The most beautiful garden party ideas

Summer is here, time to throw a garden party! Celebrate the beautiful weather with long tables on the lawn, fairy lights strung in the trees, wild bouquets on the table.

You can choose a theme or just make it as colourful as you want, using whatever you can find. Perhaps you have a fabulous eclectic collection of bowls that would make a great display on the buffet table. Or are you a star at making different punch and cocktails? Display them in large pitchers on a drinks station.

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Today I gathered some beautiful ideas to make your garden party extra special.

 


Vintage furniture at garden parties

Who says you need to sit on plastic chairs at your garden party? If the forecast is good, why not put some comfy seats around the table? Or a sofa on the lawn? Hang a chandelier from a branch!  It sure offers a fab look and it’s great for taking photos.

Vintage chairs at a garden party.
Vintage chairs at a garden party. Image: Bridesmagazine.co.uk

Fresh flowers from the garden

Create tiny bouquets from the flowers in your garden and place them in bottles and glasses on tables or even hang the vases from branches with some twine.

flowers in bottles hanging from twine party decor
Image: Pinterest
garden bouquets for summer party
Image: Pure Wow

a cluster of Balloons for a garden party

What is a party without a balloon? Try clustering them together for more impact or fill them with helium to make them float above the table.

Pink balloons as table decorations
Image: decoist.com


Paper decorations for your garden party

I always bring out my colourful fabric bunting for any party, as it lasts and looks wonderful, but a good alternative – and not too bad for the environment – are paper decorations. Pom poms, flags, lanterns, paper chains, anything to create that whimsical atmosphere at your summer fiesta. The more colourful the better.

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paper decorations garden party
Image: pretty little party shop

DIY hula hoop chandelier: beautiful for a garden party

How great is this idea? Indoors and outdoors, this hula hoop chandelier makes a beautiful statement. Hang it from the roof of a veranda or from tree branches above your dinner table. This example has ribbons in different colours tied from a large hula hoop, combined with strips of paper, some perforated with circles. There are also strings hanging down with circles sewn onto them to make short garlands. For evening parties, string some fairy lights inside to light it up.

DIy hula hoop chandelier
DIY paper chandelier. Image: http://shannonberrey.com


Create furniture and decor with pallets for your garden party

Pallets are a great way to add some cheap extra furniture to your garden party decor. They are practical and look nice and rustic and you can stack ’em up high if needed. Use them to put the cakes and desserts on or turn them into a bar. Another idea is to turn them into a low table across the lawn with blankets and cushions on either side.

Pallets as party tables
Image: Style me Pretty
pallets as a centre piece and party table
Image: comoorganizarlacasa.com


And of course…drinks

Last but not least: don’t forget the drinks. Ice lollies only for children? No way! Make a batch of Gin & Tonic lollies and share them out at your party. Guaranteed a hit and pretty too. Mix your gin and tonic together with some lime juice in a pitcher (measured as you would in a glass) and pour it into ice lolly molds. Drop a a few slices of cucumber in it and freeze.

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For those looking to make their wine a little bit pinker, create a ‘pimp your prosecco’ bar! Also perfect for sparkling water for the non-alcohol drinkers (just call it ‘pimp your bubbles’!)

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Have a fabulous fiesta!

Moving abroad as a family with young children: settling in Valencia

Moving abroad on your own is one thing, but when you have two kids, a husband and a couple of cats tagging along it is a different ball game. Especially when half of the family is Dutch and the other half British (hello Brexit!). It can feel pretty overwhelming. Think about all the paperwork you have to get organised, in particular when you are not fluent in the language of your new country yet. Our first quarter was one with ups and downs. Moving abroad as a young family is wonderful, but not without its challenges.

We moved to Valencia in Spain earlier this year and it was hectic! Our boys, 4 and 6 years old, are at the perfect age for moving abroad, at least, that is what people keep telling us. Still, it is a huge change for these little ones. It certainly can cause a lot of anxiety and meltdowns. After all, we took away all they had ever known in their short lives. Their home, their garden, their school and nursery, their wonderful childminder, their friends, neighbours and village.

City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. Moving abroad as a young family


The kids, I must admit, are OK now. But not without a good two to three months of very emotional behaviour, abandonment issues and absolutely not wanting to go to their new school. It has been in the past month only that both of them have been happy to walk into their classrooms by themselves. I am very proud of them. It must have been a nightmare those first weeks, being in an unfamiliar environment, not understanding a word.

Anxiety in the first few months of moving abroad as a young family

My boys were proudly announcing to every man and his dog back in Scotland that they were going to go to a Spanish school and making new friends. The actual settling in phase however was far from pleasant. Once the novelty had worn off after a very exciting first day, they soon realised this was reality. It was not nice at all being put in a strange Spanish school ALL day and having lessons different from their old school. The times were weird and the days long (9am to 5pm!). There were strange teachers, strange children, all speaking in a strange language. How scary can you make it for little ones without their mama by their side? Needless to say, for at least eight weeks every single morning was a drama.

I just waited for you to come back

I had to walk my normally very confident, happy 6-year old into his new classroom where the teacher literally had to peel him off my legs. He was clinging onto me, begging and screaming not to be abandoned. It was awful. I left many a morning in tears, feeling so, so guilty about the whole move and what I was doing to my children. Was this really worth it? Why was I being so selfish? Had I been naive?

This was not what I had in mind at all for my family, starting a new life in Valencia. My youngest was only slightly better, but also always crying at drop off. At pick up time both boys were generally calm, usually telling me their day had been ‘ok’. But I shall never forget the day when I asked my youngest what he had done at school. He replied with:”Nothing mummy, I just waited for you to come back.”

 

Moving abroad with a young family in Valencia.


Ending up in a 100% Spanish school with zero Spanish

The selection of schools did not go entirely to plan either. In November of last year we selected this great bilingual semi-private school on the outskirts of Valencia. We even chose to rent a house in the right postcode area in order to be eligible to enroll the boys. A bilingual school would be best in our opinion, to learn Spanish but also still get a good English based education so they would not struggle too much.

We arrived in Valencia late February. Although the staff of our preferred school suggested that there was a high probability of at least one of our children getting a space (in infantil, the Spanish equivalent of nursery), this unfortunately turned out not to be the case. With the school not being fully private, it was the council who eventually decided and they were unable to provide a space for either children. What a disappointment! We had already moved and the children were at home. What to do next?


Our 6-year old has to be in school by law, so the council was obliged to find us a school in our area. They were only able to offer us two spaces in a local Catholic ‘concertado‘ (semi-private) school we had never even heard of. We are not religious ourselves and were also worried about the 100% Spanish school they were suggesting for our children, so we were apprehensive. We were also very annoyed with ourselves for not visiting more schools beforehand. But we shouldn’t have worried, as when we arrived at the school for our first introduction, the staff greeted us like family, kissing us on both cheeks and making us feel very welcome. We were the only foreigners in the school. The school turned out to be lovely.

MAKING FRIENDS AND NAPPING AT LUNCHTIME

The kids in school, young and slightly older, are all very kind. And although my eldest son gets a tad bored of them all trying to practice their two words of English during break-time, he has already made friends. Teachers all work together to adapt lessons for our eldest, who of course didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

The local language Valenciano (yes! another issue when enrolling your children in a school over here, as they have at least four hours of it each week!) is toned down for the time being in order to bring the kids up to speed with Spanish first. During the first few months at nursery, his lovely teacher let our exhausted 4-year old nap in the classroom while she took the rest of the kids outside to read them a story so he could fall asleep. How sweet is that?

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NO HOMEWORK, VEGETABLE PLOTS AND TRIPS TO THE THEATRE

Another plus at our school is that there is no homework, which is rare in Spanish schools – but for which I am so grateful! School days in Spain are very long, so having to spend even more time staring at letters and numbers really isn’t what I believe any kid age 6 should be doing after school. The school also has their own vegetable plots and they do plenty of (affordable) school trips to museums, theatre and other out of school places.  Teachers with terrible Spanish accents teach English at the school, but my kids being native English speakers already, I don’t mind at this point in time – we do plenty of reading with them at home.

For now, it is good, so we will stick with this school for at least the next year before reviewing our decision and deciding whether this is going to be the school for our boys long term. Just now, all we care about is that our boys are happy, fit in socially, make friends and become fluent in Spanish. Within two months my children were able to understand basic sentences, use some words and count to 30 in the most adorable Spanish accent. That is at least something to celebrate!

NEVER GIVE UP. Street art in Valencia. Moving abroad as a family


MOVING ABROAD A YOUNG FAMILY…four months later

We are now almost four months here and the boys are doing much better, integrating at a faster speed than us. They are both happy to go into school by themselves, no more tears. They are having swimming lessons in Spanish and will also be going to summer camp in July (in Spanish of course!) at our local sports centre. On the weekend we often hang out with international families. This gives them a bit of a break so they (and we too!) can ‘just’ chat in English. Learning a brand new language is tiring!

Our youngest is a sponge, knowing so many words in Spanish already. I guess for him it doesn’t really matter what language he is learning, as he is only 4. He is still developing his English grammar and vocabulary as well. He happily picks a Spanish book at bedtime now, rather than English or Dutch and is hardly aware of it.

Routine, cuddles and a safe home environment

Our six-year old is still showing some anxiety and a need for reassurance, especially at home. I can understand the reasons why and we are trying our best to just be there for him. Being in a Spanish speaking environment all day not knowing what is going on, must play havoc on your brain! Sleep, routine, cuddles and a safe family home is the best cure.

Now summer vacation is here (oh my, nearly three months long!). Perhaps the boys will have their huge anxiety issues again in September when school is back, but a teacher told me that most Spanish kids have exactly the same issue after such a long break. At least a row of other parents and their upset children will join me in the first week of school. To be continued…

Moving abroad as a young family in Spain

How to decorate with confidence. Eight interior design tips

When people ask me about my interior design style, I usually say ‘eclectic’. In any of my projects, or even during the time when I was buying and selling vintage, all I ever did was follow my intuition and try things out. I don’t follow a certain style, or even trend, I just pick what I love and usually immediately see if it works well together. You can’t help including things that are trendy sometimes because some pieces that are ‘in vogue’ are actually very beautiful and you know you will still love them even when the trend has passed.

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Go with your instinct. If it speaks to you, especially when you have thought about it for a few days, get it.

Today I am sharing some tips to help you in your own interior design projects. Next time you are redecorating your living room, or in fact any room, try and follow these steps. They may help you see things differently and choose a colour scheme, furniture and accessories with confidence.

Eight free professional interior design tips


interior design tip #1: Start a Pinterest board

This is a no brainer really and I am sure most of you are doing this already. Create a dedicated board on Pinterest and gather images of rooms you like, furniture you like, colour schemes and images that inspire you and ‘fit’ within the look you are thinking of. While pinning your favourites, think about the function of the room too: are you going to spend time in it during the day or mainly in the evening? Which family members will be using it most? Does it need a play area, a library, a desk? Will it have a TV in it and where would it go?

Style board on Pinterest for interior design
When collecting images for a style board, think about the paint colours, accent colours, types of furniture, different textures and also images you like that may give inspiration for a style or colour scheme.

 


Once you have built a bit of a collection, stand back and look at it as a whole to see if you can see a cohesive style. Is there a certain colour that is dominant? This might become your wall colour or accent colour in textiles or upholstery. Are there certain patterns or textures you pinned in more than one image? Then this is another element you can use, when choosing perhaps wallpaper or accessories.

Delete any images that you feel are just too different from the rest, as this helps you narrowing it down. You can always save the image in another board, for future projects and ideas. As you do this (fun!) exercise over the space of a few weeks, you will slowly see a cohesive style board emerging, which can serve as a very helpful guide when choosing colours, furniture and accessories for your redecoration project.


interior design tip #2: Look at the features of the room

When it comes to styling living rooms, I always start by looking at the features of the space. I try and picture it without anything in it. What is the light like? Are there any focal points like fire places or alcoves? Are the ceilings high or is it a cosy room with small windows? It is a good idea to measure up the space and draw it out to scale on a sheet of paper with written dimensions of walls, windows and doors. This helps you choose the right size furniture later on.

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Drawing your room to scale on a piece of paper is a useful  exercise to help you plan. Write the dimensions along the walls and bring it along with you on your shopping trips, so you know when a sofa or sideboard actually fits in the space you have in mind for them. Cutting out little miniature piece of furniture (to scale) can help you picture the room, while moving them around on the plan to see what they look like in different places.


interior design tip #3: What to do with the flooring

Next you look another very important permanent element: the flooring. What is the flooring like? Is it staying? Depending on the ideas on your Pinterest board (and budget) you may choose to replace old carpet with wood flooring, paint your old floor boards or leave it as it is and work with rugs later on. Carpets can add a lot of warmth to a room, especially in old houses or if the floor boards on their own are just too draughty.

Natural floor boards and a grey interior with fire place
If you have nice old floor boards, show them off! Sand them, stain them or paint them white. A rug will add warmth.


interior design tip #4: Walls and woodwork: wallpaper or paint?

Next up are the walls and woodwork around the room including windows, skirtings and doors. If you are going for the ‘Scandinavian’ bright look, keep it simple and choose different shades of white as a calm background for your more colourful furniture. If you are thinking of a more traditional or ‘cottage/farmhouse’ style, you may want to look at darker, moodier colours such as deep blue, sage green or dark grey for the walls, creating a cosy sitting room for the evening. It may feel scary to go dark, but you’ll probably be surprised with how good it looks.

Moody paint colours and blue walls with artwork and grey sofa
A deep blue colour for the walls will make a small room feel cosy and great for snuggling up in during the evenings. Add contrast by choosing a white for the woodwork and picture frames, combined with blue-white throw cushions as accessories.
Scandinavian living room with white walls, grey sofa and danish furniture
For a modern, Scandinavian look, choose light wall colours and neutral flooring as a basis to form the perfect backdrop to show off your nice furniture and more colourful accessories or artwork.

 


Whatever paint ideas you have collected on your Pinterest board, it is a good idea to get some tester pots first as you may change your mind when seeing colours in the actual light of your room. Woodwork can also look beautiful just stripped and waxed if you live in a period house, or go for a contrasting colour to make a modern statement. If you go for wallpaper, most people choose to use a bold pattern on just one wall as a feature, rather than plastering it on all four.

Blue patterned wallpaper with bronze accessories and white floorboards
Wallpaper on all four walls can become a bit overpowering, but use it on just one or two and it makes a beautiful statement. This blue patterned wallpaper makes a lovely contrast with the white window frame and the circular pattern is similar to the cushions on the sofa. See also how the bronze accent colour is repeated in the accessories.


interior design tip #5: Lighting

Lighting is super important in interior design and needs proper attention. On your drawn outline of the room mark where you think you will need light. Where are you going to sit and read? What aspects need a spotlight (pictures, a bookcase)? Is a central ceiling pendant light necessary or can you just go for standard lamps, wall fitted lamps and table lamps to light the room in the evening? Perhaps consider putting in a dimmer for a ceiling light to change the mood of the room.

When choosing lighting, don’t buy lamps that are all very busy or different in style and pattern, but perhaps go for a standard and a table lamp with matching shades combined with some stylish wall mounted lamps. Or have one heavily patterned shade combined with more minimalist lighting. Also look at what type of bulb you are using in each lamp: white light creates a cool, contemporary atmosphere while yellow light gives off a warmer glow.

blue grey room with industrial lighting and wood burning stove
Lighting doesn’t all have to match or be of the same ‘series’. In this room the lights do all have the same warm yellow light (bulb) and are fairly plain in design. Instead of the simple white shade on the standard lamp, a patterned shade in the blue and grey tones would also have made a good combination.


interior design tip #6: Furniture

You may want to start from scratch if the budget allows or you just want to make a clean break. The likelihood is that you probably have some things you want to keep, so it is a good idea to photograph them to include them on your Pinterest board to see them in the mix. Then it is important to make a shopping list, not the least because you likely want to know what it is all going to cost.

Invest wisely

Invest wisely and think long term. It may be better to spend a bit more on a quality sofa than splash out on that super stylish vintage drinks cabinet you have spotted but are unlikely to use on a daily basis – although, I know, sometimes you just gotta have something. Shop around and mix and match. Don’t be afraid to buy your brand new sofa at a high street store, then combine it with an upcycled vintage coffee table and compliment it all with a set of cheap plain bookcases from Ikea. Your house is not a show home, make sure it is you and that your style shines through.

Eclectic living room with burnt orange and vintage furniture
Don’t be afraid to mix styles. If it speaks to you, it is meaningful and will still be liked in the future. This room shows the unusual combination of a sleek midcentury sofa with a chesterfield, a vintage cabinet, a modern glass coffee table, traditional table lamps and a Persian rug. But it works! The orange of the sofa comes back in the velvet cushions on the chesterfield as well as the in the rug and the very large artworks. Eclectic but very stylish!

 


how much furniture?

How much furniture should you get? Less is more, you can always add something if you feel there is something missing. Just don’t cram a huge corner sofa into a small front room. Keep it airy, make sure there is still room to move. A 2-seater sofa and two matching midcentury modern armchairs on either side of a low table may be a good solution if you want to create a good ‘conversation space’ in a lounge. When it comes to upholstery, a safe bet is a quality lasting plain wool fabric or leather for the sofa. A grey herringbone is a timeless choice, and so is tan leather. Armchairs can add colour and contrast or even go for patterns to jazz it up.

grey sofa with two matching blue armchairs in a white living room
This calm living room combines a plain grey linen sofa with two matching midcentury armchairs. The blue upholstery creates interest and a bold contrast against the otherwise neutral interior. Imagine them being grey and you would have a much more boring effect. The warm wood tones also go very well with the dark fabric.


interior design tip #7: Soft furnishings

Curtains, blinds and rugs. What does the room need? Plain grey or off white full length linen curtains are always a lovely choice, and go with both modern and traditional styles. Combine it with painted wooden venetian blinds or a patterned linen roman blind for some sophisticated layering.

When it comes to a rug (if you have wood flooring), choose a bolder pattern if your furniture is muted and calm in colour and texture. If there is already a lot going on in your upholstery or colours and patterns on the wall perhaps, select a large natural wool rug in a light colour as a base.

layered window treatment
These large windows lend themselves well for some layered window treatment. This room shows a nice light patterned full length curtain combined with a mustard yellow roman blind. The fabrics are repeated in some throw cushions.


interior design tip #8: Accessories

Finally, accessories. Pictures, mirrors, cushions, vases, clocks, baskets, etc. Cushions are a good way to start. Combine contrasting colours, different patterns and textures. As long as they all fit in more or less with your image collection on the Pinterest board, they will add welcome interest.

>> General cushion pairing formula:

TEXTURE + LARGE SCALE PATTERN + SMALL SCALE PATTERN + LUMBAR

 

Cushion pairing example
Combine a plain coloured velvet texture with a large patterned monochrome cushion. Add a lumbar shaped one and perhaps a fourth cushion combining the orange and black and white, but in a smaller pattern.

 


When it comes to choosing artwork, don’t be afraid to get a big frame. A large painting or photograph can make a great statement in a room. They also look good over a sofa or sideboard. Alternatively a gallery wall can add a lot of interest and a great opportunity to show off family photos. Maybe even show off your collection of fabrics.

play around and learn what works

Play around with placing accessories like vases and other loose objects. Does it look good where you placed it? What composition have you created, is there a good balance? Use other things as well to create interest such as some of your favourite books, found objects like shells or a rock and don’t forget plants! Plants literally add live to a room (as long as you keep them alive of course).

mustard yellow velvet sofa with indoor plants
Buy some large indoor plants to add life and atmosphere to your living room. Imagine this room without the plants, it would look pretty plain.


Good luck!

I hope this list is helpful in guiding you, whatever room you may tackle. What do you find most difficult in your redecorating projects?

About variety, adventure and staying true to yourself

We go through most of our lives wondering “what we will be when we grow up…”, what to do next, whether what we have chosen to do is actually making us happy…and how we can make the necessary changes. Is is really hard staying true to yourself and what you want in life. I don’t know many people who are just happy with their lives, do you? Everyone is always chasing the next thing, trying to find the holy grail to happiness. Most of us compare ourselves to others, are sensitive to what people think of them if they choose something that is different from mainstream.

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writing lists and keeping journals

It is not easy to stay true to yourself and so many people end up in jobs, places, situations that they feel is someone else’s desire – not theirs. Do you ever write lists down of goals and dreams you have for yourself? Or when going through roller coasters in life? I find it can be very therapeutic and organises your mind when you feel overwhelmed. I must have written hundreds of lists. Still, mostly coming back to the things that have always mattered to me. Visioning things on paper is a very powerful tool. The more you see things written down, the more you manifest your goals. I still have the journals with the bullet points. It is quite an eye opener sometimes to go back and read them and see what has happened over the years and what has changed. Did I actually achieve what I had in mind?

I manifested a lot of the things I wanted in life so far, such as moving abroad, starting a family and my own business. My husband showed me an old notebook last night and what I said I valued at 25, hasn’t changed much 14 years later. The only thing that has changed is that I actually did a lot of what I wanted to do. I guess I stayed true to myself over the years, despite going through phases of wondering whether I was doing the right thing and sometimes having to battle opinions and negativity from people around me, trying to discourage me.

Staying true to yourself. Xativa castle in Spain
Beautiful Xativa castle, south of Valencia

mindful walking

Moving to Valencia has made me feel very alive! Variety is the spice of life, so they say. It’s true! The sun plays a big part in my current joy after having lived in Scotland for twelve years, obviously, I mean, I can wear nice clothes and sandals and go outside with no coat on. ALL the time! But not just that, it is the variety of people, buildings, cafes, landscapes, everything.I have been doing a lot of mindful walking. Aimlessly, but so enjoyable.

So many people from all over the world, so many cultures, lots of ‘digital nomads’ with really cool jobs. Open-minded, progressive thinkers, like-minded people. It makes your mind grow. Expand your thinking. It makes you see things differently. It is the most wonderful thing to stroll around my new hometown and discover a whole new world. It brings a very happy child out in me. I feel at home here! My Spanish is still pants, but I’m working on it.

Cultivating happiness and being mindful in valencia

Mindful walking in Valencia

I stumbled across a beautiful poem the other day that resonated with me. And perhaps with you too! I would love to become this lady. I remember one day I too promised myself that I “would want to become a big story book full of adventures at the end of my life”. I’m by no means a mountain climber, nor a marathon runner and haven’t sailed solo across the Antlantic, but I like my humble stories so far. I am looking forward to many more chapters. And the tattoos? Oh well, I don’t have any yet, but who knows. Turning 40 next year may just be the perfect age to start a wee collection.

Also read my post on Soulful Living: How to Cultivate Happiness in Your Life


 

How to decorate a rental (without losing your deposit)

Anyone who has ever tried to decorate a rental apartment or house knows it is quite a challenge to make it completely to your taste. Not too bad if you’re only going to live there briefly, but if you are planning to stay longer term, then what do you do? Today I am sharing some great ideas on how to decorate a rental without making your landlord go mad.

HOW TO DECORATE YOUR RENTALWITHOUT LOSING YOUR DEPOSIT


from magnolia to magnificent

Rules about decorating rentals vary per country, as in the Netherlands, where most rentals are unfurnished, it is usually OK to paint walls. You are usually allowed to change other things around the house, as long as it’s put back to what it was before. If it is improving the place somehow you may be able to negotiate a discount on a month’s rent. Laying new flooring for example.

In Britain I have seen that many rentals are furnished and have magnolia (ugh) walls and often are a bit trickier to make you feel at home. In Spain, where we recently moved to, we were lucky to find a house that was unfurnished, which again is not always the case – many rentals are full of other people’s stuff. Unfurnished meant that at least all our own furniture could move in too. But how much can you change in terms of wall colours….hanging pictures, the look of the kitchen and bathroom?

Here are a few tips and ideas on how to jazz up that rental without losing your deposit!


Removable wallpaper to decorate your rental

I have not tried this, but I have heard these wallpapers are as easy to put up as they are to take back down again. Doesn’t this wall look amazing? The shop Betapet on Etsy sells a fantastic collection of self adhesive wallpapers in a wide range of patterns and prints, from subtle geometrics to bold florals.

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Tile decals to decorate your rental

Nothing worse than ugly dated tiles in the kitchen or bathroom, to clash with any nice modern kitchenware or towels you may own. There are many companies nowadays selling tile stickers, self adhesive and easy to stick on and take back off. HomeArtStickers on Etsy has hundreds of different stickers for both floor and wall tiles, so take your pick.

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Curtains…and using fabric as wall covering

Don’t like the curtains in your rental? Fold them up nicely and store them away. Replace them with your own. Job done. But have you ever thought about using fabric as wall covering? Yes! Attaching fabric to the wall can be done in a variety of renter-friendly ways: staple gun, upholstery tacks, upholstery strips, liquid starch and some drawing pins to name a few. When it is time to move out, simply remove the fabric and take it with you. Check out this blog by Sincerely, Sara D, where you can find a handy tutorial on how to DIY a fabric wall.

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decorate your rental with Washi tape

I have seen this done on Pinterest and I love how versatile this stuff is. You can decorate virtually anything with washi tape and it doesn’t leave any damage. Create a confetti wall, a chevron pattern, words, lines, mountain shapes, the options are endless. Decorate walls, but don’t forget the doors, the edges of shelves, the back of cupboards or create ‘picture frames’ with the tape. In kids rooms you can really go to town with this stuff. How about a house? Or a road? Or a bear? With the geometric trend still going strong, your rental flat will look very modern in a flash. To find washi tape try your favourite stationary shop for some or order them in sets from Etsy.

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Change the light shades in your rental

You probably thought of this one yourself, but if not, go and change out your light shades. We arrived in an unfurnished house in Spain, which meant bare wires hanging from the ceiling, so we have to do even more than just changing out a shade (!), but mostly you’ll find dusty old shades or other light fittings that are easily replaceable while you are living there. A nice shade can really set the mood for a room, so pick wisely to make an impact. Try Artisanti for some elegant, quality lighting.


decorate your rental: Cover the floor

Cream carpet? Ugly tiles? Invest in a nice big rug to cover that up. Check Kukoon for some regular offers and free delivery in the UK.

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Self adhesive picture hooks

You may find a few conveniently placed screws in the walls of your rental already, in which case, just hang up your framed artwork straight away. If not, and the landlord doesn’t want you to add any more holes to the walls, try heavy duty self adhesive hooks. There are plenty available from Amazon.

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Happy rental decorating!

 

 

Prepare your house for selling: 7 tips to style your home

We have just put our house on the market and that meant we had to make it look great for potential buyers. To prepare your house for selling means a lot of decluttering. I cleared out little by little for months, which is quite a nice thing to do believe it or not. The letting go of stuff, the minimising, the emptying out, it is all rather therapeutic.

Our house, which we redecorated top to bottom, remodeled and upgraded over the past ten years, is up for sale. I thought I’d share some tips to help you prepare your house for selling if you happen to be in the same position. We ended up taking all furniture with us to our next home already, so the house is currently empty. At least the photos for the advertisement were done before, to give viewers a good idea of what the house can look like when furnished. Here’s what we did.


How do you prepare your house for selling?

1. Pretend to be a viewer

To get a better idea of what work needs to be done to prepare your house for selling, have a walk through. Pretend to be a potential buyer. Come in through the front door. What do you see? Is there anything that catches your eye? What do you like and what annoys you? Take a note pad and scribble your comments while wandering from room to room. Once you’re done, make the changes. A good idea is to ask a friend or neighbour to come in with a fresh pair of eyes and give some honest feedback – sometimes you don’t see things yourself when you’ve been so busy doing all the work.

Prepare your house for selling. Styling tips for your home
All shoes, bags, jackets neatly stored away in the hallway, nothing on the stairs. Mail and paperwork sorted out and cleared from the landing spaces.

2. Put the toys away

When you prepare your house for selling, you’d better clear all Lego away. Put those action figures in the cupboard and drag toy cars from under the sofa. You may have a busy family and all the junk that comes with it but no one needs to see that. It’s tricky to keep the house tidy all the time when you still live in it, but try to clear stuff away at least for the photos. Have a few nice big storage baskets handy for when viewings are booked and you quickly need to clear the decks.

Prepare your house for selling. Styling tips for your home
Books and toys stored on the shelves, in baskets or put away in drawers for the time being. Bed made up neatly with a neutral cream woolen blanket on top, with added throw cushions. I also added three new pictures above the bed, replacing the more personal ones.

3. Clear away your own clutter

How many vases do you need in your window? How many picture frames or knick knacks? If you want to keep them, put them in a box under the bed or in the cupboard for now. Spaces look better with clean lines and clear surfaces. It doesn’t need to look like a house that’s not loved or lived in, but viewers may see themselves living in your house better when the shelves are not full of personal items and family photos. You’ve got to pack them anyway at some point anyway, right?

Prepare your housee for selling. Styling tips for your home
The kitchen never looked so tidy! All clutter put away, with just a few items remaining on the worktop. Jars tidied, some fresh fruit in the bowl. And don’t forget to polish that cooker hood!

4. Store excess furniture

You may have needed that extra armchair, comfy foot stool or side table in the lounge because it worked for you and your family, but the room will look bigger and tidier if you only leave the necessary pieces in. A sofa, an armchair or maybe two if space allows, a coffee table, perhaps a sideboard or lamp table, that should be sufficient. Store extra furniture in the garage or shed for the time being.

Prepare your house for selling. Styling tips for your home
I took out some excess furniture such as a chair which I used to put my clothes on at night. It makes the room look a lot neater and more spacious. Books tidied, lamps straightened, curtains open. A nice throw can make a real difference to the bed.

5. Buy some new throw cushions or blankets

You may already have lovely pretty soft furnishings all over the house, but perhaps the cushions on the sofa have seen better days and the blanket on the bed is your dog’s favourite. Buying a few fresh new cushions and blankets for your living room or bedrooms will freshen up the look and will add colour and interest to the spaces. They don’t need to be expensive, try your local supermarket, Ikea or other affordable high street stores for some quick updates.

Prepare your house for selling. Styling tips for your home

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6. place Fresh flowers and house plants

A house looks cared for when there are fresh flowers on the kitchen table and leafy plants around the house. A bit of greenery can do miracles for a room.

7. Tidy up the garden – or dig out some summer pictures

Our garden is large and it was winter when the photographer came around. Not great for pictures. Dead plants, snowy patches, no leafy trees. We still tidied up the garden furniture and potted plants and cleared away any stray toys from the lawn. We also found some photos of the garden in summertime. This helps viewers get a better idea of what the garden looks like in its full glory when the sun is out.

Prepare your house for selling. Styling tips
If you are selling in the winter months, a photo of your garden taken on a nice day last year may help give the buyer a better idea of what the garden looks like in summer.

Bonus tip: use baby wipes to get marks off walls!

Before you get the pain brush out to redecorate the walls when all of a sudden you spot all those marks and hand prints, sometimes all it needs is a baby wipe and some elbow grease to get rid of them or at least make them less visible. If all else fails, by all means go over it with the emulsion, but I tell you, just give it a try 😉

Have you tried any particular thing to sell your house?

For anyone interested in finding out more about our house, please visit www.aspc.co.uk for more pictures, the full details and to book viewings.


 

Mindful Walking: Finding patterns and textures

Have you ever tried Mindful Walking? To take the time to look at the buildings, walls, nature, patterns around you when you are walking from A to B?  I can’t believe how much I was glued to the seat of my car back in Scotland, totally missing that connection. I am doing a lot of walking and cycling right now since moving to Spain. It is really energising, as well as making me much more aware of my surroundings and being in the moment. What have you noticed today on your travels?

Mindful walking. Noticing textures


ground hog day

We are all so busy rushing from home to work and back, dropping off the kids, picking them back up, going home, cooking dinner, bath time, bed time, squeezing in an exercise class if we’re organised, and then it all starts all over again the next morning. Ground hog day. Days fly by, life seems monotonous, we’re being lived by our never ending to-do-list. Sounds familiar? I bet it does.

Mindful walking with children

the joy of just walking

Do you remember how you used to enjoy the little things as a child, walking slowly beside your parents, kneeling down to study a bug on the pavement, staring at the clouds, noticing funny shapes in them? Running your fingers along the textures of the walls and fences, touching leaves, rocks, sand, just to know what it felt like. No rush, just taking it all in. We didn’t need a mindfulness course to learn how to do this, as a child is is your second nature. We must have lost it on the way somewhere.

Mindful walking. Finding calm and patterns

mindful walking to reduce stress

Do you own a mindfulness book? Signed up for yoga classes, fancy going on a meditation retreat? All these things are all super popular right now and why? We must be stressed out and out of balance. We’re seeking a solution to feel in control again, to feel alive and in the moment. Nobody enjoys feeling under pressure all the time. Life is rushing by and we want it to stop. But rather than scheduling in another organised activity in your busy diary, why not just put on those walking shoes  and go outside for a little walk?

Do some mindful walking straight after the school run, in your lunch break, after dinner. Feel the fresh air, breathe. Even if it is a ten minute stroll around the block, your mind and body will thank you for it.

mindful walking in nature

Mindful Walking. Eight tips on how to start

mindful walking with toddlers

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.

Valencia-bikes
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.

villaeugenia nuevo godella


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


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.

moving to spain blogs


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.

moving to spain blogs


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.

moving to spain blogs


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!

moving to spain blogs
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.
moving to spain blogs
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