Despite being told left, right and centre that newborn babies really don’t need much stuff, it’s impossible not to get sucked into the world of baby shopping and it can be really quite overwhelming! On one hand I know that a newborn doesn’t need all the stuff, but on the other I feel like you only have your first baby once and there’s no harm enjoying that. So I feel like I’ve been somewhere in the middle when it comes to shopping. I’m letting myself enjoy the process and buy a few unnecessary bits just because they’re cute, but I’m also trying to be practical and not go too over the top. In fact one of my tactics has been, instead of asking friends and family what I should be buying, I’ve been asking what was the one thing they bought that they ended up not needing or using. Of course you have to factor in that every baby is totally different and what works for one might not work for another, and that’s something no-one knows until the time comes. So I’m well aware that a few things I buy might end up being a waste (and will be sold or given away) no matter how much research I do. I thought it would be helpful to the other first time mums out there to chat about how I’m approaching the newborn shopping and share a checklist I’ve created, which is basically my sisters’ and friends’ edited into my own. I’ve decided not to share my list for feeding or my hospital bag/post-partum because it is so personal and dependant on the person. I will be sharing what was in my hospital bag at a later date, after the baby is here.
I think it’s quite common for people in the UK to start thinking about shopping after their 20 week scan, so that’s what we did and we didn’t jump in head first, we eased our way in. I started by researching online and chatting to friends and family. Compiling a Google list that Rich and I could both log into and edit helped me get my head around it and stopped me impulse buying every time I saw something cute. In fact we didn’t even go into a shop until I was maybe 23 weeks. I’m aware that a baby doesn’t go into it’s own bedroom right at the beginning, but we don’t want to be decorating and sorting out a room with a newborn so that’s something we want to sort beforehand. I gave Rich some specific jobs so that he could be involved and know exactly how he could help, so he was in charge of researching things like baby monitors, cot mattress and baby carriers/slings. We made sure to communicate on everything, so it was a shared job and something we could. both enjoy. My YouTube recommended videos are now filled with “newborn essentials” videos and buggy reviews but it really helped to form an opinion for ourselves before going into the shop to test the products out. We knew quite early on which “big buys” we wanted to get like buggy, car seat, cot etc but the first things we started to buy were the less-scary, more affordable items like a bath seat, muslins and baby grows. I then realised that I would quite like to start sorting the room out so that the things we buy have somewhere to live and the shopping bags don’t fill up our hallway. I’ll be sharing a full room tour nearer the time on my YouTube channel!
I think what’s important is to try and form your own opinion of what type of parent you want to be. It might be completely unrealistic and I’m sure it’ll change and you’ll learn once the baby is here, but there’s only so much advice you can take – I think it’s important to take it all with a pinch of salt. I’m open to advice from the people close to me, we’ve taken it all onboard but some things we’ve just decided whether it’s for us or not. And to be honest, there’s always Amazon Prime if you change your mind!
I’ve kept this blog post a little short and brief because I chat about this in depth in today’s video. So head over to my YouTube channel if you want to hear me talk more about newborn shopping.
Click the link below to download my newborn shopping list.
Design Letters Baby Book – link
Dungarees – Zara (sale)
PR Gift | Mokee Cot – link
PR Gift | Kit + Kin Muslin – link
PR Gift | My First Years personalised baby vest – link
Tommee Tippee First Aid Kit – link
When it comes to getting pregnant, maternity style was the last thing on my mind. I spent years freaking out about the idea of giving birth, I then started trying and spent months freaking out about not being able to conceive and then when it happened I was over the moon/very sick in my first trimester. At no point had I really considered how my changing body shape would affect me, because honestly I wasn’t that into my body beforehand anyway. But actually, at 31 years old I had finally worked out my personal style and how to dress comfortably whilst still feeling stylish. Well getting pregnant changed everything, from 10 weeks I couldn’t fit into my straight leg high waisted jeans and wearing maternity jeans (when trying to hide the fact you’re pregnant) meant my top tucked in look was also out the window.
I spent week 10 to 17 wearing loose tops/jumpers with skinny maternity jeans, a look I wore a lot a few years back but I missed the enjoyment of picking an outfit out, putting it on and feeling confident going out in it. Getting dressed felt like just a way of avoiding being naked and I felt absolutely no joy in my wardrobe. I realised that opening my wardrobe doors to find all my old clothes that I could no longer wear was really not helping the situation, so Anna came over to help me put all the clothes that no longer fit me in storage to make room for a new maternity appropriate wardrobe. From then on I decided that just floating my way through pregnancy wearing old oversized clothes was a) not going to make me feel great and b) be quite tricky with my job.
Maternity clothing has quite a bad rep for a few different reasons. People often feel like investing in clothes that are only appropriate for a small space of time is unnecessary and often maternity clothing can be pretty dull; striped tops, dungarees and not much else really. I guess with your first baby you’re more likely to invest as you can hopefully store the clothes for the next time but still, it is a bit frustrating to have to re-do your wardrobe when you were very happy with how it was before. I do think though that the investment isn’t just in the clothes, it’s an investment in your happiness and in feeling good throughout your pregnancy which is so important. It’s a testing time with all those new hormones saying around so a nice new top or pair of jeans can’t hurt really.
Finding the right maternity jeans made all the difference to me. My old straight leg style no longer worked so I went back to skinny and despite feeling quite 2016 it just works better. Everyone seems to have their own preference on under the bump or over the bump, but I find over the bump cuts in less and helps hold in the bump in quite a comforting way. I get to the end of the day and just HAVE to take them off before I suffocate, but I think that’s just being pregnant. At the beginning I wore jeans with just a stretchy side panel, I then moved to under the bump and now I’m a fully converted over the bump-er.
Depending on how confident you are with your bump, a tight top can be really flattering. It’s so strange, you spend so much of your life trying to hide your tummy area and enhance other more flattering parts of your body, but then you get pregnant and actually it can look better to just embrace the bump. When I wear tight tops I get a lot of “oh you’ve grown”, or “ooh you’re nearly there” comments, whereas sometimes if I just wear a normal loose top people say “ooh you’re so tiny” or “where’s your bump”, so just be prepared for the conflicting opinions based on your clothing choice of the day. But being pregnant is amazing and sometimes you just wanna wear your bump loud and proud and a stretchy, tight top is perfect for that.
I’ve found maternity shopping quite frustrating as I’m someone who loves to shop in stores and try things on, I’ve always been in between sizes. Turns out most the brands who are known to have good maternity only stock it online! So I’ve done plenty or ordering, trying on and then having to return over the past few months. Places I’ve enjoyed shopping are ASOS, Zara, Topshop (who actually do have a store in town), Seraphine and H&M. I have also been very lucky to be pregnant in the winter, I have no idea how I would have managed with the heat and what to wear in the height of summer.
So to wrap this up I’m going to leave you with some of my top picks over a few different categories. What’s worked well for me has been long tops, skinny jeans, dungarees (cliche but there’s a reason) and cardigans with vest tops. I still don’t really feel like ‘me’ and I know it’ll only get harder as my bump gets bigger but it’s all for an amazing reason and I know I can go back to enjoying a tucked in top and high waisted jeans one day!
Worn in post:
PR Gift | Seraphine Grey Button Jumper – link
Zara Blue & White Striped Top
PR Gift | Reiss Green Coat
Gucci Soho Disco Bag – link
PR Gift | & Other Stories Blue Jumper – link
Zara Black Linen Trousers
Gucci Sling-Back Loafers
Seraphine Parka Coat – link
How was your weekend? Mine turned out to be pretty great actually. Saturday was the usual; a browse around Primrose Hill food market and a walk in the park, but on Sunday we had no plans. We spent Saturday night going through all the options of what to do in London but just didn’t fancy any of them, so we thought why not drive down to Brighton. It’s an easy enough drive and we know the place well enough to walk around some shops and have some lunch before driving back in time for a chilled Sunday evening. so that’s what we did… Sunday morning, we woke up at 8.30am, got ready and jumped in the car.
First stop was lunch and luckily Anna and Mark were around to join us, so we tried out something new. Baby Bao, a Taiwanese London based restaurant currently has a residence at The Pond in Brighton – and I love Bao. You can only book for parties over 8 during the week but it wasn’t actually that busy and because The Pond was originally a pub, it’s a really relaxed vibe where you order your food and drink up at the bar. We thought we had completely over ordered but actually we almost ate it all, so it’s very much a sharing vibe if you order a load of sides (and trust me you won’t be able to resist the sides!). Some of my favourite dishes included the aubergine, the pork bao, ramen noodle veggie spring rolls and the chicken wings.
It was so nice to catch up with Anna and Mark, as Rich said on the way back, our friendship is so easy. When you’ve known someone for a long time you can just totally be yourself and not worry about small talk. They had to head off so Rich and I went to the lanes. When we visit in the summer we always make sure to have a beach walk but it was freezing so we spent a couple of hours browsing the shops instead and Rich tried all the coffee.
Living in London I’m used to having all the options. Multiple different store locations to check stock and multiple branches of the same restaurant to pick from and Anna always laughs at me when I say I can’t imagine just having one to visit. But saying that, something I really love about Brighton is how small and close everything is to each other. I have a long list of cute, independent shops I love in London but I’d have to do some serious tube hopping to visit them all in one go. Whereas in Brighton, you can walk down one street and come across a handful of gorgeous, independent shops that are filled with unique and special items. I always find myself spending a small fortune, so let me tell you about my favourite finds.
We first stopped at Photomatic, which is a photo booth store. They obviously saw how popular the booth in Snooper’s Paradise was and decided to open a dedicated store. It’s really cool though and run by photo enthusiasts so the prints come out really well. They made the booths themselves and the idea is that they replicate the look of old film photography. There are two booths, a black and white and a colour and you simply buy tokens to use them beforehand. Once you’ve taken your snaps you can then choose if you want your photo blown up, or put onto a keyring/badge etc… It’s really fun and so nice to have the memories to look back on. We’ll be using our photos in the baby’s room as well as sticking them in her baby book to look back on when she’s older.
We carried on walking and went into some very sweet kids shops. Anna suggested we went into Junior Edition and Happyology which were both filled with the cutest kids clothes and accessories. We visited out friends at Workshop Living which will forever be my favourite shop in Brighton. The shop is gorgeous and perfect for finding a gift, although I always go in and treat myself. I love their kitchenware, candles and beauty picks. Rich actually picked up some really nice trousers from the brand Wax, I bought a print, a hand cream and the candle they were burning in the shop because it smelt so good!
We were back in the car and heading home by 4pm, but it was really such a lovely day. I hope you liked seeing some photos from the day. If you’re interested, these are the maternity dungarees I was wearing – they’re amazing!
Finding inspiration for your home can be one of the trickiest parts of a renovation. On one hand you have 100 saved images on your Instagrams, four Pinterest boards, a pile of home interior magazines and friends’ houses you covet over. But on the other, you feel totally pressured to find your own style and make your home your own. Finding your own style when it comes to fashion is hard enough but for a home it needs to be right for you and anyone else living there, now and in the future. It’s not something you can easily change, so every decision feels important and sometimes it’s just impossible to come to a decision. Don’t worry, I get it. First world problems and all, but still something that is an important part of the renovation process.
So where did we start? Well, we had around six months from moving into our house to moving out to start the renovation and in this time I knew I had to make a lot of decisions. As someone who gets easily stressed, forward planning is my best friend, so I wanted to have most of the larger decisions made before we started the work. My worst nightmare would be having to decide on a bathroom within a couple of days without being able to do proper research. Time is a luxury for sure, but if you have it, use it well!
I started by collecting images I liked, not worrying too much at that point about what is possible for us and what is not, this was more of a visual task. I saved images on Instagram, collecting them by room eg, ‘bedroom’, ‘kitchen’ etc. But I didn’t go overboard, I only saved a max of around 10 photos per collection. I personally find Pinterest to be too perfect and very US based, which I couldn’t relate to my own home, so I didn’t use it. I only really used Pinterest if I was looking for something specific, for example wardrobes built around a chimney breast. The two magazines I enjoyed most for inspiration were Living Etc and Elle Decor, so I occasionally flicked through and tore out any pages that interested me, this is included adverts for brands as well as interior ideas.
Phase two was to go through all of these and edit them down to something digestible. I went through the Instagram images to see if there was a pattern, for example most of my images for the lounge and kitchen had dark walls which inspired my paint choice. Spotting patterns and writing them down can really help get you to a decision, so I did that for most of the rooms. I then went through all the cuttings from the magazines, only keeping ones that seemed realistic for us and writing down on them with a sharpie what I specifically liked about the image. For example in one of the photos there was a built-in bench in the dining room, it wasn’t something we were able to do right away but having the photos as a reference will be really helpful to show the builder when we are able to do it.
My biggest piece of advice would be to not worry too much about making everything “Instagrammable” or perfect. It is easy to make things looks nice by styling pieces around it, but when investing in a home you need to also think practically about longevity and how you’ll actually live in the space. It’s easy to get sucked into the gorgeous images online and in magazines but I’d encourage you just to use them as inspiration and remember it’s not reality most of the time.
So good luck with your own renovation projects whether it’s just redecorating one room or
Deep down I am a very organised person, but as well as being organised I am lazy and these two qualities spend a lot of time fighting against each other. If I don’t make an effort, my organisation skills start to slack and I then start to lack motivation and feel like a crap version of myself and it all spins out of control. When I’m in the mood to organise and get my shit together I feel so much better in myself, literally like I’m winning at life. So I thought I’d tell you guys the small things I do to feel this way if you want to give them a try, as well as a reminder to myself to keep it up!
Keep that laptop clean Literally inside and out. As well as giving it a good wipe down with laptop wipes, I like to try and remember to clear my desktop screen of clutter, removing any unwanted files and organising them into folders or onto hard drives. And if you’re an Apple user you’ll sympathise with the pain of those daily computer update notifications. I try to get it all done on one day; clear my desktop, back up my computer onto a hard drive and then update the system. It feels good when it’s eventually done.
Organise and print photos This is something I’m trying to get my friends to do, mainly to get them off my back and stop them constantly saying how jealous they are that I have printed photos in albums. If it’s really something you feel passionate about it’s annoyingly one of those things you have to put the effort into. At first it’s super overwhelming but if you keep it up it becomes just part of your routine. I started by going back to 2016 on my phone, but you can start where you wish… I went though every photo and gave myself three actions to pick from; keep, delete or put into album. I deleted any duplicates (you know how we all have 20 angles of the same photo) although I tend to do this at the time of taking the photos – top tip if you want to save time later! I made a few albums depending on what I wanted to print such as ‘2016 Phone Pics’ or ‘Home Renovation’ or ‘My 30th Birthday’, that part is totally up to you. Printing them is easy too, you can use an app like Free Prints or take them into somewhere like Boots to print them instantly. I like to use self-adhesive photo albums so I can print any size photo and arrange them as I wish. We live in such a digital age now that printing photos means so much to me, I don’t want all the memories to be lost and living in a cloud for no-one to ever see.
Clean, clean, clean This time of year has me wanting everything clean and stripped back to how it was ‘before’. I go a bit cleaning mad, which ain’t no bad thing and rarely happens the rest of the year – although I’m hoping I get that nesting phase that so many pregnant women talk about. I start by cleaning my makeup brushes, something I think we all neglect but is so important especially if you want to have good skin, just think of the dirt that lives in there! I also like to give the inside of my wardrobe a good clean, which usually coincides with a wardrobe clear-out, you can see mine on Anna’s YouTube channel here. The most satisfying clean is the fridge/freezer which I like to completely empty, give a good wipe down and then re-stock with only non-expired, neatly piled food and drink (although it doesn’t last long let’s be honest).
Burn those candles Now this one is hardly difficult, but I always find that I have half burnt candles lying around the house, especially festive Christmas candles. So at this time of year I like to make an effort to burn those candles that are almost finished, especially in the evenings when we are relaxing and watching TV. It means saying goodbye to the festive scents, but it also means I can get out any new and unused candles and actually feel like they’re not going to waste sitting in the cupboard.
Set up a Bullet Journal I’m still such a huge advocate for the Bullet Journal, three years after starting my first ever one. I spoke about what a Bullet Journal is in this video and then went into more detail of how I set up my ‘blogger style’ Bullet Journal in this video. Whether you’re using it for work or for personal use (a lot fo people use it for food shopping lists, gratitude lists, the options are endless) I think it’s just such a brilliant way for getting what’s in your brain down on paper. It makes me feel less forgetful and more organised, I use mine mainly for to-do lists, planning out my video content and writing down detailed ideas. If you want to get really creative with it, it’s also a great outlet for that and can be really relaxing. If you’ve never heard of the Bullet Journal before, set some time aside to do some googling and watch some videos online, you’ll get sucked into a hole and before you know if you’ll be the proud owner of a dotted notebook and a tippex mouse – enjoy.
For me the new year is never about diets or exercise, but it does give me that motivation to get organised and sort of out the things I put off at the tail end of last year. So I hope this inspired you a bit to do the same! Good luck!
One of the questions that just kept coming up when chatting about our home renovation with you guys, was ‘how did you pick the colour scheme for your home?’ I guess maybe it’s because we didn’t go all white and grey like our previous home was. Paint and tile colours were without a doubt one of the hardest decisions to make, probably because they’re one of the most important. What’s the point in doing all the renovation work if the finishing touches aren’t right? We didn’t want to end up with a home that felt like it could have been anyone’s, we wanted to bring as much of our personality into it as possible. However, until this question kept coming up, I hadn’t even realised I had a “scheme” as such, I was just picking colours I loved and luckily they all seemed to work well together.
It all started with Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue, that was the first colour I knew I definitely wanted. It’s been very on trend for a couple of years, but even since people have moved away from it and more into the deep greens, it’s a colour I still absolutely love. Compared to the usual navy blue, Hague Blue has this deep green undertone that makes it so special and makes other colours, particularly warm colours like brass, orange and yellow, stand out so beautifully next to it. It took me a while to figure out how much to use it, just in the lounge? Across the entire back wall of the downstairs room? In the kitchen? But in the end I settled on the lounge walls and woodwork and the kitchen cabinets.
Deciding on a white to use throughout the house was tricky, THERE ARE SO MANY WHITES! I had the help of a family member who’s an interior designer so she really helped me to compare colours and find one that works for us. I didn’t want anything that swings too warm toned but I also didn’t want pure white as it’s too clinical and not “homey” enough. We tried greys but the darker parts of the house like the hallway made the greys look so muddy. We chose Farrow & Ball’s Wevet in the end, which is a delicate, almost translucent white and I’m so happy with it. It’s fresh and bright but soft at the same time. We used this on all the ceilings as well and it sits perfectly next to our other paint colour choices.
When it comes to brands we didn’t just use Farrow & Ball, but for the majority we did, mainly for ease of ordering but also because their colours are what stood out to me the most. For our hallway we wanted something quite dramatic but also welcoming and I’d seen a photo on Pinterest of a black bannister and yellow front door. I knew it would look great with the black radiator we were getting so we just went for it, using Farrow & Ball Off Black on the bannister and Little Greene Mister David on the inside of the front door. The yellow was harder to find, I didn’t want mustard and I didn’t want pastel – this turned out to be the perfect yellow (after lots of testing!).
I guess with paint, it comes to a point where you just have to be decisive and realise that it’s not the end of the world and that you can always re-paint one day. Everyone says not to paint samples directly onto the wall as seeing them next to each other can be confusing, and they’re right. Buy an A2 pad of paper, paint an entire page, cut off the white borders and blue tack them around the house to see the colours in different lights. Each time you decide on a paint, leave it alone and don’t keep going back to it, there’s a reason you were drawn to it so trust your instincts.
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We didn’t want every single room to have a wow factor, we also wanted to be practical with our decisions, so for our easy grey paint choice we chose Farrow & Ball Ammonite which we used in my office and in the small spare room. It’s a very relaxing colour so I thought it would work well in those spaces, but it also looks very different in different lights. At the front of the house it seems more of a cool toned grey whereas at the back it’s a warmer, creamier tone. My tip with Ammonite and with all paints actually is to paint the skirting in the same colour as the walls for a really modern look. We also painted the backs of the doors in the same colour as the room, which I love!
The final colour choice was for the downstairs toilet, which we decided to tile with pink tiles. I saw an image on Instagram and fell in love, although I really did question it for a while, knowing that it will go out of fashion and would probably become the the next ‘avocado bathroom’ that I’ll hate. We almost didn’t do it but I just think if you are going to be daring, be daring with the tiny cloakroom. It wouldn’t cost the earth to replace them, it’s a very small room and why not have fun with the guest toilet that so may people will walk into and enjoy. So we went with the pink tiles and to balance them out, and to give them a modern chic look we painted the walls above and the woodwork in a dark grey, again another quite difficult one to find. We chose Paint & Paper Library’s Paris Rooftops which was the perfect medium/dark grey, it goes so well with the pink.
So whether you’re about to embark on a full renovation or just want to re-do your bedroom, remember to go with your gut instincts, be brave and have fun!
As a born and bred Londoner, I love nothing more than a day fully immersed in what my city has to offer. It’s not something I do as much these days, but when I do it leaves me feeling so content, motivated and excited about life. I know it sounds a bit insane, but I guess it’s what keeps me here, because London of course has many flaws too.
One of my favourite areas to spend time in is Shoreditch, the bit that’s sandwiched between Liverpool Street station and Old Street, depending on what angle you’re looking at it from. It’s a hub for creativity, great food and an edit of only the good shops. So let’s say you’ve got a few hours in the area… let me give you an idea of what to do.
Let’s start at Dinerama Street Feast, an indoor street food market. If you want somewhere very cool and buzzing to go for casual food and drinks in the evening this is your place and there’s extra seating upstairs if you really want to get cosy and settle in. But I love going during the day when it’s quieter and I can just keep going back for more food! The chicken wings are the best I’ve ever had, the Japanese buns are amazing, there’s also Mexican and Rich had a chicken burger that looked unreal. The big tables and benches just give it a really fun, sociable vibe, it’s a great place to go with friends. Worth noting, it’s also good for kids during the day, my nephews loved it!
After lunch we walked up to Box Park, admiring the street art along the way. Almost every wall in Shoreditch is covered in the most unbelievable street art, I once saw a proposal that was really beautiful! There are quite a few walking tours throughout East London if you want to learn about each piece, or you can just walk around a take photos like I do. Box Park is only around the corner and when it first launched I wasn’t a fan, but over the years it’s got some really good brands under it’s wing. It’s essentially a “pop up mall” but it’s been around for years and I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon! There’s a Voo Doo Rays Pizza, Dum Dum Donutterie, What The Pitta and lots of others too. But one definitely worth visiting is Soft Serve Society– I’m drooling just thinking about it now. Forget what you already know about ice cream, this place offers really unique flavours like matcha green tea or charcoal and coconut, one is green and the other is a grey ice cream (!!). Their “freakshakes” are basically milkshakes overloaded with all kinds of toppings like marshmallows, oreos, brownies, whole cookies – you would have never seen anything like it trust me. Unreal.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SHOP
Shopping in this part of Shoreditch isn’t for the sort of shopping you do when you know you need something specific… it’s more of a “mooch”, a browse. Whilst in Box Park I’d recommend checking out some of the pop up shops, one of which is my favourite Decorum. It has really gorgeous home accessories; lots of ceramics, mirrors, furniture, art work, lighting… it’s basically an edit of all the good stuff. I could buy it all. A few shops down is Papersmiths, one for the stationery lovers like myself. The shop itself is styled to perfection with pink tiles lining every wall, shelfie opportunities everywhere you turn and everything organised in perfect little piles. They have a mix of greeting cards, notepads and notebooks, magazines, wrapping paper and other stationery – I spent a small fortune, of course.
THE HIDDEN STREET
Before you leave, I recommend going for a walk down Redchurch Street. It’s right between Shoreditch House and Dishoom, so you know it’s going to be a good one! There are some really lovely shops on this road with brands like Aesop and Le Labo setting the tone, but one definitely worth popping into it is Modern Society. It’s painfully cool and you’ll no doubt feel like the most un-cool person ever when you walk in but whether it’s embroidered knitwear, an overpriced coffee table book or a very moody looking candle – trust me, something will make you go oooh.
Walk a little further down and you’ll come to Allpress Espresso Bar, I’m not a huge coffee drinker but Rich highly approves of this New Zealand coffee place! There’s a vintage sunglasses shop my friend Debs loves and on the day we were there there was a free pop-up art gallery too, so there’s always something to go and look at. There’s something about Redchurch Street, I love it so much.
There’s of course so much more you can do in the area, Brick Lane is just around the corner, but there’s something magical in just walking around and exploring, so I’ll leave the rest to you. Hopefully I’ve got you started on the right foot so let me know if you take any of my recommendations, message me on Instagram @lilypebbles – I love seeing other people enjoy London as much as I do!
I put my hands up and admit that I am not living in a building site with a portable kitchen in the bedroom or getting my hands dirty sanding floors or painting walls. This time round we budgeted to have a team of builders do our project for us, mainly because we couldn’t get the time off work but also because we would have just done a really really bad job, and we didn’t want that. But a renovation is a renovation and we are definitely living through it in our own way. It’s been an experience so far, mainly exciting but also stressful at times. I wanted to share my learnings for any of you that are about to start a renovation or thinking of doing up a do-er up-er anytime soon.
It’s not worth falling out over. A renovation can be a testing time for couples and it’s no surprise with all the decision making and problem solving, it can all of a sudden highlight bad habits you didn’t even know existed. My bad habit? That I’m an absolute perfectionist and Rich’s downfall is that he’s not particularly assertive, which means I have to take on a lot of the confrontational conversations (he’ll kill me for saying that). We’ve definitely had a few quite feisty arguments along the way but what we keep reminding ourselves is that it’s an exciting time and it’s not something that should put a strain on our relationship. A bit like when we were wedding planning; we enjoy the experience, we remember to stay on the same team, we make up quickly, we appreciate what we have and we remind ourselves that it’ll be totally worth it.
Don’t be put off from planning too early. I remember back in February Rich and I started looking into bathroom designs and speaking to different designers and so many friends told us that with our building work starting in May it was way too early and that we hadn’t even started the extension yet. The detail of a bathroom felt so far away, but I was adamant that I wanted to get going with it both for budgeting reasons and to get ahead. To be honest, it was one of the best things I did. Not only did our Ripples Bathroom design take time to get right with back and forth conversations and mood boards, but when it came to starting on the bathroom we were totally ready and knew exactly what we were having with all the tiles and fittings delivered and waiting. I’ve heard stories of friends having to decide on a bathroom in a week and I just know for me that I would find that too rushed and stressful. We were the same with almost everything, we planned the kitchen, the paint colours we wanted and the light fixtures – there’s no harm in forward planning.
There’s a photo for everything. For almost every element of a renovation whether it’s new wardrobes, shelves, bathroom tiles or back doors it helps to be able to show your vision. I started saving photos on my phone last Christmas with our work starting in May so I had references to show bathroom designers, kitchen designers, joiners.. and well, you get the idea. Don’t assume anyone’s a mind reader, the more specific you can be and the more photos you have to show the better.
They’re right about the money thing. We had so many people tell us, “oh the renovation won’t take a few months even if the builders have said it will, trust me it’ll be a year” and they were wrong (but thanks for the sleepless nights). But they also all said “when it gets near the end of the project and you think you’ve stayed in budget, there will be a load of extra costs and you just start throwing money at things” and they weren’t lying. Luckily we have managed to stay within our budget (top tip: always add a 20% contingency) but there have definitely been some extra costs we weren’t expecting. Nothing dramatic actually went wrong but it just happens. For example, we decided tiles weren’t right for the kitchen and went for micro-concrete instead (twice the price), we had to put a new fence up at the back of the garden, we’ve had to buy 1400 brown top screws for the decking (that’s not an exaggeration), extra coving we didn’t know we’d need, new radiators, turfing the garden (because it’s easier to do it now whilst the house is a mess)… I mean the list could go on.
Don’t go on holiday. I understand why people would want to go away during a renovation and we are so so lucky to not be living in the house whilst the work is going on, but I really do think it’s important to be on hand throughout the whole process. I’ve been going to the house daily, if not twice a day and the only time I felt it wasn’t necessary is during the ripping out stage right at the start. There have been a handful of moments where if I hadn’t of spotted it earlier enough it would have been done wrong and had to be redone, so I think it’s better to be on hand to check everything as it happens. I try not to be overbearing, but there’s a lot for the project manager to remember (and they usually have a few projects on) so it’s helpful for you to be on top of things too.
Good builders make all the difference. It seems obvious but picking the right builders is key to a smooth project. I know how tempting it is right at the beginning to just go with the cheapest quote, and of course sometimes you don’t have a choice, but if you do it’s important to think about more than just the quote. We spent months researching different builders, all of which we got off recommendations either from close friends or via friends of friends. We got five recommendations and then chose three to meet up with. When we met them we used it as an opportunity to chat to them, get a feel for their personalities, we discussed their ideas for the house and their thoughts on our plans and then we gave them an itemised list of what we wanted in exchange for a quote. Out of the three we met, one guy made quite a rude comment about us wanting to change the fireplace and it left a sour taste in our mouths, another guy was from quite a large corporate company and we felt he wouldn’t be flexible if we wanted changes throughout the project and then the final guy came back with not the cheapest quote, or the most expensive but we felt we would get on with him well and he came highly recommended from a close friend. We’ve been so happy, they’ve been fast but thorough. You just have to go with your gut. If you can’t get any personal recommendations try walking around your local area to to meet builders who are working on similar properties to yours.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions. This is probably the one thing that Rich and I have taken the longest to agree on because I’m the sort of person who loves to get thoughts and opinions from people I trust, whereas he sees it as an insult that we can’t just decide alone. Often we can, but sometimes having someone else with different life experience will help us see it from another perspective and that’s how we’ve come to some pretty good decisions so far. My siblings will see things from a parent’s point of view, my friends help me think less “internet” about stuff and my followers on Instagram, you guys, will often give recommendations or alternative suggestions that we’ve never heard before. I think if you’re strong minded you can take the opinions and thoughts and decide yourself what to do with them, but overall I think it’s made our project the best it can be. Being open-minded to new ideas and having the flexibility to change things will only improve the renovation. I will say though that although last minute changes are ok, once a decision has been make you have to stick with it and even if it’s not perfect, make peace with it and move on. It’s not worth sweating the small stuff.
I’m sure I can think of loads more and maybe once the project is done I’ll do a follow up post but for now I hope that’s helped some of you! There will be another home renovation vlog coming this Sunday, so keep a look out on my YouTube channel for that.
Back in the day YouTube was all about the “makeup collections” and showing off the huge amount of products you’d hoarded over the years.
“In this drawer I keep my lipsticks” *opens drawer to reveal 500 lipsticks*
But the concept of drawers and drawers of makeup feels a bit alien to me now, especially since downsizing my collection earlier in the year. It’s been a gradual process for me, but now everything fits into one large drawer in my vanity desk and I’m trying to keep it that way. Now let’s be real, I’m well aware that my makeup collection is still bonkers compared to the average gal, but considering the amount of products that come my way, I’d say it’s become a bit of a skill to decide what works for me and what doesn’t.
The way I think about it is what use is gorgeous makeup if it’s just sitting in a drawer waiting to be used? I only have one face and someone else could get much more pleasure out of it by actually using it. So I often do charity sales (usually either for Coppa Feel or Rett UK), share with friends and family and I keep on top of expiry dates so I don’t keep hold of old products for too long.
I’ll try new products because it’s part of my job, but I can tell almost straight away if it’s something I want to pass on or add to my stash. If it’s something I want to try work into my routine I’ll either use the ‘one in, one out’ rule (if I’m feeling strict that day) or squeeze it in and give it a few weeks before making my final verdict. Usually after a few weeks I either can’t be without it or feel indifferent and in that case I’ll pass it on for someone else to enjoy.
FIVE TIPS FOR MAINTAINING YOUR STASH
Have everything on show. If it’s hiding in the back of a drawer you’ll never use it, so don’t layer products on top of each other, make them easy to grab and use.
Categorize your makeup. By separating them into bundles you’ll clearly see what you have too much of and what you need to stop buying every time you pass a Space NK.
Try everything. There’s no use having a gorgeous blusher sitting in your drawer that’s never been touched. Try it on and decide if it works for you!
Have a clear-out before you look to buy new products, do you really need another bronzer or do you have one to finish off first? Keep a wish list of products so you can always go back to it when you’ve finished something up.
Look into local homeless shelters, or donate to Beauty Banks, a non-profit organisation that provides toiletries and cosmetic products to people living in serious poverty.
It’s ok to have fun with makeup, you go buy that palette and love it, I know I do. But I also think we’re all striving to live a more minimalist life these days and it can almost feel like a burden having more products than you have time to try. Maybe now it’s about using less products, but using the ones you really love daily until they run out. Well that’s more what it’s like for me now anyway.
Unbelievably I’m now in my eighth year of blogging, but I won’t bore you with the story of how it all started as I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It’s strange though to think back to my “What I Heart Today” days and how much things have changed since then. I’ll forever be grateful to those that encouraged me to start blogging in 2010 when no one else really was, and to myself for finally finding something I enjoyed and wanted to focus on. It was another world then; the Internet was still a bit scary and unknown, Twitter seemed like the most bizarre platform and the term ‘blogging’ was an alien concept to most.
Finding other like-minded people during those first two years was one of the most exciting times for me. It felt like we were part of a secret club, The Blogging Club, and we shared so much together. We taught each other how to work better, how to get the most out of our platforms and without realising it we taught the PR industry how to incorporate us into their world. We were so inexperienced and so unsure, but our personality types bonded us together. A group of independent, creative, self-motivated, business-savvy, forward-thinking young women who just knew we were onto something. It didn’t matter that our friends and family thought we had this weird side hobby, because we had each other to chat to online and to stand with awkwardly at events (when we were secretly freaking out inside).
The first five years were for trial and error and learning from our mistakes. There was no rule book, no one to look up to or follow, we just had to figure it out ourselves and we all made mistakes that felt like the end of the world (until the next post or video went live).
The transition from hobby to full-time job was intense because I personally felt I had so much to prove. I wanted friends and family to see blogging as a “proper job”, I wanted my new management to feel proud to have me on their roster and I wanted my viewers to feel like I was giving them more than I had been previously. Back then a blog post announcing that you’d quit your job to take on blogging full-time wasn’t received with encouragement and well wishes, it was like you’d announced that you’d murdered someone. People were scared of what would change and for some reason disappointed, it was all just a bit unknown. Quitting a job that you’d worked for years to get is terrifying, especially when you don’t even know yourself if the risk is worth taking.
Full-time blogging meant I needed to step up my game, I needed to prove myself to everyone. And so, began the intense self-employed years and oh man was I a strict boss! I’d be at my desk at 8.30am, lunch would be eaten one handed whilst editing a video with the other and I’d break for dinner before continuing work on the sofa whilst Rich watched TV in the evenings. There were daily blog posts, three videos a week, endless to-do lists, events every night, press trips – I think at one point I had content planned 5/6 months ahead. It was an amazing time where I genuinely felt like I was winning at life! I was quite swept up in it all and definitely had moments of feeling overwhelmed, but I was (and still am) aware of how amazing those years were and the incredible opportunities that came my way.
THE SECRET WAS OUT
I feel like 2016 was the year when blogging became mainstream. You could walk down the street vlogging and people wouldn’t be so shocked, or you could tell someone you’re a blogger and they wouldn’t say “a what?!”. I felt proud that our little industry that we all worked so hard to shape was getting recognition and I genuinely felt excited about all the new people joining the community. I’ve always felt like “the more the merrier”; everyone is unique and the bigger our industry becomes the more opportunities there will be to go around.
I did however start to feel different about my content and the way I work, probably just because I was growing up. I was only 22 when I started blogging and I’m now 30 – so much changes during those years! I started to feel like it was important to be more in the moment and that taking photos should capture a memory instead of being the reason for being there in the first place. Evenings and weekends with friends and family became more important to me and getting to know other bloggers wasn’t just about getting a selfie, not sharing the meet up actually made the friendship feel more authentic.
WHERE IT’S AT NOW
The world of blogging has changed every six months since I started, and we’ve had to constantly adapt. If I still had a CV I think it would be 10 pages long and double-sided by now. But in the last year I’ve seen the most change and for the first time I feel a bit like an outsider in an industry that felt so small before. I always said there’s room for everyone, and I want to believe there is, but there’s no denying how much harder it is to stand out now compared to in the early days. I’ve always said, make content that you love and that you’d want to read/watch/listen to and I think that’s more relevant now than ever before.
There are so many platforms it’s tricky to be good at everything; blogging, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Podcasts (and whatever else has come and gone along the way). Maybe now it’s more about focusing on the platforms that work best for you and bring you the most enjoyment?
It seems it’s no longer about proving you’re a one-man-band who can do everything but more about focusing on doing less, but better content. And when I say “better” I don’t mean fancy, swooping shots filmed on an expensive camera, I mean better suited to you and your audience. There is so much content online, too much maybe, that as viewers we have become more thoughtful about what we watch, what we read and how we spend our time on online. We used to watch every last video in our subscription box and like every photo on our Instagram feed, but as social media has become such a huge part of our lives we’re all more aware of how much time we spend consuming content online and are constantly trying to find a balance.
FINDING MY PLACE
So how has my focus shifted? Well, I’m sure you’ve noticed but, in the past, my two “main” platforms were always YouTube and my blog, with all my social channels just supporting them. But Instagram has become so much more than just a social platform, it’s editorial and it allows you to create in such an instant and engaging way. So much of what I do is about engagement and reading comments and messages from you guys is what stops me feeling lonely in this line of work. I think that’s what’s made me drift slightly from blogging, as much as I love it, often it can feel like you’re talking to no one.
I feel constant guilt over my lack of blogging because it’s my baby, the one that started it all but making it fit into my content routine always feels like a struggle. The quality of blogs has sky rocketed and I’ve found myself at a loss of what feels right to me. Booking in a weekly photographer to take multiple outfit photos in one day doesn’t feel right for me and I end up with an abundance of photos and nothing relevant to write alongside them. Snapping natural photos when I’m out and about never seems to happen either, maybe it’s the lack of photography friends or that need to be present in the moment, who knows. Gone are the days of taking flat lay photos of lipsticks, writing your thoughts and pressing “publish” and honestly, I’ve never really found my place since.
So… excuses aside, because really, I don’t have any that make sense. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to do with my blog and I’m not making any new re-branded promises. The new design is simply to make reading the content easier with just a very simple look, no frills. I want my blog to go back to being more of a hobby like it was before it became something I had to do, when it was something I wanted to do instead. I want this to be the platform where I don’t need or want to check the analytics, where I don’t have to worry about how good my writing is or what time people are most likely to read a post.
I’m always intrigued/nervous/excited to see how this industry will change and I think what’s important is to be open to it. I’m not stuck in a certain routine, I’m happy to give new things a go and I think that flexibility is key. So, let’s see what the second half of 2018 brings and as always I’d love to hear your thoughts!