Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Where we walked this weekend #3 - the 'sorry it's late' edition

When I talked about our intention to go on a family walk every weekend this Autumn, each time to somewhere different so we'd see and appreciate more of the Island, I did it on here so that we kind of had to stick to it, and that's why I'm so keen to show that we're actually doing it - because we are! In fact, this walk was from a few weekends ago now, but things have been so busy around here that I've not been quite up to date with posts and things so I'm playing a bit of catch up now.

So this walk involved a walk down a hill, past a lighthouse, and down to the prettiest little bay with barely anyone on it. We ate a picnic at the bottom of the hill, looking out at the handful of people in floating around under the sun in their canoes, wishing we were too, then went to investigate rock pools, which Arlo loved. The beach (or more accurately, "beesh", as he puts it) is his absolute favourite at the moment, which is pretty lucky considering we live on an island that's totally surrounded by them. Of note: the weather was totally amazing, summer's not over yet! Plus, we marched all the way back up the hill in one go without having to stop for a little rest (the usual option), which we were pretty pleased about. Planning for future walks to be less uphill where possible.

Friday, 25 September 2015

My favourite corners #6 - our wobbly little mantel

I haven't done one of these 'my favourite corners' posts for a bit now, but while having an arrange of our mantelpiece today I realised it's one of my favourite little parts of the house. It's in our middle room, which I spose is technically the dining room but that feels like too grandiose a term for this room if I'm honest. Our middle room is the heart of the house really, seeing as all the best things happen in here, like (most) meals, nice cups of tea, and it also has the really comfy chair that I did all Arlo's feeding in when he was little, and is still my favourite place for a little sit down whenever I get the chance (seldom). Plus it's where the record player and radio are so that means most of the music and dancing happens in there too. So this is a busy room all in all.

This week I've added two new additions to the mantelpiece - these candlesticks which were a late birthday present from a friend. I wouldn't have bought these neccessarily but I'm so glad she did because now I've unpacked them and tried them in this room, I love them! I think the best presents are like that. They frame the big mirror above the fireplace just right, I love the colours and they also make me feel very grown-up to be the-kind-of-person-that-owns-actual-candlesticks. Plus she gets brownie points for choosing ones that are a) very hard to break, and b) very light if they fell on your head - I think these are as toddler proof as candlesticks get!

So they have a happy home on our wobbly mantelpiece alongside a collection of things that have all earnt their place over the last two years - the letters I bought as a moving in present to ourselves when we bought the house, the scented candle my friend gave out as her wedding favours, and a vintage radio, passed down in Alex's family and very precious, that takes pride of place. Each makes me smile for different reasons. In a house where most things need to be functional to suit the needs of a small and usually irrational person, it's nice to have a very little part that's for nothing else but looking at and smiling.

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Friday, 18 September 2015

Where we walked this weekend #2: The Cumberbatch edition

Slightly later than I'd hoped this week (MEGA busy week happening over here!) but better late than never, I wanted to share some pics from our latest walk - we're trying to fit in a different walk every weekend to see more of the beautiful place that we live, because let's face it, it's easy to forget sometimes.

So this weekend we headed over to Mottistone, which is famous for two things; Being the site of the Long Stone, two standing stones (one no longer upright) that mark the spot of an ancient burial ground, so legend has it. It's a bit magical and one of the most visited spots on the Island and sometimes druid gatherings happen there in a stone-henge-solstice kind of way. The other thing it's (now) famous for is being the spot where Benedict Cumberbatch got married earlier this year on Valentine's day, and closed all the roads so the locals got annoyed but brought lots of celeb pals with him so we all got a bit excited like when my mum's friend said she was sure she saw Keira Knightly in the Freshwater charity shop on the morning of the wedding and I said I wasn't sure because it's a pretty rubbish charity shop as charity shops go, but she swore it was her and she was having a good rummage, but then I saw somewhere that she couldn't make it because she was in LA filming but really wanted to believe it could be true and told people anyway.

But I digress. Cumberbath conubials aside, it's a pretty magical place, one we've visited for years and years since I was little, so I was pleased to take Arlo along for an explore. On the walk up through the woods to the standing stone, we discovered all manner of things that kept him busy - shiny iridescent beetles, flowers, lots of blackberries for picking, soft feathers and sticks of various sizes (Arlo currently pronounces 'st' as 'd'. Imagine the lols).

On the way back, we heard the faint sound of the Bestival coming over the hills and for a second I felt a little pang as I remembered that was me about 8 years ago, having fun in a field wearing a pirate hat or something ridiculous, and now I was here, wearing sensible walking shoes (Alex made me buy them. I still maintain that Converse All Stars are adequate footwear for any terrain, but he kept going on about 'ankle support' so I caved and bought some. They're so ugly, but strangely comforting to wear, it's like my ankles are being cuddled, quite nice). But that pang went very quickly as I looked down at a muddy little child, holding  a squishy handful of warmed blackberries. He closed his eyes and started to count to three, to let me know he wanted to play hide and seek with me. So I hid (badly) behind the closest tree, listened to his giggles and waited to be found. It was honestly more fun than I ever had at any Bestival.

Oh, and there's an INTERESTING FOOTNOTE to this post: after the walk my sis excitedly told me that the Cumberbatches had been back in Mottistone on that very day, to christen their son at the same church (no road closures this time I'm happy to report)

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Monday, 14 September 2015


As the Isle of Wight waves the last few Bestival-goers off the island today, with them go the last dregs of summer. It's been grey and rainy all day and I've resigned myself that Autumn is upon us. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to welcome Autumn, it's probably my fave season of all actually, but before I do, I want to stop for a second and think back over the Summer that was. It was really a summer of firsts. Not necessarily those big, monumental firsts that fill the first year or so like first words, steps, sleeping through the night (we're well beyond all those baby milestones now. Sniff.) But lots of other things that were just as memorable. Some things I'm only just realising now were pretty monumental in their own way. Like:

  • Our first potato printing experience (for both of us!) 
  • The first time Arlo got stung by a bee (I was scared, he survived).
  • The first time I had one of those haircuts that just seems to go right for once. For about two weeks until it grew out.
  • The first time I thought to myself "maybe we COULD have another one and the world wouldn't end and we might all survive"
  • The first sentence "Daddy and baby on the beesh" (he means beach, but still)
  • Our first taste of the terrible twos. Tantrums and all. Some of my very lowest parenting points I would say. Punctuated by some of the best stuff ever. I guess that's how they design this parenting stuff, so we don't disown our own as soon as they turn two.
  • The first time I've been genuinely happy to see a poo. Because it was in the potty of a child that isn't even really being potty trained. He just chose to do it one day in his potty. How mad is that?! I'm thinking this my be my karma for all the very many very sleepless nights.
  • The first proper family holiday. More of those please.
  • Our first whole night away, just the two of us. Many more of those too please. 

Many things to remember. And many more to come. Ideally more of the potato painting times and less of the tantrum times to come please, although I sense there'll be plenty of both. Autumn, we're ready for you now.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Where we walked this weekend

There's nothing like missing something to make you appreciate it, is there? Since we got back from our holiday in Wales, where we did lots of walking and general appreciating of the scenery, it's like we have a new-found love for this island we live on. Just like when we lived in London we hardly ever went to the museums, we realised we don't spend enough time out appreciating all the lovely bits of the Isle of Wight. So our plan for Autumn is to do a different walk each weekend, to take in the scenery and appreciate this place we live. This was our first walk, in Newtown, where you walk along a long long jetty to get to a harbour filled with lots of sweet little boats. On holiday we would've sought this out, loved the walk and said things like "oh imagine living somewhere as pretty as this!" turns out we do - we just needed to look.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

10 ways to perk up a room for less than £25

I do love a bit of home improvement. Given that there's usually a two-year-old holding on to my leg/ blowing a recorder in my ear/ trying to clamber onto my back for a 'donkey ride' while braying, free time is pretty scarce around here, so anything that requires limited input for maximum visual impact is exactly the kind of DIY I'm after.

Since we moved into our first home two years ago, we've undertaken quite a few of these 'mini makeovers' - quick, easy, cheap changes you can make to really perk up your space. So if you're short on time, cash or just a little lazy when it comes to renovations (like me) then read on. All of these things we've done in our place, they all cost less than a Pony (that's £25. Yes I looked that up) and trust me, if I can do them, they're easy peasy.

one. Paint your tiles. 
This one's top of the list because we're actually right in the middle of doing it at the moment. A super quick and cheap way to make a big impact is to refresh your tiles with a quick coat of paint. Whether you're changing the colour, freshening it up or getting rid of some questionable tile designs that you have inherited (cough cough, that's exactly what happened to us) it couldn't be easier. We picked up a pot of white tile paint this weekend and set to work covering off the absolutely repugnant not to our taste nautical tiles that are scattered throughout our bath room - navy seahorse anyone? Two coats later and it feels so different - I just wish we'd done this two years ago! Ps. I have a whole board devoted to beautiful bathroom tile here, including this lovely example above, and some step-by-step guides for making beautiful patterned tiles using stencils, if you're feeling adventurous.
Actual cost: £20
Emotional wealth: immeasurable joy at being able to wave goodbye to the hideous sea creatures that you used to share your bathroom with.

two. Paint a wall a darker colour
I did this here with our gallery wall in the front room. I couldn't believe how much the subtle colour change made all the frames pop. 
Actual cost: £20 for a pot of paint BUT the very same paint we used above is currently on sale for a tenner, if you're interested.
Emotional wealth: a feature wall to be proud of. Bonus points for picking a wall shade that actually makes your complexion look better in the photos too.

three. Put up a mirror. Or three.
This one's good for dark rooms in particular. Our dining room is a bit of a gloomy space, so I've been keeping my eyes peeled at car boots and charity shops to find lovely old mirrors like the one about our 50s sideboard above. We have one on almost every wall in the room by now - it really helps reflect light, and the more you add the more light gets pinged around between them all.
Actual cost: all our mirrors have cost between £3-£8, from various charity shops and car boot sales - I've probs spent about £15 on them all in total
Emotional wealth: Genuinely the more light, the more perky you're going to feel, especially in the winter when dark days can bring an air of gloominess. Plus you'll able to check your hair do from any angle - always useful.

four. Fairylights anywhere everywhere.
Because what space can't be improved by a string of light fairy lights? None, that's what. Next!
Actual Cost: probs about a tenner, I think these above that I put up at crimble were more like £20 but they're super long
Emotional wealth: being able to deliver the right mood lighting for any occasion 

five. Paper the backs of your shelves 
This is such a good one. I remember discovering this little tip about ten years ago when I first moved into a flat share in London, doing it to a couple of Billy bookcases and flouncing around feeling like I was Linda Barker or something. So easy, so cheap, so transformative. Pick a colour or print you'd never want all over your walls, just to add a pop of colour. (Nb. picture can be found here)
Actual cost: about a fiver for some fancy wrapping paper (depending on the size of your shelves!) 
Emotional wealth: a sense of achievement and pride that can only come from having perfectly arranged shelving 

six. Give a door a lick of paint. 
wanged on quite a lot about this at the time, but when we painted our once-yellow/brown wooden doors in the spare room, and made them white instead, the difference was amazing - so much lighter and airier.
Actual cost: circa £20 for some white gloss
Emotional cost: the intense relief felt at getting rid of yellow pine 

seven. Buy a new shower curtain. 
Add a flash of colour. We recently picked up this one super cheap and it's honestly changed the whole bathroom. Ikea actually has loads of nice ones at the moment, like the above, a snip at a fiver, which also caught my eye. 
Actual cost: £6
Emotional wealth: having a bathroom that your 3-year-old nephew describes as "magical" when he goes in for a wee (true story)

eight. Change up the lighting.
Our middle room is one we've actually done very little to, but one of the things that's made the most impact is changing the light fitting. Before it was a weird metal fitting with three lightbulbs on little entwined branches, that sat very high up and close to the ceiling. It wasn't exactly our first choice. We picked up this fitting from Ikea (where else? I love that place) and although when it first went up I thought we'd made a huge mistake because it was just so big, I now love it. It's like it's balanced out all the white in the top half of the room, does that sound weird? It also gives so much light to what it usually quite a gloomy room, plus draws focus in to the table as the heart of the space. Nb. the pic above was actually snapped to show Arlo's new dinosaur balloon he got at Cowes Week, but it showed the light fitting pretty well so I thought it worked. Just felt I needed to acknowledge the dino in the room. 
Actual cost: £22
Emotional wealth: being able to see things properly - like when your house gets invaded by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

nine. Buy a side table.
May sound weird, but this little table we bought from a second hand shop (with an amazing back story) is actually a super useful - it gives us extra storage and we've created a feature out of it in the dining room. We've tried it in a few places around the house, and it works in lots of spots - for the space it takes up, it adds a whole lot to the room.
Actual cost: £25
Emotional wealth: more storage = more things to love 

ten. Flowers FTW.
The easiest way to perk up a room (and myself!) for me has always been to splash out on some fresh flowers. 
Actual cost: well, about a fiver, although I just picked up a beaut bunch of twelve pink roses from M&S for two quid which him itself is giving me more joy than the flowers probably ever could. 
Emotional wealth: The addition of colour, a lovely smell, a bit of greenery and a whole lot of smiles to any room. 

So there you have it - none of them are exactly rocket surgery (or brain science!) but each has made a real impact on our home since we moved in, and ticks the holy trinity of home improvements for me; quick, simple, cheap. What could be better? I would LOVE to hear yours and add them to the list! 

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