DIY At Home: My Top Tips

The Bedroom

I am a real homebird; I love my home, I spend a lot of time here and I like it to look as lovely as possible. But as I’m on a budget I try and get as much DIY and home improvements done myself, as the professionals can be a bit too expensive for my modest wallet. I think over the years I’ve become pretty good at turning my house into a home on a budget – this is how I’ve done it.

- Google is your friend
If you know what you want to do but aren’t sure how to do it, give it a Google. Chances are there’ll be a DIY blogger out there who will have written about it or posted a video. Et voila! No professional needed and you’ll feel pretty proud of your very own hard work. I particularly love the blog Little Green Notebook for tips and inspiration.

- Internet/budget shopping
If you visit the large home superstores you probably won’t be paying the best prices. Do your research by searching online – I find you can always get a great bargain at Wickes, their own-brand paint is particularly great!

- Find A DIY Friend
Do you have a friend who is good at DIY? I don’t trust myself with a drill so I’m always in need of help and my Dad is my very own DIY friend. He can literally do ANYTHING when it comes to home improvements and I must have saved thousands over the years by trusting his talent and skill ;)

- Pinterest
There’s no use in spending money on home improvements if you might not like them in years to come. Before I look at making changes I put together room themes and ideas, just to make sure I don’t change my mind a couple of months down the line. Pinterest hasn’t failed me yet!

Through sticking to a few thrifty tips like these I am well on the way to saving for a mortgage. If you’re looking at getting a loan for some home improvements do check out this handy calculator, before you know it you’ll be well on your way to a Pinterest-worthy abode.

 

Thankyou TSB for supporting MTT!

Tried and Tested: Scented Candles

scented candles

Scented candles: my new obsession. Or actually a not-so new obsession, as I’ve been burning the scented little lovelies for years and years and years, but an obsession that’s grown as time goes on. Though not this winter, because weirdly there’s something I find a bit odd about burning scented candles at Christmas time.

Bear with me on this one.

For me scented candles mean spring time, floral scents; they’re uplifting with promises of sunshine and daffodils, not cosy days on the sofa under winter blankets. I love them in my lounge, in my bathroom, in my bedroom – every room of the house from Spring (yay!) to Autumn. While I’m working, relaxing, or taking one of those loooong baths that happens once in a blue moon.

Scented candles are one of the best bits of being a grown up. I love them.

Here are my favourites… burn and be merry! Though don’t burn unaccompanied, obviously. Or near curtains. Or children. You know the drill.

scented candles - Diptyque

Diptyque
Arguably the most blogged about candle, Diptyque hails from Paris and creates some of the loveliest room scents you will ever sniff. I adore the Baies and Vanilla varieties, with Baies being their bestseller (I’m not surprised, it’s divine). Light one of these on an evening and you’ll enjoy a scent that will last a couple of days.

Get yourself down to Liberty where you can sniff them all (I often used to retreat to the Diptyque counter after work) or buy online. Maybe not a snip at £40 but they truly are the most elegant and beautiful smelling candles I’ve ever come across.

scented candles - cowshed

Cowshed
I adore pretty much anything the Soho House group touches: Shoreditch House, Soho House, Dean Street Townhouse, Pizza East, Cowshed Spa. Their products are truly not to be sniffed at (please excuse the pun…) and I love how the scent of their products takes me back to their venues.

Their hand wash and hand creme in particular is marvellous with a long lasting calming scent – you’ll always find it atop my bathroom basin. I’m also a fan of their Grumpy Cow uplifting candle (£30). I’m yearning for their amazing food and brand of relaxation just thinking about it…  will someone please take me to Babington House?

(sidenote: please reassure me you also have a Tangle Teezer in each room of your house?)

scented candles

Daylesford
I cooked a brilliant three bird roast one Christmas from Daylesford and have always rated their food, so who’d have thought they do such amazing candles as well? I picked up their Fig Leaf variety for half price with my Ocado shop this week so it was a total bargain, too. The scent may not be as sophisticated as Diptyque but it’s strong and it marks. Top marks, Daylesford.

Have I missed any? Which scented candles do you rate?

 

Marsala In The Home

I love colour. Which is a pretty silly statement as everyone in the whole world loves colour, am I right? I imagine “I don’t like colour” doesn’t get uttered very often, ditto “god, isn’t black so uplifting?” or “I really love what you’ve done with the grey in this room”.

So yes, colour = good, 99% of the time.

I sometimes worry that I misjudge the colours in my home. As a summer person I find I am drawn to light colours – white plays a big part, as does mint green, light blues, pinks and yellows. I tend to shy away from the darker hues that invoke cosy and warm memories of winter; the fewer reminders I have about this season the better. But I wonder if this gives a more childlike, less sophisticated feel to my house. We’re all zig zag carpets and star print cushions… uni student vibes.

In 2015 the colour of the year is Marsala – a gorgeous shade of deep raspberry that’s having me re-think my living space. This isn’t burgundy – a colour that immediately makes me think of Christmas time – but is slightly lighter and more fun. It’s starting to make me consider my aversion to deep hues.

I’m a huge fan of changing the look of a room with small touches – cushions, rugs, carpets – which means a quick makeover can work out relatively inexpensively. Here’s my 2015 Marsala shopping list:

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 15.32.29

This Paris Red rug gives a hint of Marsala without being too overpowering. I love patterned rugs for giving a bit of interest and this one from Carpetright is perfect. It starts at £49.99.

Who doesn’t love a Roberts Radio? This one might have a vintage look but the colour will bring you bang up to date. From £160, BoConcept.

IKEA have totally mastered the art of the cushion cover and I love the pops of Marsala in the new DVÄRGPALM, £4.

If you really want to go all-out on your Marsala the Super Regent Twist carpet from Carpetright is a good way to go. £32.99 m2.

I can’t get enough of flowers in my living space and this engraved look vase would be perfect – £79 from BoConcept.

Will you be adding some Marsala to your home this year?

Featured post

Home Is Where My Heart Is

10731449_892764744067223_409832678_n

Last week was the one year anniversary of living in my house. The time has flown by and the occasion of 12 months in this space has left me contemplating the concept of ‘home’ and what it means to me and my little family.

In what I now sometimes refer to as ‘my past life’ I never felt satisfied with home. I didn’t particularly feel at home anywhere I lived –Nottingham, North, East and North-West London, Olney. I always felt I was chasing something, a life that would be perfect if only we lived in a better home. I owned a house, that didn’t help. I lived in a big flat, a studio flat, a garden flat. A small house and a big house, an old one and a new one. It still didn’t feel right but I soon got really REALLY sick of moving.

And then I found myself living alone with Elfie and Hux in a rented house and my mum and dad came up with an idea. They’ve owned a house, a small two bedroom 80’s-built house on an estate in Milton Keynes, for about ten years. They said that if I wanted to I was more than welcome to move in as their tenant. Paying tenant, I add.

10624037_639115512867451_1233079908_n

At first I said, ugh, no thanks, who in their right mind would want to live in Milton Keynes?! I thought I’d need more than two bedrooms, more than a small open-plan living space downstairs. More than the town of eternal roundabouts.

But then I realized how good a semi-new start could be. In a new place, in a house with new neighbours, close to my gym and the place I always retreat to when I’m having a bad day: WAITROSE. And so I said yes, I would move into the Milton Keynes house, but probably just for a short while as I was deciding what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to live in the long-term.

It wasn’t an easy move. There were tenants here who didn’t want to leave (and I felt extremely guilty for making them) – they had three months notice and then overstayed that by a month more. Then it was time for my dad (DIY extraordinaire) to knock through the lounge and kitchen to make space for my table, paint the house from top to bottom, fit new french doors and kitchen and re-tile the bathroom.

Our new house was a long time coming.

10808477_726759110746593_1305138526_n

But for the first time in my life I feel like I am home here.

I love everything about this house, from the small living space that gets a bit crowded on a rainy Sunday afternoon to my walk-in wardrobe and our dodgy 80s artex ceilings. I love my little office nook in the kitchen and the cupboard I hang up my laundry in. I love the fact that we have been so content here, we feel so settled and safe and warm. I even love Milton Keynes with its hundreds of roundabouts (130, apparently), short 30 minute train journey into London and hugely convenient shopping center.

Some people think dogs are excellent judges of character- well, I think my little house is. I get very territorial (but don’t worry, I stop short of weeing over everything like a cat) and if I don’t trust someone I will feel strange about them being in my house. I dunno, call me Mystic Meg or something, but if a man I’m dating visits my house and I feel weird then that’s them done.  

My house is magic.

10684375_1496325993948355_1519659582_n

This house, it hasn’t been without dramas. For one the garden is huge and if there’s anything I hate more than cleaning the bathroom it is mowing the lawn. BAD LUCK, Alice. There are also plenty of fruit trees that bear bounties, bounties that go moldy if you don’t put them in the green bin quick enough (nope). I really need to sort out the steamed-up mess that is the greenhouse (or, as Elfie calls it, ‘the shed that is glass’) and I’m currently perusing Factory Direct Flooring for a replacement floor since my new steam cleaner cooked the top layer of my designer Karndean vinyl.

Oops.

So that’s me – insanely happy in this little Milton Keynes home that I moved into as a six month stop-gap a whole year ago. It’s going to take a very special house to make me leave.

What makes you feel like you’re home?

Thank-you Factory Direct Flooring for supporting MTT

 

My Favourite Mr Men

For me Mr Men were an integral part of my childhood – one I’m hoping to extend to my children as they grow up. As Elfie is beginning to take a real interest in reading and books (just like her mum. Until her mum discovered boys) I’ve started buying the Mr Men books for her. And I’ve noticed something about them – Mr Men are actually pretty good role models.

Bear with me on this. In a world where the people from TOWIE, Geordie Shore and The Kardashians are hailed as heroes we need all the good values we can get. And I think Mr Men can give this to us! Here are my favourites:

FC084317806X

Mr Brave

Mr. Brave is the most courageous person in the world, or so everyone thinks. The truth is that Mr. Brave is really a lucky coward. He only has one fear: heights. He’s brave enough to save Mr Messy from water, but not brave enough to go on a tightrope…

Mr.Funny

Mr Funny

Mr Funny went to the zoo, where all the poor animals have colds. He ends up cheering up the zoo animals with his funny jokes and humour before driving home to his teapot house. Nobody has a sense of humour like Mr Funny!

Mr Good

Mr Good is very good but lives in a town called Badland, where everyone is bad. When he opens a door for someone, trying to be good, he gets kicked in the shin! Mr. Good decides to take a long walk and ends up in Goodland, which is where he lives now. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 21.44.53

Mr Happy

One Day Mr Happy discovers Mr Miserable (who happens to look exactly like him) and helps him become happy.

Mr Impossible

Nothing is impossible to Mr. Impossible: he can do anything! He has magic powers and uses them to motivate people. He proves he can do anything in some amazing ways! 

If you’d like to buy up your own collection of Mr Men (and why wouldn’t you?!) then take a look at the deals at The Works – I’ve just bought the Mr Men box set from there for the kiddos for Christmas and can’t wait to get stuck into them!

Gifts For Me, I Mean Her: The British Edition

I bloody love being British.

I’m very proud of our country and the lovely lives we are able to have here: the NHS, our schooling system, the British companies I work for and with, the epic brilliance that is our capital city of London, the beauty of our countryside. Despite thinking I was always a bit wanderlust-y I can say with certainty that there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather live. Crap weather, imperfect politics and all.

As I get older I find I like to do lots more British things. I’ve just been on a weekend break to the Lake District for example (with my wellies and my wax jacket!), and you could not pay any money to part me from my weekly stroll around my favourite British supermarket (Waitrose) with a cup of English Breakfast and the Times in my trolley. I’m taking Elfie out for her first afternoon tea next weekend and I really enjoy a jolly old moan (I also enjoy saying ‘jolly old…’).

I’m so British you can call me sodding Mary Poppins. Though I don’t have her patience with small people, unfortunately.

So this year I’ve decided to go very patriotic in my approach to Christmas shopping. I’ve decided (weirdly, maybe) that all presents I buy for friends and family will be from British companies. Why? I DON’T KNOW. But here’s my very British rundown of stocking fillers for women (clue: some of you might need a bigger stocking):

xmas

1. My very favourite wax jacket is from my very favourite British countryside company, Joules. But because I can’t afford one of their lovely jackets for everyone (sorry) their bath and body sets are a very acceptable replacements. My favourite is this Blooming Brilliant Weekend Bag at £45, which is not only choc full with treats but is a re-usable tote bag too.

2. If you have any new mothers in your life – STOP! Don’t look any further for a gift for them than the lovely hand-crafted jewellery company Epanoui. I love how everything Hannah produces is specially made by her just down the road from me and I can personally vouch for how gorgeous her pieces are. If I’d just had a baby I’d love nothing more than one of Epanoui’s Heritage Name necklaces (£65). Really stunning.

3. Epanoui again, but this time to their range of linen scarves. Nothing says class like a lovely scarf (really!) and my favourite is the Amelie at £49.

4. If you really really love someone, have a think about splashing out on a Fortnum & Mason’s hamper for them. I bought the Grosvenor (£100) for my parents last Christmas and, despite shedding its straw-like filling all over the carpet, it was very happily received.

5. For something a little different, how about personalised nail varnishes? Enail are a new company who print your own label on your own choice of nail varnish colours (£19.95) before delivering them to the recipient. I love this idea – watch out for a giveaway from them soon.

6. There aren’t many lovelier things than receiving flowers, and with Bloom and Wild‘s subscriptions you can gift someone with a whole year’s worth! Their packages start at £50 for three bunches.

Thanks to Joules for working with MTT!