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This post has been a long time coming. So many people have asked how we did our fireplace makeover and what products/paints/sprays we used to get the end result so I am going to explain all in this blogpost.

We bought our house from plan back in December 2006, it's crazy to think that our new build is now 11 years old (and also that we've lived here for that long). The house came with a basic kitchen (which we changed a few years ago), basic bathroom/cloakroom (which we also changed and knocked into one larger bathroom) and a very basic fireplace..... don't even get me started on the internal doors, thats next on the list!
The following picture is how the fireplace looked when we moved into the house minus all the birthday balloons (I was celebrating my 25th birthday with my friends as husband was away on detachment). It was pretty hideous......almost as hideous as that artwork and the magnolia walls, also who remembers twigs with lights.
I'm not sure at what point we decided to paint the woodwork white but it was within the last 7 years. I remember I used Annie Sloan chalk paint and then after 3 coats of that I worked the wax into it because I didn't want a chalky finish. We also painted the chimney breast Dulux Warm Pewter which I still to this day think is  really gorgeous shade of grey. 
Then around Christmas time I decided I wanted to take down the picture of Fletcher and replace it with a large home made Christmas Wreath made out of a hula hoop (see this blogpost for more details) this then lead to having the brilliant idea of completely giving the fireplace a makeover (all because I wanted to make a wreath look pretty on the wall).  

Now I already had my eye on Farrow & Ball Hague Blue as I had seen it on so many gorgeous interior feeds on Instagram. I literally went out and bought a tub of it without even trying a tester first. I really had my heart set on it and it paid off because I honestly think it looks so sassy!  
We did a lot of research to look into whether we could paint the hearth, were not entirely sure what material it is made out of but it was a marble effect and was very smooth and shiny. After some extensive research we discovered that we could paint over it in any colour providing we used a primer first.  We used Zinsser Bulls Eye 1.2.3 as it sticks to all surfaces and was safe to use near a fire. I applied 2 coats of this using a small foam roller (which is life changing btw, not a brush stroke in sight) and allowed it to dry fully before painting over it in the shade Night Jewels 2 by Dulux  in an eggshell finish, again with a small foam roller. We discussed with our paint supplier whether eggshell would be suitable to use on a hearth and they confirmed that it was fine as it wasn't in direct contact with the actual fire.
Now all that was left to do was to spray the actual fire black. It is very important that you buy a spray paint specifically made to use on fires. We went to our local fire specialist and bought a tin of matt black fire spray paint. Unfortunately I don't have the name of it but it literally cost less than a fiver and there are loads on the market. I left Dylan in charge of this job (gotta give him something to do)

I hope you all enjoyed my little fireplace transformation and that it inspires you to maybe think of ways you can transform your own. We are thrilled with how it turned out.
Keep Smiling


So in this blogpost I'll be discussing ways to really get the most out of your life and how little changes can make the biggest difference in your productivity and how you manage day to day stresses. Once again I will be referring to my hand out and also the personal notes that I made in the session. 

Being well rested and generally taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for your mind, body and soul. 

Ahhh how I love sleep. That feeling you get after a really great nights sleep is like no other and it really sets you up for the day ahead. Did you know we are sleeping 2 hours less than we did 50 years ago. That works out at a whole nights sleep over a week!!! People that sleep for less than 7 hours at night are more at risk of diabetes and obesity.....so sleep more and stay slim :-)

The perfect nights sleep starts long before you go to bed though. General advice is:

  • 6 hours before bed - stop drinking caffeine 
  • 3 hours before bed - stop drinking alcohol / finishing eating your dinner
  • 1 hour before bed - turn off electrical items / stop studying/stressing 

Set the Scene - Your bedroom should be quite, calm, tidy, relaxing, comfortable and a cool temperature. I like to use a pillow spray on my pillow, turn the lights down low and read a chapter of a book before hitting the hay.

Evening Ritual - Any parents reading this will know the importance of having a bedtime routine for your children. Why should it be any different for adults? Have a wind down period before bed,  reflect on your day. What went well? what did you achieve? What did you learn? take a bath, prepare yourself for the following day, read a book and go to bed around the same time every evening.

Keeping active and living a healthy lifestyle not only improves your physical health but also has a massive impact on our stress levels. Exercise helps reduce muscle tension and calms the Automatic Nervous System. Keeping active also improves your mood and your ability to cope with problems.
Regular exercise (30 minutes 5 x per week). Simply going for a walk can have so many benefits. A research study found that walking for 30 minutes a day boosted the moods in depressed patients faster than antidepressants.

  • Reduces cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Improves sleep and makes you feel more alert
  • Boosts thinking
  • Resilience to stress - Those who get more exercise may be less affected by the stress they face
  • Slows ageing - reduces blood pressure, strengthens cardiovascular system, reduces blood sugar levels, boosts immune system, improves bone density, slows onset of dementia

Now this is a big one for me. I absolute hate being stuck indoors all hours of the day. Bright natural light moderates your body clock and effects brain chemistry. It has a big impact on our mood and behaviour and exerts an antidepressant effect and most importantly stimulates the production of Vitamin D (the happy hormone) which is essential for us to survive. I love spending an hour or so either in the woods or at the beach, both have a really positive effect on my mood. I've actually recently started taking Vitamin D as advised by Public Health to try and keep me in the ideal range throughout the winter months.

Mindfulness is something I've been practicing for just over 5 years now. I was going through a bit of a tough time and needed an outlet and stumbled upon a mindful yoga group....it was the most liberating thing I ever did. I won't go into the ins and outs of mindfulness, instead I will just point you in the direction of the most used app on my phone - HEADSPACE and you can try it out for yourself. 

Other great mindful apps/sites
Don't forget to do something for yourself, something you love to do, something that brings you joy. No matter how big or small. It can be as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee each morning or spending an hour listening to waves crash (one of my personal favourites). Get a manicure, put a bit of fake tan on, wear your best dress do anything that makes you feel fabulous.

Having values is completely different to having goals, however values should form the basis of our goals. Values are what is important to us, things that mean a lot to us or how we want to be, they are ongoing patterns of behaviour. Goals on the other hand are specific things we want to achieve along the way to achieving our values.  For example your value may be to be a supporting, loving mother and provide for your family and your goal may be to get a job that pays more.

My personal values are:

  • To be a loving & caring mother, wife, daughter & sister - love, laugh and live
  • Live a healthy lifestyle - exercise, dance, eat well, get outside, sleep well
  • Appreciate the time I have - do things I enjoy, sing, bake, take photographs, travel, socialise

To quote Monty Python "Always look on the bright side of life". Life isn't perfect, everyone has bad days but its how we react to it that has the biggest effect. Our brains are hardwired to pick up on the negative. For example you may be wearing a shirt that you love and you may receive lots of compliments on how lovely it is and then one person may come along and say it looks awful on you. Which comment is going to stay with you??

Something thats nice to do each evening is to think of 3 things you are grateful for or that made you feel good. It can be as simple as breathing in the fresh air, a nice warm bed, a delicious meal to completing that huge task that you've meaning to do. Write them down each night in your diary and keep it up for a week and see how your feel afterwards.

Keep Smiling


I mentioned recently on Instagram that I had been on a resilience course with my work. I work for the NHS as a Medical Secretary but this course wasn't just for admin staff, it was for everyone and anyone. There was a good mix of staff on the course from nurses to receptionists. Now please bare in mind that this course was focused around "wellbeing at work" but I genuinely feel like the information I got from this course can help with your general wellbeing which essentially helps you to get the perfect work/life balance.

The course was run by a Clinical Psychologist called Kevin Simpson (based in Cornwall). We were given handouts and I will be sharing some of the key information from those handouts along with some personal notes that I made. I'm going to split this blogpost into 2 parts. The first part will focus on personal wellbeing, what stress does to our bodies, understanding stress and anxiety and how to be more productive with the second part focusing on ways to look after yourself, stay healthy and get the best out of life (my favourite part).......now go and grab a cuppa because this is a long one!

So there are a few signs of un-wellbeing that you might not even realise you are experiencing. Do you ever.....

  • Feel you have nothing left to give by the end of a typical day
  • Feel rushed even when you are running on time
  • Have trouble doing things at a slower pace, even when you have the time
  • Think about what's coming up in your day rather than being in the moment
  • Often want to be left alone when you get home from work/school
  • Find yourself sighing a lot during the day
  • Have burning eyes early in the day
  • Forget to take breaks because of the pressure you are under
  • Find it difficult to relax even when you have free time
  • When you have free time, prefer activities to help you zone out
  • Have trouble motivating yourself to do things that are heathy for you
  • Feel exhausted by the end of the day, feel like you are running behind
  • Feel like you are always multitasking, even at home
  • Often find yourself daydreaming when you are with your partner or children 
  • Tend to bring your work or school stress home with you
  • Wake in the night thinking of things that are stressing you out
  • Get impatient and irritable about little things
  • Often do things like household tasks without even thinking about them
  • Feel like taking time to relax means you'll fall behind on some duty or responsibility

Contributing Factors to Stress/Depression
Right at the beginning of the seminar Kevin asked us what we thought contributed to the daily stresses of life. Nearly everyone wrote Social Media. It's safe to say that we are much more stressed now than we were 50 years ago and technology and the media definitely influences this. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, setting expectations too high, putting too much pressure on ourselves, doing too much, we're busier than ever. Other classic stress/depression factors are financial worries and quite understandably bereavement/grief.

Pressure & Stress
It is important to differentiate between stress and pressure. Pressure can be positive and can actually motivate you to get a job done, but......apply too much pressure and this will eventually lead to stress.  Stress affects people in different ways and what one person finds stressful can be entirely normal to another.

Fight or Flight
Most people have heard of fight or flight. Its the body's natural response to perceived threat or danger. Its a basic ancient survival mechanism designed to protect us from danger by either fight or running away (flight). The response brings out a number of changes in the body, which mobilises us for action. This response is hardwired into our brains so don't worry guys everything you are feeling is entirely normal (sweaty palms, racing heart, dry mouth, urgency to go to the toilet.......all signs that you are normal).

Using Stress to your Advantage 
Stress can be viewed in two different ways.  You can either view it as something that is wreaking havoc on your body (and it can) or as something that is giving you the strength and energy to overcome adversity. For example I took a very challenging telephone call recently that made my heart feel like it was going to burst out of my chest and my breathing quicken, but rather than thinking "oh god i'm panicking, i'm causing damage to my heart, I'm going to pass out" instead I listened to my body acknowledged all of the above and told myself to take a deep breath because my faster breathing was allowing more oxygen to get to my brain to help me think more clearly for the challenging call. 

Recharging your Batteries  
The best bit of advice that I came away with from the seminar was the importance to rest and recharge and generally look after yourself.

  • Take regular breaks from work - plan deliberate downtime, grab that cup of tea
  • Create boundaries between work and home - If you have to bring your work home designate a specific time and/or separate area and stick to it.
  • Detach from work
  • Take your annual leave
  • Avoid working long hours

Being more Productive
For me the best way to be productive in work (this works at home too) is to have a plan. I love making lists and make them for everything and anything and I love a good To Do list. When making a To Do list its important to be specific with your tasks so include what, where, when, how. A good idea is to have a separate master To-Do list and a Today To-Do list. So your master list will house all of your To Do's , literally everything that pops in your mind that you need to do and from that you can then move them along to your Today To Do list. I've recently downloaded the Microsoft To Do app on my phone and its fab and gives a great sense of satisfaction when you tick off a list.

Another method that's great for prioritising is the Ivy Lee Method which I have been using with great success recently.

Single Tasking is also proven to be more productive than multitasking so stop trying to juggle everything and focus on one task at a time. Now I can appreciate for most jobs single tasking isn't possible, there are far too many interruptions (telephone calls, e-mails, queries) but there are ways to modify it. How you manage your time is key. I like to allocate specific time zones for certain jobs. For instance I know it is quieter first thing in the morning for me so this is when I would get my most important work done free from distractions and interruptions. I also allocate certain times in the day to focus on just my e-mails or other specific tasks. Don't forget to factor in time for breaks. Plan deliberate downtime at least every 90 minutes (or after each zone) have a stretch, move away from your desk.

And remember .................

Keep Smiling

NB - All images from Pinterest