I’m sneaking in at the very last minute with this month’s Styling The Seasons post for Charlotte and Charlotte. I’ve had a bit of a styling block this month – I feel like I’m running out of surfaces to style and I was coming up blank when I tried to think about what June means to me (I think this year, June means going 100 miles an hour and the month disappearing in the blink of an eye).
I needed some inspiration so I turned to the twins for some ideas. When we asked them what’s special about June, they immediately came up with summer, and their favourite thing about summer? Ice-cream! After initially laughing off their suggestion, I thought well why not? Now that our lives are governed by the school routine, Friday dinners have become more of a celebration of the end of the week, and that often means a special pudding. So I’ve created an ice-cream parlour section in our open shelving near the kitchen, with waffle cones, chocolate flakes and plenty of sprinkles. Friday dinners now mean a visit to the ice-cream shelf.
The summer generally feels more colourful, so I’ve added some bright splashes to the shelves with my Marimekko By Iittala bowls and this gorgeous ice-cream print by the clever Teri at The Lovely Drawer (it was one of my favourite treats in my Blogtacular goodie bag). My festoon lights from Lights4Fun that I won at Sisterhood camp add a bit of a carnival feel.
It’s been a hectic June but it’s been full of inspiration, fun and friendship so it’s had plenty of plus points too. July traditionally means Christmas to me (that’s crazy magazine world for you), so goodness knows what my Styling the Seasons will look like next month…
: Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :
“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”
My two small people love getting dirty. In fact, they’re such huge fans of the mud kitchen they have at school (I’m told it’s hard to persuade Ez to ever leave it), that Ben decided to build them one at home after he managed to nab an old sink from a friend whose kitchen was recently ripped out.
In the morning, the twins drew plans of how they wanted their mud kitchen to look, while Ben cleared all the weeds that had taken over a raised bed in our garden (ironically I think I was indoors cleaning – I really need to remember that happy people have messy homes). As soon as the weeds were vanquished, the kids moved in, various pots and pans were gathered, a big bucket of water was delivered and they got down to the serious business of mud making – and construction of the kitchen itself began in earnest.
Their imaginations took over and the mud play kept them occupied for hours. Pies, pancakes, cakes and sauces were all cooked up, before their attentions turned to covering themselves in as much mud as possible – I’m sure they’d be totally tickled to know that this is what people pay money to have done in spas, too!
The finished mud kitchen is a feat of engineering that slots alongside the raised bed in our garden. The wearing of nice dresses isn’t usually encouraged in the mud, but for the purposes of posing for blog photographs, it was allowed on this occasion! Just yesterday they covered themselves from head to toe in oozy mud and we had to hose them down outside before heading up to have a bath.
As far as I’m concerned, feet like this are a sign of a very good day.
You may have noticed a new social media button appear to the right of my homepage. YouTube. I’ve dabbled in the past, but without any real focus so I’m really excited to have teamed up with the team at housetohome to launch a new weekly video blog series, Heather At Home. As well as plenty of interiors content (decorating projects, styling ideas, storage tips), I’ll be chatting about anything that’s caught my interest that week – from wellbeing to parenting to budgeting.
The key message from Grace Bonney’s keynote speech at Blogtacular was to do something that scares you, and for me, this is it. Not only am I much happier behind the camera (although luckily it appears I don’t mind being filmed half as much as I mind having my photograph taken), but having to put myself out that and shout ‘Oi! Look at me!’ throws me into an anxious panic. However, the way I see it is that if I’m not going to shout about it, no-one else is, and what’s the point of making videos if nobody is going to watch them, right? So I’m facing my fears head on. I’m enjoying the challenge of working in a different media, and it’s great to be able to see myself learning and improving as I go along.
So whether you’re already a YouTube addict, or if like me, you’re still a bit of a novice, please do subscribe to my channel to share my vlogging journey with me, and see a bit more of who I am behind the blog.
It’s the last Urban Jungle Bloggers challenge before Igor and Judith take a well-deserved summer break, and it’s a fun one this month – pick one plant and place it in front of a coloured backdrop. I walked past our bedroom the other evening and spotted the gorgeous evening light on this Peperomia, and immediately grabbed my camera. I was snapping away when 5yo Ez wandered in, and wanted to know what I was up to. After explaining the challenge, she was quick to point out that if we wanted a colourful background, her bedroom wall is the brightest in the house, so really we should be taking my pictures in there. Who was I to argue?
I recently bought a calathea for her room, so we grabbed that and she struck a pose (or actually, a whole host of different poses) with the plant, demanding to inspect the shots every so often so that she could adjust accordingly!I reckon the shots Ez directed deliver on the ‘vibrant dash of colour’ brief way better than mine and she more than qualifies for her colour-lovers badge. To see more colour-pop plant inspiration you can use the hashtags #plantcolorpop and #plantcolourpop to search Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest.
A few weekends back we headed out to a local car boot sale and it reminded me how much I love them. It got us out of the house and into the fresh air, we had lots of fun mooching around, the twins got to practice a bit of maths, and I came home with some treasures so it was definitely a winning activity for our Sunday morning.
Remarkably, after seeing me share my buys on Facebook, a lovely friend admitted that she had never been to a car boot sale! I have lost track of how many I’ve visited (it’s many), and I have memories of going with my family (both to buy and to sell) from a very early age. I haven’t sold at a car boot for a long time (I can never get over that terror of arriving when it’s still dark, and people looting through your boot before you’ve even managed to set up your table), but I thought I’d share my five basic tips for buying at car boot sales..
Find details of your nearest car boot sale in your local paper, or look out for posters or banners advertising upcoming events in your area. I’ve also used this website to scope out sales before, but it’s wise to phone or email before heading out just to double check they’re still running.
Get there early to nab the best bargains. They normally start around 7am (ouch!) – I normally aim to rock up at 8am at the latest if we can. There’s usually a van selling coffee to give you a caffeine hit when you arrive. This way you should also have time to do two circuits in case buyers have pulled out some new stock since your first visit.
I’ve yet to see a cash machine at a car boot sale, so bringing cash with you is essential – and small change is best. It may sound obvious but it’s best to only bring as much money as you want to spend, as it’s easy to get carried away and go way over-budget.
Take bags with you. Some sellers may offer you a plastic bag, but you’re far better off with something more sturdy so you can carry heavier items. You could even take a trolley if you have one. As usual, it’s always while to carry a stash of drinks and snacks to appease children when they start to lose interest.
Give kids a set amount of spending money and stick to it to avoid constant nagging. I try to guide the twins when they’re deciding what to buy but ultimately it’s up to them. They have different approaches – Fonz likes the impulse purchase (a boy after my own heart), but Ez thinks about it much more carefully and will often leave something and go back to check if it’s still there later. Some stalls do lucky dips and this always goes down well with my two, although what you get is obviously a bit more hit and miss!
The above shots show my purchases from our most recent car boot jaunt. I always have an idea of the sort of thing I’m looking for (this time I knew I wanted vintage plates to use under my indoor plant pots, and stoneware jars), but I still keep my eyes peeled for anything unusual. The little vintage suitcase was a bargain at £1, and was perfect to carry our other purchases in, as I’d forgotten to bring my own bag (I obviously didn’t read my own tips). My best ever car boot buy was a vintage printers tray for a fiver – considerably less than the asking price in most junk shops. I’d been after one for ages but never expected to find one at a car boot sale and it now has pride-of-place in our hallway.
Views from the open-air swimming pool at Adelboden
Pink buildings at the open-air pool at Adelboden
Picnicking at Engstlipenalp
From our overnight stop in Arrigny, we had a full day’s driving to the Swiss alps, heading through Basel and down to Frutigen, about 30km from Interlaken.
FRANCE – SWITZERLAND:
Arrigny – Frutigen, 295 miles by motorway
We stayed: At Camping Grassi, Frutigen, Switzerland. A gorgeously green campsite with incredible mountain views. The pitches weren’t the most spacious we encountered (we were there on a Swiss bank holiday weekend so it was busy), but there was plenty for the kids to explore including the adjacent rushing river, a games room with table tennis, and a small playground. We visited: Frutigen was a lovely town to wander around and was easy walking distance from the campsite. Engstligenalp – a ski resort in the winter – becomes a beautiful alpine plateau with flower-filled meadows in the summer. The kids loved the trip up in the cable car, and there were still patches of snow left when we visited in June – it made for a stunning picnic spot. The public open-air swimming pool at Adelboden (I’m sorry I can’t find a website for this) was another brilliant find. Entrance was free (or negligible), and there were three pool areas, a sandpit and loads of sunbeds in the most spectacular of locations, with panoramic views over the surrounding mountains. Be warned – the snack bar is expensive! We ate: We didn’t eat out, apart from to have lunch at the open-air swimming pool (very expensive). When food shopping, we did get caught out by Swiss bank holidays (there have a lot) and Sunday closing, when all the local supermarkets are closed.
Saturday showed me how a day surrounded by the most incredible people and the buzz they create when together in one space can carry you through. I was so excited about this year’s Blogtacular (who wouldn’t be given the chance to chat to so many inspiring people all in one day?) but after one of the most awful night’s sleep in a very long time on Friday I was left fearing I wouldn’t last or enjoy the day.
How very wrong I was. Who needs sleep when you can take a ride on the energy created by 300 brilliantly-creative bloggers all gathered together? And I honestly believe that there is no better place to give your self-confidence and belief a much-needed boost. I am queen of selling myself short. Too often (all the time) I compare myself unfavourably to others, feeling left behind, or somehow lacking – but when you put all those ‘others’ in a room, suddenly the competition falls away and the sense of community, support and inspiration takes over. Those people whose perfectly-curated Instagram feeds, stunning blog photography or endless creativity felt intimidating before, become real people full of warmth, quirks and smiles. It’s like bracing yourself to dive into a freezing cold pool, only to feel your muscles relax when you discover it’s actually wonderfully warm. Maybe it was the fog of tiredness but all my fear dropped away, and I found myself talking to anyone and everyone – from brand-spanking-new bloggers to those blogging superstars that you’ve followed and admired for years.
Most of all, I want to say thank you to the people who took time to seek me out and give me words of encouragement and praise. I cannot tell you how precious those words were to me. I went home with them glowing in my heart – a smile on my face and happy tears pricking at my eyes (that bit was almost definitely the sleep deprivation). I’ve wrapped those words up carefully, tied a beautiful bow around them and locked them away safe in my mind.
Above all the inspirational speakers, the flood of post-conference ideas, the laughs had and friendships made, those words were what really made Blogtacular for me this year. Their magic will help to carry me through to next year, when I hope I can share my own words of encouragement to lift someone else in the way that these have lifted me.
Apologies that The Everyday Spruce has taken a longer break than Sarah-Lou and I originally intended. Real life has taken over (as it has a habit of doing!), and while that happens, our blogs understandably take a back seat. But suddenly we’re well into June and we’re both keen to get it up and running again – it has already given me some fantastic ideas and focus this year, and I love the prompt to think in a different way and to look for small changes I can make at home or in my life that will make me feel happier and calmer.
We always wanted to develop the community aspect of The Everyday Spruce – sharing our ideas and getting inspiration from others is something that I think is at the heart of why Sarah-Lou and I blog. Some of you have written brilliant blog posts, or have shared your tips on Instagram and we’ve loved seeing how different you all interpret The Everyday Spruce. We’d really like to open the collaboration up further, and gather a team of like-minded people who would like to get involved and publish an Everyday Spruce post each month, so if you’d like to join us please leave me a comment below or drop one of us an email, and we’ll go from there.
I’ve done a simple DIY to get me back into The Everyday Spruce groove. Six years ago, when I was preparing the twins’ nursery, I used tea towels to create artwork for the walls. It was an inexpensive alternative to large canvases etc, and allowed me to create wall art with plenty of impact. Now the twins have moved into their own bedrooms, it was time to update the artwork on their walls, and so I’ve revisited this easy DIY. The scope of choice when it comes to tea towel design is brilliant – there are so many fantastic designs available to choose from. I found this one by Boodle Boutique on Etsy. It combines Ez’s love of woodland animals with her current obsession with cycling so it was a perfect choice for her.
Turning the tea towel into a piece of wall art is really easy, as you can see from the directions below.
1. Gather your kit – you’ll need a staple gun (and staples), a wooden frame (you can make your own to the dimensions of your tea towel, or you could use a cheap blank canvas from a craft store) and your chosen tea towel. Give your tea towel a really good iron to get rid of all creases.
2. Lie the tea towel face down on a flat surface, and position your frame on top of it so that the image on the front is central. Wrap the tea towel around and over the side and staple onto the back of the frame. Continue all the way along one long edge (staple every 5-10cm). Once one long edge is done, pull the fabric taut across the frame and secure the other long edge. You want to make sure the fabric is pulled as tightly as possible so that it won’t sag on the frame.
3. To do the bottom and top edges, fold the corners as if you were wrapping a present, pull up over the frame and staple in place then carry along the edge, stapling as you did for the long edges.
4. Turn the frame over and check the fabric is taut, and that you can’t see any loose fabric flapping at the sides (if you can’t just secure in place with another staple at the back).
| 8am Camp coffee | 9am Playing in pjs | 10am Open air shower (cold) | 11am Basingstoke Kite Festival |
Our surprise camping trip this weekend won us some mega brownie points with the twins. We’d picked a campsite only about 25 miles away that came recommended by a friend, so that we could easily get down after school on Friday evening. Inwood Camping ‘offers a chance to camp in open countryside with a campfire and a minimum of rules and regulations’. There are a number of pitch options – meadow, woodland, field – and we chose the top of the Big Field because of the fantastic views (plus I’m a complete sun-lover so I wanted a spot with plenty of sunshine potential).
With the benefit of hindsight, that stunning view meant we were very exposed and the wind was really rather cold. Plus, although we’re fairly hardy campers, I do like a sink with running water, and the Big Field is as far from the flushing toilets and hot water block down by reception as you can get (we had a composting toilet and open-air showers instead). But the extended woodland at Inwood was brilliant (with all the den-building, exploring and foraging for firewood and flowers it offered) and we love being able to have a campfire, so we will definitely go back. We might try the Little Meadow or Home Field next time to be closer to the facilities and to avoid the numerous large groups camping in the Big Field.
Saturday was the day for June’s #1day12pics challenge by Emma and Michelle to take a photo approximately every hour for 12 hours. My phone photos were taken only loosely every hour, but I thought it was a great way to document a typical day’s camping for us. We popped out to the Basingstoke Kite Festival first thing for a couple of hours (and watched syncronised kite flying displays that were surprisingly moving), but apart from that we based ourselves on the campsite and just pootled about. The kids flew inexpensive kites we’d bought at the festival, I spent way too long trying to boil water in my Kelly kettle (I’m still perfecting the method, it seems), we built campfires, snacked and played games like noughts and crosses, hangman and dots and boxes.
| 4pm: Noughts and crosses | 6pm: Walking to the pub | 8pm: Walking home | 9pm: Cracking campfire |
Keen to try out the crown-making skills I learnt at last week’s Sisterhood Camp, Ez and I went foraging for wild flowers and leaves and then made her a flower crown which she absolutely adored, insisting on wearing it to the pub for dinner that evening (cue some rather odd looks from nonplussed locals). Thoroughly worn out, the twins struggled with the mile-plus walk back to the campsite from the pub, but at least it meant they were out like a light as soon as they were tucked up in their sleeping bags, and we could enjoy a G&T around our campfire.
I can definitely declare our first camping trip of 2015 a success. Bring on the next one.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the fact that this time last year we were just setting off on our month’s adventure around Europe (#30daysofcamping on Instagram) than with a weekend back under canvas. Keen to keep riding the Sisterhood high, I booked us a campsite for this weekend the day after I got home from Devon. The site is only just over half an hour away so we’ll head down to set up camp today before picking the kids up from school and taking them to our weekend home-from-home. They know nothing about it as we decided to keep it as a surprise and I can’t wait to see their faces.
I’ll be charting our road trip journey over the next few weeks here on the blog, giving more details about where we stayed. I took hours of video footage while we were away and I’ll be editing this into little movies to share here too – I’m so excited to live the trip all over again, even if it is virtually!
DAY 1 (FRANCE):
Wokingham – Folkestone: 110 miles by road
Folkestone – Calais: 52 miles by Channel Tunnel
Calais – Arrigny, 228 miles by road
We stayed: At Camping de la Foret, Arrigny, a woodland campite which was virtually empty in early June. This was a great stopover on our way to Switzerland. We visited: Right next to the campsite was a beautiful lake with a sandy beach and a good playground. A concrete pathway along the edge of the lake was perfect for scooting, and we were entertained by a frog chorus. We ate: At our tent. Pasta, probably!