We all hate wearing face masks and are Covid-tired. Anger, fear, mistrust, conspiracy theories. We all have an opinion about this crazy situation. And social media isn’t helping. This week I happened to stand beside two GPs, outside the school gates. I decided to ask them about the situation. How bad is it really?
The pet industry is booming and you can buy an enormous variety of accessories for your furry friends. Most pets spend a lot of time in the home and their beds will most likely sit on the floor in the living room or kitchen. They can take up quite a bit of space too. We choose our own furniture and accessories to match, so why not get a dog bed that blends in with your decor too? Here is my selection of gorgeous dog beds from makers and sellers on Etsy.
Why does your dog need a dog bed?
Does your pup even need a dog bed? Should you spend a lot of money when your dog is just as happy lying with you in your human bed or on the sofa? The answer is: yes. Even if you love having your dog sleeping with you in your human bed, every dog should also have a bed of their own, to snuggle up in during the day for a nap and as his own little safe space.
Health, hygiene and a place of safety
Unlike the floor, a bed will keep your dog cosy and will support arthritic joints and prevent calluses. Dog beds are usually washable, which is useful if your dog has accidents, has fleas or mites, or has walked in covered in dirt! Dog beds are also useful when traveling. Some dogs can get a bit anxious on a journey and it often calms them down to sleep in a familiar bed. They’ll rest easier and feel less anxiety.
Select a dog bed that suits your pet, your style and your budget
Dog beds are available in any style, shape, fabric and size. From fluffy and velvet cushions to sleek, minimalist dog beds. There are cheap ones and expensive one, and many people make a pet bed themselves. Choosing the right bed depends on your taste, budget, and decor, Of course, dogs being dogs, they may decide not to sleep in it at all, so there never a guarantee…! If you know where your dog feels most comfortable to rest, you may find it easier to pick the right dog bed. Also, make sure the bed is big enough for your dog to sleep in comfortably, without his legs spilling out over the edge.
Best dog bed for rescue dogs and other pets with anxiety
I fell in love with this design dog bed, which not only looks gorgeous, but looks like a bed I would like to snuggle in myself! Handmade in the Netherlands by designer-maker Rose from Floofculture, this high-end faux fur and gorgeous cotton canvas bed & sleeping bag combo is pretty and extremely comfortable. This bed is great for all animals, but especially the ones that need a bit of extra safety, such as rescue dogs. Also great for traveling; it doesn’t take up too much space. Everything is handsewn with very strong thread, in this case Brazilian waxcord. Price: £58.49 / 76.50 USD / €64.59 Check out this one and many other colours at Floofculture on Etsy
Choosing art for your home can be quite a challenge. How do you buy art online? Where do you find affordable art in your local area? Here are the best tips for buying art for your home.
Art: an essential ingredient in interior design
Architecture forms the bones of a house, art is the soul of the interior.
I absolutely love art and have always been interested in it, from when I was very little. Art needs to be around me, whether it is paintings, photographs, sculpture or ceramics. I yearn for the handmade, original qualities of a piece of art. Even though I have long run out of wall and shelf space to display anything, I just can’t help myself. You can take away my furniture, don’t touch my art. So what do I look out for when buying art for my home?
Expert tips for buying art for your home:
Don’t care about what others may think about your choice or whether the work is by someone famous. If you love it, it is meaningful and worth buying.
Pick something that ‘speaks’ to you. Does the work make you happy or emotional? Do you adore the colours? Does the subject have significance? You’re onto a winner.
Set yourself a budget if you don’t want to be swept away by crazy impulse buying tendencies. Yup – I am speaking from experience.
Sleep on it. Do you still want that artwork the next morning? Get it.
Art is personal, buy what you love
Art has the ability to ‘grab’ you and you feel you need to own it, probably because it is such a one-off, unique piece and you feel you may never come across it again. That has happened to me on more than one occasion. Even though buying art was the last thing on my mind when leaving the house. Choosing art for your home often happens by chance, rather than through research.
One time I was working at the Glasgow Art Fair for a previous employer and during a little wander around this big orange Rothko-like painting drew me closer. I couldn’t walk away. It was as if the devil had taken over my sanity and before I knew it I spent every last penny of my hard earned savings. Utter madness. Do I regret it? No. It is still my favourite painting and I will love it forever.
There is always space: create a gallery wall
If you spot something you like – or even more than one piece, don’t be put off buying it because of lack of wall space. Group pictures together to create an interesting gallery wall. And don’t be scared to buy something large either. Nothing worse than a tiny picture frame on a massive wall.
Where do you buy the best art?
If you are not too familiar with art buying, you might feel a bit at a loss when buying something for your walls. You may choose to be safe, going for a picture that matches the colour of the curtains rather than that it evokes any emotion at all. This is a missed opportunity, because why not make your home a place that inspires you? Fill it with things that are meaningful, not mass-produced. You will likely get bored of that department store print very soon.
If you feel you know very little about art, then where do you look for something that ticks those boxes?
Visit the degree show of the local Art School
Those fresh graduates are dying to make it big and have their art out there. You are bound to discover some pretty cool pieces. The artist will also be incredibly grateful if you go home with one of their works.
Go to local art fairs and markets
There must be some in your city or area. Stroll around, speak to the artists. These events are usually very lively and informal and feel less daunting than shopping for art in a quiet gallery.
Buy art online
There are a growing number of online galleries selling original artworks at various prices. An easy way to familiarise yourself with different styles and see what you like. Artfinder for example is a good place to start. They have some more great tips on what to look out for when buying art. Etsy is also a popular site to browse for some unique and often affordable prints and artworks.
Be brave! Dive into an actual gallery!
Galleries may look scary for someone who doesn’t usually go to these kind of places, but trust me, gallery owners want to sell art and you are customer just like anyone else. You’ll probably find there are pieces of art at different price levels. You may not be a regular, but you have every right to go in and have a look around. Many galleries in the UK now have a scheme called Own Art, which let you buy an artwork with a 0% loan, so worth popping in for.
Finding vintage treasures and making art yourself
The local auction house
Your local auction house will have plenty of artworks too. Have a look in their online catalogue of items to see if it is worth bidding. You’d be surprised how often you could pick up a framed original for less than £50. Of course, as with markets and charity shops: it is hit or miss, but certainly a good way of buying quirky art on a budget.
Browse the second-hand shops
Charity shops, car-boot sales or flea markets for original paintings, etchings and vintage posters.
Make something yourself. Paint, draw, sew, print or take photos. Frame a piece of fabric or wallpaper you love. Get the kids involved and let them go crazy with their felt pens and finger paint. It is amazing how good things look in a frame.
Have fun, starting your art collection!
How many photos do you have on your mobile camera roll right now? Do you turn your digital snapshots into actual printed photo albums? For many years now I make an annual photo album of our family pics. It takes a bit of time, but I am so glad I kept it up. The books are real keepsakes in our house and often get taken down from the shelf to flick through. It is wonderful to see and remember what we were up to that particular year. I often include text as well; some funny phrases the children said or some things that happened in our lives that year. The children love looking at themselves as babies – and I just sigh and reminiscence at the thought of how time flies. Today I am going to tell you all about Photobox who I have happily used for nearly a decade.
Choosing a company to create a photo album online
There are many different websites for creating a beautiful photo album online and most also offer the easy option to automatically put an album together for you. This is especially handy for those who find it hard to think of a nice layout or simply don’t have the time. I love creating and publishing – as you will know from reading my blog – so I happily fiddle about with photos, backgrounds and embellishments until it’s 100 % right. Within the Photobox editing system you can choose layouts for up to five photos per page, coloured and patterned backgrounds, type fonts, frames and graphic elements such as speech bubbles, lines and even pieces of ‘tape’ or paperclip images to give the impression of a scrap book. Go for minimalist black and white backgrounds or have a different background on each page. Choose a soft or hard cover, A4 or a small square. There are endless possibilities. What about making a professional looking recipe book for yourself, with all your favourite dishes?
How do you create a great photo album?
My top tips for creating the best photo album online?
- Play around with different layouts (just one striking photo for example or a group of five), but keep consistency by only using three or four layouts throughout the book.
- Choose a style for your book in advance, perhaps go for a minimalist look or make it fun and colourful with lots of embellishments
- Use the same type font and colour scheme throughout for a great, professional looking design.
INCLUDE QUOTES, ANECDOTES, PICTURES OF DRAWINGS…ANYTHING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU
As for the pictures themselves: if you are making a year book, use every day life, honest photographs and don’t include too many posed ones. Raw images are much more interesting in the long run than the family portraits next to the Christmas tree. Treat your photo album as a journal or a photo documentary. I even include pictures of school projects or drawings by the boys. In the future you will find it hard to remember those very normal things you or your family did it that particular year, so how lovely is it to keep a memory of those moments in pictures? I love our family photo albums mostly because of this approach. Keep it real, people! Leave out perfection. At the time I hated my husband taking that picture at 6am, me being unwashed and exhausted, breast feeding my baby while watching Thomas the Train with my 2-year old in the living room, but now I am so grateful it exists. I also usually include a few nice selfies, just to remind myself when I am old and grey, that really, I did look pretty good back then.
The best pictures? Capture the moment, good or bad
Portraits and posed group photos are fine of course, but don’t omit the random shots. Photos of people who are unaware of the camera often capture the moment much better. A sleeping child, friends laughing, your parents chatting. Exhaustion, boredom, a day in a life. I also take photos of our home: untidy, raw, like a time capsule. Look, this is what the house looked like when we had young children and life was crazy. It doesn’t all have to be Instagram ready. This is your life, your photo album and you will cherish that forever, promise.
Easy uploading, organising and editing a photo album online
As always, I only post about brands I like and Photobox is one of them, because of its user-friendliness and the quality of the products. You can simply upload and organise your photos in albums and come back later to create a product. You can edit your creation, save it and finish it later, no need to do it all on the same day. I mainly order their photo albums online, but have also created calendars a few times, which were great for ourselves and as gifts. Mugs, fridge magnets, canvasses and prints are other examples of products you can create with your photos. If you have created something in the past you can also simply order another copy at a later date, or order the same album for yourself and the grandparents.
Photobox special offer code
The other great thing about Photobox are their big discount offers, which come past fairly regularly. I usually wait until a Photobox offer code lands in my email inbox before ordering my finished product. You can save a lot on the price of a photo album online, which helps when you have a big book with about 30 to 60 full-colour pages. This August there is a 50% Photobox offer on all photo books, no code needed. Not got anything ready yet? Simply buy the credit and you have two months to use it.
After moving to Spain I wasn’t sure whether I could continue my annual photo albums with them, being a UK company. Luckily they ship internationally and I am happy to pay for the additional cost.
Click on the image below for the current discount link:
Got a room to do up and need some free interior design advice? During the time when I still had my furniture store and was buying and selling vintage, all I ever did was follow my intuition and try things out. Put things together to see how it looked. I still don’t follow a certain style, or even a trend, I just pick what I love and usually immediately see if it works well. You can’t help including things or colour schemes that are trendy sometimes because what is ‘in vogue’ can actually be very beautiful and you know you will still love it even when the trend has passed.
Go with your instinct. If it speaks to you, especially when you have thought about it for a few days, get it – or do it.
Today I am sharing some tips to help you in your own interior design projects. Next time you are redecorating your living room, or in fact any room, try and follow these steps. They may help you see things differently and choose a colour scheme, furniture and accessories with confidence.
Interior design tip #1: Start a Pinterest board
This is a no brainer really and I am sure most of you are doing this already. Create a dedicated board on Pinterest and gather images of rooms you like, furniture you like, colour schemes and images that inspire you and ‘fit’ within the look you are thinking of. While pinning your favourites, think about the function of the room too: are you going to spend time in it during the day or mainly in the evening? Which family members will be using it most? Does it need a play area, a library, a desk? Will it have a TV in it and where would it go?
Once you have built a bit of a collection, stand back and look at it as a whole to see if you can see a cohesive style. Is there a certain colour that is dominant? This might become your wall colour or accent colour in textiles or upholstery. Are there certain patterns or textures you pinned in more than one image? Then this is another element you can use, when choosing perhaps wallpaper or accessories.
Delete any images that you feel are just too different from the rest, as this helps you narrowing it down. You can always save the image in another board, for future projects and ideas. As you do this (fun!) exercise over the space of a few weeks, you will slowly see a cohesive style board emerging, which can serve as a very helpful guide when choosing colours, furniture and accessories for your redecoration project.
Interior design tip #2: Look at the features of the room
When it comes to styling living rooms, I always start by looking at the features of the space. I try and picture it without anything in it. What is the light like? Are there any focal points like fire places or alcoves? Are the ceilings high or is it a cosy room with small windows? It is a good idea to measure up the space and draw it out to scale on a sheet of paper with written dimensions of walls, windows and doors. This helps you choose the right size furniture later on.
Interior design tip #3: What to do with the flooring
Next you look another very important permanent element: the flooring. What is the flooring like? Is it staying? Depending on the ideas on your Pinterest board (and budget) you may choose to replace old carpet with wood flooring, paint your old floor boards or leave it as it is and work with rugs later on. Carpets can add a lot of warmth to a room, especially in old houses or if the floor boards on their own are just too draughty.
Interior design tip #4: Walls and woodwork: wallpaper or paint?
Next up are the walls and woodwork around the room including windows, skirtings and doors. If you are going for the ‘Scandinavian’ bright look, keep it simple and choose different shades of white as a calm background for your more colourful furniture. If you are thinking of a more traditional or ‘cottage/farmhouse’ style, you may want to look at darker, moodier colours such as deep blue, sage green or dark grey for the walls, creating a cosy sitting room for the evening. It may feel scary to go dark, but you’ll probably be surprised with how good it looks.
Whatever paint ideas you have collected on your Pinterest board, it is a good idea to get some tester pots first as you may change your mind when seeing colours in the actual light of your room. Woodwork can also look beautiful just stripped and waxed if you live in a period house, or go for a contrasting colour to make a modern statement. If you go for wallpaper, most people choose to use a bold pattern on just one wall as a feature, rather than plastering it on all four.
interior design tip #5: Lighting
Lighting is super important in interior design and needs proper attention. On your drawn outline of the room mark where you think you will need light. Where are you going to sit and read? What aspects need a spotlight (pictures, a bookcase)? Is a central ceiling pendant light necessary or can you just go for standard lamps, wall fitted lamps and table lamps to light the room in the evening? Perhaps consider putting in a dimmer for a ceiling light to change the mood of the room.
When choosing lighting, don’t buy lamps that are all very busy or different in style and pattern, but perhaps go for a standard and a table lamp with matching shades combined with some stylish wall mounted lamps. Or have one heavily patterned shade combined with more minimalist lighting. Also look at what type of bulb you are using in each lamp: white light creates a cool, contemporary atmosphere while yellow light gives off a warmer glow.
Interior design tip #6: Furniture
You may want to start from scratch if the budget allows or you just want to make a clean break. The likelihood is that you probably have some things you want to keep, so it is a good idea to photograph them to include them on your Pinterest board to see them in the mix. Then it is important to make a shopping list, not the least because you likely want to know what it is all going to cost.
Invest wisely and think long term. It may be better to spend a bit more on a quality sofa than splash out on that super stylish vintage drinks cabinet you have spotted but are unlikely to use on a daily basis – although, I know, sometimes you just gotta have something. Shop around and mix and match. Don’t be afraid to buy your brand new sofa at a high street store, then combine it with an upcycled vintage coffee table and compliment it all with a set of cheap plain bookcases from Ikea. Your house is not a show home, make sure it is you and that your style shines through.
How much furniture do I need in my living room?
How much furniture should you get? Less is more, you can always add something if you feel there is something missing. Just don’t cram a huge corner sofa into a small front room. Keep it airy, make sure there is still room to move. A 2-seater sofa and two matching midcentury modern armchairs on either side of a low table may be a good solution if you want to create a good ‘conversation space’ in a lounge. When it comes to upholstery, a safe bet is a quality lasting plain wool fabric or leather for the sofa. A grey herringbone is a timeless choice, and so is tan leather. Armchairs can add colour and contrast or even go for patterns to jazz it up.
Interior design tip #7: Soft furnishings
Curtains, blinds and rugs. What does the room need? Plain grey or off white full length linen curtains are always a lovely choice, and go with both modern and traditional styles. Combine it with painted wooden venetian blinds or a patterned linen roman blind for some sophisticated layering.
When it comes to a rug (if you have wood flooring), choose a bolder pattern if your furniture is muted and calm in colour and texture. If there is already a lot going on in your upholstery or colours and patterns on the wall perhaps, select a large natural wool rug in a light colour as a base.
Interior design tip #8: Accessories
Finally, accessories. Pictures, mirrors, cushions, vases, clocks, baskets, etc. Cushions are a good way to start. Combine contrasting colours, different patterns and textures. As long as they all fit in more or less with your image collection on the Pinterest board, they will add welcome interest.
>> General cushion pairing formula:
TEXTURE + LARGE SCALE PATTERN + SMALL SCALE PATTERN + LUMBAR
When it comes to choosing artwork, don’t be afraid to get a big frame. A large painting or photograph can make a great statement in a room. They also look good over a sofa or sideboard. Alternatively a gallery wall can add a lot of interest and a great opportunity to show off family photos. Maybe even show off your collection of fabrics.
Play around and learn what works
Play around with placing accessories like vases and other loose objects. Does it look good where you placed it? What composition have you created, is there a good balance? Use other things as well to create interest such as some of your favourite books, found objects like shells or a rock and don’t forget plants! Plants literally add live to a room (as long as you keep them alive of course).
I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?
The clothes shops were shut the past few months while were all in the pandemic lockdown, and it was nearly impossible to buy even a pair of socks. Although my growing children ran out of clothes to wear after week 8, I myself enjoyed rediscovering old items I still had hidden in my wardrobe. I even upcycled and ‘reconstructed’ some old pieces. Now the shops are slowly opening up again, have you changed your shopping habits? Are you more conscious now in how you consume? Are you choosing sustainable fashion over fast fashion?
Retail therapy and the fast fashion trap
I am no saint. I will start by admitting that I bought a cheap summer top in a local boutique in my neighbourhood last week. Made in China. Nothing eco-friendly about that. Yep, guilty. But I supported a little local shop during the lockdown… At least I didn’t queue outside Primark before throwing twenty items in my basket without even trying them on, just because they were cheap. I know very well how tempting this is when you need a bit of retail-therapy. And when you are on a small budget and you need to dress your kids, you simply have no choice – I do not judge anyone for that. But a lot of people just buy for the sake of buying, because they are bored and they want something new every month. Fast fashion items often don’t hold their shape after washing them even once. Or you may regret buying something when you’re back home. But who is taking back a 3€ t-shirt? You’d pay more on the parking fee.
Let’s make sustainable fashion mainstream
A top costs little more than a take-way coffee these days. A pair of jeans less than a tenner in some stores. No surprise that fast fashion is so popular. Did you know that even in 2014, six years ago, because of this, people bought 60% more garments than they did in 2000? That Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes rivers and streams. Worse even, 85% of all textiles or £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. Even charity shops are becoming overwhelmed by the amount of cheap clothing and have to refuse a lot of donations. This cannot continue. We have to stop and change our behaviour.
For more reasons than one I am leaning towards buying quality over quantity and supporting sustainable and ethical fashion brands. Clothes that still look good after wearing them dozens of times and are made of natural materials that are nice for skin and planet. But are they not super expensive? Well, some are, but luckily, as it is becoming more mainstream, there are more and more options out there that don’t cost the earth – excuse the pun. Here are some sustainable brands and stores to check out when you next need something.
Eco-friendly Stores to check out:
El Naturalista, vegan shoes that are biodegradable
You know what I dislike about cheap shoes these days? That many contain plastic, or are even made from plastic instead of leather, and you just know they will end up in landfill forever eventually. I was very pleased to recently discover the sandals by El Naturalista, which are not only amazingly comfortable to wear but are also completely biodegradable! How is that for a feel-good factor. I ordered them online, which is always a bit tricky with shoes, but they fitted perfectly. If you are vegan, this brand is especially interesting as the ‘leather’ is fake, but looks and feels natural. They are a bit pricey when you buy them from the site itself, but google them and you may find the brand in other stores for a lot less.
Wearth London: Ethical clothing by British makers
Many of the fashion pieces by cool online concept store Wearth London are made ethically in the UK, a number of which are handmade to order. The company helps to reduce waste, whilst also bringing British makers back into the fashion industry. They stock some very beautiful designer pieces, from bags to clothing to accessories, toiletries and even furniture.
Earth Wardrobe: sustainable fashion without the hefty price tag
Earth Wardrobe specialises in nice, every day basics such as tees, sweat shirts, men’s hoodies and kids wear, made from fabrics that are organic and sustainable, often made from recycled materials. When you first arrive on the homepage of Earth Wardrobe however, you notice the low prices. This immediately made me wonder how they can produce their clothes at such low cost. Well, they are quite open about it on their ‘Where is it from‘ page and the short answer is: Bangladesh. A country whose economy depends heavily on the textile industry. Their mission is to provide high quality organic clothing essentials at a price everyone can afford and explain that “In order to fulfill our mission (…), we must continue to use traditional supply chains.”. They claim they only use companies who have had their facilities certified by an appropriate authority such as WRAP or SEDEX and have a Modern Slavery Disclosure to comply with the UK Modern Slavery Act of 2015.
Smallable, swoon over sustainable design
The ‘Greenable‘ collection of the family concept store Smallable includes some highly covetable pieces for both women and children / babies. I have to admit, not the cheapest in the range, but the pieces just ooze quality and beautiful design, both the clothes, accessories and home decor products. And when something lasts, it is worth it.
Planet Warrior Yoga Wear
Planet Warrior use plastic waste, eco-rubber and more to produce gorgeous looking active wear such as yoga leggings, bras and even yoga mats. It’s a small UK based company run by two sisters who love the beach, oceans and yoga and decided to combine this passion to combat the plastic problem. One outfit apparently uses 50 recycled plastic bottles collected from the ocean. Not only do they recycle bottles, their packaging is alse eco-friendly using tissue paper and biodegradable stickers and packing tape.
Ethical Superstore: fairtrade and sustainable fashion
Ethical superstore is an online shop that not only sells groceries, cleaning products, homeware and gift items, but it also has a great clothing department, including shoes and accessories. Worth a look. They stock fair-trade fashion, organic cotton and eco-friendly hemp from brands like People Tree, Komodo, Marzipants & Thought Clothing. A great one-stop shop for all your eco products.
H & M Conscious: sustainable fashion in the high street
Eco-friendly clothing doesn’t have to mean spending a huge amount, nor does it mean wearing purple and looking like a hippy. High-street store H&M recently was in the news for raking highest in the 2020 fashion transparency index. Transparency is key to developing a cleaner, greener fashion industry, so consumers can make better choices. The annual report, now in its fifth year, ranks the amount of information companies disclose about social and environmental policies, processes and effects within their operations and supply chains.
Disclaimer: some of these links are affiliate links, which means you would support this blog as well as the sustainable brands, if you choose to buy from them, at no extra cost. They usually pay people like me a small percentage of the final price, as a thank you for helping them spread the word. So it would be awesome if you did, as I write my blog posts for free. As always, I only promote brands I like and (would) use myself. Nina x
Lockdown was miserable and I think we were all looking to cheer ourselves up a bit, while we were – and maybe still are – limited from going out and seeing our friends and loved ones. Did you buy something nice for yourself? I am not one for luxury items, but I decided to order a silk kimono on Etsy. Why? I had enough of my baggy yoga pants and if I have to be at home most days, why not lounge around in something a bit more stylish and sexy? I can honestly say, I am now looking forward getting out of bed in the morning and throwing it on. My husband thinks I am nuts, but that kimono makes me feel HAPPY so I don’t care. Ha! How is that for self-care.
Floaty and airy
Etsy is usually a good bet for finding unique handmade gifts and items for your home and wardrobe. As I still had some gift vouchers to spend, I finally decided to go and buy something with them. I had been wearing a fluffy, fleecy bath robe around the house for most of the lockdown (on top of those baggy yoga pants – oooh mama), but as it was heating up here in Spain, I needed something a bit more summery. I searched for kimono robes on Etsy and found this beauty by Wear the World Label, a UK based Etsy shop specialised in oriental robes, trousers and other clothes made in cotton and silk, with floral prints. Lots of rich colours to choose from. And she ships to Spain and other countries!
A little gift in the post
The fun thing about indy sellers on Etsy is, they often wrap the items beautifully, add it a little personal note or a card, so it feels like a real gift arriving in the post. Try to get that personal service on Amazon! I am therefore a big fan of Etsy and continue to support all its wonderful, hard working and talented sellers on there. It is true to say that nowadays the platform has grown a lot and it is sometimes hit and miss depending on what you look for, but if you use the shoppers guide or editor’s picks as a help, you’ll get some great suggestions.
Silk kimonos for breakfast…or a night out?
The ochre, or mustard yellow, silk kimono I ordered, is perfect. Loose fitting, down to the knee, with the a long waist band for fastening. It is very comfortable to wear in the morning at breakfast, or throw it on after a shower in the evening. In fact, just wear it out as a dress. Style it up with a big belt, a statement necklace and some heels and you’d be glam as anything.
The kimonos from Wear the World Label are all priced at around £39, which I felt is a good price for something of such great quality that I’ll be wearing for years to come. I am glad to be out of strict lockdown now, but that kimono will still be worn every single day.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which you probably figured out already. I only ever promote brands that I use myself, like and love, so anything I say in this article comes from a good heart, and I only share things that I feel are worth sharing and could be of value to my readers.
Having lived in Scotland for over twelve years I know a fair bit about its summers and how they are usually over in a flash, if you get one at all. You may get a gorgeous day or even a week where temperatures hit the upper twenties, but the rest of the year you’ll be wearing a jumper and probably a coat. There actually is a saying up in Scotland: ‘There is no bad weather, just bad clothing’. But do you know that feeling, when it’s been a sunny day, you have just laid the table, ready for a nice al fresco dinner or a BBQ, cushions on the chairs, wine poured…and then it starts to cloud over…and rain. Yes? Let’s look at how we can create beautiful roofed patio areas to enjoy the outdoors in all weather.
Roofed patios and verandas to enjoy your garden year round
Thank goodness there are solutions (other than moving), including building some useful roofed structures in the garden or as an attachment to your home. People seem to like their wooden summerhouses in the UK, but they are usually not very big and may only have space for two seats at the most. Larger roofed outdoor spaces, like verandas, would give people a lot more opportunity to sit and entertain outside while getting shelter from the weather. Create comfortable lounging areas or place a dining table for al fresco eating.
Verandas for shelter and outdoor seating areas
I love verandas. Just a little bit of roofed area alongside your house can give great shelter from some rain or a chilly breeze. Even if it is just to dry your washing. Place a comfortable outdoor sofa alongside the wall to relax and enjoy the view onto your garden.
Indoor flooring for outdoors
This great roofed patio area even has space for a swing. And who says you have to stick to traditional garden tiles? Use large kitchen tiles for a nice feature and don’t forget you can also place rugs for additional colour accents and comfort. Read more about washable rugs.
Installing wood burning stoves for cosy evenings outdoors
In my home country the Netherlands, where the weather can also be quite variable, large roofed patios or ‘garden rooms’ are very popular nowadays. Often combined with a shed or garage, these sheltered areas are great for creating a relaxing corner with outdoor sofas and even a wood burner to add some heat in the evening. A wood burner too costly or complex to install? Have a look at firepits instead!
Small roofed patios for shelter
A roofed garden area doesn’t need to be big, it could be just a small space to cover your favourite comfy seat, or a small table and some chairs. I love the space below, with the large swing and the outdoor rug.
Build your own roofed patio PDF
How about building your own roofed patio? With this PDF on Etsy you get all the steps to build one from scratch.
Large garden rooms and roofed patio spaces
What a fabulous big garden room this is in the image below. Again an example of what is quite popular just now in the Netherlands. Great decor, including lighting and artworks, and still space for a tool shed beside it. I would happily sit here with some friends and a glass of wine, wouldn’t you?
Aluminium pergolas for sun and rain
Ever hear of aluminium pergolas? Biossun is a company that makes these things out of recycled materials and they are pretty cool, especially if you prefer something a bit more sleek and contemporary instead of the ones with heavy wooden rustic beams. The Biossun is a swivelling slat pergola that ‘regulates the temperature in all seasons and protects against heat, wind and bad weather.’ Basically, it can be fully open to let the air through, half open to give some shade from sun or shut when it is a rainy day but it is still warm enough to sit outside. They can be built against your house or freestanding in the garden. Looks like a neat solution. If you live in Scotland, our friends over at Papillon Landscaping are the only local supplier of this structure, so get in touch with them if you want to know more.
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This coronavirus lockdown of 2020 has encouraged a lot of creativity in our household, including the upcycling of old clothes. If you can’t go to the shops, you got to be resourceful! Upcycling is an old hobby of mine and I had a lot of fun making these super quick water bottle carriers out of an old pair of jeans. How I did that? Read on for the DIY tutorial.
Easy DIY water bottle carrier
If you have kids, then as a mum you know that on trips and hikes you are basically a packing donkey carrying everybody’s junk. Right? Now on a hot day, it can get a bit heavy dragging around litres of water for everyone. You also get fed up having to take out the bottles again because little Johnny needs another drink, even though it was only five minutes since the last one. Solution? Let them carry their own water!
It is super easy to make this DIY water bottle carrier out of denim. I don’t claim to be a neat sewer, I am a quick results, practical kind of person, but feel free to make your own improved, beautiful version of this bag. Mine looks pretty good I think, is sturdy enough to hold a bottle and wide enough to carry your phone or small purse too on your walks. I added a little pocket for a snack (or your public transport card!), which took a bit more time, but otherwise, you will have this made less than an hour.
What do you need?
- An old pair of ladies jean trousers, ideally stretchy and tapered at the ankles. It needs to fit snug, but not too snug around your water bottle. You can, of course, use a wider trouser leg for a larger bag that holds more.
- A thick, wide ribbon or fabric belt of a dress or something for the shoulder strap.
- Optional pocket: a different piece of fabric or denim and a button for decoration
Step 1. Cut the trouser leg
You will be using the bottom part of the trouser leg. The best thing is to place your water bottle on top of the leg before you cut. Cut the fabric about 2cm (1”) longer than the bottle is. The hem of the trouser leg will be the top of the bag, so that bit is already done.
Step 2. Sew the bottom of your water bottle bag
Turn the fabric inside out and sew the widest opening (and not the existing hem) shut. Sew a straight line about 2cm/1” from the edge. Cut off the excess and sew a zigzag to finish to prevent the edge from fraying.
3. Add elastic through the top hem
Next I cut two small holes in the top of the existing hem (which of course is a ready-made hollow tube!) and used a safety pin to pull a piece of elastic (19cm) through. Now you could choose to pull a drawstring through the top, but I chose to put elastic in instead. A wider strap is more comfortable on the shoulder than a drawstring, but that doesn’t fit through the small holes of the top hem. Once you have the elastic through, tie both ends together. Tie it so that it makes a slightly smaller, stretchy opening without making it too hard to fit the bottle in. The elastic is really just to keep the bottle in place rather than to close the bag completely.
Step 4. Sew the pocket on
You can leave the bag like it is and skip straight to sewing on the shoulder strap, or you can embellish your DIY water bottle carrier with a handy pocket. I cut out out a piece of around 12 x 10cm of blue denim for contrast, using the bottom hem as the top of the pocket. With the square being quite small, I decided to zigzag the edges instead of folding them over, as that would become too bulky. Once you have done that, sew the pocket onto the bag, either using your machine or stitch it by hand. I added a little button just as a colour accent.
Step 5: Sew on the shoulder strap
The shoulder strap can be pinned onto the bag along the top across the full width. I sewed a straight line both along the top and the bottom of the strap to secure it. The ends of the strap can now be tied around the shoulder, adjusted to the person using it. It will be shorter for a child than for an adult obviously.
And you are done!
Remember the first week of quarantine? It was all still new and you’d receive at least twenty Whatsapp messages each day with funny memes, homeschooling tips and hilarious or heart warming videos of life in lockdown. We were feeling OK, positive and were just going along with it all. Life was different, but OK. We could see the humour in it too. We are eight weeks at home now. And there is very little left of that optimism. The memes have dried up. We are all done with it.
Last night I cried and emptied half a bottle of wine by myself. We thought after this weekend we would go into ‘phase 1’ of post-quarantine life, but last night the government changed its mind. Only certain areas of Spain are given that ‘freedom’ of going out a bit more than just one hour a day. We were beaten with a stick, back into our corner, at least that is how some people described it. Valencia and a number of other Spanish cities and districts were going to stay where they were, probably for another 15 days. Why? Reasons.
An empty cup
I sound like a spoiled child. I know it won’t last, I know this is not about me and I can put it into perspective. I have food on the table and a roof over my head, my family is healthy. I know this is nothing compared to what other people go through. Exhausted nurses. People who lost their income. People stuck at home in abusive relationships. People in poor countries, starving. People fleeing from war. I know.
But I feel what I feel and I am not alone. It is Covid-19 depression. And I don’t normally get depressed. But as someone who likes her own company and loves her freedom…this is really hard. I am feeling anxious just knowing that I am not allowed out to do some exercise by myself until 8pm at night. That come September I will have had my beloved but very noisy children at home for nearly seven months. There is no escape. I am an empty cup and there is nowhere to get a refill. The homeschooling is draining, family life 24/7 is too much, not being able to be as active as normal is making me sluggish and fat and I miss seeing my friends. I miss my band, I miss walking around the city, I miss walking in nature. I miss putting my toes in the sand at the beach. It’s the little things that are becoming vital for mental health.
Beside feeling depressed and drained, there is another thing that bugs me. This crisis started out as something we thought we would tackle together as a worldwide community with good common sense and a few weeks at home, but it is developing into something more sinister. It is dividing the population. Suddenly everyone has an opinion about Covid, masks, health and what is going on and it is NOT helping the situation. The rebels and the compliant people. The freedom fighters and the rule-followers. The anti-vaxxers and the Trump fans. The conspiracy theorists, the whistle blowers and the scientists. Left and right. The ‘awakened’ people and the blind sheep. They are all disagreeing – online mainly, as keybord warriors. People are starting to spread fear. They become afraid. Distance is created between us, literally. Masks have replaced freedom and joy. Mistrust and anger have arrived.
The aliens are coming to get us. Or something.
Social Media is plastered in opinions and heated discussions. The longer this lockdown lasts, and with too much time to think, the more people are starting to share stuff. Crazy theories, conspiracy theories, reasonable theories, all kinds of stories, published on Youtube or obscure blogs and alternative websites. Some make sense, most are ridiculous. With so many ideas and possibilities, people start to doubt everything. They want an answer. They want something to hold onto and follow. This surreal situation is too much to grasp. Who is speaking the truth? Is the government lying? Is the corona-virus a hoax? Is Bill Gates trying to kill us? Is 5G to blame? Are we all going to get a digital chip rammed into us through a compulsory vaccine next winter? Are the Chinese taking over the world? Or are the powerful people secretly aliens? It is wild out there. Links with the past are being made. Fingers are pointed.
Even well educated friends and family are sending videos and articles which they want you to watch because they “are really interesting”. You watch and read and wonder whether they have lost their marbles. Or have you? What if they are right? We are bombarded and are drowning in information. We start to worry. Are we missing a trick? So we read a bit more. Do we need to speak up? To whom? We mistrust the news, we start mistrusting each other. We don’t know who to believe anymore. We share stuff on Facebook without checking the facts. But what are the facts?
We need to stop this shit. right now. We are making ourselves sick.
I don’t know what is true and I am not trying to convince anyone. Believe whatever you want to believe in. But I tend to keep both feet firmly on the ground and not be swept away by all sorts of theories and stories coming out of the woodwork. Fear, uncertainty and an economic crisis are a breeding ground for unrest, hate and uproar. Politicians, especially the ones we don’t want to see in power, will take advantage of this tasty cocktail at the next elections. They need us to be divided. That is a thing we can learn from the past, whatever wacky conspiracy theory you choose to follow.
The planet is healing…but for how long?
Back in March, when this lockdown started, none of this felt so heavy. It just looked like the rat race had stopped and we were all slowing down. Many of us felt more creative, calmer and even saw the Covid quarantine as a positive change for the world. Planet earth was healing. And yes, it has in some ways had good things coming out of it. The seas are quieter, which encourages dolphins to come closer to the beach and even into the waters of Venice. The Himalayas are visible again from India, for the first time in many years because of less pollution. It was lovely to live in silence for a while here at home too, without the noise of traffic and instead hearing birdsong. Eight weeks later I am not so sure anymore how much of this change will stick. Big business is dying to get back to normal, as much as we are all dying to escape the house. Flights are on the horizon come June. I am an optimist by nature, but I don’t expect that pure capitalism will make place for a different, more balanced way of life any time soon. Here’s hoping.
Stories in our head
My mother once taught me a lesson, to keep things close to home when the world feels too much to bear. “Keep it small and go from there.” Look after yourself, your loved ones and your immediate community. You can’t carry the whole world on your shoulders, but you can make a difference at home. We can allow ourselves to be suffocated by the endless stream of news and information, becoming fearful and worried. We can allow ourselves to become angry. We can shout at the world and people on social media, we can point fingers, we can keep scanning all the articles on the net and searching the millions of videos on Youtube, looking for ‘the truth’. Or we can choose not to. Instead, we can choose to hold what we have, look at what is reality around us and live in the now. We can lie awake worrying about what could happen, what the future could look like, who or what could be behind it all. But these thoughts are only stories in our head and are not real.
This lockdown and any other abnormal situation, play tricks on the mind, that’s for sure. Because so much is unknown, unfamiliar and just plain weird, people panic and look for answers. Call me naive, blind or someone who keeps her rose tinted glasses firmly in place, but I don’t think it makes any difference to the world whether I spend all day scanning the web – or not. It does however make a huge difference to my health and well-being. Anxiety lowers the immune system. That doesn’t mean that I am not critical, or don’t make informed decisions in life. But right now I just need to look after my sanity.
Smiling at strangers
In times like these I believe it is better to turn off the TV and the internet and all the distractions in the media and go back to basics. Hard I know, for me as well, when we are stuck at home with too much time to kill. Let’s go outdoors and smell the flowers. Exercise. Work. Sing. Meditate. Focus on things we do have control over. Smile at strangers, even with a mask on. Life is precious. Breathe and feel the sun on your face.
In week one of lockdown due to the coronavirus we were having a lot of fun at home with the kids. My boys are just 6 and 8 years old and generally have heaps of energy but not an equal amount of patience to sit down and do school work. So we were dancing, baking, drawing, singing, playing, dressing up and cuddling. A LOT. It was lovely. At bedtime we’d read a book and the next morning we would again come up with brand new ideas. I felt I was catching up on lost time. In Spain they are normally at school five days a week from 9 till 5. You hardly see your children during the week.
Then came week two. First an email from the teacher of infantil for the 5/6 year olds, then swiftly followed by another one from the teacher of Primaria 2. Five, six, seven or even eight attachments for several subjects, accompanied with a plan for the week and I’m sure well meant suggestions for how to focus your day around your children’s education. Your DAY yes, not hours, or a morning, but DAY. Because, sure, us parents in lockdown are suddenly all jobless and twiddling our thumbs and dying to get retrained as our children’s dedicated primary school teacher.
I knew it should not make me feel stressed, after all we are all in a very unusual situation, worrying to say the least, and the main objective surely is to stay calm and love our family. I admired my friend Marie who bravely emailed school administration to tell them they wouldn’t be doing any home education whatsoever (read her very funny blog post here). Good, I thought, let’s all jump on the barricades! But another friend pointed out to me that “Nina, you are rebellious, but you also want to please the teacher”… Damnit, I’m caught out, I admit it, I suffer from a split personality and it’s bugging me.
You cannot get a bunch of high wired children to do a week’s worth of maths, when they haven’t been out running outdoors for over a fortnight. Anybody who is a parent of young children and boys especially knows that these monkeys need to be ‘walked’ in the fresh air regularly just like dogs, to regulate their energy and emotions. Now in other countries with less restrictions around lockdown you can still escape to a nearby field or forest as long as you are pretty much on your own, but not in Spain. Unfortunately dogs currently have more rights to public space here than children, so the poor puppets are stuck between four walls for the next foreseeable future. Imagine living in a tiny apartment on the fourth floor and not having a balcony. Seven Spanish million children are not allowed out. It’s like a high pressure cooker.
So yes. Homeschooling dilemmas. We try to find a compromise. Our children normally have week plans at school with their various assignments they have to finish by Friday, so I decided to copy this concept and make up my own simplified plan per child. In week one I got them to make up their own plans, which included anything from cuddling mummy, joining an online dance class to eating an apple in ten seconds. I mean, essential life skills right there! Last week I incorporated a few more ‘educational’ tasks from the teacher’s email. But I also happily skipped others, such as ‘sing these traditional Spanish songs with your children while dancing together’ and “do page four full of problem sums” (key: meltdown – I’ll leave that for the classroom, thank you very much). But it turned out that my children were actually OK with an hour of doing a few sums and/or spelling exercises, followed by an hour or longer of drawing (Art for Kids Hub is now a firm favourite here) and of course investigating weird and wonderful stuff on Youtube. I mean, who doesn’t want to know everything about megalodons or how cars are made? And why do animals not have belly buttons?
Week three has commenced and suddenly the teachers are ramping it up. Four separate emails with attachments (our printer is broken, but “if you don’t have a printer, just let your child copy the text by hand in their notebook”. Yeah right.), and basically the same amount of tasks they normally get in class. Just as I felt I had cracked it during the very laid back and enjoyable second week of semi-homeschooling, the knot in my stomach was back. Nina, please, I told myself, just ignore them, these people are crazy. But what if, I kept on thinking, what if all the other children are neatly keeping up with their tasks in their notebooks and so when school opens again, my children have nothing to show to the teacher? If you’re like me, you will have surely had a similar non-stop stream of Whatsapp messages from anxious parents about the various assignments, showing off their kids in photos sitting at the kitchen table working and seemingly being a much better home-schooler than you’ll ever be.
Bullocks of course. First of all, for all we know, we may have our kids home until September. Yes, let that sink in. It doesn’t matter if they do the homework that is being sent. They’ll start afresh once they are back. They are not going to fail in life because of this. Secondly, while any curriculum school work is put on hold, or lessened, suddenly an opportunity is created for children to discover a wide range of other things and have control over their own learning. Indulge in their current crafts obsession, learn how to cook, find fascinating facts about nature and science on Youtube, enjoy baking cakes, help out with daily chores, read lots of comics, have a disco in the living room each night and have heaps of snuggles with their favourite people in the world: YOU. And just chill. The modern world asks a lot of our children. This morning I read this awful article in the Washington Post about how ‘homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children‘ and how long breaks end up in ‘learning losses’ and a ‘mess’. Ugh. How about adding some extra pressure to us parents while we are already stuck indoors and worried about our health. Because, oh wait, why are we all indoors again? Yes, a deadly virus.
Of course I can see what the article was also saying: theoretically there is a risk that those children who live in homes where parents have no time for, or even interest in spending time playing with their children or do any kind of reading or revising with them while in lockdown, may be worse off than their peers in a more stimulating environment. Children are always learning, in their own way, every day, but if one child keeps working hard on their maths, with a private online tutor if one can afford it, and another sits in their bedroom only playing Fortnite for two months… You know who will likely pass their maths exam. But that would mainly be an issue for children in secondary school. Also, more importantly, this kind of inequality will always exist, with or without a pandemic. I don’t think in any case my 6 and 8-year old will ‘academically fall behind’ by keeping on reading daily, doing the odd sums and spelling words after breakfast and for the rest just playing and bonding with their family. You might just end up with happy and resilient children.
So what are we doing as a family at home every day? I made up a bit of a day plan, which we all religiously try and stick to or else we’d still be in our pyjamas by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Normally it’s 8 o’clock wake up time here and straight away getting dressed, 8.30am breakfast, 9am school! We work on sums or spelling for an hour, then do another hour or more of art or science if the kids are not moaning too much yet. Around 12 we’ll take the school papers off the kitchen table, make lunch and let the kids play. We stick to this schedule as much as we can. But we are only human and sometimes we change our plans. This morning we all felt tired and grumpy and the boys just really wanted to go and build a city out of Kapla. Who then am I to drag them to the kitchen table to do sums? I may as well open the gin bottle straight away. One rule we do try and stick to is no computer games before 4 o’clock. These things are fabulous babysitters, I know all too well, but enough is enough and 2 or 3 hours a day of square eyes is plenty!
Balance, it’s all about balance. And while some children love having homework, doing sums and writing stories, others would be better off using this lockdown time to indulge in things they have a keen interest in, whether that is cooking, crafting, building or dancing. While the numbers of infected people with the coronavirus are still on the rise, and many people are dying from it, we surely need to have our priorities right. We need to stay stay strong and healthy, all of us. Not just physically, but mentally too. No child benefits from parents at home who are losing the plot, getting frustrated by the amount of school work while also trying to hold down a job and working from home, who are turning into alcoholics in the process (right!) and literally missing the opportunity to just ‘be’ with their children. If you can, relax. (Yes, I am also taking note!). We are not teachers, we are parents. We are doing enough, we are doing our best, we are not expected to copy a normal school day. Let’s guide ourselves and our families through this storm on a calm ship and let our children remember this time as special, despite the crisis going on outside.