Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The End of The Big Unit

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end. 

Actually, you weren't that beautiful Big Unit and you're certainly not my only friend. Cause that would be remarkably sad of me, and I'm sure there will be a medical name for people who personify and feel affectionate towards furniture.

Although you were an amazing gift of storage, you were an imposing, dark hulk. The Ikea Besta TV and Storage Unit overshadowing our living room with your large squareness and never looking tidy for longer than half a minute. You became the ultimate catch-all for clutter, your shelves being so far out of the reach of children. It was too easy to place things atop your tallness rather than seek out the proper, neat placement of items.

So we took you apart.

Each time we took a section away we had to wait until that piece was in its new location AND find a temporary home for all the mountains of stuff that was contained therein before we could take the next section away...

 But we persisted until there was naught but the little TV section in the middle left...

Aw, isn't it cute! This is the only section we got rid of - we just gave it away. The rest of the sections were used in other parts of the house. After all, good storage is as vital as breathing! Well, it is in our house where clutter seems to breed of its own accord. 

But look! When I painted the living room I didn't move the Big Unit, I simply painted around it. And when we took out the fireplace Scott just screwed a big piece of plywood across the hole. In fact, part of the reason why the Big Unit was so big was because we needed a unit that would cover that fireplace hole so we didn't have to sort it out properly. 

Alas, these things have to be dealt with eventually so we got a professional in to plaster it up for us. 

Yes, that is a patch of mismatched carpet where the hearth used to be, but thankfully the new unit covers that up. Also, Scott patched in the skirting board. 

I have an actual real office space now with an actual DESK and everything

So my beautiful friend the Big Unit is no more. Former office in a cupboard, ironing pile storage, crafting stash holder and clutter catch-all. Gone. And in its place...

Why it's an Ikea Besta TV and Storage Unit of course!! 

Wasted Space to Memo Place

I had this completely wasted space right at the end of the high kitchen units. I have always thought I could do with doing something with that area but never knew what exactly. The main thing was I didn't want to screw anything into the unit itself to spoil it, so many of my ideas fell flat.

Then while I was browsing Amazon I came across this stuff - Adhesive Chalkboard Wall Sticker. Ah-mazing! It's a blackboard sticker! And it doesn't leave a mark when you take it off. Genius!

I already had a chalkboard that I used for menu planning, but it was just stuck on a shelf and I was irritated with having to keep taking it down and putting it back and stuff. 

Anyhoo, I forgot to take a decent "before" photo, but here's one from a while ago where you can just about see the edge of the unit on the left.

And this is what I did with it.

The clipboards were also from Amazon here: A4 Brown Clipboards, and they were a bargain at £1.69 each when I got them. I mainly put those there to get rid of the paper clutter from our cooker hood. Because the cooker hood is the only visible magnetic surface in the kitchen it was getting overloaded in invitations, Lyric's school menu, leaflets, etc. I guessed it was a bit of a fire hazard too with it being directly above the hob... 

I used the super-awesome Command Hooks also from Amazon (no I am not an affiliate, but maybe I should be, lol!) They stick to surfaces without leaving a mark when you want to take them down. I use the little clear ones for all my Xmas decorating and these larger ones can hold up to 1.3kg apparently! 

Don't mind the bit of graffiti on there, it's just what HAS to be done to christen every writing surface. It sat there as a place holder until I did this week's menu plan. 

And the great thing is that because the double doors to the living room are glass we don't have to worry about not being able to see what is there.

Nope, there are no Friday meals planned! I got bored and figured I'll have to go shopping again for LooLoo's birthday shizzle, so I might as well save me the brain effort of planning Friday as well.

I hope you all have a fabulous New Years' Eve! I will be staying in with my Chicken Pox riddled kiddos, getting grumpy when the fireworks wake me up at midnight. Pretty similar to the last three New Years then! Ha ha! :)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Writing's On The Wall

Literally! I am a huge fan of wordy art, and I have finally managed to fill the hugely blank nothingness in our living room.

You might recall that our living room is loooong with big straight walls and for the longest time they were bare and pretty much as boring as you can get.

These are the before photos, but I have taken some after pictures so you can see the difference. Now our room looks lived in and has some of personality.

This section of wall is just next to our Big Unit, and it's also the first thing you look at when you come through the door.

I absolutely love this mustache picture, which I bought from Next in the sale. I think it's just the right amount of silly, and 'taches are still pretty 'in' here in the UK. (I actually typed 'on trend' there first and felt an utter berk, so I deleted it. Ha! Maybe I am more of a berk for telling you that though... I shouldn't have mentioned it. Please keep reading!).

The huge frame holds a collage of my Instagram photos. I absolutely LOVE the fact that there are photos of completely inane things on here, like cheese on toast and my menu plan alongside photos of the kids. It's like an eclectic mix of the every day, and makes me smile whenever I look at it. I actually put this together in Photoshop, but if I were to do it again I think I would try using the collage feature of Picasa instead.

I still think I need a lil something above the 'tache, right next to the Instagram collage, but I'm not sure what...

We installed two Ribba picture ledges from Ikea above the sofa. I love the idea of being able to change out the accessories and move the photos and frames about when the mood takes me. I have taken the glass out of the white frame on the top shelf though, and I have to remove the glass from any larger frames I have up here. I have a real fear of the frames falling down and injuring the kids. They have actually fallen off here before when I had them placed in portrait orientation, so now I also just have them landscape. I guess if you don't have kids bouncing along the sofa directly underneath all the time you can have them any way you like!!

This huge silver frame matches my Instagram one, but I have attached this to the wall properly. There's no way it would sit on the shelf! Both these large photos I had printed by a local company I just emailed them the image and they printed it the same day. They were only £8 each, which I thought was pretty reasonable.

I absolutely love how simple this was to do and how cute it is. I just typed it out in Photoshop and printed myself on white cardstock. I originally saw something like this in a brochure I got through the post. It might have been notonthehighstreet.com... Anyway, I loved the idea, but realised there was no point in paying for one when it's so easy to do myself!

I'm pretty bored with these three pictures now. They're just made from the matching wallpaper to the curtains I have. I'm stuck on ideas for what to have here instead though. I think I might wait until summer an take some nice new photos of the kiddos... I could even use Instagram images since the frames are square! Hmmm.... :)

No, I wasn't drunk when I took this photo, I was experimenting with a jaunty angle. Maybe not ay?!

I think I have already shown you my mirror, but I will show you again since I love it. And of course, it is on the wall in here, so it must be included in the tour. I found it at TK Maxx Homestyle and totally had to have it. I'd been looking for a suitable mirror for this space for absolutely ages and had almost given up hope of finding something a bit different.

I really must thin out the books on this shelf, I have far too many, but I read so quickly, they build up in no time. I have a carrier bag full in my wardrobe too, and I keep meaning to stick on eBay. Must put that down on my 1001 Things To Do list.

This plaque was from Achica. I love the sentiment here, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." I am terribly guilty sometimes of thinking too much about the future, so I look at this and I'm reminded that life is happening right now. Even days where the kids are mental, the weather is pants and I have stubbed my toe eleventy-billion times are days to be lived and enjoyed in whatever way I can. It's also there to remind me to relax if we ever encounter bad times again. Before we had our children we went through a pretty rough patch with losing two babies late in pregnancy and I remember feeling like life was literally on pause until the next time I could get pregnant in hopes to bring home a healthy baby next time. I don't ever want to feel like that again.

And last but by no means, least is my super-awesome book-on-the-wall. I have no idea what these types of pictures are called. They do have a name, but I don't remember it. Maybe it's "Spineless.. something or other" Stupid faulty memory! I think... think I got it from Achica. The silhouettes are obviously the ascent of man and the background is made up of the whole text from Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species." I am a classic ditherer and it took me so long to decide on whether to buy this, but I'm so glad I took the plunge and bought it. It's ah-mazing. I love love love it! :)

And that completes the tour of my living room artwork. Now the spaces are filled, but - as always - I don't feel like it's complete. Is anything in the home ever complete?!

How have you adorned your walls? Link me up in the comments so I can get to know your walls better too. :)

Thursday, 31 January 2013

How To Do Menu Planning

If I had to choose one single thing to recommend to someone struggling with organising their home life I would definitely choose menu planning. It's made the biggest difference to our family! Shopping trips are now quicker and easier - not to mention cheaper. There's no last-minute scramble to find something to cobble together for tea, and either my husband and I can cook without having to have the same old, "You decide!" "No, you decide!" arguments. It's all there in easy black and white! Plus, we almost never throw away food now. Meals are planned so that we use all the ingredients, even if it's over a few days. We even double cook things like chilli, bolognese, soups, and pasta, etc. to freeze and either send with the kids to nursery or use on a lazy day.

I promise you that if you decide to do weekly menu planning for your family it will be one of the best decisions you've made! Let me tell you about how I do it and then you can decide. :)

Okay, so I got myself an A5 hardback notebook, which I keep just for doing my menu planning. I figured that sometimes I struggle with deciding on what to eat this week, so if I keep all my previous menu plans in this book I will have weeks and weeks of inspiration to look back on! You could make yours cute if you wanted to. I might do... eventually...

So, I always use the right-hand page and begin by folding it in half. The left-hand column I use for the actual menu plan and the right-hand side is for my shopping list. You can't see it here, because I didn't happen to do it this week, but I use the back of last week's menu plan on the left-hand page to rough out the meals. I do this because I like to try to eat meals with fresh ingredients or those with a short shelf life at the beginning of the week. Then the end of the week is more for things out of the freezer or meals where the ingredients will last until the end of the week before being used. If I jot down my meal ideas on the left page as they pop into my head I can then decide which order they need to go in before committing them to days.

It helps if you use the contents of your fridge, freezer, and cupboards to help you plan. Before I was converted to the magic of the menu plan we used to try to pluck meal ideas out of the sky - usually at the last minute! It sounds obvious, but we never used to do it this way, so I'm guessing we weren't alone... Or maybe we were. Maybe no one else is as useless as we were!!

Anyway, I check the freezer for meat to use and the fridge for veg to use up, etc. Then I check the cupboards for and sauces and packets of rice and things. I do bulk buy now and again, especially on meat. There is probably a loads cheaper way to do it, but I haven't got the time to get up at the crack of dawn to go round all the separate shops n town so I just get the Tesco 4 meats for £12 every few weeks. If I see something on special offer I will buy it, but this is why it's good to check your cupboards when you're doing your meal planning. I used to buy things on special offer and then they would languish at the back of the cupboard for months until finally going out of date!

Once your meals have been allocated a day. Or your days have been allocated a meal. Whatever! Then you can use your menu plan to compile your shopping list. I look at each meal and check the cupboards to see if we have everything that's required to make it. All ingredients found lacking go on the list along with all the usual supermarket staples like milk, bread, fruit, etc. Also, because my better half knows where the shopping list will be, he can jot down anything he thinks of that he wants when it crosses his mind so it's on the list, ready.

I think this part is quite clever, even if I do say so myself - Then I use the fold I made in the page to tear the shopping list away, leaving the menu plan in the book. List can be taken shopping. Menu plans can be retained for future reference and inspiration.

Shopping with a shopping list helps to reduce your food bills considerably too. I used to go to Tesco, buy a trolley full of stuff and spend a fortune. Then when I looked closely there were barely enough things to make a couple of meals, never mind a week's worth! Taking a list - and more importantly - sticking to that list saves loads of money!

The list in the photo isn't long at all, but usually, I end up going over onto the back of the list. Just remember if you do that to write on the correct half of the page so you don't leave half your list behind. I've done that before!

When everything is finalised I get out my chalk and copy the menu plan onto the chalkboard. I could just leave it in the book, but I like that this is on show so it constantly reminds me that I need to take the meat out of the freezer, or that today's meal needs me to start prepping it early or whatever. If I don't have a constant visual reminder I just forget.

Sometimes I plan lunches as well as main meals and sometimes I don't bother. My husband works shifts so my board either has "Mornings" or "Afternoons" written at the top. We alternate when we have our family meal according to his working patterns so that he always eats the main meal with us. Sometimes it's at lunch time, sometimes it's at tea time. I also don't usually plan for the weekend - I'm just not that hardcore! :) Things are likely to change at a moment's notice on a weekend so I just don't bother. Keeps us free to eat out on a whim or whatever.

The kids are at nursery some days too, so with this and changing shift patterns doing a menu plan really helps you to think ahead and factor these things in without the panic or forgetting. I won't lie, it did take a bit of time to become a habit. I struggled with remembering to take the time to plan instead of just rushing out to the shop. But, the positives of doing it were so pronounced and immediate that it didn't take long for me to make the time and it soon became a habit.

Well, I hope that this has helped you to understand how great menu planning can be! Do you think you might try it? Do you already menu plan? What do you do differently?

Thanks for stopping by! :)

I have linked to...

Making The World Cuter
Nifty Thrifty Tuesday at Coastal Charm
BecolorfulThis Silly Girl's Life

Funky Junk's Sat Nite Special

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Toy Organisation / Playroom Love

Okay dokay, so I said I've been busy and I mean it! I have been none stop doing since the new year and it feels amazing! There are a ton of things I want to share with you, but I actually got to take some photos of the toy storage situation today before the kids wrecked it all again. :) It doesn't stay tidy for long!

This space is the toy room slash playroom. Usually, the kids drag out their toys to play in the living room, which is fine by me. I just think it's wonderful having a room where all their toys can be tidied and hidden away. I am certain this room will evolve as they grow up, but for now, it has everything they need.

There are some ah-mazing playrooms out there in the blogosphere and on Pinterest and I will admit I feel envious at how much space some people have in their homes to allocate to a play area. There are also some truly innovative and clever little design features, which I would love to incorporate somewhere, but my kids are a bit young yet I think, and we don't have room. 

Anyway, one of my invaluable Expedit shelving units lives in this playroom. It used to house all of my crafting gear, but that has since been relegated to the big unit in the living room. I cannot praise these ingeniously simple pieces of furniture enough! I just love them! The cubby holes are a great size for storing toys as they're wide enough to sit things on and big enough to store the kids' books - why are they sometimes so massive?! The Skubb boxes corral all of the bitty bits...
  • Cars and track
  • Larger cars and trucks
  • Figures
  • Baby dolls
  • Baby doll accessories
  • Food and crockery for play kitchen
  • Instruments
  • Miscellaneous

On top is where I stash the things I don't want emptying all over and jumbling up - jigsaws and games mainly. If they were within reach there would be a puzzle soup to sort out every day, several times a day. :: shudder ::

Oh, and my printer is on top there too. Nowhere else to put that thing!

That's the kid's guitar on the wall. It only has three strings, but the way they hammer it I am wary of adding any more right now! I found it in a charity shop for £5 so it was a real bargain! My husband's guitars used to reside here before they were usurped in favour of morekidsthings. Story of our lives eh! :)

Can I also just say that i LOVE this play kitchen from Ikea. I know, I know I am all about Ikea again, but it's just awesome! Sooooo many play kitchens are bright pink, which is not ideal if you have children of both genders (although my son does have a lot of pink in his life). And some are just gaudy and nasty looking. This is perfect! It's simple and more like the real thing, which is of course what kids want - to be just like mummy and daddy.

While I'm banging on about how I have organised the toys I'll show you the two baby Expedits in their rooms. My daughters are top and my sons are on the bottom. Couldn't be without them!

My daughter's room is actually a good size, so she has the space to keep additional things, like her dressing table and her dolls' house. My son's room is the third boxroom bedroom, so it's pretty small. Once he gets big enough we will get him some sort of cabin bed type of solution.

Last but not least, here's the toy box. It currently holds all the millions of teddies they have accumulated, but I am considering bringing it downstairs and using it to keep their dressing up clothes in. I'm undecided.

I hope you've enjoyed being nosy at my toy organising solutions. I have, as always, enjoyed sharing these ideas with you. I know these solutions are not as design-savvy or as clever as some of the things I have seen on the interwebz, but they work for us and they work well. At least for now anyway. You know how it is with organising - it's an ongoing process!

(You might have noticed you got a sneaky of dearest daughter's new bedroom. I've got a few finishing touches to do before I am ready to show you in yet, but I am excited! I love this room!)
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