The therapeutic qualities of colour and light

Two weeks since we moved to Spain and so far so good! In between the hectic times of organising our new life as an expat, I have discovered the little perks of living in a warmer climate. Cycling! Oh my, how I’ve missed cycling. I don’t mean sporty cycling in lycra on a racer or a mountain bike, no, just using a bicycle to go from A to B. To do the shopping, to take the kids to school. In just a thin jacket. Wind in my hair, sun on my face, smiling from ear to ear. Wonderful. Now I just need to train those leg muscles to get me uphill. Ouch.

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Valencia is ideal for getting around on bike! Rental places everywhere.

noticing colour

Have you ever noticed how there seems to be more colour in warmer countries? The blue sky for a start (although lately it’s been grey and rainy too – still 10 degrees warmer than Aberdeen though), but also the architecture. Even the children’s school has great happy colours painted all over the outside walls. The older, colonial style houses in the various town centres dotted just outside the city, as well as old city parts like Cabanyal, are often bright blue or yellow or covered in colourful, patterned tiles. The sub tropical plants in front gardens and on balconies make the streets look so pretty. I realise that being surrounded by lots of colour really energises me. Having lived in the silver city of Aberdeen with its grey granite architecture, makes your eyes used to seeing in black and white. Valencia is a feast for the eyes.


therapeutic qualities of colour

therapeutic qualities of colour
My son’s nursery got jazzed up with some cool geometric colour blocks.
Cabanyal Valencia. therapeutic qualities of colour
The neighbourhood of Cabanyal, with its characterful old buildings
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A wonderful old building in Godella, the town on the outskirts of Valencia, where we currently live.

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Valencia is also well known for its bold street art. In parts of the city centre whole sides of buildings are covered in cool graffiti. I managed to have a day to myself last week and thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets, taking it all in and pinching myself for being here.


therapeutic qualities of colour


feeling better in a light filled house

Then there is our new house, which has giant windows, lots of space and is mostly on open plan. I love it! White walls, sunlight streaming in. (Oh, and look who’s arrived too?). It is a joy to hang up our artworks and make the house homely, room by room and I will post updates on the blog of my decorating attempts, as much as that is possible in rented accommodation. I was shopping for blinds and curtains today at the local Bauhaus store nearby and it is funny how I am suddenly drawn to bright, bold colours, whereas in Scotland I would have gone for the more muted greys, greens and darker tones. I guess yellow blinds just go better with a blue sky.


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So much colour. I think I’ll go for the yellow ones for the master bedroom… Before and after post next time?

therapeutic qualaities of colour and light


 

D Day. We’re off. Moving to Spain as a family

We’re finally moving to Spain as a family. D Day is here. “Why are you so stressed, we’re only moving!” my husband said to me after I had another meltdown in the past few days. I know, right? He wasn’t even joking! Well, he must be the exception to the rule, because I do feel like all those people stating that moving house is in the top three of most stressful things in life.

Packing, cleaning and a broken elbow

Moving house as a family with lots of stuff and two pets, that is, if it had been just me I’d been fine. The packing for the removal lorry was one thing, it was all the stuff that was left to do afterwards that made it feel never ending. Cleaning up and sorting out. Loads of admin. Finishing at work. Getting our cats prepped for the cattery and planned pet transport journey. An X ray to see if my youngest’s broken elbow is healing ok (it’s ok!).

Moving to Spain blogs


moving to spain as a family means Adios leaving parties

Then of course there are the many leaving drinks, meals and parties to attend and host. Even though my tired body told me it really rather wanted to go to bed, it was lovely to be able to catch up and say goodbye to our Scottish friends, neighbours, band members and colleagues. After moving to Spain as a family I would be able to have plenty of siësta’s, wouldn’t I? No rest for the wicked. Hell yes, throw in a 4th birthday party for my little one as well while we’re at it, one day before departure! Crazy.

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ready for a new adventure

Leaving our home and the local area on D Day was pretty emotional, even though I often cursed the place longing to be somewhere more exciting, feeling cut off and stuck in a far grey, chilly corner of the Great British island. Still, I am grateful, as I believe all things happen for a reason and so I spent over twelve years of my life in the North east of Scotland, always feeling the colourful Dutch outsider but adapting and making it my home. The truth is, no matter where you go, if you open your eyes you will find what matters to you. In some places you just have to try a little bit harder. Up there I found like-minded creatives, found a great band to sing in, started my business and started a family. Aberdeenshire is beautiful and full of hidden gems.

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goodbye beautiful Scotland, thank you for having me

The train journey from Inverurie to Aberdeen was like a trip down memory lane…passing familiar scenery, a previous work place, my husband’s city flat where I started a life in Scotland many moons ago. Goodbye Aberdeen! Thank you for having me and making me work hard, push myself, mature and become resilient.

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Looking forward to a brand new life

The night before we left also happened to be the night when labour kicked off for the planned home birth of my second baby boy, exactly four years ago. It was a strange feeling to be sitting on the floor in our empty living room, the same spot as where my youngest was born after a lot of drama and life threatening complications (he was a big 10lb baby and got stuck with his shoulder – BBC’s Call the Midwife anyone?).

Four years later we are sitting here again, excited and slightly nervously awaiting another brand new life. I always dreamed of this moment, moving to a sunny climate, moving to Spain as a family. Let’s hope this birth will be a smoother one!

The great big move South. Preparing to leave Scotland

It’s all happening. We are moving to Spain. But what a month it’s been. The thought of a glass of wine on the other end, enjoying the warm spring sunshine, is what’s keeping me going just now. The movers have been a few days ago. A great big artic lorry parked outside, loading in my house contents. Everything is on its way to Valencia and we’re sitting on camping chairs in an empty house, scrambling for cutlery and cups. Food is now kept in our baltic utility room as even the fridge freezer is gone. Our goodbye party next weekend will be a blast, with so much dance floor space!

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What better way to spend a Sunday than to play campsite in an empty living room?

 


What to bring when you move to Spain?

We decluttered a lot beforehand, but still we managed to fill around 50 boxes and load a almost all of our furniture. The idea of going with just a suitcase full of clothes did sound very appealing and quite liberating, but at the end of the day, you need something to sleep on and sit on and you’d only be buying stuff again over there. And hey, I did want to bring my vintage sideboards! Grant of Buckie were great, offering us part load to keep it affordable, as international removals can get up to 5 figure sums which is not what we wanted.

Big artic lorry parked in a residential street
Just a small van then, we’re not taking much haha. We are actually sharing the truck with others which is a great way to keep the cost down.
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Shop with toys for sale. My eldest is joining in with the selling!

How to rent an apartment in Valencia?

Luckily we have an address. I know a lot of expats arrive in Valencia having to rent an Airbnb for a month before finding something more permanent. It made me feel a bit nervous not knowing where we’d be living as a family, and not knowing where our furniture and belongings would have to be stored. Back in November we had already done a recce trip to visit some schools, but in January my husband went back on his own to look for accommodation. There a few helpful websites to find homes for sale or rent in Spain, such as idealista and fotocasa.

hiring a relocation assistant when moving to spain

We decided to rent first, because we don’t know the city and surrounding areas yet so buying would be too much of a gamble if perhaps a year down the line you felt you didn’t like the neighbourhood. Still, finding a rental house in Valencia proofed trickier than we expected, with houses being snapped up quickly. We made the very wise decision to hire a brilliant relocation assistant called Linda from Moving to Valencia, who is a true wizard and geared my husband up with 17 properties to view in two days, doing all the Spanish communication with estate agents and landlords in the background.

Husband himself lost the will to live after two days and 400km driving from one house to the next. We kept on missing out on the ones we liked and disliking others. We managed to secure a townhouse in the suburbs very last-minute, literally hours before he flew back. Unfurnished, thankfully, and within walking distance of schools and tram stop into town. Oh, and with a roof terrace! See that blue sky?

moving to valencia blogs
A nice modern, white semi-detached house with a roof terrace. A big change from a 1930s granite house in Scotland!

Meanwhile back home…

In the meantime life back home in Kemnay was not particularly stress-free, with builders coming in having to do a few repairs before we could put the house up for sale. Our two cats were now advertised on a cat adoption website (it broke my heart), but still no suitable homes were found and time was running out.

And then my youngest son, almost 4, broke his elbow in a local soft play. Yup, great timing. He jumped like a superhero down one of the cushioned slides and landed badly on his arm. Elbow fracture. He needed surgery the next day and now walks around with three pins in his arm and a big gold sprayed cast (his big brother was well impressed). He will need surgery again once we are in Spain unless we fly back for it. I suppose it’s one way to quickly start finding our way around the Spanish healthcare system!

moving to spain blogs


But here we are. Just over a week to go until we are moving to Spain. I am sitting on a camping chair, laptop on a camping table. It feels weird leaving this house behind. The garden we spent so many hours in, planting, shaping and building, the house itself, remodeled, redecorated, modernised, made into something beautiful and totally our own. I had my babies here. My youngest son was even born at home, right here in the living room. Such a lovely street, great neighbours. Nice walks in the countryside, right on our doorstep. So many memories. Ten years of our lives. It’ll soon become someone else’s home. I know they will love it.


Ready for the next chapter

But I am excited for the next chapter. Excited for the unknown. Even though I know there will be plenty of challenges once we are there, from registering ourselves everywhere (hola, Spanish bureaucracy!), getting our kids into school and making them feel settled, finding our way around, building a new network of friends, learning to speak decent Spanish! And the cats? They’re coming! Even though we initially felt they belong in Scotland, with access to the wild, they will probably enjoy spending their retirement stretched out on our sun deck. I am relieved and happy they are coming, now we have made the decision, as they are part of our family after all and now we will all be together. They will be following us in March, overland in a fully kitted out pet transport van. I hope they’ll be sending us their road trip selfies!

Hasta luego, see you on the other side!

moving to spain blogs

Transform a farmhouse kitchen with skylights

Last year I had the pleasure work with a family in Aberdeenshire who were looking to update the kitchen in their 18th century farmhouse. I made the suggestion to transform their farmhouse kitchen with skylights.

The house was lovely and old located in beautiful countryside, but when I arrived, I immediately felt claustrophobic. The kitchen was a very dark space, with low ceilings and small windows, which was probably OK for slightly shorter owners a few centuries ago, but not for 21st century people of 5ft 8″. So before taking out my notebook and discuss any colour schemes and styles, the first question I asked my client was:”What’s in the roof space? Can we break through and add some skylights?” I could literally see their eyes light up.


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Opening up the roof with skylights can make a difference of day and night – literally. Imagine the lack of light in this example, if it wasn’t for the large windows in the ceiling. Image: Hege in France

the kitchen as the heart of the home

Now, while they went off to find a builder and get some quotes, I put my design hat on and came up with some ideas. They wanted a livable, modern space that would function as the centre of the house – for meals, homework and reading the paper. They wanted light, neutral and timeless colours, nothing too ‘trendy’, but also not something “boring and too grey or beige”; a room that would be unique and enjoyable for years to come.  Oh, and it needed a big, chunky farmhouse table!

Mood board for farmhouse kitchen makeover

Mood board in mustard and grey to transform a farmhouse kitchen with skylights


Grey and mustard colour scheme for a scandinavian look

I chose grey as basic colour, but added mustard yellow as accent colour in the style board (who doesn’t love that combo?), and rustic natural wood to go with the farmhouse theme. They already had original slate flagstone tiles on the floor which is a great original feature and will make a great contrast with the contemporary white kitchen they were going to order.

transform a farmhouse kitchen with skylights


The craquele glaze pastel/grey tiles are ones we selected for our own kitchen a few years back and are just a great choice if you like the metro tile look, but are looking for a softer, less industrial style.

I would add some Scandi’ style pieces such as a clock, pendant ‘barn’ lights, a patterned blind and contemporary dining chairs to bring the farmhouse look up to date. The large rustic table and some vintage pieces add uniqueness to the room. The skylights would likely be on one side of the kitchen (near the windows and patio door), to leave space for storage in the attic.

transform a farmhouse kitchen with skylights

transform a farmhouse kitchen with skylights

 


My clients were pleased with my suggestions and I can’t wait to catch up with them to see if the roof lights are in and how much difference it has made so far. What do you think?

Review: buying affordable art online with Artfinder

Buying affordable art online is something that is becoming quite popular. I regularly post about art, as I believe it brings joy to people’s lives and can add real personality to a home. Art is in fact an important ingredient in my designs for clients and I always suggest to people to invest in some artworks if they don’t own pieces already, and it really doesn’t need to cost the earth. Without it, I feel a room is just not complete! I wrote a blog post recently about how and where to buy art in which I mentioned online galleries as a good way to browse art in a non-threatening way. Today I am reviewing Artfinder.

Discovering original art is becoming a lot easier with sites such as Artfinder popping up on the net, offering a service that takes any barriers out of the buying process. Buying art can feel a little bit alien to some, but just saving images as favourites as if you were on Pinterest makes things a doddle.

buying affordable art online
Hybrid No:19, collage on paper by Leigh Bagley
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Landscape, Acrylic painting on Canvas, by Nadia Moniati


As you are saving your favourites, the site recommends other artists and works you may like, a bit like Spotify, so if you don’t know exactly what your taste in art is, then you may form yourself a much clearer idea after browsing the site for some time and regularly clicking on the ‘like’ button.

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Diamond (Rose), Linocut on Paper, by Liam Roberts


Of course, there is more to art than only large abstract paintings – try browsing the printmaking section for beautiful contemporary graphic pieces for example. I enjoy receiving tailored suggestions or seeing “The daily finds”, as it is a good way of sifting through the huge amount of art that is on offer as well as discovering pieces you may nog have come across otherwise.

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Cat in Teal Green, Screenprint on Paper
by Lu West


You can get an original piece of art on Artfinder from less than £50, so it is very affordable and so much more personal than buying a mass produced canvas from the home section of a high street department store (who buys these things anyway?). The nice thing is also that you get to read about the artist who made it, often with a bit of background about the artwork. Artfinder supports artists from around the world, which means you can buy internationally.

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Through a Courtyard (relief), Relief on Panel / Board / MDF, by Liam Hennessy


Many of the works come framed and ready to hang, which is a welcome bonus. Do double check the sizes though, as many artworks are small. Nothing worse than receiving your purchase in the post and opening a tiny parcel when you expected a huge canvas! Shipping costs are given upfront so you know exactly what you are paying. And if you are looking for an original birthday, graduation or Christmas present, there is always the gift card option.

Do you have any online art sites you like to use?


This post includes affiliate links to Artfinder. This mean that if you like this article and subsequently decide to purchase an artwork through Artfinder by clicking on one of the links in my post, Nina’s Apartment receives a small commission too.

Nina’s Apartment on the move…moving to Valencia, Spain

I am moving to Valencia, Spain! Having lived twelve and a half years in Scotland, my family and I are preparing to emigrate to sunnier climates. Although this is not the first time I am swapping countries (after all, I moved to Scotland from the Netherlands when I was in my mid twenties), I am a bit overwhelmed by everything that comes with moving house, let alone moving to another country! Back then, all I was moving was my granny’s old cupboard, four vintage dining room chairs, some clothes and six boxes of books on one small pallet. Twelve years later it’s a family of four and the contents of a four-bedroom house.

from Dutch to Doric and now spanish. being an expat all over again

I moved to Scotland in 2005 to be with my husband, who was working in the oil industry. I had never heard of Aberdeen before meeting him in a Dutch pub on a Friday night in The Hague, and certainly never thought I’d be making it my home. But I did, for far more years than I had ever imagined. Living in the North east of Scotland was a learning curve. English was not my first language and the local tongue Doric was like Chinese to me (my first job here was in an office, regularly answering the phone – you get the picture!).

I had to start from scratch in my career, in finding friends, in building a new life. Getting to know a new city, a new country, with all its foreign rules and quirks. Being an expat can be hard work!

moving to spain blogs


twelve years in scotland

Aberdeen was a bit of a bleak contrast to the colourful, cultural Dutch cities I was used to back home. No, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight! But you either sink or you swim, so you adapt, you carve out a life and find the things you love when you open your ears and eyes – and you make new friends anywhere if you try. I feel living here has made me more resilient, more flexible and more confident in my ability to adapt in new situations while staying close to myself.

Although I still feel very Dutch at times, even if it’s only because I am taller than most Scots, I no longer feel like an expat in Scotland. I made it my second home. I love the stunning beauty of country, the honesty and down-to-earth-ness of its people, the traditions, the music, its pride in Scottish culture. I had my children here, I started my business here, I have matured here. Scotland will be in my heart forever. I even understand Doric now. Kind of.

moving to spain blogs
Loch Morloch, Scottish Highlands
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Juggling upholstery and motherhood outside my shop.
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A day on the beach in Banff, Aberdeenshire

keeping our promise: a life in the sun

Why are we relocating to Valencia then? Brexit? Well, no, that’s not the reason, although it certainly made the choice easier for me as a EU citizen. On a night out a long time ago, long before we got married and had our boys, my husband and I wrote our dreams for our future on a napkin. One of the agreements was that we “would go and live in the sun at least once in our lives”. Because well, yes, Aberdeen is pretty cold and miserable most of the year.

Of course, life and bills got in the way and we ended up spending the next ten years working very hard, buying a house and staying put. Then around three years ago, when the oil price dropped and jobs were at risk, we remembered that napkin. We even found it back in an old notebook. What if a redundancy meant we could actually make that life change? Would we? Could we? And where would we go?

discovering spain and taking the plunge

In 2016, it was as if fate struck. Redundancy became a fact for my husband, which despite our wish for change, still came as a shock. Then within months, my shop burnt down to the ground. From having very busy lives, we were all of a sudden both sitting at home with our head in our hands, wondering what to do next. We decided to pack our kids and camping gear in the car and drove off to the continent for six weeks. With no jobs to go to and school closed for the summer, we went on a big road trip to clear the cob webs and get ideas for our future.

We drove through France, thinking that could be our new home perhaps, but fell in love with Spain after accidentally ending up in San Sebastian and traveling through the Spanish Pyrenees. Still, what location to pick? Where could we see ourselves settling? The choice is endless. Then at Christmas we got a request for a home swap in Valencia.

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Sunshine makes everything better. Spanish Pyrenees.
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Not a bad view to wake up to. Spanish Pyrenees.
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Strolling around in San Sebastian

falling in love with valencia

We spent two weeks holiday in Valencia in August, while living in a homely flat in a residential neighbourhood rather than a hotel. It’s a great way to get a feel for the place. We met some lovely expats who had made the jump before us and all seemed a lot more doable. The idea of bringing up our kids in the sun, enjoying the good weather, the food, the culture and meeting new people made us feel excited for the future again.

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Valencia, the City of Arts and Sciences
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8.15pm on the beach. I can get used to that!

preparing for the big move. moving to Valencia spain

Back home we did the sums (spreadsheets galore!) and started the process. We went back to select a school for our boys and are now hunting for a rental home to move into. It’s all getting very real! What will we be doing when moving to Valencia, Spain? It’s the one question we get asked all the time. Live!

We will live, bring up our children, learn Spanish, get healthy, get out of the rat race, meet new people, see new things. Be an expat all over again, with all the challenges that come with it. I will work as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant (check out my other website Copy Por Favor). I will also continue Nina’s Apartment in Spain, blogging and offering design services where possible (E design can be done everywhere!). Who knows, I may even be opening another vintage shop in the future? And I’m sure we’ll come back to Scotland for our holidays, to see old friends and to cool off in the height of Spanish summer.

one way flights booked

First things first though, a house move, which means packing up, selling stuff, decluttering (you don’t need five warm winter coats in Spain, do you?). One way flights have been booked at the end of February.  Better get going.

Hasta luego!

Social media anxiety and how Instagram will not make you rich overnight (don’t give up that day job yet)

Have you noticed the increasing amount of ads on your timeline about online business coaches and bloggers trying to convince you how to make a lot of money quickly?

I recently came across this blog post by Australian copywriter Jay Crisp Crow, about the fairytale of female bloggers apparently getting rich overnight, and I wanted to share some of my own thoughts with you today.

There is a growing number of bloggers on social media that basically make you believe that if you follow their tactics (and buy their e Book or sign up to their course), you too will make a six-figure salary. So you think, hey, I have a blog and a pretty decent Instagram feed, so hell yes, gimme a slice of that! I am going to become a full-time blogger and they are going to teach me how! You join promising FB groups full of fellow eager femmepreneurs, sign up to slick email newsletters and try to keep up with all the tips and tricks they throw at you. 

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You end up getting obsessed with writing and scheduling blog articles and Facebook posts. You keep checking them for comments and likes (dopamine high!). Then you get social media anxiety because of your failing Instagram feeds (“oh sh*t, I’ve lost 10 followers, I need to post more, what the hell am I going to post next?). Ultimately you feel like a complete failure because the blog post you thought was your best one yet, only gets two reads. Then of course there is the pressure of having to jump on the Facebook Live and Youtube Channel bandwagon.

Let’s just pause and remind ourselves why we started to blog in the first place.

I started blogging about ten yeas ago because I like writing, I like creating content and love pretty things for my home. I wanted to have an online space to share my ramblings, ideas, pictures, projects and basically just create a nice looking magazine style blog that I hoped people might like to read. I don’t like waste, so I wanted to inspire others to ‘upcycle’ and buy vintage furniture. I hoped to inspire others, but I put no pressure on myself whatsoever, I just enjoyed doing it.

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Then blogging became the next big thing. Millenials (which I am obviously not – too old to be one, born in 1979, so vintage compared to any of them) apparently all want a blog now. It’s in fact a career option, can you believe it. Just blogging and writing for the sake of it is apparently a waste of time. We all need to try and monetise the damn thing. How about that for giving you some social media anxiety?

If you are one of those confident ‘Boss Babes‘ – you call yourself an Online Business Coach or Blogging Coach and try to create this big following of aspiring entrepreneurs in a Facebook group who you sell your fairytale story to and make them believe they too can be a millionaire overnight. Tempting….but…seriously?

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Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of good, helpful stuff out there.  And you can make a lot of money from online businesses. Just not without determination and commitment. You’ll be in for the long haul.

I have been trying to up my blogging game too in the past year. I am hoping to make decent money from it one day. I have also joined Facebook Groups for Interior Designers, which have shown to be very helpful supportive forums. There are great experts out there! I have read many social media and online marketing blog posts, downloaded some of useful e books and learnt a few techniques along the way. I have even signed up as a brand affiliate. This means that ads and links give you a commission on any clicks and sales – very slow! You need tons of traffic!. I am looking into how to get sponsored posts (not that easy!) and use keywords for SEO. It certainly means a lot of hard work and dedication.

Vloggers sharing their life on youtube

Reading and learning however is never a waste of time. Some of these social media coaches are very knowledgeable and worth following. Some vloggers do make a living from sharing their life on youtube. Good for them. But the thousands of others claiming they are raking it in at the tender age of nineteen? Nah. Not buying it.

Here’s what Jay Crisp Crow says about it in her blog post:

“I’m calling BS on a lot of those “I quit my job and within 6 months I’m making 7 figures a fortnight” stories.

Who ARE those women? Some kind of entrepreneurial bandits? And what kind of message are they perpetuating?

That if we only TRIED harder, worked smarter, (invested in their program, perhaps), changed our mindset, BELIEVED in ourselves more, we could have that too?

Enough.

We’re women. We’re glorious and clever and capable and full of brilliance. But we’re not bloody circus performers.” 


I am someone who is down to earth, not easily stressed out and thankfully has never had a panic attack. I don’t suffer from depression and I am generally very happy and satisfied with life. I love life. I realised that these Facebook groups and Blogging gurus made me start to feel stressed and anxious. I needed to take stock and calm the heck down. What are these messages doing to my sanity?

No such thing as a quick buck

More importantly, what are they doing to people who do suffer from social media anxiety? Or all those hard workers who are trying to build their business but feel so disheartened by those seemingly successful online competitors? Those teenage and twenty-something bloggers fresh out of college are still figuring out life. Making them think that they all can make a 6-figure salary out of blogging or showing the latest fashion on an Instagram feed is unfair. Seriously. Building a business takes time. There is no such thing as a quick buck.

social media anxiety and bloggers


I would like to tell every femmepreneur or aspiring Boss Babe out there right now to show yourself some love. Yes, I am talking to myself too! Stop comparing yourself to others. Don’t try and copy them. And please remind yourself daily that social media photos and videos only show a person’s best side. It is their own illusion of their perfect life. We all know the pang of envy when flicking through your friend’s Facebook album of their holiday in Mauritius – and their happy family. It’s just a a photo. You don’t get to see the meltdowns.

And when it comes to Blogging Coaches…you never know what hides behind that glamorous front.I bet there are more bloggers and Instagammers than you think struggling with social media anxiety, depression and low self esteem. Anyone?

Just do what you love doing, blog yourself silly, take those gorgeous photos. Take your time and ENJOY the ride. Be true to yourself and proud of yourself. Try and be original, have fun. And more important than anything else: don’t take it all so seriously! It’s a blog.

Also, don’t give up that day job yet, no matter how boring. While you are writing, learning, blogging and building that fabulous Instagram feed…it is nice to have a pay check at the end of the month. To pay the bills and feed the kids. To feel OK.


“I’d like us to all embrace the idea that we are NOT failing at business if we take a moment, build a bridge between employment and small business ownership, and run a “side hustle” for a while.

Although the fierce female Facebook forums would have you believe otherwise. *

I’d like to encourage you to QUIT MAKING IT SO TOUGH FOR YOURSELF. 

You might (…) find that sweet spot between part-time work and side hustle that is the exact right fit for you.”

www.crispcrow.com.au

Get a minimalist Scandinavian Christmas decor with no fuss

Almost the end of November. A month until Christmas. Who’s got the decorations out yet? Who loves a bit of minimalist Scandinavian Christmas in their house this year? Now here’s a thought. We can either find our toddlers shattering the pretty sparkly baubles on the floor, the dog eating the tinsel and discover those pesky fairy lights all still tangled up in a bag from last year – and there’s always at least five lights not working – or we leave the box up in the attic and keep it simple. Just a nice tree, a couple of branches, a wreath maybe. More eco-friendly too, especially if you were secretly considering getting a plastic tree this year (you weren’t, were you?). Boring you say? Well, let me show you a few ideas on how to create a beautiful Scandinavian Christmas decor in your home this year. You may like them.


Keep things white (and green)

Leave the gold and red baubles up in the attic this year, and go monochrome. A true Scandinavian Christmas decor has plenty of whites, natural wood and wicker, greenery and simple fairy lights. Group some lanterns together on a table, at the fire place or in the window. Use white or grey sheepskins as throws and rugs for texture and warmth.

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use clear bottles as christmas decor

Who knew it looks so pretty to drown a little branch in a bottle of water? Gather empty clear bottles in various sizes and use them around the house as decoration. Also nice on your Christmas dinner table with candles.

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thatscandinavianfeeling.com

 


create your own Gift wrap with brown paper

Don’t forget the gift wrap in your minimalist Scandinavian Christmas adventures! Cheap rolls of brown paper, string, simple tags and some leaves will make very beautiful, stylish parcels you’ll sure impress the guests with.

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image: thesefourwallsblog.com

use Eucalyptus as christmas decoration

Eucalyptus makes for great decorative branches at any time of year, so Christmas is no exception.

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Wooden sign from Etsy

Twigs and branches in oversized vases as christmas decor

It’s all about keeping things simple. Find a large big vase or bottle and fill it with a few nice branches of a pine tree or something with red berries on it.

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The green wreath

A nice green wreath on the door or indoors is always a winner. Make one yourself or buy one ready made. Remember, less is more to get that Scandinavian Christmas look.

 

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Farmhouse Wreath on Etsy

 


A naked christmas tree

What, a tree but no baubles? Yup. And a good looking tree doesn’t need any really, or very few. Just a nice big pot or basket and maybe some fairy lights.

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Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts

It’s the season to feel festive and drink mulled wine. You snuggle up under a blanket, have the fire on and spend time with family. Then it’s also the season to be bombarded with high street consumerism. In addition to that you get stuck in traffic because everyone is queuing up to get to the malls for their Christmas shopping. How about trying something different this year? Here is your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts.

Shop consciously

My family are Dutch and we mainly spend our time eating and drinking at Christmas. Presents are not a big thing (in fact, I was told this year to ab-so-lu-te-ly NOT buy anything for anyone! Can you believe it?). Of course most of you readers will probably want to wrap at least a little thoughtful something for your loved ones on Christmas day. I have therefore put a conscious gift guide together, to support the independent makers rather than the big corporates.

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide

I would always promote buying or receiving gifts that are useful, beautiful or well made. Etsy has been my go-to site for this kind of thing for years now. I love the fact that by shopping on Etsy you support small businesses and artists, in your own town (check out if your city has a local Etsy market!) or internationally. By buying from them, you make a a hard working designer-maker extremely happy!

Handwritten thank you cards

I love the added bonus that Etsy items often come lovingly wrapped with a handwritten thank you note included. It is also a great place to find items that feel good to give, i.e. not made from plastic, which is what we should all aim for in the end really (and it gives me hope that there is obviously a growing demand for this sort of thing!). I hope you like my picks in my Etsy Christmas Gift Guide. What are you giving your loved ones this Christmas? (Or are you going Dutch this year?)


gifts For the book worm

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These lovely wooden bookmarks are made by IngrainedInc., who I found at a local craft fair in Aberdeenshire recently (I stocked up on a few things by her, including key rings – just so nice!). This bookmark is £8.50

gifts For the one wearing a shirt

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Personalise a set of cufflinks made of brass and glass….with a details of a vintage map. Perhaps the place where you first met? Got married? Birthplace? Possibilities are endless. Recycled map of choice and date engraved. Love this. From £22.95

gifts For the design conscious

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
Set of 3 geometric art prints, great for the home or the office. Different sizes available, from £22.10
Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
It is hard to pick jewellery on Etsy, there really are so many gorgeous items! I like these contemporary silver earrings by MinimalGeometric. £30.00

gifts For the vegan (or anyone else who loves a good bag)

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for vegan gifts
Cork and Harris Tweed shoulder bag. Great if you have a vegan in the family or just a good looking alternative to leather. Also comes without the wool bit. By MyCottonHouse £105.00

gifts For Mr Hipster

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
A chunky ring for the outdoor man. By MyliuDesign. £40.00
Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
A nice grooming set for the beardy man in your life. OriginalMonkey £20.00

gifts For the exhausted mum

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
The gift for your exhausted new mummy friend. £13.39
Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for gorgeous original gifts
Grey and mustard….yep, my favourite combo. Great unisex hat by TheDorothyDays. £12

gifts For the vintage collector

Your Etsy Christmas Gift Guide for vintage gifts
For the vintage collector…some fabulous West German pottery (I know I would LOVE a gift like that). AnythingGoesCeramics £45.00

For the vintage collector…some fabulous West German pottery (I know I would LOVE a gift like that). AnythingGoesCeramics £45.00


gifts For the creative

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Frame loom weaving kit by local Aberdeenshire maker LePetitMoose, fab to learn how to make pretty boho wall hangings. £22.00

What to buy the kids this Christmas. Top five guilt-free, no plastic, eco friendly gifts

Every year it’s the same issue. What to buy the kids this Christmas? This blog post gives you some ideas for guilt-free, eco-friendly gifts for children.

Eco friendly Christmas gifts for children

go plastic free

We all love Christmas and we all love to give each other something nice. Most of us love a bit of festive shopping, especially when the towns and shops are so beautifully decorated. Children get all excited about Christmas long before autumn and hand you a list of stuff they want from Santa. Now I have two boys who love all sorts of plastic rubbish, including transformer toys, anything with wheels on and of course, Lego. Lego I have a love-hate relationship with, as it kind of keeps its value and gets passed on most of the time once they grow out of it. It will still end up on landfill at some point.

We can’t really get away from the Christmas shopping and we don’t want to see sad little faces because there’s no boxes to open. Therefore I thought I’d give you some ideas for your shopping list as alternatives to the usual gifts. It’s hard getting away from plastic completely, but we can at least try.

To get us started, I put this handy list together:

eco-friendly christmas gifts: seven top tips

Did that get you thinking? There are so many things you could give instead of more ‘stuff’, to both children and adults. Below I have listed my Top Five of guilt-free, non-plastic eco-friendly Christmas gifts.

1. eco-friendly christmas gifts: Framed posters and prints

Posters! Made of paper! Amazing! Get your kid a poster for their bedroom of their favourite superhero, movie star or cartoon this year without any guilt. A world map is also a great idea if you prefer something more educational. GB Posters is a useful site to find a good selection of different posters plus they offer very affordable frames in all sizes.

eco-friendly christmas gifts: art prints and posters

 


2. eco-friendly christmas gifts: Wooden toys

Wooden toys are great for little hands that break stuff constantly. We have several wooden trucks and other toys in our house and I must say, they are all still in one piece – unlike many of the plastic equivalents. They are worth investing in and they make great hand-me-down gifts too in the future. These cute personalised trucks can be found on Etsy.

eco-friendly christmas gifts: wooden toys

Or how about this adorable wooden toy food set? Also found on Etsy.

eco-friendly christmas gifts: wooden toys


3. A personalised book – great for the older child

I often make personalised photo albums or calendars for family members and made an ABC book (in Dutch) to help my eldest son start reading, featuring lots of family photos. Everyone loves being loved and a thoughtful gift is worth more than all the plastic rubbish in the world. I stumbled across The Book of Everyone, maybe you have heard of them, which helps you create a beautiful personalised book for a loved one. I especially like the idea of making one for pre-teens/teenagers, which the site says will be “packed full of smile-inducing wise(ish) words personalised by you. Because your words might just help them make better mistakes”.

eco-friendly christmas gifts: personalised book


4. eco-friendly christmas gifts: Stuff to draw on

I found this amazingly beautiful online store Smallable, with gorgeous high quality toys, clothes and other stuff for kids and the home. Worth a browse. Anyway, I selected these draw-on placemats, which I think are an excellent idea for those kids who are bored waiting for their dinner or just want something to colour in. Oh, and they are of course made of paper…can go straight in the recycle bin once finished (unless your children are true Picassos, then you might want to frame them of course).

eco-friendly christmas gifts: colouring in placemats

For more eco friendly toys on the Smallable website, have a look here: Eco Friendly Toys

eco-friendly christmas gifts: cardboard kitchen


5. eco-friendly christmas gifts: Sew a costume!

I know, I know, time is not always on our hands to get these amazing Pinterest projects realised. We’re not all talented or crafty enough to make stuff look beautiful. But if your child loves dressing up, a beautiful handmade dinosaur tail must be right up there in the Top 3 of awesome eco-friendly Christmas gifts! Go on, get that sewing machine out 😉 Plenty of tutorials on Pinterest. If you are really not the DIY person but still love the idea of a handmade costume, go and support someone who hand makes and sells them on Etsy. That way you make another person happy.

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Bonus tip: Life skills!

Swimming lessons, judo, music tuition, a membership to the climbing wall or local gym, it’s all rather pricey when you add it up. Do they want do do or join something really badly? Why not give your children their membership or lessons at Christmas? Other than that it’s a great ‘experience’ gift, rather than more ‘stuff’, it also shows kids that these things are things to value and are not an automatic given throughout the year as part of the daily routines.

eco-friendly christmas gifts: life skills

I hope this was helpful, I wish you all a jolly good, guilt-free Christmas! Do you have any other ideas for eco-friendly Christmas gifts that are not listed? Feel free to share them for others to see in the comments below  🙂 Thanks! X