Oh, June. More time spent indoors than expected, getting caught in showers, soggy feet, reaching for a blanket in the evening. So what’s a girl to do, but to attempt to bring a little summer inside with a jug of blooms? I cheered myself up yesterday with a trip to my favourite florist and some Styling the Seasons faffing.
I’m not normally drawn to pink, but I think Katy’s kitchen makeover might have swayed me, and I love how it looks next to the black wall. Could this be a new accent shade throughout the house? I’m definitely tempted.
It feels like I’ve spent a large part of June drinking water, having challenged myself to down at least two litres a day in my latest health drive. So I had to include my water jug and glass, as it’s been my constant companion this month.
And that’s it. Sweet and simple for June. July promises fun and holidays – I can’t wait.
: 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”
Yes, I know, I know – this sounds like it’s going to be rude, but there’s nothing x-rated here, I promise. This post is about the principle of ‘touch it once’, much celebrated as a way to improve productivity and time management. It’s the idea that when you pick up a piece of paperwork, you deal with it there and then, instead of adding it to a pile that grows into a mountain and ultimately swallows loads more of your time to sort through. However, I want to talk about applying the ‘touch it once’ rule to housekeeping, rather than paperwork and email. It was Emily who first told me she was trying to use it at home, and if I’m completely honest, I was a pretty sceptical, and rather dismissive. My kneejerk reaction was that I was too busy to deal with things immediately, so I wrote it off as something that wouldn’t work for me. It sounded impractical, and I just couldn’t see how it would help me be more tidy and organised at home.
But the idea kept knocking around in my head, and I began to spot countless ways that I actually could incorporate the ‘touch it once’ principle into my daily life. I realised that it could actually make a positive impact on our home, and help us keep on top of clutter and save stress and frustration in the long term.
There are areas of our house that seem to collect clutter – the two main places being our kitchen island (piles of post, stuff the kids have made and brought home from school, etc etc), and the other is our stairs. I’ll have a good tidy downstairs, and dump everything that need to go upstairs at the bottom of the stairs, where it sits there totally ignored, sometimes for weeks. And our list of bad habits continues. When I make a cup of tea, I put the tea bag in the sink instead of taking one extra step to the bin. Dirty mugs and plates get dumped on the worksurface just above the dishwasher, instead of taking the 10 seconds to open the dishwasher door and put them inside. If a toilet roll gets finished, the new one is popped on the window sill next to the toilet, instead of being put onto the toilet roll holder (for the record I personally am not guilty of this one). Dirty washing ends up on the floor next to the laundry basket, rather than inside it. Clean clothes get sorted, and then the pile goes on the floor by the chest of drawers, not put away.
This is where the ‘touch it once’ principle starts to make sense. If I pick up the dirty mug and put it by to the dishwasher, then I’m only giving myself an extra task to do later on when I’ll have to open the door and put it in. Why not do it all at once, and then it’s done and the worksurface stays clear? None of the individual tasks I seem to so fastidiously avoid would take a long time if I did them immediately, but if I don’t then suddenly the house is a mess and requires loads more effort to clear up.
So here are my new ‘touch it once’-improved habits:
POST: Sort as soon as pick it up STUFF TIDIED DOWNSTAIRS: Take things upstairs straight away (going up and down stairs is good exercise after all), or put everything in a basket which I then take up immediately after I’ve finished tidying and return everything in it to its home TEA BAGS: Take the extra step and put them in the bin DIRTY CROCKERY: Wash up or put in the dishwasher straight away DIRTY CLOTHES: Do the one extra action to lift the lid and put the clothes inside the laundry basket CLEAN CLOTHES: Return to their drawers/the wardrobe as soon as the washing’s sorted BOOK BAGS: When I walk through the door I will not just dump them, I will carry them straight through to the kitchen and go through them immediately
This is such a simple concept and once you get into the ‘touch it once’ mindset, you find yourself applying the principle to all sorts of things. I discussed it with Ben, and he totally got onboard too, and we very quickly noticed a real difference around the house. Instead of the mad, panicked tidying I’d end up doing before a guest arrived (or that feeling of shame when a friend turns up without warning and your house is a tip), I suddenly found that I was pretty much clear most of the time.
I have to admit that there have been periods when we’ve both been frantically busy and have let our ‘touch it once’ dedication slip, but when we stick to it, it works, and I’m utterly convinced that it’s the secret to keeping our home organised.
The Everyday Spruce
‘To spruce’ in its most basic definition means to make neat… by association, it can also be used to describe the acts of fixing up, organising and beautifying.
Through this collaborative project between Lapin Blu and I – The Everyday Spruce – we use the term to describe a more general idea of shaking things out and hitting refresh. We share easy and useful tips, projects and ideas that we hope will inspire and encourage you to revitalise things a little, both around your home and in your daily routines. This isn’t about making things perfect (who needs THAT pressure?!), but is about focusing on simple things that can help to make the everyday just a little bit easier, and, perhaps, more beautiful for you, too.
We’d love for you to join us and share your own everyday spruce ideas, tips or journeys by using the hashtag #theeverydayspruce.
I’m fully in summer mode (even if the weather isn’t quite playing ball yet), so I wanted to do some super-easy gift wrap ideas that are perfect for special occasions over the summer months. We’re big beach fans, so I thought a seaside theme would be perfect. These are quick wrap solutions for if you get caught on the hop without a roll of gorgeous gift wrap to hand (as is often the case in our house). All you need to nail these seaside wrap projects is a roll of brown paper and a black Sharpie. Colourful paper is a bonus, but all these ideas could be done with just brown paper if that’s all you have available. The quick tutorials for each of these ideas follow below…
FLIP FLOP GIFT TOPPER
1. Using your black Sharpie, draw the outline of the sole of a pair of flip flops onto the top of your box. I’ve added a few spots to represent the sand.
2. Cut 4 x 1cm strips of coloured paper, around half as long as your flip flop soles.
3. Stick two strips together to form a ‘V’ (trim corners if necessary), then stick the point of the ‘V’ near the toe end of the flip flop. Allow each strip to curve up, and then stick the ends down by each outside edge of the sole.
4. Repeat step 3 on the other flip flop.
SAND CASTLE STACK 1. Choose three boxes, each a little smaller than the last and wrap in brown paper.
2. Draw the crenelated edge along the top of one face of each box using your black Sharpie.
3. Draw on the arched door and your choice of windows on the box face.
4. Finish with a flag – cut a symmetrical diamond out of coloured paper, fold in half, rest the end of a cocktail stick along the folded edge of the diamond, and glue the two sides together. I attached mine to the top box using a blob of blue-tack, which I coloured black using my Sharpie.
PICNIC HAMPER GIFT BOX
1. Wrap a box in brown paper. Draw a line in Sharpie all the way around the box, about an inch or so from the top. Repeat all the way down to the bottom.
2. Draw a brick pattern between the lines you’ve drawn, but leave the top strip blank. Add decoration to the wicker effect if you like.
3. Cut a 1.5in strip of brown paper, approximately double the length of the width of the top of the box. Stick down on one side, curve it over to the other side, and then stick in place on the side of the box. Draw buttons where you’ve stuck each side of the handle, and draw a line on the top of the box like a lift-up lid.
BEACH HUT LINE UP
1. Choose a selection of boxes that are similar in size and wrap in the brown paper.
2. Use the Sharpie to draw beach hut fronts on one side of each of the boxes, adding as much or as little detail as you like.
BEACH UMBRELLA TOPPER
1. Use the Sharpie to draw a beach towel and any extra detail (such as shells or star fish) to the flat top of the box.
2. Cut a circle out of coloured paper (I drew round a side plate), and cut out (I used pinking shears for the zig zag edge). Divide the circle into eight using the Sharpie (to make the stripes on the umbrealla). Cut a quarter of the circle away, and then shape the remaining circle into a very wide cone, sticking to fix it in place.
3. To make the umbrella stick, cut a wooden skewer in half and stick into the inside of the top of the cone using sellotape or blue tack.
I love seeing your take on these ideas, so if you give any of them a go, please do share them on social media and tag me so I don’t miss them, whether it’s via Twitter, my Facebook page, or Instagram. Happy summer – let’s hope the sun comes back out to play soon!
Click through to see my other gift wrap posts using brown paper: Christmas or Kids.
I’m going to link this post up to this month’s Create Make Share – the theme is ‘Upcycle’. If you’ve shared anything you’ve created on your blog, from a home DIY to a kids’ craft activity, why not add the link to your post, or you can join in on Instagram using the hashtag #CreateMakeShare.
I can always tell when spring/summer has arrived because my Saltwater sandals start appearing all over my Instagram feed. According to IG, my first picture of them was posted 157 weeks ago, so I’ve had them for a little over three years. My red pair have been on some awesome trips with us – the pictures above were taken in (as well as at home in Berkshire) New Zealand, Italy, France, Switzerland, Suffolk, Wales, London, Somerset, Sussex. A lot of my most precious memories have me wearing them, such as my brother’s wedding in Queenstown and our road trip around Europe. Photos of my sandal-clad feet may look the same to someone else, but I can recall the moment I took every single one of these shots – where I was, what the weather was like, what we were up to, how I was feeling. Mini golf on our favourite campsite in the Auvergne, France, one of the first walks to school, killing time on a beach by Lake Wakatipu while the kids collected pebbles, rock-climbing at New Quay in Wales, wedding prep in my brother’s back garden. I’ve got a strong emotional attachment to my red pair that I’m finding really hard to shake off, even though the soles are now worn so thin after my near-constant wear that I’ve finally given in and bought a new pair.
There’s rarely a warm day when I don’t have my Saltwaters on my feet. They’re the only pair of sandals I’ve ever had that have never, ever rubbed and have been comfortable since day one. The leather is soft and flexible, and they have worn brilliantly. Apart from the worn sole, they really do look as good as new. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have complimented them, or asked where they’re from. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just love them so much that I’m quite evangelical about them. Buying a new pair of sandals for the twins has become a way of marking the start of every summer, and, just like me, they live in them until autumn sets in and we finally admit defeat and put them away until the following year. .
There were some awesome projects shared for our #CreateMakeShare theme of ‘BLOOM’ – the above all made me smile, and I love their light and bright feel. Do check out my fellow #CreateMakeShare hosters, Anthea from Zing Zing Tree and Emma from Kids Craft Room for their ‘Bloom’ favourites.
I’m really excited to annouce that June’s #CreateMakeShare theme is: UPCYCLE.
If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of finding new uses for old objects and I can’t wait to see what you guys share this month. Whether you’ve given an old piece of furniture a new lease of life, you’ve given an item of clothing a fab makeover, or you’ve been busy junk modelling with the kids, please share your creative projects by adding them to the linky below, and by using the #CreateMakeShare hashtag over on Instagram. There are over 2,000 posts shared over there to date, and it’s the most wonderful gallery of inspiration.
How to join in
To share your posts each month, all you have to do is visit Growing Spaces, Zing Zing Tree or Kids Craft Room and add your link to the form below. You can link to your blog post if you have one or an Instagram URL if you don’t have a blog. If you’re sharing on Instagram, just add the hashtag #CreateMakeShare.
Whether you’ve blogged about a great sewing project, shared a delicious recipe, got crafty one afternoon or finished a fantastic DIY or makeover in your home, #CreateMakeShare is all about providing a platform for you to share anything creative you’ve been working on, and give you the chance to see what other creative folk have been up to. Add more than one link if you fancy – it just means more great stuff for us to explore. Do click and explore the links other people have shared – getting idea and inspiration from others is what it’s all about, and if you see something you love, leave them a comment. Let’s encourage and support each other.
If you fancy you can link back to us by either using the badge or a text back link (if linking a blog post) and use the hashtag #CreateMakeShare on Instagram so we can all see your lovely shots. You can connect with us here on IG: Anthea, Emma, Heather
Get featured There is a theme each month. You don’t have to follow it, but Anthea, Emma and I will pick our favourite posts that have used the theme. We’ll share our favourites on our blogs, across our social media, and also add them to our Create Make Share Pinterest board.
Here’s the #CreateMakeShare linky
Please link directly to the blog post/instagram pic
Only link to posts and images that you have created
Do go and comment on some of the other linked up makes
Use the hashtag #CreateMakeShare as you share your post
I’ve been wanting to fix up our tattered sofa upholstery for ages – it’d been shredded on the arms by our cats scratching it and looked really terrible. Luckily the damage was to the surface of the fabric and hadn’t gone all the way through, so I decided to try to patch it as the sofa is otherwise in reasonable nick and definitely doesn’t need replacing yet. I spotted an idea on Pinterest (where else?!) that I thought I’d could put my own twist on, and it ended up turning out way better than I expected, so I wanted to share it with you here.
I ordered a job lot of 20 vintage lace doilies on eBay. I was really chuffed with the selection when they arrived as they were such beautiful shapes and patterns. They came in various shades of white, off-white and cream and I considered using them in their original colours, but instead I opted to dye them shades of grey to blend in with the charcoal grey of the sofa. I didn’t want them all the same grey, so I left them in the dye for different lengths of time to achieve a variety of shades. These are what I used to patch up our sofa’s frayed arms – a nice and straightforward hack that does a practical fix-it job and adds some pattern and style to the sofa, too.
Here’s how I patched the sofa:
1. Take vintage lace doilies and dye them if desired. I used Dylon fabric dye in Pewter Grey so that the doilies would blend in better with my grey sofa. I left the doilies in the dye for different periods of time so that I would have doilies in a variety of shades.
2. Lay out your doilies and choose a selection that will work together well to cover the area you want to patch on your damaged sofa or chair.
3 & 4. Prepare the surface – remove bobbles with a razor, and trim off as much of the frayed bits of fabric as you can. If the cat has scratched right through to the base underneath and it’s clearly visible, you might want to patch with a plain piece of fabric first, before covering with the doilies.
5. Use pins to position the doilies over the area to be patched. I moved mine around until I was happy with the arrangement, overlapping them to create a patchwork effect. I had to neatly fold or gather the doilies at some points to go around the shape of the sofa arms.
6. Use a needle and thread to sew the doilies in place. I went round the circumference of each doily, and then added stitches criss-crossing the surface to make sure it was held securely in place against the fabric of the sofa underneath.
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”