The Beauty Edit: 5 fast, easy face products for tired and busy ladies

The Beauty Edit: 5 fast, easy face products for tired and busy ladies

I saw a quote recently that simply summed up how I feel about life right now,

I wish I was as tired as I thought I was before I became a mum.’

My intention is not to undermine the daily fatigue that people without kids may feel, but merely to acknowledge my own experience which has taught me that there is no tiredness like new mama tiredness. However, in the dead of night when I am up for the third or fourth time to feed, change and comfort George; when my eyelids are so heavy that I consider the effectiveness of sellotape to keep them open; even while my hands fumble with his nappy, and I struggle to work out what the hell I’m doing, because my brain is so tired that I am genuinely confused about where I am, what day it is, what time it is and what is going on; even in those moments, when George looks up at me with his big blue eyes and smiles it is all so worth it.

George looking at mummy
That look he gives me makes it all worth while

But, for the first couple of months of my maternity leave, getting up and organised in the morning was one task too many for me to manage. Having had an emergency c-section after a long labour, my body felt like it had been hit by a twenty tonne truck. Damon was an absolute God send: he would get up with Evie in the morning and allow me a precious extra hour between the sheets to build up the energy for getting up and facing the day ahead. But, it’s quite amazing how much this change in routine affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Although having an extra hour’s sleep in the morning after a night of almost none to speak of was amazing and probably quite necessary for my mental health, not getting out of bed until Damon left for work in the morning meant that I was stepping out of bed and straight into my mummy shoes. I didn’t have time for a decent shower, and even if I did manage to shower I definitely didn’t get time to blow dry my hair before George or Evie needed me. And I never had the time to put on any make up without it meaning that there was a simultaneous meltdown of some kind happening somewhere in the house…George wanting fed, or Evie wanting Peppa Pig on or needing help to go to the toilet.

Tired mama
Instareality: this is what I looked like every single day!

Before the kids I might not have been a glam gal all the time, but I would also very rarely be seen out of the house without my lippy on. I took pride in my appearance and, simply put, I loved make-up. I still do. Before you ask, yes, to a degree, wearing make-up does increase my self confidence because it can help to (in my opinion) make me a prettier version of myself…I can hide flaws like blemishes and black bags, I can emphasise the bits of me I like most (my eyes) and distract from the bits I like least (my figure). Therefore, it has been a strange adjustment in my personality and priorities to not take 30 minutes to myself each day in order to blow dry, dress and make myself up for the day. Kids change everything, but I have decided that they don’t need to change me so much that I don’t recognise myself any more.

So, one morning a fortnight ago I decided to try to banish the excessive tiredness just enough to get out of bed half an hour earlier. I have looked out some of the best quick fix products that I have and I have started each morning to try and use these, on their own or in combination with each other, to make me feel just a little bit less lazy and disgusting, and a little bit more like the little miss sassypants I was before I had the children.

George looking at mummy
That look he gives me makes everything worth it!

Now, in my opinion, I still look like myself in this photograph, just a little smoother than in the previous pic in this post. But, even with just a little bit of help, I feel a lot more like myself. And I think that it’s ok to feel a bit more human and a bit less tired when you have a mask of make-up on, but what mama of two has the time to sit for ages applying it? The answer: none. Not unless you have an entourage of nannies to help you out. I used to love sitting putting my make up on for ages at a time in preparation for a night out on the town. But nowadays I need products that I can slap all over my face with as little attention to detail as possible.

So, from one mama to another, or to any lady who also feels an inability or reluctance to spend too long decorating her face in the morning, I thought I would share my products with you. Here I am going to show you the 5 fast, easy to use, amazing products I turn to for rushed mornings getting ready. In this edit I am focussing on face and base products but can share with you eye and lip products in additional posts. Leave me a comment below to note your interest.

Primer: Becca Shimmering Face Perfector

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Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, Moonstone

I have really oily skin and would NEVER normally choose a shimmering product of any kind as I prefer a matte finish to help combat the oiliness. However, I received a free sample of this product with another purchase and I absolutely fell in love. If you don’t want to wear anything on your skin, wear only this. It blurs imperfections with an almost invisible veil of light reflecting smoothing barely tinted colour and makes your skin less dull, makes you look fresher, more awake, less tired and freekin’ gorgeous! Plus there are 6 shades to choose from – I use moonstone – and you can buy the same travel size I had to save the full investment while you fall in love with it. A must have!

Foundation: Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

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Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

If you want to have a little more coverage than just the Becca primer, I would recommend this Bobbi Brown foundation. I have lots of foundations, from lots of brands, but I find this one the easiest and fastest to apply. It comes with a sponge which I don’t use, I instead opt for the full coverage brush from Bobbi Brown, and buff it into my skin in small circles. It takes moments and there’s no need to worry about tide marks and blending issues, especially around the eyebrows and hairline. I use colour Sand in winter, and Beige in summer.

Shaping: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

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Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

I have several bronzers and highlighters but the Charlotte Tilbury option is perfect for mums on the go whose handbag space is limited by lots of nappies and muslin cloths because it is a bronzer and highlighter in one. The tones are nice subtle colours for a daily look with no fuss, and it comes in light, medium and dark so that as many ladies as possible can benefit from using it. I use medium.

Blusher: Chanel Cream Blush

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Chanel Cream Blush, 67 Chamade

Only the tiniest application of this blush gives a beautiful healthy glow when applied directly to the apples of your cheeks. I use a brush for the most perfect finish, although the tips of your fingers will gently flush the skin well if you’re in a rush or don’t have a brush to hand. So you can balance your toddler on one hip and still have enough hands to look ravishing!

Finishing Powder: Nars Light Reflecting Setting Powder

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Nars Light Reflecting Setting Powder

The pièce de résistance of this 5 minute beauty regime is this delectable Nars finishing powder which works magic on the skin. Have you ever heard of beauty bloggers, magazines, or beauty sales people refer to the photo finish effect of some make up products? Well this has it. A fine dusting of this over the face sets your make up and makes your face look absolutely flawless.

Ok, so clearly I need to work on taking a semi decent selfie, but I think there’s a massive, lovely difference with only a few natural looking products (note: I have not done my eyes or brows here). What do you think?

Bring in Spring, Part 3: My top Spring Green picks for your home

Bring in Spring, Part 3: My top Spring Green picks for your home

There is no colour in the spectrum that speaks Spring to me more than green. Green is the most common colour in the natural world and represents new life, freshness, vitality and rebirth. Do you know what happens to your body in the presence of green? Sensationalcolour.com explains that being in the presence of the colour green stimulates your pituitary gland. Your muscles are more relaxed, and your blood histamine levels increase, which leads to a decrease in allergy symptoms and dilated blood vessels, aiding in smoother muscle contractions. In short, green is calming, stress-relieving, and – a bit paradoxically – invigorating.

And yet, the use of green in interior decor has traditionally been limited and restricted. In fact, as I was growing up the colour green in decor was really only used in two ways: Lime green bathroom walls and accents in the new uprising of Barratt home new builds, and drawing room green in old traditional properties with uncomfortable leather sofas. In both examples the use of green seems very limited to specific target markets and tastes, but I think that is changing.

Valspar’s chosen colour palette for 2018 features 12 different colours, and a quarter of them are shades of green, all of them very different to each other: one rich and emerald-like, one greyish and muted, and the third blue-green like the sea. Access the Valspar website here to see examples of how they can be used Valspar’s colours of the year 2018

Furthermore, the botanical trend has hit modern style in a big way in the last few seasons. From high street fashion to high end wallpaper, there is no sign of this theme going anywhere any time soon. And once again, quite obviously, green features in a big way in botanicals.

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HM Home Botanical Theme from Style at Home

 

I have been working on an idea for decorating our living room. It isn’t a massive priority because of the pending arrival of baby, however I have started to plank a little collection of items what are building up a more developed idea of what I would like the space to look and feel like. And, guess what, green is the theme. You might call me a tentative theme adopter though…I love dark walls but would probably only paint one rather than a whole room. I love plant life, but I would limit myself to only a handful of real plants and use faux for the rest. I love velvet furniture, but am more likely to get a pouffe or chair as opposed to a sofa. This is just the way I roll, and it’s the way I plan to roll with my green living room theme. I would much rather ensure that anything I might tire of in the future is inexpensive to redo and replace than requiring a complete recarpet and new furniture.

Here I have collated my top ten green themed items/ideas for your home that will bring in the spring season’s colour without requiring a complete redecoration of your entire house.

1. Amara Living Cushion

Amara Living northe-birds-cushion-45x45cm-244026
I adore the colours in this beautiful embroidered cushion from Amara Living. The mix of blues and greens keeps the green hues from being too overpowering.

2. H&M Home Blanket

Green Jaquard Blanket
This beautiful sage green colour is a muted way to introduce green to your decor and the pattern has a classic, timeless appeal.

3. Trouva Hanging Planter

Trouva hanging planter
This gorgeous hanging planter comes in two sizes, large as pictured here, and small.

4. Ikea Round Rug

adum-rug-high-pile-green
This round rug from Ikea is 130cm diameter and an absolute steal at only £25. It will break up the angles in our living room perfectly.

5. Laura Ashley Wallpaper

Laura Ashley Greendale Wallpaper
This Laura Ashley wallpaper is currently down to only £16 a roll and I cannot peel my eyes from it. It has the perfect mix of green and grey for a lovely soft colour palette.

6. Laura Ashley Curtain Tie Backs

Laura Ashley Curtain Tie Backs
These curtain tie backs can be paired with green, grey, or neutral coloured curtains while still bringing in a hint of green to your room. Laura Ashley has many items in this colour which they call Pistachio, and much of it is currently in the sale so check it out.

7. Cable & Cotton String Lights

Cable and cotton lights
I love cable and cotton lights, and what makes them so amazing is that you can guild the colour palette and length of the string to suit your needs. This set is an off the shelf option from them called ‘Primrose’ but visit their website to see the vast array of colour options they have available, or build your own.

8. Junique Prints

9. Matalan Foliage

Matalan Palm Tree
Matalan’s home department is absolutely divine just now. They’re faux greens, from succulents to tall plants will bring green into your home easily and with no maintenance required.

10. Graham and Brown Clock

Graham and Brown Clock
This clock is called the Lagoon Wall Clock, and oh my, it is absolutely divine! The mix of greens and blues in this is too perfect for words.

Bring in Spring, Part 2: Spring Decor Ideas Under £50

Bring in Spring, Part 2: Spring Decor Ideas Under £50

There’s just something about Spring, isn’t there? We are always so hopeful that the sun will shine, the daffodils will bloom, the rain will lightly sprinkle before sunrise leaving a coat of dewy freshness on the grass for us waking in the morning…but in actual fact the sun rarely shines, the rain always falls, and our daffys end up drooping under the weight of the downpours and high winds that batter them long after winter is supposed to have finished. Welcome to Britain, people!

However, spring remains the perfect time for new beginnings and fresh starts, for cleaning out the dusty cobwebs and preparing ourselves for the remainder of the year ahead. With the dark months of winter behind us, with the clocks going forward, with our Christmas debts almost paid off and forgotten about, using your April to find freshness feels like the perfect way to bring lightness into your life and home.

And doing so doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It would be easy for me sit here and type about all kinds of expensive things you could buy, all the big projects you could undertake to freshen up your home, but that’s not what this blog is all about. This blog is about real life solutions for real life homes that normal people like you and I can undertake. So I have challenged myself to share with you some ideas for spring decoration that you can manage easily and without great expense.

 

Sheer Curtains

I am not suggesting that you replace your blackouts with sheer curtains only, however there is always the possibility of double hanging your curtains to create a layered look. Normally we would shed layers as lighter days and warmer weather comes in, but adding them in this instance will add lightness to your room.

Sheer curtains allow light into your room without losing privacy so they are perfect for when the days get longer, allowing you to wake up, get up, and get ready without exposing yourself to the neighbours in the process, and without turning on a light to be able to see. They also filter the light coming in to your room so that on a dull day, their whiteness will brighten the room despite the lack of sunshine. Lastly, sheer curtains will hide a multitude of sins (like our dark brown, badly maintained, faux lead lined windows which are in dire need of replacing and do not match our interior decor at all).

To achieve this look, you will need double hanging curtains pole and brackets (click here to shop), and a set of sheer curtains (click here to shop) like those below:

 

Cushion Covers

We all love a throw cushion, and I have some collection of them! However, I’ve recently started buying more cushion covers instead of the full cushion. This keeps my costs down, but also allows me to swap the covers and put some into storage as the seasons change.

As winter leaves and spring arrives, think of swapping out your heavier, knitted, chunky cushion covers for lighter fabrics, patterns and colours that bring the new season into your home. Swapping out just the cushion covers allows you to mix up colour on a neutral base and make you room feel completely made over with barely any effort.

Blue and Yellow:

Two of my most favourite colours, and in my opinion, the absolute epitomy of warmer climes…think sun, daffodils, baby chicks, blue skies, walks round the lake, and spring showers. As you may have noticed, I’m sort of obsesses with H&M Home because their products are inexpensive, fresh and unique while remaining good quality. So here is a little selection of some of my favourite cushion covers in blue and yellow designs which vary from around £3.99 to £12.99 each.

Dusky Pink and Green:

With the botanical trend set to go nowhere any time soon, we might as well all embrace it and incorporate it into our homes. But botanical doesn’t have to mean old fashioned. Combining dusky green and blush pink with some natural prints is the softer way to incorporate the biggest trend of the last year into your home.

Again, see some of my favourite picks from the H&M cushion cover selection below to inspire you on how to bring spring into your home inexpensively. This selection costs between £3.99 and £8.99 per product:

 

Plant Life

Flowers

What says spring more than some beautiful fresh flowers in your home? There are a selection of delivery services now that offer you fresh flowers to your doorstep for a monthly subscription. Check out:

  • Bloom and Wild: monthly subscriptions through your letterbox starting at £18 per bouquet click here
  • Freddie’s Flowers: weekly subscriptions through the letterbox starting at £20 oer bouquet click here
  • I would recommend searching instagram for these company’s latest brand reps who regularly offer discount codes to followers. Try searching hashtags like #bloomandwild and searching the feed for relevant reps and codes

I am aware that there are similar subscription services for plants as well now. The only service I have used is Bloom and Wild, back when it first launched, and the flowers lasted for a couple of weeks which really is exceptional.

For the more cost conscious, spring flowers can be picked up as part of your weekly grocery shop for around £5 a bunch. Try eucalyptus and pussy willow stems for neutral perfection that will last for weeks and weeks on end. I have eucalyptus I got at the Colombia Road Flower Market in London 6 weeks ago and it is still as fresh as the day I got it, even if the scent has died somewhat.

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Fresh eucalyptus can last for weeks

And, for the even more cost conscious, I can’t recommend faux flowers enough, I have them all over the house. My favourite retailer of faux is actually Ikea. They have such a  vast selection of stems, and most stems are 50cm at least meaning you can cut them down the size you need for your vase. I have also got some gorgeous faux flowers from Dunelm Mill so check them out too for more inspiration.

Plants

Guys, I am not green fingered, it’s pretty shameful how fast I can kill a plant. But I do have a few live plants in my home, the rest are all faux plants from Ikea and The Range mainly.

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Faux plants are so easy to maintain and can look very real

There is just something about the colour green that screams fresh new life, and therefore I would highly recommend using them to make your home decor suitable for the spring season.

 

Daylight Bulbs

Such a simple solution, but what a massive difference they make. Daylight bulbs have a much cooler, fresher colour of light than traditional yellow light bulbs. Where standard bulbs can be good in winter to create warmth on dark cold nights, daylight bulbs are definitely the best option for spring as they are designed to prolong the feeling of natural daylight in our homes.

I get my daylight bulbs from Wilko’s www.wilko.com which has an amazing selection of screw, bayonet, spotlight, and all kinds of wattages. Their daylight bulbs cost around £5 each, dependent of course on the size and type.

 

Go White

Freshen up any space with the addition of white into a room.

  • Paint: banish yellow, peachy magnolia for white on your walls with a basic white emulsion. Extremely large tubs of white matte emulsion can be picked up in most stores for around £15 each. White, but that’s so clinical, you might think. Trust me. White opens up a space, makes it look larger and brighter and reflects light around the room. Forgive these work in progress shots of our hallway, but they help to show my point. Note how even with the dark carpet on show the space still looks lighter and brighter with the walls changed from magnolia to white. (ps.the carpet is being replaced in a fortnight, yippee!)
  • White bedlinen: is crisp, fresh and clean and can always be dressed up with pillows and throws if you want to add a splash of colour. I have the most amazing non-iron bedlinen that I picked up on Amazon would you believe. You can access it here for only £15.99 for the set including king duvet cover and 2 pillow cases:  Poly Cotton Duvet Set with 2 Pillowcases By Sasa Craze Bedding (King, White)

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    White bedlinen is fresh, crisp, clean and matches all decor styles
  • White towels: I got some amazing inexpensive ones in the John Lewis sale. Just don’t go wrapping your hair up in them after dying it (I did that yesterday!) *Top Tip: pop your towels in the tumble dryer for 15 mins before folding and putting away and they will be extra fluffy when you go to use them.

 

Go Natural

Winter is a lovely time to brighten up your home with sparkles, metallics, glass and shiny things. Spring is a lovely time to take it back to nature with the incorporation of natural materials and fabrics.

Try out some woven placemats on your dining table, recycled glass bottles on your mantlepiece, jute rugs in your hallway, seagrass belly baskets as plant pots, and wooden candlesticks….well, everywhere! Check out the Shop my Instagram page for links to some of the loveliest items currently in stores made from fresh and natural materials, and all of them well below £50 in cost.

 

Spring Scents

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Daisy Blue Candles Plum and Rhubarb

Think fresh, fruity and floral. I am a massive fan of Daisy Blue Candles from where you can buy one of the loveliest freshest fragrances around: Plum and Rhubarb. Its so zingy! My favourite is actually the reed diffuser because it emanates fragrance all day without the need to light it like you do with a candle. Lorraine also sells some wax melts in the same fragrance which I really need to try out.

 

Try out some of my easy, simple and cheap ideas for bringing spring into your home and let me know how you get on. Leave a comment or send me a message with any questions, and good luck, it’s so much easier than you might think. All products I recommend in this blog are simply things I have chosen myself, I am not working with any brands to advertise the products on this page.

 

Bring in Spring, Part 1: Getting Organised

Bring in Spring, Part 1: Getting Organised

There are a hundred blog posts that could be written about all the different ways of organising things in your home, so for my ‘Bring in Spring’ seasonal feature, where should I start?! In my opinion, the utility room is where it all begins because how can you start to spring clean your home if the place from where it commences is in chaos?! Here I am going to focus on the ways you can organise your utility area to ensure it provides the perfect foundation from where you can manage your home’s spring cleaning. I understand that we are very lucky to have a utility room, however, all of the hacks and advice I list below are completely applicable to your kitchen, garage, or cupboard under the stairs too…anywhere that you keep your home’s utility items.

Get things off the floor

Twin Slot Storage System
B&Q Twin Slot System raises bulky equipment off the floor

How much space do clothes horses take up?! So much. Plus, if I had a pound for every time Evie had almost trapped her finger between the bars I would be a Mulberry handbag owner. We used to lean our clothes horses (yes plural, we have 2 for all of that family washing) against the radiator when they were not in use which was cluttered, messy, obstructed heat into the utility room, and tempted the little one to go play with them and try to pull herself up to a stand using them as leverage. So, I utilised space above the utility room sink to create a hanging solution for the clothes horses, it only cost a few pounds and was super easy to do.

I used the B&Q twinslot system (viewable here) for versatility. Plus, I wanted brackets that were white in colour so they would disappear into the wall rather than standing out like most metal and wood brackets would. It is possible to recreate this solution using something like a bike rack, but I found this nice white storage system the cleanest looking. Try this out for hanging the buggy, your bike, lawnmower, and other big equipment up and out of the way.

Utilise Dead Space

Ironing Board Bracket
The garage door opens against this wall but a slim wall mounted storage solution can make the space useable

The space behind doors that open against the wall can easily be forgotten about and underused. But in a family home all space is needed. This inexpensive iron and ironing board bracket I picked up on Amazon (Brabantia Ironing Board Hanger and Iron Store – Black). The iron holder is teflon coated to protect your wall from burn marks caused by a hot iron being replaced here shortly after use.

Another great way to make use of very narrow spaces like those behind doors is wall hooks. Behind the utility room door here I have used wood mounted rows of hooks which you can buy from lots of retail outlets…mine are a mixture of Amazon and BM Stores. I have used the hooks to hand the family’s jackets…but what about cooking aprons, tea towels, mops, sweeping brushes, feather dusters…all of the things that lie around in utility rooms creating more clutter. Use your narrow spaces and get things off of the floor, you would be amazed at how much more useful the space can become.

Hanging hooks everywhere

Kitchen Utensil Hanging Rail
Hanging rails are perfect for storing little things you don’t know what to do with

You know when you move house you always end up with those boxes of items that you just don’t know where to put so you procrastinate unpacking them for as long as possible? I’m talking batteries, string, spare buttons, shoe polish, stationary, light bulbs…all households have this problem. I can’t recommend kitchen utensil hanging rails enough for solving this problem. I have used them throughout the house for different things.

The rails I have used are from Amazon (click here) but are also available to buy from Ikea and Dunelm that I have seen and will cost between £5-£8 on average for a 50-60cm rail including the hooks. Pick up these white pots for only 50p from Ikea (click here) and you have an adaptable storage system for all kinds of little nuisances. In the utility room I store the items mentioned above and more, but in Evie’s playroom these rails display her artwork and have pots containing pencils and crayons. And in the kitchen I have a rail with kitchen utensils hanging.

Underneath your shelving

Shelf brackets
Use shelf brackets that themselves become a storage solution

Did you know that you can actually buy shelf brackets that themselves can be used to store items? These shelves were an amazing find from Wilko’s (click here). I have used some of the hooks that came with my kitchen utensil hanging rails to hang even more items from underneath my shelving, like this fluffy duster. This is particularly useful for items that get damp when using like towels and cloths, and especially if the shelving is hung above a radiator like they are in my utility room. Look for brackets that have hooks, curves and details on them.

Did you know you can also attach the kitchen hanging rails I mention above to the underside of shelves? This is what I did in my kitchen and is another way of squeezing every last inch of stage space out of your shelving systems.

Kitchen shelf storage
Hanging kitchen utensil rails from the underside of shelving brings another level of storage

Look Up

Ikea storage hacks
Use all the space, even up high. Your ceiling and above windows and doors can also be used for extra storage space.

Ceiling storage is a real possibility! Ikea hack solutions like this are not just great for hanging your socks up to dry, but think about it for things like storing tea towels, cloths and dusters. Even at my 5′ height I can easily reach this to bring it down from the curtain pole, but it can also be hung from a hook in the ceiling.

The next solution I would like to install is a pulley. A traditional item found in older homes, a pulley is a ceiling storage system used for hanging washing to dry or for storing pots and pans with an easy rope system access.

I have also just bought the Bittergurka storage system from Ikea (click here). My intention is to plant herbs in here and hang them in the kitchen, but this could also be a ceiling storage solution in smaller spaces for your cleaning fluids, washing powders etc, keeping them away form the reach of little hands.

Do you have any other ideas on how to organise your utility room? Leave me a comment below and let me know if you try any of these things out, it would be great to hear if they work for you.

A really quick fireplace upgrade that will save you a fortune

A really quick fireplace upgrade that will save you a fortune

When we moved in to our house we knew that we would need to put in a lot of time, effort and money to upgrading what was there. We didn’t buy a total refurb job, we looked at them and decided it would be too much, especially given we were in the very early weeks of pregnancy at the time. So instead we bought a 1990s house that had been carelessly looked after and had barely seen a lick of paint in decades bar the occasional pot of magnolia gloss being slapped on anything from walls to woodwork to ceilings…yes, ceilings! And artex ones too!

One room that needed little immediate care and attention was the living room. Don’t get me wrong, all the woodwork needs painted, the walls too, the metalwork like light switches and handles need changed, and a whole host of other small things. But at least it was fairly neutral and the artex ceiling had been plastered so decorating the living room is low down on the list of priorities. However, one thing that really stood out and totally ruined the whole room was the fireplace. The surround was a very dark moulded wood, it had decoupage mouldings on the front top corners, the fireplace detail was brass and the marble surround was a weak beige colour.

Original 1990s fireplace
The original 1990s fireplace was an eyesore in the very neutral room we inherited

I decided to paint the fireplace instead of replacing it as depending on the fireplace and surround we bought, the total cost would have been £500 at a minimum rising to thousands depending on how new, modern or fancy the items we picked were. Painting on the other hand we could do for a few ten pound notes handed over at our local B&Q.

  1. First I prised off those moulded details from the top right hand corners which were held in place by thin pins. I just used a scraper to gently wiggle behind them and gradually ease them away from the surround.
  2. Then I gave the full fireplace a gentle sand just to remove any top shine from the stain. After sanding I wiped it all down with a clean damp cloth to pick up any dusty residues.
  3. I was all ready to tape up the brass fire area with rolls of plastic dust sheets and frog tape, only to discover as I went to begin that the brass bits simply pull away. This meant I could spray paint them in the garage rather than worrying about the living room carpet and furniture.
  4. I cleaned down the brass bits and then raised them off of the garage floor in order to spray them more evenly round the sides.

    Prerparing brass fire for spray painting
    I propped up the brass items off the floor using old paint cans
  5. I used a high heat resistant paint I picked up from B&Q
    Rustoleum Stove and BBQ paint
    This paint is perfect for a fire surround as it is safe for extremely high temperature exposure.

    6. I sprayed the brassy bits all over and left to dry while I went back through to paint the surround.

    spray painting a brass fire
    The spray painting took only a few minutes and dried overnight

    7. I gave the fireplace surround 3 coats of Rustoleum chalk paint in Chalk White. As you can see, I had run out of frog tape so I used masking tape to mask off the walls, hearth and marble surround. Masking tape definitely isn’t as good at protecting your painted walls, but I wasn’t too fussed because we plan on decorating the walls soon anyway. And, it’s better than nothing.

    8. Once dry, I popped the freshly painted and no long brass bits back in place, and voila! Just like that, it was done. Months of procrastinating and the fireplace was done in an evening!

    Painted fireplace
    This cost me £9 in total would you believe!!!

    The total cost was only £9…the price of a tin of spray paint. I already had masking tape, and I already had some chalk white chalk paint left over from when I upcycled shelves (See how I did that here). So I think was definitely a better option than replacing the fire altogether, don’t you??

How to dress when pregnant: a guide to buying non-maternity clothing

How to dress when pregnant: a guide to buying non-maternity clothing

Maternity clothes! Yuck! Have you ever noticed that just about everything is covered in a ditsy floral pattern or is printed with slogans like “Hands of the bump”? And then retailers charge you a mini fortune for the privilege of wearing such monstrosities? Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice maternity things out there if you go searching, but it’s not like you can just pop down to the shops and try them on to make sure they fit ok as no shops actually stock maternity wear, you need to go online. What a palaver! It’s just not for me, all that faffing and searching and paying hard earned cash for things that I don’t like that much and I will get hardly any wear out of.

So, if like me you struggle to find maternity clothing you would actually wear, then read on for a short guide to how you can look totally mamalicious during your pregnant months without breaking the bank, or investing in pieces that will soon be getting dusty.

Tube dresses

Spring, summer, autumn or winter, tube dresses can be worn to suit all seasons. Also, by tube dress, I don’t necessarily mean strapless, I just mean stretchy, fitted and comfortable. Some shops would advertise them as bodycon, although this always makes me think of those heavy and ever so glamorous bandage dresses, which although amazing for a night out aren’t going to solve your daily maternity clothing dilemma.

I got this beauty from River Island for example, viewable here:

River Island Grey Off Shoulder Bodycon Dress
This bodycon dress has been amazing before and during my pregnancy

I have worn it with sandals, and with black tights and ankle boots and have had so many compliments on it. I love that the tie around the waist hangs in the perfect position to cover up the seam from your tights, because the bigger your bump gets the more visible that seam becomes! Ha!

Grey River Island Dress Style
This is one of the many ways I have styled this dress during my pregnancy

For some bargain options try the Stradivarius, ASOS and Missguided websites.

 

Peplum and smocked tops

Zara absolutely owns this space in the market and I have loads of peplum or smocked tops that I picked up from there in the sale for an amazing £5.99 per item!!! I absolutely love them because when pregnant you can wear them with over the bump jeans, or with a vest top underneath,. And when not pregnant they look so lovely with high waisted skinnies. Also, if you choose to breast feed, smocked tops are an absolute saviour, just pop the baby underneath and feed away without having to faff with all kinds of wraps and zips and clips and whatever else come on dedicated ‘nursing’ clothes.

Zara china blue print blouse flatlay
I got a haul of beautiful smocked tops from the Zara sale at £5.99 each which are fab for pregnancy and breastfeeding

 

Over bump jeans

Literally the ONLY maternity item worth buying is a couple of pairs of over the bump jeans. I absolutely swear by the Mama jeans from H&M, I have an indigo blue pair, a black pair, and a casual washed denim pair, and I wear them every single day!! The indigo and black ones are skinny shaped stretchy denim ones, but I actually like the casual and traditional firm denim style I have because it makes me feel like I’m wearing real jeans. Have a look at the stretchy skinnies here. Also, if your work insists on a business wear dress code then it may be worth getting a pair of smart over the bump trousers. I have a pair from Seraphine (click here) that I wore all of the time during my first pregnancy because that work place was a lot smarter than my current one where jeans and flats are much more acceptable.

Over the bump jeans from H&M will vary in price from around £25 to £50 depending on what style you get. Mine are all around the £30 mark as the more expensive ones are lifting and shaping jeans which I have always been a sceptic of, not just for maternity clothing but all brands that claim to lift your bum!

Flatlay with Primark shirt and over bump jeans
I wear these H&M jeans every day, featured here with a primark shirt with the cutest balloon sleeves

 

Non wired bras

I think it’s true that bust size alters dramatically through the course of you lifetime anyway whether you ever fall pregnant or not. So continuously buying bras in all different sizes is something we can all relate to. However, during pregnancy your boobs do crazy thing and over a very short period of time. I am no fan of ‘maternity bras’. What an absolute con. Nursing bras on the other hand, sure, go for it. They are easy to manipulate when breastfeeding. However, another bra I have become super fond of i an unwired bra.

Nowadays unwired bras come in so many shapes and forms, with padding and without, cotton or lace, triangle or plunge. The options are endless. But the benefits for a pregnant mum are

a) that the lack of wiring prevents sore red patches under your arms where the wire starts to dig in as your chest, back and boobs change throughout the pregnancy

and b) that without padding, these bras are also very easy to manipulate and therefore another solution for breastfeeding.

Ok, so I normally use a nursing bra when feeding, but they have a whole host of problems too:

  • they can cost a lot of money
  • sometimes the straps are ridiculously thick (I mean come on, we are talking an inch thick in some instances!!)
  • the cup shape is beyond full coverage, we are talking so big you might as well wear dinner plates over your boobs
  • They restrict the clothing you can wear without flashing your unsightly beige supersized bra to the world, and you’re already on restricted clothing options because of breastfeeding

So, maybe an unpadded and unwired bra could be a good alternative option for you?

handm non wired push up bra
Non wired bras are a sexy, comfy and amazing option for avoiding sore boobs and skin during pregnancy, this H&M option is a winner for me

They might not suit everyone of all bust sizes, but I am a 32DD-E and they have been fab for me. Again, I can’t recommend H&M enough for their lingerie options. I have also never bought maternity pants, but H&M do a great selection of underwear with no seams and stitching meaning it stretches beautifully as bump grows without digging in and hurting.

Bedtime essentials for your baby: the 5 products you can’t do without

Bedtime essentials for your baby: the 5 products you can’t do without

Whether you are a new parent or well versed with lots of tiny humans to your name, there is no single rule on how to get your child into a good sleeping pattern. We all start at different ages, we all try different things, and I don’t think there is any one rule or system that is guaranteed to work for every child. However, what I do think is that there is no harm in sharing the top tips that have worked for us with our first in case one day they turn out to be useful for you too. I am no parenting expert, and maybe our second child will arrive and these things won’t work for him/her in the same way they did for Evie, we can only wait and see.

I am not going to outline here the whole bedtime routine that we use, instead I have decided to take a slightly different angle on this and discuss the products that we use instead. There are so many things out there to buy, and so many claim to be the biggest bestest cure for children with poor sleeping habits. But we have found that there are only a few essential items that we don’t travel without because they are what work best for us at bedtime. So, before you splurge and spend on lots of things that may not be any use, have a read at the below and see if any of these things could help first.

  1. A blackout blind/blackout curtains

    Blackout Blind
    Evie’s blackout blind is child safe and child friendly

I personally prefer a blind. As long as the rope is safely connected to the wall using an approved system then your child is safe from harm, however, blinds are significantly trickier for children to raise and lower compared to curtains which are fairly easy to open in comparison. So if your toddler is as inquisitive a little monkey as our Evie is, I would recommend a blind over curtains.

And a blackout blind really is a MUST. You know what it’s like when you wake up in the night because of some noise, or lights, or simply just to go to the toilet…once you’re too awake it’s almost impossible to get back to sleep. We have all heard of the detrimental effect the backlight on our phones have on us if we read them too late at night, and it’s no different for your child. Remember your little one is likely going to be sleeping during hours of the day that are not yet dark – especially when they are still having daytime naps, or during the summer months. Blocking out as much light as possible is imperative to ensure that your child is not over-stimulated and wakened by brightness. Shop Evie’s blackout blind here.

2. A bedtime story

Evie likes The Gruffalo. We have tried reading lots of different stories to her, and occasionally she mixes it up, but as a little creature of habit with most things in her life, The Gruffalo it is on most evenings. Now at the age of 23 months she is at the stage where she knows some of the words and reads it along with us in places. Not only is it lovely to see/hear her reading a story we have helped her to become familiar with, but The Gruffalo now signifies to her that it is in fact bed time because we normally only read her The Gruffalo at bedtime, she doesn’t read it at other points in the day. We have a sturdy cardboard version of the book (I think it’s called a board book), which is ideal for little fingers, I would recommend this kind of published version over a paper copy when they are young.

3. Mussi Cuski

Mussi Cuski Sweetie
Evie’s mussi cuski product that she has used as a bedtime comforter since birth

My best friend gifted us a comforter for Evie when she was born. I remember thinking it looked really weird, kind of like a colorful ghost, but it’s turned out to be our absolute favourite product for bedtime, to the point where we now have 2: one for all the time and one for emergencies when they other is in the wash, or lost, or left at nursery, etc.

Mussi Cuski is a bamboo muslin breathable comforter which makes it safe for children of all ages, even before the 6 month mark. Did you know that babies younger than 6 months should not use a ‘normal’ comforter because they haven’t learned how to move fabric from over their faces and comforters are therefore a risk of suffocation? The Mussi Cuski bamboo muslin version is amazing because even if it ends up over baby’s face, baby remains safe.

I think it’s important for baby to have sleep associations from a very young age. I remember laughing at myself and my own idiocy when I was giving Evie this comforter for her to sleep with at only a month old, because really it just lay there next to her doing nothing. But as she grew up she began to associate the comforter with bedtime, and now its what she seeps with every night. Again, like The Gruffalo, we don’t give her Mussi unless its bedtime, so it is a perfect part of her bedtime routine now. Shop mussi cuski here.

4. Breathable bumper

Breathable bumper for toddler bed
Evie has used this bumper in both her cot and her big girls bed so it’s been great value for money

Like every parent, decorating the nursery is one of the things I loved most when preparing for baby to come. It was so much fun getting our new baby’s space ready for her arrival. We thought cot bumpers looked lovely, but the fact of the matter is that they are not safe because, like with comforters, when baby is very young and immobile,  they are not able to remove fabric from their faces and are at risk of suffocation if they end up sleeping against the cot bumper. However, I fully appreciate the problem of trapped arms and legs, and I still remember the first time Evie cried out in pain when her little 5 month old arm was stuck between cot bars and wall. So, we bought a breathable bumper.

Breathable bumpers are not pretty, but its a much better solution to have a not very pretty nursery than to have a baby at risk of pain or suffocation, so it was a no brainer solution for us. When Evie was bigger and able to stand up we removed the bumper so she couldn’t use it as a stepping stone leverage and potentially fall out of the cot. But surprisingly, it ended up being brought back out again recently.

Evie’s big girl bed is my old bed, a day bed that has quite big gaps between the bars…definitely big enough for her little toddler sized head to potentially get stuck. Although the bed is against the wall, I wanted to be on the safe side and used the breathable cot bumper to line the bars of her bed. From the days she was in her cot to this day Evie snuggles up against the wall of her bed to go to sleep, so the bumper has proven to be a great solution, and a padded wall for her to sleep against. Shop breathable bumper here.

5. Sleeping bag

Our Evie is such a little wriggler and always has been, she tosses and turns all night. So from when she was a tiny baby until now we have really struggled to use bedclothes for her because she just kicks them off and gets into a right old fankle with them. Enter the sleeping bag! I think it was the brand Grobag that made these so popular, but if I’m super honest I’ve never bought that brand, I tend to go to the supermarket or Tk Maxx for them. Coming in all colours, patterns and tog weightings, sleeping bags are such a great solution for all weathers and sleepers. When Evie is in the sleeping bag I never need to worry about her getting too cold in the night.

Evie is now learning to undress herself, and there was nothing funnier than 6.30am the other morning when I opened the bathroom door to her standing outside it with the sleeping bag pushed as low as her waist. She hadn’t unzipped it, she has just struggled her arms out of the arm holes and then shimmied the closed sleeping bag down as far as she could. She had managed to waddle from her bed to the bathroom with the sleeping bag around her waist and legs because she couldn’t work out how to push it all the way down over her bottom. She’s such a cutie.

Covering up your boiler to make your room feel more furnished

Covering up your boiler to make your room feel more furnished

We have the oldest, crankiest boiler in the world. But, for as long as it still heats our house safely and (fairly) effectively then I am happy to make do and mend until such time as we have the finances to afford to replace it. However, not only is the boiler old and cranky, it is also very ugly indeed. Years of age have stained it yellow and brown, it is covered in the old stubborn marks of stickers and labels that have decorated it over the years, and it really was such an eyesore in my lovely fresh utility room. So cover it I must!

The original utility room and its old stained boiler
The original utility room and its old stained boiler

I researched online for ideas on how to cover it and although I saw lots of great ideas involved blocking it in, using cool blackboard doors, and hiding it with kitchen cupboards, none of these were going to work for me because of the size, position and shape of the boiler. Where it is restricts me from using a cupboard style covering because we wouldn’t be able to access it for repairs and maintenance. So I came up with an alternative idea I thought would work wonders for us, and could do for you. And not only that, it was so cheap!!!

Shopping List

  • U or L shape shower curtain pole set. I got one from Dunelm Mill for around £15 that came with 3 rods, 2 corner inserts, 2 straight inserts, and 2 wall attachments. I can’t see it on their website (despite only getting it a few weeks ago) so I have used this image here from Argos instead where they are selling something very similar (but including a shower curtain too) for around £25. I would recommend trying out Home Bargains or B&M as I think this is exactly the sort of thing they would stock. For this project I used 2 rods, 1 corner insert and the 2 wall brackets.
    U Shaped Adaptable Shower Rail Set
    U Shaped Adaptable Shower Rail Set. For this project I used 2 poles, the wall brackets and one corner insert

     

  • 2 wall plugs and 3 screws. I used normal 5mm wall plugs rather than big heavy duty plasterboard ones because the weight of the pole is so very light. However, you should choose the wall plugs and screws that suit the wall you are hanging this on to.
  • One curtain to the width and length required. I got a dunelm curtain in the sale for £10. What a bargain! I bought a curtain in a nice light fabric so that heat from the boiler did not become trapped behind it. Also, the lighter the curtain, the less stress on the pole.

 

Equipment

  • Saw
  • Drill with suitable drill bit for the screws/wall plugs you are using
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Screwdriver (to fit the screws you have chosen to use)
  • Probably a step ladder if your boiler is wall mounted as high as mine

 

How To

  • Measure the width and depth of your boiler so you know how long to cut your poles down to. I needed one pole at 35cm, and one at 50cm. Remember to add on some breathing space so your curtain is not pulled tight against the boiler, I allowed for a few extra centimetres on each pole.

    Measuring up the boiler
    I measure out from the wall with the back door on it (31cm), and then out from the wall on the right (43cm)
  • Using the saw, cut the 2 poles to the required length. I cut mine to 35cm and 50cm. Then connect them using the corner shaped insert, and push the two wall brackets on to either end until you have a nice neat L-shaped pole.
  • Hold the pole up to the wall round the boiler and using your pencil, mark the points where your screws will go through. Each wall bracket on my pole had 3 screw holes, so I had 3 marks made on each wall.

    Marking your pilot holes
    I made 3 marks on each wall where the screws would go and used a 5mm drill bit to create pilot holes
  • Using the appropriate drill bit for your chosen screws and plugs, drill a pilot hole into the wall where you have made your marks.
  • Insert your wall plugs into the pilot holes.
  • Now, take the wall brackets back off your pole and screw the them into position.

    Brackets on the wall
    After I inserted the wall plugs into the pilot holes, I used my screwdriver to attach the wall brackets to the wall
  • Thread your curtain onto the pole (I used an eyelet curtain to save any faffing with pencil pleats and to avoid the need for curtain rings.)
  • Push your pole, holding the curtain, into the wall brackets.
Bye bye ugly boiler
I slid the curtain onto the pole, and pushed the curtain pole into the wall brackets

 

And, voila, all done! It looks so much better than before, don’t you think?!?!

Before and After:

 

 

Additional Note:

Not while hanging this curtain, but when I was hanging the door curtain, I drilled into the wall to make pilot holes for wall brackets and drilled straight into the electrics. Be careful! There will be a lot of plumbing and electrics around your boiler, especially if it is situated in a utility room or kitchen. We use a stud finder device we got on Amazon for around £20 to detect for electrics and pipes etc before we drill any holes in the wall now. I’m not convinced it is 100% accurate, but I do think it is better than using nothing at all!

For this project:

Our stud finder detected something behind the wall to the left of the boiler, so we used no more nails and glued a block of wood to the wall into which we then made our pilot holes and attached our curtain pole. Just sand the wood down on each side, paint it on the visible sides the same colour as your walls, and then glue into place following the product instructions. Ensure your screws are long enough to go through the block of wood and just into the wall but not all the way through the plasterboard. Arguably its not as neat as going straight into the wall itself, but the curtain covers it up anyway, and its a whole lot safer than burning your house down or electrocuting yourself!

Prepping your woodwork: my 5 top tips

Prepping your woodwork: my 5 top tips

Painting woodwork is the arsiest of all home décor tasks. There’s just so much of it…and it has all those little nooks and crannies and moulded bits…and you need to worry about paint spreading in multiple directions…down on to your flooring, up on to your walls, over onto your plug points and handles! What a headache.

However, it goes without saying that refreshing your woodwork is so worth it afterwards because what a difference it makes to the look and feel of a room.

When we moved in to our house in November we knew we would have so much woodwork to do…basically all of it. Our previous owners had not only not kept on top of their woodwork, they had also painted it gloss magnolia at some point in the distant past, magnolia which has stained even yellower over time. Gross.

So far, the only woodwork I have done has been in the utility room and in the new bedroom…which I am yet to reveal…however, just because you are special I will share with you now my top tips for managing your woodwork upgrade before I share the overall room with you.

  1. Use an electric sander

This is especially true if, like us, you have more than one door in your room. We had 4: entry, en suite, 2 x wardrobe doors. Or, if like us, you know that this is not the only room you’re going to tackle. You can pick these up fairly cheap and use with a medium grain sandpaper when removing top shine from glossed woodwork. It took us about 3 hours to do the whole room and all hovering etc afterwards using an electric sander. It doesn’t quite manage the most detailed and moulded of skirting boards, but those bits you can just go over manually.

Sanded Woodwork
I used an electric sander to take the sheen and grime off of the woodwork which was painted in gloss magnolia

 

2. Sand, but don’t worry about revealing the true wood underneath

If you are going to paint your wood again, this is true. However, obviously if you want natural wood skirting boards then ignore this tip. Most importantly you want to remove the top shine and grime from your woodwork so your new paint can stick to it. Do not underestimate the importance of sanding your woodwork. I forgot to sand one of the doors in the utility and paint just would not stick to it at all. I ended up having to give the door 4 coats!! The best way to know you’ve sanded enough is to use your fingers to touch the surface, if it feels slick then it needs a further wee rub, if it feels slightly rough or textured, then you’re good to go.

One coat of paint
Left door has had one coat of satinwood following sanding. Right door has just been sanded. There is already a massive difference.

 

3. Use polythene dust sheets in your wardrobes

That dust gets everywhere, and don’t assume otherwise! Our wardrobes are fitted and the doors are stiff and tight and nearly impossible to open, and yet that dust managed to seep through crevices and work its way all over the contents of the wardrobe. Damon bought a roll of polythene sheeting and I should have pulled off  a length and draped it over the clothing inside the wardrobe. Learn from my mistake people! Protect your threads!

4. Use Frog Tape

I pride myself on being a good ‘cutter inner’. I have an innate ability to draw straight lines and find it therapeutic to cut in and paint straight lines with clean white satinwood. However, because I am pregnant and was struggling on my hands and knees to get the woodwork done comfortably, I decided to use frog tape for the first time and ever. Oh holy moly. Why oh why have I never used this stuff before?! I know people go on about how good it is, but I honestly never thought that would apply to me and my OCD straight line painting. It does! No straight line is as crisp as a frog tape straight line. Get all over it people! And, it is soooooo much faster if you take the time to frog tape your carpet too because then you just whack the paint on willy nilly without needing to be cautious on either side of your skirting boards. Frog tape = time saving = more time for tea and cake when painting is done! 🙂

Frog Tape for woodwork
Frog Tape, even for a good ‘cutter inner’ like me, is an absolute saviour!!!

5. Daylight Bulbs

I cannot underplay this tip…it might come last on my list but only because I want to go out with a flash…of daylight! If, like me, you have a job, or children, then you find yourself using your precious evenings and nights to do these painting jobs in the house. Cue winter woes, when the light starts to fail at 3pm in the afternoon and you can’t even see what you are doing. I bought some daylight bulbs from Wilko’s, removed the lampshades from the lamps and hey presto, its like painting in the sunshine except without the overbearing heat. This is invaluable for ensuring you have a good even coverage on your first coat, because get that right and only 2 coats should be needed, saving you time and money on that oh so expensive paint. Would you believe that this photo was taken by the light of a daylight bulb and not natural daylight itself?

IMG-20180214-WA0010-01
Fresh clean woodwork makes all the difference to a decorated room