There’s nothing like leaving things until the last minute, and I’m absolutely squeaking in under the wire on the last day of the month with my post for July’s Styling the Seasons. One of these days I’ll post on the first of the month (unlikely).
: 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”
When we finally made it to the end of the term we were all on our knees (first year of school lesson #3,047: the summer term is busier than Christmas. Who knew?). It’s taken us a while to find our summer holiday vibe, but this last week has worked some magic. The out-of-office is off (well, almost. At least it would be if I could actually finish off all these outstanding bits of work), and although the weather might not be totally on our side, we are getting out in the fresh air and finding some breathing space.
I’ve got vivid memories of reading this special little book as a child (it was my mum’s before me and has her name scrawled in childish writing on the front page) – it’s about a day on the beach and sandcastles and rock-pooling. It’s definitely going in our bag to read on the beach when we head to Wales for our holiday in a couple of weeks.
This week we had our first beach trip (on a lovely stay with Sarah-Lou). We were buffeted with the wind, and it was far from warm, but the kids immediately started collecting treasures and Ez literally danced with joy at the edge of the sea. I think those beach vibes have had a big impact on how I’ve styled my guest room shelf this month – muted, sandy colours and natural textures. When I need a quiet moment in the summer holiday madness I’m going to settle myself in the guest room and read that book again.
As if my wanderlust wasn’t bad enough, I can now add a stay in a luxury treehouse to my travel bucket list.
Last week I spent an idyllic day in the stunning surroundings at Harptree Court in Somerset with Canopy & Stars and a handful of lovely bloggers. Harptree Court wowed us with its splendour and history, and the grounds were just beautiful – wonderfully peaceful and the walled garden so full of blooms, it took your breath away. But the thing that got my heart racing was their treehouse – imagining a night there up in the trees had me totally hooked. There was even a copper bath with a view out over the treetops for goodness sake! How much more magical can you get?
Since my visit, I’m to be found most evenings trawling Canopy & Stars’ 500+ collection of ‘glamping’-style properties. Glamping isn’t quite the right word – the unusual places to stay range from shepherd’s huts to cabins to yurts – all with a healthy dose of comfort and sustainability thrown in for good measure. There’s a fun quiz you can take called What’s In Your Bag that promises to help you narrow down your options, as the choice is pretty overwhelming.
And as for my treehouse fix? Well these are some of the spots I’ve been lusting over. Just don’t you dare beat me to them..
It’s less than four weeks until the Just So Festival 2015, and a rainy day today gave us the opportunity to practice some tribal face paint in readiness for the big weekend. At Just So you can choose to join one of the tribes – owls, foxes, lions, fish, frogs, stags. Dressing up is optional, but lots of people do bring costumes and you can score points for your tribe in the big Tribal Tournament, with the winners announced after the tribes march in the Wild Rumpus on the Sunday evening.
This year Ez and I will be staying loyal to the owl tribe! We’ve been owls since our first year at Just So in 2013, and we don’t intend to switch our allegiance now. However, having worn the same costume two years running, Ez has declared that she needs a new costume for 2015, and she has some strong ideas on the design, so watch this space. She was exceedingly happy with her owl face paint, although a couple of hours later she decided that she needed more feathers on her face so we may need to adapt our design slightly on the festival weekend.
Fonz has developed a habit of switching tribes. An owl in 2013, he was a fox last year (he has a knack for picking the winning tribe) and this year he wants to be a frog. He was most impressed with this frog face paint, but he is considerably less obliging when it comes to sitting still than his sister, so I suspect that at the festival he will probably just have a green face.
If you fancying creating either of these looks yourself, they are pretty straightfoward – I’m no expert artiste. For the owl face paint, follow these steps (illustrated above)..
1. Use a sponge to apply white paint across the eyes (so it looks like a white eyemask).
2. Emphasise the eyebrows with dark brown paint (using a brush), and then use light, feathery lines to create the impression of feathers. Add in some white lights as highlights, and finish with some glitter (Ez is a big fan of glitter).
3. Bring out the eyes with a big sweep of dark brown across each one (I also added a sweep under each eye).
4. Finish with feathery white lines under each eye create the effect of more feathers, and a white beak on the nose. Oh, and plenty more glitter!
For the frog face paint..
1. Apply green paint all over the face with a sponge, leaving a bare circle around each eye.
2. Draw a large yellow circle around each eye, and then fill it with red, blending the red and yellow where they meet to avoid a really harsh line.
3. Get your subject to close their eyes (tricky when your small child needs to know what is going on around them at all times), and draw the black pupils vertically down the eyes.
4. Extend the mouth on each side using a sweep of green paint, and accentuate the top lip. I added spots of yellow and white across his face to give his skin a textured look.
To read more about our previous adventures with Just So click here. It’s become a firm fixture in our year, and it’s something that the whole family looks forward to, so we’re so excited that the time has almost come for us to set up camp in the beautiful Rode Hall grounds once again. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram, so you don’t miss any of the action!
I almost got rid of a load of plain white pillowcases in my recent decluttering drive, but instead I bought myself some black fabric paint, with a printing project in the back of mind. Then the pillowcases and the paint got put aside and have been cluttering up my craft cupboard ever since. In the hope of kick-starting my crafting mojo again, here are a few DIY pillowcase crafts that inspire me. Now where did I put that paint again…
1. Striking geometric design that is simple yet really effective.
2. Made by dripping ink onto the fabric – I wonder if fabric dye would work in the same way? I’m a messy worker so this is right up my street!
3. Very simple cross design made with an eraser – the symmetry and repetition really appeals.
4. A great way to celebrate the beauty of autumn leaves – paint on the ink/dye and press onto the fabric.
5. The sponge stamp leaves a wonderful pattern on the fabric, giving a different look to classic triangles
6. A kid-friendly potato printing craft – I think the twins would love this.
View from the private beach at Camping Europa A typical pitch at Camping Europa Exploring the promenade in Bellagio Picture-perfect Bellagio Public beach at Acquaseria
LOCARNO, SWITZERLAND – MENAGGIO, LAKE COMO, ITALY 65.8km
We stayed: At Camping Europa right in the centre of Menaggio on the waterfront of Lake Como. We stayed at this site for it’s location, which was easy walking distance into the centre of Menaggio with its shops, cafes and restaurants. The site also has its own private beach (a rarity in the area), although it was pretty dirty. Apart from that, the site doesn’t have a lot of plus points (unless you’re a fan of the 1970s, because I’m not sure this place has been updated since then!). You need to pay for hot water if you want a hot shower, there were only a couple of washing up sinks that had hot water, and everywhere was extremely run-down. The pitches were tiny and you were hemmed in by ancient static caravans (most of which appeared to be vacant and were actually quite spooky). Stuck in a time-warp, it’s only redeeming feature was all the photo opportunities the 70s decor offered!
We visited: We tried to spend the day at the lido di menaggio (right next door to the campsite) as the kids were desperate to use the pool, but it was closed for maintenance both times that we tried. It looked invited though! We took the ferry across the lake to see the gorgeous waterfront villages – unmarket Bellagio was stunning, and great for people-spotting, but I preferred Varenna with its quieter vibe. The twins scooted along the lakeside path, and we had delicious gelato by the lake.
Finding a free beach (one nicer than at Camping Europa) was a challenge. We drove about 5km north from Menaggio along the lake road where we found a little village called Acquaseria with a small public beach. It was pretty quiet, and had gorgeous views across Lake Como.
We ate: One of the main reasons for choosing a site walking distance from the centre of Menaggio was so that we could easily go out for a evening meal with the kids. We went to Pizzeria Lugano for pizzas – the food was excellent and they were brilliant with the kids. In Varenna, we loved the Gelateria Riva. Great ice-cream and they made me an affogato (which wasn’t on their standard menu).
Click here to read more from our Europe road trip last summer – 30 days of camping, covering France, Switzerland and Italy.
Open shelving can be a real challenge when it comes to styling, but these examples of perfectly-styled open shelving units show how you can nail it to create a striking display that looks great and feels balanced. The great thing about open shelving (as long as you can keep it tidy) is the amount of storage and display space that it offers without being too overbearing, as wall-to-wall cupboards can sometimes be.
There are definitely some ideas that I’d like to steal from these examples (I’m constantly faffing with my own open shelving in our living room, that I shared recently) – I’m really keen to add some gorgeous baskets to my shelves (the ones in the photograph above are so stunning) – not only would they offer a practical place to store smaller bits and bobs, but they would add interesting texture to my display, too.
I know it’s a bit ‘style over practicality’, but I love seeing books displayed spine in rather than out (as seen above). You get the character of books, without the distracting colours and designs of the spines.
The earthy tones and natural textures of the different objects displayed on the shelves above pull the whole arrangement together, and this is a perfect example of the interest created by choosing objects of varying heights. These shelves also show how practical objects can be given display value when styled well.
I’m finding our home is heading back to a more monochrome look at the moment, so it’s refreshing to see some colour used above. Painting the shelves (or just the wall behind) a bright shade, and then restricting the colour palette of the objects on display is a great way to inject colour, but keep the overall look clean and modern.
My String shelving in my home office is one of my favourite purchases this year, and I dream of investing in some more. These ones above have been styled to perfection – leaving plenty of space around each grouping of objects creates a resting place for the eye, and elevates the visual impact of each individual arrangement.
I need more trailing plants in my life! I love how the plants above blur the lines between each separate shelf.
Here are a few extra styling tips for open shelves:
Create a variety of smaller groups of objects to act as mini curated displays. When grouping your items, use the pyramid principle – forming a triangular shape by staggering the heights of objects is a common trick stylists use to create a sense of balance that’s pleasing to the eye. Layer objects to pull a grouping together – don’t just line them up.
Make use of baskets and boxes to hide away smaller items that otherwise risk making your shelves look too busy and cluttered. Choosing beautiful storage containers will make a design feature of the containers themselves.
Mix up the materials to add visual interest – different textures and finishes will add depth to your display. It’s a good idea to include artwork – a framed print or photograph or even a small card propped against the wall will introduce an extra element.
Leave space around groups of objects – the negative space will frame them and balance out your arrangement.
Have fun – play with scale or include something unexpected to create a focal point that will grab the eye.
My ‘for display’ Pinterest board is one of my favourites – I’m endlessly pinning display ideas and beautiful ways to display objects of artwork so head over there for more inspiration.
The other day, everyone’s tempers were a bit frayed in our house – a combination of me being stressed out with work shoots and deadlines, and the kids suffering from that end-of-term exhaustion – and I couldn’t think how to dig us out of the dark hole of grumpiness. And then it struck me. I’ve recently written a feature for a magazine about mindfulness, and as part of my research I got hold of a few mindful colouring books. I dug out my colouring pencils, opened a book and started colouring. Not only did it help me to stop, calm down and give myself time to compose myself, the kids were also intrigued and ended up sat down with a book to do their own colouring too. And our house suddenly became a place of peace, where just ten minutes previously we were at each other’s throats.
The theme that Sarah-Lou and I chose for July’s #TheEverydaySpruce, was ‘get set for summer’, and I thought how valuable some mindfulness (including colouring) would be in the summer holidays when we’re all in need of a quiet activity to regroup and recharge. I have a habit of packing way too much into our free time together, always going a zillion miles an hour, so Melanie’s recent post about her summer of slow living resonated with me, especially seeking out ‘moments of stillness’, and I’m going to use some mindfulness practices to help us achieve this.
For me, I notice a direct correlation between feeling anxious and realising that I’m taking very shallow breaths. Taking a minute to slow my breathing down, and take much deeper breaths never fails to help me feel immediately calmer. I’ve downloaded the Headspace app (yes, I know I should have done this yonks ago), and I’m halfway through the Take 10 challenge – practicing ten minutes of mindfulness for ten days in a row. I’m really enjoying the app – it’s a great introduction to what mindfulness is all about, and it’s helping me to form the habit of incorporating mindfulness into my daily routine. I set my alarm for ten minutes before I know the twins will burst into our bedroom in the morning, and I listen to the app to help set me up for the rest of the day.
What I love about mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere, whenever it suits you. So in the summer holidays, I can squeeze it in even when I have little time to myself by grabbing any opportunity that arises – when I’m doing the washing up, when we’re driving somewhere or when I’m sat watching the kids play in the park. The Mental Health Foundation’s site – Be Mindful – is a fantastic resource, with background, practical advice and information about the growing body of evidence and research supporting mindfulness. There’s even a free online course.
And if you think you’ll love mindful colouring as much as me, here are my three favourite colouring books:
1. Tropical Wonderland by Millie Marotta
This new book has just been published by the author of the Amazon number 1 bestselling book Animal Kingdom. Millie Marotta’s illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful – Tropical Wonderland includes exotic creatures and plants, from parrots, to butterflies to cacti (and we know how much I love cacti)
2. The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons
This is a pocket-sized book that’s perfect to pop in your handbag when you’re out and about for the day. There’s a real variety of illustrations from geometric patterns to simple scenes. I think this book is suitable for kids and grown-ups.
3. Enchanted Forest by Joanna Basford
As well as gorgeous illustrations to colour (think wild flowers and animals, lanterns and keys), this book is also a quest through an enchanted forest to the castle at the end, and there are hidden symbols to collect along the way to unlock the castle door.
And one for the kids – my two (age 5) have been enjoying colouring in The Creative Colouring Book, which has a good mix of designs to grab their imaginations, and which are challenging enough to hook them and keep them coming back for more.
See all the ‘get set for summer’ ideas that others have been sharing by searching the hashtag #TheEverydaySpruce on Instagram and Twitter, or by stopping by our Pinterest board, where we’ll share everyone’s blog posts.
I’ve got a bit of an obsession with all things cacti right now and I can’t seem to stop pinning cactus-inspired crafts to my ‘for making’ and ‘for doing with the kids’ Pinterest boards. I appear to have lost my craft mojo a bit at the moment (probably because I’m up to my eyeballs in Christmas crafting for a work project), so I thought I’d gather together a few little cactastic makes that might inspire me to get creative for myself again… 1. I’m longing for some large houseplants (I can’t afford the big ones and mine aren’t growing quickly enough for my impatient nature), so these cardboard cacti by The House That Lars Built could be just the answer I’m looking for. Plus, I reckon these are a great kid-friendly activity for a weekend or for the impending summer hols.
2. Another kid-friendly idea are these painted stones from Craftberry Bush. There are a whole host of these painted-stone makes around at the moment, but I love these for their simplicity. I think they’d make a great gift for someone who isn’t green-fingered, too. In fact, I wonder if the twins would like to put some together for end-of-year gifts for their teachers.
3. I’ve been stock-piling white pillowcases for future fabric printing projects. This simple cactus print from Patchworkcactus is right up my street as I’m a big fan of graphic, monochrome designs (I even have some black fabric paint already stashed away in my craft cupboard).
4. Yonks ago my lovely mother-in-law gave me a rubber carving block so that I could make my own stamps, but I got so paralysed with indecision when it came to choosing a design that it’s still sat in my cupboard waiting to be used. These stamps from Talktothesun‘s Etsy shop are gorgeous, and I think I could definitely give carving something similar a try.
5. I’ve been searching for the perfect crochet cactus pattern, but haven’t come up trumps yet (and to be honest, my crochet skills probably aren’t up to the challenge). These felt and fabric stuffed cacti by i ManuFatti would be a great alternative, and in their pot they’re another fantastic homemade gift idea.
We’ve always struggled to make the living space in this house work for us. It’s part of a large open-plan L-shape area that also includes our kitchen diner. We used a large open shelving unit from Ikea as a room divider and create smaller zones within the open-plan area, but we always felt that we were left with a living area that felt small and cramped, and a bit of an odd dead space behind between the living and dining zones. That dead space has been used in a multitude of different ways with countless furniture arrangements – toy storage, a kids’ playroom, a family craft zone – but recently we decided that the bulky shelving unit was actually really limiting what we could do with the space as a whole, and so we hatched plans to get rid of it.
One of my main bugbears about living in a 1970s house is the complete lack of period features. Having always lived in period houses, I really miss elements such as chimney breasts, fireplaces and decorative cornice. In our last house we built shelving into the alcoves each side of the chimney breast in the living room, and I wanted to find a way to do something similar here – creating the impression of a period feature. We realised that by boxing in the window, we could build two sets of shelves, with a single, long shelf running above the window, along the whole length of the space.
It’s the sort of project my husband Ben loves – lots of sketches, calculations and in-depth design consultations with my father-in-law took place before they were ready to go ahead. Ben and my FIL used MDF to construct the shelving. They built the frame inside the window first using frame fixers to secure it to the wall. Next they fixed side panels to the end walls (again using frame fixers). The bottom shelf was first, attached to batons underneath. The rest of the shelves were then attached to the side panels using pocket screws (you need a pocket screw jig to drill the shelves).
What I love about the new shelves (as well as all their display potential) is that they have created some architectural interest, which was really lacking before. They look like part of the room’s structure, and add depth to the space. What used to be a dead space now feels like it has a purpose, and that’s helped to pull the whole room together. It’s taken us four years, but finally we’re happy with the living area. For now, anyway!
My aim to blog about in ‘real time’ about our road trip as it unfolded last year has well and truly fallen by the wayside, but I’m going to keep coming with the posts. The next stage of our trip was spent in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland (close to the border with Italy). We had an amazing drive over the Gotthard Pass through the mountains and were really struck by how the scenery and general vibe changed so quickly from quintessentially Swiss to much more Italian.
FRUTIGEN, SWITZERLAND – LOCARNO, SWITZERLAND:
132 miles by road and motorway – take the Gotthard pass for spectacular views – it was one of the highlights of our whole trip.
We stayed: At Camping Riarena, Locarno, Switzerland. A decent campsite with a fantastic swimming pool, plenty of green space and a small playground. There was also an onsite restaurant which looked lovely, although we didn’t eat there. We found a pitch next to the playing field and in the evenings we could watch fireflies dancing in the bushes opposite, which was totally magical.
We visited: We were lucky enough to meet up with friends who were based in the area for the summer and they gave us some great tips of where to visit. We drove up the Verzasca valley, to wander along the Verzasca Dam, where we watched some crazy people bungee-jumping (the jump immortalised in James Bond Goldeneye). Further up the valley we parked up just after the bridge between Lavertezzo and Brione and climbed down to the river below for a cold but refreshing dip in the crystal-clear water. The steep drive up to the village of Corippo on the other side of the valley was well-worth it.
On the drive from Switzerland to Italy, we stopped off at a village called Gandria on the edge of Lake Lugano to eat our lunch. I’d seen this place on Pinterest and it totally lived up to expectations – it was stunning and very quiet – we hardly saw another soul.
We ate: We were on a tight budget, so we didn’t eat out while we were in Ticino, apart from an ice-cream stop in Corippo (the only cafe in the village had an amazing vintage till, and the most incredible view down the valley).