Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Make Your Own Herbal Tea Gift Set

make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Honestly since getting a garden after so long I feel I have fooled myself into thinking I have a small holding and should be wandering around outside with a ukulele wearing only the most floaty floral Anthropologie dresses. The truth is the garden is small to medium but being rural and having a home surrounded by hills, sheep and neighbours with chickens I have allowed my mind to play tricks on me. That being said you don't really need a whole lot of garden to grow food and herbs. In fact over the past few years a number of books and blogs have been dedicated to growing in small spaces. Container gardening is big news and balconies in busy cites are becoming greener as this trend gains momentum. Herbs especially lend themselves to being grown in pots as so many of them can be invasive.
make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I have not talked about this pregnancy a lot online, this is mostly as it has not been great. For the first 6 months or so it was touch and go that the pregnancy would survive and despite talking openly about my miscarriages it was too hard to do it whilst half of me was pretending I was not pregnant and the other half was trying to keep positive for my small boy and husband. I have been in pretty bad shape physically. My neighbour Aine decided to become a super hero and was dropping soup, gifts of bread and walking the dog for me despite being super busy herself. So in retaliation I decided to embrace my inner small holding self and create a gift for her to say thank you for the support that arrived just as I was at breaking point.
make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Tea is one of my passions, both drinking and mixing so this was such a pleasure to create. It also reminded me of the act that I can draw, it is so easy to forget what skills you have when you don't have the time to fully realise them. I have been reminded that I want to spend more time just drawing and painting again, I think it will be good for the soul. 
make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
you will need;

a box
a collection of seeds
paper
paint
a sharpie 
teabag papers
small envelopes
a black pen 
make your own herbal tea gift set http://www.archieandtherug.com/
method;
  1. First of all lets talk about seed selection. If you are not up on your herbs there are so many sites on the internet that will talk about herbs and what the benefits of each are, you can also find information on what part of the herb is used to make the tea and how to prepare it. I also made suggestions of what they could be blended with. That part is easy just think about the flavours. Here is a list of the herbs I included; Fennel, Chamomile, Thyme, liquorice, Lemongrass, Oregano, Rosemary, Chicory & Mint.
  2. I found images of each plant online to use a reference to sketch from and wrote some information and advice on each 'plant card'. If you really cannot draw you can find a royalty free images to use instead or take pictures at a local garden centre on your phone.
  3. I found some small envelopes in a local stationers to place the seeds in, remember to label them. When I was little they were known as dinner money envelopes. You took your money to the teacher each week in order to get hot meals, is that still a thing? Was it just a UK thing? 
  4. I ordered some teabags online that you can fill yourself and packaged everything together in a box. In fact the box I had was covered in advertising so I painted the lid white and drew on it with a sharpie. You can decorate it however you decide, decoupage could be a cute option. 
It is such a great little gift to pull together and you should pull together two one for you and one for a friend. Feel free to message me with any herbal enquiries.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

How To Style A Mantle

How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
So I have finally reached the fun part of completing a room design.....the styling! The styling brings with it a whole host of decisions and in my case headaches! I have spent the last couple of decades traveling, collecting things and living in small houses so many of those things have been in storage whilst it has been fun to get them out and find them a home in my home I have realised there are huge gaps in what is needed to create a killer design. For me it is really hard to move forward on this as want my home to be a reflection of our lives simply filled with personal items. One thing I have learned to recognise is that not everything has to have a story attached to it. In fact if I can buy a few select items that really make the others pop I am doing a good thing.

Any room you design should have a collection of vignettes, in the lounge the main focal point is fireplace so the styling on the mantle has to be on point or the whole room will be thrown out of balance if you get it wrong - no pressure guys. Knowing this has sent me into a blind panic so I have decided to hit research mode and share my findings with you. Let me talk you through what I like in each of the examples below and why.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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I was initially drawn to this as this lounge has dark blue walls, like mine, but when I looked at the styling there were other elements I really loved. In particular the large display of green plant life. I mean if you are making a statement just make it, this toe in the water attitude to design really grinds my gears. I think the scale of the mirror adds real grandeur without the mirror itself being ostentatious in design. I also loved the balance to a relatively neutral pallet that the bright yellow statue brings to the design.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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Despite this being quite a stark colour pallet there is a lot of interest still going on. The sculptural pieces, the layered artwork. The very dark horse works a stark contrast against the white backdrop and makes the composition pop. I especially like that the flowers they used as the living element of the mantle design also have a sculptural quality. The overall design is quite minimal in its design and colour base so these flowers (which I think are aubretia) work well to compliment that, no bushy meadow bouquets here, and the small orange colour pops stop the whole thing being too bland.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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This mantle has a lot more colour in which is far more up my street and is clearly above a working fire. I love that they have gone for a very commanding piece of art but balanced it well by offering the eye something else to look at. A small collection of bottles are a cute addition and they can be changed up by displaying different flowers or greenery in them. The mantle is a great place to show off a micro collection. Not everyone has 100 of something but a fair few of us have 3/4 of something. The books are a great way to add a bit of your own personality to a vignette.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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By this point it is clear that I am drawn to layered artwork. Again the books are added with the addition of very cute book ends. The skull hung on the wall adds real interest and hanging it on the wall adds height to an otherwise low lying composition.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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This is a really crisp design and shows that even with a minimal look you can still create interest. By making the layered art various sizes and altering the orientation it still adds interest regardless or the neutral colour pallet of the pieces.  The simple shape of the black lamp works as a great sculptural piece. The plant softens the composure by adding life, literally and a much needed shot of colour.
How To Style A Mantle http://www.archieandtherug.com/ styling and interior design advice
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I have saved my favourite one until last. This mantle is from the styling powerhouse that is Emily Henderson. The reason I love this one is that it is styled yes but it looks less contrived than other mantles I have seen. I love the amount of colour in the artwork and the colour continues in the stunning arrows and the warm metals. It combines colour, layering, personal books and quirkiness from the tiny wooden shoe and has a collection to boot the only thing missing for me is some plant life.

So what have I learned from this?
  • Add some colour
  • Add personality 
  • Add plant life 
  • Add collections 
  • Vary the heights and orientation of the pieces of art you choose 
  • And layering is key - it will bring depth to your mantle
Aesthetics are a very personal thing so work with the rules to best suit your taste just like the examples I have shown you. If colour is your thing, go for it. If you are not really into plants and flowers, skip them but replace that lost element with something that adds a more organic shape and breaks up the harsh lines. As for my mantle it is a work in progress I am still playing around with it but I have a good picture in my minds eye of where it will end up. That is the fun thing about your home is that it is never really 'done' it grows with you, you can build on an idea and pull others back. Happy styling!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

10 Things EVERY Home Should Have - Regardless Of Your Style

10 things every home should have interior design tips advice
It does not matter if you are a new bohemian, minimalist, retro/vintage lover, traditionalist, boho glam or yet to define your interior style there are a few things that your home should have regardless of your taste. 
1. House Plants

I am not sure how we all stopped filling our house with plant life, perhaps it was an era of  loving the industrial and going out all the time but since staying in is the new going out and we are all nesting again plants are back. I for one never stopped despite the fact that my fingers are not the greenest in town. If you are like me and a taking plants home from the garden centre is akin to committing genocide take a look at these two posts where I recommend sturdy plants that are hard to kill, HERE & HERE. Although faux botanicals are superb these days and are great for those dark spots, I myself am an advocate you also need plenty of the real deal in your home and here is why. Plants clean the air in your home, the environment in our homes gets polluted too, especially as we find new ways to insulate our homes and stop the flow of air and shy away from opening windows in the winter. 
House plants can also help control the humidity levels in your home. There are also studies that show they improve your mental well being and reduce stress levels. It might sound odd that putting something in your home that needs regular care reduces your level of stress but we are constantly on the go and with mobile technology we are at work all the time. Slowing down and watering your plants allows your body and mind to slow down and switch off.
2. Lamps/Mood Lighting 

I have no idea if the joke about putting 'the big light on' translates out of the north of England but I hope it does. The lighting in your room design is so often an after thought, a rushed decision in a DIY store at the last minute to get the room finished. That is the wrong way to think about lighting. You know when you go to a great spa or hotel or restaurant or store and the lighting is on point it instantly feels better to be there, that is because they probably had a lighting designer spend endless hours thinking about zoning, mood, colour temperature.
10 things every home should have interior design tips advice
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The truth is I feel bad for lighting as when it is right it often goes unnoticed how much care has gone into it. When it is wrong we all notice it. You know the store with the great clothes that you never buy anything in because you feel ill in there and nothing looks right when you try it on, they probably got the lighting wrong.
Although we are not trying to make a sale in our homes we are trying to create a nice feeling and sometimes a room needs to be able to change what it feels like depending on the time of day and who is using it. That is done with lighting it can make or break your design. Sitting with one big floodlight in the centre of the room is never the right option. Think about lamps, fairy lights even the type of bulb you use in them and the glow they will emit. Think about how they are angled and the shadows they will create, think about the mood you want to create in the room. Play about with it but don't rush it.
10 things very home should have interior design advice tips
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3. Candles 

Okay I am just going to come out and say it hygge, a concept I am two minds about. Part of me feels this is just the zeitgeist effect and most of the concept is common sense and something many of do naturally and have done for years but it does prove to be quite a useful adjective now as if I want to describe something I can use the word and people go yeah I know what you mean I recently read a blog/book/article about this. 
Candles are an important part of my home for 3 reasons. Firstly it is another way to control the mood lighting in a room. Secondly the light emitted from candles has a calming soporific effect. I talk about the difference between warm and blue light in my post on insomnia HERE.
Last but not least you can get some lovely natural scented candles and you can create a truly calm home with scent. I would advise using beeswax or soy wax candles they are just healthier and only using scented candles that use essential oils, synthetic odours will not benefit you.
4. Books 

I have to say I am a bookophile, so much so I have granted myself the autonomy to create silly words such as bookophile. I cried hen they created kindles and e readers. Whilst not everyone reading this will spend time going around sniffing books and feeling happy at the mere smell of a book books are still an integral part of our existence and will never be fully replaced by screens. From airport page turners to art and design coffee table books or graphic novels everyone has a genre. I have very few dating rules but in my dating days I would never consider a relationship with a person who did not have at least one shelf of books, I also had a rule about people who only owned soundtracks and compilations but that is off topic. 
Our homes should tell people a story of who the inhabitants are and books is one of the best indicators of that. Don't hide them away, display your books whether you colour co ordinate your spines, (a look I love but cannot live with as I couldn't find anything), or you go full on dewey decimal system show people who you are and give your home personality.
10 things every home should have interior design tips advice
10 things every home should have interior design tips and advice
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5. Cushions 

Almost every rom com/sit com likes to make cushions a men are from Mars women are from Venus issue but honestly I call BS on that. I have not met a human who does not like flopping on cushions. Like with so many things that are marketed as gender specific it turns out, again, that no comfort and cushions is not gender specific.
As soon as you see a room with cushions it instantly screams cozy and my dears regardless of your interior style, even in a minimal home comfort is key if your design is going to be a success. Cushions are also a great inexpensive way of completely changing your room. No one is crazy enough to repaint every winter and then again in summer but changing out the cushions is certainly doable. For those of you who are afraid of bold colours and design cushions are also a great way to add something a little more daring to your pallet. 
10 things every home should have interior design tips and advice
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6. Adequate Storage  

Okay after my previous points this might seem a little dull but it is something that is very important to me. In fact if you want to find one sure fire way to get me shouting at the TV put me in front of a room reveal that takes  a room that was filled with books/toys/records you name it and then the designer has given them a beautiful but entirely impractical room as they have removed all of the storage. I like my home to look great and I spend a lot of time thinking about the design of my home but I always think about storage when I do. We need to live in our homes and you need to be practical and truthful with yourself. 
10 things every home should have interior design tips advice
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10 things every home should have interior design tips advice
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For example if you say hey I will just not have any of the children's toys in the lounge ever, I will take them upstairs to their room every night fine, but will you really? If your room design only works clutter free you need to plan for that with storage. Or you can incorporate items that are going to be 'out' into your design. 
7. Blankets/Throws

This goes back to the whole comfort hygge thing again. In my house I am always colder than Joe so setting the room temperature is impossible, cue blanket. Even if you are not cold a lightweight throw is a great way of creating your very own cuddle therapy.  Come on we have all had the bad hangover, bad breakup, bad day in the office and longed for a good session on the sofa wrapped in a throw or blanket. Again it turns out this is not gender specific either! Funny that.
10 things that every home should have interior design tips advice
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I have some sort of box or basket in most rooms of the house that contains blankets. We are blanket heavy in our home and I make no apologies for it. I love that when we are reading books my little boy from age 18 months has has automatically gone to fetch a blanket and brought it over for a book snuggle.
As well as the comfort, warmth benefit of a good blanket it is also, like a cushion another great way to add colour to an otherwise bland design.
8. Rugs 

A home just feels more like home with a rug.  They can be practical such as keeping your feet warm or can add depth to a design, especially if you layer them, yes you can do that. Think hard about rugs use the right size for the room, think about colour. Think about texture, if you are looking for a way to add texture and comfort to a bedroom, a low pile with harsh lines in the pattern is probably not the way to go. 
Rugs can work anywhere, even outside. The addition of a brightly coloured rug to your garden is a great way to inject colour to your space especially as you wait for new plants to bed in and grow. 
10 things every home should have interior design tips and advice
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9. Art 

Perhaps it is because of my student rental days of having to live with blank magnolia walls that the idea of blank walls sends me into some kind of ptsd frenzie now. Art is a great way to personalise your home, so please avoid ikea posters at all costs! When I say art that could include hangings, framed art made by your children and family photos. If you are in a rental you can always turn to command hooks, oh if only they had command hooks in my day. 
10 things every home should have interior design tips and advice
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Anything from a gallery wall to a statement piece hung correctly. Remember you can always add holiday or family photos but shy away from the photo canvas, (it is a personal bug bear of mine).
10. You  

This is the most important thing so I saved until last so that it sticks in your mind. Your home is unique because it is your home, it should be a reflection of you. When people come in they should not walk into a store room set or an overly styled space that has been lifted from the last hotel you stayed at. Those things can inspire you but you need to leave your personality in there. Some of the earlier things in this list are a great way to keep the 'you' in your home. Your home should evolve as you do and should reflect your story, your travels, your interests as well as your interior design taste.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Children's Book Reccommendations - Stories With A Message

Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This year I have not made any resolutions, because I don't like to give things up but I have set myself a few goals, one of which is to start a few new regular blog features. One of which is to share some of our favourite stories. Reading is a huge part of this family's MO but when it comes to kids books there is so much utter trite out there you can waste an awful lot of money. I often become angry when reading a poorly written child's book it is as if the publisher has just shoved something out there because hey kids like bears and shown complete disregard for children, because hey kids are stupid you can read them anything right? WRONG!

To save you a little time trawling through the shops and internet site and hopefully save you wasting money on awful books I want to share a few books with you each month with a loose theme. This month the theme is stories with a message.

Narrative is a great way of exploring feelings, behaviour, social responsibility with children. It is also a great way to start a dialogue with a child about things that happen in the wider world or in their daily lives that they may find hard to articulate. We have always done this, even before Sebastian was talking I would talk about the story afterwards and compare it to things we had done, experienced, or another story. Now he will jump in and make comparisons as we are reading something. Or say he feels like a particular character in a book.

I think establishing an open dialogue with children at a young age is very important and making those conversations a place where they are not being judged is equally important. For example acknowledging if they dislike someone and helping them navigate how to manage that. 
Abracazebra Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

We have been reading this since before Sebastian was a year old but it is not a short baby book, (I was always too bored for 'baby books'). The premise of the tale is a sleepy town filled with 'traditional' farm animals. Then an exotic creature, a Zebra comes to town. Many residents love he she is fun and exciting and offers them shows and stories they have never had before. However a goat is not happy and begins a campaign of fear until he drives her put with a sign saying "No Stripes Allowed". He realises his mistake and the town say sorry and bring her back. The penultimate line reads, "Now Yawnalot is a happy place where they welcome any kind of face" 
Abracazebra Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This story is such a great way to explore themes of diversity but also about fearing things that are different. It also speaks about being a stander by to injustice, about not speaking up when you see a mean thing happen. I love this book and I feel as your child grows the conversations you can have around the themes in this book will grow and develop.
Elmer David McKee  Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

There are a whole host of Elmer books some better than others, this one is a keeper. The hippo's river dries up and they come to live with the elephants. They know they are unwelcome but they need water to survive. Elmer saves the day and the Elephants and the hippos work together to restore their river. The best line comes at the end when one of the elephants who was opposed to the hippos being there says, "imagine if our river dried up"
 Elmer David McKee  Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
I love that this is about working together to secure a better future, about accepting things. It talks about overcrowding of the river but explores the fact that this is sometimes necessary for survival and bigger things are in play. It is a nice way to start a discussion about refugees especially given the current climate on this.

This is such a lovely book that talks about the insecurities that a sibling might face. It explains that the love a parent feels for a child goes beyond their attributes. It is a lovely reassuring book and one welcome in any home even if your little one is not part of a sibling group it does not mean that they will not have fragile moments about your love for them. They are a sensitive bunch those kiddos.
 Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/

This is a book for parents as much as it is for children. The illustration is as important as the words it is truly wonderful. The book tells of Hannah who loves Gorillas, they are her favourite thing, the underlying truth is that daddy is Hannah's favourite thing but daddy is always busy. 

When her toy gorilla comes to life and takes her to the zoo he finds that her father's coat is "a perfect fit" After a night of fun she wakes in the morning to race downstairs and tell daddy all about it and he offers to take her to the zoo before she has a chance to speak. "Hannah smiled, she was very happy"
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
There are so many lovely details such as a drawing on the wall Hannah has done of here and her father holding hands, he is huge and her smile is too. The drawings that show how alone and scared Hannah feels when she does not have her daddy's attention are very telling. It is not only a cautionary tale for parents but a great way to start a dialogue about the inevitable time we do have long hours at work and trips away and how that might make them feel.
Gorilla Anthony Browne Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
5. Mummy's Home - Christopher MacGregor & Emma Yarlett 
Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
This is a wonderful book that helps deal with separation anxiety. Christopher is ex army and he wrote Mummy's Home and My Daddy's Going Away. He wrote the two books and there is an accompanying website with advice on how to use the books. Inspired by his and other colleagues in the armed forces issues with helping their children understanding them going away for a period of time. This book has a wonderful rhythmic quality making it very easy to read aloud. It works for parents who go to work, if you are going to go away for the weekend or if you have longer stints of working away.
 Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
The world that Emma Yarlett has illustrated for the poem has such beautiful fantasy with many elements for little ones to explore. It also has great imagery to aide the theme in the story to help visual learners.

julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
6. Paper Dolls - Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb

julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
Juila Donaldson is probably one of the most prolific children's writers  I know of and some of her books are better than others. This one is a great one. It has her signature rhythm and rhyme and it is a great way to talk about loss with a child. The story tells of a little girl making paper dolls with her mother and playing some fantastic imagination games with them until a mean boy cuts them up. At this point they float into her memory, a place where many wonderful things live such as granny, fireworks and old toys.
julia donaldson paper dolls Children's books with a message http://www.archieandtherug.com/
The little girl grows into a mother and one day helps her own little girl make some paper dolls. There is so much to talk about with your child in this book. Memory, loss, how to deal with a mean act from another party, why you should not be the perpetrator of a mean act and growing up. The story, it's themes and the whimsical illustrations make this book very easy to love.