A Happy Home Heart Harmony Christmas

Hurrah! It’s Friday! It’s been a long and very busy week and I’ve only made it this far thanks to the power of Lemsip! Despite a horrible cough and cold which has tried its best to stop us, Christmas has arrived in ‘Casa Parfitt.’ Last weekend, we observed our annual tradition of an early morning trip to the farm shop to choose our tree followed by a stop off at the cafe for a family breakfast. This year, we didn’t put our tree up straight away as we had plans with my parents, sisters, nieces and nephew to go to a stately home nearby for a Christmas day out. It was a really special day, one that will stay in our memories for a very long time. I do love Christmas and the opportunities it brings for magic!

We put our tree up on Sunday which, for a real tree, I still felt was a little early but with pressure from the kids (and husband!) I gave in and we had a lovely time decorating the house whilst listening to Christmas music (another tradition).

Happy Home Heart Harmony Christmas

Happy Home Heart Harmony Christmas

We have always ‘kept it real’ with our Christmas tree. My hubby has strong feelings about a real tree. I love the smell you get with a real one but I can see the benefits of going artificial. We do have a small artificial tree in our breakfast room but the big one in the living room is the real deal.

I think we can all agree that our Christmas tree isn’t going to win any awards in the style stakes(!) but I feel like the memories attached to this tree are so precious that I could never let them go just to have it tie in with the decor. This tree has been almost 20 years in the making! Each and every decoration has a special memory attached to it and this, for me is what Christmas is all about. Some of these decorations were bought for our first ever Christmas tree back in 1995, others were given to us by family members (some of whom are no longer with us), some were bought on trips abroad.

Christmas Ornaments

The handsome reindeer was given to my son when he was page boy at my sister’s Christmas wedding. The cinderella glass slipper was given to my daughter on the same occasion.

The gold glass bauble was bought on a memorable family trip to London and the ‘Hilton Head’ decoration was bought on our recent holiday to the US.

And no, before you ask, I don’t panic about whether the children are hanging everything symmetrically (though there may be a very small amount of post-bedtime re-arrangement!)

Christmas Tree 2

Bo has taken to curling up on the chair by the little tree. I think she feels it sets off her fur perfectly!

And what about our Christmas Mantel I hear you ask? (You did ask didn’t you?)

Our Christmas Mantel

Our Christmas Mantel

Obviously, I am using the the term ‘Christmas Mantel’ very loosely. There’s probably some infringement of the trades descriptions act at play here because all I’ve actually done is sling a glittery garland across a shelf but let’s go with it o.k?

We all have one more week of work and school to get through during which time I need to finish ALL of my Christmas preparations. We are looking forward to spending time with family and friends after that and I really want to enjoy those final days of Christmas build-up with the children instead of panicking about present wrapping and last minute shopping. Wish me luck!! (My intentions are always so good but the reality may not quite match up!)

Is everyone else getting there with their Christmas prep? I always feel like I (and infact, all parents) should be given some kind of award at the end of Christmas day which recognises the herculean task that has been achieved in reaching that great milestone without being reduced (very often) to a quivering wreck. (Hey, it could still happen. Give it time!) It’s the MOST wonderful time of the year! (Right? Am I right?!)

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

 

Reindeer Fingerprint Christmas Cards

After being a little ‘under the weather’ and unable to post over the weekend, I thought I would quickly pop in to tell you about these cute Christmas cards my sweet girl wanted to make. We had a window on Friday evening and after a quick scan of Pinterest for inspiration, we got cracking with these fun little festive messages for the family.

Reindeer Cards

There were a few examples of these on Pinterest (here and here and here to pick just a few) and we had been looking for something that used our fingerprints so these were perfect! We roped the boys in and everyone painted their thumb and printed on each card.

Everyone had to be involved!

Everyone had to be involved!

Once the paint was dry, we broke out the craft stash and found the ‘googlie’ eyes and teeny red pompoms and stuck them on each one. I drew the antlers and wrote a Christmas message from the family.

Adding the finishing touches

Adding the finishing touches

These were so easy to make and actually, we had a really lovely evening together doing them while listening to some Christmas music. I’m always tempted to make Christmas cards but realistically, I know it would just put too much pressure on at an already fraught time. So, we usually compromise by making cards for the family. Just enough to satisfy the creative urge without pushing me over the edge!!

Reindeer fingerprint cards

Reindeer fingerprint cards

Has anyone else been making Christmas cards? Send me a picture, I would love to see them.

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

 

Gallery Gazing

As I mentioned in this post, I have been wanting to create a gallery wall in our kitchen for some time now and over the last few months, I have been gathering up frames and pictures to give it a shot. If I’m honest, I’m a little bit nervous about it, as I don’t want it to finish up looking like a mess (which is highly possible!) I’m a big planner and I’m often planning things in my head for a long time before I actually take the plunge. Sometimes it takes months or even years to make those plans a reality but I never feel any kind of regret about that because, in my opinion, it always pays off to wait and think things through first when it comes to decorating decisions.

So, in keeping with this philosophy, and inspired to get on with it by the array of photos we took on our recent holiday, I’ve been busy researching gallery walls – placement, frame type, frame colour, style, etc. for a while and trying to decide what I like best and what would work best in our space.

Here are a few examples of different approaches to the gallery wall which have come up in my research:

Instagram Prints Gallery

Instagram Prints Gallery

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This one is a similar idea to the Instagram Gallery Wall I created in our stairwell. I love the uniformity of it and I love seeing our family pictures every time I run up and down the stairs but I feel like the wall in the kitchen will need a little more ‘personality.’ I’m looking for a more eclectic mix of frames and other items which I think will fill this larger space better.

Gold Gallery Wall from Classy Clutter

Gold Gallery Wall from Classy Clutter

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I loooooove this one. The gold frames, the mix of pictures, words, photos and mirrors. It is just what I’m going for but sadly, I don’t think the gold would match our colour scheme on this occasion. Still, definitely one to bear in mind for the future.

A Gorgeous Gallery From Bless'er House

A Gorgeous Gallery From Bless’er House

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This is one of my favourites. The use of different textures, shapes and sizes is so effective and I love the letters too. I adore the way the colour of the frames are slightly different but all still tones of a similar shade.

Gallery wall from Feather Nest Photography

Gallery wall from Feather Nest Photography

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This darling arrangement is another twist on a similar idea. I love the two-tone frames in different shapes and sizes and the colourful prints mixed in which add colour without overwhelming. It’s just so cute!

These are just a few of my favourites. There is a world of inspiration out there but I definitely have a clearer idea of what I’m going for now and I can’t wait to get going with my own Gallery Wall. I just need to get hubby on board as I think I may need some help with this one!

Has anyone else been making plans to get their family photos on display? I just love to be surrounded by pictures of our happiest memories don’t you?

P.S. You can see our Instagram Gallery Stairwell here.

 

Chalk Paint Chair Update

Dining Chair Update from Home Heart Harmony

Dining Chair Update from Home Heart Harmony

 

 

I’ve been getting busy with the paint brush again and I’m so pleased with the results, I couldn’t wait to share them with you. Earlier in the year, a lovely lady I had known my whole life passed away. The people clearing her house knew that I liked to ‘up-cycle’ furniture and I had a call to ask if I would like to do so with a set of six dining chairs which had belonged to her for years. I do love renovating old furniture but there is something particularly special about doing so with something that has a sentimental meaning for you. I thought the chairs were a lovely shape and we were desperately in need of new dining chairs since our pup did this to ours:

Our dog-chewed chairs are in urgent need of replacement

Our dog-chewed chairs are in urgent need of replacement

I have waited until now to do anything because I wanted to make sure the dog had finished her chair-chewing. Now, she hasn’t done any for some time, so I’m really hoping she wasn’t just waiting for new material!!

I started off with this:

Before

Before

 

I have been keen for a while to try chalk paint which I had seen around a lot on Pinterest. My Mum had used it to update some of her old pieces of furniture and it looked great and then last weekend, we had dinner at a friend’s and they had used it to paint one of their dining chairs which spurred me into action with ours. The paint I used was this Autentico chalk paint which was recommended to me as being good.

Autentico Chalk Paint

Autentico Chalk Paint

For anyone local, upon the recommendation of aforementioned Mum and friend, I purchased the chalk paint at Keeper’s Pre-Loved at Farrington Farm which is just down the road from me. The lady there was so lovely and helpful, she advised me how to use the paint and helped me with colour choice. She even opened tins of paint for me so that I could get a better idea of how they looked (and I didn’t even have to ask!) The paint is not cheap (I think it was around £25 for the tin and the wax) but I think the price is competitive with other suppliers and I quickly realised that the paint goes a long way. I have only painted one chair so far but I think I will quite easily get all six painted before I need to buy another tin.

You can use the wax and chalk paint to achieve a distressed finish but personally, I don’t like that look so I just used the wax as suggested to seal and give a smooth finish and I’m really happy with it.

Coat 1, 2 and 3

Coat 1, 2 and 3

The lady at Keeper’s Pre-Loved advised me not to panic when I put the first coat on. She said it would go on thinly and there would be brush streaks with the first coat which there were. She advised at least two coats and I finished up giving it three. The paint had quite a gritty (you might say ‘chalky’!!) texture and it was strange to start with. It did seem to dry very quickly although I left each coat overnight to make sure it had dried properly.

For the seat pad, I used some left over curtain fabric which I just cut to size and attached underneath using my staple gun. I love the fabric so much and it was SO easy to put on, I can easily replace it if it gets messed up. Here are some pictures (which are not great because the light has been so poor this week but we’ll get the idea. I’ll try to take some more pictures and update them if we get a brighter day.)

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All finished

All finished

 

So, now I just need to do the other five!! I will be sure to share with you again when all six are complete and ‘in situ’ I am on a roll now and determined to get all six finished before Christmas. Has anyone else been busy painting or ‘up-cycling’ this weekend? I would love to hear about it and see your pictures. You can get in touch by email (homeheartharmony@yahoo.com) or follow me on Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

P.S. You can see some of my previous painting adventures here and here.

Let’s talk Plans

Happy Sunday! It was a really miserable rainy day here yesterday but I secretly love a Saturday like this every now and then because it gives you the perfect excuse to hole up at home and either get all those pesky jobs done……or…..lounge around and do very little (my preferred option if I can get away with it!) Yesterday, I used the rain as an excuse to get some floor plans done on the computer for our extension which have got me into a state of high excitement!

As I mentioned in this post about our kitchen, we have plans for big changes to our ground floor. We have waited 10 long years to replace our kitchen and during that time, I have gone backwards and forwards a hundred times over what my dream kitchen would look like. It’s a big decision and one I still haven’t made, but I think I’m moving in the right direction.

Thanks to my plan-drawing activities yesterday, I definitely have a clearer idea about what the layout should look like. Here is what we have at present:

The Current Layout

The Current Layout

I used ‘Sweet Home 3D Format’ to create this drawing and it was really easy to use. I didn’t measure anything so it’s not to scale and it’s all just done on guess work but I think I’m pretty close to how it should look. The furniture etc. is just representative, there were no colour options or anything so we’ll just go with it.

At the moment, we have a small conservatory at the back of the house which we NEVER use. It is far too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter and it’s also too small to be useful for anything I can think of. It is joined by double glass doors to our ‘den.’ This room is well used. It is home to my piano (which won’t fit anywhere else in the whole ground floor) as well as my son’s Xbox and most of the children’s toys and games (the collection of which is rapidly reducing as they get older.) In the summer, we have to keep the double doors closed at all times otherwise, the den is also too hot to sit in.

My initial thought was to knock down the walls between the breakfast room and the conservatory/den and open up the whole back of the house but there were a few reasons why we have decided not to do this:

1. We really use the den a lot. It’s great to have a space where the children can take themselves off and play their games and make a mess and if need be, we can shut the door on it all and deal with it later. I think it’s always useful to have space that can be separated off and used for different purposes.

2. As the children get older, I’m sure they will want space of their own to hang out with their friends etc (away from hubby and I!) and I would feel better if this was somewhere on the ground floor so that they are still close to us and not cut off and shut away upstairs.

I’m sure we could create an amazing space at the back of the house if it was all open plan and we could install bi-fold doors and open it to the garden but I’m just not sure it would work with the way we live our lives. Here’s what we’ve come up with as a new layout:

New Layout

New Layout

We eventually made the decision to replace the conservatory roof with a ‘proper’ roof and square off the corner to create a bit more useable space. We will also knock the walls down between the current conservatory and den to open up the room.  We have thought carefully about how we use this area and how we would want to use it in the future and I came up with three main uses. The first is as a space for the children (and adults!) to watch TV, play games and computer games and generally lounge around. The second is as a place to play the piano or other musical instruments. The third thing I would love to add to this space is a desk area. At present, we all use our kitchen table for doing paperwork etc. I spend a fair amount of time working on the computer (for the blog and for work) and the children sometimes need help with their homework which entails them being closer to me or their Dad than they are in their bedrooms (which is where they do most of their school work.) By having a study/desk area in here, it means we can all be closer to the rest of the family while we work without cluttering up the kitchen table which has to be cleared off every time we want to eat.

In the kitchen, we are planning to push the external wall out to allow for a bigger kitchen as well as a larger laundry/mud room behind. You may have noticed that I have also snuck a ‘pantry’ into that space – I could just burst with excitement at the prospect of having a pantry!! I have also always dreamed of having an island unit in my kitchen and I am seizing this opportunity to make it happen! I am SO excited at the prospect of our new kitchen it’s ridiculous!

The current utility/laundry room is tiny and whilst it’s really handy to have it, the room is usually in a state of chaos because it’s just not big enough to house everything that needs to happen in there! This room is home to our cat’s food, bed and litter tray, it also houses our bags, coats, wellington boots, hats, scarves etc. It has a wall mounted shoe cabinet as well as a sink (which I can never get to) and cupboards which contain all of our laundry detergent, pet food, shoe cleaning equipment, cookery books, etc.etc. I could go on for ever!

At the moment, I take all of our clean laundry upstairs to fold and iron. In my dreams, this room will have an area for both of those activities so that I can simply take our ironed clothes upstairs to put away and we won’t have a spare bedroom full of laundry. I would love to incorporate a folding table and baskets for each person’s clean laundry which could be taken upstairs, emptied and returned. Something like this:

Screen Shot 2012-05-25 at 8.38.01 AM

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I would also love it if there were a place to keep all our boots so they are not just scattered around the floor. This room is also where we dry off the dog after muddy walks and it would be great to have a bit more space for that activity which is not easy in cramped quarters!!

In the kitchen, we have made space for that island unit as well as including large doors onto the patio and garden. We will keep a table in there as well as having a breakfast bar at the island so that we can still accommodate larger numbers for dinner or whatever. My husband is dreaming of a Rangemaster oven and I would love to have somewhere to house all his cookery books within the kitchen. We are gradually zeroing in on what we want for this space but it’s so hard to decide and I’m sure when we realise what everything costs, there will be compromises to be made!

So, that’s it. Our dream layout and plans for the next year or so. I am currently making a list of little extras I would love to incorporate such as a waste disposal unit, a space under the counter for the dog’s bed and an outside tap that runs warm as well as cold water. Is there anything else you can think of that we should include in our new plans? Is there anything you would change about this layout? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions. I just can’t wait to get started with all this. Now all we need to do is find someone to do all the work!! Please contact me with your comments and suggestions in the comments or email me at homeheartharmony@yahoo.com. I would love to hear your ideas!

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

 

 

 

Christmas Preparations

Happy Halloween! I can’t believe it’s the end of October already! Where has this year gone? We have had a lovely half term week but it’s gone waaaay too quickly. We had fun carving our pumpkins last night and I’m actually quite enjoying the snuggly evenings now that the clocks have gone back.

Tree

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As it’s November tomorrow, I thought it might be ok for me to mention Christmas?! It’s certainly on my mind now and although I ban Christmas music and films in our house until 1st December, I definitely need to be thinking about Christmas gift shopping and preparation. I love to embrace the festive season during December and I always feel that thinking about Christmas too early spoils the excitement of the build up.

I used to keep all Christmas activities on hold until 1st December but since becoming a Mum, I am acutely aware of the huge amount of preparation that is needed before the big day and every year I promise myself that next year, I will start planning earlier.

This time around, I would like to think that I could get most of my gift-buying done by the end of November so that we can relax a bit and just enjoy December. I created a template last year to help keep track of present buying and budget. Here is a FREE DOWNLOAD for you to help you do the same this year. (Click the link underneath the picture).

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Christmas Present List

This list really helped me last year. I started using it just for present ideas but when I actually started shopping, I was able to keep a track of what I had actually purchased as well as the amount of money I had spent on each person (something which I can easily lose track of!) In some cases, I bought more than one gift so I left the lines wide to enable me to record each one within the same area.

I am a very visual person and I find the action of writing things down helps me to remember them which is why I find this type of list so useful. However, I do understand that some of you will prefer to use technology to keep track of things so here are a few of my favourite FREE Christmas apps to help you stay organised over the festive period.

 

mzl.kqmcalndSanta’s Bag

This app allows you to make lists of your gift recipients and keep track of your spending as you buy presents for all of them. You can set an overall budget and it even enables you to change the status of each gift as you purchase and wrap them up as well as emailing lists of things you still need to buy. You  can even add a password to stop little noses from seeing all your secret gift ideas!

 

NoMoreSocksLogoNo More Socks

This app enables you to use it year-round to create and update lists of gift ideas for all your friends and family. You can create events, add people and presents as well as go online shopping to save links and photographs. The app also enables you to get gift inspiration from other users and share your gift ideas with the ‘No More Socks’ community.

 

imagesManage Christmas

Another similar app which allows you to budget, keep lists, track ideas and record purchases. There is also a Christmas gift ideas section to give you inspiration for those ‘difficult customers’ (We all have those, right?)

 

 

And once all the serious business has been taken care of, here are a few more fun ones to get you and your little ones into the festive spirit!

imagesNORAD tracks Santa

We have been following Santa on the NORAD website for a few years now and my kiddo’s always get SO excited to follow his journey around the world. Now you can follow using their app to track Santa’s progress on the NORAD radar! (Available from 1st December).

 

 

unnamedInstaCard

Use your instagram photos to create cards for your loved ones. Choose from over 60 card designs and 55 creative frames and add text in a variety of fonts and colours. There are also stickers to add a touch of fun and you can use your photos as backgrounds if you wish. This app can be used year-round.

 

 

imagesMartha Stewart Craft Studio

This app enables you to create and order cards to be delivered to your door featuring your own photographs and ‘virtual glitter.’ There are four free themes and more are available with an additional cost. You can also print at home or share via email, Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

Hopefully, once you’ve downloaded the Christmas list and all these fantabulous apps, we’ll all be well on our way to being organised and ready to tackle our Christmas shopping! Is anyone else planning to get started with their Christmas prep? I would love to hear about it. Don’t forget, you can contact me by email (homeheartharmony@yahoo.com) or follow me on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

 

Easy Entertaining

It’s been another busy week around here and I feel like I’ve hardly been at home! We have reached the end of the first half term of the school year so the children and I have a week to re-charge our batteries and prepare for the madness of the Christmas term which is always a non-stop, full-steam-ahead sprint to the holidays.

One of our favourite things to do at this (and pretty much any other) time of year is to have people over. As the home-loving gal that I am, I have always loved having friends and family gather at our place to enjoy a nice meal and a little tipple (or two!) Since we had the children it obviously holds the added bonus of being an opportunity to have a fun evening with friends whilst not having to worry about getting a baby-sitter.

I am so lucky that my hubby is the chef in our house and he loves to cook for others and try out new, more exciting recipes that we wouldn’t be having in the day-to-day meal-prep frenzy that has to be squeezed in between ballet lessons, grocery shopping, swimming, school projects, housework and general tearing-around that has to be done on our weeknights. Over the years, we have made a few changes to the way we plan and prepare for these social gatherings that make things run more smoothly and (by and large) reduce the chances of  a) burnt dinner b) being half dressed when guests arrive or c) a screaming row! So, here we go with my definitive top 10 tips for entertaining at home:

1. Get ahead with the housework

Get ahead with the housework

Get ahead with the housework

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We have been using our Cleaning Schedule for a few months now and it works so well….when I’m on top of things. Of course there are days when all my best-laid plans go out the window and I fall behind with the housework but having a plan definitely helps me to tackle those little jobs as and when I have a spare 10 minutes without being overwhelmed.

Our Cleaning Routine

Our Cleaning Routine

In the weeks when I know we are having people over, I try extra hard to stick to the plan and get things done in the week leading up to the event so I don’t find myself rushing around on the day working up a hot-sweat to get the house together when I need to be doing other things. Generally, on the day itself, I just whizz around with the vacuum cleaner and that’s about it.

2. Ask ahead about food preferences or allergies

It’s always a good idea to get this info ahead of time so that you can plan your menu without having to re-jig things at the last minute to accommodate a food allergy or preference.

3. Team Up

Team Work!

Team Work!

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My Mum always says ‘Many hands make light work’ and it’s so true. Splitting the workload in terms of food-prep and house-prep makes things so much easier. In our house, I usually make a dessert, get the house clean and tidy and get the kids to bed while hubby cooks the main course and dessert and walks the dog so she’s not bouncing off the walls while we have people here (though she usually does that anyway!) Generally, I will make the dessert either the day before or early in the day (since I’m home earlier). I often involve the children in our preparation too. They love to lay the table and make it look pretty, light candles and get involved with anything that delays the moment they have to go to bed!

4. Plan the meal prep

If you do everything possible in advance – either during the day or the night before – everything is so much easier on the night. From preparing the dessert to peeling and/or chopping vegetables to making a soup or sauce, whatever can be done before the evening will take pressure off on the night.

5. Clean up as you go

Get that washing up done before your guests arrive!

Get that washing up done before your guests arrive!

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After all the effort of making your kitchen sparkle for your guests, the last thing you want is to create a disaster zone in the hour before they arrive. So, get the washing up bowl filled and ready and wash each item as you finish with it. Then it’s just a matter of putting things away and a quick wipe-down of the worktops and you’re ready to go.

6. Leave yourself time to get ready

Don't get caught in your underwear - leave time to get ready!

Don’t get caught in your underwear – leave time to get ready!

Don’t forget to allow time to get yourself ready as well as the meal! There’s nothing worse than still being in your underwear when the doorbell goes! Cue sweaty red face and ‘dragged-through-a-hedge’ hair.

7. Remember – everything doesn’t have to be ready the second your guests walk through the door.

It’s easy to forget in the pre-dinner panic that people won’t want to sit down and start eating the second they walk through the door. If your meal is ready when your guests arrive, chances are, it will be overcooked or burnt when they are ready to eat. It’s often much less stressful to know that you have a bit of a window once your guests arrive and if one of you is pouring drinks and greeting people, the other can be dealing with the last minute meal preparation.

8. Serve a meal that is easy to eat

Don't make your guests wrestle with their food

Don’t make your guests wrestle with their food

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As a guest, it’s always preferable if you don’t have to mess around with your food too much. Lots of dishes on the table where people have to help themselves can be fun but it can also be awkward and can mean the food goes cold before everyone has had a chance to serve themselves. It’s probably best to keep such meals to small groups and go with something simpler for larger tables. It’s probably best to avoid meals that have a high likelihood of ending up in your friends’ laps too! Nothing more embarrassing than mustard on your chin when you’re in company darling!

9. Create the ambience

Create the mooood

Create the moooooood

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Create a playlist, light some candles, turn off the big lights and keep things relaxed. The last thing you want is your guests listening to one another eat or cutlery clattering against plates while they worry about waking the children. Try to relax, chatter, laugh loud and everyone will soon be following suit – just focus on the lie in you might get in the morning if the kiddo’s are a bit late going off to sleep!

10. Don’t take it too seriously. 

If you are fretting about red wine getting on the table cloth or stressing that the vegetables aren’t perfectly ‘al dente’ or the meat too tough, your guests won’t relax either. There is nothing worse than going to someone’s home and feeling that you are putting them out or causing your host an episode of high blood pressure. Laugh at yourself, don’t worry if things aren’t perfect and just enjoy yourself – that’s what it’s all about after all!

Oh, and don’t forget to put the wine in the fridge!! Is anyone else entertaining this weekend? I hope you have a blast!

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

 

 

 

Heavenly Hilton Head

I’m back with the second instalment of our holiday story. It all feels like a long and distant memory now and I am already longing to go back as Autumn starts to take hold here. You can read about the first part of our American Adventure here.

As some of you will know, Hilton Head Island is a “Lowcountry resort town located on an island of the same name in Beaufort County, South Carolina in the United States” (according to Wikipedia). Over here in the UK, I was completely ignorant of its existence until it was suggested as a possible holiday destination by our travel agent who had visited the island herself and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We were just looking for somewhere to kick back and relax after our week in New York but our only proviso was that we didn’t want to go to Florida because a) we had been a couple of times before and b) we are planning to holiday in Florida within the next few years and will probably do a beachside location there on that occasion. I completely understand that choice of holiday destination is a very personal preference so please do bear in mind that everything that follows is very much my own opinion.

The Hilton Head Landscape was like nothing we have here in the UK

The Hilton Head Landscape was like nothing we have here in the UK

Hilton Head Island itself was a type of landscape I had personally never encountered before. I had seen pictures of the ‘Southern’ landscapes in America with the Spanish moss hanging from the trees and the wetlands stretching for miles. We were captivated by the reality of the environment. A lot of consideration has been given to the natural habitat in Hilton Head and there is a notable absence of bright lights and colours. All the buildings seemed to be designed to blend into their surroundings and we were told that artificial light interfered with the turtles’ nesting activity which accounted for the absence of night-time lighting.

The track from the Hotel to the Beach - complete with weird camera filter which I didn't realise I had on!

The track from the Hotel to the Beach – complete with weird camera filter which I didn’t realise I had on!

We certainly noticed this lack of light on our first evening in the area when we got spectacularly lost driving from the airport in Savannah, Georgia to our resort in Hilton Head. It was an interesting evening to say the least! We picked up our hire car (A ‘Dodge Charger’ – is it possible that there could be a more American-sounding name for a car?!) at Savannah airport just after a rainstorm which had steamed up the windscreen nicely. Unfortunately, we discovered too late that the de-mister didn’t really work properly and finished up unable to see out, driving on the wrong side of the road (we drive on the left here in the UK), in the dark, with no map or sat-nav. We seemed to drive through mile after mile after mile of forest and there was nothing anywhere!

The 'Dodge Charger' - The most American name a car could ever wish for!

The ‘Dodge Charger’ – The most American name a car could ever wish for!

How on earth we went so wrong I still don’t know. The journey back to the airport at the end of our holiday was so straight-forward it seemed impossible we could have got so lost! The children (and adults) hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since a snack in the airport at lunchtime and by the time we reached our hotel, it was 11.00pm. I have NEVER been so relieved to get anywhere, EVER in my life! We only found the island by eventually deciding to head back towards Savannah and start again. Thanks to some friendly local police officers, we finally found our way. Let’s just say that the drive, which should have taken us about 50 minutes, took over 3 hours. Luckily, Hubby and I remained completely calm throughout and at no point did we find ourselves driving backwards down the wrong side of the road or screaming ‘STAY ON THE RIGHT!!!!’ like a crazy person or, indeed, swearing that if we ever found the hotel we would never leave it until we had to go home (at which point we would tell the woman at the car-hire desk exactly where she could shove her ‘directions’). Thank goodness for that!

Thankfully, the following day, my parents arrived to join us for the rest of our holiday and, having not had the hideous first-night experience we had, they encouraged us that perhaps we could consider leaving the hotel at some point! Ironically, we became extremely attached to the ‘Dodge’ by the end of our holiday and were sad to say goodbye!

Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island

Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island

We stayed at the ‘Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island’ in Shipyard Plantation. It was a newly refurbished hotel which had only been part of the Sonesta group for a short while. I think there were a few teething problems that were still being ironed-out but generally, the surroundings, service and our experience as a whole were wonderful. The grounds of the hotel were beautiful and the rooms were really comfortable, plush and welcoming. The beach was amazing and the climate was very ‘Florida-like’ – hot, humid and perfect for lounging around in! The thing we most noticed about the second week of our holiday was the ‘Southern Hospitality.’ I don’t think we have ever visited anywhere that the people were as warm and friendly as they were in Hilton Head and the surrounding areas. Everywhere we went, people were smiling, happy to stop for a chat, interested to hear about where we were from and eager to help with anything we needed. It was so lovely and really added that extra sparkle to our experience.

One of the Hotel's lagoons where the children enjoyed feeding the Turtles every afternoon

One of the Hotel’s lagoons where the children enjoyed feeding the Turtles every afternoon

The majority of our days were spent relaxing by the pool (which was heavenly after a week of tearing around New York) and we ventured out more in the evenings to explore the island. After one evening in the hotel, my parents managed to convince us that it was safe to venture out in the ‘Charger.’ We left the hotel while it was still light and everything seemed so much easier! The first evening out was spent just down the road at the ‘Coligny Plaza.’ We did some souvenir shopping and found somewhere to have dinner. Our daughter was especially taken with Coligny Plaza, she is becoming quite the little shopaholic and there were all sorts of little boutique-type shops which were her idea of heaven!

For our next evening, I had made plans prior to our holiday to go on a ‘Sunset Fireworks Cruise’ with Drifter Excursions which departed from South Beach and sailed past Harbour Town to Broad Creek for the fireworks which took place there on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer.

All aboard - Sunset and Fireworks Cruise from South Beach

All aboard – Sunset and Fireworks Cruise from South Beach

Prior to the trip, we had dinner at the ‘Salty Dog Cafe’ which is renowned locally as the port to which a dog called Jake (so the legend goes) swam for three days and three nights with his owner hanging on to his collar after their fishing boat was wrecked in a storm. Who wouldn’t want to hear that story?! The food was really good too! After dinner, our excursion departed and we were treated to the most spectacular sunset I think I have ever seen! This photo is completely un-edited. It really was this beautiful! And that yacht happened along at just the right moment!

An unbelievably beautiful sunset - UNEDITED I tell you!

An unbelievably beautiful sunset – UNEDITED I tell you!

The fireworks were great and it was such a beautiful, balmy evening. It was a very relaxed and relaxing thing to do and we got to see the Harbour Town lighthouse for the first time. There was lots of wildlife to see as well, we even saw a brown pelican diving into the sea for fish (we established that it was a brown pelican after reading that they are the only type of pelican that dives in this way.) The pelicans were a frequent sight during our holiday, there seemed to be an endless string of them constantly flying along the shore-line.

Brown pelicans flying above the amazing beach-front properties

Brown pelicans flying above the amazing beach-front properties just outside the Hotel grounds

The following evening, we decided to check out Harbour Town and were lucky enough to get a table on the veranda of a restaurant which looked out to sea. We spent the evening drinking cocktails and watching the boats sail into the harbour. It was heaven. We were even treated to another quite special sunset.

Cocktails at Sunset in Harbour Town

Cocktails at Sunset in Harbour Town

Harbour Town was a buzzing place which was home to restaurants, shops and a very fancy lighthouse! We would have loved to spend more time there and are hopeful we will visit again one day.

Harbour Town

Harbour Town

On our penultimate day in Hilton Head, we decided we could not leave without spending a day in Savannah. My daughter and I went with my parents leaving the boys to chill-out (our 8 year old was all walked out after New York and I wasn’t about to push him any further). I’m so glad we took a day to explore. It was an amazing place which just oozed Southern charm! We spent most of our day on historic ‘River Street’ which was a fascinating place packed with all manner of souvenir shops and a market place packed with local traders selling their handmade creations. We chose a great day to go as it was stormy and we were treated to a dramatic down-pour which made everything all the more exciting!!

Historic Savannah

Sheltering from the rain in historic Savannah

We took a ride on that tram which dates back to the 1930′s and has just been restored and returned to River Street. We did lots of souvenir shopping in Savannah and even managed a quick whip around one of Hilton Head’s designer outlets on the way back!

Having my parents with us for the second week of our ‘holiday-of-a-lifetime’ and unexpectedly finding ourselves in such a glorious location meant that our time in Hilton Head Island was the icing on the cake which made our time in the US extra-special. I would definitely recommend it as a holiday destination and we will certainly be planning to visit again one day.

Has anyone else ever visited Hilton Head? Anyone planning their next big adventure? I would love to hear all about it. Until next time….xoxo!

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

 

 

 

Decorating with….Grey

Well it’s been a while since I did one of these posts but I have seen so many beautiful examples lately of rooms decorated with Grey, I just had to jump in there and share some of them with you. We decorated our kitchen and breakfast room in Grey a couple of years ago. I was initially concerned that the grey would be too dark but also didn’t want to go too pale and regret not going the whole nine yards (so to speak).

The Breakfast Room

The Breakfast Room

Our walls are painted in ‘Dove Grey’ by Homebase and I chose to accessorise with cream and pink. The whole look was originally inspired by the Clarke and Clarke ‘English Rose’ fabric. I fell in love with it for the table cloth and curtains. The other item I really wanted to incorporate was the cream shelf unit on the wall. This unit comes in both cream and duck egg and I was so torn. I really wanted a grey room but I was so in love with the duck egg shelf unit, it almost swayed my colour decision. In the end, having already decorated the living room with the duck egg colour, I decided we should go with something different in the kitchen and I’m so glad we did because I love the grey. I’m thinking about creating a more eclectic gallery wall in here (where the clock is now) so watch this space for that.

The shelf unit was a must-have

The shelf unit was a must-have

The Clarke and Clarke Fabric was the inspiration for the room

The Clarke and Clarke Fabric was the inspiration for the room

The sun streams into this room in the mornings

The sun streams into this room in the mornings

The kitchen itself is the one that was here when we bought the house and it’s not one I would have chosen myself but when you’re presented with a kitchen that’s still new and you have no money to replace it, it’s hard to justify borrowing more money to do so. Also, when you have young kids, then kittens, then a puppy, it seems like a bad idea to plough money into a new kitchen that’s likely to be ruined! I’ve often thought about painting the units but they are not solid wood and the veneer was scratched and peeling in some areas so I felt that painting the imperfections would just highlight them.

The Kitchen wasn't our choice but I don't hate it.

The Kitchen wasn’t our choice but I don’t hate it.

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We have big plans in the works for this room. Exciting things lie ahead people!! If things proceed accordingly, this will all be gone this time next year! More on that another day….

So, on to those beautiful, inspiring grey rooms I mentioned. I recently visited IKEA to have a nose at their new range of kitchens and they have a really, really tempting grey kitchen which makes me swoon. I fell in love with the grey units but I’m just not sure I’m quite brave enough to go grey with my kitchen units. What do you think?

The New Ikea Metod/Bodbyn kitchen

The New Ikea Metod/Bodbyn kitchen

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I am considering a mix of grey and cream like the one in this picture which was uploaded to Farrow and Ball’s Facebook page by a happy customer. The upper units are painted in ‘Skimming Stone’ and the lower ones in ‘Charleston Grey.’

Uploaded to the Farrow and Ball Facebook page by a happy customer.

Uploaded to the Farrow and Ball Facebook page by a happy customer.

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And while we’re on kitchens, how about this white kitchen with dramatic grey walls? Definitely another option to consider!

White kitchen with dramatic grey walls

White kitchen with dramatic grey walls

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But it’s not just kitchens that look great in grey! It is actually a really soothing and restful colour for a bedroom too. I love the vintage feel of this one:

Vintage inspired Grey bedroom

Vintage inspired Grey bedroom

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It’s crazy how such a masculine colour can look so delicate and pretty! Having said that, I could also be swayed by a bolder, cleaner version of the grey boudoir….

A sleek and sophisticated glamorous grey boudoir

A sleek and sophisticated glamorous grey boudoir

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Can you imagine how sophisticated you would feel swanning off to bed in a room like this? Actually, on second thoughts, I think I may be very slightly out of place in this room! My very presence would throw the vibe entirely! (On reflection, perhaps that is just a black and white photograph and not a grey room at all?!)

Warm and cosy layered textures

Warm and cosy layered textures

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This bedroom has popped up on my Pinterest feed numerous times and I am amazed at how warm and cosy grey can be made to feel with a mix of different wood tones and textures. I would not have thought it possible.

I also love how grey can be livened up by mixing it with a brighter colour. This grey living room is completely transformed by the addition of very few bright yellow accessories and it looks fabulous!

Pops of yellow jazz up a grey living room

Pops of yellow jazz up a grey living room

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And this gorgeous home office is lifted from ordinary to extraordinary by just a hint of pink:

Grey with a hint of pink from Style Me Pretty

Grey with a hint of pink from Style Me Pretty

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I could literally keep you here all day long showing you pictures of beautiful grey rooms! Here are just a couple more of my favourites:

Image from Pinterest - there was no link but please enlighten me if you know to whom this belongs!

Image from Pinterest – there was no link but please enlighten me if you know to whom this belongs!

One of my favourite rooms ever! From A Thoughtful Place

One of my favourite rooms ever! From A Thoughtful Place

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So, have I inspired you to go grey?! If these pictures don’t do it, nothing will. We are planning a weekend of school projects and family time around here and hoping the sun shines just a little bit. Hope you all have a great weekend whatever you’re up to. See you next time….xoxo.

PS. You can see other posts in the ‘Decorating with…’ series here and here.

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation. 

A Cupboard Conundrum

Sunday was one of those rare days in our house where none of us had anywhere to be. I always imagine spending those days curled up on the sofa drinking endless cups of tea but in reality, there are always a million things lurking, waiting for attention. One of those things has been the double cupboard in my son’s bedroom. As soon as I heard him utter the ‘b’ word (Muuuuum, I’m bored!!), I was straight on the case enlisting his help to tackle the mountain of ‘treasures’ he had tucked away in there! This cupboard is floor to ceiling, double width storage sent from heaven. It’s so fantastic to have concealed storage like this, especially in a child’s bedroom. The down side to it however, is that it fills up over the months (and years!) and gradually becomes so full that you can’t really remember what’s in there any more! I last had a sort-out in this cupboard around a year ago but even by last Christmas when we updated our little man’s bedroom with new bed and overhead storage, I found that the contents of that cupboard had been sneakily breeding and resolved to do something about it soon. Ten months later and lo and behold, we are back to square one!

Cupboard Overload - How does this happen?!

Cupboard Overload – How does this happen?!

I feel like there is definitely a cyclical process when it comes to cupboards like this. It is inevitable that as new ‘things’ find their way into our homes and lives, the space we have to store them becomes fuller and fuller until you can’t avoid having to go through it all and decide what you really want to keep and what can go. Sometimes, if there’s an emotional attachment, I find myself moving these items from one place to another (like the loft or garage) until sufficient time has passed that we are mentally ready to ‘let go.’ I think this can take anything from a couple of months to a couple of years and whilst I don’t want a home (or loft) full of clutter, I also don’t want to feel panicked into ‘ejecting’ items with sentimental value from our lives without a second thought.

One tactic I have embraced in negotiating this situation is to allocate each of our children a ‘memory box’ which sits in the top of their cupboard. They each have special items tucked away and when the box is full, they need to think about whether there is anything in there that they don’t want to keep any more. There are usually items that no longer hold as much significance and they are happy to let them go and add something else that they consider to be important now.

Two other things happen when we go through this type of de-cluttering exercise. The first is that we find all sorts of things that we had forgotten all about but which we would definitely still like to use/play with. The second, of course, is that there are also things we don’t need or want any more so we are able to make a donation to our charity shop of choice!

On this particular occasion, we filled one dustbin liner with rubbish, one with clothes and two big bags with games and toys to take to charity. We also found a few items to pass on to younger family members. The things we held on to are now much more easily accessible and therefore more likely to be used and enjoyed.

In order to reduce the ‘volume’ of the cupboard contents, we unpacked lego and puzzles into re-sealable bags and included a picture and/or instructions. I labelled all the bags and this exercise had a big impact on the amount of space available at the end of the process.

Bags of Lego

Bags of Lego

The cupboard is actually now surprisingly empty! The two new green storage boxes are empty as is the stripy bin on the bottom shelf. I’ve decided to keep the bed linen for our son’s bed in his room from now on and one of the bins has been re-purposed to this effect.

All cleared out and ready for action

All cleared out and ready for action

I’ve labelled the boxes and baskets so that things can be found and returned to their proper home more easily in the future. I live in hope that labels will lead to a less chaotic build-up going forward!

I also added a couple of command hooks to the door for baseball hats which always inspire a storage conundrum. I may add more as they become necessary. Shall we see a before and after?

Cupboard Before and After

Cupboard Before and After

 

Labelled bins make my heart sing!

Labelled bins make my heart sing!

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I am actually feeling ridiculously smug happy that this cupboard is now ready and waiting for the Christmas ‘in-flux’ and our little dude is very pleased with his newly organised storage.

Has anyone else been spending their only free day in weeks clearing out the clutter? I would love to hear about it. Remember you can follow me on FacebookPinterest and Twitter or email me with your pictures at homeheartharmony@yahoo.com.

All text and images are copyright Home Heart Harmony unless stated. Single images may be reproduced only if they remain in their original state and must be credited back to Home Heart Harmony with a link to the site. Failure to do so constitutes a copyright violation.