George Bedroom Makeover Challenge

The girls’ bedroom has changed a lot in the last few months. For a start, we decided to swap their room with the guest room which was slightly more spacious. We’ve also introduced a wardrobe (discovered by the side of the road – score!) and ditched their old chest of drawers for an easier-to-open to chest from the diningroom. All in all, it’s improved their room’s functionality but I do feel like an aesthetic makeover is due at some point.

With their input, I’ve put together a mood board of what their dream bedroom might include, using items from the George Kids Home range. Talitha wanted: “Dinosaurs! Blue and yellow because they’re my fravourite colours! Lots of fairy lights and maybe my own lamp?” Ophelia said: “Lots of amamals!”

Here’s what would make it to their dream George room. It comes up to a total of £376.

Kids Bedroom Makeover Challenge

These circus blackout curtains (£24), this kids bean bag (£20), this seahorse clock (£9), this purple and yellow lava lamp (£14), this zig zag print throw (£12), these bunk beds (£199), this blue desk and chair (£75), these owl string lights (£7) and this dinosaur cushion (£7).

This is my entry for the George at ASDA kids’ makeover challenge. Check out the hashtag #GeorgeousRoomChallenge on Twitter and Pinterest for more kids’ bedroom ideas.

This is a collaborative post


Five ways to make your home more kid-friendly

My own personal brand of nesting has less to do with cleaning the oven (though, yeah, should really get on that some time) and more to do with making our house as accessible as possible for the children before the baby comes. A little organisation goes a long way and making small changes not only aids their independence but hopefully means less stress when getting to grips with looking after a newborn again. In this vein, I’ve been gathering ideas for ways to make various rooms in our home more child-friendly.

Child seat and stool in the bathroom
This won’t be a change for us as we’ve had them for a while but now that two-year-old Ophelia is out of nappies, I’m really grateful that our in-build child seat has made the toilet an appealing alternative to the potty. With the stool, she can get on to the toilet on her own as well as wash her hands. Of course she still needs support with both these tasks but now that I’m less able to get on the floor or lift her, it’s an appreciated addition to our bathroom along with some extra accessories .

Water dispenser
We bought a glass mason jar dispenser last year and (when I remember to refill it) it’s been brilliant for the girls fetching their own water. They love using it. Ophelia can mostly use it on her own though sometimes Talitha helps her. I even think they drink more water as a result.

Labeling boxes
While I try to regularly declutter so they don’t have an overwhelming number of toys and to have things displayed on shelves because out of sight is out of mind, we have boxes for multiple objects like puzzles, games and duplo. Labelling them has meant that the kids know where things are and are more likely to find ways to entertain themselves. It’s also made clean up easier for all of us.

Visual checklist
I’m terrible for remembering to remind them to brush their teeth and use the loo when we’re leaving the house. It often feels like enough to remember myself! So we’ve pinned up a visual checklist of stuff that has to be done before we go out and before we go to bed. We’ve had it for a while now and so far they are loving it and it’s actually making life run much more smoothly. The drawings means that even Ophelia knows what’s on there and loves getting things done so she can tick them off – most of the time, anyway!

Make your home more child friendly

Accessible clean up
My kids are still at the stage where they enjoy cleaning – as long as it’s self-chosen! So if they spill something, they’re happy to wipe it up. We use old rags instead of kitchen roll and store them in a low drawer so they can access them as they need then put them in a bucket underneath the kitchen sink, ready for the wash.

Have you made any child-friendly changes to your home? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Teaming up with Tesco for these insights


Buying and Selling a House

We recently came to the end of our three-year mortgage agreement and have been going through the arduous process of renegotiating. Obviously, it was on our radar for a while, cue lots of discussions about what we should do. Sell up and buy another house, maybe upgrading or going for a fixer upper this time? Should we move to another part of Bristol? Should we think about whether somewhere totally new is where we’re meant to be?

I’m sure we’ll continue to have these discussions (we never seem to completely settle) but for now, having a new baby is enough without the stress of moving or even of renovations this close to the due date (I’m 35 weeks now). So we’re staying in this house and thinking about what we can change over time. To be honest, even a thorough decluttering will be enough of a change!

With buying and selling on my mind, it’s been interesting to look through Carpetright’s Property Guide and Survey. They’ve put together tips on buying and selling a property as well as a survey that you can complete to enter with a chance to win £500 in vouchers and a hamper.

The house we’re in now is our first property. When we were looking to move out of renting we looked at maybe twenty houses or even upwards of that. It honestly got to the point where it felt like it didn’t really matter which we bought, though obviously it did. We’d set our eyes on moving to South Bristol, a bit more centrally but were put off by the fact that we wouldn’t be able to afford anywhere with a decent garden.

Meanwhile, closer to where we were currently living, the houses are much bigger, the gardens excitingly spacious – vital as we’ve got so much into gardening – and it feels like we’re in the countryside in some bits, even though it’s a quick drive or bus journey into the city centre. All of this was going for far lower prices. Granted, property in our area has shot up since but it probably still compares favourably. Anyway, we decided to stay put and it’s absolutely been the right decision for us so far.

The first point in Carpetright’s buying guide is to work out what you can afford and this was key for us. We already knew that we were going to be home educating as well as having more children (Talitha was a toddler at the time) so we wanted to get a mortgage Laurence could pay on his own. Although I do work, I earn very sporadically and not enough for us to rely on. The pressure of a mortgage based on a double income would have dictated our lifestyle in ways we weren’t comfortable with.

Looking at their selling guide is a bit daunting. I can’t imagine our house ever being clean enough or toned down enough for a sale, though I’m sure we’ll manage when we eventually do, especially as our area is becoming so desirable. The cats might have to live outdoors for a while!

Are you thinking of buying or selling? Do take a look at Carpetright’s guides and don’t forget to enter the survey to win.

This post is sponsored by Carpetright


A “not half term” flash camping trip

Laurence has a quiet time with work at the moment so we decided to take advantage of the ebb and flow of freelanc to fit a quick camping trip in to Wookey Farm, just forty minutes from where we live in Bristol. Packing the car in a record one and half hours, we reflected that once we got there that the campsite was just far away to feel like a change without being daunting.

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When Laurence emailed the farm to ask whether they had free pitches, they explained that there was lots of space since it was no longer half term. Half term. We hadn’t even thought of that. We felt incredibly grateful to be able to take advantage of both the freedom of home educating and the sunny weather.

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This is our family’s third year camping at Wookey Farm. Laurence took Talitha in March two years ago while I stayed home with newborn Ophelia. Then last year, we all went with another family. This year it was just the four of us (well, five with baby in utero) and it was wonderful seeing Ophelia experience the farm camping experience very differently as a two-year-old.

Not half term flash camp

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From putting up the tent to building fires, toasting marshmallows to feeding the goats and donkey straw, swinging in a wildflower meadow to splashing in a river, both children loved every bit of being there.

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I was even surprised that the compost toilets – a bit of an issue for Talitha and I last time – didn’t phase any of us this time. Even Ophelia, newly out of nappies, was keen to use the compost loo though we’d brought the potty along.

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The experience proved a bit much for me, admittedly. I’ve been far more comfortable in this pregnancy than in either of my previous so I felt optimistic about camping but even with all our sleeping gear, pelvic girdle pain hit me in the night. I pushed through it for most of the next day but eventually had to sit in the field while the others went to the river. The change of scene and time outdoors together was well worth it, though.

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As it turned out, the weather was changeable (ah, Britain) so the girls got good use out of the wellies and a parka they were sent by Verbaudet. Both pairs of boots have handles which make them easy and fun to pull on and, better yet, their patterns change colour in water! Cue lots of splashing in puddles when it’s wet weather, which thankfully we didn’t have this time. Talitha’s 3-in-1 parka is lined with a detachable gilet on the inside which makes it perfect for all the in-between weather we’ve been having recently.

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I imagine that this will be our last camping trip all together until the baby is here. We’re planning to camp come September at The Good Life Experience festival which may be its own madness but in the meantime, Laurence plans to take Ophelia on her own some time then the two of them together. I’d like to get a solid bit of one-to-one time in with each of the children (and with Laurence!) before baby number three joins us next month.


Hooked on Lilliput – Classical concerts for small children

Children are naturally fascinated with musical instruments. Certainly, most who visit our house want to have a go with my guitars hanging on the wall. From early on, we’ve talked with Talitha about what instruments we can hear in any bit of music we’re listening to. She’s particularly fascinated if she can pick out a steelpan as she knows that comes from Trinidad and Tobago, where I’m from. Often, we’ll look for pictures of instruments or YouTube videos of musicians playing them so we can get a closer look.

We’ve been to a fair few gigs with the kids (one of the benefits of living in Bristol) but it’s been on the cards for a while to check out Lilliput Concerts, which offers classical music directed at the youngest of audiences and their grown ups. This Saturday we went along to their “Music for Cello with Jonathan Rees” at Redland Park United Reformed Church in Bristol.

Lilliput concerts

The audience consisted of babies in slings to four-year-olds and they were all welcome on stage to get up close and personal with the musician and his instrument. Brightly coloured mats were placed on and just off the stage, with stuffed notes lying about for little hands. Parents were in chairs or on the floor with their little ones and if the mood struck, children danced on their own or with friends and parents.

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Rees played selections from Bach, Britten, Barber and Cassado. A lovely mix of Hispanic melodies and dreamy tunes. He chatted with the children between pieces, engaging them with the music and the instrument and even letting them choose what he’d play next.

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Ophelia was very obviously taken with it from the start, moving with the music, clapping to the beat and drinking it all in. Talitha took a while to warm into things, not keen on dancing or even getting up close. By the end, though, she grabbed her little sister’s hand and planted them directly in front of the cellist and she cued up at the end to feel the back of the cello while he played a note.

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At the end, there was tea and cake and Talitha wanted to know what the instrument would be at the next Lilliput concert and whether we could buy tickets now! So I guess that’s June 12th sorted for us, then! It was well-timed too as she was off to her music class right after so I imagine she had a few things to tell her teacher.

Lilliput concerts-6 Shirt, skirt, top and coat courtesy Happyology

We’re delighted to have been guests of Lilliput Concerts and are officially hooked! Do check out their Facebook page. We’re especially taking our youngest listener to see them at Hoo Haa! Festival at Colston Hall this year.


The #EthicalFashionCollective – Six ways to make your baby purchases matter

When people find out we’re having a third girl, they often say, “At least you won’t have to buy anything.” Actually, we got rid of almost all our baby kit as quickly as Ophelia outgrew it as we were mostly expecting to be a family of four not five and we both hate having to store stuff and dig it out later to get rid.

Actually, that’s been fine because it’s quite fun sorting all the baby things and this time I’ve been in a privileged position to be able to think about what I like aesthetically a bit more. Yes it’s frivolous but I do like clothes and pretty things and this is the first time in my life that I feel allowed to admit that.

I’m also putting together our baby gear at a time of life where I’m thinking more about ethical purchasing and seeking simplicity. While I may not yet be where I want or need to be, I’ve been making little changes to the way I consume here and there over the past few years. My shopping haul for baby girl number three has been part of that.

1. Buy essentials
We buy too many things. This is triply true when it comes to baby purchases. Having a baby is exciting, shopping is lots of fun and the two combine to overwhelm our houses with stuff we don’t need that ends up in landfill. Do your research online (make sure it’s not just marketing material you’re reading), ask friends whose babies are now toddlers what they regret buying or better yet, wait. You can wait with a surprising number of purchases. Babies actually don’t need that much to begin with.

When I was pregnant with our first daughter, we chose a pram that our in-laws bought for us that we almost never used! I’ve daydreamed about the beautiful sling stash I could have funded instead. 😉 On a serious note, having used several pushchairs since, if we’d waited to work out what we needed and maybe gone to a store with more diverse options and personal expertise, I totally would have gone for something else.

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2. Shop second hand
OK, so I’m sorry if that first point was a little boring. When you know what you want, why not buy it second hand? Especially in the first year, many baby items don’t get worn out before they are passed on. I’ve bought lovely hand-knitted cardigans from local charity shops in the past, giving them more use at a price affordable to me.

Also, it surprises me how many people don’t know about nearly new sales. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) run some fab ones and you’re looking at paying 20-50p on baby vests depending on where you go. We hit on in Portishead a couple of months ago and got some beautiful clothes for not very much at all. Some had been worn by two or three babies but still looked new. Some of that haul is in the picture above.

3. Go organic
This is something that’s been on my radar a lot recently. We’re not in a position to choose organic options all of the time but I feel doing what we can is still worthwhile. There needs to be major shift away from current intensive agricultural practices for the sake of wildlife, the environment and the health of the labour force and consumers. I know we don’t often think about organic purchases beyond food but it’s worth looking into.

A major obstacle to buying organic baby clothes for many of us is, undeniably, cost. While I managed picked up a few organic bits from that nearly new sale I mentioned before, I’ve mainly bought pre-loved organic clothes from Facebook selling groups. They aren’t always the more expensive option depending on what you’re looking for, though, so do have a look at brands like Frugi, Organics for Kids and Little Green Radicals if you usually buy clothes new.

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4. Make your own and upcycle
Buying something may offer an instant hit (I’ll admit to indulging in retail therapy when I’m not feeling great, even if it is just a pack of pens) but crafting has a slow burn delight all its own. Better yet if you can get your hands on reclaimed materials or upcycle an item you don’t need anymore. A man’s shirt could become a baby’s dress.

I’ve been crocheting a blanket for this baby. The wool isn’t second hand or reclaimed but it was knocking about from another project I never got around to. They could have sat there for years while I bought a blanket but instead they’re being repurposed. Even if they aren’t traditionally baby colours, I find the combination so pleasing. I’ve also crocheted a newborn hat.

The tie-dye baby grow is a creation by Recycled Rainbows. She’s a mum in Bath who sources second hand white clothes and tie dyes them. I couldn’t resist this item at a La Leche League workshop recently (she was donating profits to LLL).

5. Think reusable
Are there items on your list that you could think about in terms of the long game? Are they made to last? I mean, obviously, this is a little funny coming from someone who could have saved everything to kit out three girls with the same gear but I’m still trying to think about whether I’d be able to pass items on to another baby afterwards. Our cloth nappies are honestly knackered. I’ve mainly used terry squares with Motherease covers.

The covers are actually still fine after two babies but holding up the squares to the light reveals some thinning. I feel fine about that because I think they’ve been through a lot but while it would be tempting to just say we’ll just go disposable this time, I’ve started building a new cloth stash for this new baby.

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6. Donate to support other mothers
While it’s relatively easy enough for me to get things sorted for this baby, I’m conscious that there are many mothers in the UK for whom the joy of having a baby is accompanied by financial stress due to poverty. I’ve been following Baby Bank Network with interest. It’s a charity that collects pre-loved baby items and passes them on to families in need. They’re local to Bristol but you can find similar organisations around the country here.

For now I’ve made a cash donation but I will be looking for other ways to offer items (I do have bits I accidentally saved that I don’t need) or time. I reckon if you wound up with too many things because of generous friends or bought a pack of, say, babygrows but didn’t like all of them, looking for a place to donate could be a good option.

This post is meant to share ideas rather than prescribe. I do think that if all of us did what we realistically can even if that means, say, a charity shop purchase once in a while rather than a full-scale overhaul, it would make a difference.

I’m joining in with the online Ethical Fashion Collective started by Mel Wiggins and Owl and Accordion. On the first Friday of every month you can join in with a blog post, tweet, IG or Facebook status hashtagged #ethicalfashioncollective to share your ethical style and ideas.


What I wore – Ready for the rain

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I usually think of raincoats as being sad, shapeless, colourless affairs that in no way compensate for the misery of rainy weather. Not so with this Fayda waterproof parka coat sent to me by Lighthouse. This shade of green (they call it seagrass) is an instant pickmeup. The striped blue lining offers a classic feel and all the detailing makes for a structured piece I actually look forward to taking out into the rain or even just a windy day. It’s seen a few rainy outings now and done the job too. Sadly, whereas I could still zip it up three weeks ago when these pictures were taken, my bump now won’t even let me hold it together! Crazy how that’s happened so quickly. I’m looking forward to wearing it again once the baby is here.