The face mask. The awful face mask. It has become a staple in our household now, here in Spain, and I am washing more masks than bras these days. No, I can’t say I’m a fan. But hey-ho, nothing is permanent, and this too shall pass. So while we can think of enough negatives around wearing a face mask, such as feeling claustrophobic, getting a skin rash and just looking rather unattractive, we forget about the benefits of wearing one. Number one, of course, you have less chance of catching or spreading a virus. Obviously. Are there any others, you may ask. Oh yes, there are! I found seven. Let’s look at the bright side.
1. You don’t have to speak to people
Yes, I am speaking to you, introvert! I bet you secretly would want to wear that face mask all the time from now on, when going outside. If you have children, you know that feeling at 9am, when you drop off the kids at school and you have dozens of parents greeting you and you feel obliged to make small talk before you have even had a coffee. Just. No. Or that feeling when you are minding your own business doing the grocery shopping and your overly chatty neighbour spots you in the bread aisle. No longer, folks! That face mask makes you incognito. Combine it with a hat and sunglasses and you could rob a bank without anyone even recognising it’s you.
2. No more cold noses
It’ll be winter soon and that means freezing noses! So many times I have wondered why there wasn’t a solution for having a cold nose in winter. I mean, we put on hats, gloves, ear muffs, scarfs. But noses, no, they stay out in the cold. No more! Knit yourself a thick woolly face mask or cut one out of fleece material and your nose will be toasty warm.
3. You save on makeup
I hardly put on makeup these days, wearing a face mask. Especially combined with sunglasses, there is really no point. The only thing I use is a moisturiser in the morning. Saves a lot of time and money!
4. But…you could really go to town on the lashes
I now understand women in some Arabic countries who wear the full hijab. Have you ever noticed how gorgeous their eyes are? If you only see the eyes above a face mask, you may as well make them pop. Saving on lipstick means you have spare cash for a high quality mascara or a set of falsies.
5. You can play ninjas
OK, this is only if you are 6 years old and love being a superhero. I did find myself tapping into my inner child though, when going outside with my two little boys, who immediately pulled up their hoodies and starting doing kicks, shouting ‘Wayaaaa!’. Face masks are instant ninja outfits. Do you know the mobile game Clumsy Ninja? It’s fun.
6. No more stinky breaths
Standing in the metro next to someone whose breath could kill. Been there, done that. Ugh. Face masks have a little perk of taking the edge off smells. Stinky breaths, pissy alleyways, full bins in the heat of summer. Not a bad thing for a happy life. Sure, you’ll also miss the nice smells like fresh flowers or pine trees, but just head into the woods on the weekend without a face mask on and you’ll get your fair share.
7. You don’t have to kiss strangers
No matter how I love the Spanish culture and custom of hugging and kissing each other all the time (hence the high infection rate no doubt), I am not a big fan of kissing a total stranger two times on the cheek when being introduced. Yes, it is air kissing, but still. Wearing a face mask? You’re safe! We’re not kissing now anyway, it’s elbow bumping. I’m OK with elbow bumping.
With the crazy times we live in right now comes a little perk for many: working from home is now widely accepted and often required. Most people would prefer to not be in the office five days a week anyway and find themselves being much more efficient working from home. An office at home also means that you can design it yourself, to your needs and taste, which makes it even more pleasant and relaxed. If working from home is something you’ll be doing in the long run, it’s a good idea to invest in some durable, useful items to make your life easier and work space more professional. No more working on the sofa!
For this post I have done some browsing for you on Etsy and made a selection of beautiful and useful accessories for your desk, to create the perfect home office space.
All products listed are made from sustainable materials, including wood, paper and metal.
Prevent RSI with an ergonomic laptop stand
Many of us work on laptops, which makes working flexible. But having to work from home on a laptop can make those hands and wrists pretty sore after a while. Let’s prevent RSI and invest in a good ergonomic laptop stand, at the correct height.
Combine it with a keyboard and turn your laptop into a desktop when working from home. This beautiful minimalist design in oak and steel is from Etsy seller Oakywood gets very good reviews and costs £123. It reduces your eye and neck strain, rises your laptop about 6 inches (16 cm) to an ergonomic position at an eye level.
No one likes starting their working day at a desk full of loose stuff. Stationary, iPads, notebooks, paper clips, they all need a home! Invest in a good-looking desk organizer and you get rid of that problem.
This stationary organizer below is not only beautiful, minimalist and made of beech wood, it also features slots for your tablet and phone. Handy for watching tutorials or videos or having a quick hands-free call on screen. Above all, it keeps your pencils, pens, keys, business cards and desk accessories from going astray.
This organizer below is another nice wooden item, which even has a cup holder built in. Because we’ve all had that coffee spilled over the keyboard…
Hands up, who likes a good list? I enjoy a bullet journal too. Combine the two and you’ll get a daily desk planner pad. With this handy A5 daily planner from the Etsy seller InkyIntheWild you can really start sorting your life out.
The motivational desk pad comes with 100 easy-tear pages and a cardboard backing. Fill out the planner, organize your thoughts and then simply tear off the pages and stick them on your wall, memo board, fridge or fold and pop in your bag. You can order the daily work planner on its own, but you may be tempted to go for the mega pack (gosh, I need that), which includes a daily, a weekly and a handy meal planner. I am already feeling organized just looking at it!
Invest in some fancy book ends
Working from home undoubtedly means more files, notebooks and documents that need a shelf. Don’t shove them in a pile in the corner of your desk, or worse, on the floor. Give these files a proper home. Some fancy book stands or document holders will make your home office look a lot more professional and organized. I love these metal honeycomb book ends, made by seller Geomodus.
Make your office look neat with a desktop cable organizer
Laptop cables, USB cables, keyboard cables, headphone cables; it’s like bloomin’ spaghetti junction on your desk these days! Time to sort that mess out. To stick with the wood theme: I discovered this beautiful desk organizer made in walnut, which will make any desk look like an executive’s.
We all hate wearing face masks right now. They are uncomfortable, make breathing difficult, cause skin rashes and, to be honest, just look silly. In Spain, where I live, face masks are compulsory almost everywhere, unless you are at home, stuffing your face in a café, lying on the beach, hiking in nature or doing sports. My children and their teachers have to wear the masks for up to 8 hours a day: in class, at break time outside AND at P.E. They only take them off at lunchtime, for obvious reasons. Many other countries don’t have the rule of face masks in primary schools, but here in Spain, the numbers of contagion are so high right now, that everyone is petrified.
How long will this go on for?
I was and still am critical and sceptical about the severity of the virus compared to the enormous long term economic impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions. There is no doubt the strict lockdown was needed back in March when thousands were getting seriously ill and were dying. Many families lost loved ones and are still grieving. Hospital staff was working around the clock. The problem is, however, that we don’t know how long the virus is going to go on for. The world is eagerly – or less eagerly – waiting for a vaccine, but will this actually work?
And what would we do if there suddenly was a whole new virus? Would we just stop living? Another lockdown? Wear a face mask forever? Create another vaccine? More money to Big Pharma? And what about other diseases, are we not worried about them any more? The news is hysterical, politicians are fighting, people are becoming more polarized on social media. Businesses are going bust. It is exhausting. I noticed myself getting more frustrated and angrier by the day, rolling my eyes at stupidity on social media and hating the face mask with a vengeance. Then this week I happened to stand beside two GPs, or family doctors, outside the school gates, who are among the parents in my son’s class. I decided to ask them about the situation. Most doctors have a certain calm over them and a great skill of putting things into perspective. I needed some of that.
“What do you think about the mask wearing in primary schools?” I asked the mum GP. “Oh, I know, they are horrible. I am wearing one all day too in the clinic. It saves on having to use makeup though!”, she laughed. “I have cousins in the Netherlands”, she continued, “and I am aware of schools in other countries too not having the mask rule for children. Children are not the problem. But right now, in Spain, schools have only just opened, and we all need them to stay open. We have waited so long! They want to prevent anyone from getting sick, so are extra careful. Maybe too careful. I expect, in a few months time, when we start to see that infection hardly takes place in schools among primary aged children, rules will be relaxed a bit.” I hope so.
I asked her husband what he saw in his profession right now in terms of Covid infections and whether it is as bad as the media tell us. He said: “After the first wave in Spring, we had nearly no one getting sick in July, but now we see a rise again, yes. The symptoms are very different though and most newly infected patients have no symptoms at all. They have had a test done for whatever reason, ended up being positive, and they call us up because they don’t know what to do. They don’t feel sick, and they are confused.”
No symptoms, no problems…then why still panic?
So why are we still so worried and hysterical about the virus if symptoms are so mild and almost nobody is dying? I asked him. “Because there is always a small percentage that will end up in hospital and ICU”, he answered. With only a few infections, that small percentage is negligible, but with the big rise we are seeing right now, that percentage naturally means that more people are going to need hospital beds. We need ICU beds for other illnesses too, they haven’t disappeared. And now we are heading towards winter. Traditionally every January hospitals are full of patients suffering from complications from the normal flu virus. We just do not have enough capacity for both COVID patients and flu victims. We have to flatten the curve. That is the reason. There is hope that we may not see such a big spike in normal flu infections among older people due to the use of face masks this year. But we just don’t know.”
And the vaccine? I asked. Will we all have to line up for a compulsory vaccine next year? “No, I don’t think so”, the dad GP replied calmly. “It will take a while before it is here anyway and then I expect it will be offered first to the people who are most vulnerable, like older people, like with the normal flu vaccine.”
Rabbit holes and rubbish blog posts like mine
Our conversation got cut short as we were overrun by excited kids coming out of class, but I am glad I spoke to actual doctors, face to face (mask). In a crazy year like this, it is so easy to get caught up in social media feeds and online discussions, mistrust mainstream media and do your own ‘research’, going down all kinds of rabbit holes, searching for ‘the truth’. It is great to inform yourself, of course, but not everyone is aware of how they are manipulated online in their opinion shaping without even knowing it. With every click.
If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix yet, I recommend it. You suddenly understand how dangerous and misleading the algorithms of platforms like Facebook and Youtube are and how you end up only seeing and finding posts, documents, videos and groups that constantly confirm what you already believe in, and which only strengthens that belief, so you see it as the truth. You are right, they are wrong. But this also happens on the other side of the scale. The result? More extremes, less middle ground. Conflict. In politics, in pandemics, across the world. We all have our own beliefs, and that is OK. You don’t have to agree with me. You may even think this blog post is rubbish. Those GP’s might be wrong. Sometimes however, getting offline and talking to actual people, away from the spell of algorithms, is just what the doctor ordered.
Are you looking to give your living room or bedroom a makeover? You are probably thinking of the usual decorating methods of painting or wallpapering. But have you thought of trying something else instead? Self-adhesive wallpaper for example, is a great way to change the look of a room, without the permanence of traditional wallpaper. When you rent, this is especially interesting, as it will not damage your walls. Other ideas to update your boring walls is by ordering a photo mural or creating a photo gallery wall. Or what to think of a vertical plant wall? Here is some inspiration.
Self-adhesive wallpaper ideas
Do you think wallpaper is too permanent and tedious to remove again when the time comes? Are you worried that you will soon tire of the pattern? Then self-adhesive wallpaper is a solution. Wild jungle patterns, moody dark colours, animal prints, you can go to town with this stuff. It’s far easier to install and to remove compared to traditional wallpaper or paint. As you apply it just like a big sticker, it is very easy to install without the mess of wallpaper paste, and easy to remove when you want to change it again in the future. Self-adhesive wallpaper is widely available now online via Etsy or in your local DIY and hardware store. If you like to give your bedroom, kitchen or living room a new look, sticky wallpaper is a perfect option. It is also great for children’s rooms and nurseries.
Photo Mural ideas
Do you want to prolong that wonderful holiday feeling? Choose to print that tropical beach photo on self-adhesive wallpaper and cover your wall with it! You can do the same with beautiful black and white photos of your children, wedding or other memorable event. If you don’t have suitable photos yourself, search online for ready-made self-adhesive photo wallpapers on sites such as Etsy.
Vertical Plant Wall
Plants always make a room look lovely. If you want to add some greenery, consider installing a vertical plant wall. This is a frame, mounted to the wall, in which you either plant small plants, or hang pots from. In the example below, they suspended one plant from a bracket on the wall and guided the branches along the wall through a frame to eventually create a nice living, green wall. With a vertical plant wall you fill the entire wall with plants or part of it. If you have a green thumb, use real plants, but artificial plants also give a great effect and of course do not require any maintenance.
An original painted mural
Not as temporary as the other suggestions, and a little more time-consuming, but at least as cool: a painted mural! You will probably have to repaint this when you cancel the rent, but until then you have something unique to look at. And hey, it’s only paint! No screws, holes or other damage. If you are creative and artistic yourself, you can probably tackle this project yourself; alternatively ask someone in your network who can do this for you for a fee (or in exchange for something you can offer in return).
A photo gallery wall
Pick the best photos from your travels, friends and family and create a “cloud” of framed pictures on your wall. Want to add some lovely art prints? Have a look at these, on Etsy. You get the best effect if you choose different formats of frames and use them interchangeably. Would you rather not have nails and screws in the wall? Then buy self-adhesive brackets that you can easily remove from the wall. Also read our post on gallery walls and how to design them.
Have you ever dreamed about leaving it all behind and moving into a yurt, in nature, far away from the madding crowd? That is exactly what a group of Dutch-American families did in the province of Valencia. Down a single track road 4km from the nearest small village, we find Kausay, a small eco community tucked away in a green valley in between the rocky hills of Enguera. The sound of crickets in the air; the smell of ripe carob fruit falling from the trees. We had the opportunity to experience first hand what life is like, living off-grid, eating straight off the land and ‘unschooling’ the children. Yurt living in Spain, it wasn’t quite glamping but it sure was a treat.
Freedom away from the covid madness
During the final week of the summer holidays we decided to go camping before the schools were back. After six months of having the children at home because of the pandemic, we were more than ready for school, but we wanted to escape the city one last time. I was searching for natural campsites around Valencia, but was put off by so many Covid restrictions. Then I spotted a post on Facebook by one of the members of Kausay community, offering a yurt as an alternative camping experience, and I booked.
I had no idea what to expect, other than that we were renting this great big Mongolian tent for three nights and would be spending some time in nature, with no Wi-Fi. But we ended up having much more than a random camping trip. We really felt part of the community for a short while, cooking and sharing meals, talking under the shady trees, picking organic food straight off the land and having a peek into a life that is so different from ours and that of many others.
Permaculture as a way of life
Most yurt rentals are advertised as glamping, as it appears a bit more luxurious than crawling around in a pup tent. It certainly felt very comfortable, having a double bed and bunk beds inside this large round living area. It even had a wood burner for the winter. But that is where it ends in terms of luxury. If you expect a jacuzzi and fancy on-site camping facilities, this is not your place. Luxury is the last thing that Kausay community is aiming for on their land: members Ellen, Jeroen, Inge and Brother and their children are working hard at building an eco village based on simplicity, trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, and producing very little waste. On their large plot of land we find one small cottage, five Mongolian yurts, and a couple of bell tents regularly used by visiting volunteers. A shared, fully kitted out kitchen shed and a large picnic table overlooking the vegetable garden, form the heart of the community.
A good part of the land is used as a vegetable garden, developed through permaculture. Permaculture is more than a set of gardening techniques, it is a way of living where you carefully think about the way you use your resources – food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs. Permaculture tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities, and minimise environmental impact at the same time. The two families don’t tackle this big project all by themselves; a string of international volunteers visits and helps out year-round, adding to the community vibe.
Compost toilets and how to use them
At Kausay community even human waste is recycled into compost. Compost toilets take some getting used to, as you don’t use water to flush, but instead sprinkle wood shavings to cover your deposits down below in the waste bin. Toilet paper goes in it as well, so don’t worry, you don’t have to wipe your behind with a handful of grass. A spray bottle with vinegar keeps the seat clean. Pretty easy, really. You do have to be patient when it comes to composting your own poop; it takes no less than two years before you can spread it out over your veg plot. Slow living and all that.
Upcycling as a way of life
One of the things we loved at Kausay community is the creative use of materials, giving rubbish a new purpose. Large bathroom tiles as table coasters, old metal beds to elevate herbs that are drying in the sun covered by old windows. The women in the group, Inge and Ellen, together designed and built the almost temple-like building that houses two toilet cubicles. They found a pile of old kitchen cupboard bits and doors in a skip one day and made the solid wooden doors into decorative walls around the toilets. The outdoor wash basins and taps are new. The waste collecting bins are built underneath the building, and can be accessed from the back and removed once full.
A fancy outdoor solar-powered shower
The shower cubicles were another design that was very effective and well-thought-out. The rust-free metal sheets give the building a modern look, but are also preventing the cubicles from starting to look mouldy or dirty, like you would quickly by using wood for this purpose. On top of the roof coiled up black tubes are heated up during the day and provide a lovely hot shower. The shower tray, taps and sinks were bought new. A concrete base forms the foundation. The shower heads themselves are made from 5 litre plastic water bottles, placed horizontal, cut open at the top to collect the water from the tubes above and pierced at the bottom to give a rain shower effect. Genious! As the water gets recycled as well, you are only meant to use natural shampoos.
From a corporate life to off-grid living
As we got to know the people who live in Kausay community a little bit over the course of our stay, we heard some fascinating stories. Career paths that many of us can relate to, but few ever leave. A busy corporate life, all about making money, managing people and businesses – making some rich and happy but most of us miserable and depressed. It takes guts, hitting rock bottom or a very strong calling, to escape the rat race in search for something else. Finding the thing you knew you were always going to do in the end. And then doing it.
Most of the residents in the community are now therapists or yoga teachers. Retreat leaders, mindfulness coaches, reflexologists, to name a few. But what they all do best and which binds them together, is just simply being. “Life here has really made me at peace with who I am on this planet. Close to nature, working with the land, appreciating being human.”, said Brother, who himself lives in a yurt with his young family. His presence oozes calm, and I can see how digging the earth, watching things grow and moving with the seasons, can be a real balm for the soul. Away from the fast-paced corporate world, fear-mongering media and consumerism. Our children played together all day with hardly a peep. Most of the time, we had no idea where they were. Educating themselves, I guess.
Family retreats and walking in silence
Except for bringing up their families and growing food, Kausay community also organises retreats on their land to share their way of life with others. Silent walking retreats, where you combine walks to waterfalls with meditation and mindfulness. Or you can go on a family retreat. This basically means you stay in the community for a week with your children. Doesn’t sound very peaceful to you, you say? Well, wait till you hear this: the kids do activities on a nature trail all morning while you can focus on your well-being during yoga and meditation sessions. Wonderful. I’m signing up. A bit of yurt living now and then will do me the world of good.
To find out more about upcoming retreats or to rent a yurt for a few days, visit their Facebook page or website.
I am not a coffee expert, but I love drinking it. Frugal as I am, I once bought a secondhand £20 Krups espresso machine on Gumtree in Scotland and it lasted us for a good six years. And that machine saw some heavy traffic in our house. Unfortunately, during the 2020 lock-down this Spring, it gave up the ghost. Great timing, right? I almost lost the will to live. I mean, not being allowed out for a proper cafe con leche, home schooling two small children, not sleeping well AND no working coffee machine at home? You get the picture. The dragon was unleashed.
Rediscovering what you already own
But there was hope. My husband, clearly having had enough of my moaning, but too stubborn to just order a new machine online, did an emergency search through the cupboards looking for an alternative. He dug out an old stove top coffee maker. Not quite producing your creamy machine coffee, but it had to do. I still grumbled. But then my man stumbled upon a Youtube video that made all the difference. If you own a cafetiere or French press, read on.
The basics: selecting the right coffee bean
First up: a crash course in coffee beans. They make all the difference if you start making cappuccinos at home! There are two types of beans, namely the Robusta and the Arabica. The Robusta is also known as the “average supermarket coffee”. The Arabica bean is more highly regarded and has different qualities. It has a more refined smell, a soft, full taste and low caffeine content. Also, the acidity is higher in the Arabica bean, which is a good sign when it comes to coffee. You can make nice coffee with ground coffee from a package, but if you want to go all barista, you can of course grind the beans yourself.
Making great coffee in a machine or a stove top coffee maker
If you have a proper espresso machine at home, spread the ground coffee evenly over the filter holder. This ensures optimal extraction. Then press the coffee firmly and place the filter holder back in the machine. Then immediately brew the coffee, don’t let it sit there, to avoid a bitter, burnt taste. If you are using an Italian espresso pot for on the stove, you basically do the same: spread the coffee grounds evenly, press it down well and put it on the stove until ready.
Make the best cappuccinos at home with a French press
If you want to make the best cappuccinos at home on a budget, read on for the trick that totally improved our morning routine! Frothing milk is quite a job to make a cappuccino that tastes the same as in your favorite coffee bar. There are all kinds of machines and milk frothers for sale, but did you know that you can also use a cafetiere for this? Heat a little milk in a pan, until just short of boiling, and pour it into your cafetiere. Then go up and down with the plunger / whisk of the cafetiere and beat the milk for about a minute until it foams. Carefully pour the milk foam over the coffee, slowly reducing the distance between them. For the last layer, keep the cup straight so that the top layer on the inside is beautifully white and surrounded by a brown edge. Voilà, barista!
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.
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.
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.
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:
You want to throw all the toys out of the window you say? I hear you. I remember the days, before having kids, when my husband and I would look at each other in horror after visiting a bomb site at a friend’s house. “I can’t believe the state of their house. Honestly, the amount of plastic toys…surely they could tidy up, right? If we ever have a family, I will never have so much junk.” *laughs hysterically*
Yeah. Scroll down a few years. I have two little boys who make a mess on a daily basis. They have a lot of stuff: toys, clothes, sticks. Every birthday and Christmas more stuff arrives. They also leave their pants and socks everywhere. Who wants to use all their time and energy to tidy up all day? You get the picture. Things get messy sometimes. Oh sure, I do try. I buy nice storage boxes (which subsequently get turned into mini bath tubs for toy cars – or used as helmets in superhero dress-up games) and sometimes it stays tidy for a while. A day maybe. Sounds like your life?
One day, when I am old and the boys have flown the nest, my house shall be clutter-free. Until then, I turn a blind eye, breathe deeply and browse Pinterest.
Hold on, I live here too
Childhood may be short, but 18 years of living in a dump is not a nice thought. So despite having to accept the messy years of parenthood, we can still try and make it pleasant for ourselves and hide some of that junk. Right?
Let’s start by showing you some lovely rooms
Here are some examples of kids rooms that just look great and probably are more stylish than your own bedroom. (Obviously no kid was allowed in them before the photo shoot was over and done with. I would love to see what they look like on a daily basis – ha!). What’s wrong though in the next two pictures? Right, impractical storage tables (let me just place my tambourine here, mum) and fragile ornaments. I mean, who would place a ceramic Bambi behind a swinging chair? Or a pretty swan planter on a children’s bedside table? OK, let’s move on.
Storage solutions for kids rooms: open or closed?
Storage is the main thing you need to keep your house clutter-free. And no matter how kid-friendly open shelving is (so they can see and reach their books and toys), it also means a lot of it will usually end up on the floor at the end of the day, especially with preschool children. We are sometimes winning but often failing at getting our kids to tidy up themselves, but most six-year olds will just lift the mess one level higher, albeit on the shelves. So unless you are a montessori purist and only offer your child a handful of toys to play with, toy storage with doors or drawers will be a tidier solution, with added large buckets for bigger stuff. Big chests or baskets with a lid are also great. Or buy some useful under bed storage.
Pimp your storage unit with decals
The Trofast bins from Ikea are a firm favourite among parents wanting rid of kids toys and for good reason, as they are sturdy, practical and inexpensive. To upgrade your Trofast system (or the Kallax shelving units), how about adding these City roads decal stickers to the top? Cars in the bottom drawers, easy access and also easy for the kids to tidy up afterwards.
Older kids need shelves for treasure display
Now my eldest son is eight, he is showing a keen interest in displaying his grand Lego creations, interesting found objects and other of his ‘valuable possessions’, away from the hands of his little brother. Shelves are therefore a good addition to a kids bedroom, for this reason. That way children can curate their own ‘changing exhibitions’ of the things they love and are proud of. A rock collection, trophies, delicate constructions they made. They will like having that bit of freedom and you’ll probably catch them showing their display to their friends.
Arts and Crafts storage for kids
Another thing that creates mess and untidy shelves and drawers: the countless stationary items, colouring books, hammer beads, jewellery making kits, paint tubs, playdoh pots and paper stacks. We have had two rolling drawer units in our house for a while now and they are great. Handy for organising stuff, easy to access, and even easier to roll out of the room and out of sight when your done. This metal one from Ikea is a popular one, but plastic ones work just as well.
Shelves that encourage kids to read
Books are normally stored only showing their backs, but for a small child this is not very attractive. To increase their interest in reading, it is better to show the front covers of books. That way they are much more like to become curious and take down a book to look at. Browse kid–friendly book shelving here.
For older children, ‘normal’ bookshelves are of course fine. I absolutely love the wallpaper in this bedroom below. They also included a shelf for displaying treasures and photographs and closed drawers in the storage unit to hide any small toys or other material.
Do you have kids rooms at home that you’d love to show off? How do you handle the clutter? Do let me know in the comments!