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Container Gardening

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Garden on a Budget

You may remember that when we moved home last year, one of my concerns was how we could quickly and easily create an outdoor space that was as lovely as the garden we had gradually established in our old home. If I could have relocated that garden with me I would have done!

We did what we could with what we had last year, but a combination of busy schedules taking up most of our time and the need to wait until all the weeds had been killed off meant that we were limited in our choices. Aside from putting a few plants in pots, it remained very much a grey and blank concrete yard…

The garden is a blank canvas

I can’t actually describe just how much of an effect this has had on me. I grew up with a beautiful garden that my mum and dad maintained and developed throughout the years (their garden now contains a mini orchard as well as a veg plot and multiple borders and water features – it is like a little haven), so I really miss having a garden full of life the whole year through.

But, of course, we live in a rented home and as much as I’d love to develop the garden fully I do not want to invest huge amounts of time and money into something that we will likely leave again within the next 5 years. Which is why I am pleased to say that we have managed to create an almost complete transformation overnight with hardly any outlay at all, thanks to my dad’s experience and my bargain hunting at the garden centre. And I thought it might be helpful to share some of our tips with you, just in case you are feeling as overwhelmed as I was when looking at a blank back yard and wondering how to turn it into a beautiful garden space.

How to Turn a Back Yard into a Beautiful Garden on a budget

1. Ask your friends and family if they can help

I know that I am very lucky that my dad is so enthusiastic about gardening and brings over 30 years’ experience with him – not everybody has a father to supply them with enough bedding plants to fill a blank square of their garden! But the reality is that even if no-one in your family is a gardener, chances are someone you know is and they may well have spare plants they would be more than happy to give you. Last year a colleague of mine gave me a whole tray full of marigolds she had going spare, and this was someone I had only known for about a month at the time!

Alternative options may be to ask friends and family to buy you some bedding plants as a gift (housewarming, birthday, etc) instead of the usual token gifts we often receive but don’t actually need. You can pick up some lovely bedding plants at most supermarkets now, so they don’t even need to go out of their way to the garden centre to buy them, making it easy to swap that bar of chocolates for a pack of petunias!

Bedding Plants

The plants above were all grown by my dad from seed and so cost us nothing. We have sprinkled random seeds around the area too, in the hope that something may take. Some of the seeds came from our old garden, some we picked up in the bargain aisle over the years. Obviously the seeds will take much longer to appear, but having bedding plants put has completely changed the entire look of this area of our garden.

2. Scour the clearance section and budget stores

Did you know that most garden centres have a clearance section where they place plants (and other seasonal products) that are past their “best dates” or looking worse for wear? It’s just like the clearance section in a supermarket where items that are close to their expiry date or end of season get reduced drastically for a quick sale.

I love the clearance section and always head there before looking at anything else. Sometimes you have to hunt quite hard for it as it is often hidden away at the back of the store, but when you find it you’ll be happy that you looked. Over the years I have found some wonderful bargains here, from herbs that looked like there was no life left in them to trees in pots that just needed to go to a new home asap. Some of the things I have bought have not survived, but most of them have with a little bit of TLC, and it has been a great way to fill out our garden on a budget.

Clearance Section Bargain Buys Garden Plants Sweet Peas 25p

These came from the clearance section in a couple of places we visited lately – as you can see, the sweet peas were a mere 25p! I love sweet peas as they remind me of my childhood, but I have never had much luck with them in the past. How could I possibly pass up the chance to try again at that price? The most expensive of my bargain buys lately have been a marrow and garden pea plants, but both only cost £1 each, so again a total steal!

3. Think Outside The Box (which might include a box or two!)

Don’t think that just because you have a tiny back yard with no lawn and hardly any soil you cannot create a colour garden, because you can! We’ve been growing plants in pots ever since we moved into our very first flat together. In those days it was simply a trough on the windowsill, but it was still something that we had grown.

In every other move since we have grown vegetables in large boxes, because digging a vegetable patch in a rented garden is not necessarily the easiest of things to do. There are so many herbs and vegetables that will grow quite happily in containers, so long as the soil is both well watered and has good drainage. You don’t even have to go out and buy fancy pots, ours grow in old plastic storage boxes which we drilled holes into the bottom of.

Growing Vegetables in Pots

We’ve currently got courgettes, carrots, beetroot, spring onions, lettuce, and two types of radishes planted in the blue boxes and tomatoes growing in pots along the wall. We’ve had huge successes with this kind of vegetable growing in the past, especially the year I was pregnant with Little Man when we had a real bountiful harvest and I was picking tomatoes off the plant to nibble on throughout the day.

4. Use What You Already Have

This may sound like an obvious one, but actually it’s often easy to overlook what you already have. As I’ve already mentioned, old plastic boxes can make excellent planters for your garden, as can old buckets, and even large tin cans. They may not be the most beautiful objects, they will soon be filled with greenery of all sorts, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

You will also find that, over time, you begin to collect quite a selection of plant pots of varying sizes, as you plant things in different spaces. That small, black plant pot that housed the bargain garden peas? Why not fill it with compost and plant some herbs? Herbs are one of those things that grow so well in pots and are actually much easier to maintain in a smaller garden by keeping them in pots rather than in the ground where they can expand and take over in a short amount of time.

Container Gardening

We have lots of plant pots that we have amassed over the years, from our own buys and from family and friends passing them on to us. As such we now have a lovely little selection of patio pots containing a wide range of herbs, ornamental grasses, lavender, a rose, and even some strawberries. It is so lovely to look out of my kitchen window and see this area blooming so well.

5. Small Steps Make Big Changes!

Remember that gardens are always going to be a work in progress – there is always something more that you can do, so dream big and slowly but surely you will get there! Our last garden was just getting to the place where I wanted it to be after 5 years there, so I don’t expect our current garden to be exactly what I want it to be in just our second year. But with each small step we take it becomes a much more pleasant place to sit.

Tomatoes growing in pots

My current plans include gradually adding more and more top soil to the borders and patch of land underneath the vegetable boxes. We are taking this slowly in order to remain on a budget – yes, we could go and buy a load of top soil today but actually we have a family friend who has a surplus he can give us every now and again when he is in our area, so we are not going to turn down that offer. The beauty of growing vegetables in boxes this year means that we can continue to place more and more top soil under and around the boxes so that next year we can plant straight into the ground and use those boxes for even more plants further down the garden. Slowly, but surely, we will get there.

And I hope that you get there with your garden space too. Do tell me what you have growing where you live and how you make the most of the space you have. And if you want to follow along with our journey in more detail, follow me on instagram where I often share little updates on a day to day basis.


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Blackout Blind in Bedroom

Making a Rented House Feel Like Our Home

This past week I have finally found the time to sort through the many unpacked boxes (left from our move in the Spring!!) and our house is beginning to feel more like our home – just in time for Christmas. The biggest challenge, for me, has been personalising a rented house so that it works well for us as a family and reflects who we are. I think we’re finally getting there, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Our house is a typical period terrace (late Victorian/Edwardian I believe – I must ask my sister!) with two rooms downstairs plus a galley kitchen, then bedrooms and bathroom upstairs. We also have a third floor with another bedroom, which will become an office/guest room/play area/whatever we need it to be! So we have a fair bit of space to work with.

I’m not the most naturally tidy person (just ask my mum!) but I do like my house to have some kind of order, and so making the most of the space we have is really important to me. I find it a constant challenge to stop the spread of Little Man’s toys from taking over the entire house, but I can try and make sure other areas of our lives are kept in check…

Craft Supply Storage Idea

 

For instance, my craft supplies now live in the dining room – crochet yarn in baskets on the welsh dressed, papercraft in the cupboards beneath, and sewing supplies in a nearby cupboard with my jewellery making stuff on top. You don’t know how happy it makes me to know exactly where everything is for those rare moments I get to sit down and craft!

Dining Room

 

The dining room itself is often taken up by everyday household activities – clothes on the airer, piles of stuff on the table that need sorting, and bags dumped where they land when we come in cold and wet. It’s a transitional room and one which we are still working on, but sorting out the cupboards has really given me hope that one day we’ll get it right.

Kitchen Storage Solution

 

The kitchen is, again, a practical room which has been hard to personalise. But we are getting there. The fact that we have very limited storage space has actually been quite a blessing in disguise, as it has made us think rather than simply shoving things in cupboards. I love the hanging racks for our pots and pans, which would normally end up in the cupboard, and the plank of wood across the top of the fridge and freezer is the perfect spot for storing all our small kitchen appliances. It’s tidy and personal, in its own way.

Making The Tea Cupboard a Feature

But my favourite part of the kitchen has to be this little shelving unit that shows exactly what teas we have available at any time. Our friends all know just how many varieties we like to have, so it’s great to have them in easy reach and bringing a little bit of brightness to the wall, don’t you think?

Living Room Personalised Art

The final room downstairs is our living room. This is the place we spend the most time as a family, so it seems perfect to fill it with things that reflect us as a family. The painting on the wall was made by my friend Dawn as a wedding gift and takes pride of place (it’s the first thing you spot when entering the room). The silver frames on the adjoining wall have prints of each of the 8 pagan holidays in the Wheel of the Year…

Family Altar

We’ve also made a little “altar” in the alcove, one shelf for my and one shelf for TJ, to keep the things that we feel connected to at the present time. Little Man’s contribution to the room is, of course, his toys! It’s so nice to come home, flop on the sofa, and know this room is a real family space.

Romantic Rose Bedroom Theme

Upstairs things get even more personalised, without losing the practicality. Our bedroom is a really decent size, and we’ve managed to fill every space with storage of some kind. But we’ve also filled it with things that reflect our relationship… last year I chose a romantic rose theme for our bedroom and you can see that we’ve been slowly building on this idea with photos of loved ones dotted around and a feature rose on the wall. We’ve also opted for pink bedding, and a matching pink blackout blind.

Blackout Blind in Bedroom

A blackout blind is really important for us, as our neighbour tends to leave his kitchen light on all night long (how crazy is that?) and it shines out directly beneath our window. We chose this blind from Direct Blinds and it was so easy to fit as it comes ready cut to fit your window exactly and has a safety latch for the cord.

This is something I wish we’d had when we got Little Man’s blackout blind a couple of years ago, because my worries over him getting tangled in the cord made me snip it, which wasn’t the most practical thing to do!

Personalising a Small Bedroom

Little Man’s room is the epitome of making the most of space, as it is far smaller than his room in our old house. We’ve added a bookcase to his room to store the hundreds of books he already has, and opted for a chest of drawers rather than a wardrobe to avoid the feeling of crowding in such a small room. Like us, he has photos in his room and we plan to add many more as he loves looking at them and telling us who they are and what memories they show.

And that’s about it, for now. I still have to sort out the top floor, but once that is done we’ll be ready to decorate for Christmas. Isn’t it lovely to have a warm and cosy home to return to at the end of a winter’s day?

Thanks for virtually visiting our home, I’d love to know what you think. It would also be fun to hear about what you’ve done in your home to make it reflect who you are!

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Disclaimer: The pink blackout blind was provided by Direct Blinds in return for this post. However the style and content of the post are my own. I would happily recommend Direct Blinds, having used their service and being pleasantly surprised by the vast range of options, ease of selecting a made-to-measure blind and the speed with which it was delivered!

leftover Bolognese with spelt crackers

Meal Planning on a Budget – Our Essential List

Since my redundancy earlier in the year, I have been spending more time consciously thinking about the food we eat. Initially this was for budget reasons only, but it has had a really positive effect on our health as well. You see, by making all our meals from scratch and eating leftovers for lunch, we are avoiding grabbing easy snacks (often processed foods) and instead we’re eating a wider variety of vegetables.

But variety doesn’t have to come at an additional cost. If, like me, you have previously tried to stock up on healthy options only to have them sit in your fridge or cupboard well beyond their better days, please don’t give up. I’ve been pleasantly surprised of late just how budget friendly stocking my fridge full of fresh vegetables can be!

vegetable mixes for easy dishes

We’ve been avoiding meat, for budget and health purposes, but are still keeping fish in our diet. We’ve also been looking at cutting out wheat completely in meals we all eat (TJ and Little Man still have bread etc) and reducing our dairy intake significantly (this is a tough one as we do eat a lot of cheese in our house!) But even with the additional cost of dairy free milk and yoghurts and a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables, our weekly shop has still dropped a massive amount in recent weeks.

So how have we done it? Well, I keep my meal planning relatively loose by having a few recipe ideas in mind when I go shopping but enough flexibility to make the most of seasonal offers. And then I have my “Essentials List” which I know will help me make plenty of meals, even at short notice. This is what I would like to share with you today…

Our Essential List

  • Potatoes (for jackets and salads)
  • Carrots
  • Courgettes
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Corn
  • Mange Tout
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes (fresh and tinned)
  • Tinned Beans
  • Gravy and/or Stock
  • Mayonnaise
  • Tinned fish, such as Tuna
  • Smokedfish, such as Mackeral
  • Eggs

The above ingredients make a variety of meals and are flexible enough to mix and match throughout the week. So, for instance, I always grate a few carrots and a courgette as a base for meals like Bolognese or a hot pot…

grated carrot and courgette base for Bolognese, hot pots and cottage pie

I find it makes a lovely, thick base that can sometimes seem to be lacking from meat free meals. I can then add a variety of other vegetables to it, depending on what I have available.

At the moment this is often baby corn, mange tout or sugar snaps peas. Whilst these may seem less than a budget choice, they are in fact a good option for additions to dishes. I find a pack of baby corn will easily do two meals, and the bags of mange tout and sugar snap peas can last 3 or 4 meals.

Likewise, a punnet of mushrooms will be good for a couple of dinners, and broccoli can go on for 3 or 4 meals too. All of these, in varying combinations, can make up a Bolognese, cottage pie or hot pot dish. And lightly steamed, make a delicious salad for lunch.

Talking of salads, I choose to make a salad base from avocado a lot of the time, as I struggle to digest raw vegetables and lettuce. It is certainly a far cheaper option than wheat free bread! But sometime,  if we have leftovers from the night before I will eat those with some Ryvita. TJ is equally as happy to take leftovers to work too.

leftover Bolognese with spelt crackers

Many of these meals need a sauce or gravy, so we always keep tins of tomatoes and beans in the cupboard. In fact I ran out of carrots for my Bolognese base the other day and substituted with a tin of baked beans and it worked out fun, if a little sweet to my taste!

You can mix it up by making the same Bolognese twice, only having it with pasta one day and jacket potatoes the next. Or you might like to add some spices and make a chilli to go with your spuds. It really is quite easy to make a few simple dishes go a long way!

And they don’t all have to take a lot of preparation and cooking time. One of our favourite meals at the moment is smoked mackerel with new potatoes and vegetables. 20 mins for the veg to cook, 5 mins to serve, and you’re done. Likewise with jacket potatoes, stick in the oven, make up some tuna mayo, and voila, a simply but filling meal.

smoked mackerel dinner

I’m not the most confident or creative cook, but I have really been enjoying helping our budget go further whilst feeding my family healthy and nutritious meals. I still have a lot to explore, like the noodles in our cupboard (stir fry, perhaps?) and the polenta bought on a whim (still no idea on that front!) And then there is the quinoa we could use in place of rice with a chilli, or mixed with veg for a tasty warm salad lunch. And, of course, I have yet to venture into the realm of breakfasts and puddings, but it’s a good start!

I’m going to be blogging more about our individual favourite wheat-free, vegetarian and budget meals, but for now I just wanted to share how we’ve started on this journey and what we have learnt so far.

Tell me, do you have an essential shopping list or go to recipes?

Flowering Cherry

Moving Home: How Do You Relocate A Garden?

Moving is, apparently, one of the most stressful life events we can face. Along with changing jobs. So I guess it’s fair to say that there is a certain amount of stress in my life right now as I attempt to do both.

But it’s not just the “big” things that concern me, it’s the smaller things too. Like how on earth are we going to dig up and relocate some of the plants in our garden which we just cannot bear to leave behind?

You see, we have been in this house for over 4.5 years now, and in that time we have put a lot of time, energy and love into this garden. We have developed it and helped it flourish, and are happy to leave most of it for the next tenant to enjoy.

We’ve established a border where the grass simply did not grow well…

Evolution of Garden Border

 

And we’ve created a thriving herb garden from just a few original pots we brought with us…

Herb GardenWe’re leaving some really beautiful plants in this garden, and it’s a pleasure to do so because it makes the garden feel so alive in the summer!

Beautiful Blooms

But there are a few things that I am really, really hoping that we can take with us.

It doesn’t sound that difficult, does it, to move a few plants? And for the most part it won’t be. We can take some of the herbs in pots, and our strawberries are already in a big tub. I’m also assuming that the rhubarb (which was a wedding gift to us from a friend off his allotment) will also be reasonably simple to relocate.

But what about the trees?

We have three trees in our garden, all of which we have planted here.

Willow

There’s this beautiful willow, whose bare branches look just a elegant in the winter as they do in the summer when full of leaves. We rescued her from the back of a garden centre, looking worse for wear and like she may not survive. I love finding plants that need a little TLC and seeing them go on to bloom and grow, so I hate to think of leaving her here.

Flowering Cherry

Then there’s the flowering cherry. We planted this one when our neighbours cut down the gorgeous pear tree in their garden. It felt so bare with the overhanging branches gone, and so we decided to plant a new (much smaller) tree in its place.

This one we would leave behind quite happily, but there’s a part of me that thinks if we manage to relocate the other two trees then we may as well take this one too…

Unknown Tree

And then there’s this one. This is my baby.

I’m not even sure exactly what tree it is (my best guess is some kind of Plane?) You see, before we moved here we lived opposite an old village church, whose graveyard was filled with Yews, Holly and some of these trees. And one day, I found a tiny seedling growing right next to our front door.

I had to move it, there was no way it would have survived taking root so close to the house’s foundations. So I gently eased it out of the ground and placed it elsewhere in the garden. When we moved from there, I eased it out of the ground again and placed it in a pot. I had dreams of it being a tree that came with us to our “forever home” to grow with any children I might go on to have.

Well, it has certainly grown! It is now almost as tall as me, and I am a little concerned that its roots may be too deep for me to transport again.

So, what do you think? Have you ever relocated trees from one garden to another? Do you have any tips or advice for us? We’d really appreciate any thoughts you have!

 

Handmade pumpkins

Handmade Halloween Home

Halloween Kids Art

Halloween is a big thing here at The Patch. We just love this time of year, the autumn colours, the cooler weather (and snuggling up warm in the evenings) , and celebrations galore. Halloween is the first, quickly followed by Guy Fawkes, and then it’s not long before the run up to Christmas. We all need reasons to celebrate during these colder, darker months and there’s nothing we need more in our family right now than some cheer during the harsher season.

I know Halloween can be a bit of a tricky holiday for some, and I thought about explaining how we celebrate it, but in the end I decided I didn’t really want to do that. What I want to do is share with you the way we have made Halloween our own this year.

It’s the first year that Little Man has really been able to grasp the concept of celebrating and the changing of the seasons, so we have had fun doing autumn and Halloween crafts with him. We’ve done lots of art, hung on the wall (under our Wheel of the Year display) as directed by Little Man himself (hence the higgledy piggledy nature of the display!)

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We have also made pumpkins… there’s the decoupage pumpkin we did together (or rather mummy did most of because Little Man didn’t like being sticky!) And the crochet pumpkin I made.

Handmade pumpkins

And then there are the actual pumpkins… as we have been ill lately, I am rather behind in Halloween preparations and so we haven’t actually carved the pumpkins this year. I am still debating whether to carve them when Little Man gets home from nursery or whether to simply cook something with them for tea, to eat whilst answering the door to the multitude of Trick or Treaters we are bound to get.

And talking of Trick or Treaters, this year I have bought some non-food related treats to put in the bowl, as inspired by my US friend Jen and the Teal Pumpkin Project. The idea is that some kids can’t take part because they have allergies and cannot eat the things we hand out, so it’s nice to have a non-food alternative for these kids. As someone who struggles with food intolerances (not even allergies!) I knew it was something I wanted to try and incorporate. I’ll print out a sign for our door so people know we do have food-free treats (you can get these online).

I scoured the shops and found these ghost bottles of blowing bubbles so decided they would be fun. To bulk up the treat bags I have added some monster stickers and Halloween balloons. Here’s hoping no-one has a latex allergy, hey?!

Non Food Halloween Treat Bags Teal Pumpkin Project

I wasn’t sure how many to get, after all the novelty of bubbles after lots of sweets may be tempting even for kids who can eat the chocolates we bought, but I didn’t want to be left with loads of bubbles afterwards if no one took them. So this is definitely a trial run! Any that are left can still be used next year.

We decided on treat bags this year as it means we can make sure all the kids get a nice treat. The food ones all include a small treat-sized chocolate bar or bag of cookies, plus a smaller chewy sweet and either one sticker or one balloon. I had so much fun putting them together – I think I may have overdone it and so sent a dozen to work with TJ today too!

We usually go all out for Halloween decorations too, but most are cheap ones from the supermarket that do not last. This year we wanted to add some extra special bits, so aside from our own handmade items we bought something too…

Handmade Halloween wreath from Ashleigh's

It is hanging inside our door (to keep it safe), hence the very orange photo as our hallway doesn’t have any natural light!

I bought this from someone I know through the HG world who has set up her own handmade business. Ashleigh’s Wonderland is filled to the brim with the most gorgeous handmade Christmas decorations and I cannot recommend her work highly enough. She made a few Halloween items earlier this year and I had to buy one of her rag wreaths. Just look at it!

Halloween Wreath close up

Isn’t it marvellous? She has added some truly charming details to it, like Halloween shaped buttons above. I love the colour combinations too… and we have two felt decorations to match!

SAM_1402

They’ve all been sitting in a bag for weeks now waiting to come out and I am so excited to see them hanging in my hallway. It will last us for many, many years and it only cost £20 which is an absolute bargain when you consider the cost of materials and the time it must have taken to make. Seriously, do check out Ashleigh’s other work and see if anything takes your fancy.

Finally, I couldn’t end this post without letting you see Little Man’s make-up for today’s celebrations. He’s gone to nursery with two little pumpkins on his face (the theme was orange and black) as I didn’t have time to sort out a costume for him. Isn’t he cute?

Kids pumpkin face paint

And that’s it from me. A quick peek into our Handmade Halloween Home, I do hope you liked it. Tell me, do you decorate at Halloween?

For The Love Of Pottering

I never was one to enjoy pottering. I always had to have a project or two (or ten!) which I was working towards. Pottering just annoyed me because it took up time I so desperately needed for other things. Or so I thought…

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But suddenly, since having Little Man, I seem to be enjoying it far more.

I'm not sure what is behind this new love of mine.

Perhaps it is because I spent so many months during my pregnancy totally incapable of doing the most basic of things. Pottering was out of the question, and since that I have a whole new perspective for how lucky I am to just be able to get up, think of doing something, and then do it.

Or maybe it is because, as some friends of mine recently noted, when you have a baby everything seems to take so long that the instant gratification you get from pottering and getting little bits done here and there is so amazing. Plus, pottering takes you away from the humdrum of routine you get into with little ones!

And then there is the CBT I've been having. As my sessions progress, I am beginning to see the behaviours I had which were unhelpful and often unhealthy. My perfectionist trait and the need to value myself by what I achieved meant that pottering was a meaningless activity. But as I begin to question these core beliefs and work towards changing them, I am beginning to enjoy the simplicity of some things.

Like hanging out the laundry on a beautiful Spring day…

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(please excuse the sofa… we are waiting to either borrow a trailer or hack it to pieces to fit in our car so we can get it to the dump!)

I'm willing to bet that my newfound love of pottering comes from a mixture of all three of these changes that have occurred over the past year.

When I think back to this time last year and how I could barely get out of bed still, and sitting outside near the back door ready to rush to the toilet at any moment and counting down the hours until I could retreat back to bed, I cannot help but revel in the sheer simplicity of being outdoors.

And when I can take Little Man outside with me, it makes pottering so much more fun and easier to manage than a lot of things. And let's not forget, he doesn't mind if it isn't perfect, so why should I?

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So tell me, do you potter? And what do you love/hate so much about it?

Domestic Goddess? I’d rather just be me…

I’ve always had a slight dislike for the term “Domestic Goddess”. It seems to portray the image of someone who has everything in control, enough so that even if the unexpected guest is sprung upon her she will still have an immaculate house, filled with vases of fresh flowers and the scent of her latest culinary creation wafting through from the kitchen to welcome these guests no matter what time they arrive.

I guess it would be nice to be that way, but the very term “Goddess” makes me wonder whether, as a human, I’d ever be able to reach that level of being without a lot of stress and strain along the way. Maybe some of us, like Margot Leadbetter, are just naturally suited to that way of life and pull it off, even if it does involve several repetitions of, “Well, Thank you very much, Jerry” along the way.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I always thought I would make a much better Barbara than a Margot, rather more interested in having a life I enjoyed than one which was focussed on my reputation as a “Domestic Goddess” of any kind. And yet, the more I think about it, I realise that I am neither one nor the other.

I always wanted a nice house and a beautiful garden and the ability to whip up something tasty for any visitors that might arrive without fretting that I hadn’t tidied the living room or cleaned the toilet in a few days. But I never really had the incentive. There always seemed to be something more important for me to do.

First it was studying and trying to figure out what on earth I would do when I graduated. Then it was working full-time. When I worked in childcare I spent so much of my day cleaning and tidying that it was the last thing I wanted to do when I came home. And when I moved on to another job a combination of increasingly poor health and a challenging commute zapped me of the energy to do anything more than slump in front of the tv once I got home.

When I left that job and stayed home my time was taken up with moving house, planning our wedding, and then looking for a new job before falling pregnant and being hit by the worst sickness I have ever experienced.

And yet, when I look back, I realise that these were just excuses. Yes, I was busy (or ill), but I could still have done more around the house. And sometimes I did. I often rearranged bookshelves and kitchen cupboards. I had many ideas for craft projects to make our house more of a home which reflected us as a couple. But no sooner had the domestic bug bitten me than I would find some other thing to worry about and I ended up expending my time and energy on something I deemed “more worthwhile”.

It is only recently, during my initial sessions in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, that I have come to realise why. It all comes down to my incredibly low self-esteem and my need to “prove” myself somehow. My therapist has helped me to realise that whenever I feel anxious or guity about something I fall into a habit of trying to reach ridiculously high expectations to “prove myself”. And as these expectations just keep getting higher, I always feel like I fall short.

I’ve always been a high achiever. And for so many years my life revolved around achieving the best marks possible and later ensuring that I went above and beyond my designated duties at work. Even when I had the odd occasion when I realised my own health and sanity was more important than the results I achieved in work, my old ways would be reinforced by someone or something. Whether that was a tutor telling me I as capable of more or a personal issue such as needing to provide financially for my family, I would always fall back into the pattern of trying to reach an almost unattainable goal.

And I guess that was why I never really tried with the domestic side of things. It was one more pressure I didn’t want. And one thing that it seemed ok to fail in. I still felt guilty about it. But it seemed less important than everything else.

Just recently I have been telling TJ how much I want to be more domestic and enjoy my time at home with Little Man. I always dreamed of being a mother and as it is looking like Little Man will be our only child, this time is going to be much shorter than I ever imagined. There are only a few years he will be this young and dependent on me and I want to do the best I can for him.

But more than that, I want to simply enjoy being at home. I want to relish in the sheer pleasure of running my home in a more organised way, of filling it with pleasant things. And yet I feel unable to do this. I am so used to “proving myself” that whenever there is a question of finances I worry I should be doing more to bring in an income. And whenever the house is a mess I feel like I’ve failed.

It is something I need to work on. I have given off an impression of needing to qualify myself through work and achievements so well that it seems natural to do that. I’m not saying I will not continue with projects like my writing, this blog and the book on HG, because they are hugely important to me. But it does mean I want to work on these feelings of guilt and building up my confidence enough to say “this is who I am” and “this is how I live my life”.

I need to stop striving for “perfection” and that means avoiding such terminology as “Domestic Goddess”. I want a nice home and I want to be more of a Homemaker, but I can do without the pressure of Goddess-like tendencies!

This past week I have truly enjoyed putting books in the loft, rearranging my bookcases, scrubbing the bathroom, and totally revamping the kitchen cupboards. I plan on sharing some of these things with you on the blog. Some of them may seem totally inane to some of you, but I am tired of trying to find “important” things to blog about and want to just be me.

I do hope you’ll join me in this and have fun finding out more about our everyday life. It’s a pleasure to share it with you.

 

Woodland Nursery

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As time moves on and we get closer and closer to the arrival of our baby, my thoughts have become increasingly connected to preparing the house for bringing him home. I spent a lot of time over the weekend rearranging the bookcases, and (as you will find out tomorrow) have made a start on clearing the room that will be his as it currently acts as a storage space for my craft supplies.

I love adding bits and pieces to our house to make it more representative of who we are, and I wanted to create a nursery theme that did the same. I have no doubt that our son will have his own strong ideas about how he wants his room decorating when he is older, but I wanted to give him a fun and inspiring room to begin his life with us.

And so, knowing how much we love being out in nature and how much we wish to share this love with our child, I thought we could create a woodland themed nursery for him. I want the space to be fun, bright and interactive, whilst retaining an air of magic about it. So I looked online for inspiration, and found some of the cutest things which are all completely out of my budget but great for getting my own imagination going…


We’re a little limited in what we can add to the room as we currently rent it and getting permission to paint his room seems like far too much hassle when I think about how much paperwork we had to deal with when moving in and how hard it is to have to go through the letting agent to get an answer from the landlord. So, as the room is a neutral cream colour, we are hoping to add splashes of brightness through accessories and pictures.

I came up with the idea of creating a “woodland alphabet” whereby for each letter there is an A5 sized watercolour painting of something that we might find in our woodland wanderings that began with that letter. So A for acorn, B for bird, C for caterpillar etc. Some of the letters have several things we could include in the picture and so we will try and incorporate them all. My mum has been set the task of trying to pull the ideas together and I hope we can work on them as a team to provide a beautiful alphabet for the nursery.

Once the paintings are done, I plan on buying 26 plain wooden frames and painting them in a variety of greens, yellow and brown to bring the colours of the woodland onto the walls. My hope is that as he grows Oscar can move around the room and look at these pictures, and start associating them with what he sees when we are out and about in nature.

Some letters we are struggling with, like X and Z, and W and Y are quite tricky too as although we could use specifics like a Yew tree and a Woodpecker, I’m not sure if being that specific is going to confuse him when he is still trying to learn the words for “tree” and “bird”.

I’m also on the lookout for woodland inspired bedding for his cot, but am yet to find one that fits the idea I have. If all else fails, I may buy a plain white or green set and applique a design onto it. It is very exciting to think about and I am itching to get started on it, but still have to clear his room before I can do much more on it.

I’m sure his nursery will come together beautifully in time and I do so hope he will enjoy sleeping there once he is old enough to move from our room to his. How exciting to think of him growing up and learning all the different words in his alphabet. I cannot wait!