Home styles come and go over the years, but the one look that seems to have stuck and has appealed to many people is the rustic look. People just love a space that makes them feel like they are at the cottage or at a special weekend retreat. It’s one thing to spend a few days living amongst daisies and pine boards, but it’s a whole other thing to create it for yourself and live in it for any length of time. But the people who love this style, know it’s worth putting the effort in to get exactly that right look to exude the right feeling. And you can do it all on a budget – we promise!
The great thing about rustic homes is that most of the look can be achieved by using second hand or recycling materials, including the paint. Check out your local paint store for cans of paint that have been mixed improperly – these usually go for a reduced price because they were mistakes. A lot of places don’t allow you to throw paint in the garbage anymore, so ask around to friends and family if they have any leftover paint you could sample to redo your space. And remember, part the charm of rustic is that it’s not perfect. But it will feel perfect when it’s done!
It’s easy to add a punch of color or work a theme into your home using accessories. As with most things rustic, you can get accessories at garage sales, discount stores and even by looking through some of your old stuff in the attic. You never know what you are going to find. Pick an overall colour and stick to it to add some modern tones to your rustic look. Try adding a few really great accent pieces like a set of internal stable doors. These doors are gorgeous and can add a wow factor to any room and make it feel beautiful and rustic.
Nothing says rustic like wicker and pine. Spend a weekend walking around a large outdoor market or head to your favorite second hand furniture store to find a piece that is just right. If you can’t find the color of furniture you want, remember that you can whitewash any piece of furniture to make it seem rustic and worn. It’s an easy process and can be done in an afternoon to add character and charm to your value find.
If changing out your entire flooring is not an option, take a trip to a carpet store and ask for some end pieces or remnants of carpets laid on previous jobs. These end pieces are often a fraction of the cost of a whole carpet and they can be bound for you for very little money to give them a finished look. Rustic carpets would have thick weaves or loops in them, and try to stick with natural colors like brown, tan and green to lend to the rustic feel of your flooring. Rag rugs are also beautiful in a rustic setting and can add a pop of color in an unexpected way.
It has been difficult to know how to find a great family photographer in the past. When thinking about choosing a product or a service, I often feel overwhelmed with the choices on offer. We have found a great online service that has helped to make finding a photographer much easier.
How to Find a Great Family Photographer with Bidvine
Bidvine is a wonderful new service that links customers to businesses in a useful way. When I went on to the Bidvine website, I expected to have to search for a family photographer that would suit our needs. I was pleasantly surprised as there is no searching involved. Bidvine asks you what service you need and then asks for your postcode. After that, you only have to answer a few questions to help them to match the right businesses to your individual needs. For the family photography session, I was asked if I would like outdoor or studio shots, if I needed the photography session to happen soon and if I would like the photographer to travel to me, amongst others. I chose for the photographer to come to where we were for the photography session. There was a choice of price ranges too. This was very useful as I have a budget and wanted to stick as close to it as possible.
Receiving Offers or Bids from Bidvine
Once I had spent a few minutes answering the questions, the notice on the screen said that I would receive the quotes by Monday (I sent my requests on a Friday). The information that I’d submitted was received by the suitable photography businesses quickly as I’d received my first quote/bid within the hour. The bid was from a local photographer that I hadn’t come across before. The bid was sent straight to my email inbox and contained a good amount of detail about what I could expect if I chose that photographer. There was also a very clear price at the start of the email, which I thought was brilliant. I received several more bids before the Monday. All of which were very well explained and clearly set out what I could expect if I were to hire them.
Would I Recommend this Bidding Service?
I certainly would recommend this online bidding service. After looking at the photography sessions, I noticed that there were many other services on the website that I could ask to receive bids for too. I think I will look into the domestic cleaner, electrician, cooking lessons and stress management coaching in the future. I think that this website is great for those that find it difficult navigating their way through all the choices for services nowadays. Answering questions to clarify what you want from a service provider seems to work well as the questions are well targeted. Bidvine makes the whole process easy from start to finish. Very straight forward and easy to use.
If you love your car like most people love their cars, then you’ve probably spent some time shopping around for the right mechanic for you and your car. Just like finding the right doctor or job, it can take time to find the mechanic that understands what you want to get out of your car and its performance. It’s important to note that while a good deal of people simply take their cars to the dealership where they were purchased, a great deal many more people go out looking for the right person for the job. Whichever route you choose to go down for the care and maintenance of your car, ensuring you are working with a good mechanic should be a priority in the life and longevity of your vehicle.
Here’s how you can go about finding a good mechanic for your maintenance and repair. First, ask around for referrals from friends and family. And then ignore all of the advice these people give you. Like having “the best doctor,” people close to you will swear by their mechanics. No one wants to admit that their doctor, or mechanic, is not the best in the business. Did you ever wonder where the doctors are that graduated at the bottom of their class? What about the mechanics? Ask people who are at arm’s length to you: coworkers, other people who drive the same car as you.
Don’t be afraid to stop someone in the shopping mall parking lot and ask where they get their car serviced. Just tell them you are looking for a new mechanic. If you aren’t interested in talking to people in public about your car maintenance, take to the web and do some research about what your options are. Car guys like Jeremy Clarkson know their stuff and are always talking about how to care for your car, whatever make and model it may be.
When you finally narrow down a mechanic, make an appointment to talk to them. Ask them about their experiences, how long they’ve been in the industry, what they would recommend for your car for ongoing maintenance and care. It is especially important to let them know your concerns for your own vehicle. Don’t worry about how much they charge just yet; there’s no point in knowing how much money they charge if you don’t like the guy. If they aren’t willing to talk shop with you, they are worth paying. Save the money talk for last.
When you are ready to come on board with a new mechanic, have a conversation about what services are included in the hourly rate. Sometimes mechanics charge a service fee on top of any work that is done, and sometimes they include the service fee in the price, overall. Make sure you are clear on where the money is going, and what it is for. You don’t want to get surprised when it comes time to pay a bill, and a good mechanic wouldn’t want that for you either.
Life is hectic for all of us nowadays, so having coping mechanisms and knowing how to de-stress seems to be an important part of everyday life. I have been thinking about ways that I de-stress and the methods that work best for me. Here are my five top tips for how to de-stress.
Listen to Music to De-Stress
There is nothing better than putting on some great songs to listen to and have a boogie to. The best thing about listening to music is that there are so many different genres and styles available for us to listen to, that you can find music that particularly suits your mood. Most people know which band and which songs are the best ones to lift their mood. Having a dance to some upbeat music always makes me feel less stressed.
I have recently discovered how beneficial yoga can be. We have been attending parent and child yoga classes, which has helped us to feel very relaxed indeed. Our classes include some meditation and positive affirmations. I had not really considered taking part in yoga classes, until my children took part in a class at school. They told me how it was helping them to feel relaxed, so we decided to try some yoga classes outside of school too. Yoga has certainly helped my stress levels.
Do Something You Love
My stress levels usually creep up when I am at my busiest. Aiming to do a certain amount of work before a certain time, with the reward of doing something I love works well for my motivation. Many jobs seems never ending. There is always more to do. Having a bit of a goal can help with stress levels. Something I love usually involves eating something tasty or meeting up with a friend for a coffee.
Sleep to De-Stress
Sometimes stress can be caused by lack of sleep. Lack of sleep definitely doesn’t help if I am stressed for any other reason either. I am certainly guilty of not getting enough sleep now and again. When I have had a particularly restless night, the next day feels more difficult. When small things start to annoy me and I start to feel less co-ordinated, I know it is time for a nap. Going to bed earlier for the following few nights helps me to de-stress a lot.
How to De-Stress When You Are Feeling Very Stressed
I will admit that sometimes I do get very stressed. When none of the above can help me to unwind, this is my go to method to de-stress. I stop. I stop doing everything. My brain does not work very efficiently when I am extremely stressed. The only thing I can do is stop everything and take a break.
It has taken me a while to look through old photographs to create the perfect photobook for our family. There are so many memories in all of the photos we take. From all the first times my children did things, like their first Christmas to special days out, first day at school and family gatherings. It was difficult to choose! When I look at the picture below, it brings back all sorts of memories for me. It is strange how one photo can make you remember things that you had long forgotten. Or so you thought.
The Day This Photo was Taken
This was the day that I finally gave H her the sewn busy book that I had spent quite some time making. I had decided not to give her the busy book until I thought she would understand how to use it and appreciate it more. I think she was about three years old. I had made special sewn items for her before, such as the pillow with her name on that she is laying on. She loved these, and still loves them, so much! When I gave her this sewn busy book she went through every page, checking out the different activities. She was thrilled! Telling me that each page was the “best one” was wonderful to hear. I’d put so much time and effort into making it just right for her, that this made it all worth it.
Memories of Making the Sewn Busy Book
I remember starting this book just before half way through my pregnancy. Life was so busy with work, house stuff and looking after a four year old S at the time. I needed a project where I could sit down and rest. This sewing project was perfect for me. I remember being fed up of watching television at the time and being glad to concentrate on something more worthwhile instead. Pinterest lured me in. Within hours (ok…days, possibly weeks) I had all of the page ideas that I would sew. The colourful felt was all ready and I got started. It was such a relaxing project and I really enjoyed it.
A Pause in the Making of the Sewn Busy Book
All of the pages were complete. I was just about ready to bind the book together so that it would be ready for when H arrived, when I was unexpectedly launched into the world of being a single Mum. My world was so busy with organising everything that the sewing stopped. I had to concentrate on more important things at the time. To stop myself from associating the sewn busy book with bad memories (I wanted it to be fun and special instead), I put it away. My plan was to get it out again when times were happier. This worked, as we all think of happy times when we look at this book now.
Continuing with the Busy Book
The happier times came around and I started sewing the book again. It was obvious that H wasn’t quite ready for the book yet so I bound it together and put it away for when she was ready. As a child, I used to spend a lot of time sewing with my Mum and Gran. They always used to make their own clothes, curtains, toys, all sorts! They still make many cardigans and other sewn items to this day. Sewing always brings back such great memories of my childhood. Such happy times making different projects.
How to Create the Perfect Photobook
H still absolutely adores her sewn busy book. She has used the activities in it over and over again. It is one toy that she has taken very good care of. I was worried that she would lose lots of the little bits I had put in it. She hasn’t though so I’m pleased about that.
I think memories are such an important aspect of life. As someone that worries that I will forget these special moments, I love creating photobooks to treasure forever too. Although I have written lots of memories I have associated with this special photo of mine, there is a lot more I could have written. Just looking at photos can help you to remember so much. So many happy times.
Being able to cope with child free days as a single parent has been something I have struggled with in the past. I am so used to spending my days tending to the needs of S and H, with very little time for myself. This has meant that having these couple of days worth of free time each month is a bit of a shock to the system. I have so much I want to do with that time. I enjoy the peace and quiet, with no one to run about after but I am often lacking in motivation to do anything for myself. I think that I feel like this time is out of routine for me and I’m often so exhausted by the build up to these weekends that I have, on occasion, not coped well with the time on my own.
I experience a mixture of feelings on these child free days as a single parent. I start off by relaxing, having a cup of hot tea in the peace and quiet, snuggled up with Floppy dog. I then tend to somehow think that this is a waste of my free time and that I should be doing something productive. I proceed to get overwhelmed by the amount of things I want to fit into those hours while battling with the need to actually have a rest. I am sure I’m not the only single parent to feel like this. As the years have gone by, I have got myself into a better frame of mind with it all and am able to cope much better with this lately. Here are some of the things I have done to help to cope with these child free days as a single parent.
By learning that I am allowed to have a rest on child free days as a single parent
First of all, I need to remember that I should be having a rest sometimes and that I should not be feeling guilty about it. Sitting with that hot cup of tea is just what I need at times. Being a single parent can be challenging, as well as exhausting so having an hour or two just to do absolutely nothing can actually be quite refreshing. I have done this a few times. The more I do it, the easier it gets to feel less guilty about taking time for myself. After all, what is there to feel guilty about? I have even started watching some box sets to ensure I do sit down for a while. Watching series that have subtitles on (I quite enjoyed The Bridge/Bron/Broen) means that I am not able to do my work while watching how a story unfolds.
Go for a walk
If your walks are anything like ours, then maybe you’ll appreciate a wander by the river or into town on your own as much as I do. Walking an ‘independent’ threenager into school and nursery on a regular basis can often lead to prolonged headaches, especially on Fridays or near the end of term. Having a walk into town, at my own pace, without having to stop to find that perfect stick in the park and without the tantrums, makes me remember how relaxing it is to have a walk.
Do something new
Following on from my last point, I also enjoy swimming on my own. Where I can actually swim, rather than supervise little people. I obviously love taking my children swimming but if I do remember the days when I used to have a leisurely swim to unwind after work. I have been considering joining some classes lately. I think it would be fun to start going to a Zumba, Clubercise or some kind of aerobics session on these child free days. My dream is to join a basketball team again one day but this is not something I could commit to at the moment.
Learn something new
This is something I’ve been embracing more than anything on this list. I love learning. I have been reading all sorts of books to improve my skills as well as to learn new things, from photography to self publishing to how to code.
Feel sad, if you need to
Sometimes, things can be overwhelming and if you feel sad about it, allow yourself to be sad. Some people see it as a sign of weakness but it is not. Depending on yours and your child’s relationship with their other parent, you might feel worried about your children going to stay with them. You may feel anxious about being away from your children. Your children may feel upset about going with their other parent. There are all sorts of complications that can arise in this type of situation. The build up to the weekends may be stressful. It is important to have that release, if you need it. And to absolutely not punish yourself for it.
Meet up with friends and family
Sometimes, it is nice to talk to your friends or family with no little people around. Having a chat with a good friend or popping out for lunch with a family member, can help. Speaking to other adults can be a refreshing change.
I am often exhausted from taking on too much. When it is quiet at home and I am free to do what I like, I often have a little nap. Sometimes I even go back to bed after the children have been collected so that I can catch up on my beauty sleep. I feel a lot better for the extra sleep.
With some of my meals needing to be inhaled rather than enjoyed, it is lovely to buy myself a little treat to enjoy in peace. I often have a short walk to the shop to get some fresh bread, smoked salmon, olives and something nice to drink. Sometimes, I even make some cakes on my child free days as a single parent. I sit down, for the whole time that I slowly eat it. And it is wonderful. After years of hating olives, it now seems I can’t get enough of them! It’s acceptable to eat them as a snack, right?
Watch a film
On days where everything has got on top of me and I am sitting and thinking about things, generally because these child free days are the first time I am able to process whatever has happened, I put on a film. I usually put on a comedy or something that is a bit light hearted. A good giggle is often what is needed on some of the days when I am feeling a bit down about the children being away. It is also great to have a funny movie to watch when I am having a good day and the children have happily left to have a fun day out.
Organise an evening out with friends
This has made me feel lots better before. Even the process of organising a night out for the coming weeks can be fun. It is also something to look forward to. I try to arrange these nights for the next time the children are away.
Read a book
I often just read blogs and websites at the moment, which is great but I’ve recently remembered how much I reading books, either on the Kindle or printed books. Escaping into a different world, where there are no interruptions for a few hours, is very relaxing.
I do love spending time with my children but I am starting to learn how to do some things for myself again during the times that they are with their other parent. It was difficult to start with to have child free days as a single parent. I didn’t know what to do. I could not remember a single thing that I used to do before I had children. I think that accepting that they have to spend time with their other parent, as well as embracing a new kind of freedom for yourself is a good way to look at this time. It is wonderful to remember some of the things that you used to do before becoming a parent. Make the most of it!
After learning that loneliness is detrimental to health, we were given the opportunity to raise awareness of how to combat loneliness, especially those that become lonely in old age. Although I have my children to keep me company, I often feel lonely after they have gone to bed. I am lucky that I have lots of work to get through and so I try not to dwell on it too much. It made me think about my Gran at the moment though. My Granddad has been in hospital for over eight weeks now and Gran has spent much of her time at home.
She has visited Granddad for a couple of hours per day but due to the travelling, which she finds tiring, and the car park charges, which she finds expensive, she has spent a lot of time alone. We have been visiting Gran and Granddad as much as we possibly can but it made me think about other older people that may be on their own, without their family around them. Being on your own often means that you can become ‘invisible’ to others. Do you know anybody in your area, a family member, a friend or a neighbour, who might be glad of some company?
We decided to have a family meal and invite Gran to help her feel less lonely. She has also and understandably, been worrying about Granddad’s health. Worrying and sitting alone are not things that should go together, in my opinion. My Mum has been making her some meals and sending them to Gran but we wanted to have a bit of a get together for her to enjoy too. Gran has been talking to me, not so long ago, saying that she would like to eat pizza, barbequed food, soup or a lovely salad as she had not eaten any of these lately. We decided to have a family barbeque with a salad for her to try. We also made her soup for her to put in the freezer to re-heat at a later date.
The barbeque was a success! We played Uno, watched S and H ride their bikes (Gran hadn’t seen them do this before) and had a good old chat with lots of members of our family. My brother and Sister-in-Law, my Aunty and Uncle, my parents as well as my children and I all had a lovely time creating memories with Gran. She stayed as long as she could before she needed a rest with all the excitement. She said that she had had a fantastic time and that it had given her something different and more positive to think about.
My children were very excited upon receiving this lovely story through the post. They opened the box with great delight, as you can see here. Opening the story straight away, they snuggled up on the sofa to listen. We all get very excited when looking at a new book, especially as this one was so magical.
Two very excited children!
My little boy reading to his sister.
Even doggy wanted to look
This story is perfect for children aged 2-7 years, it is a warm, poignant and humorous celebration of joyful ingenuity and the belief that anything is possible. My children both loved it and read it several times. My son even read it to his sister a couple of times! The illustrations were beautiful and enabled the children to discuss what they could see. A part of the wonderful presentation box that we received, there was a poster in there, two copies of the story (one for review and one as a competition prize).
A packet of glow in the dark stars, a memory stick with activities on it as well as a set of printed resources from this. We are currently spending some time playing with these so look out for future posts where I will describe the fun we’ve been having with them! To celebrate the 10th anniversary of world-renowned illustrator Oliver Jeffers’ debut picture book, I am running a competition for one lucky reader of my blog to win a copy of this wonderful story. To enter the giveaway, please complete the Rafflecopter below.
It has taken us several years to finally figure out how to care for curly hair to stop it getting knotty. H’s very curly hair is beautiful but became difficult to maintain.
Trying Different Hair Care Products
Over the years, we have used many different products on her hair. From tangle free shampoos to leave in conditioners to pouring lots of rinse out conditioners on her hair. Nothing seemed to work for very long or at all. We have also been through our fair share of combs and brushes. Not many worked for us.
Knots in Hair
When she was around four years old, H had terrible knots of hair at the back of her head. She had grown impatient of sitting down for long periods of time while I combed her hair. As she slept, the hair got more and more knotty on the part of her head that touched her pillow the most. The combination of less combing and it tangling up in her sleep meant that there was very little I could do.
A Visit to the Hairdressers
I had to take her to the hairdressers in the end. It had got into such a clump at the back of her head that it was impossible to comb out. The hairdresser had to cut it out. As a result, she had lovely long hair with a very short part at the back where the knotty, tangled up mass of hair had been. Luckily the hairdresser was very good and made it look nice.
Thinking About Loss of Hair
When H had the section of hair cut out at the back, it made me think of family members who are starting to lose their hair. For some, their hair is thinning as they are getting older and some have lost quite a lot. One particular family member is quite bothered about this. It is starting to affect his confidence. A good solution would be to try the new treatments available. I’ve been reading about Harley Street Hair Clinic’s Advanced Tricho Pigmentation (ATP) procedure.
After watching a short video on this, I must say that this looks like a very effective treatment. I will definitely be recommending this to my family member who is worried about losing his hair. I know H probably won’t have to worry about this just yet, if at all. It did make me think though. I just take my hair for granted but it might not always be that way.
Shampoo and Conditioners: Not So Helpful, After All
We were given some great advice on this visit to the hairdressers. The hairdresser said that the shampoos and conditioners were actually acting like a glue that was sticking the hair together more. We were told that using a Tangle Teaser was the best brush to use and that it was best to brush the hair while it was wet. We were also told to plait the hair or put it in a bun at night time, to stop it getting tangled while H sleeps.
How to Care for Curly Hair to Stop it Getting Knotty
H stopped using all shampoos and conditioners in her hair. We regularly brush her hair with the Tangle Teaser. I always start brushing the hair from the ends first, otherwise the knots get pushed down and more tangled if I start at the scalp. This brush is so gentle and really works. Her hair is put into a plait each night as she can’t seem to get comfortable with a bun. We were so pleased that we had finally figured out how to stop her curly hair getting so knotty. Caring for her hair is such an easy task now. It always looks beautiful.
Gardening is a fantastic hobby to pick up, and it’s perfect as Spring is just around the corner! One reason that most people believe they can’t garden is the lack of space – most people assume gardening requires a mass amount of space. Although plants do require space to grow, a great remedy for your tight space is a raised garden bed! Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they’re versatile, fun, and easy!
Depending on the amount of space you have available will determine the quantity of materials you need – I recommend heading over to your local home improvement store to talk about details and ensure you get the right fit. As for the tools, I’d recommend finding a reputable tool source to buy exactly what you need. Our tutorial here provides a basic overview of the best, and easiest, way to build your own raised garden bed this Spring!
1. Pick A Spot
Picking the perfect spot for your garden revolves around what you want to plant. Vegetables require a lot of sun, while some flowers need a little less. This part takes planning – so make sure you do your research so your garden will blossom!
2. Build the Bed
As we stated earlier, specific dimensions vary on your own space. However, the bed of your garden can be built out of (2) 4×4’s or even cinder blocks or bricks. The best recommendation we have here is to ensure you have at least 6” of space for your roots to grow downwards.
3. Set in Location
Place your newly built frame in position. This position should be ideal for the type of plants you’ll be growing. We recommend putting your frame on the ground, rather than a surface like pavement, because it will provide the proper drainage for your blooms. Consider stapling wide-mesh hardwire cloth to the bottom of your frame. This will allow earthworms to get into the soil and provide nutrients, but also helps keep weeds out.
4. Add the Soil and Plants
Pick a soil that works best with the type of plants you’re gardening. Set the plants in loose holes within the soil so water can reach the roots. Try and find a nutrient-rich soil, maybe mixed with compost, as it has the best results for growing plants.
5. Maintain and Enjoy!
If you picked a frame that is not rot resistant, you’ll want to maintain the quality of the wood the best you can. Water your plants in the morning, as less water evaporates than if you water later in the afternoon. Consider adding a mesh cover if you’re needing help keeping birds and rabbits away. Building a raised garden is not difficult and it produces beautiful results. Give your backyard living areas a refresh by installing one of these raised garden beds and enjoy your blooms all season long!