I’ve been treating myself recently. Nothing huge – no luxury spa day, designer handbag or posh dinner out – but I’ve been looking after myself in smaller ways. For example, for weeks I’ve struggled to find any socks in my sock drawer that didn’t have holes in. And I finally did something about it. Buying new socks (and some new pants while I was there) seems like nothing much, but actually it’s those little things that remind me that sometimes I need to prioritise myself and my needs.
I bought myself some new Saltwater sandals. For the last three summers I’ve hardly been out of my Saltwaters, so I know these are a fantastic investment when it comes to cost-per-wear. And they bring me joy. I took a good look at my tshirts and realised they all had holes or stains (or both), so I replaced them with new ones. I had my hair done. Not just my usual ‘I can’t remember when I last had my hair cut so it must be time’ trim, but I had it coloured. I don’t think I’ve never spent so long in the salon for a single appointment. I booked in for my next tattoo (even if I do have to wait until October).
Like I said – nothing life-changing, nothing dramatic. But they’ve all given me a boost. They’re me, telling myself I’m worth it.
So when The National Gallery website offered to send me a few items from their Delacroix range, I opted for things that were a little treat for myself. A gorgeous Moroccan rose scented candle, a pretty gold necklace, a camel egg cup (which I’ve used as a mini planter) that makes me smile.
You know when someone gives you a small gift that makes you feel loved and special? Well, that’s exactly what I’ve done for myself, and it felt just as good.
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with The National Gallery, but all words and content are my own.
This time last week I was packing a bag ready to set off for a night at Knepp Wildland Safaris with Canopy & Stars. You may remember that as part of the CS Collective (Canopy & Stars bloggers’ collective), I got to explore Harptree Court and stayed in the most idyllic fisherman’s hut in Normandy last year. I’m thrilled to be working with them again this year, and they organised a perfect meet-up at Knepp. Lots of my favourite bloggers were there – Lou, Lori, HannahSarah-Lou, Laura, Kat, Sara – along with some new faces that it was great to meet – Chris, Daniel, Ruth, Rachel and Rachael. After welcome drinks, we were given a tour of the campsite – there’s a selection of glamping options, including yurts, bell tents, shepherd’s hut and a gigantic tipi. My home for the night was the very splendid Purple Emperor Yurt (so named after the butterflies that are thriving in the environment at Knepp).
Knepp itself has such an interesting story behind it – a huge area of land that was previously intensively farmed but has now been turned over to nature by landowner Charles Burrell as part of an one of the largest ‘rewilding’ projects in lowland Europe. Resident ecologist Penny Green gave us a fascinating presentation about the project and the wildlife that it supports, including longhorn cattle, fallow, roe and red deer, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs that have been introduced to try to imitate the mix of herbivores that would have grazed the land thousands of years ago. Turtle doves, nightingales and Purple Emperor butterflies are some of the other species that are making a comeback at Knepp.
After Penny’s presentation we climbed aboard two open-sided Pinzgauer trucks and off we went on safari! We spotted longhorn cattle, deer and tracked down a family of Tamworth pigs with their piglets. At various points we could stop and climb up to tree platforms to take in views out over the wildland. Our guides produced flasks of tea and coffee and amazingly rich chocolate brownies at one point, which went down rather well, as you can imagine.
Back at the campsite, we were treated to a beer tasting session with Wild Beer Co in the cowshed. I’m not a huge fan of beer but the tasting session was actually really interesting, and I gamely tried them all. If I had to choose a favourite it would be the Ninkasi – with apple juice, wild yeasts, NZ hops and champagne fermentation. Pretty sure it was the mention of champagne that sold it to me, to be honest.
At this point I must mention Canopy & Stars’ Year of Wild, and the badgest that you can collect, because I may have become slightly competitive about collecting them that evening. There are 12 embroidered Scout-style badges to collect when you share a photo of yourself in the wild at a Canopy & Stars space. On our trip away I bagged myself the Keepin’ It Green (for going on safari), Bare Grills (for enjoying the delicious al fresco BBQ and breakfast), Inspired By Nature (I made a sun print), Toast To The Wild (beer tasting), and I reckon I deserve a Jump In Feet First for the outdoor shower I took in the morning (it was incredible, by the way). So I have seven more to collect when I’m on my next C&S adventure, and you can be very sure I won’t rest until I have the full collection.
After a wonderful evening together in the cowshed, I made my way back to my yurt for the night. Furnished with upcycled and vintage furniture, it was right up my street, and the bed was so comfy and cosy. We even had nightcaps provided (the ones that actually go on your head, not the ones you drink). Unfortunately it was a cloudy night so I couldn’t see the stars through the yurt’s roof ring (no Wild Stars badge for me this time), but I slept well. I’m afraid I didn’t set my alarm for 2am when Penny had told us we might hear the nightingales sing, which I do slightly regret. Next time.
After lying in bed for a while in the morning listening to the orchestra of birdsong, I used the hot water outdoor shower in the ‘pitch your own’ campsite in the wildflower meadow and it was all kinds of awesome. Plentiful coffee and a cooked breakfast eaten around the campfire made it a pretty perfect start to the day.
Thankyou to Knepp and to Canopy & Stars for a magical time. I can’t wait to plan my next adventure.
Following on from my post last week about family-friendly open-plan living, I realised that I had never actually shared the kitchen banquette seating that my handy husband Ben built for our kitchen diner a couple of years ago. These are pictures that I took of it a while back – a few of the decorative elements in the room have been updated since such as the curtains and lightshades, but the banquette area is largely unchanged.
So what the heck is a banquette then? Essentially it’s built-in seating, whether it’s a bench, U-shaped, L-shaped, curved, attached to the back of island units, or even under windows. It’s a great way of saving space in a dining area or kitchen, as it requires less room than standard chairs (because you don’t have to allow for pushing the chairs away from the table). I’d been daydreaming about banquettes for a while, and then when I took the twins to New Zealand for my brother’s wedding back in 2013, Ben built one for our kitchen as a surprise while we were away!
Our L-shaped banquette fills the dead space between our open-plan kitchen and living room. That dead zone wasn’t quite wide enough for a table with chairs all around it, so our dining table used to sit in the middle of the main kitchen area. The banquette has meant we could finally utilise that dead space, and move the table out of the kitchen. This in turn made way for an island unit in its place (a vintage school science bench), which provides more worksurface and storage. The L-shape of the seating helps to zone off the dining space, and there’s storage built into the banquette, too – drawers pull out at either end, and the seats lift up to reveal cupboard space underneath. You can never have too much storage, so this is a big bonus and helps in the battle to keep the space clear of clutter.
Every so often we toy with the idea of getting fitted cushions made for the seats, but I can never find a fabric I’m 100% happy with (particularly as it would have to be something wipe-clean for practicality), and I actually really like the simplicity of the painted wood. It does get a lot of wear though, so repainting it is on our to-do list. The kids are fine on the hard seats, but when we entertain guests, we add some cushions to make it a bit more comfy.
The back ledge is a handy spot for all my spice jars (a dab of blackboard paint on these Ikea jars means I can label them up easily), and some old dresser shelves on the wall above provide a spot for jars of dry goods like rice, couscous, popcorn, lentils etc. And luckily, Ben didn’t get rid of the twins’ height chart that was already on that wall when he built the banquette – what will I do if we ever move house?!
If you fancy watching a video about the banquette, here’s one from last year. Like my videos? You can subscribe to my new channel, Heather’s Space, here.
The month of May has meant a lot more time spent outside. The weather has been kind to us, we had our impromptu weekend away in Dorset, plus we’ve been hard at work in the garden – an ambitious project that I’m sure I’ll be sharing with you soon (if you follow me on snapchat – heatheryounguk – you’ll have already seen a bit of what we’ve been up to). Our garden has burst into bloom, and I’ve all relished spending time out there again, especially when I catch the heady scent of jasmine on the breeze. Other things – the blog, social media, housework etc – have been rather neglected, but the lure of fresh air and sunshine is simply too much for me to resist right now.
I was also lucky enough to win a terrarium from Rose and Grey in Littlegreenshed’s Nature in the Home comp over on Instagram (yay!), and spent a little window of time on Saturday planting it up with an aloe, a jade plant and an echeveria. First I lined the bottom with pebbles from the garden, before adding a layer of cacti and succulent mix soil, with the plants bedded into that. I finished it off with a few of the stones we collected from Lulworth Cove, Ringstead and Charmouth on our trip to Dorset.
I must mention the waxed canvas backpack that I bought Ben for his birthday from The Future Kept. It had its first proper outing down in Dorset and performed brilliantly. It’s tough and durable, comfortable to wear and is a real beauty. I’m more than a little jealous, but my rose gold Saltwater sandals (more on those soon) have just about made up for it.
This month I also managed to fit in a trip to Newbury Antiques Fair to meet my good friend Ellie. We had such a great time scouring the fair for bargains – I was pretty restrained (for me) and pretty much stuck to my shopping list – a new bench for the hallway (I am head over heels in love with the 1939 folding army bench I spotted just before we left), a galvanised trough which I’ve planted up with strawberry plants in the garden, and a few bits and bobs including this fab hat, which may well factor in my Just So Festival costume plans this year.
May has offered a glimpse of the fun times that summer has in store for us, and has left me full of hope and excitement.
: 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”
Time for some honesty. These pictures of my home aren’t the best I’ve ever taken, but I’m currently wallowing in a bit of blogger’s block, and I felt like I just needed to move forward and write a post in order to try to tackle the impasse. Work has been really busy recently, so I haven’t had much brain space for the blog, or time to potter at home, with the result that everything feels a bit neglected and unloved. Sometimes this is just the way life is, and I think I have to find a way to accept that things might not be as ‘perfect’ as I’d like them to be, and not let it stop me in my tracks. Feeling dissatisfied and grumpy isn’t really that appealing, as I’m sure you’d agree.
What I’ve been wanting to write about for a while is open-plan living, and what works and doesn’t work for us in a family home. Our ground floor space isn’t completely open-plan as there’s a corner where our hallway and my office is located, but the kitchen, dining and living spaces are all one single, open L-shaped space. When we moved in, the kitchen was a separate room, but we knocked down the wall between the kitchen and dining area, actively choosing to go for open-plan living. At the time, the twins were toddlers, and spent most of their time playing downstairs, so I really wanted to be able to be in the kitchen, and be able to see and interact with them at the same time. Since then, the ground floor space has been through a whole host of changes including incorporating a playroom, a craft zone and a new dining area. The best thing about our open-plan space has been its flexibility, but it hasn’t always been easy to make the space work, and so I wanted to share some of my tips.
ZONE THE SPACE
Think of the activities that will be taking place in the space, and try to divide it up into zones for each activity (some may overlap). We have the kitchen area, a dining zone, a craft table and reading nook and the living area. Use pieces of furniture to define these areas – a corner sofa like ours can be used to zone off the living space and make it feel a little more intimate or an island unit in the kitchen can act as a visual divide between the working area of the kitchen and a dining zone. We’ve also added a decorative screen to make the living area feel a little cosier and slightly more private. We previously used a set of open shelving to do the same job, but it was too bulky and made it harder to rearrange the space when we wanted to change it up, so we added built-in shelving to the living room wall, and replaced the big shelving unit with a screen.
UNIFY WITH FLOORING
Use the same flooring throughout an open-plan space to unify it. We needed something affordable and hardwearing so we opted for wood-effect laminate – vinyl is another good option for a hard-working family space as it’s low-maintenance and easy to keep clean. Use a rug to define a zone within the open-plan layout by grouping furniture around it. Rugs are also good for absorbing noise, one thing I do struggle with in our home. When the washing machine is on its spin cycle in the kitchen, it makes it a challenge to hear the television or to hold a conversation. We also chose not to have a door into the kitchen end of the space (it’s just open to the hallway) and if we’re entertaining downstairs I’m often conscious of disturbing the kids asleep upstairs.
SET THE MOOD
Have a number of lighting circuits so that you can set the mood for each area. We have spotlights in the kitchen for when we’re preparing food, and a pendant light over the dining table. I also like to use table lamps and a floorlamp in the living space to create a warmer, more snug feel. I’m a fan of festoon lights and these add another level of soft light when they’re on in the evenings.
The biggest thing that I’ve learnt about living in an open-plan space is to change it up when it feels like it’s not quite working. With young children whose needs are constantly changing, this happens quite frequently. Now that the twins are older, they do a lot of their play in their bedrooms upstairs, which means we don’t need as much storage downstairs for toys. We’ve turned that space into a reading nook (with the leather armchair) and a separate table is a handy spot for the kids to draw or do homework so I don’t have to clear the pens etc away every time we sit down at the dining table to eat. That table also extends so that we can entertain in that zone if we’re hosting a larger number of people than our kitchen table can accommodate. I like furniture that is multi-use such as our trunk, which can hide away lego and doubles up as a coffee table. Something on wheels would be even better so I could wheel it out of the way when we want to turn the living room into a disco!
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Carpetright, but all the ideas and content are my own.
It was the Tuesday after the bank holiday. Ben had worked all weekend, and I was on my way into London for a day in the office. The sun was shining, the weather forecast was looking amazing, and I had that restless feeling. I get it when we haven’t been out exploring for a while. When everyday life has taken over, and our focus has been firmly on things at home – DIY, tidying, resting. Don’t get me wrong, I love a weekend spent pottering around at home, but the balance suddenly felt off, and I realised we hadn’t been out adventuring as a family for too long. We loved Dorset when we visited last summer, so I hopped online to check out cheap hotel deals, and by the end of the day we had a family room booked for Saturday night in a Premier Inn on the seafront in Weymouth.
It was a busy week, so we had little time for planning, but my bucket list was pretty simple: hanging out on the beach, fish and chips, and fossil hunting. We rocked up to a slightly grey and blustery Lulworth Cove at lunchtime on Saturday, but after a couple of hours of cloud, the skies cleared and it was beautiful for the rest of the weekend. Here are some of our highlights…
– Scrambling up the rocks at Lulworth Cove to take in the breathtaking views from the top –
– Discovering Ringstead Beach and basking in the sunshine (whilst sheltering from the wind behind a very large rock) –
– Lighting up the Kelly kettle and enjoying a near-perfect mug of steaming hot coffee –
– Being early birds on Charmouth beach –
– Finding an ammonite, even though we totally missed the memo about the fossil-hunting tools that everyone else on the beach seemed to have –
– Discovering Lyme Regis was way prettier and lovelier than I ever knew, and winding our way through its gorgeous narrow streets –
– Being given a tour of the town’s working water mill by the super-passionate miller – we were totally entralled –
I realised the other day that although I’d shared my handy Ikea plant pot hack on my YouTube channel, I hadn’t actually blogged about it, so I’m making up for that now with a quick tutorial. This is such an easy hack – I used cheap and cheerful Kardemumma pots from Ikea which even have horizontal lines on them already, making it even more of a piece of cake. All you need are ceramic planters and a black medium Sharpie (or marker pen) – and that’s it!
Using the Sharpie, draw a scalloped edge under the top edge of the planter. Don’t worry if the scallops vary in size – I think the overall effect is better when the scallops aren’t all uniform. Continue around the whole edge of the planter.
2. Colour the scallops in with the Sharpie.
3. Repeat step one and two under the next groove on the planter.
4. Continue under all the grooves until you reach the bottom. Go over the pot to touch up any areas where the pen lines are visible in your colouring-in, or where the lines need neatening up. Leave to dry thoroughly and then plant up as desired.
I’ll let you into a little secret. I loathe and detest the windows and patio doors in our house. If we had the money, I wouldn’t think twice – I’d change them all in a heartbeat. The UPVC white frames with their faux Georgian strips bother me every time I glance out of the window. So when The Shutter Store got in touch to see if I’d like to review a set of shutters, I almost snapped their hand off.
My only hesitation was ‘which window?’ I was worried it would look really odd just doing one window in isolation, but came up with the idea to do our patio door that leads out to our side return instead. These doors sit between our kitchen dining area, and the living space (our ground floor is largely open plan) and the view out of them isn’t particularly inspiring. They look out on next door’s garage wall and a super-ugly 1970s concrete wall (a garden makeover is in the offing so hopefully this wall will be a distant memory soon), and the idea of adding shutters to them was very appealing.
We were trying out The Shutter Store’s DIY range of shutters. These are still made to measure, but you have to do the measuring up and installation yourself (or hire a carpenter to do it for you). The bonus is that it means the shutters come in way cheaper – a great option if you love the look of shutters but have been put off by the high price tag. We were nervous about the measuring up, but there are comprehensive measuring guides on The Shutter Store’s website to help, and we followed one of these carefully. We ordered colour samples so that we could choose the shade of white that sits best with our white kitchen (if you go for the wood shutters you can pay extra to get these colour-matched to Dulux Trade or Farrow and Ball shades). There were also other design decisions to be made, such as number of panels and slat size. After triple-checking our measurements, we put in our order, and then waited for the shutters to be made and delivered.
We set aside a day earlier this week to install the shutters. We were both expecting the process to be pretty involved, but actually it was incredibly straightforward. Ben watched the installation video guide on the website and then we were good to go (after a quick phone call to The Shutter Store to double check a fixing). First we assembled the frame and fixed this to the recess. We lined the panels up and assembled the hinges between the panels (couldn’t be easier) . The panels attach to the frame with more hinges and that was it, done. It took us no more than two hours from start to finish.
I wasn’t prepared for how much more spacious the shutters would make that area feel. They’re a smart and chic solution that adds elegance to the space, and gives it a much more polished and finished look. I love the way the light pours through them, and the shadows they create on the ground and the dining table. They’re very easy to manoevre and can be folded back if we want to open up the doors, or closed up at night when we’re sat at the table having dinner.
The only one negative comment that I have is that the finish doesn’t seem very tough (especially not with young children around), and we already have a few nicks showing on the frame. Hopefully this will get better as we all get used to using them, and I’ll touch up the nicks we have with some white paint.
All in all, we’re really impressed with the product and the service. The shutters have made such a positive impact on the space that I’m really keen to add a matching set of shutters to the patio doors round the corner in our living area. Always thinking about the next project….
Product details: Our shutters are two-panel, full height with a rail. The finish is MDF Pure White, the hinges are stainless steel, and the slat size is 89mm.
Oh, and if you’d like to see a video of the whole process, that’s what this week’s Heather’s Space vlog is all about…
Disclosure: The Shutter Store provided the shutters for this post free of charge, but all opinions are my own and are honest.
I’d just finished telling the twins how amazing I thought I was (I make a point of saying regularly that I think I’m beautiful, that I love my smile, that I’m awesome etc etc so I don’t pass any of my hangups about how I look onto the kids). Anyway, that day when I said it, it struck me that I should actually try to make myself really believe it a bit more, rather than just saying it. I think it came off the back of Sara’s post about creative selfies, and Sarah-Lou’s new #FridayFacelessPortrait project, which had got me to reflect about how little I appear in my own photographs. I’m always busy behind the lens, capturing holidays or just the everyday moments, but I’m largely absent from that visual history of our family life. It’s funny, I can’t stand having my photograph taken – I feel anxious and awkward and pretty much always hate the pictures – but I have no problem being filmed. I have no idea why one feels so out of my comfort zone, while Im totally at ease with the other.
I decided to challenge myself to take a self-portrait and publish it here on the blog. I’ve been desperate to show off the tattoo I got last year, but taking photographs of the tattoo meant taking photographs of myself (or, even worse, getting someone else to take a photo of me), so I put it off endlessly, until I pretty much forgot that I never shared it. To finally make it happen, I planned a little photo shoot for myself, and ridiculously that made me feel nervous. Nervous of me, on my own, taking photos of myself. Utterly absurd! I put on makeup. I did my hair. I even painted my nails for goodness sake, and I can’t even remember the last time I did that.
Anyway, I’m already feeling uncomfortable about focusing on the self-portrait aspect of this post, so let’s zone in on the tattoo instead. I’d been planning this tattoo for years, but it didn’t become a reality until I stumbled across tattoo artist Rebecca Vincent on Instagram. I fell head over heels in love with her work, and knew immediately that she was the perfect person to tattoo me. I think I emailed her to book an appointment within a few days of discovering her, and then had to impatiently wait another four months before my appointment came around (she is one in-demand lady).
I took a few visual ideas with me to my appointment and Rebecca got it straight away – she didn’t sketch anything out, just drew the design freehand onto my arm. It’s a young olive branch – I like the symbolism of the olive branch, as well as the idea of growth. And it reminds me of Greece, and specifically of a place called Olive Tree Cottages, which is where I met Ben nearly 18 years ago. Rebecca is fun and easy-going, and I enjoyed every minute of being tattooed by her. She’s based at Parliament Tattoo in Finsbury Park, London, which is an airy warehouse space that made me feel calm and relaxed.
To say that I adore my finished tattoo is an understatement. It gives me joy every single time I catch a glimpse of it. As soon as I finish this blog post, I’m going to email Rebecca and book another appointement – either to expand this existing tattoo, or for something new (I have an idea in mind). And I promise that next time, it won’t take me nearly a year to model it here with pride.
This weekend I plan to be indulging in my latest obsession: knitting. I’ve just finished a manically busy few weeks of work. The adrenaline that’s been getting me through each day has suddently stopped flowing, and intense exhaustion – mental and physical – has hit. I’m not great at sitting still and taking things easy, but my body really isn’t giving me much of a choice. Which is where knitting comes in.
I can crochet (ish), but I haven’t given knitting a proper go since I was about ten years old. Then, last month, my mother-in-law gave a birthday gift of a set of knitting needles, a pattern for a gorgeous scarf (this one from DROPS Design), and the yarn I needed to make it, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m found it such a great activity for really forcing me to sit and relax. It’s also been beneficial when it comes to shaking up my evening routine – now I can often be found listening to podcasts while I’m knitting, instead of zoning out in front of the telly. There’s something really soothing about the repetitive action, and I’m actually enjoying the process so much that when I ended up having to unpick everything I’d done just after I took these photographs (I’d misread the pattern from the start), I wasn’t nearly as distraught as I thought I’d be. In fact, the scarf is looking even better second time around!
I’m going to add this post to this month’s Create Make Share linky. If you’ve been busy creating something – from a craft project to a room makeover – why not head over and share your link, too?