Wednesday 29 November 2017

Sorry About My Conversational Skills

I feel like it's time for me to issue a public apology for my conversation skills. Ember is at that age of toddlerdom where she runs around all day, rarely naps and wakes for the day before the crack of dawn. And, as a result, I spend most of my days unable to put two words together (much tired, many wakings). 

I can remember this period with Ebony. I can remember feeling so completely and utterly engrossed in my new role as her mum that I had no clue what was happening in the real world. When friends asked me what I'd been up to lately I would go into panic mode and silently wonder wtf I had been up to, if anything. In truth, I thought I was the only person who'd ever felt like that, as though real life was leaving me behind because I was so caught up in being a parent. But then a friend nervously admitted she was experiencing the same thing and I realised that it is yet another taboo side effect of motherhood. 

And, here I am again now, stumbling through the familiar mind fog of toddlerdom. The days are long (they pretty much always start before 6am), sleep is hard to come by and I have very little brainpower for anything but wondering when I might next sleep through the night (I have finally accepted that my kids will never do this, but I still hope I might one day get to). 

When you have a newborn baby, it's perfectly acceptable to endlessly mutter about how tired you are. People will expect it, they'll empathise with you and throw sympathetic smiles your way. But when that newborn is stomping along next to you and shouting "HIYA" at every passing dog, people are less sympathetic. Oh, tired again, yah yah, major eye-roll. 

So, this post is by way of an apology. I'm sorry I'm crap at making conversation right now, it's just that:

1. I'm, like, really tired...
You know this, of course you do, I have mentioned little else for the past year. But I'm not sure you understand just how tired I am. Unless you currently have a baby or toddler, I just don't think you get it. Even if you've had them in the past, even if you were once upon a time just as tired as I am today, I don't believe you can remember what that felt like. In just the way that women forget what childbirth feels like, I think you forget what the sleep deprivation of the early years is like, because why else would people go on to have more than one child? 

2. ... & I can't talk about anything else
It's not intentional, but for the past year, my internal monologue has just been me saying 'God, I'm so tired" on repeat. And whenever there's a lull in the conversation, I don't have hilarious or insightful thoughts to share with you, I just end up saying the thing that is already in my head which is, invariably, "God, I'm so tired." And then, I sit in silence hating myself for being able to think of nothing else and also, in all honesty, wishing I was asleep. 

3. I never get to sit down
Even if I can string a few enough words together to engage in some polite small talk, it's unlikely I'll get the chance. I spend most of my day just following Ember from toy to toy. I follow her around the park just in case she throws herself off the slide/head first into the spinning roundabout/directly into the line of the swing. I follow her around playgroup because I am worried one of the bigger kids will punch her in the face (again) or that she will push a smaller child down the slide (in her defence, he was taking the p*ss a bit with how long he'd been sat there). So, I might manage a few words and then I'll have to trundle off. 

4. My mind goes blank when you ask what I've been up to
WTF have I been up to?! I feel so busy all the time but when put on the spot and asked this question I can think of Nothing. Literally nothing. Even if I've been out of the house doing exciting things all weekend, I will remember nothing when you ask. It's like the question itself erases my entire memory. I end up with a stream of very mundane thoughts trudging through my brain, like 'Well I changed that nasty nappy earlier. And did I tidy the kitchen yesterday? No, maybe not. What day is it?' 

5. I am way behind
If you wanted to know about my kids, I'd have the answer. If you wanted to talk parenting theory, sleep regressions or developmental milestones, I'd be there. But, if you want to chat about that important thing you saw on the news, or the book you loved, or that band you love... I'm no good at that. My brain is functioning on about three percent of its normal capacity. The remaining 97 percent is just focused on how my teeth ache from tiredness. 

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Starting The New Year With M&S School Uniform

Doesn’t it feel like Christmas has come early this year? My social media feeds are already filled with photos of newly decorated trees and exclamations of ‘finally’ even though we haven’t yet dipped our toes into December. The countdown to the school holidays is upon us, and the weeks remaining are filled with exciting activities like Christmas dinners and trips to the pantomime.

Christmas will be hectic, it always feels like there isn’t enough time to prepare and I end up wrapping presents on Christmas Eve (even though I bought them in September). We all wake up too early after going to bed too late and then spend most of the day feeling exhausted, or I do, at least. It usually takes a few days for peace to be restored after Christmas. The house will be filled with piles of new toys, scraps of abandoned wrapping paper and scattered baubles for at least a few days. Then, slowly, calm will return.

I’m looking forward to having a little break from the routine of school. Laurie has booked some time off from work, too, and I’m hoping to avoid overscheduling and just enjoy a little downtime as a family. Having to get out of the door in time for school every day means we’re always rushed and trying to catch out tails. I’m looking forward to slower mornings, to taking our time and to only doing what we want to do.

And then, before you know it, it will be time to go back to school. 2018 will be upon us and it will be time to dig out the uniform, fire up the iron and try not to cry while emptying the cupboard under the stairs in search of the (once again) missing book bag (who hides it - is it you?). To make things a little easier, M&S sent us some uniform for the new year. M&S school uniform always reminds me of my own days at school, it was always where my mum took us to buy our new school uniform at the end of the summer. Ebony has had a growth spurt recently so she’s fast growing out of some of the uniform I bought her in September, so she was more than ready for a top up.

She chose these shorts which I absolutely love. They remind me of something Avril Lavigne might have worn to school (who doesn’t want to raise the next generation’s Avril?). I also got her a few staples like stain resistant polo shirts (this sounds like witchcraft that could save my sanity), a cardigan and a jumper. And a beautiful pinafore dress with long pleats which Ebony really loves, though it’s a little long for her at the moment (she disagrees).

Also, how awesome is this sequin backpack? Ebony has a love of all things sparkly and her face was a real treat when she opened the parcel and discovered a bag made purely of sparkle. She was very very excited, to put it mildly. With her new uniform, she’s got everything she needs to get back to school in January. I can send her off safe in the knowledge that she will be warm enough in the bitter January weather and that she’ll look smart.

Ebony will be turning six in January (Where have those six years gone?) and she’ll be wanting to get back to her school friends so she can enjoy her birthday hype. They love birthdays. They spend weeks talking about them, planning their parties and what they might get, it puts them at the centre of attention. So she won’t want to miss out on that. She’ll be ready to talk up her birthday to anyone who will listen. Ebony loves the school holidays, she always enjoys having extra time to spend with her family and loves nothing more than the four of us being together. But by the time January creeps around, she’ll be itching to get back to school and see her friends. 
And she’ll want to tell everyone about Christmas, too. They usually get them to draw a picture of their favourite present and write down what they got. Last year, Ebony drew a single measly block of Lego as though this was all she had received. Probably this year she will draw the satsuma from her stocking but not bother to mention getting anything else.

She’s asking Father Christmas for a two-wheel scooter this year. Or, at least, I hope she is because that’s what he’s got for her (ho ho ho), so she’ll be excited to get back to school so she can scoot there. This will be especially fun for me because we are always late and the mornings are always stressful enough without adding a scooter to the mix.

And, though I hate to say it, I’ll probably be looking forward to the return to normality. Don’t get me wrong, I love the school holidays. I really like having both kids together and watching their bond develop thanks to those extra hours each day. But, when you work from home during nap time, the school holidays can be challenging. I usually just forget about working during the holidays, it’s too difficult trying to squeeze it in otherwise. I’d rather reduce my earnings for the month than spend the whole time feeling stressed because I haven’t managed to do enough writing.

So, when Ebony scoots into school in January, I’ll be rushing back home to dust off my laptop. I’ll finally get a chance to sit down and think about what I want to work on next year, where I want my focus to be and how I’m going to achieve it. I will also need to submit my tax return (please, please don’t forget this).

And, of course, I’ll have birthday prep to take care of. There will inevitably be last minute bits to buy, celebrations to organise and crying to do (how can I possibly have a six-year-old? Where is my life going? Why is everybody growing up? etc). And I’ll need to reorganise the playroom because, even though everything has a place now, this will not be the case come January when Santa has tipped a sack-load of presents down the chimney.

Thanks to M&S for making this post possible.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Why I'm Not Jumping On The Elf On A Shelf Bandwagon

As December rolls in, my social media feeds will start to fill up with photos of self-proclaimed naughty elves wreaking havoc in their adopted homes. There are Pinterest boards full of ideas, whole websites dedicated to suggestions for hilarious antics for those pesky elves. Every morning, once kids are packed off to bed, my Facebook timeline will be filled with parents sharing their elf on the shelf setups for their kids to discover the following day. And below the photos, comments will appear from other committed elf-on-the-shelfers saying how wonderful it all is. 

And that's fine, you do whatever you want to do in your home to make Christmas as wonderful as you want it to be for your kids. And, by all means, proudly share the snaps to Facebook, I can just scroll by, but I won't be joining in. I'm no Scrooge when it comes to Christmas. I am all for Christmas. I love the build-up, I love decorating the tree, I love walking through Manchester when all the trees are lit up by twinkling lights. But this elf on the shelf thing just doesn't sit well with me. Here's why:

1. I don't think threats work
Parenting through threats just isn't a good way of parenting, is it? Either you end up doling out a ridiculous number of harsh in-the-moment threats or you have to renege on them and lose your edge. I hate the whole 'Santa won't bring you any presents if you're naughty' thing. I hate the fake calls to Father Christmas to report bad behaviour. I think it's unkind. As adults, we're in on the secret that Father Christmas isn't real, do we really need to exploit our power further by using Christmas presents as a threat to our children?

2. They're really creepy
I'm just not comfortable with the idea of telling my kids they're being spied on. Who? Oh, him. He's just a tiny creep who's going to watch you for the next 24 days, critique your behaviour and then report back to Father Christmas who will decide whether you get any presents or not. Woah, isn't that a bit much? Are we really expecting children to behave impeccably for the whole of December? Are we expecting them to stop being children just for the sake of impressing a (some might say hypocritically) badly behaved elf? 

3. Father Christmas is a fairytale, a legend, a thing of magic
Christmas is something pure and innocent and magical. Or it was until we invented these undercover agents to spy on every kid. I don't want to exploit the magic of Christmas. I love the magic of Christmas. I am always looking for ways to add a little extra magic, I'm just not sure elves complete with threatening 'your behaviour is very bad and I'm going to have to tell father Christmas' is the right way to do it. I don't think Christmas should be a discipline technique, and that seems to be a big part of how the elves are used. 

4. Christmas is magical enough already
Elf on the shelf wasn't a thing when I was a growing up. I remember I always felt like something was missing. Christmas just wasn't magical and my childhood was terrible without... oh no, wait, everything was fine. Christmas is magical. Not that it needs to be, really. But it is. There's a mythical man in a red suit who delivers present with the help of some flying reindeer. There's a stocking full of gifts, a tree covered in fairy lights and 24 foil wrapped chocolates in the lead up to the big day. It couldn't get any more magical. Elf on the shelf is just another something else, another layer, and I just don't really see the point. I love Christmas but I am happy with it staying in the realm of 1990 Christmas levels, I don't need to add a mischevious elf to pump things up to 2016 festive overload. 

5. It's going to get awkward
At some point, Christmas is going to get awkward. My kids are going to reach that 'is he real' stage of childhood and there will be an awkward period where nobody is ready to publically admit that Father Christmas is actually just me stumbling around with a stocking of presents in the early hours of Christmas Eve. And that is going to be awkward enough without having to endure a whole month of putting out mischevious elves that my kids already know aren't real. I can't do that to myself, motherhood is humiliating enough as it is. 

What do you think of the elf on a shelf craze?

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Wednesday 22 November 2017

15 Months: A Toddler Update

Ember is 15 months in a couple days. That’s pretty big. By this point in her big sister’s life, I had written tens of blog posts detailing her every move. Those early steps, the first words, it was all written down here for me to keep. And, um, this time I haven’t done that. I’ve only written a handful of posts focusing on my second born and most of those were about how terrible her birth was (I still haven’t forgiven her for that).

Well, it’s not because I love her less. When you have just one child, you can’t imagine loving another as much. It feels impossible that there could be space for that much love in your heart. But then a second baby arrives and your heart bursts straight out of your ribcage. You love them just as fiercely as you do the first.

And yet, I haven’t chronicled her every move on the blog. Why? Partly because I’m busy. Not too busy to notice her, but too busy to sit down and write it all down. When Ebony was little, I had a big fat maternity leave to enjoy. This time, not so much. Being self-employed means work doesn’t really stop, it slowed down, for sure, but it didn’t stop. So the naptimes where I would once have sat and blogged, instead I sat and worked.

And, partly, because it’s not quite so new this time. I haven’t written a blog post about her snot (yeah, I actually did do this for Ebony, sorry, the world) because I knew there would be snot. I knew what to expect the second time, I wasn’t a 25-year-old wide-eyed bunny caught in the shitstorm that is new motherhood. I was a seasoned pro. I didn’t sit down at the end of the day and wonder what the hell I had just survived. I just got on with it. And so, in the future, when Ebony and Ember sit down to gaze at their virtual baby books, my youngest will probably be left feeling a little unloved.

So, I thought I’d write a little update on how she is because she’s lovely and she’s changing a lot every week. She’s started trying to talk now. Not little baby words, but jabbering away to us as though she’s part of the conversation. She has a few words, ‘more’, ‘mama’ and ‘potty’, for example. But this week she’s been trying to say more. Chattering away to anyone who will listen, making absolutely no sense.

She doesn’t like being told no. She doesn’t like being rushed. Or wearing hats. She wants to be mostly naked as much as possible. She likes putting her own trousers on, and pauses to clap her hands whenever she successfully gets a leg in. She likes putting shoes on, her at feet rammed into whatever shoes she can find. She likes wearing her big sister’s headbands, she wanders into the room with them already in place, then gives a huge smile so she can be admired.

She has a big cheesy grin and she’s just learned how to smile for the camera. Anytime she spots a phone or a camera, she grins, A big toothy grin that forces her eyes closed and her cheeks out. And she likes playing with dolls and soft toys. She carries them around with her, cuddles them tight and forces them head first into the pram. She spends hours looking at books, just like her big sister, I find her hunched over, slowly turning the pages, looking at the pictures.

She likes walking by herself. She puts her shoes on and waits by the front door when it’s time to collect her big sister from school. And she walks next to me, holding my hand, the whole way there. She climbs onto anything and everything we pass and cries when I retrieve her from stranger’s gardens. She yells hiya to all of the dogs we pass, and wave at the toddlers being pushed by in prams. And when we get to her sister, she holds her hand out expectantly and cries if it is not immediately grabbed. And then we walk home the three of us, hand in hand, Ember giggling away to herself as Ebony tells us about her day.

And she loves to draw. Hours spent watching her big sister write, colour and craft have influenced my inquisitive little girl. She scribbles on scraps of paper, in colouring books, on toys and on the table. Felt tips have to be kept strictly out of her reach. She likes pushing prams and trolleys, filling them with toys and then walking them around the room.

She is more sociable than I remember her sister being at this age. I always felt like Ebony was happy alone when she was a toddler, she would play happily by herself at playgroup. But Ember is different, she walks over to other kids and copies what they’re doing, pushing her face close to theirs and smiling. She wants to play with them, she wants a playmate just like she has at home.

And she loves her sister so much. I hear them laughing together as I cook dinner, the two of them running around the living room, tumbling over and giggling loudly. She belly laughs, huge bursts of laughter that tumble out all over the living room floor. Her sister will do anything to make her laugh. She throws herself to the floor, she drops things, she pulls faces, anything to see her baby sister smile. In the mornings, she climbs over to her big sister and lays on top of her, her arms wrapped around her in a tight cuddle, a smile on her face.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Christmas Eve Pyjamas: My Favourites

I used to think it was just my mum who organised special new pyjamas for us every Christmas Eve, but I now realise this is a universal tradition enjoyed by many. I used to love having new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, even now it's one of my favourite things about the festive period. 

I think Christmas is one of my favourite responsibilities as a mum (not that it's a mum's job, obviously, but it is something I take control of in my house. Laurie is literally the worst gift giver. He buys everything on Christmas Eve in an angry overpriced rush. I couldn't inflict such disappointment on my children) and Christmas Eve pyjamas are an important part of that. Here are a few of my favourites: 

Are new pyjamas a Christmas Eve tradition in your house? 

Monday 20 November 2017

The Importance Of Spending One-to-one Time With Each Child

When you're caring for a newborn baby, it feels impossible to make time for your first born. Games are played and stories are read over the head of a feeding baby, as you try to juggle the demands of two children at once. Some days you feel like a superhero for keeping everybody safe and happy and loved, and other days you feel like a failure because everybody (you included) cried at the same time. 

When Ember was about nine months old, we went on a family holiday to Majorca.  During that holiday, I was overwhelmed with the realisation that Ebony was growing up. Growing taller and funnier and more confident, she felt so grown up all of a sudden. Ember was feeding less frequently and getting a little less dependent on me, so I decided to start planning some things to do with just Ebony. Thanks to the free wi-fi at the apartment, I ended up booking lots of theatre tickets so I could take Ebony to see various shows. 

One of those shows was on Saturday. We went, just the two of us, a whole day out by ourselves. We got the train into Manchester, we got some takeout lunch and ate it by the water at Media City. Then we watched the show, The Hunting Of The Snark, and it was amazing. Ebony belly-laughed most of the way through. Then we headed back to Manchester and popped into a cafe to get a vegan brownie each. And then it was time to go home. We were only gone for five hours but it felt like a mini-holiday because it was so refreshing to spend some quality time with just Ebony. It's something we try to do regularly and something I feel is really important because:

1. It used to always be just the two of us
For four and a half years, Ebony was the sidekick who never left my side. She didn't have to compete for my attention or share me with anyone else. She was my best friend and my partner in crime (we committed no crimes). And now things are different. There is another little girl on the scene. And my two little girls love each fiercely. And they are each other's partners in crime (they commit many crimes). And the days of Me & Ebony against the world are over, for she has a new sidekick now. And so sometimes I like to have a few hours where it's just the two of us again because I don't ever want us to lose that bond. 

2. I get plenty of time with her sister
One of the many genius things about a four year age gap is that you end up with one in school and one at home, So, you get to relive those lovely newborn days properly. You're not running after a toddler or negotiating with a preschooler, you're lounging on the sofa in pyjamas just like you should be. When Ebony is at school, I get the whole day with her little sister. We get to do so many of the things I did with Ebony when she was a toddler. So it seems only fair that I get some along time with the bigger one, too. 

3. We can do different things
Toddlers are lovely and a lot of fun. But they're crap at sitting nicely in restaurants, they shout over shows and they run havoc in the cinema. There are a lot of things that toddlers just can't do. Taking Ebony out by herself means we get to do things that would be otherwise impossible. Or, rather, not impossible but bloody hard work. So, we save up those things and do them when it's just the two of us. 

4. The years pass quickly
Every so often, I stop for a moment to really look at Ebony and I'm shocked by how grown up she seems. Her limbs are longer, leaner and stronger than they used to be. Her words are chattier, funnier and, um, make more sense. She's growing up. It's happening quickly and without me really noticing. If I don't stop and savour these moments, they will soon be gone and she will be grown. I don't want to put things off for another time, I want to soak up as much of both of my girls while they're still little and want to spend time with me. 

5. Life is pretty chaotic
School takes up a huge chunk of time. And then there's drama. And seeing friends. And family. And before you know it, there isn't really much time for just hanging out. The time we do spend together as a family feels chaotic. It's me trying to get everybody ready in the morning while Ebony reads her school book and Ember screeches in the background. Chats on the way home from school where I can't really hear what Ebony is saying because of the sound of cars in the distance and her sister asking her snacks. Rushed bedtimes and late starts and rushing to stay on top of things. None of that feels like quality time.  

6. I want to strengthen our bond
I want my girls to love each other and like each other and always be a part of each other's lives. But I also want to protect my own relationship with each of them. I want to treat them as individuals and have special memories with each of them. I want to really know them and love them for who they are. And to achieve that, I need to invest time in each of them. 

7. It gives us opportunity to reconnect 
It's hard being five. You have to concentrate in school, social relationships are complex, people say mean things, you feel left out or upset or cross. There are big emotions you can't always put into words. You're tired or poorly or you have growing pains. There's a lot going on. It's important you feel loved and accepted and secure at home, and how can you achieve that without quality time with your family? I need to make time to reconnect with her because sometimes life is too busy and I miss her. 

Thursday 16 November 2017

Our Family Christmas Eve Traditions

I’m not even apologising for saying the C word in November, I’ve been in Christmas mode for months. I have already finished all of my Christmas shopping, I have bought some new tree decorations and my Christmas Eve pyjamas are waiting patiently in my wardrobe. In summary, I am ready for you, Christmas. I’m not even ashamed of how ready for Christmas I am.

I am not a last-minute kind of woman when it comes to the festive period, I can’t handle the stress of trudging round overcrowded overheated shops in December, it is not for me. I need to know I have everything ready well in advance.

Personalised Gifts Shop has put together a PDF full of ideas for how you can add a little extra magic to your Christmas Eve. I thought I’d share a few of our family Christmas Eve traditions with you:

1. A trip to the theatre
We started this when Ebony was younger, every Christmas Eve we go to see a matinee Christmas show in Manchester. I love going to the theatre and it’s an experience I love sharing with Ebony. This year, we’re going to see Elf The Musical at The Lowry. Elf is one of my favourite Christmas films so there is really no way of accurately explaining my excitement to you.

2. Sushi for dinner
This isn’t exactly a standard Christmas Eve tradition, but it’s something we’ve been doing since Ebony was born. Laurie is chief sushi maker in this house but it takes ages. This means he’s usually pretty reluctant to the idea of making it. So, I made it a tradition that we eat sushi for dinner on Christmas Eve and now he has to make it at least once a year. Ebony loves sushi so it’s something she really looks forward to as well.

3. A soak in the tub
When I was little, a bath was a prerequisite for getting your special Christmas Eve pyjamas. They would be waiting for us on the stairs as soon as we climbed out the bath. I can still remember it really well, the excitement building, it always seemed like that was the moment the Christmas magic started in our house. I do the same for my family now, Christmas Eve baths followed by new pyjamas and a new book waiting outside the bathroom door.

4. Christmas Eve boxes
In recent years, I’ve just put the pyjamas and book at the top of the stairs, but this year, I’ve invested in some Christmas Eve boxes. I bought plain ones so that I can decorate them and personalise them. Hopefully I will actually get around to doing that, otherwise, it will be weird that there are plain wooden boxes outside the bathroom. The boxes will contain new pyjamas, a new book, some hot chocolate, some marshmallows and something to watch on TV. Then it will be time to drink our hot chocolates cuddled up on the sofa, watching whatever it is on TV (probably something short because by this point excitement levels will be painfully high) before bed.

5. The magic
Then it will be time to leave things out for Santa. A mince pie, some amaretto (what? That’s definitely what Santa drinks) and a carrot for the reindeer. Ebony usually takes her stocking upstairs and pops it on the end of the bed, but this was very stressful last year when she woke up as I was trying to fill it at 1am. I ended up having to lie in bed with her for hours waiting for her to fall asleep. By the time I’d sorted her stocking and gone to bed, I had about two hours of sleep before it was time to get up. I can’t do that again. So this year I’m hoping to convince her to leave the stocking downstairs.

Once all that is done, it’ll be time to read their new Christmas Eve books in bed. Then hopefully everyone will be ready for bed.

This is a collaborative post.

5 Easy Ways To Update Your Bathroom On A Budget

Modern bathrooms are stylish, luxurious and calming havens where you can retreat from the mayhem of family life. Long gone are the avocado suites from days gone by, current bathroom trends dictate white suites for every home. You deserve an oasis of calm in your home where you can soak in the bath, read a book and wash away the stresses of the day. 

It's not cheap to decorate a bathroom, the costs of new tiles, suites and accessories can soon add up. Plus you'll probably want to pay a plumber and tiler to carry out the work. If you don't have the money for a complete overhaul, there are easy ways to update your bathroom on a budget. Here are a few ideas on how to make your bathroom feel new again:

1. Update your fittings
If you can't afford to change the big things, changing the little things will do. Take a look around your bathroom and pick out bits you can afford to change. A new mirror could leave the place feeling and looking like new. Bigger mirrors make spaces seem larger, and circular mirrors are quite in-keeping with the scandi trend. You could treat yourself to some new taps or a modern showerhead to make your bathroom feel more luxurious. 

2. Change the paint colour
You might not have the money to tile the whole room, but you could update the look by switching the paint colour. A fresh lick of paint always helps to brighten a room, even if you stick with the same colour. Dark walls are very on trend, so consider a navy, charcoal grey or dark green tone to modernise your bathroom. 

3. Maximise your space
Take a look around your bathroom and pick out ways you could improve your use of the space. As an example, I took down the bulky shower screen in my bathroom and replaced it with a modern folding screen which can be tidied away. It makes the bathroom feel much bigger when it's tidied away and has made all the difference to the space. I also switched the standard sink for a sink cabinet with plenty of storage underneath, which has allowed for better use of the room. 

4. Reorganise
Is your bath filled with plastic bath toys and rubber ducks? Are you bathroom shelves piled high with half-empty shampoo bottles and ancient bottles of bubble bath? If so, it might be time to reorganise. Be strict, anything that doesn't get used can go. Get rid of all the junk, there's no point hoarding unnecessary items. Once you've worked out what you need to keep, see if there's a better way of storing it all. Pinterest is great for bathroom storage inspiration.

5. Invest in some new accessories
You can add a new colour scheme or theme to the room by picking out some new accessories. It doesn't have to cost much, but it might help to lift the room. New towels, a matching bath mat, perhaps some other accessories in the same colour - this could be all you need to freshen up the room. It's also a great way of trying out new colour schemes without committing to anything too drastic.

This is a collaborative post.

Photo by Logan Ripley on Unsplash

Wednesday 15 November 2017

A Starry Christmas with Cox & Cox

Cox & Cox is one of my favourite sites to browse for home inspiration. Their stuff is simply gorgeous. I spent many an hour browsing their site when I was planning my kitchen and trying to work out exactly how I wanted it to look. All of their stuff is beautiful. Usually, no matter how much I love a brand, there are plenty of products I don’t like, but this is not true of Cox & Cox. I love everything they sell. Their stuff is rustic and industrial and modern, and I just love it.

They recently launched the Cox & Cox Christmas 2017 range and, as expected, I want it all. I have picked out a few of my favourite bits (although trust me, I could have included pretty much their entire product range in this list… but that would be weird) to share with you.

I love this star. I love the carnival feel of the bulbs and the natural rustic look of the wood. It’s pretty big at 50 cm high and it would look amazing on my hearth (where it would stay for approximately 10 seconds before the toddler picked it up and ran away with it). We don’t have a fire in the living room, just an open grate filled with logs for decoration, but I think a big light like this would make the room feel cosier.

I really like these, there is something very cute about the foil star on the plain background. I like baubles you can’t but help but look at and I think the cream background of these baubles would make sure they stood out against the dark green of the Christmas tree.

Isn’t this beautiful? I love the shiny polished finish and the way it glints in the light, it would look great hung on a tree. It’s simple and beautiful which pretty much sums up Cox & Cox. I didn’t set out to create a wishlist of stars, but that’s kind of the way it’s going here. I can’t help it, all of these star decorations are simply gorgeous.

Ok, I hear you, enough of the stars already. How about some houses, instead? I have a soft spot for wintry house silhouettes, they always make me feel warm and cosy. I really love these string lights, they would look perfect draped over the mantelpiece. The little houses are inspired by scandi architecture which only makes me love them more.

Stars and houses, that seems to be my theme. We once took Ebony to see a really beautiful show called I Believe In Unicorns by Danyah Miller and these tea light houses remind me of it. She had these books on stage with her, that opened up to reveal beautiful paper houses, lit up from the inside.

Isn’t this clever? You don’t need to hammer nails into your beautiful wooden fireplace (as I have done in every house I’ve ever lived in), you can just use one of these. I had no idea these existed. I quite like the random nails sticking out of my fireplace, they remind me of Christmas whenever I see them. But if I didn’t, I would definitely invest in some of these.

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