#JanuaryJoy – Plan a project

Good morning readers!

I’ve left some of the prompts for this years #JanuaryJoy deliberately vague to allow as many people to join in as possible and whilst this particular prompt could encompass many things, for me it will be a house project. We’ve got quite a few things planned this year, big and small, from whole rooms to finishing touches. I’m keeping it small for now as I want to enjoy the remainder of my maternity leave dust and stress free, so I thought I’d share a couple of the projects I have in mind for this month.


Alcove storage // Peach and grey alcove

A Nursery wardrobe.
When we planned the nursery (which I will share soon, I promise!) I was convinced I was having a boy and didn’t give any thought to wardrobe space. We have a huge chest of drawers in there but since having a girl I’ve realised I need hanging space for dresses. The best place for the storage is in an alcove to the side of the chimney breast but it’s proving difficult to find a pice of furniture as it’s an oddly sized 66cms wide, so I’m having to think outside the box. I love the idea of being able to see Bea’s tiny clothes and so I thought some kind of open storage might work and hopefully won’t look too untidy as she doesn’t have that many clothes and I can still keep the majority folded in the drawers. Or do I do some kind of IKEA hack with something like this?

IMG_9491.JPG
Garden design by Tom Stuart-Smith.

Deck planting.
When we built our deck outside the kitchen last year we added some raised beds made of sleepers, half the height of the deck. They’re pretty big and the idea is to plant them with tall perennials that will surround the deck with foliage so it doesn’t seem separate from the garden. So the first job is to order some topsoil to fill them as they have stood empty since we built them, and secondly to plant them up with appropriate plants. I’m going for delicate drifting styles, in shade loving plants for one of the boxes on the north facing side and pretty flowers for the other west facing side which gets lots of sun.

IMG_9493.JPG
Bathroom via

Bathroom revamp.
Our bathroom is perfectly adequate and not on the agenda for change for quite some time… if we did change it, it would be part of quite a major reconfiguration of the first floor so we need to give that serious thought. In the meantime, I think I can make it a lot more us, with some simple additions. A new mirror, new light fittings, a bit of paint and some new hooks should make a big difference and it’ll be fun to change a room without all hell breaking loose in the house for a change. ;)

So what projects are you planning this January readers? (It doesn’t have to be house related!)

Love
Rebecca
xo

Welcome in the #JanuaryJoy


Image via

Happy New Year readers!

I gave some serious thought to doing January Joy this year… it’s the third year now and a lot has changed in that time here on the blog. I wasn’t sure I could commit to a regular daily post anymore so thought I might have to let it go, but I know so many of you enjoy it and I do myself – I just love the possibilities of a New Year. So I’m going to do it differently this year…


Background glitter image via

I usually blog about 3 or 4 times a week now so there are 13 prompts. That’s enough for 3 per week and one for good measure. You’ll notice there are no numbers so you are free to pick and choose which prompts you do when, working through them as January progresses. I think this might work better for lots of you as it means you can plan a family day out at the weekend when work isn’t an issue and also use the weather to your advantage. There’s nothing better than a Sunday lunch with friends or family when the weather is cold outside, or a walk on a crisp sunny day. And if you can’t or don’t want to get through them all then that’s fine. January Joy is about embracing the New Year, a spirit of optimism and joy for life, so just fit it around yours.

As always, the whole point is to join in, so feel free to download the image above to share by clicking it, or clicking here. Please let me know when you’re taking part – blog about it, or tweet or instagram using the hashtag #januaryjoy and you can see who else is joining in and how, by searching the hashtag in your social media feeds.

Oh and for those of you needing a bit of additional inspiration, I’ll be pinning January Joy appropriate challenges, tips and fun on my January Joy Pinterest board – do follow along and tag me or the hashtag on Pinterest too and I’ll add your ideas and pin your January Joy activities too!

Will you be joining in readers?! I hope you all enjoy it! :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

What I have learned: In 2014

The end of the year always makes me sentimental. This one more than any other seems to have passed by so quickly. I was 11 weeks pregnant this time last year, keeping everything crossed that my little baked bean stayed put and at the same time terrified of the future. I couldn’t see past the sea of ‘last’s’ Pete I and I would experience to the joy of the firsts that were yet to come. I have changed tremendously in this year – I suppose motherhood does that to you, but I’ve also had time to reflect on it all and what I’ve learned in that year…

Unconditional love does exist.
I think we all hope for unconditional love from a partner or spouse and I hope we all receive it, but the awe of the way your baby looks at you is true unconditional love. I realised that one morning, sat in my pyjama’s, a bit puffy from lack of sleep, obviously makeup less, could have been cleaner… the list of imperfections goes on. But Bea had never been happier to see my imperfect face. She didn’t care and that is unconditional love.

Human kindness is everywhere.
When you have a baby everybody is interested, in the same way people are interested when you’re getting married. Advice is impressed offered, wry stories told about their first born or new parenting experiences, and sadly much of it is passively negative. Since having Bea in contrast it’s the kindness and human nature of strangers that has struck me. On my errands about my local community or into Manchester, never a journey passes without a kind enquiry. Surprisingly many a man has engaged with Bea and I when we’re out and about. So many people have offered help with the pram, or give up a seat, or to get things for me and it’s enough to restore my faith in humankind but also wonder why we all are not so polite and kind to each other every day.

Letting go is freedom
The times I’ve felt most trapped by motherhood, the days when I’ve not been able to leave the house, or get something done, or just settle Bea as usual, giving up and letting go has always been the key. Often, with the benefit of hindsight, just to stop fighting battles that can’t be won is immensely relieving.

My work does not define me
There have been times I’ve felt insignificant since I stopped work to go on maternity leave, without purpose or direction, I suppose because I haven’t felt I was contributing. As time has gone on I have realised the contribution every mother makes to the future of society, or taking a microscopic as opposed to macroscopic view, just the future of their child. Work is only a part of me and didn’t define me before, but it does even less now.

One bad day does not a bad mother make (and nor do bad habits form in one night.)
And neither do two, or three bad days for that matter. It’s hard to remember on a bad day, but Bea crying doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. She won’t hold it against me in the future and it doesn’t make me bad at my new role. I learned not to be afraid of picking her up from her cot when she cries, (in case she starts doing it every time I put her down,) or feeding her in the night if she wakes up in the early hours (in case she wants a feed every night.) It’s so easy to make yourself feel bad. Sometimes babies just need cuddles. And so do mummies :)

Pete will do anything for me and together we can do anything
This isn’t the first year that Pete has supported me unconditionally, but it’s the first time I’ve realised it at the time. He has physically supported me through late pregnancy and in the weeks and months after my c-section. He’s emotionally supported me through my doubts before having Bea and worries about motherhood after. He’s worked day and night to get the house finished or cleaned or tidy, when I was hugely pregnant or when Bea needed me. He’s fetched and carried a million different things when I was immobile or feeding. And when towards the end of the year we’ve been back to working together again, we’ve knuckled down and achieved a lot in the house, even when mountains have needed to be moved. I wouldn’t want to do it all with anyone else.

It’s been a truly amazing year, in the awe-inspiring sense of the word. It’s been difficult, frustrating, intense, frightening, exhausting but totally fulfilling. I have no idea what 2015 will bring but I know just being in my little family will be just fine with me.

How has your year been readers? Did you have any big revelations?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

*All the photo’s in this post are by Peter and Laura Lawson taken when Bea was 7 weeks old.

Star Finds of 2014

I often want to write about something that I really love but since blogging less I lean towards the meatier posts. I thought it would be fun to share the things I have consistently loved throughout the year – that stand the test of time and I use and go back to again and again. Here’s my list, have you got any stand out items from 2014?

Boots Sanctuary Spa long lasting hand lotion £5.50
I mentioned this hand cream when I did a review of several Sanctuary products a while back. It was an immediate standout and has continued to be so pleasing that I have replaced my own and bought it as gifts for other people. It restores my dry hands even after all the hand washing associated with looking after a small baby and after all the diy my hands have been involved in this year.

Burts Bee’s Mama Bee Nourishing body oil £10.99 but currently on offer ⅓ off! (and Baby Bee range.)
I never particularly liked Bio oil and whilst I didn’t always apply oil to my bump to prevent stretch marks (Bad news folks, if you’re going to get them, nothing will stop you, it’s a skin-type thing;) I did use it religiously after giving birth. This mama bee oil smells amazing (citrusy) and made me feel as though I was improving the elasticity of my skin and I still use it all over now. We also use the Baby Bee products at Bea’s bath time and she smells delicious as a result. ;)

Lush Ultrabland £7.25 for a small pot.
I started using this as a cheap alternative to Eve Lom in March this year and haven’t gone back. My skin has never been better and whilst that may be partly due to pregnancy, 5 months later it’s still great. I’m a huge advocate of oil based cleansers balancing problem skin and I think for the price anyone with troublesome skin should try it. Massage into dry skin (I use it to take my makeup off in one step too as I’m rather lazy like that…) then remove with a toner soaked cotton pad or two.

Lakeland mop
I never thought I’d write about a mop being one of my favourite things of the year, but this one has saved my sanity. Whilst having 2 walls knocked through, one door moved and 3 sets of new windows, you can imagine the almost constant dust for the last 12 months. In our hallway particularly the dust settled on wood floors and when we mopped (after brushing and hoovering,) it just pushed the dust around and created dull still-dirty floors. Then I found this triangular mop with a velcro-on microfibre head (replaceable) which you dampen in your floor cleaner then attach and use. I can get round the kitchen and hallway without needing to rinse it under normal conditions and it removes all the dirt or dust. I love microfibre cloths. Don’t get me started on using them for cleaning! (I couldn’t find the exact mop but this one is very similar.)

Instagram
I’m an Instagram addict, sharing behind the scenes goings on while we renovate and try to enjoy normal life too. It’s also the place where I most enjoy engaging with my readers. If you want to follow me I’m here, do say hi!

Inkifi
Following on from Instagram I also love the images it produces – often pictures of Bea I’ve snapped when my proper camera isn’t to hand. A lot of the Instagram printing companies are American but this one is British, well priced, ecofriendly and quick to deliver. I’ve used them twice for pictures of Bea to put in thank you and Christmas cards and will definitely be going back for more. They even have an app to order directly from your phone.

The local library.
Since Bea’s arrival was approaching I’ve started to use our local library more and more. There are so many parenting books out there that it could cost a lot to buy them and often be a waste as one mothers favourite recommendation is a red rag to another mother bull. Instead I loan them from the library and decide what would be helpful to buy and keep – I’ve done this with pregnancy books, baby books, sleep books and now am doing the same with weaning books and I reserve them all online first so there are no wasted trips. Support your local library!

Gel nails.
The last revelation of my year, just before Christmas I had my nails done (first time since Bea was born!) and knowing they wouldn’t make it to Christmas with all the DIY we had left to do and food prep, I opted for a gel manicure. 11 days later they are absolutely pristine, despite me picking screws up off a bare dusty floor, painting, peeling veg and having my hands in dish or bathwater constantly. I would highly recommend them to any mum or just those who can’t make a manicure last. ;) I go to Nailista in Manchester for mine.

Have you got any great finds for 2014?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Merry Twixmas…

First and foremost readers… I really hope you all had a very merry few days over Christmas. I feel bad that I didn’t get chance to post those wishes before Christmas but things were manic around here. The good news is that after working until 1am on christmas eve eve, ;) we got the lounge looking presentable and ready to celebrate with our families. As you all listened to my woes in the run up to Christmas while one thing after another went wrong, I thought I’d post a few pictures of how it’s looking now. I’ll do another full post on the whole renovation process and suppliers/tradesmen in the new year but here’s what the room looks like today, mid Christmas obviously!




We were quite lucky in that we had chosen and bought lots of the ‘finishing touches’ like the mirror and light fitting, while the room was in progress, and the sofas were all ordered in time for Christmas delivery, so the room was relatively ready to go, but the decorations have helped make it look a lot more ‘done’ too. I’m looking forward to choosing the rest in the New Year. :)

Lastly, to those of you who are regulars here and surprised I’m blogging between Christmas and New Year, so am I(!) but I missed it after a sketchy couple of weeks and have quite a few posts in mind that lend themselves to the end of the year, so make sure you pop back over the next few days! :)

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Driving me crackers…

Sorry. Festive pun. But I’m not sorry…

If I didn’t laugh right now I would cry, things are so unfinished in the house. I think a few people who have heard me say this have wrongly assumed it was a need for perfection that was stressing me out pre-Christmas, but in fact it’s a need for safety – we have children visiting and wires, boxes and heavy/breakable items (granite hearth propped up against a wall anyone?) everywhere wasn’t my idea of a relaxing Christmas for me, or I imagine their parents! We are so close to having the lounge finished but there will then be a gargantuan effort to tidy/clean in time for relatives arriving on Christmas eve. Then I might just curl up in a corner with Bea and let everyone get on with it!


Photography: Jemma Watts // Styling: Laura Sawyer // Styling assistant: Rosanna Johnson

Getting back to that pun… This year I decided it might be nice to DIY some crackers (because I have so much free time…) and I’m persisting with the idea dispute the chaos as it’s turning out to be keeping me sane whilst I’m stuck in with tradesmen, trawling the internet for little gifts and ideas. I was fully braced to completely DIY them after seeing a DIY featured in 91 magazine (the latest issue is out now!) and so I asked Caroline to share the stylists tips here…

Cracker Snap pulls were sourced from Ebay at £5.99, and you’ll need some toilet paper tubes. The stylist stuck a snap pull to the inside of a tube, filled the tube with presents, then wrapped the whole thing up in beautiful wrapping paper from Paperchase, and tied it off at the ends with ribbon from John Lewis.

How easy does that sound? Unfortunately in my disorganised state I hadn’t pre-collected the necessary loo-rolls and didn’t have time for snaps to arrive so I ended up with a DIY kit from M&S but I’m still happy filling them. I love that if you make your own you can label them for each individual person and gift accordingly, as well as tying them in with your table decor scheme. I’m planning on activities to keep the kids busy at the table, chocolate and treats for the ladies, with possibly a lottery ticket or something for the men. Crackers are always full of rubbish anyway, so why not fill them with stuff your family and friends will love and even tweak the jokes or motto’s into dinner games for between the courses?

Makes sure you check out the new issue of 91 magazine (there are some really great interiors and printables for Christmas in this issue,) and thanks to Caroline for sharing the crackers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

SALE time!

Good morning readers!

Thanks for bearing with me over the last couple of days. We are having a bit of a nightmare in the house. Having decided to re-do the lounge in time for Christmas (in October, so not that last minute!) we were so close on Tuesday when the fire fitter, joiner and decorator were all starting or finishing off. We haven’t even got a tree up yet and the house is a mess with new furniture stacked all over the old stuff. Disaster struck and the totally incompetent fire fitter (who clearly didn’t know how to work with marble,) cracked the marble hearth completely in two, meaning we couldn’t get it done. He then disappeared saying he was getting a new one and texted the next day to say he wasn’t coming back. He says he’s going to pay towards a replacement but I’m not holding my breath. We have now got someone to do the job but it will be on Monday so Christmas remains on hold; I’m taking until next week to get straight and try to enjoy what’s left of the Christmas build up. Plus I want to enjoy Bea after ignoring her for days whilst trying to organise builders etc and feeling like the worlds worst mum. :(

In the meantime, the sales started today! Here’s a few bargains to get you started! (Shop quick and you’ll still get them in time for Christmas!)

Kurt Geiger: Sutter UGG boots £169 (from £240) plus lots of party shoes!

Anthropologie Sale!

The Whistles sale started this morning.

There’s 35% off on Christmas finishing touches at Cox & Cox.

The Mama’s and Papa’s sale is on too.

Happy shopping. Have you finished all of yours yet?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

4 months with Bea

I’m a little bit behind with these posts and time and development marches on apace so it’s almost hard to remember what was happening in Bea’s fourth month. Last time I wrote about her naps being problematic and her first real changes that made her less of a newborn and more of a baby. The month that followed seemed like a godsend of perfect calm and enjoyment.

Bea had her first cold at 14 weeks but we seem to have emerged relatively unscathed as she was mild and just snotty with it really. Fortunately it didn’t affect her sleep. Throughout the month she was smiley and happy regardless and it cleared after about a week.

Probably the biggest change of this month was to feeding. I had noticed that Bea was getting more and more fussy when she fed, pulling off and messing around instead of taking a good feed. I was still feeding her 2 hourly at this point (not on a schedule, thats just about when she wanted it,) and whilst travelling when I didn’t take as much notice of the time, I noticed she fed much better when she showed me she was hungry. As a consequence now she is fed about 6-7 times in 24 hours, 2.5 – 3 hourly in the day, then a dream feed at 10 or 11 pm and she feeds much better.

As you can see here, Bea is getting more and more active. She loves standing up and supports her own weight with only a finger supporting both of her hands, even stamping her feet up and down sometimes! It’s much more clear too what she likes and does’t like, as she kicks and wriggles with excitement or pleasure, or gives us a downturned mouth or wobbling lip before a cry (usually when she’s tired!)

Best of all, after what felt like weeks of waiting, Bea finally laughed! I had been feeling like she was on the edge of laughing for a couple of weeks and was sure she would do it while we were on holiday, then on the very last day she did, out of the blue! I had worried I was missing it amongst the other sounds she makes but it was a proper peel of laughter, although it caused me to shout so loud that she stopped just as suddenly as she started! It’s taken a while but the laughs are coming more and more often now. It’s a cliche to say it, but it really is the best sound in the world.

The other big change has been to napping in the cot now. We switched to a grobag when we got back from Florida and I also immediately started putting Bea down to nap in her cot instead of the crib, mainly so I could do things in our bedroom while she slept elsewhere. It’s been a pretty seamless transition – she doesn’t seem to have noted any difference to the crib and if she’s tricky to get down sometimes I can’t say it’s any different to when she was in the crib. We still have her in our room in the crib however in the evening and overnight.

When we got back from Florida naps were brilliant and we started getting some 1.5 hour naps in the morning, both while we were away and when we got back. The last month however has been another story… I’ll save it for next time!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Five on Friday…


Image from the Free People blog

Pretty free Christmas downloads for your table by Kelli Murray on the Free People Blog.

When I’m photographing my house as each room gets improved, I’m often despairing that it doesn’t look as good as I imagine on camera, or compare to the home tours captured around the interwebs. This post by Emily Henderson shows comparison images of her home photographed AND photoshopped for Domino! Who knew they even did that for house tours? Well, I feel a whole lot better now!

Loving the weather inspired goods made by PygmyCloud on Folksy (found via 91 Magazine – did you know you can get a yearly subscription for £7? A perfect present for a crafty friend.)

I’ve been reading lots about sleep patterns lately after a pretty fraught week with Bea (Growth spurt? Wonder week? Sleep regression? Who cares. It’s passing!) and this site has lots of useful information.

I’m more interested in planning the decor of my Christmas table to be honest than the food on it and I’m more than tempted by the lovely decorations and candleholders or sticks from Rockett St George, plus some of them are already in the sale!

Also, don’t forget #FFfestivefun! I’m so enjoying seeing all your tagged photos’s – check out the prompts here and keep joining in!

Happy weekend readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

[Christmas] Hostess with the Mostess [or Cheats Chocolate Tart]

Today I’m hoping you guys can offer me some tips and advice, and in exchange I’m sharing THE best prepare ahead chocolate tart for your Christmas spread.

When Pete and I bought our house we had grand plans of family get togethers, now we have the space for everyone to stay over. We immediately invited everyone to have Christmas at ours this year. Then we had a baby. Now we’ve got 9 on Christmas day and 11 on Boxing day and I’m starting to panic! There’ll be Christmas dinner to make, and an evening buffet, then a cooked late lunch on Boxing day and an evening spread again, not to mention nibbles after church on the big day and breakfasts. Of course everyone will help and I’m delegating dishes to various people, but I’m trying to give serious thought to how to make it as easy as possible with made-ahead and simple dishes that mean I won’t spend all day in the kitchen. And that’s where you guys come in! I need your tips and hints on what can be made ahead or great ideas for stress free entertaining! How do you cater for large groups if you have a big family – we don’t, so it’s all new to me!

Now, onto that tart…

Did you watch Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes? It was pretty good viewing and we tried this Cheats Chocolate Tart after seeing it on one of the episodes, for a family party. It’s not a quick make, but it doesn’t take forever and it could be made 2 days in advance. Added to that it looks A-mazing and feeds a crowd (16 at a stretch,) because it’s so rich. And the alcohol gives it that festive edge. ;)

Now, first up with the confessions, I didn’t make this tart, Pete did, but neither of us have ever made pastry and it was still super easy, with no soggy bottom situation! The filling is ridiculously easy too and the simple topping makes it all look far more special and skilful than it actually is to make. Thats a coffee and liquor laced cream on top by the way…

You can check out the recipe here (and a picture of the whole tart… this slice is all that remained of the one we made, which speaks volumes about how good it was!) and the book it’s from – Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes. We’ve since made it again with equal success and it will definitely be featuring in my entertaining plans over Christmas and New Year.

So, please give me your tips on entertaining for a crowd and your Christmas day secrets! And make this tart. You will thank me. I promise.

Love,
Rebecca
xo