Sunday, 29 November 2015

An alternative Christmas tree - how to make a Christmas 'twig'

When it comes to Christmas decorations, I definitely fall into the 'More is More' camp, but I can totally see why people would go down the 'tasteful and discreet' route too. For the last couple of years my mum hasn't had a traditional Christmas tree - in theory this is down to what she says is doing a more 'low key' Christmas, but in practice she bought a new sofa a couple of years back which means there isn't actually any space for a tree even if she wanted one. Last year she had what we fondly referred to as "the twig" and I happened to be over for a cuppa a this morning when she decided to try "the twig" out for a second year. I couldn't resist snapping a few pics because it's just SO gorgeous. This is such a pretty, simple alternative to a traditional Christmas tree, especially if you're short on space, because you can sit it on a table or shelf instead of using floor space for it. 

Tempted to try a twig of your own this Christmas? It couldn't be easier:

  • Go for a lovely winter stroll. Keep an eye out for discarded twigs.
  • Bring a twig home and spray paint it white in the garden (not strictly necessary but this is what my mum did and it totally works)
  • Pop white twig into the right kind of pot or bottle (essentially something with a narrow neck so it stays pretty upright).
  • Pause to put on some Christmas music at this stage to really get into the festive spirit - current faves are Christmas Wrapping, Driving Home for Christmas and Stop the Cavalry.
  • First you need some lights. White bulbs keep it classic, and small and delicate are good. We used ones that are on a very thin wire, which is great because they can be 'moulded' into whatever shape you need and the little LED bulbs looks like they're just floating in mid air. So far, so pretty. 
  • Then you can add some ornaments - rules of thumb we stuck to: small and dainty are best (plus really heavy ones can bend the twig), stick to pastels and non-traditional Xmas colours like pink and turquoise, anything that's bird-shaped particularly works, seeing as it's a twig and all, and use the ones that mean the most (which for us include; the only two remaining ornaments my mum has from when she was little and a couple of dubious-looking felt creations my sister or I made at school). This is really were 'Less is More' comes in, and I had to stop myself from hanging something from every branch available - just a smattering of the most delicate and pretty ornaments is all you need. 
  • Stand back and admire. Join in with whichever Christmas tune happens to be playing, if the moment takes you. 

Home Etc

Thursday, 26 November 2015

This was the week that...

Source here
  • I got a new haircut that channels the queen that is Peggy Olsen and I've been wishing I was as cool as her
  • Adele spoke about parenting and got it SPOT ON (when does she not?) 
  • I wept along to Suffragette at the cinema (if you haven't already - go see it!)
  • I read Caitlin Moran's words of advice to her 13-year-old daughter. Wish someone had said this to me twenty years ago. Bookmarking this now for Arlo in another ten years or so 
  • Arlo discovered the joys of black crayon. On the walls, shelves, floors...
  • I rediscovered my love for this album which is as brilliant as it is short 
  • I read this article about how virgos are misunderstood and nodded along a lot 
  • Arlo and Alex both got new Doc Mart boots and I lusted after a pair too

Friday, 20 November 2015

Friday I'm in love... with pom poms

It all started with a hat. A simple bobble hat for the winter months. I've been looking out for one on my travels and along the way I've been noticing lots of pom poms all over the place - from bags to shoes, and jumpers to jewellery. So this winter I fancy pom poms in a few other places than just a hat, starting with these shoes which I LOVE and stopping off at a few other bobbles along the way. Above are some of my faves. (Minus jewellery you'll note - even I draw the line at pom pom earrings.)

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Long days and short years

Sept 2015

Sept 2014
It's easy not to notice time passing you by. Weeks whizzing past, months coming and going, new years on the horizon (IT'S ALMOST 2016 FFS!) Then sometimes something stops you. I snapped this pic of Arlo on the beach about a month ago, while we were trying to squeeze in the final paddle of the year (it was chilly, but we did it!). It reminded me of some pics I took a year or so ago in the same spot, and I dug them out to have a look. Such a difference. This boy is getting so big. So clever. He knows more words now than I can count. He's a dab hand at a jigsaw. He sings songs all day long. And he's got a cracking sense of humour. From a squidgy little pudding a year or so ago, stretching up to try and reach a door handle, to a proper boy now, opening doors and climbing and figuring all kinds of stuff out on his own, this boy is grown. Sometimes the days feel very long indeed, but it's times like this I'm reminded that the years are short.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Weekend eats - Alex's banana muffin recipe

Here's the thing about me - I'm a terrible baker. It's just not my thing. So I'm afraid I'm not the mum who's always got a fresh cake in the tin ready to go. If that's even a thing any more. So it was with great excitement that our bare cake tin became filled this last weekend when Alex did some baking. He made a batch of banana oat muffins which were a) delicious, b) blimmin filling, and c) very easy to make, so I've been assured. One of these muffins was enough to fill each of us up until lunch for a busy morning, and they're made with lots of good stuff like oats, banana, and walnuts, so I'm sharing the recipe here as it's a real winner.

Here's what you need:
Dry ingredients
2 cups plain flour
1 cup porridge oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (if you don't have any, you can use another 1/2 cup of brown sugar instead)
A handful of walnuts, roughly chopped (or any other nuts you fancy. Or indeed, no nuts either, if you're not a nut fan)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
Wet ingredients
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (which is roughly 3 bananas)
2 eggs (medium or whatever you have)
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine, unsalted
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract (not sure what the difference is. You can see why I'm not a baker!)

And here's what you need to do:
1. Pre-heat the oven to about 180ºC / 375ºF (we set ours to 200 because it's a bit rubbish and always slightly cooler than we need it to be)
2. Put all the dry ingredients in a big bowl and mix well
3. Put all the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and mix well
4. Add the contents of the wet bowl to the big dry bowl and fold together gently
5. Spoon the mixture into muffin cases - it should make about 12 - and sprinkle some extra chopped walnuts on top for texture
6. Bake for 15-18 mins - start watching from about 12 mins. You're looking for nicely risen, golden muffins that aren't sticky in the middle when you pop a sharp knife in to check
7. Cool for as long as you can wait for, while the lovely smell wafts round the house, and then wolf one down.

They are particularly good for brekkie with coffee - we packed ours up with a thermos and headed to the beach to have ours. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Scrapbooking your memories - how to get started

Earlier this year I thought I'd give scrapbooking a go for a couple of different reasons - one, I love photos. Taking them, printing them, looking back over them. This love intensified a LOT when Arlo arrived, when I realised how quickly he's going to grow up and how important photos are going to be to remember the little things. The other reason I decided to give scrapbooking a go is because I have a slightly-unatural-for-someone-in-their-thirties obsession with stationery. This new hobby of mine gives me a legitimate reason to buy new stationery supplies all the time and I LOVE IT.

I've talked about scrapbooking a couple of times on the blog so far, and I've had a few people ask about getting started and how it all works so I thought I'd do something of an introduction - about what works for me, what you need to get started and (maybe) some inspiration to have a go yourself. So here goes:

L-R: an empty Project Life folder and photo pockets waiting to be filled, and a selection of journalling cards in 6x4 and 3x4 sizes
1. Getting started - the basics
For me, there were two main caveats to scrapbooking when I first started out: 1. it had to be easy, and not time consuming, and 2. it needed to work with the photos I already had, which were all printed out in standard 6x4 photo format. after a bit of research I settled on Project Life, because the format is all geared towards those two things - making it quick and easy to do, and using 6x4 photos, which you just slip straight into photo pockets, it's dead simple. I bought a 12x12 album, which comes with photo pockets inside in two different sizes - 6x4 pockets, for your photos, and 3x4 pockets, for journalling cards. So I also bought a pack of journalling cards to get me started, which come in either 6x4 or 3x4 sizes, and I was off!

Simple layouts with lots of notes capturing everyday life - the little things I don't want to forget

2. Keeping note.
It was really easy to lay out my photos, pick the card designs I wanted, and write little memories on them to accompany certain photos. This was a really important factor for me because I want to remember all the little things along the way that I might otherwise forget, and that's why straightforward photo albums just weren't working for me. For example, I've got journalling cards with lists of Arlo's favourite foods at a certain time, the different words he uses to describe animals, all kinds of stuff. The stuff I want to always remember. And to show him some day.

Some recent subscription box goodies from (L-R) A Beautiful Mess and Studio Calico subscriptions

3. Keeping the supplies coming
Once I realised I was getting into scrapbooking, I wanted more supplies and I subscribed to a couple of monthly boxes that send me goodies once a month. They work really well because I get something different each month, I get to try lots of different supplies that I didn't even know existed, and let's face it - getting parcels in the post is the BEST EVER. So once a month I get a Messy Box from A Beautiful Mess, and Scrapbooking and Project Life kits from Studio Calico. Stationery lovers be warned - checking out these sites may result in some serious purchasing!

Two different layouts for a 12x12 album

4. Playing with layouts
After a while sticking to simple layouts using 6x4 photos, I started trying out new things - different photo layouts, new embellishments, cutting photos to different sizes... the one thing that doesn't change (except for the large shot of Alex and Arlo on the beach above) is that I always just print out my photos in standard 6x4 photo size, because I can't be bothered to faff around with different sizes for printing. Other than that, anything goes.

Recent shopping hauls from L: A Beautiful Mess Shop, and R: Tiger

5. My favourite supplies
Along the way I've tried out new things and picked up a few new supplies to help satisfy my stationery addiction me add more colour to my scrapbook layouts. There's load of amazing supplies out there to try, but if I had to pick my three absolute faves right now, they would be:

  • A great pen: my favourite is one I bought from the A Beautiful Mess shop, in the first pic above - it's an Extra Fine Messy Pen, and it's perfect for me, it writes over any kind of paper (including directly onto photos, which is fun), is the perfect thickness, and I swear it makes my handwriting better too!
  • A mini stapler: Also from the A Beautiful Mess shop (and I swear this isn't an ad, I just love that place!) This little stapler CHANGED MY LIFE* when I got it. Rather than using glue and leaving marks everywhere, I use this to attach things to journalling cards and photos and I love it - it's so quick, so neat, so pretty. It even comes with mini staples in lots of different colours (also pictured above) so you can match it to the page 
  • Alphabet stickers: These come in all shapes, colours and sizes, and I've bought these from loads of different places, and they're the quickest and easiest way to add some interest to a scrapbook page - more examples of this below:

So that's it for now - if you're a fellow stationery fan and fancy giving scrapbooking a go, I really couldn't recommend it more, it brings me so much joy to pootle around with a pen, some scissors and stickers and make layouts that I hope the family will look back on over and over again. If you like this kind of stuff, or enjoy perusing pictures of stationery on Instagram (who bloody doesn't?!) then I have a little side-Instagram feed which I use just to share scrapbook layouts and supplies - there's a whole little community online sharing awesome stuff so do come and check it out if you fancy it. Any other questions on anything scrapbooking, I would love to answer them (I could talk about this stuff for hours!), so do ask below in the comments.


Home Etc

Friday, 6 November 2015

Where we walked this weekend #5 - the beach picnic edition

We've been having some  productive old weekends round here lately, I honestly don't know what's gotten into us. The morning after the clocks went back, because we were all up even more ridiculously early than usual, we found that we had got ourselves ready, had breakfast, mowed the lawn and made a batch of banana oat muffins all before 9am. I'm aware this makes us sound like we've really got our shit together, but in fact this is the OPPOSITE of what our weekends usually look like, when it takes circa three hours just to coordinate getting all three of us out the door and ready to do something. So wanting to make the most of the extra hour, we got our wellies on, made a thermos of coffee, packed up the muffins and headed for a beach picnic (was toying with calling it a beach-nic, but I don't think that really works, so I'll refrain). The sun shone, Arlo chased seagulls, we contemplated a paddle (too cold) and then sat on the slipway, with tin mugs of coffee and a muffin, and just felt a bit bloody lucky to live in this lovely place, to have Sundays to ourselves, and to get an extra hour of family time every once in a while.