The cutest no plastic gift ideas for children

Need some ideas for no plastic gift ideas for children? I’m with you. Birthday parties, Christmas presents, gifts brought by visiting relatives, children get a lot of stuff. And if you have young children like me, this stuff amounts to a lot over the months and years. Boxes full of toy cars, action figures and dolls and a whole lot of plastic you’d rather not have in your house. It’s messy and half of it the kids don’t even play with. I bet most parents would agree. Still, a child’s birthday or Christmas requires a gift as you don’t want to see sad faces. How about not adding to the heap of expensive commercial plastic toys, but bringing something imaginative instead? Here are some suggestions I love.


A Craft & bead box for creative little hands


Got a cute vintage tin or a wooden box with a lid? Or how about pimping up an old shoe box? A lot of children around the age of 5-8 or older love to make things like bracelets or necklaces, so create a beautiful treasure box for them! Fill a box with old beads, ribbons, buttons, scrap fabric and string and let their imagination do the rest. I know I would have loved to receive a box full of things like that.

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Image: Aunt Peaches

A wooden tree compatible with Lego


I love it when companies make their stuff compatible with other brands. Smallable, which has a fantastic range of wooden toys for children, sells this plywood tree for a very reasonable £16 that is compatible with Lego bricks. There is also a castle and a space ship in the same series, making perfect no plastic gift ideas. Check out their other beautiful wooden toys here.

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Board games and other family fun


I must admit, I’ve never really been one for games, but being a parent I kind of had to get into it. Snakes and ladders, Ludo, Memory, Uno, you name it, my kids love it. I don’t know whether it’s the game itself or the fact that you are playing it with them and they can beat you, but I sure score some brownie points when I get on the floor or around the table for a board game. We were given a great wooden Snakes and Ladders/Ludo combo board a few years back and it gets used every week. Definitely not something that will end up in the forgotten toys corner any time soon. Charity and second-hand shops usually have games in stock, so worth checking. If you rather invest in something high quality and new as a gift for the family to enjoy together for years to come, then John Lewis is a good bet.

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DIY Frame lacers for fine motor skills


Frame Lacers are a colorful DIY toy that doubles up as a great fine motor skills activity for kids. Got a tiny child in your life? Make them one of these!

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Image: Babbledabbledo

An invention box or ‘robot box’ for explorers


Do you have a child in your life who loves taking things apart or figure out how stuff fits together? Gift them an ‘invention box’ or ‘robot box’! Create a robot box for the toddler in your life using outdated technology. Find old CDs, floppy disks, cables & cords to create a fun bin for toddlers to imagine with. For the older child, fill a large box with more fiddly things they can put together. Nothing better for their creativity than open ended learning and discovery. Check out Research Parent for ideas on what to include in the box.

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Image: Research Parent



Turn Black Friday into Green Friday! Six alternative ideas to try

ALTERNATIVE BLACK FRIDAY

Happy Green Friday everyone! Your Facebook timeline and Inbox will be bombarded with Black Friday ads today trying to lure you into spending money on stuff you don’t really need. Tempting, I know, because wow, such big discounts! (or…are they really?). Here is a little reminder for some feel-good and guilt-free alternatives. Please share this post to remind others too….because advertising is powerful and people will be spending way too much on Amazon today! Let’s support the small guys today or, hey, just have a coffee with a loved one instead.

  1. Buy Art


    Art, it makes you happy, it is unique, you can’t have enough of it AND you make a creative individual do a little happy dance when you buy from them. What else do you need to know? This is my personal number one when it comes to buying presents at Christmas – or for any occasion. Where to find art? Pop into a local gallery, find local artists at fairs and markets this season or browse artists on sites such as Artfinder, Etsy or Redbubble.

  2. Buy Local


    It is very convenient to buy everything at the click of a button from Amazon, and we’ve all done it, but don’t complain when another shop in the high street goes out of business! Go out there and support your local stores, craft fairs and Christmas markets. Every penny spent locally on Green Friday or any time of the year goes back into your local economy and keeps your neighbourhood, town or village alive.

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  3. Buy Vintage


    Vintage toys, vintage clothes, vintage jewellery, vintage homeware, beautiful vintage collectables. Totally guilt-free because it already existed anyway. And do you know how much love and time goes into sourcing these beauties, by passionate, knowledgeable and very dedicated vintage shop owners? I know, because I used to be one! And I know many of my vintage trading friends will 100% agree with me. And what is more unique as a gift than to give someone a gift with a story to tell? Go and support these hard working vintage treasure hunters.

  4. Swap something


    Got clothes you no longer need? Books you’ve read, too many kitchen items or gardening tools? Organise a Swap Shop! It’s a lot of fun getting a group of friends together and make each other happy with items you no longer need. I did it a few times with clothes and I tell you, they were one of the best little parties I had. A few clothes rails are handy to display the clothes, or just use a large table and some baskets for smaller items to rummage through. Expect plenty of laughter, silliness, drinks and nibbles and time for a good catch-up while others are trying to squeeze themselves into each other’s old evening dresses. You get the picture. Go and do it. It’s great.

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  5. Buy Eco-Friendly


    How about creating some lovely hampers with eco-friendly items on Green Friday? Great for those New Year’s resolutions to finally give up on plastic bags and chemicals in your bathroom and kitchen. Think of Beeswax food wraps, a bamboo takeaway coffee cup for on the road, lovely handmade natural soaps wrapped, etc. Also check out the Ethical Superstore for guilt-free gift ideas.

  6. Make do and Mend


    Got a pile of clothes lying in the corner that need buttons sewn on, gaps repaired and patches stitched on? Before you spend too much money in the Black Friday ‘sales’, go and put the kettle on, pick a Netflix film you were meaning to watch for ages and fix those holes.


Happy Green Friday everyone!

The Bohemian gift guide on Etsy

Minimalist Scandi? Wonderful. But my house usually looks like a colourful bomb site, so I’d better stick with the theme. I love colour and pattern and what better way to brighten up the dark winter than to gift or receive some bold handmade or vintage items for your home or wardrobe. Looking for something bohemian and folklore? Here is what I found for you on Etsy! Enjoy your hand picked bohemian gift guide.


1. Snuggle up with a Velvet Floral Cushion

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What a vibrant explosion of colour on this cushion. Ideal to jazz up an old armchair or comfy sofa. I love the orange and teal blue combo. And the fact that it’s velvet is even better. Size 60 x 60cm. €69.95 + free shipping UK. Find it at HouseSamples


2. Send a handmade Bohemian card

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Those rich colours, wonderful. Hand painted roses and neon pink lettering. Yes, I’d like to receive a card like that any time, thank you very much. Printed onto thick card using original watercolour illustrations with die cut typography backed with bright pink neon backing paper. Materials: 300 gsm card, 90 gsm neon paper, kraft envelope. €4.66 + shipping. Find this card and many more on MissBespokePapercuts


3. Wear a psychedelic vintage shirt

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How about this Vintage 1970s Psychedelic Print Shirt Dress? Pair it with jeans, belted or free and loose – you’ll sure to make a statement! This one is loose fitting, so fits a size S/M/L. €45.25 + shipping. Check out many more fab vintage clothes over at SecondVerseVintage


4. Keep your feet warm in woolen Aztec socks

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Socks must be the all time favourite Christmas gift. These would definitely make me very happy if I found those under the tree on Christmas day. How cosy and colourful. hand knitted sheep’s wool socks, great to wear in boots or at home. €21.57 + shipping. Find them at NouMoon


5. Brush up on your Russian Folklore knowledge

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How obscure would you like your gift to be this year? I tell you, this Russian vintage store on Etsy is something else. Postcards, art and books with the most beautiful vintage and folklore illustrations. The postcard sets pictured have lots of wonderful photographs of furniture and illustrations done in traditional folkore paint techniques. Masterpieces of Russian Folk Crafts, Khokhloma Folk Painting — 32 Vintage Prints, Postcards (16×2 Complete Sets with covers) — 1974, 1976. €11.58 + shipping. Check them out at RussianSoulVintage.


6. Put some folklore on your wrist

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I love this watch. Made in Poland, the watch is custom-made and has a leather strap. It’s made from stainless steel with a high-quality graphic placed on the clock face. The watch is equipped with a Japanese quartz mechanism and a replaceable battery. There are many other floral and folklore designs available, as well as different colour leather straps. €21.29 + shipping. ludowelove


7. Bohemian earrings

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Etsy is a goldmine when it comes to beautiful jewellery and it was hard to select just one pair. If you are looking for earrings or other unique jewellery, I recommend having a browse and look for yourself! These beautiful handmade tribal earrings are made from brass, inlaid with Malachite. €29.14 + shipping. Find them at TreezasEclectica


8. A vintage folklore bird ornament from Russia

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Another piece of gorgeous Russian vintage. Definitely worth searching for eastern european items on Etsy if you love folklore and colour! A bit different from the vintage from the UK. This beautiful bird ceramic ornament is from the 1950s. The colours are typical of the Russian folklore colours and show a beautiful craftsmanship. €23.00 + shipping. Find this one and more on NaphtalineTreasures


Product review: Distressed copper rug by Louis de Poortere

Today I am reviewing the Mad Men rug by Louis de Poortere. Louis de Poortere is a Belgian company that’s been around since 1929 and is still doing all their design and manufacturing in Belgium.

Now a rug is probably one of the most important elements in room design. It’s a pretty dominant feature, so you have to have a good idea of what you want for the room. Is the rest of the room busy with patterns and colours? Then opt for a calmer, plain rug. In a calm colour palette and little going on in terms of patterns on walls and furniture, you can go to town in choosing a rug with some more eye catching designs.

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Midcentury feel

This particular rug caught my eye, not the least because of being part of the Mad Men Collection, which in itself makes it a rather cool rug of course. If any of you has watched the Mad Men series on Netflix, you will have spotted the amazing midcentury furniture that featured in it.

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Scene from the series Mad Men, featuring the most amazing midcentury interiors.


Abstract design

The design of the Mad Men rug is edgy, abstract like a work of art and the colours are a soft, moody black with a sophisticated copper. Louis de Poortere says about this design on their website: “Here we find an indication of pain and disorder, of the rifts and big changes like Women’s Liberation, Vietnam, and May 68 but also of the creative energy of action painting in the late sixties.” Now, that is a lot to live up to if you are a rug! Great description though, showing the amount of thought that has gone into the design.

The Mad Men rug: distressed areas and a vintage look

Being a big midcentury modern fan, I love the design, which goes well with my interior and has “multiple layers of texture and distressed areas to give a true vintage look”. I normally prefer authentic vintage rather than something that is pretending to be old, but this rug is so beautifully made that I am persuaded. The natural material of the Mad Men rug is a mix of a velvet like cotton chenille and pure new wool, which gives it a super soft feel. The colour changes depending of the light. During the day it looks more like a cooler black, while at night it warms up and has hues of indigo blue.

Mad Men rug Louis de Poortere

Styling a room with the mad men rug

Before the rug arrived, my living room was still in ‘summer mode’, with bright patterned cushions and colourful accents all around the room. As soon as I saw the dark Mad Men rug I knew I’d have to change the colour scheme to something more seasonal. Based on the colours of the rug, I went for a more monochrome palette, with black and white cushions (and a copper/burnt orange velvet one) and a sheepskin rug on the sofa. The tan leather chair by Scottish designer Hugh Parsons picks up the copper in the rug and so does our trusted walnut coffee table. I hunted around the house for more muted artwork and I added my copper wire lantern that I still had in storage from last winter. Perfect to get back out for this season.

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Monochrome combined with copper accents

Other accessories that make a nice match with the rug are a 1957 black vintage US trailer plate, an original black screen print by Scottish designer and adult colouring book giant Joanna Basford and a green glass demijohn vase I picked up an in a charity shop once. House plants make any room look good.

The Mad Men rug has completely transformed my living room and I like it. Giving it sophistication, warmth and interest. We’re ready for winter.

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Mad Men rug Louis de Poortere

Love the rug?
You can find it here! Go to the store

Disclaimer: in return for writing this product review Louis de Poortere sent me one of their rugs. I only accept products for review I would purchase myself and fit in with the ethos of this blog.

Nina’s reading tips: home interiors and styling books

Do you love flicking through a beautiful book full of pretty homes and interiors? So do I. There is just something nice and wholesome about an actual printed book on your coffee table, rather than scrolling through millions of images on a screen. I love buying books by interior stylists or about certain topics like midcentury design, to brush up on my knowledge. The nice thing about these books is that they also make rather pretty and thoughtful gifts for fellow design enthusiasts amongst your friends (Christmas anyone?).

This month I am recommending a few books by stylists who I have been following on social media for quite a while now and whose style I really like, plus a book on beautiful styling with plants. Enjoy reading!

1. Styled. Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson is a rather charming home and lifestyle blogger based in California (www.stylebyemilyhenderson.com). She seems down to earth, friendly & fun and honest and has a great flair for styling and decorating. I get very inspired by her eclectic but beautiful mixing of vintage and new. ”Perfection is boring. Let’s get weird” she says in her tagline, and I can very much sympathise with that!

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Her best-seller book Styled is the ultimate guide to thinking like a stylist, with 1,000 design ideas for creating the most beautiful, personal, and liveable rooms. She also uses a lot of vintage in her styling, which of course makes it all the better. The book shows you ten easy steps to styling any space and teaches you how to edit out what you don’t love to repurposing what you can’t live without and how to arrange the most eye-catching displays on any surface. ”Even a few little tweaks can transform the way your room feels”… now that is some helpful, practical advice right there.

A hardcover copy of Styled is available on Amazon for £17.00
Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves


2. Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants, Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff

House plants have really made a comeback in recent years and they sure make a room look good. I love them, even though it is an upward struggle to keep them lalive sometimes. This beautiful thick book from the founders of the Urban Jungle Bloggerscommunity is a resource full of stunning inspirational photos and endless styling ideas, making you want to rush straight out and buy some greenery. It guides the reader through different ‘green’ homes in five European countries and shows how beautiful, unique, creative and even artistic living with plants can be. The book also offers easy help for taking care of the plants, which is a bonus.

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A hardcover copy of Urban Jungle is available for £17.00 on Amazon
Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants


3. The Scandinavian Home: Interiors inspired by light, Niki Brantmark

Oh, you can’t beat Scandinavian styling, now can you? Although I find some of the interiors in this book a bit too monochrome (I like colour!), they are absolutely beautiful. White or white washed flooring, white walls, blond wood furniture, vintage finds, black and grey accents, contemporary art, you get the idea. And light, plenty of light, which is the main focus in this book by Niki Brantmark. And I guess that’s what the Scandinavians have in common with Scotland, where I currently live: there is not a lot of it half of the year, so we better make the the daylight we do get.

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Nature and the weather are major influences in Scandinavia: homes are made warm and cosy for the freezing winter months – not just literally with log burners, but also through incorporating wood and natural materials. In her book, Niki Brantmark, owner of the interior design blog My Scandinavian Home, presents a wide-ranging collection of these beautiful homes and explores how the Scandinavian lifestyle is reflected in them all.

A hardcover of  is available on Amazon for £15.99
The Scandinavian Home: Interiors inspired by light

How to choose art for your home

Art is a funny thing. I absolutely love art and have always been interested in it, from when I was very little. I just need to have art around me, whether it is paintings, photographs, sculpture or ceramics. I yearn for the handmade, original qualities of a piece of art. Problem is, I keep buying it, even though I have long run out of wall and shelf space to display anything.

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I find it amazing how art just seems to have the ability to ‘grab’ you and you feel you need to own it, probably because it is such a one-off, unique piece and you adore it. Well, that has happened to me more than once. Even though I sometimes couldn’t justify it and it was not in my budget. One time I was working at the Glasgow Art Fair for a previous employer and during a little wander around suddenly this big orange Rothko-like painting stared me right in the face and drew me closer. I couldn’t walk away. It was as if the devil himself had taken over my sanity and before I knew it I took my card out and spent every last penny of my hard earned savings. Utter madness. But it is still my favourite painting and it has pride of place in my house. Countless visitors have looked at be baffled and don’t see why on earth I love the painting so much, but that is the thing about art: it is not about what other people think – it is very personal and if you love it and it means something to you, it is worth buying. Even if you have to live on porridge oats and water for the rest of the month.

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My own orange masterpiece on my wall.

 

 

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If you spot something you like – or even more than one piece, don’t be put off buying it because of lack of wall space. Group pictures together to create an interesting gallery wall. And don’t be scared to buy something large either. Nothing worse than a tiny picture frame on a massive wall. Here’s a great website explaining you how to create a gallery wall: decorationchannel.com

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Image: Decoration Channel

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Image: Rise Art


If you are not too familiar with art buying, you might feel a bit at a loss when finding something great for your walls and may choose to be safe, going for a picture that matches the colour of the curtains rather than that it makes you smile or evokes any emotion at all. Such a missed opportunity, because why not make your home a place that inspires you? Fill it with things that are meaningful, not mass-produced.

Still, if you feel you know very little about art or claim you are “not really into art”, then where do you look for something that ticks those boxes? Here are a few ideas.


First of all

  • Don’t care about what everyone else may think about your choice of artwork or whether it is by someone famous. If you love looking at it, it is meaningful.
  • Pick something that ‘speaks’ to you. Does it make you happy? Does the subject have significance? Or do you just really love the colours or composition? You’re onto a winner.
  • Set yourself a budget if you don’t want to be swept away by crazy impulse buying tendencies. Yup – I am talking from experience.
  • Sleep on it. Do you still think about that artwork in the morning as worth it? Get it.


Where to find art?

  • Visit the degree show of the local Art School. Those fresh graduates are dying to make it big and have their art out there. You are bound to discover some pretty cool pieces and will make someone’s day (or month) if you go home with one of their works.
  • Go to local art fairs and markets. There must be some in your city or area. Stroll around, speak to the artists. These events are usually very lively and informal and feel less daunting than shopping for art in a quiet gallery.
  • Buy online. There are a growing number of online galleries selling original artworks at various prices. An easy way to familiarise yourself with different styles and see what you like. Rise Art is one of them. They have some more great tips on what to look out for when buying art. Oh, and if you don’t want to buy, you can rent! How cool is that?
  • Be brave! Dive into an actual gallery! Galleries may look scary for someone who doesn’t usually go to these kind of places, but trust me, gallery owners want to sell art and you are customer just like anyone else. You’ll probably find there are pieces of art at different price levels. You may not be a regular, but you have every right to go in and have a look around. Many galleries in the UK now have a scheme called Own Art, which let you buy an artwork with a 0% loan, so worth popping in for.

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Popular art with vintage lovers: the Asian lady series from the 1960s by Vladimir Tretchikoff


On a budget? Or maybe on the hunt for something more vintage?

  • The local auction house will have plenty of artworks too. Have a look in their online catalogue of items to see if it is worth bidding. You’d be surprised how often you could pick up a framed original for less than £50. Of course, as with markets and charity shops: it is hit or miss, but certainly a good way of buying quirky art on a budget.
  • Browse the charity shops, car-boot sales or flea markets for original paintings, etchings and vintage posters.
  • Feeling creative? Make something yourself. Paint, draw, sew, print or take photos. Frame a piece of fabric or wallpaper you love. Get the kids involved and let them go crazy with their felt pens and finger paint. It is amazing how good things look in a frame.

Have fun, start that art collection!