What She Wore Today (The Toddler Wardrobe)

IMG_3397

Controversially, I am a strict avoider of the supermarket clothing aisles. Once in a while I will let my trolly venture that way, perhaps when in need of some well priced denim or when I spot the 25% off TU posters, but generally I restrict buying children’s clothing to one seasonal shop and my indulgent treat is to fill a big online Zara basket and top up with a few bits from John Lewis and H&M. This is actually not because I’m snobby.  There are some lovely items to be found in our ‘smarkets’. Rather, it is because I now realise that buying ‘cheap’ supermarket clothes for my first child added up to a massive overspend simply because I was faced with shopping options 2/3 times a week. With my track record in impulsive purchasing she had far more clothes than hot meals and that’s just not necessary, or manageable. So now I adopt the ‘less is more’ approach and try to keep my Sainsburys trips to sensible things such as bread and broccoli… and maybe an occasional random cactus…  because its a bit green like a vegetable.

The less is more approach also beautifully means those favourite items… the ones you cry when they grow out of it… get much more rotational wear and don’t tend to get lost under all the laundry.

My latest life hack has been to spend 20 mins on a Sunday afternoon choosing what Niema should wear for the week ahead. The mornings are generally a fairly calm affair in our house. The eldest 2 have school uniforms and are generally capable of sorting themselves for school.  Joel and I are low maintenance. The potential hold up is always the wild-card-toddler who, when its time to get dressed, could be anywhere (normally shouting “I’m busy clambering Mummy!” from somewhere downstairs) and is 100% wriggly and fiercely opinionated. Getting her dressed requires focus, skill, speed and she must not smell fear. If she senses you are deliberating between outfits she will intervene and then you have lost. She will be leaving the house in a bumble bee tutu with odd shoes and her brothers pants on her head. Speed is key.

She doesn’t have a ‘proper’ wardrobe. We bought this chest of drawers as her clothing storage and change station when we decorated her nursery and they still hold enough. Her hanging rail (a stick I found on the school run… bleached and painted. The bleach was mainly because I’m pretty sure it was a dogs stick and he was probably coming back for it later – sorry doggy) is still one of my favourite things in her room and teamed with these baskets are my Monday-Sunday lifesavers. No more “What do you want her to we-eeeaaaaaaaaa-r?” being yelled at me if I’ve managed to pass the job onto anyone else and would like 3 minutes work out which contact lens goes in which eye in peace.

IMG_3388

Into the baskets go her Monday-Sunday pants, Monday-Sunday hair slides (we REALLY know what day of the week it is at all times) and then I pick out some outfits from her drawers. Monday and Tuesday she goes to Nanny and Pappy’s and without fail gets tomato pips down her front. Those things are dangerous staining criminals so the first 2 hangers are strictly navy only. The rest of the week I am always nearby with Vanish so anything goes, even yellow or white (living on the edge my friends). Then if later on in the week I throw in her swim suit amongst the outfits it reminds me to plan a trip to the gym. Stress free mornings ahoy.

This approach also means there is no room for a classic Dad tights error. Anyone else think pattered tights should be sold with a basic instruction leaflet attached?

I am well in to anything that saves a few vital seconds in the daily routine. Another new fave is to hand the ironing over to my 12 year old. She’s ‘learning a vital skill’ and actually enjoys it (!?) Any other life hacks would be greatly appreciated – please comment and let me in on your best secrets to success. xx

 

A party in the woods (Butterflies and Bears)

IMG_3127I’m usually strictly a ‘home party’ person. I do like the control of knowing my venue and having as much time as I need, plus not relying in transporting everything on the day. This year however, Storm Doris took it upon herself to destroy 60% of our fence and the prospect of keeping lively three year olds indoors or risk them escaping our open plan exterior to run up and down the street was not one I fancied. Instead we opted for a mix of a trip to the woods followed by a party tea back at home. We’d planned the party in for the date after getting back from a week away as well, so knowing time was short, the aim was to keep this one simple.

The plan: I set off to find our spot in the woods just before the party was due to start in order to set up a tipi, hide some teddy bears, and hang decorations in the trees while the rest of the family waited at home. The children arrived and selected an ‘adventure headband’ I’d made using elastic and a few feathers then walked down at 3 year old pace to find us in a little clearing. I’d picked a spot by the water, checking that parents felt ok about that first, and and warned them to bring wellies. They happily spent the first few minutes playing with sticks and running around. It was great to have an arty friend come along to help so I assigned Hannah to face-painting and set up a little blanket by the tipi for the children to sit one by one and be painted as butterflies (or rhinos, unicorns or batman… of course) We kept the activities simple.  I had cut out butterfly shapes on white card and attached pipe cleaners and a thread to hang them from the trees. I took small pots of paints and brushes along and the children could pick one at a time to paint one side and splodge over to print onto the other wing then leave them drying on their spot in the trees until it was time to head home.

IMG_3271

We took a little bluetooth speaker and used it to play pass the parcel. After games I told the children that there were some little bear friends lost in the woods and that they were hoping to be found by a new family. I’d bought a set of these beautiful bears from a wholesaler on eBay and I tied each one a different colour ribbon around it’s neck so that there would be no arguments about who’s was who’s when we got back to the house. We’d hidden them around the spot we were using, up trees, behind rocks, in the grass and all the children went to find one to keep.

While they were looking for bears with their parents I headed off first to set out the party tea, leaving Holly (my 12 year old) who had hidden the bears behind incase anyone was really stuck, and once the children arrived back and de-muddified their hands we sat up to tuck into pizzas, Pom Bears, crunchy veggies and bread sticks. For pudding I did small pots of natural yogurt with chopped fruit to add in and some pretty rice-crispy squares with edible glitter for a bit of sparkly fun.

I arranged the bits and pieces for party bags onto the shelves in our kitchen. Having it out on display is an easy way to include another themed decoration and helps me to keep the things I’m going to add in on the classy rather than tacky side. We popped in their bear hunt bear, a Butterbear bath bomb from Lush, some cake, and a bag of trail mix. Trail mix is a great way to keep party bags low sugar but still containing a bit of chocolate. I added in some chocolate buttons, chocolate pieces and mini marshmallows along with monkey nuts and alphabet cereal and tied these in a little bag just with handwritten labels.

For the cake I did a 3 layer chocolate cake and used this big Meri Meri no. 3 candle and some of our fave Shleich bears. After considering crafting some little trees I saw this fab idea of using rosemary on @buttercreamanddreams Instagram and, well, we have a forest of rosemary taking over the back garden.

Thankfully the day ended with some tired happy kids and a content newly three year old. This is despite the breakdown the day before. Even though she had decided 6 months ago it was a butterflies and bears party she wanted, talking about it constantly from November through to April, With less than 24 hours to go she decided she’d actually like to change it to a bouncy balls and Peppa Pig party. Fabulous. And no.

Starting a colourful little bathroom

IMG_1706

Having finished most of the work on the house we’ve been busily getting on with our lives, blissfully using our new shiny ensuite and forgetting all about the building site that remains the old family bathroom which now belongs to the three most important people we are supposed to be looking after, our children, and which ever guests come to stay. It has been a half tiled-half floorboard mess and the house of random tools for about 4 months now but money has been really tight and we’ve been avoiding sorting it. Having realised that money will continue to be tight and the floor boards ore kind of uncomfortable and dangerous and it looks a state we’ve taken the plunge and ordered some tiles this week. That part of the job will be over to Joel and I shall busy myself arranging toiletries on the shelves and filling baskets with lush things.

I bought this pretty wire basket from Rice DK to keep towels in. (We now all have a towel colour so there should be no excuses for mix ups or anyone being without.) I then spent a nice evening painting stripes on these old ikea storage baskets I have grown to loathe over the past 12 years we’ve had them. I reckon I go the better deal as I sat in front of the TV deciding whether to do peach, mint then pink or peach, pink, purple, mint…while Joel could be heard shouting upstairs and dropping big things onto floorboards whilst attaching some disobedient shelves to the wall and stating that he categorically hates DIY. But I am pleased with both shelves and baskets and  it does feel good breathing some new life into things that are sitting around rather aimlessly and making them look pretty… and beats spending money we don’t have on baskets that cost a lot if I’d gone down the road of replacing them.

So next week the floor tiles arrive. A couple more shelves need to go in and then the biggest bathroom challenge is probably on the horizon as we probably need to think about the horrendous task of potty training. Because who doesn’t like wee all over new floors?

Categories All

Copper and marble bedside tables. An Ikea hack.

The last couple of months have been somewhat of a blur of building dust and disorientation. These things are all going on… 1. The upstairs of the house has been knocked down in the middle 2. We’ve has builders starting work at 8am in our bedroom Monday-Friday while we are still using it to sleep in. The baby is turning 2, learning to use a big bed and learning to get up, find me in the night and make sure I am awake and giving her attention. Kicking has proven most effective and the method so she seems happy sticking with that. There have been so many changes and wonderful things to buy and make for what feels like an entirely new house… where to start?

Well an Ikea hack,  of course. A good cheap one.

I feel like I have looked at every. bedside. table. in the whole world. Its not been an item that’s justified being on the spendy items list. It’s hardly an investment piece. Nevertheless, the bedside table is there, faithfully standing by you night and day and looking after all the little nick nacks most precious. It deserves to be at least a bit lovely.

I decided that I wanted marble. And copper is, of course, a fave.  I have a painted bed so a standard Annie Sloan job to a normal wooden bedside table wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted something a little more statement. I actually didn’t really have a spare £400 to get one I really liked… make that  £800 for a pair of them. £11 seemed like a better idea.

I bought a couple of the Ikea Nesna bedside tables. I didn’t want anything too chunky and these are delicate, light, yet still have a storage shelf so you don’t have to be overly minimalistic. They’re also £9 – ahhhh, hurray for that.

I painted the whole lot up first with Annie Sloan Old White and wax.  The top shelf is glass but I didn’t insert that when putting it together and wanted to use that as the middle shelf. The slats across are rather charming but I opted to leave them out and rotate the 2 sides by 90 degrees so that the middle shelf doesn’t show the holes for the slats. I then stuck the glass (which should be the table top) onto the frame. I used tile adhesive for this but in hindsight I think using a glue gun would have been less messy and less visible. After I’d put it all together I tightened the screws so they went in as far I they would go and used polyfilla to cover them. (sanding this down and applying paint again) I wanted to place it so that the widest side faced fowards so these silver screws would have been a little obvious otherwise.

The marble effect table tops are made from floor tiles. I decided these were more durable and had a much smarter feel than adhesive plastic coating. They were also cheaper. I ordered 2 different styles of sample marble floor tile and they were delivered to my door for the grand total of £2.50. They were much bigger than that table top but we had a borrowed tile cutter to do the bathroom so chopped them to sit over the top of the table with a couple of cms overhang. I expect I could have found ones closer to the table size (I actually ordered the tiles before I had even chosen the table). The edging didn’t actually look as bad as I expected. I thought it would look very raw and exposed but I could have happily left it as a tile top (there’s a post on my instagram of this mid-way stage with just the tile on the table with the slats still on). I do like a fancy finishing touch though and had ordered this copper tape from amazon and used it  (just as a sellotape but with much sharper edges… be warned) and wrapped it around the tile edge. It just so happened to be exactly the same width. (I am of course going to pretend I measured it and ordered the perfect one intentionally… my dad thinks I am a scatty, disorganised decorator so I love a good fluke) I used tile adhesive again to attach the tile to the top of the table frame.

And there you have it. Super easy, super cheap and super pretty (and manly of course… Joel is v.happy to have his cup of tea sitting here)

I am by no means a tidy diy-er and am fully aware these could have been made a whole lot better by a more patient person who doesnt rush decorating jobs at 1am in the dark. Someone else out there could make a beautiful go of these. If so please tag me so I can see and feel like a useful sort of soul.

Chalkboard Wall

IMG_4517This is a DIY job I’ve been drudging my way towards for a too long. We’ve had a chalk wall in the kitchen-diner for a about 6 years. We flirted with a pale blue one for a bit of a change when I was pregnant, but I missed our chalk wall too much and realising I told practically eveyone who came round and commented on our interior that we ‘used to have a whole chalk board wall here’, basically we needed it back. We love it.

So there have been a couple of patches where we’ve taken some speakers down (I evidently painted it in a hurry and didn’t think to go behind these) and then there was the Christmas mistake.

I got some beautiful white chalk pencils from Father Christmas and thought it was the answer to all ‘not being able to write neatly in stubby chalk’ issues. So I scrawled some Christmas carols on the wall, not particularly neatly, not even necessarily the right words even. Then after Christmas I went to clear it and it stayed completely put. Oh. Ok then.

So, I’ve needed to paint over. It’s never the most inspiring job. I’m not good at prep work or anything that doesn’t have the instantaneous wow factor of a big change. So that’s why it’s stayed Christmas on our walls until February.

I decided to opt for the Annie Sloan chalk paint this time, rather than the traditional chalk board paint and actually I’ve rather loved it and had a much better afternoon of DIY than expected. I bought a pot of ‘Graphite’ – which is basically the chalkboard black but I mixed it into an almost finished pot of the Annie Sloan ‘Old White’. I was advised to water the paint down to use on walls so that did make the paining quicker (although a fair bit splattier too) and applied it with a small roller. I always use the radiator rollers to avoid too much arm ache. I found it went on black but dried fairly quickly as a lovely matt charcoal grey. The whole wall took me about an hour to do… and then task over. Time for a bubble bath.

I promise the last image shows a wonky panoramic picture and not wonky walls or wonky paining!

All ready to use bog standard, non permanent chalk to cover it with hearts and love things for valentines day.

Advent Planner 2015

Ooh this year its been tricky to plan advent. Having an 20 month old, a primary schooler and now one in secondary school we do only have a very small window of opportunity together and some evenings I’ve had to plan around the fact that we may just be able to grab 5 mins together in the same place. Lots of the activities we are doing are repeats of things we’ve done over the past few years so I’m not planning to blog each day seperately, but I do try to vary it a bit so that the children don’t quite know what to expect, while also not feeling any pressure to make each year totally different so that they stay grateful for the simple and basic activites.

Here are the 24 different things we are up to this year. (Note: If you are one of my children and have accidentally stumbled across this LOOK AWAY NOW… and you may be allowed to revisit after December 24th)

  1. Writing our Christmas cards
  2. Making paperchains
  3. Buying and decorating the tree (including mulled wine for the grown ups)
  4. Movie Night -Healthy pop corn and Inside Out.
  5. Local nativity
  6. Carols singing in a local pub
  7. Making snowflake white chocolate lollies
  8. Writing Christmas lists
  9. Decorating baubles (I bought glass fillable ones and white ones to write on with oil based sharpie)
  10. Out for a hot chocolate (trip that includes some visits to local independent shops to get flowers and bits and pieces for hampers)
  11. Movie Night: Home Alone
  12. Christmas Cards for the baby to make. This was a simple pack of stickers, glue and papers for a craft activity for the bigger 2 to do with their little sister. This was show day for both the older 2 so seemed fitting to make todays activity somethng for the smaller one to do.
  13. Sleeopver (they each have a friend I’ve invited over, without them knowing. There are Christmas party games planned and a small Christmas gift for each of them)
  14. Snowman Biscuits. A simple shortbread recipe and a few basic decorations.
  15. Grotto. We’ve not seen Father Christmas for a few years and I think the older 2 are maybe a bit big… but they have a duty to their little sister and I’m hoping they’ll secretly love it!
  16. Biscotti. We have some gift bags and are planning to use this baking activity to add gifts into a few pressies and to make gifts for teachers.
  17. Lantern Making. I’ve saved 3 pesto jars and tea lights and using decopatch glue and tissue papers we’ll make some pretty little lights.
  18. Thanksgiving cards. Here’s where they write a prayer of thanks in a little notecard to acknowledge some of the different ways they are blessed and are grateful to God for. We pin these on the wall to remind us to be thankful people.
  19. Movie Night: I think this one might just need to be The Snowman. It is most definitely the best.
  20. Trip to a Christmas House.
  21. Christmas shopping. We’ve done most of this already and have done all the main bits online. I try to keep the children away from all the consumer stress of it all and this trip is more about local shops and little extras with no pressure to buy anything.
  22. Family Christmas party. Crackers, classic party games, possibly traingle sandwiches for tea… and it might all end with the start of an 1000 piece jigsaw.
  23. Cristmas wrapping. The children get to wrap the bits and pieces they have arranged for gifts. I try not to interfere with the bad folding and sticking and let them experience their freedom… I do try. Sometimes my reactions are too expressive and occasionally I grab the sellotape off them.
  24. Winter Walk. Welly boots on. Woods. Bag of snacks. 🙂

Each of these activities is wrapped in one of these pretty copper parcels. Each morning we get a few mins together at the start of the day to open it and see what we’ll be doing later that day. It really is a lovely start to the day and it works to help them to be really appreciative of the ordinary parts of preparing for Christmas.

I would love to hear any other tried and tested good ideas that might suit my age range and time limitations. Why are children so busy?!

 

 

Categories All

My DIY Christmas: The Notice Boards

I’m not going to lie. There’s not been as much crafting at the Toombs house in recent days. I do wonder how I managed to make a tipi, a mobile, sew cloud cushions, mould bath bombs, make 2 christmas puddings and hand tie tutus for the month of December last year. I guess the baby was not mobile, or so vocal.

This year the DIY comes more in the form of sourcing cheaper versions of cool expensive things. Ok. It’s not actually DIY at all. We’re planning some big room move around in the next few months and all excitement is set on the bigger 2 and their planning of their ‘cool new rooms’. I’ve been trying to hold back from getting them TOO many bits for them for Christmas. There is no where to put it all until the move happens but at the same time I do love being able to buy useful Christmas gifts. The pictures above are my pinterest goals. They both will need to priorotise a working desk space in their new rooms and though they both love the retro industrial look I want to make sure each of their spaces are characterised differently to mark the move from a shared boy/girl room into seperate spaces.

I love these retro peg boards. We had one in our old office which was still around from the 70s. I didn’t expect I’d be hunting online a couple of years later and seeing small pieces available for around the £90 mark. I wanted one for Elijah’s room that would be big enough to spread most of the width of a desk and they were looking rather pricey so I found a plain board on ebay for the grand sum of £6. I’ve taken some duck-egg Annie Sloan chalk paint to it and think it will do the trick just nicely. I just need to hunt down the best mix of attatchments to hang things from and love some of the bright pegs and shelves I’ve seen but have no idea where to source things like that from.

The grid is perfect for what I have in mind for Hollys room. I bought this 4 foot version for just under £20 from amazon. Again, its to span the width of the desk. For Christmas I plan to style it up for her with motivational postcards, prints, washi tape and bright bulldog clips. I think that might be more appealing than the plain grid in a bin bag that is currenty sitting in the loft!

I’m really keen to hear any suggestions of peg board accessories. I did order some really cure shaped wooden ones… which happen to be about 10x too big for the holes. Maths fail on that one. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Images all taken from Pinterest.