26-04-2015

8 ways to work a hexagon design into your home decor

hexagon home decor

I have this thing for hexagons. They add a super stylish boost to an average room, and they work very well in any space – bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, hexagons aren’t fussy. Their neat, symmetrical lines just make me happy. Here are 8 great ways to work a hexagonal design into your home decor:

1. Black hexagonal tiles work well with grey or white tones. Whilst white hexagons are striking against wood or bright shades.

black hexagon tile

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white hexagon bathroom tile

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2. This turquoise and terracotta colour palette creates an inviting warmth to this town house kitchen.

terrecotta hexagon tiles

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3. Hexagonal wall shelves add interest without being an overwhelming design feature. There is so much versatility  – symmetrical or asymmetrical arrangement, add a bit of bold colour, opt for a natural wood finish, or go for a clean white look.

hexagon honeycomb wall shelves

 

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honeycomb wall shelf white

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honeycomb shelves

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Hexagonal shelves are available in every single shade imaginable (failing that you can paint them yourself), so you are guaranteed to find something to compliment and enhance your chosen colour palette.

4. Below is one of my favourite hexagonal looks. It would work equally well in a kitchen or a bathroom.

 hexagon tileSource

5. If easy to install and to clean is your priority, vinyl flooring could be a great option for you. It’s an affordable alternative, and the right design can create a great-looking result. Check out this hexagonal vinyl from Carpetright.

hexagon vinyl

6. How about a wall decal for a fun update to a playroom or bedroom? Take a look on Etsy, you can usually pick custom colours too.

hexagon honeycomb wall decalSource

7. Changing up textiles is a great way to update a room without committing to a permanent design change. A honeycomb or hexagonal design looks great on rugs, cushions, and other soft furnishings.

hexagon textilesSource

8. You can even work a hexagonal design into your furniture. I love this bar stool:

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* Thank you to Carpetright for partnering with Sorry About The Mess.
22-04-2015

Disney Tsum Tsum AKA The reason I’ve not been blogging lately

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I’m supposed to write that I’ve not been blogging lately because I’m busy with work.

Which is true.

Not so much of the photography variety – that’s become trickier to schedule too far in advance, not knowing if Sam will be away with work (no Sam = no childcare).  I am, however, doing a lot more writing and social media work, which, luckily for me,  isn’t dependant on childcare or daylight hours.

I have been meaning to publicise this a bit more, but as per my usual excuse, I haven’t yet got round to it. So, for now, please treat this as my ‘work with me’ announcement/page – if you are looking for awesome content, or any kind of social media help, from a one-off advice session to helping you manage a project on a more long term basis, get in touch.

But, the other reason I’ve not been blogging as much lately is less of a ‘proper’ excuse. Because when there’s no work left to do, when I could be blogging, I’ve been dedicating all my time to feverishly playing games on my phone.

I think they call it ‘procrastination’.

(Lesser known fact about me – I like to play games obsessively until I reach my peak skill. I once dedicated around a year to becoming REALLY GOOD at Tetris. Worth it.)

I find games therapeutic. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t much like to sit still in the evenings when Sam’s away. It heightens my anxiety and I’m too aware of the quiet (until one of the kids wakes up, that is) Playing games fills that void, as I can sit, and play, and kind of zone out from my worries at the same time.

And so it has come to be that the entire family has become rather fond of a little game called Disney Tsum Tsum. First it was me, then Arlo joined in, and where Arlo goes, Rory follows. Lastly, Sam downloaded it on his phone to see what all the fuss was about, and then he didn’t put it down.

During the height of our obsession, Sam and I were having nightly strategy chats, discussing our gameplay tactics and the pros and cons of each Tsum character. If you substitute the Homeland intro for the Disney Tsum Tsum theme, it’s WAY more fun.

disney tsum tsum toys

disney tsum tsum toys

Last week, Arlo, Rory and I went along to the Disney Store on Oxford Street. Not only did I think it would be a great way to get them excited about our upcoming trip to Disneyland, but it was the launch of the Disney Tsum Tsum range of soft toys.

Arlo and Rory had a GREAT time eating cookies as big as their heads and impressing everyone with their Tsum Tsum gaming skills (Rory bowled straight over to the ipad as soon as we arrived. No messing around).

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The soft toys are really quite cute, and surprisingly not-too-pricey – there are three sizes, with the littlest ones being the pocket money price of £3 each. I can clearly see the appeal for people who like to build collections of cute things. This could easily be the next ‘Beanie Babies’.

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Thanks to the Disney Store for inviting us along and sorry again about using up all of your Tsum Tsum lives.

disney tsum tsum toys

 

 

16-04-2015

Things I’ve learnt about the choosing a primary school

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Arlo is four. Which means that this year, we have had the pleasure of going through the primary school application process for the first time. At times, it has felt like one of those classic initiation moments of parenting. And at times, it has felt like an immense decision.

I’ve been writing this post bit by bit since November last year when we first started looking round our local primary schools.  Arlo got the news of his school place today, so now that the application process is complete, I thought it would be a good time to finally get this post finished.

Choosing a primary school is one of those massively personal decisions. It also varies wildly depending on individual location and circumstances. You might have just two schools in your area, and a clear favourite. Or, you might be like me, with eight potential schools and no particular feelings towards any of them.

I live in London, in an area where there is a lot of change happening in the local schools right now, with nearly all of them turning into academies in the last year or two, and with an influx of free schools cropping up. It’s all change, all the time, which certainly made my decision harder. There’s no doubt that some of the points below will be individual to my specific circumstances, but I’m sure there are also some points that everyone applying for primary school places will be able relate to.

The pressure can get INTENSE. I was surprised at how quickly my initial cool, calm and collected thoughts of, ‘It’s only a school. If we don’t like it we can change schools. We don’t even know how long we will be living in this area so not worth getting too worked up about’ turned into ‘My GOD. This is SUCH a big decision. I don’t want to change schools. I want the children to have the same, stable experience that I had – ONE school from reception to year 6. THIS DECISION IS GOING TO DICTATE THE NEXT 10-12 YEARS OF OUR LIVES.”

YOU are not your child. The spirited, but rather chaotic, school might have been MY idea of the most fun primary school experience, the one most aligned with what I remember from my own primary school days, but I could tell for sure that it wouldn’t necessarily be Arlo’s. He thrives with order, and rules, and can actually get very stressed in a more ‘go with the flow’ environment. He would feel more comfortable in the school with more orderly classrooms and a more regimented routine for the day.

You’re not just choosing a school for your eldest child, but one that will be a good fit for your whole family. (Unless you are prepared to do separate school drop offs, that is). It’s easy to think just of Arlo, but I have to remember Rory too – he will likely be following Arlo into the same school in a couple of years. Where is the best bet for ALL of my children?
There isn’t really a tactical method to applying. From your six choices, the system works out all the schools you qualify for, and then out of those options, informs you of your highest ranking preference. The schools cannot see your preference and therefore know that you REALLY WANT THAT SCHOOL. The best policy is the simplest – just order your choices honestly, according to the schools you liked best.

A LOT can change in a few years. When my neighbour applied for primary schools last year, one of our two local schools was in special measures, and the other one was rated a ‘good’ school. This year, when we applied, the special measures school had since become an academy with a brand new premises, the ‘good’ school is failing SATs and has an unfavourable Ofsted. It’s hard to keep up, changes are happening so quickly round here. Also, coincidence or not, in our area, the trend seems to be to wait until after the primary school application deadline before announcing any huge changes to a school or an academy takeover. I hate the idea of being given a place at a school that barely resembles the one I put on our list of choices a few months previous. A school you like the look of one year, may not be the same school the next year when you come to apply.

Be realistic with your choices. Looking up the furthest distance from the school that a place was offered in previous years, plus intake size VS their planned intake size for this year will give you a good indication as to your chances (Most boroughs have a PDF you can access online with all of this info from the previous three years).

However, don’t be too hasty with ruling out schools due to catchment. A school that is just out of reach might announce a bulge class AFTER the application deadline (As was the case this year with a school in a nearby town). And you can just never predict how many sibling places there will be, or any of the other factors that might determine how likely your child is to get a place. If you really love a school, it’s worth putting it first on your list of choices. It won’t affect your chances of qualifying for your nearer schools (as long as you put those down on your list too!), and it means you can opt in for a wait list place if you don’t get your first choice straight away.

Don’t let Ofsted decide for you. Ofsted ratings can be useful in some respect, wholly unrepresentative in other ways. Go on your insitnct when visiting the schools. I would even suggest avoiding looking at Ofsted until after you’ve seen the schools – the reports are a lot easier to digest with context. I was surprised at my opinions once I had actually as SEEN the schools. Ones that I had assumed I’d like, I was surprised to find I wasn’t that keen on, and some I’d written off suddenly became favourites after seeing them. I honestly think that you will not form an opinion on a school until you have seen it for yourself. Moving house to be near schools without knowing much more than that they have outstanding rating on paper seems a ludicrous idea to me. What if it comes to the open day and you don’t like what you see? Even if you have a one or two year old and school is way off, go to the open days now if you are curious. They are all in November and December, and no one will know you that aren’t there for reception intake for that particular year. Just go and have a look before you think about basing your entire life around the school that you think is best.

Don’t speculate about all the schools / some of the schools in your area being shit before you’ve been to see them. I live in an area of London that is NOT known for its good primary schools. It’s a big part of the reason that we can afford to live here. Since Arlo was a baby, I’ve worried with other local mums about how crap the schools are, watched families with toddlers move away siting the school situation as their number one reason, listened with an attentive but concerned ear every time negative press about one of the local schools pops up. You can imagine what I would be expecting to see once I actually went to tour these schools. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see that they are JUST LIKE ANY OTHER SCHOOLS. Not one school sent me home wailing “over my dead body!!” I could see positives (and negatives) to all of the schools we saw. The end result was me feeling a lot more hopeful than I ever have in my whole time living here thinking about the schools. (Because I am nosy, Sam and I also went to see a couple of highly regarded, heavily oversubcribed schools that we definitely live too far away from, to see how they compared, and neither of us rated them any higher than the schools we’d seen in our local area. There really are positives and negatives to ALL SCHOOLS. Not one school is the be all and end all.)

School application panic IS a thing. And even the most unflappable of us can succumb. At some point, you will likely come across one or more of the following scenarios: 1. Someone going private if they don’t get their first choice state school. 2. Someone moving to an area with ‘better’ schools. 3. Someone who has started to attend church every Sunday due to the good faith schools in the area. 4. Someone ‘swindling’ the post code system in some way – a short term rental or applying with a business address, etc. Annoyingly, it can seem that the people with the most options available to them are the ones talking about schools the most. Whilst the ones who haven’t the option to move or go private, seem, to me, to be quieter – with less options, there is less to deliberate.

With this in mind, when I felt the pressure of school hysteria building, I found it was a good time to have a quick reality check. Sam and I have the option to move out of London – I don’t know whether we’d find better schools necessarily, but I’m sure we’d find more established schools at least, I’m sure there would be schools with playing fields rather than the tiny astroturf and concrete playgrounds offered by most inner London schools these days. And perhaps there would be a few more of the community schools that I have a preference towards. But we both decided we didn’t want to move out of London. Not yet. I love my kids, but their schooling isn’t the be all and end all for us. Not yet, anyway. Sam and I aren’t willing to compromise on leaving London just now. We decided not to let our lives be dictated by which place (geographically) is the BEST place for our children to go to school. When I remind myself that it is OUR chocie to live here, indulging in school panic seems a bit silly. If we aren’t happy with something to do with Arlo’s schooling, we will pick up the slack at home with any extra support he needs. If we find ourselves deeply unhappy with the schools around us, we will look at moving then.

De-prioritise political biases in order to focus on choosing the school that is the best fit for your child/family. This was perhaps the most difficult point for me to follow. I am a firm believer in equal education for all, overseen by an independent education authority. But we are living in a faith school dominant area in a borough that the government are treating as a guinea pig for nationwide Academisation plans, LEA’s are practically redundant relics here. (As of this month, there are actually NO state-run, non-faith secondary schools in Croydon any more). So, there was quite a lot of soul searching during the weeks we spent making our schools decision. How can I be ‘against’ academisation when they count as 90% of the primary schools available to us? Is there any point in choosing the one remaining community school on principle, a school focused on its childrens’ wellbeing more than assessment statistics and exam results, but one that will inevitably become an academy, and I’m betting sooner rather than later. I HATE what has happened to schools in this area over the last five years, but I can’t turn back the clock. I’ve resolved that just because I don’t agree with the Academies Act, it doesn’t mean that there can’t be GOOD academies who DO have their students best interests at the heart of their teaching. And that last point is what I’ve been concentrating on during the process of choosing a school for Arlo.

Go to the open days at the earliest opportunity to allow yourself time to revisit if needs be. If you are anything like me, you will want to see the schools more than once. I had question marks over certain areas and needed to see the schools at different times of day, etc, in order to work out my preferences. Although This probably is only an issue if you find yourself with a bit of choice in your area rather than the nearest school being the only option. I found that most schools were very accommodating with my requests for numerous visits. One school conducted it’s open days at the weekend, but happily showed me around during school hours so I could see the classrooms in action. The community school mentioned above that I fell part in love with… I was so eager to convince myself that Arlo could be at ease there, that I actually visited on four separate occasions. If one visit isn’t enough, go back until you are satisfied that you have formed a fuller perspective of the school.

We have more choice than I thought we would. I originally assumed that applying to schools would be a case of “parental choice is a myth, really you will get your closest school or nothing.” But in practice I’ve found that this isn’t actually the case. Due to it being a transitional period for schools in Croydon, we actually have quite a bit of choice. Many schools have just acadmised in the last two years, and many brand new schools have just opened. All this means a trend of parents deciding to stick with what they know, and so there are a number of ‘new’ schools with very wide catchment areas (I’m talking two or three miles, which, in London, is crazy big). But going on catchments from last year and the knowledge that some schools that are not at full class capacity yet, I knew we had at least SIX schools that Arlo could pretty confidently succeed in getting a place. Of course, this much choice is not necessarily a great thing. Although there is a wider number of schools available to us, the schools themselves were disappointingly unvaried to me. Also, with all this change comes so many unkowns – many of the schools available to us haven’t yet got permanent headteachers or even a finished building to look around, all these unknown factors have made it really hard to predict where might be the best place for Arlo. But, the fact remains that having this many schools to choose from is a different reality to the one I had initially imagined.
We heard about Arlo’s school place this evening. I hadn’t been too anxious about it, because, to tell the truth, we were quietly confident that he would get a place at our top preference. The school we chose is one of our closest, and on top of that, it is currently undersubscribed and it was deemed to be in special measures in it’s last Ofsted report. Even though we figured it would be surprising if he DIDN’T get in, we still didn’t want to assume it was a done deal.

Why did we choose the school we did? Well, there were definitely some extensive pros and cons lists. It was a matter of weighing up the unknowns against factors that we knew we just weren’t prepared to compromise on.

Arlo got our first choice school. It is a newly academised school. As of yet, there is no permanent head, and we have yet to see the school, as they are still building it. This may seem crazy to some, but to us, with all the change happening in the local schools, it was still the most solid choice. The foundation stage is particularly strong. And it’s also a place where we could imagine Arlo being at ease, more so than the other schools.

As I’ve learnt from my preschool experience with Arlo thus far, the only test I’m interested in, is whether he comes home happy and eager to return the next day. And that is something that only time will tell.

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01-04-2015

Learning to drive at 28 – Sam’s on the road

learning to drive at 28

A big change has happened in our family. Sam has passed his driving test.

It’s quite a momentous change for me, actually. I’ve spent the last five years being the sole family chauffeur, which is interesting when you are the one in labour, when you are the one driving long distance after being up all night with a breastfeeding baby, when a trip to the supermarket has to be a whole family affair.

We hadn’t been able to afford the ridiculously inflated insurance costs to add Sam as a named driver (the words ‘young driver’ and ‘croydon’ automatically generate hefty price tag), but 28 appears to be the magic number – insurance quotes suddenly became a whole lot more reasonable. And so he booked in some lessons and a few months later he became the proud owner of a pass certificate.

It’s really odd to be a passenger in our car for the first time ever. And it’s really odd that Sam can now take the children to events and activities only reachable by car – a task that previously would have automatically fallen to me.

It’s also great to have someone who can top up the oil, the air in the tyres, and all those other jobs that I have never bothered to learn how to do properly.

In recent years, Arlo has come to his own assumption that there are “men who can drive and men who can’t drive”, and I feel like this has been a good example to show him that if you want to achieve something, you can practice and learn and then you will be able to do it.

Watching Sam go through the learning to drive process has been a bit of a revision course for me. I passed my test a good twelve years ago, and there are certainly things I’ve forgotten along the way, or things I maybe never learned in the first place – for example, how many of these questions on this What’s that Blinking Light test from The Co-op can you get right?

Despite my many years of driving wisdom, I’m trying not to do too much backseat driving as it’s probably incredibly frustrating, but I have made sure to pass on to Sam my top three bits of advice:

1. Assume EVERYONE else on the road is a complete idiot who cannot be relied on to obey the rules of the road.

2. That little arrow by the petrol sign on your dashboard tells you which side of the car your fuel tank is on.

3. When going somewhere with the children, make sure the children are in the car.

 Learning to drive – another item ticked off the list of ‘things we never got round to before we became grown ups and had children’.

How about you – Do you drive? Does your partner? Did you learn before or after kids? How does being able to drive help in your day-to-day life?

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Thank You to The Co-op for partnering with Sorry About The Mess. 

10-03-2015

A Spring house update with ASDA George Home Collection

Considering that I once had aspirations to be an interior designer, it’s amusing (to me), that you will never find a completely finished, expertly decorated room in our entire house.

Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to have an instagram-perfect house where I could go crazy snapping photos of the children against a backdrop that looks like something out of a styled interiors photoshoot. But having the motivation to maintain a house like that just isn’t me, and I really don’t think it would make any of us any happier. As long as our house is a happy, fun, place, I don’t care much what it looks like.

There is also the fact that it pains me to think about spending time and money doing up our current house when I know that it isn’t our ‘forever home’. We prefer to operate at a slower pace when it comes to home decor, updating things as and when they are needed, and making the occasional purchase when we find something pretty at a justifiable price.

Luckily for us, the ASDA George Home range falls under our idea of a very reasonable price bracket, and there have been some great offerings from their homeware collection in the past few years.

asda george home collection

At 4.5 years old, Arlo’s cotbed days are numbered. Whilst we are waiting to be able to make a bunk bed purchase, we are updating his duvet and bedding to single sized sets, in order to spread the cost.

With so many duvet offerings on the market, I find it hard to know what to pick. My main criteria after comfort, is that it washes well and dries fast. This Silent Night egyptian cotton duvet showed great strength during the great tummy bug catastrophe of February 2015. So far so good.

George is a bit of a not-so-secret gem when it comes to bedding sets. In particular, I’ve loved some of the children’s bedding designs from the past couple of years. As you might already know, Arlo has become somewhat of a London fanatic over the past year and a half. As soon as I saw this illustrated London bedding set (which also comes in double and king sizes, ahem), I knew it was perfect for Arlo.

asda george home

We also bought the matching London-set Tower Bridge and Big Ben cushions, and changed up his curtains to match the London theme. A few simple changes, but to Arlo, it felt like walking into a whole new room.

I’m currently on a mission to migrate the majority of the children’s toys upstairs to their room, leaving a bit more space and a ‘grown up’ feel in our living room. Toy storage needs to be easily accessible for the boys, and have a simple system to help tidy up time run smoothly. This coloured drawer unit is perfect for the job.

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Along with the wicker baskets and the large under bed box holding their extensive wooden train track collection, there are enough separate boxes for a decent toy rotation system to last the whole week – one box per day lessens the chances of toy-overload or boredom.

Hands down, my favourite pick from the ASDA George Spring Home collection, and the one I feel has made the biggest difference to the look of the room, is the chevron curtains that we have put up in our living room. We chose the natural colour, which actually, to me, looks more of a warm pale grey shade in person. They come in floor length and shorter sizes, and there is a charcoal grey version too.

asda george home chevron curtain

A backlit photo of our dingy living room really doesn’t do these curtains any justice, so on the right is the product photo from the George website, so you can see how they look in good light. 

I’m crossing my fingers that George keep stocking these curtains for a long while so I can purchase more sets when we/if eventually move house and I have more windows to furnish.

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Our selected home picks were sent to us for the purpose of this feature.