Me and My Guy.

Eddie and I are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary this year! I know it’s a cliche, but it really doesn’t feel as though all of that time has passed. I still get weak in the knees when he smiles at me, and my tummy does that weird flip flop feeling when I see him approach. Yes, I am disgustingly in love with my man – and I’m not apologising for it! We met when I was just 16 and he was 20 – at his girlfriend’s house – and the spark was there from the beginning for us both. We had an ill fated fling and I moved away so we lost touch. Three years later there was a knock at my front door; standing in the pouring rain with a his crinkly eyed grin was Eddie! I hugged him so tight, my bare feet freezing and my clothes getting soaked and my heart full to bursting. He came in to my home, and he never left. We were married just 6 weeks later. I was 19 years old, he was 23. Nobody believed we would make it past two months – nobody except us, and we were right!

Marriage isn’t always easy.

We were very young when we got married and we both had a lot of growing up to do. We both had tumultuous childhoods that still affected us; we were both broken and trying to help each other heal, and even with the best intentions things can and do go very wrong along the way. Our first years together were not rose tinted and lovey dovey!

We had our second child when I was 21 and shortly after his birth I began to behave strangely. Things escalated rapidly and I was placed on a psychiatric ward for my own protection. I had developed puerperal psychosis a rare form of serious post natal depression and I was very very poorly. Before I was diagnosed, the illness caused me to do things I never normally would do……. things that almost cost me my marriage. In fact, when I was discharged from the hospital I had to go live in a hostel for a while as Eddie wasn’t sure what to do for our future. I was heartbroken; a constant physical ache in my chest would keep me awake at night, it would worsen whenever I heard his voice on the phone or when I went to see my children. I knew why it was happening and didn’t hold anything against Eddie at all, it just hurt so much.

I still remember the day he told me he wanted to give our marriage another try. He was standing by the fireplace and I was sat with our girl on my knee reading her a book. He looked over at me and said “I’ve been thinking, and I want you to move back in. I’m still in love with you, I can’t stop thinking about you and I want you to come home. Please will you come back?”

Since then we have had our ups and downs like any couple, but we have always stayed together. Marriage isn’t always easy – but if you both continue to choose each other over all else, there’s usually a way through any problems.

Is there a secret to a successful marriage?

The short answer is NO. Except it’s not really that simple, is it? Everybody is different; we all carry our own baggage with us and that affects our relationships with everybody around us. It’s difficult to take responsibility and ownership for your mistakes – especially when they are caused by external issues such as trauma, health struggles etc – but being willing to apologise and learn from mistakes is kind of a big deal for the health of a relationship.

I saw a shirt design a while ago, it said willing to be wrong; and as much as I think I am always right, I know I make a mess sometimes. What matters is what I do with it and how I clean it up afterwards!

I think I will write some more posts about marriage/relationships in future. Obviously I’m not an expert and don’t pretend to be; however the added challenges of being married young, having teenage kids, disability and carer/care receiver dynamics aren’t covered generally by a lot of relationship blogs I’ve read over the years!

Is there anything you would like me to include in future ponderings on relationships? Perhaps you have some advice for me – I bloody love hearing how other folks handle hurdles in their love life! Please do let me know in the comments below, or if you wish to keep your question private then please email me instead,

Much love, Dee xx

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Budget friendly home office make-over!

For a while now I’ve been working wherever I can find space; the dining table, on the sofa in the lounge, even perched on the front doorstep while catching some sunshine. Basically grabbing any peaceful spot possible in order to write, ponder and create whilst trying to not get in the way of the rest of my household! It’s not been easy, but I made the best of it as cash and space are precious commodities in our home; then one day my hubster was moving around his art space and decided he no longer needed the wobbly old computer desk he’d been using……. LIGHT BULB MOMENT! So here’s how I did a budget friendly home office make-over – and by budget friendly I mean very low budget!

My little corner

Chalk Paint is a marvel!

The desk on offer had seen better days to say the least! It had been second hand when we were given it, then my son used it for two years for gaming (including scratching the top with scissors) followed by my husband using it as a second work surface for his art space for another year. It was wobbly, battered and a horrible blackish brown colour; I really didn’t like it and thought a lot about just chucking it out and saving up for a cheap new one. But then my environmental conscience starting pricking me and I realised that re-purposing this battered old desk was the right (and cheaper) thing to do.

We have been upcycling other second hand furniture pieces for our living room and still had lots of lovely chalk paint left. I decided that grey would be the best option as it would blend the desk into my bedroom. Who wants their place of relaxation to feel like an office anyway? Having the desk painted this warm grey colour means that it feels like a part of the space rather than something just plonked there in the corner. Plus it only took two coats and dried within a few hours! Then Eddie tightened up the screws thus fixing the wobble.

Chalk Paint Rules!

Shop Your Own Home.

Next up I had to figure out what to do about a chair with no money. Fortunately for me, we “inherited” a set of very heavy, very large dining chairs when we moved into our house. One of the chairs needed to be moved from the kitchen as it blocked the way to the cupboards, so it had been residing in my daughter’s bedroom for a while. That is util she decided she no longer wanted it! So Mum to the rescue!

I dressed the chair up with a cushion I’ve had for a while – I bought it in Primark I think about three years ago – and I went round the house collecting bits and bobs that I thought would make my space feel, well, like my space. I made use of some old pretty boxes to display some of my essential oils and remedies and I emptied out a grey and white basket that contained odd gloves and random socks to use for extra storage. It’s amazing how much stuff you already have if you just look around you!

I love stationary – who doesn’t?

So I had the desk, the chair and the accessories. The shelves were clean and organised, heck I even had my plant life sorted and my laptop in place….. but something was missing. What does every self respecting home office need? Cute stationary, doh!

I literally spent hours drooling over gorgeous pens, journals and sticky notes sets online. In fact I seem to have developed a bit of an obsession with stickers…. I think I need help! After all that “research” there was one place for me that fit my criteria of beautiful quality with a minimal price tag – Wilko.

I love my Wilko stationary and lamp. Bargain!

My kids and hubby laugh at me for my Wilko obsession – I don’t really care to be honest because I bloody love that shop! On the rare occasions I leave my tiny town, if we’re going somewhere that has a Wilko store then it’s scheduled into the trip. I love love love it!

I bought my desk lamp and bulb, planner, desk tidy, pens, pencils, accessories and note block for under £30 including delivery and I couldn’t be happier with it all. Everything is such great quality and so well designed; the planner has space for me to keep track of our family diary, budget, birthdays and shopping lists as well as ample space for me to plan out content I want to create. For £6 you really get a lot of bang for your buck. Wilko has a wide range of stationary on offer, from your typical back-to-school things to several design collections – perfect if like me you enjoy the matchy matchy. It’s worth checking out if you have students to shop for, or if you want to treat yourself to something nice to write with.

When I say budget friendly, I mean it.

Altogether, including my new stationary collection, the creation of my home office cost just £30. I think in future if I have the opportunity/spare cash I’m going to buy an office type chair on wheels, as the dining chair is rather heavy and not easy to move. But it works great for now and that’s all that matters!

My little corner of the world.

It’s amazing what you can achieve with a bit of creativity and stubbornness right? I see so many posts on Pinterest and Instagram that encourage lots of shopping and spending for interiors, but I kinda feel like having a nice home doesn’t need to cost either a) a fortune or b) the Earth. That’s why my family and I have committed to buy secondhand as much as possible – whether that’s for our home, our clothes, even electricals/tech – because there’s enough waste in this world without us adding to it!

Have you ever gone shopping in your own house? Maybe you’ve just done your own tiny budget make-over? I would love to hear all about it! Do you have any frugal pointers for this thrifty decorator? Let me know in the comments below!

Take care and I will be back soon,

Dee xx

Boho On A Budget; Living Room Makeover.

I love my home. I really really REALLY do; from the old stone to the wonky walls, even the ridiculously steep staircase and mismatched kitchen – I LOVE MY HOME! I also really love the boho interiors popping up all over Pinterest and Instagram; macrame, vibrant colours and tonnes of houseplants just make me smile so much. But how can you achieve boho on a budget?

What does “Boho” mean anyway?

It’s a term that’s being bandied about all over the internet right now; Boho Festival Looks, Boho Hairstyles, Boho this and that and the other! But at it’s root, Bohemian means unconventional and creative. It means rebellious and subversive. It means to do things differently.

The term “Bohemian” began in Paris in the early 19th Century as a way to describe a growing community of wandering artists living unconventionally in the city. The word in French also means “gypsy”- there were many travellers and refugees at this time coming from Eastern Europe, and popular thought declared they all came from Bohemia hence the name. Gypsies were widely held in disdain and mistrust, however they were also secretly admired for their creativity and “other-worldliness” – basically people loved and hated them equally. The artists adopted the transient nature of traveller life and began to live in a way that rejected the notion of property and drudgery, instead believing in and exploring ideas of beauty and love!

Is my living room really Boho?

You know I value words and their meanings and am not one to use them lightly; I have a great respect for the early Bohemians and for the travelling gypsies of Eastern Europe and I wouldn’t use this term unless I felt I could. My living room is an outworking of that respect, as well as a nod to my own rebellious spirit!

My fireplace and storage solutions.

You see; in the interiors world of the great internet lands it’s all about how much cash you can throw at a project, the new sofa and the glass extensions and the parquet floors. I love all of that and it makes for pretty pictures, but it’s not for me. I don’t have a lot of spare money. I believe in making do with what I have, buying second hand and taking care of things we find. I do this because we already have everything we need and our planet needs us to start making less! And I know more and more people are catching on to this less wasteful way of life, but it’s still relatively unconventional.

90% of the things in my living room are second hand, old or re-purposed from other rooms in my house. In fact, the only new things we bought are four cushions (£24 TOFS) and the rug (£39.99 B&M). The large sofa (pictured below) is from a Facebook Marketplace seller in our town and cost £40 with a storage pouffe. The chest of drawers under my TV were in my Nana and Grandad’s house all my life. That triangle stone on the fireplace? We found that in the woods!

My bargain large DFS sofa and storage pouffe.

The white throws over the sofas came from a charity shop, the yellow mirror was given to me by a lovely friend and we painted it. Eddie bought the coffee table at the junk market and it turned out that it had been made in our town about 50 years ago! I love each and every piece in our living room and there is a story attached to it all. To me, that embodies the Bohemian values of Beauty and Love – so yes, I do think my lounge really is “Boho” and on a tiny budget!

Big Bertha, my largest houseplant!

I hope you have enjoyed taking a look at my lovely living room! We are really proud of it; I find myself sitting in here most days and just enjoying the feeling of peaceful joy that seems to fill this space. Do you have a favourite room in your home? Perhaps you’re just beginning a makeover and you have some brilliant budget friendly ideas and tricks? I would love to hear what you’re upto!

Thank you for reading along. I hope you all are as in love with your homes as I am – and if not, I pray you find a part of it to begin falling for! Take care loves, I’ll see you soon!

5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Low Waste Living.

The planet is dying. There is literally no other way to say it; whether you believe what you read/see on the news or not, we cannot deny that things are getting out of hand and our home is in trouble. We have done this, so now we have to do better. I don’t think it’s fair to put all the responsibility on the average person (don’t get me started on disability discrimination and the plastic straw ban) as for real, lasting change to be achieved there needs to be a complete paradigm shift across the globe! However, we can all take steps to reduce our impact on the earth – and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are 5 Cheap and Easy Ways to Low Waste Living that we’ve taken on at home.

Paper Free Kitchen.

There are no kitchen rolls in my kitchen! The only paper product we use occasionally is toilet paper – because my cats are idiots who like to poop on the floor now and then. I wish I could tell you my drawers are packed full of colour coordinated, hand stitched cloths but they’re not. Here’s my cloth box to prove it! The cloths we use are inexpensive options bought from places like B&M, Home Bargains and our local market – hard wearing, easy to wash and long lasting. We grabbed a set of four cloth napkins from a charity shop a couple weeks ago for £2 too; in fact they’re probably the fanciest fabrics in the kitchen! Next time you go shopping, instead of spending a couple quid on paper for the bin, why not see how many dishcloths you can get instead?

My cloth box. Told you, it’s not very fancy!

Clean Cleaning.

Most cleaning products come in plastic bottles labelled with unpronounceable chemicals and scary warnings about your health and aquatic life. Not very eco-friendly eh? We have all used them, we probably all have them in the cupboards too. I’m not saying go and throw it all out immediately – instead work through what you have, then wash out and save your spray bottles for making your own products instead! White vinegar is literally cheaper than chips and it’s an incredible cleaning liquid. Lemon juice (yes even the kind you squeeze on your pancakes) is natural and powerful on stains, grease and it shines up stainless steel like a dream. Bicarbonate of soda (yes the one you put in cakes) is a dream cleaning ingredient! For the price of replacing just two of your usual cleaners you can buy enough vinegar, lemons and bicarb to do your whole house. Repeatedly.

Swap To Soap.

This one is easy and so cheap it’s unbelievable. making the change from using plastic bottled shower gel, hand wash and shampoo has reduced our waste massively AND the amount of chemicals in our homes/on our skin/washing down the drains. Bar soap can be easily found in most supermarkets, pound shops and the like. Shampoo bars are more and more readily available and do not need to cost a fortune either – the bar we use costs £4.50 and lasts my husband and I about 3 months. Once you’ve worked through all of your products, replace them with bars instead. Saving money and saving the planet!

six bars of soap - white, purple, green, pink, white speckled, pal yellow - surrounded by a terracotta candle holder, a tree branch and a pink and green plant.
Bar Soaps are beautiful and cost effective swaps for bottles!

Cans Not Bottles.

Aluminium is infinitely recyclable, whereas plastic can only be recycled once. Most drinks come in cans as well as plastic bottles; my son loves sports drinks ad we recently discovered they come in cans too! If you like fizzy drinks and that kind of thing, next time pick up a can instead. The planet (and your body) will thank you for it!

Buy Second Hand.

I’m a bargain hunter, you all know it and I’m proud to say the majority of our furniture, clothes and appliances are second hand! My daughter is a whiz at charity shop trawling, my husband and son have keen eyes that spot amazing deals at the flea market and I am always thinking of ways to make more of hat we have already. I can’t afford to buy new, ethically made clothes and furniture all the time for my family; so instead we try to give things that have been discarded/donated a new lease of life or we make our own. Charity shops are awesome places if you just have a little patience, eBay is full of second hand bargains as is Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. It’s easier than ever to buy second hand!

A sideboard painted blue, with pink patterned paper lining the shelves.
A junk shop find, made over with a little paint and patience.

I know all of these things can seem a bit simple and obvious; when we were starting on our road to less waste we began by feeling completely overwhelmed and inadequate because we couldn’t afford to buy four sets of bamboo cutlery (yeah I know, daft right). Very few of us have the resources to live an Instagram-able low waste life with all the gadgets and accessories – but we can all find ways to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot in our own homes right?

Do you have any easy, cheap low waste living hacks for me? I would love to hear what tips and tricks you have come across!

Losing Someone Precious.

I’ve been learning a lot about emotional resilience the last few weeks. Things didn’t work out as planned with our rescue dog, my teenage daughter has been through some heart ache and my health has been terrible. These events are all equally difficult to handle in their own ways, but they cannot compare to the pain of watching someone you love grieve after losing someone special.

My husband Eddie is my world. He really is everything to me; he’s my best friend, lover, confidant and carer, and I would do anything for him. Last week, one of the most important people in his life – Grandma – passed away in hospital. He got to see her just before she died, something that I will be eternally thankful for.

Grandma was almost 90 years old and her health had been declining steadily for the last few years. This lady grew up during World War II, she raised her own children and then took in her grandsons (my Eddie and his brother) and raised them. She nursed her beloved husband Arthur, never leaving his side, until he died from Emphysema. This amazing lady fought to keep her independence as she grew older – it was only a couple months ago that she gave up her keep fit classes – and still lived in the home she raised her family in. She was a remarkable woman.

Eddie and Grandma were very close. She would often tell me “I know I’m not meant to have a favourite, but my Edward is special”. You see, Eddie’s childhood wasn’t the easiest but Grandma was his anchor in the midst of the stormy times. She has been his constant support, his loudest cheerleader and her unconditional love has been with him all the days of his life. Grandma was such a wonderful woman to so many people, to my husband she was so much more than a Gran.

As you can imagine, it’s been horrible since she passed. At first Eddie went into shock; he had literally just returned from seeing her in the hospital when he got the call to say she had gone. I was ready for tears, shouting, wailing even….. but instead he just carried on as normal. We told the kids and comforted them as best we could, then Eddie got on with his own things like nothing had happened. I think it finally sunk in through that first night, because the next morning the tears really did start.

It’s been just over a week now. His grief is so heartbreaking to watch. He isn’t weeping and wailing; rather he’s struggling to accept that she’s gone, in his head he knows that she has died but he still finds himself thinking he needs to call her or arrange to go for a cuppa. I guess when someone has been part of your life for so long, it will take time to accept their departure. And the first stage of grief is denial after all, so I know it won’t last forever.

The funeral is just under a week away; and while it’s a time of remembrance and closure, it also brings it’s own challenges for my husband. Strained family relations, a crippled wife, a long journey on public transport…… all these things stack up on him one by one. I hope he doesn’t break apart underneath it all.

As for me, I don’t know what to do to help him or how to ease his pain at her passing. I wake up in the night and hold him as he cries, I sit and listen as he tries to make sense of his feelings, I share precious memories of her with him when he wants to talk about her life. What else can I do but be here and love him? What else should I be doing? Those aren’t rhetorical questions; if you have any good ideas I would love to hear them – because I have never felt so powerless in our almost 16 years together as I do now.

Have you supported a loved one through their grief before? Or perhaps you’re in the same boat right now? If you’re in need of support, or you have any helpful suggestions then please comment below. I would appreciate any help we’re given!

Take care, hold your dear ones close and let them know how precious they are to you xxx

Flapjacks – Raspberries make it healthy right?

Sometimes I am disorganised, unprepared and unready for basically normal life. Like breakfast. I’ll explain…… We usually do our grocery shopping on a Sayurday at the local market and Lidl. I plan the meals for the work and complete a shopping list then Eddie and a kid goes to get it. Simple right? But this weekend, food shopping was shelved in favour of a trip to the movies because a quik glance in the cupboards had me sure we had enough in for dinner – and we did in fact have a nice diner that night si I wasnt wrong! However, Sunday morning rolled round and oh dear, nothing for breakfast. Nothing that my kids would eat anyway the fussy sods! I dug out some frozen raspberries, smacked them on the counterin frusyration and thought really hard (or as hard as one can thik early on a Sunday morning) and the Easy Raspberry Flapjacks Recipe was born.

Raspberries are fruit, so it’s healthy right?

Before the diet police start on me for feeding my kids flapjack for breakfast; of course I don’t think adding raspberries to flapjack makes it healthy! Is it as unhealthy as calorie intense chocolate croissant, or a fry up? I don’t know – or care really! Obviously you don’t have to eat these flapjacks for breakfast, but I’m not going to judge you if you do they are equally good as an afternoon treat with a brew or wrapped up and popped in a packed lunch. Plus the recipe is so easy, my sleep deprived Sunday morning brain managed it just fine – so I think that means kids should be fine making them (maybe keep an eye on little ones using the hob though) and the least accomplished cook can turn out a yummy morsel.

A word about the raspberries too; use frozen ones, it’s much cheaper than fresh and they don’t disintegrate when you fold them through the oats mixture! Most supermarkets stock a variety of frozen berries nowadays and this recipe can be made with any kind – heck you could even do a mixture if you’re feeling adventurous.

Raspberry Flapjack – The Lowdown.

  • 225g Margarine
  • 4tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 170g Sugar
  • 390g Porridge Oats (not instant, Ready Brek won’t work!)
  • 200g Frozen Raspberries

Start by warming up the oven to 180c and put the shelf in the middle. Grease and line a large baking pan (I use a pyrex rectangular dish) and grab a big saucepan. Add the margarine and golden syrup to the pan and heat slowly until the margarine is melted, then add the sugar and stir in until fully blended. Turn off the heat and add the oats; mix until almost fully combined, then add the raspberries and fold in. Scrape the mixture into your prepared baking vessel and smooth out, then bake for about 25 minutes or until golden coloured. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin – if you don’t it will be too soft to cut, and while still amazingly delicious it will crumble in your hands!

Eight little acts of love each day.

How do you fit self-care into every day, when self-care is about expensive bath bombs and facials, haircuts and afternoon teas? Spoiler Alert – self-care is way more accessible and achievable than spending £10 on a bath or getting your hair blown out at the salon! It can be cheap as chips (we need to change that saying, chips are getting dear these days – Brexit amirite?) and easily slot into your daily routine. Don’t believe me? I’ve compiled a list of eight ways you can show yourself love each and every day without spending any money and without needing to clear your diary! I can feel the skepticism…..

The Easy Eight.

  • Wake Up, Check In. Body scanning is really easy and quick! When you wake up; take a moment to breathe deeply and, starting at your feet, think about how each part of you is feeling. Anything aching or sore? Imagine your breath flowing to that soreness and blow it away. Holding any tension in a muscle? Breathe into it and let it go. When you’ve done your body, ask yourself how you’re feeling today and make note of anything that’s worrying you or making you happy. Then get up, stretch and go!
  • Eat Your Breakfast. I’m not talking about cooking yourself a huge Full English each day – unless you want to, you go for it – but making sure you eat every morning is important. Sitting down with a slice of toast and cuppa only takes a few minutes but has a huge positive impact on the rest of your morning. Your body needs nourishment to function well. Love yourself and EAT.
  • Basic Ablutions. Most people laugh when I say this, but washing your face and brushing your teeth is a daily act of self care! Are you not caring for your teeth by brushing them? Doesn’t washing your face care for your skin? Allowing yourself time to do these essential things well each day – not rubbing your face with a damp cloth while simultaneously scrubbing your molars – shows you love in the most basic of ways.
  • Fresh Air is Good Medicine. There’s no denying that fresh air is good for our bodies and our souls too! Our homes and workplaces can easily become stuffy and smelly, germs and dust spread and it’s just yucky. Not everyone can go outside every day – I struggle to go out more than a few times a week – but that shouldn’t stop you from breathing in that lovely freshness. simply sitting by an open window for five minutes can make a big difference. Of course if you can, go outside!
  • Drink Up. Whenever my kids complain about headaches or feeling poorly, the first thing I ask them is “how much water have you had today?” Our bodies and brains contain a lot of water, and even a small decrease in hydration can have big effects on your well-being. Drinking about 2 litres of water throughout your day is essential, but some folks claim they don’t like it – so try decaf, herbal and fruit teas, dilute squash, fruit juices and ice lollies! You will pee more, but you will feel better!
  • Be Creative. I’m not talking about chiseling a huge block of marble into a Venus Di Milo knock off (but again, if you want to then do it!) but taking a few minutes to get creative brings such joy and peace to me every day! How about moving your cushions around, or lighting some candles? Make your lunch look pretty, or put on some make-up; snatch a moment of intentional creativity every day and see if it doesn’t cheer you a little.
  • Put Your Phone Down. Lots of us live with a mobile phone permanently on us, constantly connected to the internet and always contactable. No wonder we all feel so worn out and stressed all the time eh? The world will not end if you eat your tea without looking at your phone, nor will it cease to turn if you read a book at bedtime instead of scrolling through social media! In fact, there is an abundance of research that proves putting your phone down for a while each day boosts positive mental and physical well-being, creativity and healthy sleep cycles. So put it down.
  • Bed Time Routines Aren’t Just For Babies. As a raging insomniac I cannot stress the importance of a good nightly routine! It signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep, resulting in the release of the sleep chemical melatonin and ushering you off to dream land. It doesn’t need to be complex; every evening around 10pm I go to the loo, wash my face and brush my teeth then head up to bed. I put on my pajamas and put away my clothes from the day, then I sit in bed and put my moisturiser on and take my medicine. I read for a little while (no phone/tv allowed) and then it’s lights out.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that a lot of this stuff is just common sense and it may come across as obvious – and I guess it kind of is. But that’s the point I’m trying to make here; self-care doesn’t need to cost anything more than a few moments of intention. All of these suggestions are probably things you already do every day without thinking about it, but what if instead you did think about it? What if you saw brushing your teeth as an act of tenderness to yourself, or making/eating lunch as a gift to your body instead of something to gobble down as fast as possible?

Dearest Dee.

In my launch giveaway over on Instagram I asked people what they wanted to write about. Quite a few of the suggestions were quite personal requests, so I thought insted of trying to write a genral post to answer them, I could do it like an Agony Aunt kinda thing. Anyone remember those from magazines back in the day? Are they still a thing? Anyhoo, here’s my first “letter” and reply. I have made up a name for the person, to protect their identity and also because it made me smile a little!

*I’m not a qualified expert in anything, so any advice I can give will be purely from my own experiences and must be taken as such*

Dearest Dee, Like you; I am a small business owner who works from home, I also am quite poorly and have several fur-babies to care for. I am struggling to keep my home clean and tidy. I often feel overwhelmed by the mess, but the sheer size of the task ahead of me is terrifying. I want to get organised and sort it out – I just don’t know where to start! How do you manage to keep your home tidy and clutter free with so little energy? I am also sensitive to a lot of chemicals/strong fragrances, so any cleaning products you can suggest would be very helpful. Lots of love, The Sexy Stitchy Siren xxx

I understand totally where this person is coming from! The reality is anyone at any time can feel overwhelmed by the task of keeping a home – so to start with I just want to say that if you’re reading this and you feel this way, you are not a failure! It’s just housekeeping, don’t give it a pedestal to sit on okay?

It sounds to me like you have been trying to keep on top of it; but now it’s got to the point where it’s out of hand and you don’t know where to start, and the stress of it all is causing you to freeze. So to begin with, I suggest starting small. Tidying and de-cluttering are very popular at the moment – there seems to be a new show about a different method every single day – but not everyone has the capacity to de-junk their home in a week! If I attempted it, it would take me a fortnight to recover and then I’d be right back to the start again. So small, manageable steps every day are the key to taking back your home from the mess monsters.

Getting started.

Out of all the rooms you want to clear, pick the one that feels the most doable to you. Maybe it’s your bedroom, or bathroom? Whichever you choose is great. Next up, pick a place to start; I usually start with cupboards/shelves as it helps me to see results straight away but it’s up to you. Wherever you choose, the first step is emptying it out! Get all the stuff off/out/away from it then give it a good clean – it may need to be thoroughly dusted or wiped out depending on what it is – and make sure it’s dried thoroughly. Then begin putting things back; as you do this, really pay attention to your stuff and ask these questions

  • When was the last time I used this? If the answer is more than 6 months ago it needs to go (with the exception of seasonal items)
  • Do I have more than one of these? If the answer is yes, and you don’t need more than one, then pick just one to stay and let the others go.
  • Do I need/like this? If the answer is remotely no, then let it go. Don’t be tempted to keep stuff that you might possibly use sometime! Chuck it!

I would suggest setting yourself a realistic timescale to complete each room. This can be tailored to your needs, depending on how well you are or how busy you are generally. A good guide is a week for a room. Cleaning as you go will make a difference, and developing a daily routine will have a knock on effect for the rest of your home!

Banishing the Mess Monsters forever!

Once the clutter is gone and things feel more under control, it’s all about a little bit every day. I adore the The Organised Mum Method because it provides an easy to follow routine with cleaning free weekends! Do head to her website, and check out her Instagram and Facebook page because she’s a star and the community is fabulous.

Getting the cleaning down is only half of it; during the tidying up phase you will have given away/chucked out lots of unnecessary stuff and you should hopefully have more space! The temptation can be to fill that space up immediately with more things but I would advise strongly against it – after all you already proved you don’t need so many things, so why start gathering again? Try applying the questions listed above to whenever you want to buy something – I guarantee that most of the time you’ll be able to leave it behind!

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Chemical Free Cleaning Kit 101

I’m going to write a more extensive post about how we make our own cleaning products at home in future, but for now I suggest you gather the following bits and bobs together to begin building your “clean cleaning kit”

I’ve linked the products I buy from Amazon if you’d like to check them out, but feel free to shop around and give me a shout if you find some better bargains! Before you start throwing out all your old cleaning products, I urge you to either a) use them up if you can and b) save the bottles and spray caps where possible. A shocking amount of plastic from cleaning products heads straight to landfill every year and it’s unavoidable! A good soak in hot soapy water and a thorough rinse means you’ve got a clean spray bottle for your homemade cleaning products that will last a long time – isn’t it better we use these plastics as much as possible before they have to go in the bin?

I hope that I’ve answered the question properly for anyone reading this who struggles with cleaning their home. Before I got sick I was a super housewife with immaculate skirting boards and carpet with hoover lines going one way – so it’s taken me a while to adjust to learning to clean slowly! Ultimately, your mental well-being and self worth is paramount in all of this; achieving something positive each and every day will help you no end, but should never become a stick to beat yourself with!

Do you struggle with your home? What tips and tricks have you found to cope? Please comment below and share your wisdom!

C is for Cupcakes!

Since I adopted a more plant-based lifestyle, I’ve had to go right back to basics with my baking. Believe me, there have been some absolute disasters, so bad even my sweet-toothed cat Fred wouldn’t bother with them! I’ve been hunting for the perfect vegan vanilla cupcakes recipe for ages – I got into baking years ago because of a huge love affair with the beautiful little treats – but the ones I made didn’t come out well. Heavy doughy bases, or grainy oily frosting; sometimes the cupcakes wouldn’t rise at all, sometimes they would explode but never cook off! Some of the recipes called for ridiculous ingredients that I had to scour the aisles of health food shops for, ingredients that cost a fortune and tasted vile. Would I ever eat an edible cupcake again?

After tinkering and tasting, mixing and measuring, plus a whole lot of muttering to myself and imploring the baking gods…… I struck gold! Or should I say light, fluffy yellow? The perfect Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe. A beautifully soft vanilla flavoured cupcake topped with rich – but not heavy – vanilla frosting, well risen and perfectly edible with no ridiculous ingredients and no hefty price tag. The Holy Grail of cupcakes, from which I can make most other flavours, has been found. And it’s so absurdly easy, even my kids could make them while staring at their phones and shouting at each other!

Ingredients & Method

For the cupcakes;

  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 240ml Plant Milk (I use oat milk for baking, but any is fine)
  • 100ml Sunflower Oil
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1tbsp White Vinegar (yep I know it’s weird, but go with it!)
  • 12 hole muffin tin, lined with paper/silicone cases

Preheat your oven to 180c and move your shelf to the middle. Place all your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and using a fork or a whisk, mix together thoroughly then set aside. In a separate bowl or jug mix together your plant milk, oil, vanilla extract and vinegar – you need to keep stirring it until it begins to thicken up, this is going to act as the “egg” in your cakes. Once thickened up, slowly and thoroughly whisk the wet mixture into the dry. Make sure you have no clumps of flour left – ain’t nobody got time for that! Quickly portion the batter into your prepared cases, pop in the oven and bake for about 15-20 mins (depends on your oven, mine either incinerates everything or leaves it raw) until well risen and slightly golden, and they pass the skewer test. Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes, then place on a cooling rack and leave to go completely cold.

For the frosting;

  • 570g Icing Sugar
  • 115g Dairy Free Margarine (I love Vitalite cos it’s cheap!)
  • 115g Vegetable Shortening (It’s like the vegan version of lard. I use TREX, but a lot of supermarkets do their own brand version)
  • 0.5tsp Vanilla Extract

Now it’s elbow grease time – unless you have an electric mixer like me – so roll up your sleeves and flex! In a large bowl, beat the margarine and vegetable shortening until it is soft and completely combined. Next; using a sieve, sift a quarter of your icing sugar into the bowl then thoroughly beat it in. Keep repeating this process, but add the vanilla extract with the last dose of icing sugar. Check the consistency – if it’s too runny you can add more sugar, if it’s too hard add a tiny splash of plant milk – making sure it’s firm but soft and fluffy. Nobody likes tough frosting! If you want to, you can add food colouring to jazz it up, or even lightly fold in some sprinkles. Whatever, go nuts…. oh nuts would work too haha!

If you have one/want to/know how to use a piping bag to decorate the tops of your cold cupcakes. They will have a hefty amount of frosting! Then finish off with any decorations you fancy – I used vegan salted caramel chunks for mine and they were AWESOME.

Think of all the possibilities…

Once I got this basic vanilla version down, my vegan cupcake game was on fire! You can mix it up, adding different flavourings and additions to make your cupcake dreams a reality. I’m currently fantasizing about an Oreo chocolate version with an actual Oreo baked in, and chunks of the biscuit through the topping That sounds blooming orgasmic to me!

Do let me know if you decide to make your own; I’d love to hear what you think, and what inspiring variations you manage to concoct! Cupcakes are LIFE.

And we’re off!

It’s the first day of April and the first day of my new look blog! Thank you so much for popping by; I’ve been working away on this whole re-branding of my site and trying to find my focus since the beginning of 2019, so as you can imagine this is a big deal for me. It’s taken a lot of time, energy, coffee and tantrums to make it this far – at time’s I thought I would never be able to say…. “And we’re off!”

An unlikely beginning.

The first time I thought about writing a lifestyle blog, I was standing in a field at 5am. My husband Eddie was suffering from really awful hay-fever and as a consequence, his usually loud snoring had become deafening and I hadn’t been able to sleep for a few days. So in my semi-delirious state I put my wellies on over my pajamas, popped some sharp scissors in my basket with some rubber gloves and set out to harvest Nettles for a tonic. Bending over a patch of stinging nettles with my green wellington boots, my bright yellow Marigolds and my hair sticking out everywhere, the idea of writing a lifestyle blog popped into my head!

Of course I laughed it off, labeling it as sleep deprived randomness as you do. I mean who would want to read about my life? Who would take tips and hints from me? I couldn’t write a lifestyle blog surely! And yet…. the idea wouldn’t go away, it took root and started to grow in my mind and before I knew it, I was buying a domain name and tapping away on my new-to-me laptop. If you’d like to know more about what I mean by “Alternative Lifestyle” then please do go check out the page about me.

The A to Z Challenge.

To get this party started (and hopefully teach myself a bit of blogging discipline) I decided to join in with this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge. I didn’t know before signing up but it’s the challenge’s tenth year, so it feels really exciting to be celebrating the beginning of my blog alongside such a significant milestone! The challenge is to share a post every day throughout April (excluding Sundays – a blogger needs a break too you know!) for each letter of the alphabet. So this is my post for the letter A! If you’d like to find other writers taking on the challenge, please check out #AtoZchallenge on Twitter and Instagram or like the A to Z page on Facebook

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post as much as I have, it feels great to finally be up and running! Do make sure to pop by tomorrow to see what I’ve come up with for the letter B…… I’ll give you a clue; it’s very hairy and has four lanky legs!

Before I go…..

If you have enjoyed this post (as well as those already available on the website) and would like to stay in touch, please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter. I won’t be bombarding you with hundreds of emails – in fact it will probably be just the odd one or two here and there – as I can get easily overloaded with vast quantities of mail in my Inbox (I have literally over 1000 unread emails just siting in there as I type this)!

If you have any burning questions, or subjects you would like me to waffle on about, please do comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks so much for reading, I will see you tomorrow!