Happy New Year!

I don’t normally like New Year’s Day. I just find it too depressing- the sparkle is quite literally gone. As is the chocolate. No more twinkly lights, no more cosy (if unfashionable) Christmas jumpers, no more mince pies and even Michael Bublé retreats back to the North Pole for another 11 months. I don’t make resolutions either- I’ve never kept them when I have in the past, and then I write myself off for another year. I’d rather accept my screw-ups and take each new day as it comes.

I get so upset that my favourite season is passed and is as far away again as it can be… but this year is a little different. I’m still feeling the post-Christmas blues, but I actually feel excited as well. Back in July when I started this little blog I spent weeks puzzling over what I should call it. It was right at a time when we were leaving the rented house that we had called home, but had never really felt like home, and I was worried that we would be moving into our mobile a little more permanently than I’d like.

During that time a song lyric keep playing in my mind: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”. Over and over, it just kept going, day and night, and it reminded me of Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God gives the birds- little sparrows, the most invaluble of all, everything they need, and He will give me everything I need, and what I’ve needed since then is a house.

I don’t want anything particularly grand (although, if you saw my secret Pinterest boards, you might not believe me on that one- hey, if I end up in a mansion I’m not going to complain!) and the reality that we may not be able to get planning permission to build our forever home is setting in. We’ve had planners, architects, consultants, 2nd opinions, 3rd opinions and 4th opinions… and we’ve only a few tricks left up our sleeve. Whilst we’re not ever going to completely give up on our dream to build (because realistically, the planning office change their rules daily) we know we might have to buy a house and make it our own, at least for now!

As gutted as we will be if we can’t ever build our own home, we’re still SO excited at the thought of buying a house and making it ours- I can’t wait! So whilst we have a lot (and I mean, a lot) of work to do, our goal (not a resolution!) for 2018 is either planning permission, or buying our first home… and I’ve been all over the Laura Ashley website for inspiration. Just in case.

We have no idea where 2018 might lead, we have no idea if a house will come up for us, or if we will get granted permission, but I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on the way!

Gillian x

There’s No Place Like Home

I didn’t always like to admit it, but I’ve always been what we call a ‘home-bird’, which is ‘Norn Iron’ for someone who likes to stay in their own little neck of the woods. It must run in our family because we stay close together and like to be around each other when we can. (At least, I think so, maybe I’m just needy and they’ll tell you differently.)
I don’t often go away anywhere, and even throughout university I travelled from home to my classes, but our trip to Paris was the first time I was ever actually homesick. The night we landed I wanted my jammies, a cup of tea, my own bed and my fluffy little dog, which I did quickly get over the next day at Disneyland. (Successful ‘adulting’ at it’s finest.) I’ll not say much about the trip as I’ll likely write about it later, but when it took a near 48 hour extension due to flight cancellations, and I realised we were stranded in Paris for another 2 days, the homesickness kicked in again.
It’s not the worst place to get stranded- in fact, we pretty much landed on our feet with four-star accommodation and delicious meals. But for all our home is- a little mobile, in the middle of nowhere with a dodgy shower and no room to swing a cat (figure of speech guys, we don’t harm cats)- it’s still home, and I wanted nothing more than to be curled up in it with the heater on, my dog by my side and a proper cup of (Punjana!!) tea.
We all have our own ideas of what a home should be, and it’s slightly different for everyone. For Parisians, it’s a modern apartment, in an old building, in a cosmopolitan city – with a patisserie to grab a fresh baguette for breakfast and a busy, cobbled street 3 floors below. Whilst I can cope with it for a few days, I couldn’t ever imagine living somewhere like that, whereas for them, my home might be an eyesore, boring and just too lonely and quiet.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we think of each other’s homes, only that we love them. There are lots of people with a bigger, more beautiful home than mine, but there are many who also have much, much less. Tonight I’m more thankful than ever for my little corner of the County Down countryside, for my family only metres away, for proper china mugs and proper potato dinners and for my own little family in the mobile: a husband, a dog and a degu.
Gillian x

DIY Autumn Garland

One thing I really wish we did in Northern Ireland is decorate our houses a bit more for Autumn. I’m not talking skeletons for Hallowe’en (eww…I’m sorry, but just nope) and we don’t need to go nuts with it either and have 3 carved pumpkins rotting on every door step; just the odd garland, apple create and maybe a fabric pumpkin or two on the shelf.

If you’ve seen my instagram feed you may have noticed that I’m pretty much always making something- I’ve got far too many ongoing projects all the time, and if I didn’t I’d just feel weird. My sisters are the same way, and whilst we all have our own niche, occasionally we like to stick our nose into what the others are doing and have a go at it ourselves.

My sister Christine (@christine.j.bell) is a talented designer – we’re expecting big things (and freebies) from her. She has some really interesting ideas for interior design and quite often uses earthy tones and natural colours for her designs. She’s also keen on using naturally occurring materials such as plants and flowers to make things, so when I walked in and found her in the kitchen last week surrounded by the smell of orange and cloves I knew she was up to something good. So good in fact, I stuck my nose in, stole a few dried orange slices and made an Autumn garland for myself.

It’s pretty, inexpensive, smells good enough to eat and adds a cosy Autumnal touch to the plain wall of our living room. They’re very easy to make and can be made using bits and pieces from the garden or a forest walk. Christine kindly let me share her idea, so if you fancy giving it a go, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2-3 large oranges (depending on how long you want your garland to be)
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • twigs/dried leaves/pine branches/pinecones/ anything you can find!
  • twine.

Most of the process is drying. From the garden we chose small pine branches and twisted willow, as the twigs from it curl- just leave it to dry a little to make sure no sap is coming out of anything before adding it to the garland. I figured that bit out the sticky way.

Slice the oranges about 2mm thick and press cloves into them before popping them into the oven at 50°C- 70°C for four hours, turning them over about half way through this time. Let them cool off and tie a short length of twine on to them and your twigs/cinnamon sticks/etc to attach them on to your twine.

Cut your twine to your desired length, arrange everything and then tie it on once you’re happy with it all.

Et voila!

One super-easy Autumn garland ready to hang! You don’t have to be particularly artistic, so the excuse of ‘I’m just not creative’ doesn’t wash here – there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to look at something beautiful and say ‘I made that!’.

Why not give it a go? (And share your pictures, so we can see them too!)

Gillian x

Instagram vs Reality

Lately, I’ve redeveloped an old bad habit that I’d kicked for a while, and I’d happily guess that it’s something you’re guilty of too – comparing my life to everyone’s Instagram life.

I hadn’t noticed it until a few people pointed out recently, on completely separate occasions, that I have a particular style of instagraming (is that a word? I’m using it as a word). Quite often, what I choose to share is something I’ve made- a crocheted cowl, a blanket, a cake I’ve baked, a woven wall hanging, anything I spend my evenings creating. I’ve also been asked how I get the time to do it all, which is simple – I’m a terrrrrrible sleeper. I could be up at 3am making something just because the idea came into my head – I still do all my cleaning, laundry, cooking and other joyous activities that accompany adult life at a more acceptable hour.

Whilst I obviously spend a lot of my time making things, my instagram account isn’t a true representation of how I actually live. I do make stuff all the time, and that looks pretty on instagram, but in reality, I work hard at a full-time job and then come home to cooking and cleaning, I’m usually knackered, there is yarn and crochet hooks everywhere and I have 4 bags of self raising flour and 2kg of dark muscavado sugar in the cupboard that I don’t know what to make with. (Seriously, any recipes for dark muscavado sugar let me know- major sugar buying error.) I’m not complaining – that’s just how it is, and I’m happy being a busy bee.

It may have a a link to the fact that I’m 25 and living in a mobile in my parents garden (again, not complaining, just fact), but whilst everyone sees my happy little crafting life, I’m wandering through instagram finding other 25-year-olds with a house, a better job, a better car, a fabulous wardrobe, better legs, a better diet, time for the gym (now there’s a mystery)- the list goes on – and wondering how the heck did they get it together so quickly?!

Where have I gone wrong? Why don’t I have a real house? WHERE are my Jimmy Choos?

In reality, those girls probably haven’t got it all together; they might be lonely (there’s only one Paddy, and I’ve got him), they could hate their job, they might want a bigger house, a smaller car, a smaller waist, longer hair – the list goes on again. We only see what they want us to see, a small representation of who they really are, and we seem to think that if we can somehow obtain everything they have or do everything they do our lives will be better for it.

For now, my challenge is trying to be content in our 28x12ft box, because someone could be looking on at my photos and wishing they had what I do, and I’m grateful for it.

We don’t know what goes on behind everyone’s little squares, so how about we all stop comparing ourselves to them?

Gillian x

Supporting Small Business

It has been one crazy weekend, I’ve spent a lot of my time baking (see my instagram feed for my culinary creations- they likely won’t be repeated any time soon), and I’m sitting here now dosed with the cold and to be quite honest, feeling a little bit sorry for myself and my lack of nasal functioning. I finally got the time to sit down and open a little delivery I received yesterday morning.

When it comes to home decor I love loads of the high-street favourites: Laura Ashley, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, TK Maxx (AMAZING bargains there), Next…lots of Next actually – you get the idea. They offer good quality products at mostly reasonable…sometimes a little less reasonable…prices, and I usually keep my eye on anything I want in case it goes into sale. I’ll admit it, it all but kills me to pay full price for anything. It takes a long time before I take the plunge and make a purchase, no matter how big or small.

I do also try where possible to support local or small businesses. As a crafter and Etsy shop owner, I appreciate how difficult it is for people who either make items from scratch or curate a collection of items to make a living. One new shop I’ve come across recently on Instagram is Emily May’s Attic- a UK based, family-run online shop offering ‘All things Shabby-Chic, Scandi and Vintage’.

Their easy-to-use website is updated often with new finds at great prices- in fact I was surprised at how cheap some of the items are!

Whilst I’m trying not to buy tooooo much for the mobile, I’m sticking with neutral colours that are easily transferrable when I do buy something, which works well for me as my taste would lean more towards texture than colour or pattern.

I bought three small items on the shop that I just couldn’t resist and although I’m trying my hardest to curb my scatter cushion addiction, the first thing I went to was the beautiful grey heart cushion. At 50x50cm, £16.95 is a steal for such a large cushion. It’s plain, simple and fits right in on our day bed.

…Yeah, the colour of that mattress cover is bugging me too. 🤔

I also got this cute little guy for £4.

The Elephant Ring Holder is very good at his job, but I think he’s quite cute as an ornament. He also comes in rose gold and would be a lovely gift for someone.

The last item was more of a ‘for later’ item that Patrick picked. The Wifi Wooden Plaque  is a little chalk board about 20x15cm and 1cm thick for sharing your wifi password with visitors.

I like the idea- it’s welcoming to offer it and avoids having to bring it up in conversation and go hunting for the code. (Because who ever actually puts it back in the router?)

I’ll definitely be back to Emily May’s Attic and can’t wait to see what else she stocks!

What small businesses do you like to buy from?

Gillian x

Bye July…

How did it get to August? I can’t help but feel like I planned to do a lot in July and never actually did it! We moved into the mobile, celebrated my birthday, I started this blog and learned to weave, we had Donard Carfest, we both had extra hours in work and it still feels like we have loads to do last month.

It’s also hard to believe that we’ve been living in our mobile for a full month already! We’re learning it’s quirks as we go and so far we’re actually pretty happy, and that’s not something I thought I’d be saying after living in such a confined space for a month.

It turns out it actually has it’s perks. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be talking about how wonderful a space is to clean, but here we are, 2 hours of grafting and I can sit down with a cup of tea in a lovely clean living room knowing everywhere else is sparkling.

And so, the process of turning into my mother is complete.

The living room also has a really beautiful view. On a good day you can see the mountains…

… this isn’t a good day, you can see literal columns of rain! The sun came out for about 0.2 seconds between the photos. 🙄 It’s still nice to be able to look out on to it though, even when it’s bucketing.

We also love our teeny, tiny kitchen. It has better appliances than our rented home had and more bench space for baking, which I have done more of this month than I have in the first half of the year (I’ll maybe share some recipes at some point?), and it has also fully converted me to a gas hob. I don’t think we’ll ever have an electric hob again after this… the oven however… we’re still working things out. (Front cookies, burnt, back cookies, raw – HOW?!)

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I can’t wait to have a cavernous kitchen (…marble floor tiles, range cooker, built-in coffee machine, breakfast island…), but this wee nook is doing a fantastic job for now.

There’s only been one major issue so far: boy is it cold. In summer. And we’ll be here all winter. I’ve gone to bed twice already in thick jammies, wearing my dressing gown, under 2 duvets with the electric blanket on.

Send blankets. And heaters. And chocolate. (If seals can use blubber to keep them warm, so can I.)

I’m also fighting Bear for my favourite spot on the day bed, which he has claimed as his own. IMG_1575

He’s enjoying the garden, views (from the back of the snuggle seat, which he isn’t allowed to climb on 😕) and being so close to his best friend, Ralph the dachshund. He has taken a trip up the road in the direction of his old house but thankfully only did it once before he realised this was now home and hasn’t repeated it, so he can come and go from the mobile as he pleases again.

Our first month in the mobile has been pretty good and we settled in quicker than I thought we would. I’m not exactly looking forward to the winter at the minute, but we’ve a few of my favourite months to get through before we worry about that.

Gillian x

Making the Mobile ‘Home’

I can’t lie, when the plan to move into a mobile in the garden was set in place I huffed and puffed a bit and then I panicked, as unhelpful as that was. The boys had somehow worked out how to get a water supply and electricity to it, how to get the bathroom and kitchen plumbed in, even how to wedge it 7ft high on a pretty steep hill, but being my mother’s daughter, and the little bit house proud that I am, I worried about how it would look.

Obviously, when push comes to shove, aesthetics aren’t important and I’m thankful for a roof over my head regardless, but I wanted it to at least feel like a proper home, even if it is a little bizarre. We left the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom as they were- a good clean and our own things made all the difference- but I had to do something about the main living space, just to make it comfortable… and maybe even a little bit pretty. We were going to be spending too much time in there to leave it as it was.

Sadly, in my panic, it never occurred to me to take ‘before’ photos (I know, you’re very disappointed) but to put it plainly it was the typical caravan (ahem… mobile home) set up: seating screwed into the walls upholstered in a delectable brown toned floral pattern, a more modern black, white and grey striped carpet complete with the odd unexplained stain, a wall unit with cupboards and shelf space, and an attempt by the previous owners at painting the walls magnolia. It was clean which was the main thing, but we decided to rip pretty much the whole lot out, leaving only the wall unit behind.

There’s nothing quite like making extra work for yourself.

As we were both busy every evening, we enlisted (begged for) help in getting the space painted my favourite wall colour, ’Antique White’ (I’m not being sarcastic, I actually love antique white, I’d paint literally a whole house antique white), while we were both at work and took a trip to Martin Philips to get a carpet. It was suggested that we should look for a remnant before spending more money than necessary and we could hardly believe it when we found 4 metres by 3.6 metres of grey speck carpet, already felted underneath for a fraction of what we had told ourselves we would have to spend. A little DIY carpet laying later (not me by me I’ll admit) and the mobile was ready for whatever furniture we could physically squeeze into the space.

We chose the day bed that we had picked up in ikea a few months ago and our snuggle seat over the 3rd-hand leather sofa as our seating. We cleaned and kept the curtains that were already there and bought a couple of new fleece blankets and a fitted sheet from M&S to help keep the day bed clean and make it a little more homely. We kept all our cushions from the old living room and put the TV on the unit above our little gas fire along with all the other bits and bobs we had sitting about in our rented house and…

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TAH-DAH!

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A lot of what we had went into storage, but we were shocked by just how much we had actually managed to cram into the mobile. It’s a little bit mismatched -realistically, the curtains would not be my choice, and the teal blue barely works – but we have a really cosy space with an incredible view from our front window.

And that’s it! It’s not perfect, but it’s our home for the foreseeable. We’re hoping it won’t be too long before we’re making our next move (you don’t become any less aware of the 7ft height that our living room sits above the ground), but for now we’re making the most of it. It’s amazing what a lick of paint and a cheap carpet can do!

Gillian x