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  • InInteriors, Lifestyle

    Finding The Balance With Minimalism

    Minimalism is all the rage these days and I’m pretty sure that Marie Kondo might just be the person to blame. Minimalism can be excellent when used well, creating spacious, relaxing homes that offer some breathing space and a cleaner, neater appearance. But when it goes too far, a room can feel bare, lifeless, boring, and, most of all, like no-one lives there. It’s a fairly new concept to me but since reading ‘An Edited Life’ I’m really keen to try and live with less things.

    I think most people assume that minimalism is about throwing away all your earthly possessions and some people take it to the extreme! For me personally, it’s more about making sure I have enough storage space for all of our possessions. And now hoarding too much! The key I think is making sure everything has it’s own home. We’ve been doing this by maximising all those little secret storage spaces we can in an organised manner. As if you don’t have the right storage space, you only end up creating more clutter when the items you do need and want are left to linger around in full view.

    The clean look of hard surfaces can create a lot of space to breathe but I like to add in a little softness too. Contrasting textures can make all the difference. Large Rugs, finding the right place for a houseplant (or three), or even draping a blanket over a dining chair like I do can add the depth that a room might just be missing. These touches don’t necessarily need to take up more space, but simply complement the spaces and furniture that’s already there.

    Using only a few key pieces of furniture can get rid of the cluttered feeling and help light travel better through the room. Our living room literally has the sofa, armchair, toy box and a sideboard under the TV. I also feel like choosing the right lighting is super important as this can really make a room. Maybe even consider layering it with accent lighting to add some depth and warmth.

    I have two children, a husband and a dog. So our house definitely looks ‘lived in’ but I still don’t want it to look cluttered. I have been gradually going through each room one by one, emptying every drawer and cupboard and saying goodbye to things we don’t need/use/make me happy. And let me tell you, it is LIBERATING.

    We’re in the process of having a shuffle about upstairs which is what sparked my big old clear out. We have created a dressing room in Hugo’s old bedroom. This is mainly so we can keep our bedroom as minimalist as possible. Hopefully this will mean it’s a nice calming space we can relax in. I’m loving gathering all the finishing touches for our new room, choosing original wall art and finding the perfect light fitting!

    I’ll be sharing some room make over blog posts very soon featuring my new minimalist approach!

    *Collaborative Post but all opinions are of course my own*

  • InFamily, Lifestyle

    Meal Planning & Food Shopping {Making Changes}

    For as long as I can remember I have done a weekly meal plan and then followed that up with a “big weekly shop”. I would buy all items for the whole week in one fell swoop, with only the occasional top-ups for things like milk or fresh fruit.

    Recently I was finding myself getting totally overwhelmed with both meal planning and food shopping. I was feeling totally uninspired and we’d fallen into a rut of cooking the same meals over and over again. And it felt like what we were spending was going up every month!

    So we decided it was time to switch things up a bit. And since we did we have actually saved money, eaten a much wider variety of food and waste a lot less time in the supermarket. The big weekly shop is out, and a more selective shopping routine has become the norm for us. So if you are feeling like I was and want to shake things up then here’s a few tips to keep in mind…

    #1 – Consider using a meal subscription service
    The biggest change we have made is by signing back up for a meal subscription box. We have previously used Hello Fresh but this time we opted for Gousto and get their family box for four meals a week. We had an money off promotion off all our boxes for the first month but enjoyed it so much that we have continued since. As a family we sit down the week before and look at the meals for the following week and choose them together. By getting Bella involved it means shes much more likely to eat the meals. There is always loads of choice and they do some great 10 minute meals which are perfect for us as a busy family.

    It means that I only have to plan dinners for the other three nights and we’ll often end up eating out or with family one night a week. So of course it means a lot less food shopping is needed. Instead of doing a shop once a week, I will just grab essentials as and when I need them. This usually consists of cereal, bread, milk, yogurts, cheese, fresh fruit and any bits needed for the remaining meals.

    And probably my favourite thing about meal subscription boxes is that it means SO MUCH LESS WASTE! All the ingredients are pre measured and they only send what you need. No more soggy veg rotting in the fridge or fancy ingredients you never use again so inevitably end up gathering dust at the back of a cupboard. I’m throwing a hell of a lot less away and pretty much all the packaging is recyclable too!

    I’ve discovered that there are a huge range of different similar services to choose from, ranging from coffee provided by the likes Two Chimps Coffee to select cuts of meat from British farmers and even cleaning product subscription boxes too! So I am planning to trial a couple more at some point.

    #2 – Always have back ups in
    One of the biggest challenges of switching to a food subscription box and more occasional shopping is the fact that there is much less food in at any given time. In some ways, this is of course beneficial as I said before, it means much less waste. But what it also means is that if I have forgotten to get something out for dinner or plans change and we need something quick then I find myself reaching for the takeaway menu. In order to avoid this I have been trying to ensure I always have a back up dinner option in. Whether that’s a pizza in the freezer, some leftover chilli that can easily be defrosted or even things like tins of beans in the cupboard. Sometimes you can’t beat a beans on toast dinner!

    #3 – Consider bulk buying for non-food essentials
    Of course my weekly shop didn’t always just consist of food. There are plenty of other bits I would buy from the supermarket too. Things like cleaning products, toiletries, nappies, flowers, birthday cards etc. So since moving to more occasional shopping, to meet our family’s non-food needs I try to buy these things in bulk. I occasionally go to the wholesaler and stock up on things like kitchen roll, toilet roll and cleaning bits. But most of the time I just make sure I get extras when there are offers on when grabbing the other essentials. I always make sure to stock up on plenty of nappies, baby wipes and dog food especially. This saves me from having to make emergency trips out to grab them all the time when I run out!

    #4 – Switch where you shop
    Now I’ll be the first to admit, I was a bit of a supermarket snob and Sainsburys was always my go to. But I cancelled my delivery pass and have been trialling both Lidl and Asda recently. I really like Lidl but sometimes I just don’t have the time to go in store. So the Asda click and collect and home delivery is great when I’m super busy. Both are cheaper and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the choice and quality of the products. So it’s definitely worth trying somewhere new sometimes.

    In conclusion
    The benefits of switching away from the standard big weekly shop are huge, ranging from the opportunity to reduce food waste to the ability to shop in a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly way. If you want to make the change yourself, then hopefully the tips above will help you to make the transition and enjoy an entirely new shopping experience in future!

    *Collaborative Post but all opinions are of course my own*

  • InBrand Collaborations, Home, Interiors

    Back Garden Renovation Progress

    The sun has finally got the memo that it’s Summer and apart from a few showers here and there, the weather is definitely looking much more brighter! This means that as well as throwing all my windows open at every opportunity and dusting off my summer wardrobe, my attention has been brought to looking at the gardens and wondering what the hell happened.

    When we first bought our house the front garden was beautiful, it was so well kept and full of amazing plants and flowers. But it was super high maintenance and we definitely let things slip! And then next thing we knew, it looked like an overgrown mess. Oops. So we have started doing some work out there which I will share soon.

    But today’s post is about the back garden which wasn’t so pretty. It’s very small sadly and was covered in super uneven patio slabs. Which were not child friendly at all. Like most families, our gardens are mainly used during the summer months only. And, though we are pretty good with the whole refreshing your home on a budget thing, I wasn’t really sure where to start when it came to the gardens. But after many hours on Pinterest looking at various ideas for small garden spaces, we decided in order to make best use of the space we would create some different zones. We made a start with the renovations out the back last summer and started by ripping out all the patio slabs and levelling the garden as much as possible. And then we created the following zones!

    Adult Space
    We decided to use CorTen steel edging to make a slightly raised seating area with cotswold stones. We put our garden corner sofa up here which I added some colour to with some outdoor cushions. In the afternoon it becomes a real sun trap and a lovely spot to sit and watch the kids play. It’s always good to get a bit of extra sunshine as its a great source of vitamin D which most of us are lacking! I’d also love to add a fire pit to this space so Josh and I can sit out there in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed and enjoy a nice cold gin!

    Play Space
    For the main garden area we opted for a LazyLawn. Artificial grass was definitely not Josh’s first choice but I managed to sway him by pushing my point that it would be ideal for the kids to be able to play without getting muddy. And it would mean we could enjoy the space all year round rather than just in the summer. I love that when I look out into the back garden during the cold and wet winter months that the grass still looks pristine. I also really enjoy being able to hoover it!

    Dining Space
    Eating al fresco is one of the simple pleasures in life. Both kids always eat so much better if we sit outside! We have a table and chairs set up on the artificial grass and we recently invested in a better BBQ. So I am planning to try and use it more during the week as well as at the weekends. I have been scouting out recipes to try and came across this great list of 33 types of chicken on the bbq which I am hoping to try out a few of!

    As well as these three zones we have also managed to squeeze in a small shed too! We’ve then created a little flower bed that runs along the house too. We made a great start last year but need to finish things off this year by painting the fences and shed, planting some more flowers, adding some festoon lights, replacing the gate and finishing the path off! So it’s still a bit of a work in progress but here is a few snaps so far!

    *Collaborative Post but all opinions and images are of course my own*

  • InLifestyle

    Three Ways To Give Your Home A Refresh On A Budget

    Most people think that the only way to make their home look expensive is to completely rip everything out and start again. However, I strongly disagree! There are SO MANY cheaper ways to give your home a little refresh and give a tired room a whole new look.

    When we first bought our home we did a lot of renovations downstairs mainly to change the lay out. We are now making plans to give our upstairs a little freshen up. So I thought I would share a few tricks that I am planning to do to help make my home look chic but still on a budget!

    Clean and declutter
    It would seem that all those Instagram perfect homes we see online are always clean and tidy. Now I personally like to keep a clean tidy house but with working, two children, a husband and a dog, it’s not always easy! My method is ‘little and often’ so I try to do a couple of bits most days and I find that helps me to keep on top of it better. It also seems less overwhelming that doing one huge clean once a week.

    Although I always find as the seasons change, it gives me the urge to do a bigger more thorough clean and declutter. Especially in the Spring. I love whacking all the windows open, putting a good upbeat playlist on and getting to work! This usually involves dusting all surfaces, hoovering behind furniture and generally getting into all those places that don’t get cleaned throughout the rest of the year. This list shares some fab spring cleaning tips and some more advice on how to carry out an effective spring clean. Whilst Spring is the most popular season for this clean, you can do it at any time during the year. I like to do a big one before Christmas too so everything is all fresh ready for putting up the decorations!

    Decluttering is also number one on my list at the moment! Our house has three bedrooms but I feel like we’re kind of bursting at the seams at the moment. I am planning to go through every room, cupboard and drawer and get rid of excess things that we don’t want/need/use anymore that are just cluttering the place up. I will probably start with old toys, unread books, baby bits we no longer need and then lastly clothes the kids have outgrown or we don’t wear anymore. Any bigger bits I try to sell and I always try to donate the other items where I can. We are also planning to up our storage upstairs to keep things a bit more organised too!

    Add a fresh lick of paint
    My favourite way to freshen things up is of course by adding a new coat of paint! This can immediately make your home look more lavish I think.

    I am a big fan of Neutral colours as they are always a safe bet and go with any furniture scheme. White in particular matches any type of room and any type of property and I find it helps reflect light. Although as I get older I do find myself getting a bit braver with colours too. We have a navy wall in our living room that I love. For our bedroom we’re planning to paint the whole room a dark green which I am very excited about!

    Spruce up with flowers
    Anyone that knows me, will have probably noticed that I ALWAYS have fresh flowers in my home. Usually on the dining table! I’m no expert in flower arranging, but I loving giving it a go! I think fresh blooms add a little touch of luxury too without having to cost the earth too. Flowers are also great for cheering up your home and will physically bring a sense of life to each room.

    I like to use colourful flowers that contrast the colour schemes of each room. I often will go for yellow roses, daffodils or sunflowers for the dining room table to co ordinate with the yellow chairs we have in there. I also love using pink or white flowers in the living room as they look so lovely against the dark navy wall in there.

    *Collaborative Post but all opinions are of course my own*

  • InBella, Brand Collaborations

    Preparing Your Child For School

    It feels like only last week Bella was preparing to start school, and I can’t believe that she is now coming to the end of her first year. This time last year we were starting to thing of ways we could help her with the transition. The school sent out some really helpful leaflets of things we could do to encourage independence. Of course we all want our children to be well-rounded human beings and the school systems plays such a huge part in this. But there are also many things that are the parent’s responsibility to teach them too.

    Bella is one of the older children in her year and after three years at a very good Nursery, I felt like she was more than ready to start school. But there were quite a few things on the leaflet we received that I hadn’t even considered. Things like buying zip up dresses rather than button down to make it easier for her when getting changed for PE. And that she would need to be able to use the toilet independently and to carry her plate or tray at lunchtime! Other bigger things I felt were important were things like…

    Health Consciousness
    This is something I am super passionate about. Teaching my children the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle. We started doing this from a very young age. When Bella was a baby we used to go for plenty of walks together with her either in the buggy or I’d wear her in a baby carrier. We also did baby swimming lessons. And then at 18 months Bella started Ballet lessons which she still does now and we have recently started horse riding together too. We also got a dog at the beginning of the year which has really helped to encourage us all to get outside walking more!

    As well as being active I really want my children to have a good relationship with food by teaching them the importance of a balanced diet. We don’t deny the children treats as I personally don’t think that’s the best way to go about it. By telling I child they cannot have something, it makes them want it even more. Instead we try to eat healthily most of the time so that they can enjoy the odd treats. We cook most of our meals from scratch using plenty of lean meat and fresh vegetables to ensure the children get all the vitamins they need. The fruit bowl is always well stocked too for snacks.

    Time Management
    My sister bought Bella a watch for Christmas and this has been great for teaching her to tell the time. Its been really helpful for gently teaching her about time management. For example in the mornings she knows that we all need to be up, dressed and downstairs by 8am for breakfast and out the door by 8.45am. Then in the evenings she knows what time she goes to bed so this helps give her an idea of how much time she has to play or read before it’s time for lights off. Schools obviously operate on a timetable so just by making Bella aware of these things at home, it will hopefully help her understand how her school day works. Time management is one of those skills that benefit us for life after all! As she gets older she’ll be set homework with deadlines so hopefully this will help her to manage her time with that too. I suppose that time management is one of those things that is a very subtle blend of pressure and rewards.

    And, of course, there are so many other skills needed, like money management, decision-making skills, and even the importance of saying “no” to someone. Something that I have re iterated to Bella many times. Just because she is in full-time education now, I can’t just rely on the school and her teachers to provide all the information for her to live a well-balanced life. It’s just as much up to us as parents too!

    I hope these tips have been helpful, is there anything you would add?

    *Collaborative Post but all opinions are of course my own*

  • InBrand Collaborations, Family

    For The Easter Basket

    I’ve been playing Easter Bunny and putting together a little basket of goodies every year since Bella was born. I think Josh thought I was nuts going through the effort when she was just 5 months old but it’s just as much for me as it is for the children. Things like Easter, Birthdays and Christmas were never really a big deal in our family when I was growing up and I am determined for that not to be the case for my children. I love any excuse to celebrate and do something special for them.

    So I thought I would share some ideas for filling an Easter Basket. I did share a similar post a few years back here. As I have done this a few times before now, I actually already has most of the bits around the house. It certainly does not need to cost the earth or be super extravagant. This year I have kept it simple and just put a couple of Easter books in, a stuffed toy each, some bunny ears, a bag of Easter themed marshmallows and lastly some Kinder chocolate goodies from their Easter range which is available in all major supermarkets (apart from the Giant Eggs which are exclusive to Tesco and Ocado).

    Other good non chocolate items to include are things like hair clips/bows, play doh, craft supplies, bubbles, stickers and even clothes. In the first one I ever did for Bella I put a little Easter romper in there.

    We have some lovely plans with both family and friends this year and I can’t wait to celebrate Easter with our loved ones. There will be roast lamb, Easter egg hunts, my annual Easter cheesecake and lots of country dog walks I’m sure!





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    ***The lovely people at Kinder very kindly gifted us a hamper of Easter goodies in exchange for a mention in this post. All photos and words are of course my own***