How to create a happy Home Office.

With the world being the strange place that it is at the moment, you maybe have been suddenly forced into working from home, with no time to plan or prepare for it.

What it has shown is that a large number of people CAN work from home, and may continue or decide to do so in the future when life returns to “normal.”

HOW ARE YOU WORKING FROM HOME RIGHT NOW?

The likelihood is that you’re probably working from the kitchen or dining room table, the sofa, or dare I even think or say it- your bed!

But do you have a space within one of these rooms where you can rejig the furniture and create some designated desk space to allow you to try and separate your work and home life?

HOW COULD YOU WORK FROM HOME IN THE FUTURE?

Maybe you have a spare room that was once a storage dumping ground, an existing garden shed that can be converted or if you’re lucky enough- space in the garden to erect a gorgeous log cabin to create a home office on your doorstep?

WHAT YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO WORK FROM HOME.

Every person, job role and company are different- but the main things you’ll need are a desk, a chair, good lighting, storage and the ability to separate your work and home life.

START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.

The shops are shut, so you might have to get creative right now and make the best of what you already have. Try and separate work and home life though. Get up at the same time you normally would and reserve the lie ins for the weekend. Get dressed as if you were leaving the house to go to work. By keeping these small routines you’ll be able to get into “work mode” a lot easier. Stick to your normal breaks, your meal times and try and ignore any distractions. Set timers instead of clock watching. We all need to keep as much normality as possible at this time and this will help us keep our head in the game. If you’re missing out on human interaction then make video calls to friends or family during your breaks.

WHAT CAN YOU GET NOW?

A lot of companies are still open online, but with deliveries increasing so are the lead times. Are online purchases necessary or essential? A lot won’t be- but I also think it’s important to try and keep the economy going too if you’re lucky enough to be in a position to.

Maybe you have more downtime at the moment to look, research and shop for the components required to create yourself an office at home.

A DUTIFUL DESK.

The type, style, size and shape of your desk will depend on what you need it for. Always try and keep it clutter free though- a tidy desk will equal a tidy mind.

If you’re a crafter then you need it large and level, if you’re a writer or work mainly on a computer then a nice bureau style desk will maybe suit you better.

You can choose ready made desks, or arrange a bespoke desk to be made- when you’re allowed to. You could even DIY your own desk with some scrap/salvaged wood and hairpin legs sourced online. Wood will add warmth to your scheme and will match any colour scheme you decide on.

Measure up your room and decide how big your desk actually NEEDS to be. If you have a desk bigger than you need then you’ll find the clutter will creep in!

A CHAMPION CHAIR.

You’re probably going to be sitting in this chair for prolonged periods of time so make sure it’s comfy and if you have a bad back then make sure your choice of chair supports you properly. Depending on the style you’re looking to create, a typical (black) office chair with swivel legs and a high back might appeal to you.

But you don’t HAVE to have a designated office chair in your space. Think about how you actually work, how you’d like to work and see if a cocktail chair with more luxurious feeling fabric, or bar stools to match your chosen desk height would suit you better. Have fun with it, and maybe choose a stand out colour that makes you smile?

SHELVING & STORAGE SOLUTIONS.

You’re going to need somewhere to store your books and business related items. Maybe some plants and decorative accessories to inspire you too. If you’re a neat person then open shelving will suit you and help create a tidy structure where you know where everything is.

If you’re a messy pup, then think about shelving with doors so you can hide your mess away and it won’t interfere with you psychologically.

Do you need floor to ceiling shelves- allowing you to maximise the height of your space and make the room look taller? If you have high ceilings then how about having a cute little library ladder to help you reach (I’d LOVE this!)

Or would a couple of open shelves or shelf units above or near your desk suffice? Do you want to create modular shelving combinations as seen in that Swedish furniture showroom we all know and like for example, or would you like something a little more upmarket and bespoke- with cupboards on the bottom to help hide clutter? If you’re buying flat pack and want to add some personality then wallpapering the backboards of your shelves is a good way to cheaply add interest and personality.

You could go with full width wall shelves to increase your storage and display area and this will also make the room look wider.

Chests of drawers will hide away  a multitude of sins and create extra surface workspace if required. If space is an issue then a tallboy unit will maximise the height available without taking up too much floorspace.

Hide as much away as possible. Use old industrial or upcyled filing cabinets for organised paperwork, magazine files, stacked boxes (preferably not see through) or vintage trunks. Label them so you know exactly what’s in them and always try to put things back where you found them so you’re not wasting time in the future.

Use peg boards or corkboards above desks to organise your day and to display any important paperwork that needs your attention so it’s right in front of your nose.

LIGHT UP MY SPACE.

Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, the lighting in your room will make a massive impact on your productivity. One trick I’ve told clients in the past is to get a large mirror and place it on the wall opposite the window. When the natural light enters the room, it will bounce off the mirror and reflect around the room. Go as big as you can, and if you’re a dab hand at upcycling (or want to give it a go) then an old, ornate mirror and paint it in the colour of your choice (go as bold and brave as you want!) is often  a cheap and cheerful choice. You can pick up old mirrors on online selling sites/pages or in charity shops and flea markets. Just make sure you fix it to the wall properly!

For your main overhead light, work out it’s location on the ceiling and consider where your desk or working areas are going to be, as the light will need to reach it and this will define which type of pendant or lampshade you choose. Also get yourself either a desk lamp (if your desk is big enough) or a floor lamp near your desk. Make sure that you flood your room with as much light as possible at the same time to stop your eyes from straining too much.

COLOUR CHOICES.

As you may know, colour psychology is very much on my radar- and for good reason. Take some time to work out which colours you like the look of- but also how these colours make you feel.

You need to be as productive as possible, perhaps more than ever now, and the colour you surround yourself with is so important. Figure out how you need your home office to make you feel- energised, happy, relaxed, positive, productive? And then choose a colour that works for you, not against you.

IN SUMMARY.

There are so many factors to consider when planning or rustling up an office space within your home but hopefully this article will cover the main points. Everyone is different, and this will be very new and no doubt quite overwhelming for some people.

I’m now doing home office consultations online, but if you want to give it a go yourself then I recommend the following online stores as a starter for ten. Whatever your budget you can browse them for inspiration: Argos, Dunelm, Ebay, H&M Home, Habitat, Heals, Homesense, Ikea, John Lewis, La Redoute,  Made.com, Maisons Du Monde.

Also scour Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and to see what’s possible- just type in “Home Office.”

Quirk & Colour Ltd

01273004235

victoria@quirkandcolour.com

How to Thrive, not just Survive: Practical Ideas for You & your Home.

For some people, spending an extended period of time in your home sounds like a dream, but for others it will be a nightmare- especially if you have children to entertain or you’re worried about running out of supplies or thinking about elderly relatives elsewhere.

There’s so much doom & gloom and uncertainty swirling around right now. Your home is your haven, your safe space, your sanctuary more than ever. But you also need to curb the cabin fever and keep your mindset as positive as you can.

I thought I’d produce a blog about how you can make the most of your time at home, keep your spirits up and how you can look after yourself and others.

FACT V FICTION.

These are unprecedented times, and we’re ALL in the same boat. Try and avoid the scaremongering news and media stories as it will only make you feel worse, and instead look for the facts- as they’re constantly evolving.

KEEP POSITIVE & PRODUCTIVE.

Whilst pubs, clubs, cafes, restaurants and gyms have called time, as of today shops are still open (albeit there appears to be depleted stocks in some supermarkets) and Online retailers are busy updating previous customers (check your spam inbox) so there is still a semblance of normality- so you still have time to plan.

With Spring on the doorstep, now is a good time to plan and organise your home and garden- especially if you now have extra time on your hands.

You may not feel like doing much at the moment, but if you make a to-do list now, structure your day and slowly work your way through it then you’ll notice the positive changes- and feel a sense of accomplishment.

And by keeping busy during the day you’re more likely to sleep better at night and keep any low mood at bay.

NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT OR PLAN.

We will all have a list of things that need done around the house, things we normally put off every day. We’re normally too tired to execute them or we just put them off. Things we think we’ll do tomorrow and then when we look back, we’ve been saying that for months or even years!

Tasks such as cleaning the oven, painting the woodwork, putting pictures up, reviving the grout, resealing the bath or kitchen sink, painting radiators or the garden shed, etc. Maybe you’ve been thinking about redecorating for a while.

Now is the perfect time to ACT if you’re well enough to do so and have a firm idea of what you want, or use this time to research or PLAN for the future. Read, consume and be inspired. Make moodboards from magazines lying around the house.

SPRING CLEAN.

With the mass of cleaning gurus available out there I’m not going to dwell on this point too much. And it happens to be the time of year when we would be contemplating doing this anyway.

With potential extra time on your hands, pull the sofa, furniture and beds out and do it properly. Get the duster out to brush those winter cobwebs away- especially around the ceiling.

An air purifier or an aromatherapy diffuser will help your health and the air quality inside your home. Using aromatherapy oils in mop buckets will also be beneficial and make your home smell nice at the same time.

ESSENTIAL OILS.

Again, I’m not going to go into all the properties of all the oils on the market. The benefits of essential oils are well documented too.

I have chosen the ones below that I believe are best for the current climate, are easy to access (especially online) and not too expensive. You can also mix them together too- I use Orange & Lime together for a citrusy pick-me-up.

Antiviral: Tea Tree, Lavender, Lime.

Fever: Orange, Peppermint.

Good for Mental Health: Lavender, Geranium.

A TIDY HOUSE = A TIDY MIND.

De-cluttering is a great exercise. I guess it’s also exercise too?!

Clutter in our homes makes us anxious, and we really need to limit anxiety as much as possible. Start room by room. But there’s no need to do it all in one day, so take your time.

Have a look at what’s in there. If anything is broken then can it be fixed? Do you actually want to fix it? If not, bin or recycle it and move on.

A great idea is to remove all ornaments, accessories and general clutter and put them in a box in the middle of the room. You now have a blank canvas. Now sort them into piles of what you need, what you actually like, and what is just cluttering up your room. Be brutal.

You may decide with a fresh pair of eyes that something would look better in another room, which will keep your scheme fresh? You might even wonder why you have kept something for all these years!

As William Morris said: “HAVE NOTHING IN YOUR HOUSE THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW TO BE USEFUL OR BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL.”

ONE PERSON’S TRASH IS ANOTHER PERSON’S TREASURE.

When de-cluttering, keep all items that you no longer want or have use for and set them aside. When all this blows over, and it will, you could sell these items online or at car boot sales.

Think positive- you could potentially earn some decent pocket money to treat yourself with or put towards bills. This may be the motivation you need to complete the task.

SORT OUT THE “DRAWER OF DOOM!”

You KNOW which one I’m talking about. Everyone has one. It’s where batteries (who knows which are used or unused?!) rubber bands, leaflets, old keys and lots more go to hang out. You probably struggle to even shut it properly?

Give it a good clean out, bin what’s unnecessary and recycle what you can. Do this for all applicable drawers, cupboards, boxes in this category.

I know you don’t want to tackle this task- but you’re going to feel so much better afterwards. Don’t stop until you’ve finished it, and reward yourself with a treat when it’s finished!

LOOK AFTER YOURSELF.

Whether you’re adversely affected by this virus or not, please take care of yourself. You may have children, relatives or neighbours who need looking after but you can’t do this if your own well is dry!

Keep busy and productive, but make time for yourself and relax. There’s lots of yoga and exercise channels on the internet that you can complete at home or in the garden, take a nice bath if you can make the time, read the books you’ve been meaning to get around to, take time to cook nice and nutritious meals or bake yummy goods. You’ll know what suits you best.

Maybe this is a good time to take up a new hobby you’ve been interested in, or get creative with what you already have- painting, drawing or upcycling furniture for example. The internet and resources are out there so make use of them.

Try and keep positive and maintain social distancing from the comfort of your home- but this doesn’t mean that you need to socially cut yourself off. Use technology and this time to catch up with and stay in contact with friends and family. I know groups of friends who are conducting “virtual pubs” over SKYPE or LOOM!

Reaching out to others will potentially brighten both your days. Do what you can for others, after you’ve taken care of yourself. This can be a positive time to reconnect, spend quality time with your family, play board games, or just talk.

Be mindful of minimising the amount of time you spend on technology though as the blue light emitted will elevate your Cortisol levels, and this is your stress hormone.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden and the weather holds up, then get outside when you can. The fresh air will help you sleep better and improve your mood, and it’s a perfect time for weeding and clearing ahead of planting and rejuvenating for Spring.

FINAL THOUGHT.

I know this won’t appeal to or suit everyone as it’s very generic, but it’s ideas and tips I felt passionate about sharing and I hope you got at least something out of it.

Let me know in the comments below what you’re doing to cope, if you have any other ideas to share with the community and please share this article with anyone you think might benefit from it. Situations like we find ourselves in can bring out the worst in people- but they can also bring out the best. We will get through this and ride the storm together.

I’m here to chat to anyone who needs it, whether it’s about your home or anything else so please reach out. You’re not alone, even if you technically have to be right now.

The Green, Green Grass of Home.

With current events, it’s inevitable that we’re all going to be spending more time in our homes and gardens over the next few months.

With the dawning of Spring here (or at least on the horizon) I asked Chris Latter of L&S Garden and Property Services based in Horsham, West Sussex what we should be prioritising in our gardens now, and he’s very kindly given us his 4 quick and easy ways to improve your lawn this year.

“Having a great lawn is something we all see and wish we have when we walk out in to our garden. We all neglect the grass thinking it will be ok and give it a quick mow every now and again. The fact is that your grass needs some TLC to keep it looking good throughout the year.”

The great thing is, it’s easy to get your lawn in order and looking good- with these 4 steps:

1/. Treatment – Use a lawn treatment to kill the weeds and moss if required. This can be easily bought from your local DIY store. All the instructions are on it and it is very easy to use. It comes in all forms, but I generally use the granules which turns the moss and weeds black in places (don’t be fooled, it won’t hurt your grass!) and is easier to identify where is best for stage 2!

2/. Scarify – Moss is a real pain at the moment due to the wet and warm conditions we have had this winter. It’s not going away and will stay there unless you get rid of it. Dead grass builds up with the moss forming thatch, which needs to be removed to help the grass to thrive. If you haven’t or don’t want to treat the lawn, don’t worry, you can still scarify. The simplest solution is to get a garden rake and work it over the lawn. Don’t worry if it looks messy. It will do at first, but you need to get rid of this build-up of thatch and moss to allow the grass to really thrive. Be brutal- especially in shadier areas where the build-up of moss will be bigger. You can also hire or buy scarifiers which do the same job and a lot quicker for bigger lawns.

3/. Aerate – Use a garden fork to make holes in the grass. This helps loosen the compacted soil and helps water and nutrients get to the roots of the grass.

4/. Seed! Once you have gone to town on the grass, it will look like you have destroyed your lawn. Bu the truth is you’ve done it a massive favour! If you have a large build-up of moss and have removed it, there will be patches in your lawn. Getting some grass seed down is the next step. This is easily found in any local DIY supplier and simply sprinkle on the areas which require it. I always over-seed, which means spreading the seed everywhere. There are a lot of different types of grass so spreading more seed over your existing grass will help it all blend in.

If you are worried about any dips in the soil, get some top soil, put it in the areas which require it and spread that seed on it. Grass seed is easily available in most shops and generally is coated with special stuff which the birds at bay (and it’s all safe for the birds!)

There is a lot more you can do to improve your lawn- but hopefully this will give you a few ideas to start with. Enjoy your garden this year!”

I know Chris personally and can testify that he’s lovely, friendly, professional and helpful. He is always happy to help answer any questions you have, so please feel free to contact him at any point for any gardening advice.

Chris and his business partner Mark provide a range of services such as Gardening, Fencing and Landscaping.

You can visit their website, contact them via email: landsenquiries@gmail.com or call 01403 253216.

“Only Rich or Posh people hire Interior Designers, right?” WRONG!

ADVICE, HINTS & TIPS ON WHY YOU SHOULD HIRE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER.

MONEY TALKS!

Yes, people often focus on “cost.” But what is the cost to you of not doing anything? Or trying it and getting it wrong?

An Interior Designer rightly deserves to be paid for their services, and you shouldn’t under estimate what you’re actually getting for your money. Their years of training and learning. The service you purchase from your Interior Designer will last long after their work is done!

A solid room design will last at least 5 years if you’re not a slave to current trends that will go out of fashion as soon as they come in. A good way of seeing the value for your money is to divide the designer’s cost of their service over 1,825 days- and the price will start to make more sense!

One price doesn’t fit all people & projects, and therefore an Interior Designer will probably have a range of packages and services to suit different client’s needs, which will be discussed with you at length. Try and avoid asking an interior designer how much it will cost straight away, instead ask them about what packages they offer.

A lot of clients or potential customers hugely underestimate the price or extent of a project- so a good Interior Designer will break down costs and help them see what is needed or absolutely necessary.

Also ask the Interior Designer if they price per project or if they charge per hour, which may add up to a lot more and be hard to keep track of.

An Interior Designer might also offer the chance to spread the cost of the project over several payments.

WHAT THE INTERIOR DESIGNER NEEDS FROM YOU.

A good Interior Designer will focus on getting to know you and your space. They’ll discuss your likes, dislikes, hobbies and interests to get an idea of who they are designing this space for.

They’ll need to discuss your current space, what you need, what you want (which can be 2 very different things!) and maybe mostly importantly, WHY you’re looking to change it. This will then help them to advise you on which package or service suits you best. If you feel that an Interior Designer isn’t listening to you, or that they’re trying to force you into a higher price package that you don’t need, then walk away! Go with your gut.

When first contacting an Interior Designer, it’s a massive help to send photos and as much information as you can give them about the current space. I understand that clients don’t want to waste their time and are keen to know prices upfront- but please bear in mind that there’s so many factors to the Interior Designer’s pricing structure that they probably won’t be able to give you this information up front.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD INTERIOR DESIGNER?

A good Interior Designer really wants to help their clients achieve their dream home (or commercial space) and their motivation won’t be to push you into a sale that doesn’t suit you.

They will listen to their clients in order to create a design that best suits them, but they’ll also demonstrate alternatives and push your comfort zone boundaries- so try and go with the flow and keep an open mind. A good Interior Designer will push their client’s boundaries and comfort zone. A great Interior Designer will know when to stop!

They’ll take time getting to know you and finding out if you’re a good match to work together. A good Interior Designer will turn down offers of work if they believe they’re not the right person for your project- so don’t take it personally as they’ll actually be doing you a favour!

HOW TO FIND A GOOD DESIGNER.

I would recommend an internet search of designers in your area. If they’re in your area, or within reasonable travelling distance, then costs will be kept to a minimum. Have a look at their websites and Social Media chanells. Instagram and Pinterest are very visual and you’ll get an idea of the Interior Designer’s personality and creative flair. 

There are also lots of websites now that act as a match making service between clients and customers- and an internet search will help you find these. Most of these sites require the Interior Designer to pay to accept your details once you create the job. Therefore, if an Interior Designer contacts you through a site like this, please don’t ignore them. Instead explain that you’ve found another designer you’d like to work with or explain that the project isn’t going ahead, etc.

Word of mouth is often the best form of advertising- do you know someone who has used an Interior Designer? Would they recommend them? Can they offer you advice about the whole process? Also check out a designer’s reviews and testimonials- but don’t discount a newly qualified professional who may not have these yet!

Most professionals will have a relevant qualification in Interior Design- such as a Degree or Diploma. But while qualifications are important, there are other factors to consider. A good designer will have a personal style that appeals to you, be versatile, welcome your input and be reliable and trustworthy.

Contact at least 3 designers so you can compare their services- but remember not make your decision basely solely on perceived cost. You will get what you pay for. If you decide that you want to work with an Interior Designer but can’t afford their costs up front, then ask if they offer instalments for payment, and remember the advice about thinking about the long-term cost over 5 years as mentioned earlier.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR OR CONSIDER?

  • Is the Interior Designer insured? Don’t be scared to ask to see a copy of their insurance document. If an Interior Designer refuses or states they don’t have such insurance in place then this should be a red flag.
  • If there’s something you’ve seen that you like or want, or an item that you want to base your whole scheme around then don’t be shy about telling the designer this. They will hopefully appreciate the legwork you’ve undertaken and realise that it’ll make their job easier.
  • Make sure your communication is open and honest. Be confident about telling your interior designer if there’s something you don’t like. They’re not going to take it personally, and they want you to be happy with the finished outcome. After all it’s you who’s going to live with it or use it. Discuss any concerns with the interior designer BEFORE work starts as correcting mistakes afterwards will undoubtedly cost you money.
  • Misunderstandings over costs cause the most headaches in designer-client relationships. Be realistic and don’t underestimate costs of services. Some prior research should help you with this. Talk to your designer as there may be alternative ways to achieve what you want on your budget and they should be accommodating towards you.
  • Enjoy the process! Reach in and enjoy the journey. It should be fun and easy to work with an Interior Designer.

What IS Interior Design…?

WHAT IS INTERIOR DESIGN?

Interior Design is a magical mix of art & science that understands people’s behaviour in order to create functional but beautiful spaces within a residential or commercial building.

A common misconception is that Interior designers are “just decorators” which is certainly not the case. Interior designers use a lot of principles to configure how and where items fit into a certain room to optimise the use of space and light to best fit the client’s needs.

There is a distinction between designing a space and the “fun part” of adorning a space with pretty colours and beautiful things.

In short, Interiors designers can decorate, but decorators do not design.

WHY IS INTERIOR DESIGN SO IMPORTANT?

Whether you realise it or not, we are all affected by our surroundings.

In the UK, the majority of people spend most of their work & leisure time indoors- within an estimated 70% of our time spent within our own homes.

Our interiors influence our mood and wellbeing from the moment we wake up until we go to bed.

WHAT WILL AN INTERIOR DESIGNER DO?

An Interior Designer’s aim is to deliver interiors that match a client’s brief, providing them with a space in which to live or work that is both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. They understand how to plan a space, how to make use of colour, how to choose appropriate furniture, how to make use of lighting and how to work to a budget. They need to provide a realistic timeline for the project, communicate clearly with clients and be willing to overcome any issues in a flexible & creative manner.

An interior designer will plan and supervise the design of your residential or commercial space, which will most likely include the decoration and furnishings. Each interior designer works differently, but in essence they will draw up plans on paper or through computer aided software, create mood boards and colour schemes, offer either consultancy, design only or full project management which will include arranging and directing subcontractors if required.

CAN I NOT JUST DO IT MYSELF?

Maybe you could. There’s a lot of DIY home makeover shows on TV and with Instagram and other social media people are being more visually stimulated than ever.

Some people have a natural instinct for what looks good, a clear idea of what they want and the time and resources to make it a reality.

However, if you’re not up to date with the latest trends or products, or you are kept busy with your career or family or just don’t want the stress of having to think about and implement your project yourself, then seriously consider hiring an Interior Designer.

Interior Designers are trained is varying aspects of design, art and architecture and can work with a variety of styles. An Interior Designer may or should recommend something that you otherwise haven’t or wouldn’t have considered, causing you to push your boundaries and you may end up loving it!

Interior design is considered a luxury service by many in the UK and something that only “posh” or “rich” people invest in. But Interior Design is for everyone- no matter your budget.

When you consider the improvement that this will have on your mood and wellbeing, and then think how this could improve all aspects of your life, you’ll start to think about it differently.

If after reading this article you want to know more then please email me on victoria@quirkandcolour.com or call me on 01273 004235 and let’s have a chat about my favourite ever subject!

If you’re still not sure, then CLICK HERE to take our quiz to see how your home is making you feel!

The Price of Small Businesses & Their Products

This blog post has been inspired by someone recently asking me why my candles cost so much. Why should someone pay “considerably more” for my candles when they can get candles for just £1 in supermarkets and bargain stores? It’s maybe a fair question to some, so let me explain.

I started making candles 9 years ago. I’ve always loved scented candles and the ambience they create, but I was frustrated that the majority of candles on the market at that time seemed to lack scent throw after the first burn. And they tunnelled badly. I began to question why, and suspect that some candles on the market are only scented towards the top so that you can smell them when you lift off the lid, but the company saves money by not fragrancing them throughout.

It took the first year of experimenting with making candles before I was confident to give them to family and friends. When I first started out I learned about the different kind of waxes, wicks, fragrances and containers available. There was a LOT of costly trial and error, believe me!

I started out making soy wax candles. I was attracted by the eco and vegan friendly, clean burning, sustainable properties that this wax boasted. My candles are now made from a soy/vegetable wax hybrid. This retains all the above properties, but it’s a specially formulated harder wax that in my opinion sets better and burns longer. This wax is made in Scotland, which in turn supports another small British business. #winwin. In fact, all my candle supplies are sourced from UK based small businesses.

I researched and learned about wicks and how it’s so important to select the correct wick size for your container. Wicks are made from different materials and can be coated or uncoated. Add in that different fragrances burn will differently to others, this means that a simple candle wick isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. I use a range of different size cotton wicks coated in natural wax that I have thoroughly tested. I put all the knowledge I’ve gained into a handy candle care sheet which comes with every candle so that if you follow the instructions, you candle will burn properly and not leave any wasted wax.

And as for fragrance, I spend more money from the outset on high quality paraben & phthalate free fragrances that will give you the cleanest and strongest burn.

What a minefield. How easy would it be to get all of the above wrong?!

This means that when you’re buying one of my candles you’re not just buying the pretty packaging that I’ve carefully designed and the gorgeous scent, you’re also buying the 9 years of experimentation, blood, sweat and tears (metaphorically- these aren’t part of the candle ingredients.)

Factor in that from the price of each product I need to pay for the materials. As a small business where money and storage space aren’t abundant, this means that I can’t buy in massive bulk like the well-established companies. I also need to pay for utilities. I also need to pay tax. And by creating a product that someone could potentially burn their house down with- I need to pay insurance!

I melt the wax in small batches and hand pour each candle individually which is time consuming. I don’t rely on machinery. This means that each candle is carefully controlled and the best quality it can be, but this means that my time needs to be compensated. I’m trying to run a business here after all.

So when you think of it like this, my candle prices are actually a total bargain! After writing this, I’m starting to think that I need to hike the prices UP…

Hopefully I’ve explained WHY my candles cost more than some others on the market. And I’m happy for people to buy a £1, half-filled candle probably made in China if they want to. Which by the way, won’t adhere to the strict CLP safety rules that chandlers here in the UK must abide with.

So please, do not try and make me feel guilty about my “overpriced” candles. Well, you can if you want, but I’m simply not going to.

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But this isn’t just about me & my candles. It applies to my artwork, my other products, my Interior Design and Colour Packages. It applies to all products and services offered by other Small Businesses. The value of products and services can’t and shouldn’t be judged on monetary value alone. You’re buying all those hours they spent training and perfecting.

I try and buy from small businesses when I can because I know the amount of love, care and attention that they put in, trying to sell what they truly believe in and are passionate about.

In the world of one-click Amazon or internet shopping (which I’m not adverse to by the way, I do it too) it’s easier and more convenient to shop this way. But are you helping small businesses on there sustain their livelihood, or are you placing money into a global company pocket which avoids paying tax? This is another subject I could talk about all day… If I see on seller on a site, I’ll try and Google to see if they have their own website and buy directly. This saves them fees, and will probably save you money in return as sellers on big sites often have to put their prices up.

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY this year is on Saturday 30th November 2019. What if everyone went to an independent shop, market or website and bought even just 1 thing from a small business on this day? Small business owners literally do a happy dance every time they can celebrate a sale (No, I’m not showing you mine!) This returns money to the local economy and will make you & the owner feel good. #winwin.

If you agree with these sentiments, please share this post. If you’re a small business selling a product or service, or have a family member or friend who does, then please provide a link to the website or Social Media page below, and have a browse of what’s posted. You never know who might see it, and maybe they’ve been looking around for exactly what you offer…?

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Stew. Healthy, Hearty, Easy, Tasty.

Wow. It is blustery, rainy and generally very miserable out there today. A perfect day for NOT leaving the house and cosying up indoors. I was planning on posting this recipe anyway, but today seems like a good day to unleash it- so I’m creating this blog post from within my blanket sofa fort.

If you’re like me, the slow cooker has been stashed at the back of the cupboard since the Spring, but this weather signifies that it’s time to drag it out again.

This recipe will feed at least 4 people with hearty, warming portions and is perfect to have as leftovers for lunch at work. If you pop in it the slow cooker before work then you’ll come home to a beautiful smelling home and dinner will be ready to eat. My step-sons love it, and it saves the “What’s for dinner?” questions as they know from the waft as soon as I open the front door. In fact, the youngest has just asked me what I’m writing, and when I explained he said “Oh, can we have that soon please?!” Bingo- social proof.

If you want to make it for 2 people then just halve the ingredients used.

This can be made for under £1 per person too if you’re budgeting but still want to eat healthily and guarantee some of your 5 a day.

Ingredients:

1kg of chicken thighs

500g of peeled Potatoes.

500g of Carrot/Swede.

175g Leeks.

1 medium Onion- diced or roughly chopped.

Garlic (as many cloves/bulbs as you like)

1 litre of Water.

2 x Vegetable or Chicken stock cubes.

Mixed herbs- dried or fresh.

Salt & Pepper for seasoning.

Sunflower Oil.

Cornflour.

Advice:

If you can afford to, support your local butcher- the meat is fresher and generally of better quality. If you’re on a budget then you can buy them boned with skin on in the supermarket for under £2. Just strip the skin before cooking with either scissors or your fingers. Leave the bones on, and they’ll separate when cooking- just make sure to remove the bones before you serve.

To save time with the prep, you can buy the vegetables already prepared, although this will increase the cost and plastic used. Or you can prepare the vegetables the night before so you only have to brown the chicken in the morning.

Method:

  1. Prepare your chicken thighs and season with salt & pepper.
  2. Prepare all your vegetable and place in the pot.
  3. Pour in 1 litre of water and add the stock cubes. It won’t look like there’s enough water but don’t be tempted to add anymore as when the vegetables cook they’ll sweat and release extra water.
  4. Add the herbs and some salt and pepper to the pot.
  5. Place a frying pan on a medium heat and pour a good glug of Sunflower Oil into the pan. Place 2 tablespoons of Cornflour into the oil and stir the mixture.
  6. Place your chicken thighs into the pan and brown one side for about a minute. Turn the thighs over and brown the other side for the same amount of time. You want the chicken thighs to no longer be pink, but you’re just coating the chicken in the mixture.
  7. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  8. Turn the slower cooker on LOW for 6hrs.

If you’re at home then you can stir it every so often, but this isn’t necessary.

If you wish, you can add dumplings too. Supermarkets have a packet mix to make life easier- just add water & pepper as per the instructions when there’s about 2hrs left to cook. Or, get some nice fresh bread and soak up the stock.

And there you have it! An easy to prepare winter warming slow cooker Chicken Stew.

And if you think there’s too much liquid for your liking then you can drain it and use to make a great stock for gravy.

Let me know if you go ahead and try this, and what you think.

The Autumn Edit

This is my least favourite time of the year. The clocks have gone back, the heating has gone on and you think it’s bedtime- only to look at your watch and realise that it’s only 7:30pm.

I also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (it’s a real thing, I didn’t believe it either at first) which doesn’t help. I need to start shovelling high strength Vitamin D into my face now as my body doesn’t produce enough during the Autumn and Winter months and it drains my energy reserves.

But instead of dwelling on the negatives, I’ve looked for the positives instead- we get to snuggle up at home, potentially spend less money and start to semi-hibernate. We don’t have to shave our legs as often (optional.) Christmas is just around the corner too. And I consume copious amounts of hot chocolate with cream & marshmallows- that’s not a summer drink.

I decided to create my “Autumn Edit” of essential items that will make you feel good and keep you cosy at home, with price points to suit all budgets.

THROWS & BLANKETS.

This is my number one must. Cold? Feeling a bit down or under the weather? Life falling apart? Wrap yourself up in a cosy throw. It’s like a material hug, you’ll feel loads better. Mine is always attached to me on the rare chance I sit down on the sofa, and I spread it over my bed at night as another layer for warmth (it’s better to sleep in a cold bedroom.) I got given my throw from John Lewis as a present, and whilst it might seem a “boring” gift it saved me buying it myself. It’s lasted years and I wouldn’t be without it. In fact each member of the household has their own throw so there’s no stealing, snatching or fighting going on. I’ve selected these throws/blankets for you to browse:

Bargain: Marl Fleece Throw (various colours) from ALDI £9.99.

Mid-Range: Matt Velvet Quilted Throw (various colours & sizes) from NEXT £50-£80.

Luxury: Premium Faux Fur throw 200x250cm (various colours) JOHN LEWIS £95.

CUSHIONS.

Some people hate cushions. They look lovely on the sofa, but then people move them or casually chuck them on the floor. But you need to embrace your cushions- literally. Choose ones that have lovely textures. My partner jokes that I stroke my favourite cushion like it’s a cat. Except it’s not a joke- I do. I actually find it really soothing & calming. I also cuddle them too. It keeps me warm and satisfies my sense of touch. Here’s my favourite textured cushions on the market at the moment:

Bargain: Mongolian Fur cushion 58x58cm (various colours) from MATALAN £16.

Mid-range: Reagan cushion 50x50cm from HABITAT was £60, now £25.

Luxury: Ginko in Coral Velvet Cushion 45x45cm from Annajacobsart.com £79.

CANDLES & CANDLEHOLDERS.

You’ll know that I LOVE candles. It’s not just the scent, but the ambience they bring to every room. Everything looks better in candlelight, and it provides a relaxing, feel-good factor. When buying scented candles have a look at the type of wax used, pay attention to how synthetic they smell and where they’re made- Europe have specific guidelines for companies to adhere to, whereas China, etc do not. Given that candles have the power to burn your house down, I’d definitely recommend that you do your research before purchasing.

Bargain: Buy plain & unscented tealights or pillar candles from IKEA or your local supermarket. Keep them in tealight holders or plain/patterned heatproof glasses or jars so that the candle light dances around the room.

Mid-range: Ok, I’m biased, but Quirk & Colour have 2 candle ranges- LIVING & LUXE. They’re made with Eco & Vegan friendly ingredients, thoroughly tested & insured, and carefully curated to cater for everyone. Prices from £12+

Luxury: Abigail Ahern Gold large pineapple lantern DEBENHAMS £30.

RUGS.

It’s hard enough dragging yourself out of bed on some dark mornings without the shock of swinging your feet out and them hitting the cold, hard floor. If you don’t have carpet in your bedroom (or even if you do) then think about investing in a warm, textured rug and make sure you get out the right side of the bed every morning. I recommend:

Bargain: Anti-Slip Luxurious Faux Sheepskin Rug 60x90cm DUNELM £19.

Mid-range: Home Snuggle Shaggy Runner 150x80cm ARGOS £30.

Luxury: Faux Fur Rug 90x120cm NEXT £90.

HOT WATER BOTTLE.

I hear lots of people saying that they can’t have the heating on because their partner objects, or turns it off again. Regardless of my own thoughts on this matter, they can’t object to you boiling the kettle and filling up a warming, cosy companion for the sofa or in bed. And if they do, then don’t make them their tea or coffee ever again.

Bargain: Hot water bottle with Faux Fur cover GEORGE @ ASDA £7.

Luxury: Multi Fair Isle (lambswool mix) hot water bottle BODEN £35.

LIGHTBOXES.

If you suffer from S.A.D too then seriously consider purchasing yourself a game changing “Light Therapy Box” Turn it on for at least 30 minutes to an hour every morning (not late afternoon or evening as it stimulates your Cortisol levels and too much will affect your sleep.) You’ll soon notice the difference! And if you struggle to get up in the morning and dread turning the light on suddenly and burning your eyes then consider investing in a “sunrise” alarm clock. They might seem expensive upfront, but you’ll use them everyday and you can’t put a price on feeling good every morning. I have both of these products and I seriously recommend “LUMIE” as a trusted brand and company.

Lightbox: LUMIE Vitamin L Slim SAD light JOHN LEWIS £90.

LUMIE Desklamp touch dimmable SAD light JOHN LEWIS £144.

Sunrise alarm clock: LUMIE Sunrise Alarm ARGOS £40.

LUMIE Bodyclock Glow Wake Up to Daylight JOHN LEWIS from £75.

This is the season now to snuggle up indoors in dressing gowns, bed socks and comfy lounge wear. Drink hot chocolate and hot Ribena. Keep warm, keep hydrated, keep moisturised and take extra vitamins if needs be. Relax in a hot bath with as many candles as your bathroom can handle, put on a pampering face pack or stick your feet in a warm, bubbly foot spa or bowl of warm soapy water for even just 10 minutes. Slow down if you can and look after yourself because the Christmas chaos is nearly upon us.

Actually, maybe Autumn isn’t so bad after all…?

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