cards. You don’t have to have a full purse to be able to leave with something.

Recently I went to a special evening hosted by Cambridge Contemporary Arts, and their sister gallery Cambridge Contemporary Crafts. I had soon compiled a Christmas wish list as long as my arm.

Blogger evening at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

My husband and I both fell in love with some gorgeous linocuts by Gail Brodholt. Our favourite was Every Moment So Fleeting (£300). Clearly it would be an expensive purchase, but we were both tempted to have this as a single, joint Christmas present to each other. A great investment, and something we could keep on enjoying.

linocut 33cm x 34cm edition 75

linocut 33cm x 34cm

I also loved this screen print (£345) by Angie Lewin. I can completely picture it in my house and I’d love to own it.

shoreline

It’s worth noting that both of these prints are available to buy via the Arts Council’s Own Art scheme – where you pay for your purchase over ten monthly payments. The scheme is available for artwork priced between £100 to £2500. Such a good idea – especially when it’s hard to justify spending so much in one go.

But galleries aren’t just about paintings and prints. I also love the little decorative objects available, which are often much more affordable than the paintings – but every bit as unique and precious.

Ali Smith Angel

Ali Cooper’s beautiful Christmas porcelain pieces were my favourites – white, glossy and with the merest hint of gold. I fell completely in love with this little bird house (£20) and it came home with me. It’s always wonderful to buy a really special ornament for the tree every year.

Ali Smith ceramics at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

Will Shakspeare’s hand blown glass baubles are also completely covetable and I was thrilled to add another one to my collection.

Will Shakspeare's glass at Cambridge Contemporary Arts

So, whether you’re looking for jewellery, crafts, prints – or maybe just a gorgeous Christmas card – try calling into your local gallery. I came away feeling very inspired with lots of ideas.

Or how about a trip to Cambridge? It’s a magical place for festive shopping.

If you’re planning a visit, here’s how where to find the galleries. You can also order direct by viewing their websites:

Cambridge Contemporary Arts, 6 Trinity Street, Cambridge, CB2 1SU

Cambridge Contemporary Crafts, 5 Bene’t St, Cambridge, CB2 3QN

 

 

 

Home Notes

Marmalade Pie Home Notes

Here starts a new series. Often the things I’d like to share with you are quite small ideas which don’t fit in with a larger post. So here’s a start of a new collection of home-related thoughts and discoveries which don’t fit in elsewhere.

First up, I’d love to show you my new succulent. I’m really starting to enjoy collecting houseplants, but they’re actually quite hard to find in the shops and garden centres. So, I was delighted to find that Wilko’s have currently got lots in. I bought this one for £4.

Succulent house plant

My best plants so far have come from car boot sales and random charity stalls. The little tiny spider plant I bought a couple of years ago for 15p, has now produced a baby of its own. I’m going to separate it from the main plant soon. Exciting times!

Spider plant baby

Next, let’s talk about birds. I’m always drawn to decorative birds around the home – little models, pictures and fabric. Over in my shop, I’ve got some beautiful bird bunting which looks beautiful strung around a room. This is how the talented Jessica Trent has styled hers. How I wish my house was this uncluttered.

Bird bunting

Image by Jessica Trent

My wooden birds also look great with woodland themed finds – I also think they look pretty festive in a low key sort of way. They are £4.95 each.

Wooden bird ornament

Another pretty bird related item I found this week is this beautiful Wren linocut by Little Ram Studios. Prints are a great way to buy original art at a great price. This would make a wonderful Christmas present.

Little Ram studio Wren print

Image: Little Ram Studio

Now the days are so short, there’s a real lack of natural light in my terraced house. I’m craving light and the general gloom and dinginess is not appealing. I’ve added an extra lamp into my study – it’s not as good as sunshine, but at least it feels cosier. I have two tables lamps and a floor lamp. I’d love one of these wonderful Ikea lamps for my desk. I’ve already got the small one in my sitting room and it’s such a great piece.

Image: Ikea

Image: Ikea

And finally, my favourite flowers of the week are alstroemeria. They’re bright and cheerful, but also so subtle and delicate. They also cost very little and last for ages. I bought a bunch for £1.50 from the market. I cut the stems short and separated them into small vases. They’re still looking great a week on.

alstroemeria

What’s inspiring you this week?

A little bit of spring in November

Whitestuff SS17 pressday

The end of November is fast approaching. Already it feels like it’s dark for most of the day and all that seems to be left of the joys of autumn are piles of slippery, rain-soaked leaves.

Which all sounds a little dreary and sad, doesn’t it? So last week I was thrilled to turn my back on the lousy weather and get a little glimpse of brighter, warmer things to come at the White Stuff SS17 press day.

WhiteStuff SS17 pressday

Wait, spring?

Why I am talking about that when we haven’t even had Christmas yet? The truth is I’m not quite ready to jump feet first into Christmas. I’m thinking about it, but I don’t want to do it just yet. This is an inbetweeny time – cold, dark and usually a bit wet – and last week I was more than happy to shrug that off for an hour or so and see a tantalising hint of things to come. I’m not wishing away the time, just enjoying turning the clocks forward for a few hours.

WhiteStuff SS17 pressday

Here’s what caught my eye.

The softest jumper, with a great combination of colours and textures. Warm, but fresh. Exactly what I’ll want to wear come January.

White Stuff SS17 press day

Beautiful, delicate nightwear.

White Stuff SS17 press day

All my favourite denim blues – in soft knits and chambray. How brilliant would this shirt be layered over a polo neck?

Whitestuff SS17 pressday

WhiteStuff SS17 pressday

The accessories were also gorgeous. You can’t have enough pom poms and tassels, can you?

Whitestuff SS17 pressday

I also had the pleasure of meeting James Ward of Jimbobart, who created a wonderful tabby cat mug for me.

WhiteStuff SS17 pressday

You don’t have to wait that long for these beautiful things. Lots of these pieces actually land in stores in January. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, and you’ll soon be able to layer up these lighter, prettier pieces with your warmer knits and coats very soon.

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Three things I’m loving this week

dscf9732

I’ve had a really busy week – with visits to Norwich, London and Cambridge – and barely had time to draw breath. I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve been up to on here next week, but for now, here are a few things that have made me happy this week.

A mini-splurge at & Other Stories. This is only the second time I’ve visited & Other Stories as my nearest one is in London. This week I had a browse in their lovely store on Argyle Street (just off Oxford Street). The clothes are nice, but what I really like are their beautiful selection of make-up, jewellery and beauty products.

A mini splurge at & Other Stories

The fragrances are wonderful and – bonus –  I can actually afford them. I bought the Fig Fiction body mist (£5), a tinted lip balm (£7), nail varnish (£5) and some really pretty earrings (£10). This week I re-pierced my second ear piercings (a bit ouch, but worth it) and these new ones look great paired with simple studs.

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Hugh the Christmas bear. This week we’ve all fallen a little in love with a very lovable bear called Hugh. His arms are wide enough to give you proper bear hug, and his festive knitwear is very snuggly.

Hugh the 2016 Harrods bear

Every year Harrods bring out a new bear for Christmas. It’s a bit of a tradition and I’m sure he’ll be loved in this house for years to come. Find your own Hugh here.

Hugh the 2016 Harrods bear

Tea and cake. This week I had a wonderful, traditional afternoon tea at the Assembly House in Norwich. The service was impeccable and the food was delicious. I ate far too many sandwiches, cakes, scones – but it was delicious. It would have been a crime to leave any. I’ll be back for more soon!

Afternoon tea at the Assembly House, Norwich

One last thing: don’t forget it’s Stir-up Sunday this weekend! I’ll be making the same cake as last year. 

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A big thank you to Harrods for sending Hugh to live with us. 

Discovering Harry Potter in my thirties

Harry Potter t shirt

I was thirteen when the first Harry Potter book came out in 1997. I remember there was a bit of a fuss about it, but I dismissed it as a children’s book. I wasn’t the coolest of thirteen year olds, but I was still at that age when you’re desperate to appear a bit more grown-up. A book about an eleven year old wizard didn’t appeal.

Anyway, the whole Harry Potter juggernaut passed me by completely. I wasn’t old enough to understand why grown-ups would want to read it.

But now I’m in my thirties, I understand. I’ve fallen hard for all things Harry Potter.

Reading Harry Potter in my thirties

Why now?

My son was keen to try reading the first book, and I thought I’d read it first to make sure it wasn’t too scary. I didn’t expect to love it, but I did.

Weirdly, the thing that attracts me is the thing that put me off the books in the first place: the childishness. It’s a combination of magic, sparkle and escapism.

Harry Potter bauble

This is a time of responsibility: children, mortgages, bills.  I read for pleasure, and I don’t like my books to be that challenging. I like a good story, with undemanding prose. I don’t always want realism. I’d rather read about magic wands than washing up.

I like the fact that my son and I can enjoy them together. He’s nearly eight and I’m thirty two. We’re enjoying the same thing, but probably noticing different things. For him it’s exciting, new and a bit scary at times. For me it’s comfortingly formulaic, but still mildly gripping. We can chat about it as equals which is great. Plus, I get to view things though a child’s eyes rather than my own cynical pair.

It also allows me to indulge my inner child. Despite ignoring it for a while, it’s still there and likes things that are a bit naff and glittery. And now I’m in my thirties I don’t feel remotely embarrassed by my Harry Potter socks.

I’m up to book five, and he’s just started book six. They’re getting a bit darker, which is challenging. I think we might have to have a little break soon, and wait till he’s a little older before we finish the series (he may take a little convincing about this). But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Are you a Harry Potter fan, or are you yet to be converted?

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