Upcycling

One of the things that moving has made me realise is that there are some things that I am good at (or at least good at having a go at) like gardening, scrapbooking and knitting and some things that I would love to be good at but I never seem to be able to get into.  One of these latter things is upcycling. To give something a new lease of life, to preserve the vintage but update it with a personal or modern twist.

The reason I realised this is because in the process of packing and unpacking I came face to face with some items of furniture that I had grand plans for that never even began to materialise. Among these is a G Plan gate leg table and chairs;  the table is ok but the chairs desperately need recovering and I haven’t even chosen any fabric.  There is also a very sweet folding bookcase with peeling paint that the kids use that I was going to paint and personalise for them. Added in to these is a lovely Ercol sofa just passed on from my parents that could also do with a bit of TLC. And I’m sure there’s even more that I can’t (or am embarrassed to) recall.

Luckily,  I have a lovely, very talented friend whose brain I can pick over all things related. Lynne (and her husband Pete) recently opened up Pepperwhite Vintage which can be found at 14 North Street in Exeter.  As well as selling specialist Authentico chalk paint and lots of beautiful things for your home she also runs regular chalkpaint workshops. Lynne is an absolute font of knowledge and incredibly friendly, if you’re stuck with a project, would like to get into upcycling or need some advice on paint techniques I’d encourage you to pop into the shop for a chat. She’s always happy to help and I bet you’ll come away inspired and enthusiastic to take what you’ve learnt home.

I’m looking forward to going in to browse and hopefully come up with an action plan for the kids bookcase and chairs. I love the idea of making old things look nice rather than buying new so think I have found my go to place and person for advice and information!

My lovely landlady is also incredibly keen and talented at turning junk into treasure. She is a regular visitor to Tiverton tip and always seems to be effortlessly transforming items other people have chucked into useable and lovely pieces.

With these amazing women around I’m determined to get my head around upcycling and give some of the forlorn items in my house a new lease of life. Watch this space to see how I get on…

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Growing Plans

Happy Mothers Day to all the Mum’s out there reading this. I hope you’ve all had a most lovely day. You definitely deserve a day to have your relentless hard work and unstoppable flow of unconditional love acknowledged, I really hope it has been.

I’ve had what can only be described as an idyllic day. After being brought breakfast in bed, a lovely handmade card and a most thoughtful present we proceeded to church before spending the afternoon pottering in the garden enjoying the gorgeous sunny spring day.
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This was particularly well timed as I’ve been meaning to write about our new garden for a while. I still can’t quite get over how blessed I feel to have such an amazing outside space and to have a knowledgeable, friendly and thoroughly lovely landlady happy to share advice and seedlings alike.

We are waiting on a delivery of 7 tonnes(!) of manure this coming weekend so haven’t been able to do lots but have been getting things ready in preparation. We planted our onions and garlic in one of the raised beds last week, have taken advantage of Aldi’s cheap fruit bushes and planted three blackcurrant bushes, tidied up our flower bed, got copious amounts of potatoes chitting and are cultivating an indoor greenhouse with the amount of seeds planted and seedlings growing.

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If you look carefully in the last picture you’ll spot the owl nesting box on the side of the house which has caused Sophia huge amounts of joy and excitement. Just before we moved we had a book out of the library on barn owls which had a section on nesting boxes. Sophia was enamoured and I promised to ask our landlady about putting one up so I was very pleased to discover there was already one here. Unfortunately, no owls have used it yet (though alarmingly hornets have a few times and had to be destroyed) but here’s hoping one will soon.

In fact we’re surrounded by a veritable abundance of animals here which the kids are loving. There are bats that visit the roof that we’ve yet to see, pheasants that regularly strut in the fields, goldfish and koi in the ponds, our landlady’s cats that often nose round and of course, the beloved chickens that we end up visiting several times a day and are the reason both of my children have stopped eating their crusts! We’re planning on rescuing some of our own soon at which point I think Isaac will either explode with happiness or just move in with them.

Anyway, I digress. Growing things is where I was slowly going. A friend of mine has dedicated her growing this year to that which is expensive to buy or hard to source. I however had no real plan but now wish I had! We’re growing tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, blackcurrants, squash (hopefully!), cucumbers and sweetcorn which I guess fall into the pricey category usually so I’m happy with that. We’ve got potatoes going in soon which is great because I do love growing potatoes but we dedicated a whole bed to onions and garlic which I’m slightly regretting. They’re both so cheap to buy, even in farm shops, that I suspect I should have put the bed to better use. But this is only my fourth year of growing and I’ve still lots to learn so I’ll know to be more considered in my growing plans next year.

Nonetheless, I’m loving spending so much time outdoors and the kids are very enthusiastic budding gardeners which is lovely to watch. What are you growing in your garden or at the plot? I’d love to hear!

World Doula Week

There are several posts I’ve been meaning to write for the last week or so but didn’t manage any due to a particularly nasty virus that kept the little ones poorly and me very sleep deprived. As I pondered which one to write first this morning it seemed only right to finally write about my doula course as I’m currently immersed in the post course module AND it’s world doula week!

I’ve just finished a reflective piece about how the course impacted me and I thought rather than rehash it for the purposes of this post, I might as well just share it as I think it’ll give you the best feel of how I found the course and where I am on my journey now I’m on the other side and about to register with Doula UK as a mentored doula. 

 

Taking part in the Nurturing Birth Doula training course was nothing short of an amazing experience. I found it incredibly eye opening and challenging whilst simultaneously empowering and just downright enjoyable to be able to spend some time fully engaged in something I feel passionate about without small people interrupting!

The biggest challenge for me personally was realising that the ‘ideal’ birth isn’t a home water birth surrounded by candles and gentle music but that that ‘ideal’ will change depending on every mother to be. Although on the surface I already knew this, it was really reinforced by the course. The right birth is different for every woman and the most important thing is that a mother is able to make informed choices and be in charge of her own birth. This seems really obvious in retrospect but I think I approached the course with a large bias towards the natural birth movement. Although there is nothing wrong with this in itself, I realised that the clients I encounter may have other ideas about what they want from their birth and my job isn’t to try and change their minds but support them in their choices.

This leads on to another realisation and change in belief that I had; that being or having a doula is much more mainstream than I previously thought. After being teased for being the hippy I realised that doula’s are not restricted to the organic eating, home educating, lotus birthing crowd but that they are and should be available to any mother. This was really refreshing and made me really excited to think that having a doula is something available to all and not just a select few.

I felt challenged to focus on my listening skills and when we spoke about being silent as a doula although the concept of silence was slightly foreign(!), it was reassuring to remember that actually, it will often be our physical presence that a client needs rather than any number of things we can say or do. It also took me back to my peer support course in remembering that we are not there to give advice but to provide information where wanted and above all, to offer support. Similarly, I felt encouraged that I don’t need to have a draw or to offer a list of services (homeopathy, massage..etc) in order to attract clients. I had felt slightly unconfident in my ‘credentials’ but now feel completely well equipped to be able to work as a doula and to support women through the most exciting and potentially turbulent time in their lives.

Finally, the course made me realise that my feelings of slight disappointment at Sophia’s birth are valid, I’d felt that I shouldn’t feel any negativity towards it as it was a natural birth but now I feel that I wasn’t as informed as I should or could have been and it’s ok to view it with a mixture of good and bad feelings. I don’t view my experiences of breastfeeding any differently but it did reinforce my realisation that I should have been humble enough to seek out support when things weren’t ‘right’ with Isaac’s feeding. I no longer feel guilty about his missed tongue tie but have put those feelings to rest as something that is done and cannot be changed.

To conclude, the course was brilliant in throwing out my preconceptions of who might hire a doula or what they might want from a doula and in reinforcing that above all, our role is to provide unconditional emotional and practical support through a woman’s pregnancy and birth in whatever form they need it. 

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The right headspace

After spending an amazing three days on the nurturing birth doula course (more about that in another post) I’ve been struggling to get back into the swing of things.

I’ve feverish little people to tend to (priority numero uno!), a post course module to complete (and start…), a garden to plan,  a month of space themed activities at our home ed group looming, shifts at the pub, knitting projects, a scrapbook to get stuck into and alongside all this normal housework and the job of being Mum.

Yesterday morning I was feeling stroppy and overwhelmed so I got out my running shoes and escaped for 45 minutes of exploring the glorious countryside around me. I came back with a fresh perspective and feeling more relaxed about what I had to face.

I realised two things. Firstly that for better or worse, my mood often seems to dictate the prevailing mood in our home. If I’m foul tempered and stomping around it seems to rub off on everyone else and before long we’re all festering in grumpiness. Maybe it’s because I’m the loudest or maybe it’s because my presence is a constant but the children really are my mirror!

And secondly,  I realised that worrying wasn’t going to mean that things got done any more quickly.  I realised that anything important would get done as and when it needed to and anything else probably wasn’t such a big deal anyway.

Everyone has seasons in life when they have more on than they’d really like, one too many balls up in the air, an extra plate to keep spinning. Some of it might come down to practical restrictions,  not enough hours in the day,  some of it might be emotionally crippling. But from my (albeit limited) experience I reckon the key to surviving these seasons is all in where your head is at, what attitude you have. Negativity breeds more but when you smile the world smiles with you.

So that’s why although I’ve been pinned to the sofa by poorly small folk needing hugs all weekend instead of being out enjoying the sunshine or getting on with my ever growing to do list I’m choosing to embrace the cuddles and my role as nurse for as long as they need me.

(A big thank you to my amazing friend Jo for the inspiration for this post, she always knows the right thing to say to me.)

A bit of a fail…

Really this post shouldn’t be written until Easter but I have very little patience so went ahead now, a mere 7 days into lent. 

My phone-free lent has been a complete failure. It started well enough on wednesday,  I turned mobile data and the WiFi off and was distracted by a gorgeous day on the beach so didn’t really miss it. I did however spend a few hours that evening on Dan’s laptop catching up on emails, checking our bank account and sorting out travel arrangements for our trip to Brighton (and I can’t lie, a bit of facebook checking).

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However as the traffic slowed on our way to Chertsey on Thursday morning I realised we were going to miss our train to Brighton and had no idea of what time the next was and what connections there were. Cue loading up my trainline app…strike one.

The next day I needed to check our bank balance to see if some money had come in but were away without the laptop so found myself opening up my natwest app…strike two.

Over the weekend I realised I needed to check my email to get the address of where my doula course was happening (and also realised I was going to have to use Waze, the sat nav app to help me get there)…strike three.

And so it went on. For better or worse, so much of my daily life is reliant on using my phone for information and contact and cutting it out for most of the day was both inconvenient and more time consuming than quickly checking something then putting my phone down.

I realised that facebook and reading non essential articles are my downfall so I am going to make a concerted effort to save looking at those until the kids are in bed but continue to use my phone as truly needed throughout the day.

There are several articles trending at the moment around this subject but the two that have stuck out for me are this one from Time about the negative impact on the parent-child relationship from parents excessively using smartphones around their children and this one about a guy recognising his unhealthy attachment to his iPhone who is making a concerted effort to reduce it to being an accessory in his life and no more, something to be used when needed but not at the expense of real life relationships and situations.

Both of them hit home with me and I realised I was being a bit ‘all or nothing’ in my approach. Technology when used appropriately and not excessively is great and there isn’t anything wrong with using it to help us in our day to day lives. But overusing it to the extent that your relationships are suffering is obviously not a desirable situation. I was leaning towards the latter so I am going to focus my efforts on ‘in moderation’ rather than total prohibition. I’ll let you know how I get on!
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(Couldn’t have taken this picture without my smartphone but immediate publishing not necessary. Now once I’ve got my snap, phone goes away!)

The view from our front door

In the last four years we have opened our front door to five different landscapes but I’m rather hoping we’ll stick with our new one for a fair few years before moving on again.

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Idyllic,  no?

Granted we can’t actually (safely) walk anywhere from it because it’s so rural but jump in a car and we can be in the local village within a minute or two and Exeter in fifteen. I’m feeling like we really have managed to get the best of both worlds with the house here, quiet and secluded with lots of space to grow and play outside but with friends and groups and ‘amenities’ near enough.

We moved on saturday and with the help of my lovely parents it was an incredibly smooth move, we had everything in by 4pm and now, three days later everything is unpacked bar one box.

The great thing about renting is that if living in the sticks doesn’t work out we can meekly return to suburbia without losing out on much. But my gut says that won’t be the case.

Waking up and opening the curtains to see nothing but rolling hills is something I can’t imagine tiring of. Today we spent the morning pottering in the garden,  saying hello to the chickens, planting some seeds, spotting the rather shy fish, exploring the stream,  saying hello to the chickens (again!) and generally just enjoying being together in our peaceful surroundings. 

After getting back from Sophia’s violin lesson last night, darkness had crept in and upon parking we opened the door to the most amazing sky full of unbelievably brilliant stars which made me stop and catch my breath. I’m almost pinching myself about the whole thing, it feels like a dream come true or that there’s some awful catch that no one has told us about yet!

So from terraced house in a big city, a temporary gorgeous view over Chichester harbour,  a couple of years in the boat parking lot that is Brighton Marina, a year on the quaint but busy Topsham high street to finally, hopefully many years of rolling countryside as far as the eye can see. If you’re in the area, pop in and join us for a cuppa!