May 24th, 2015

My plant gang | Urban Jungle Bloggers

Indoor plants grouped on String shelves | Growing SpacesThis month’s #urbanjunglebloggers challenge from Igor and Judith was about grouping plants together to celebrate their diversity – combining sizes, shapes, colours and textures. I decided that the String shelving system in my office was the perfect spot to show off my gang.

I love seeing them all gathered like this – herbs, succulents, spider plants, money plants and my pilea, which is my oldest houseplant. There are some missing from the gang here that were too big to fit onto the shelves, and grouping them has made me realise that I really want to add some trailing plants to our plant family. Maybe I’ll do another group shot in a few months to include any new additions and show how these houseplants have grown in that time.

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May 19th, 2015

Impulsive decorating: our black living room wall

IMG_7994 edit 600It’s official, I am not safe to be left home alone. There is a significant danger of me wielding a paint brush and turning the house upside down.

That’s exactly what happened a few weekends back when I made a completely spontaneous decision to strip the yellow wallpaper (you can see a little glimpse of it in this post) from our living room wall, and paint the wall black instead. I’d been seduced by Tiff’s beautiful black wall that I’d seen on Instagram, and once I’d got the idea in my head, there was no distracting me. I’m incredibly impulsive when it comes to making decorating decisions – I even committed the cardinal sin of not doing any testers, I just went right ahead and bought a big pot of paint the same shade as Tiff (La Plancha Premium matt emulsion from Valspar). It’s lucky she’s a lady of very good taste.

Decorating with kids | Growing SpacesThe twins helped me with the wallpaper stripping, which was actually really good fun, and then we gave the wall a good scrub with sugar soap to get rid of all the wallpaper adhesive. I even let the kids get involved with the painting… but only for about five minutes before my stress levels went through the roof (I challenge anyone to stay calm with two five-year-olds with black-paint-laden brushes running riot in their living room) and they were banished to the garden while I finished off the job.
Add depth with a black feature wall | Growing Spaces

I have to admit to a massive moment of doubt halfway through but once it was done I fell completely head-over-heels in love with it. The black completely changes the feel of the living room – the space feels bigger and calmer and the wall is the perfect backdrop for our old vintage leather seating. That armchair is my new favourite coffee spot. Since the wall has been finished I’ve had a wonderful afternoon’s faffing to create the gallery wall. It’s not complete (nothing in our house ever is) but I’ve made a good start.

When we first moved to this house I packed most of my vintage treasures away with the aim to give our home a more contemporary look, but those vintage bits have been slowly reappearing over the last four years and I feel so much happier having them around. Trying to do something different and out of my comfort zone has just made me clearer about my own sense of style, and now I think it’s time to really embrace it, even if we’re not living in the beautiful period house of my dreams.

 

 

May 13th, 2015

Styling the Seasons: May

: 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”Spring flowers by the bedside | Growing Spaces

Don’t you just love it when the garden, woods and hedgerows are full of blooms so you can fill your home with flowers without a costly trip to the florist? Our garden is over-run with forget-me-nots and our path to school is lined with cow parsley – I was your typical blogger-cliche this week with my bike’s basket brimming with my bounty. Why have one vase of flowers when you can have seven?

At home it’s all change (when is it not in our house?), with a new feature wall in the living room (more on that soon) and a whole lot of furniture rearranging. This oversized angle poise lamp used to live downstairs but it’s found a new home in our bedroom and I love the blue against the turquoise wall.

Cow parsley for a fresh Spring bedroom | Growing Spaces

Forget-me-not posy | Growing Spaces

Brighten the bedside with multiple vases of fresh blooms | Growing Spaces

Spring flowers | Growing Spaces

May 11th, 2015

The Monday reset

Start Monday afresh - the Monday reset | Growing SpacesI’ve fallen into bad working habits. Back in September when the twins started school I vowed I would fix my working days and leave the other days free for keeping on top of housework, blogging and some time for myself. The biggest benefit of freelancing is the flexibility, but that flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. The freedom it offers is a blessing – I can do the school drop-off and pick-ups, I can meet a friend for coffee, I can help out on school trips, I can go to the gym – but if you’re not careful the balance tips and you find your working hours squeezed so much that you struggle to keep up and end up feeling harassed and anxious.

The last few months my general anxiety levels have been mounting, and I’m pretty sure that it’s because I need to impose more structure on my routine again. Instead of sticking to my appointed working days, I’ve found myself trying to do a bit of everything, every single day. A bit of work, a bit of blogging, a bit of free time, the barest minimum of housework, and as a result I end each day feeling like I haven’t really achieved anything. A mountainous to-do list is always hanging over me, and I never fully relax.

So I’m getting strict with myself. I’ve set my working days again and Monday isn’t one of them this time around. On Mondays I’m going to hit reset. Our weekends are always pretty full-on, whether we’re off on big adventures or just pottering at home, and by Sunday evenings I’m inevitably tired, slightly frazzled and the house is a tip (especially if it’s been one of my regular solo parenting weekends while my other half works). Trying to force myself to sit at my desk and be productive first thing on Monday morning just isn’t working. My focus is off and I’m distracted by the echoes of the weekend’s (mostly happy) chaos.

I want to try using Mondays to ease myself into the week. To get the house straight (or straighter at least), to keep on top of all those household/family admin tasks, to go to my yoga class and to sit and plan out that week with a cup of hot coffee in a quiet house. Check the calendar, fill out my much-neglected weekly wall planner. Reply to emails only if they’re screamingly urgent.

It’s Monday. It’s time to reset and start the week afresh.

 

May 10th, 2015

Wistful Wisteria at Greys Court

Wistful wisteria | Growing Spaces

Wisteria garden | Growing SpacesSnapshots of the stunning wisteria in the walled gardens at the National Trust Greys Court today.

May 1st, 2015

A green gift | Urban Jungle Bloggers

600 Thyme table favourI made these table favours for a Greek-themed dinner party a couple of weeks ago and thought they’d be perfect to share for this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers challenge by Igor and Judith: ‘offer a plant to a friend’.

Some friends and I have been taking it in turns to host dinner and we we decided to go with a Greek theme when it was our turn to have everyone over. My husband and I met on Crete and Greece is one of our favourite places in the world so Greek food always brings back happy memories. I wanted to take my time decorating the table for our Greek feast, and fancied making little table favours that would also act as place names for our guests. The wonderful scents of oregano and thyme always remind me of meandering along a sunny pathway in Greece listening to the chorus of cicadas, so I those are the plants I chose to use for my mini green gifts.

600 Greek place favours

600 Planting table favours

600 Oregano and thyme favoursI bought a couple of large pots of oregano and thyme and then carefully divided them to make smaller plants for my mini pots. There were eight place settings for dinner, so I planted four oregano pots and four thyme pots.

600 Greek dinner table settingI popped one on each place setting at the table, with a simple name card and skeleton leaf nestled  into the leaves. I  enjoyed taking my time to decorate the table for our party, and I even made my husband carry in our (very heavy) potted olive tree from the garden to green up the space a bit more!

600 Greek dinner party The evening was fun and relaxed, which is exactly how we wanted it to be – we even played traditional Greek music all night so that it felt like we were in a cosy taverna! On the menu was cheese pie (we left out the sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe), gigantes plaki and tzatziki for a starter, lamb kleftiko and Greek salad for the main, and warm honey cup puddings with homemade pistachio ice cream for dessert. My mouth’s watering just thinking about all the delicious food, and it felt really nice to be able to send our guests home with a gift to remember the night by.

600 Greek dinner party table

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April 27th, 2015

Getting crafty with Wayfair

DIY cross stitch mesh storage | Growing SpacesSorry for the long break – once the Easter holidays finished I was straight into an epic week’s shooting (check my IG feed for Christmas teasers). Today I’m in recovery mode – sofa, duvet, laptop are the key ingredients of my day.

I thought I’d share a link to a little craft tutorial I did for Wayfair a couple of weeks back. It’s a really simple and easy way to add colour and personality to bog-standard mesh office storage products.

 

April 13th, 2015

Let the Big Wild Rumpus begin!

Wild ThingThe Big Wild Rumpus is a national campaign to celebrate the nations love of Where the Wild Things Are – a true children’s book classic that I vividly remember reading as a child, and have rediscovered since having my own children and reading it to them.

As part of the celebrations, you’re encourage to host or join in on the 13th June with a Wild Rumpus party at 11am. The idea is that everyone reads the book out loud together and when Max says ‘let the wild rumpus start’, everyone shouts and stamps and generally goes wild!
My twins love parties (parties = cake) and dressing up, so we’ll definitely be hosting a Wild Rumpus shindig, where I’ll turn us all into wild things! To get your own wild thing face paint, follow the tutorial below..
Wild Thing Collage1. Create a white/off-white background to work on – I used a sponge to apply a thin layer of white facepaint over Ez’s whole face.
2. Paint large yellow circles around each eye and fill them in yellow, then outline in black and add an eyebrow and black eyeballs (perfect for rolling).
3. Colour the nose orange (we mixed orange and pink for ours as Ez was insistent that it needed to be a pinky orange to match one of the wild things in the book), and use a black outline to enlarge the nostrils.
4. Draw on a smile with a single black line that stretches across the mouth and up onto each cheek, and then add some sharp wild thing teeth (perfect for gnashing). We also painted on some extra hair around the hairline (again to match the wild thing Ez liked in the book).

Double trouble wild thingsWe also made some hanging vines to create a wild thing jungle for our party. This is a very easy craft that the twins really enjoyed getting stuck into (especially the messy painting bit).

painted leaf garland Leaf garland Collage1. Completely cover some large pieces of paper with green paint. We used the back of an old roll of wallpaper, and the twins applied the paint using brushes, sponges and their hands. I gave them green, red and yellow paint which they used to create a spectrum of different greens. Leave to dry.
2. Cut out a leaf template from cardboard and then let the kids draw around it on the painted paper. We used two different shapes – a heart-shaped leaf and a longer, thinner leaf.
3. Cut out the leaves with scissors.
4. Staple the leaves onto a long length of ribbon or paper (we used a crepe paper streamer), overlapping them slightly to make the vines look nice and lush!
IMG_7526 600(I’m sorry that the twins look so stern in the picture above. I think they were a little miffed that we were just taking photographs rather than having our actual Wild Rumpus party.)

If you’re interested in hosting a wild rumpus celebration, there’s a whole host of resources on The Big Wild Rumpus website including tutorials on decorating your event, recipes for food to be served during the rumpus, craft activities to make before and during the party and costume ideas.

Will you go wild for The Big Wild Rumpus?

thebigwildrumpus

Website | The Big Wild Rumpus
Twitter | @_wildrumpus
IG | @_wildrumpus
Hashtag | #thebigwildrumpus

April 9th, 2015

Family-friendly cycling: The Kennet & Avon canal cycle route

Family cycling | Growing SpacesToday was one of those incredible days when you’re just engulfed by this feelgood wave of joy and contentment. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to head out on our first proper family bike ride. Ez’s confidence on her bike has rocketed in the last month and so we felt we could tackle a longer outing. I checked out the National Cycle Network, and discovered that there’s a highly-rated family-friendly route that follows the Kennet and Avon canal, less than 30 minutes drive from our house.

We parked at a picnic site next to the canal in Theale and cycled the 7.8km to Froudes Bridge, just past Aldermaston Wharf. To say the route is stunning really doesn’t do it justice. We rode along the tow path next to the gorgeous canal (spotting swans and ducks along the way), through open fields and past woodland. We had the path largely to ourselves – I couldn’t believe how peaceful it was in the middle of the school holidays. We stopped to watch the canal boats go through the locks and one boating couple even encouraged the twins to help push open the sluice gates, which they loved.

The beauty of cycling along a canal is that the route is flat (which was a total joy). The paths were all more than wide enough, and although we had to cross a few (extremely quiet) roads, we didn’t have to ride along the road at any point.

We stopped for a picnic by the water just before Aldermaston Wharf and then continued on a little bit further, before turning round and heading back to the Wharf to treat ourselves to ice-creams at the Aldermaston tea room (it also doubles as an information centre for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, plus it offers a great loo stop). Next time I fancy stopping there for lunch because the sandwiches looked blooming awesome.

We rode back the way we came, and even though you’re riding along the same path, going the opposite direction means you notice new things and it still feels interesting. The kids were (quite rightly), super-proud of themselves for riding such a distance, and we headed home feeling tired and happy. I have a feeling we’ll get to know this stretch of canal pretty well over the next few years and I’m really excited to see how it changes throughout the seasons.

Cycling the Kennet Avon canal | Growing Spaces

UK family-friendly cycling routes | Growing Spaces

Family bike ride | Growing Spaces

Spring magnolia | Growing Spaces

Cycling with young kids | Growing Spaces

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Spring woodland | Growing Spaces

Canal boat | Growing Spaces

 

April 8th, 2015

All lit up with BHS

Terrace table lamp from BHS | Growing SpacesWhen friends ask me to recommend shops for good-value lighting, I always think of BHS’s lighting collection first, so I was more than happy to review something from their lighting range here.

There have been some big changes happening in our living space – a large open-plan L-shape area that includes our kitchen, dining and living zones. We’ve always used a large freestanding shelving unit to help divide up the space and to try to make the living area feel a little more separate, but it’s never quite worked. You know when a space just doesn’t feel right? It’s been something that’s bothered us for ages, so we decided that the best solution is to embrace the fact that the space is open-plan. We’ve taken down the shelving unit to remove that visual divider and open the space up again. My handy husband has built a wall of shelving to provide a place for all the things that used to live on the shelving unit, and I can’t wait to share finished pictures with you.

BHS Terrace table lamp | Growing SpacesThe upshot of all this rearranging is that we had space on the new shelves to fill, and it seemed like a great idea to choose some lighting that looks good during the day, and then adds a glow to the shelves in the evening. BHS’s Terrace table lamp – a set of three white ceramic houses (a single house light is also available) – was just what I was after. The little ceramic houses look so cute on the shelves and I love the idea of displaying them nestled amongst a forest of houseplants (something I plan to try this week).

BHS Terrace table lamp | Growing SpacesThe Terrace lamp definitely ticks all the boxes during the day, but at the moment it’s a bit too bright in the evening. It came with 10W halogen bulbs, but I’m going to swap these for lower voltage ones to see if that feels a bit better.

 

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with BHS

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