Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Wales - 8 Months In

Back in May I wrote this post. We had been in the valley a month and it was my intention to write another update after we had been here for six months. That was two months ago and I'm only just getting around to it. So here it is, Wales. Eight months in.
  1. The biggest change to me is the valley itself. Back in May the valley was a palette of greens, often set against the brightest blue skies. The wildlife was everywhere (including the house) and I was knee deep in brambles. Fast forward to December and the valley hills are now a palette of earthy browns and yellows set against grey skies. It's darker, wetter and colder, but still beautiful.
  2. We no longer have wildlife living in the house with us and thanks to a new wood burner there will be no jackdaws filling the chimney up with twigs next spring. 
  3. The brambles have also been tamed. It took a lot of work that one and I lost count of the amount of hours I spent in the orchard pulling up bramble and nettle roots. In case you were wondering, nettles are easy and quite satisfying to pull up. Brambles are the actual devil. The orchard now homes Alessi's slide, trampoline and mud kitchen. We don't spend nearly enough time out there at the moment due to the rain and cold which feels like a huge waste somehow.
  4. Which links nicely to the mud. It's everywhere. Every time there's a storm or a spell of hard rain/wind, the windows get covered and I have to wash them again. Not because I'm precious about windows, but because they genuinely get that bad!
  5. The roads in the valley become interesting to drive after these periods of heavy rain. Water and debris from the trees cover the roads frequently now. My car hates it and develops an annoying squeak in wet weather. Speaking of my little Starlet, she's now almost permanently covered in a layer of mud. Poor girl.
  6. The bathroom has become Baltic once again. 
  7. During the summer the grapevines in the orchard's greenhouse went mental. I was too busy battling brambles to tackle them then, but last month I finally got around to pruning them. It was like Day of the Triffids in there, but less orange. They are now pruned and the chickens are safely tucked away in there, protected from the worst the winter weather can bring. 
All in all, it feels like the time of discovery has past. I don't even feel like this is our 'new' life anymore, it's simply our life now. And that feels good. It also feels like the right time to move on from the valley. The great Welsh experiment was a success and we now know that we made the right decision to move here and want to put down roots of our own. While I love this house and the valley, I need a home to call my own and earth to dig up and plant as I wish. Hopefully we can find something next year, but if not, I can certainly think of worse places to rent while we wait.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Winter List 2017

I am very late posting the winter list this year, but finally here it is. I've decided to update it as I go along this time around so if you return back to this post after a few weeks, it should look a little different. Also instead of including a long list of previous Winter Lists at the bottom of this post, I've just added a link to last years instead. That should be enough for the curious among you.

Door curtain up
Draft excluders for front and back doors
Dig out fairy lights, candles and lamps
Put together a Power Cut Box (candles, torch, camping stove, matches etc)
Pull out blankets from storage and air out
Dig out the hot water bottles
Rug for living room
Clean all windows
Finish painting the house!
Start stocking up firewood

Trim hedges
Mow grass 
Harvest sunflower seeds and put up heads for birds
Clean bird feeders
Move chickens in to barn
Move tender plants in to greenhouse
Take cuttings of flowers to keep and move indoors

Put together winter box (blankets, torch, de-icer, ice-scraper)
Check lights, wipers, windscreen washers, tyres and heaters
Give it a good clean

Change Alessi's nature table to autumn
Put up autumn decorations
Stock up on the Vicks vapour thingies, (expensive, but a god send during cold/cough season)
Freshen all coats, scarves, hats and gloves
Check boots for holes

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

A plastic-free aisle? Yes please!

Have you heard about the Plastic-Free Aisle campaign?

If not then it pretty much does what it says on the tin. It's campaigning the UK's supermarkets to provide a plastic-free aisle so customers can chose to buy food without all the unnecessary plastic packaging.
And it needs YOUR help! The more support it gets, the more likely it is to happen so if you haven't already please, please, pleeeeease give them your support and help make this awesome idea a reality. You can support them in any of the following ways:

1)  Follow on social media, Twitter here, Instagram here or Facebook here

2)  Make a short video of yourself saying "My name is [insert name here]. I am a Plastic Addict but I am ready for change. I want a plastic-free aisle." Then email the recording to so it can be uploaded to their website. 

3)  They have a petition that you can sign here

4)  There is also another petition which is unrelated to the campaign, but as it's basically calling for the same thing it's definitely worth signing too. You can find that one here.

Please do get involved, even if only to follow them on social media somewhere.
This is such a good idea which could easily make a major difference to how much single use plastic is generated here in the UK.
And don't forget to also shout about it too. Share the petitions on social media or make and share your own video. Let your friends and family know about it and urge them to support the cause as well.

And lastly, if you would like to find out more about the campaign and the folks behind it, you can do so by visiting A Plastic Planet's website here. 

Thank you friends!

Monday, 21 August 2017

The (Invisible) Ripple Effect

I've been thinking a lot lately about how far the effects our actions can reach, even the smallest ones. How what we do, or even the things we don't do can have a ripple-like effect. And how we don't get to see how far these 'ripples' actually go. I've been thinking a lot about that last bit specifically.

I believe that not only are you capable of shaping and changing the world, but that you're doing it right now already. And you do so in such small and unassuming ways that you're probably not even aware that you're doing it.
Sometimes we get caught up in the feeling that to change the world we have to do these huge and amazing things. We're just average people living average lives right? And we can't all change the world or make a difference. We have jobs to do, children to raise or we just don't have what's needed to make a meaningful impact.


I don't believe anyone is average when it comes to this and everyone can affect things even from their sofa, or while working their nine to five or just generally juggling life's responsibilities. You are more powerful than you realise. It's in the way you talk, the words you use, what you share of yourself with the world, all of it will create a ripple.

So if you can believe that even the smallest of your actions can have far reaching effects, maybe you can believe that you have more power to spread some positivity than you realise. Just you being you will create positive ripples. Or negative ones.
The choice of what you put out there is yours and yours alone. You may not get the reward of seeing the positive outcome of your actions, but that doesn't mean they won't be there.

This is what I remind myself of during times when it feels as if all our efforts to do some good are having no impact whatsoever. I truly believe they are, we're just not seeing them. And sometimes it will feel that we're not making any impact at all and sometimes we will see a glaringly obvious sign that's impossible to ignore.
I suppose what I'm trying to say can be summed up in that well known phrase "be the change you want to see". And you can do that from the sofa. With greasy hair tied up in a messy bun, with yesterday's clothes on and an overwhelming need for more sleep, you are still all powerful.

If you enjoyed reading maybe you would like to sign up to my newsletter. The first one will hit inboxes on September 1st and will include a lot more of things like this.
Sound good, come join me!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Slow Fashion Outfit Of The Day

Before I kick off this post, I quickly want to invite you to join my newsletter mailing list if you haven't already done so.

Each month I'll be putting together a collection of things for you to make, do and read whilst also giving you updates on what I've been up to each month, including a monthly challenge. The first one is due to land on September 1st and if you would like to receive it, simply sign up using the form at the top of this page. Also, if you have any ideas about what you would like to see included, let me know! I would love your feedback.

Now then, back to the post..

For ages I've wanted to start a series of slow fashion outfit posts, then over the weekend, out of nowhere I had the urge to share the outfit I was wearing on my Instagram Stories and I was blown away by people's reactions to it. It's given me the oomph I needed to get on and start this thing so here it is folks, my first slow fashion outfit post.

This was the outfit I shared on Saturday. Please excuse the poor quality, it was fresh off the Insta Stories press. As you can see it's nothing fancy. I just wanted something warm, comfy and nice enough that I didn't feel flumpy in it. Flumpy is a thing.

Sandals: New Look from 6 years ago
Jeans: Charity shop
Top: Ebay
Cardigan: Vintage
Necklace: Handmade by yours truly

And this was my outfit from yesterday. The sun came out!

Sandals: Same as above (I pretty much live in these and flip flops over the summer..when the weather is behaving)
Skirt: Charity shop
Top: H&M
Headband: Handmade

As I was taking these pictures I realised that so far this year I have only bought two brand new items of clothing - leggings and underwear. Everything else has been secondhand. So seeing as I appear to have accumulated a wardrobe consisting largely of secondhand, upcycled and handmade clothing, I can't see any reason not to continue with these posts now. I'm even feeling less awkward taking pictures of myself which was a massive hurdle before. Although maybe I need to do something else with my feet! 

So until next time folks, take it easy.


Monday, 10 July 2017

The Grateful 10 - June

June was ridiculously busy, hence the lack of updates here. It's nice to know that the business has grown to the point where it can now pay to keep the roof over our heads, but it did come at a cost. I had very little spare time and felt like I was juggling all the things at top speed. No balls were dropped though and I've learnt a lot over the past few weeks so it was a good experience. Plus I did manage to find a lot of good moments in there too. Enough to make it difficult to chose just ten of them for my Grateful Ten list. These were my top moments from June..

 My new found secret spot

It's not much at the moment, but I've found a secret spot behind the house which is the perfect little hidey hole. Even Alessi doesn't know about it! It's sunny, but has a shady spot and somehow still picks up the wifi from the house! If I can find a table and chair, I could easily work out here which would make getting on with things on sunny days so much easier. I procrastinate like you would not believe on sunny days when I'm forced to stay in the house so this could be a real help. Not to mention it's just lovely to feel the warm breeze without being blinded or worrying about sunburn while being able to hear bees and birds and look up at the woods behind the house. It's a little nook and it's all mine!

Roses and dried petals

The roses are starting to die off in the garden now so I'm starting to pick them and dry the petals. It's so easy and just makes them go that little bit further. Plus it makes the kitchen smell amazing.

Chimney of bees

Oh my. I completely nerded out over this last week over on my Instagram stories so I don't want to bore you too much. In short we ended up with a large swarm of honey bees living in our chimney. A beekeeper came over to try and move the hive by putting a specially designed basket over the chimney which had some honeycomb attached inside which then dangled down. The idea was that all the bees (queen included) would move up the chimney to concentrate on this honeycomb rather than the bit they'd already started. Then the beekeeper would simply take them all away. He even put a separate box out in a field just behind the house in case they decided they preferred that instead. But the following night it rained and when we woke up the chimney was silent. When I went out to check, there were hardly any bees left flying around. The beekeeper returned a few days later and confirmed that the swarm and abandoned the chimney (probably due to the rain). He removed his basket and said the remaining bees would probably move on during the next rain fall. Failing that we could try smoking them out. I'm not sure how keen I am to do that to be honest as the chimney hasn't been used for a few years and has also had birds nesting in it. It's wet today so hopefully they'll move on now. Weirdly, I'm going to miss them. The whole thing was fascinating and I could have spoken to the beekeeper for ages. One day maybe.

Sparrow watching

Most of springs nesting birds have long gone, moving back to the woods or orchard which is now overgrown again after I neglected it last month. But the sparrows and sparrow babies (although they're not really babies anymore) remain and I love sitting by the back door watching them in the mornings with a cup of coffee. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of the day at the moment.

The sunflower wall.. again

They've gotten so big and it's so cheerful to see them out of the kitchen window. And I'll be able to dry the stalks out in the autumn too and use them next year as stakes for the next batch.

After school hangs

When Alessi comes home it sees me switch from shop mode to mum mode. We just hang out and do whatever she wants. This last bit of term before the holidays always leaves her feeling a little frazzled so this helps her relax a little bit. I think we're both ready for the holidays though and a more relaxed pace.

My new-to-me dressing table

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen this beauty in my feed. Basically I came across it in a local secondhand shop and promised myself buy it if it was still there the next time I popped in. I wasn't very hopeful though as things move quite quickly there. When Dan got home from work the following day he asked me to help him carry something out of the car and there it was. Best. Surprise. Ever.

Alessi dancing

All the time. Oh and singing. It's a joy to watch. Especially her made up dances. My faves are the 'I've got a wedgie' dance and the old favourite 'cockney' dance that Dan taught her. She's such a wonderful little weirdo.

Sky lights 

I've watched stars and a couple of full moons glide across the night sky from the comfort of my bed as well as listened to the sound of birdsong and falling rain. I never thought I could love a sky light as much as this, but I do and now they're on my list of things my dream house would have.

Pretty plates

Ever since I decided to make the kitchen table and specifically meal times more of a thing, I've started serving up meals on pretty vintage plates because what is the point of owning them if they stay in a cupboard and rarely get used? And I won't lie, they also help distract from the fact that dinner is often burnt. "Dinner is charcoal but hey, it's on a plate with flowers on so TA DA!"

There's always something to be grateful for. Always. And I swear by listing ten things in any moment to be a great way to lift your spirits or at least take the edge of a crappy day. Give it a go sometime and see!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Introducing: The Grateful 10 - May

Hi folks. I'm excited to share this post as it's something I've been thinking about doing for a long time and now seems like the perfect time to start it.
At the end of each month I'm going to make a list of ten things I'm grateful for, great and small. I'm starting up a hashtag on Instagram too called #thegratefulten where I'll post my grateful ten lists whenever I feel the need. Feel free to join in and add you're own too!

Without further ado, here are ten things I've been grateful for this past month:

My family
These two are the family I chose for myself and they are my everything.

The view from my windows
Nope. Not bored of this yet.

Birdwatching while washing up
Well it certainly makes it more interesting anyway.

Beach trips after school
This is such a treat for Alessi and I'm loving the time we get to spend together here. I learnt a valuable lesson on our last trip though. Always, ALWAYS bring a change of clothes.

Flowers from the garden
The original owners of the cottage where keen gardeners and they seem to have planted flowers, bushes and bulbs to ensure that there's always something blooming at any given time of the year. No sooner has one plant died back than another is starting to burst with colour. I've never been one to grow many flowers before, preferring to focus on fruit and vegetables instead. The garden here has completely changed my mind about that and it's something I will take with me when we move.

This spot
Last week I posted this picture on Instagram after getting the urge to carve out a lovely space for us to come together as a family. Since then it's seen more burnt meals (me), more squabbles (Dan and Alessi) and is now my favourite spot in the house. 

Nature spotting
We've seen rabbits, mice, kites, buzzards, squirrels, woodpeckers, kingfishers, slow worms and this little newt all in the last week. I wanted to live closer to nature and oh boy am I ever. Of course this also means sharing the house with some nature too, but I'll take that. 

My sunflower wall
It wasn't just the snails that were after my sunflowers. The chickens kept having dust baths next to and on top of them, as well as getting the odd peck at the leaves in too. So I took a leaf out of a certain President's playbook and built a wall. If he wants to learn anything from my experience, it was a faff to put it up and it doesn't work anyway. I'm forever scooping the chickens out and chasing them off. Forget your bad hombres, they've got nothing on Tufty Sue and Snowball.

The chickens
Despite the aforementioned dust baths, I am so grateful for these two. I still miss Titch, but I'm happy that these two are still here. Tufty Sue has really come out of her shell (Titch was a bit of an overbearing chicken) and is a lot friendlier than she used to be. Snowball is currently broody so we're constantly chucking her out of the coop to make sure she remembers to eat and drink. And she's constantly telling us off in return.

Being home
No words needed.

And so endeth The Grateful Ten list for May. Come and join me over on Instagram and post your own list using the #thegratefulten hashtag!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Challenge

When we moved we knew that one of the biggest sacrifices we were going to have to make would be a financial one. And in the limbo month between putting our house on the market and holding the open day, I decided to keep mind occupied by planning the different ways we could cut back and live off of a smaller income.

I'm so glad I did that, even if it was just a way to distract myself from stressing about what we were doing at the time. Having been here a month now we are at the point where we're getting a solid view of what we can expect in the bank each month, and what needs to come out. Note the word "needs" there. Because we have been a bit silly these past few weeks. Not ridiculously so, but silly nonetheless. There's room for improvement on both sides and I've decided to start blogging about this as a means to stay focused and hold myself accountable.

Over the next few months you can expect to see a slight shift on this blog from the odd dressmaking post and other random witterings. I mean these will continue, I am a dressmaker after all and I do love a good wittering. But I will also be writing more about living more frugally. And I don't want to stop there either. One thing I've wanted to do for a while now is live a more greener lifestyle too. In some ways I already am. I'm cutting down on the amount of plastic we buy, replacing broken plastic things with non-plastic alternatives, recyling blah, blah. But as living a greener way of life ties in rather nicely with frugal living, it just makes sense to me to combine the two.

So what can you expect from this blog now? In a nutshell, my experiences (successes and fails), any tips I think are worth sharing, the odd tutorial and I would really like to start a sustainable fashion series too. I'm thinking outfits comprising of secondhand, handmade and refashioned clothes. This will mean of course, getting over my awkwardness of being in front of the camera. I'm not sure I'm loving that part of the plan so much to be honest, but I'll give it a go.

Basically, I just love the idea of showing that being green doesn't mean being crusty and living frugally doesn't mean cutting out the fun.

Whether I'm up to this challenge or not is another thing, but it's one that I really want to try and I would really love it if you would join me and follow my progress. And if there's anything you would like to see me cover, please let me know!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Settling in

We've been living in Wales for a month now. The boxes are unpacked, the dust has settled and with Alessi back at school, we are starting to form new routines.

The cottage is a dream. An old and quirky dream. 
  • The windows upstairs are sky lights so we've been using towels as make shift curtains. This was supposed to be for a few days, but we're still yet to buy blinds for them. Whoops.
  • I've been waking up early most mornings with the dawn chorus. This is in equal parts beautiful (come on, it's birdsong) and annoying (it's birdsong at 5.00am).
  • Internet access is sloooow and sometimes disappears entirely. 
  • We have no phone signal whatsoever so calls and texts are received by way of a phone app and wifi. Although to be honest, I'm not finding that very reliable either. The up side is that it's forced me off my phone and I can often be found searching the house for it because I'll have put it down somewhere and forgotten about it. It literally never left my side in Bath.
  • The house is full of spiders. I'm usually a 'pop them outside' kind of girl, but I must confess I've resorted to the hoover a few times now. DON'T JUDGE ME THEY ARE LITERALLY EVERYWHERE.
  • Other wildlife who currently share the house with us are ants, moths and a couple of jackdaws who are nesting on top of the chimney. I can deal with the birds, but the moths and ants need to go.
  • The chickens are loving their new surroundings. Well two of them are. Sadly Titch died last week so it's just Tufty Sue and Snowball loving the freedom and the orchard now. We have to be careful when the kites are out hunting though so they can't be left out unsupervised. One kite in particular, (whom Alessi has named, Flappy) hunts very close to the cottage and has clocked the chickens a couple of times. 
  • Unless the weather is gloriously sunny, the bathroom is freezing. We have to brace ourselves each time we need the loo and baths are only attempted once we've heated the room up first with the aid of a small electric heater at the end of an extension lead. Fun times.
  • There aren't many plug sockets in the cottage. We did however inherit a large amount of extension cables. 
  • We've bought smoke detectors for almost every room
  • After years of trying (with little to no success) to coax birds in to our old garden I am finally living somewhere that's over run with them and I can see them right outside my window. The two most unusual sightings so far have been a Pied Flycatcher and a Redstart. Now my problem is trying to keep up with the amount they're eating. I know what you're thinking, where did you put that tiny violin?
  • There's a steam train that runs through the valley. Alessi is obsessed with it and will shout at us to come and watch every. single. time.
  • There are brambles everywhere. I've made a start, but taming this thorny beast behind the house and in the orchard will be a work in progress.
  • That's right. There's a freaking orchard! Once the brambles are tamed it will be our garden for the duration of our stay and I've already discovered my new 'spot' along with some raspberries, apple trees and an abandoned greenhouse full of grapevines. 
  • There are also woods at the back of this space. If you ever can't find Alessi, this is where she will be. Looking for cuckoos.
  • I'd forgotten about the fighter jets that practice in the area. They come out of nowhere and the sound can be immense. We're getting used to the low rumbling sound they make as they approach now so know when to expect most of them. That said we've been caught out by a couple of low flying ones which results in a lot of swearing and laughing at each other. You have to make your own amusement out in the sticks!
So there you have it. It was a huge leap to leave everything in Bath behind, but there are no regrets. Alessi settled in to her new school straight away which was a massive relief. She came home the other day and sang a song she'd learnt in Welsh which made my heart explode.

I don't know what the future holds for us here. Renting feels weird as it prevents us from putting down permanent roots so I don't feel 100% settled. It's always at the back of my mind that it's someone else's property and that we will have to move again at some point or that they could ask us to leave at any time.
Instead of worrying though I know in my heart of hearts that right now we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And I am certain that whatever the future has in store for us, it's going to be fine. In fact if we can continue to make choices true to ourselves the way we have done these past few months, we'll be more than fine.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Great Welsh Experiment

Over the last three months there have been massive changes going on here which I've only been able to allude to for fear of jinxing things. So it is with no small amount of relief that I can finally shout (or type in very annoying capital letters), WE'RE MOVING BACK TO WALES!

Oh that felt good.

We've sold the house, quit our jobs and all being well we should be moving in to a beautiful little cottage in a few weeks time. It feels like it's taken an age to get to this point, when in fact it's only taken us three months. And by the time we move in, it will be just over four, which is actually insane. 

This is also why I've been letting The Dress Tree cruise on auto pilot over the last couple of months, so I could focus on the challenge that is chasing estate agents/solicitors, cleaning, clearing, traveling to and from Wales and school hunting. I'll be back on it once we're settled and will be listing new things again in May.

As for now, the rest of March is looking to be a blur of packing, cleaning and tying up loose ends. Oh and Alessi's birthday is in there too somewhere to add an extra dusting of chaos.

There's going to be a lot of change and muddling through. Not knowing if this will work for us long term. And for once, I'm at ease with the not knowing.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Chicken update

We're on lock down here at Casa Bliss as are all chicken owners across the country at the moment.

In case you hadn't seen it in the news, cases of bird flu have been confirmed in the UK and as a precaution, all poultry owners have had to make sure their birds are kept indoors where possible.
And if that isn't, then to take precautions to keep them away from wild birds. I'm not able to keep my three indoors, but they have an enclosed run so they've just been kept in that. I hate it though. This run is big enough for them, but I preferred to just keep them in it when we weren't around and let them roam freely when we were. Not being able to give them this extra freedom hasn't been too bad over the winter as they prefer to stay in their coop during bad weather, but now that spring is just around the corner they've started to become restless.

This lock down is in place until the end of February, but this date has been pushed back twice already since the they first announced it back in December and I suspect it will again.
If this is the case I'm going to make them a larger enclosed run so that I can add more things to keep them entertained. At the moment I'm relying on straw for them to scratch about in and various treats.

It's doing the job, but it's a pain having to remove the food scraps each night. And to be honest, I think they just miss the company. Keeping them under the apple tree is great to shelter them from the worst of the wind and rain, but it's at the bottom of the garden and they like company. It's why bantams make great pets and are so tame, anyone remember Snowball jumping on my shoulder last summer for a snooze?
Fingers crossed it doesn't last much longer, I miss having my girls bumbling around the garden. And Titch is extremely pissed off about the situation. Chickens have personalities and while the other two are fairly laid back, she is not happy and likes to make sure I know it. Mainly by shouting at me. Look. I even caught her in the act. After three months of being cooped up, she wants more than straw and turnips and I can't say I blame her.

On a brighter note (and a sign that spring really is just around the corner), Tufty Sue and Snowball have started laying, no more shop bought eggs for us! Alessi loves going to the coop each day to see if there are any waiting in the nesting box.
She asked me to take a photo of her with the chickens the other day and was all ready to give me the thumbs up, but when I took the picture what I'd actually captured was all eyes on  her snack! Even Titch was momentarily quiet.

So all in all the chickens are getting on great, considering they're cooped up. Their first winter was a lot milder than I had thought it would be and the coop has stood up to the elements well. Fingers crossed we'll be able to let them out again soon though.

Sunday, 1 January 2017


Follow my true North
There is a difference between what you want, and what you believe you should want and I've caught myself getting the two mixed up far too many times last year. 

Celebrate my accomplishments. Again
I didn't completely fail at this last year, but I didn't manage to make a habit of it either. So I'm going to try again because when I did manage it, it felt brilliant. 

Start saving
I have a very specific goal in mind, but more on this another day.

And there you have it. I've been sat here writing this list for nearly two hours and this is all I've come up with. Three things. The truth is, for this year as I see it, these will be all I need.

Happy new year everyone. 


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