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We all have been in the situation where we are faced with a seemingly massive task that requires many steps and some effort to resolve. Perhaps it’s a pile of papers to sort through, maybe it’s a list of drawers to clean around the house or maybe it’s a project to design a flyer for your business. Whatever it is, looking at it in its entirety can be very daunting – and this can often lead to you delaying in even attempting to complete it as you anticipate it will need a lot of time, which you are pressed for in the best of circumstances! So in the end the pile persists, the to do list remains unchecked and the project is a nonstarter– and all the time you are filled with a looming sense of burden in your mind till it can get done.

I have been there a few times but as a lover of “Getting Things Done, I’m always open to trying approaches to conquering the to do list. Recently I was inspired to try a new approach to attacking a burdensome task that had been on my to do list for a long time. It worked so well that I would love to share it with you too!

 I had a task to do that was not something difficult – I needed to sort through a collection of items that had accumulated on my dresser over some time. It was a box consisting of a broken bracelet, a lone earring, perhaps a broken clasp that needed fixing- that kind of stuff. I found it really challenging to find the time -and energy, to just knuckle down and sort through it all and each time I laid eyes on the box, I felt a sense of dread and annoyance which wasn’t pleasant- and I knew wasn’t healthy for me either!

So I tried a newly inspired “One-A-Day approach”. Here are my findings:

Old approach: Wait for a day where I could commit two hours to sitting down and sorting through the box.

Result: Weeks went by, and I wasn’t able to find the time to tackle the task.

New One-A-Day approach: Break the task down into steps (in this case divide the box into 10 items that needed sorting/packing away) and do just one thing a day in that task. For me, that meant putting away just one thing from my box away a day. No more, and no less.

Result: I enjoyed having a much smaller task to focus on a day. Putting away one thing meant only committing five minutes in my day, which was much more manageable. After ten days, my box was empty and my task was completed! And each day seeing the pile getting smaller was a great mental boost.

 So whilst this took ten days to finally complete, at least it finally did get completed! Perhaps at the outset ideally I wouldn’t have wanted to wait ten days to do the job, but in reality if I waited to get it all done in one day I would have waited way more than ten days!

I now do this for anything I have to complete – like watching a series of clips from a recorded conference or talk, cleaning my study desk, or studying material for a course – it can be applied to anything!

All the best with trying the One-A-Day Approach and do let me know how you get on.

 

 

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Image: Happy and pretty 

Your garden offers you the chance to really make your mark on your home, it’s the perfect space to test out your DIY skills and in turn create a beautiful outdoor space perfect for spring (that should hopefully be arriving soon!) However, if you’ve been wondering where to start here are a few ideas that you can try out this month:

 

Start with your bulbs

If you’re a savvy gardener, you’ll have planted those daffodils and tulips in your raised border between September and November and are now reaping the rewards as you watch them bloom day by day. However, if you didn’t get round to planting spring bulbs in autumn you can pick these plants up ready to go from your local garden centre or an online supplier such as Bakker Spalding Garden Co

 

Make a beautiful outdoor space by ensuring these spring flowers are in your garden and creating a fun display of colour that should last for a few weeks. Then you can get started planting those summer bulbs – here’s some help when it comes to what to plant and how; preparation is key!

 

Spruce up furniture

If your garden furniture is looking a little tired you could simply swap it for a new set or you could grab a paintbrush and get busy with some fun coloured paints. Turn that bench from a boring brown to a bold blue, or that deckchair could be more appealing with a spritz of bright postbox red spray paint.

 

Install a water feature

Remember Ground Force? And how (braless) Charlie Dimmock would always have to install a water feature in any garden the team were renovating that day? You should do the same. The soft sound of running water and a pretty feature will definitely enhance your outdoor space for spring, provide an important water resource for local wildlife and still look great once summer rolls round.

 

Take some landscaping inspiration

Check out last year’s RHS Chelsea Garden show entries for inspiration when it comes to setting out that border bedding or where to put the pond. The Homebase garden is a great example of how you can create a garden anyway, even in a dominantly urban space, while Morgan Stanley and Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities’ garden was all about creating a sense of community, with vibrant plants working in harmony with one another and structured hedges creating a clear path for people to take to enjoy the beauty of the garden.

While your motives behind doing some DIY in your outdoor space might not be as artificial perhaps as those behind these gardens, they can still serve as great inspiration.

When creating a beautiful outdoor space think about what you will use it for - dedicate sections of your garden to stunning plantlife, helping wildlife and for socialising – and if you don’t shy away from colour and definitely get your hands dirty you should have no trouble creating a stunning space to enjoy this spring.

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Being a mother of two tiddlers myself, G (3) and B (1.5) I know how hard it is to occupy the little people on a rainy afternoon and how it is harder still to occupy them with something that doesn’t involve Mr Tumble or the delectable Mr Bloom and actually has some meaning (educational value -haha).

In addition to being Mummy to G and B, my other ‘day job’ is teaching secondary school Art.  Every September I am excited by how much the enthusiastic little eleven year olds that come in to the first year LOVE Art and think it will be the MOST fun lesson (well most of them think that anyway)! But I am often a little disappointed by the knowledge they have gained of ‘Contemporary Art’.  They are great at using bright colours, painting really fast, scrunching tissue paper into little round balls and listing the Impressionsists.

Having spent another enjoyable hour watching G and B splatting paint at the kitchen table, merging the three primary colours together and smearing the resulting sludgy brown through their hair… I came to the conclusion that our Afternoon Art Activities needed to be more structured and have a purpose!

Being married to an Art Teacher as well as being one myself has meant that as a family we have never been shy of taking G and B to galleries.  G was particularly taken by the Lichentenstein and recent Matisse Cut-Outs.  I was reminded of my teaching practice reading list…. ‘Seeing comes before words’…  So in a gallery I talk to G and B about shapes, forms, composition, narrative but at home let them splash paint for no reason at bland sugar paper.  I wouldn’t let my eleven year old pupils get away with such unplanned work so what has made me think it is OK for G and B (apart from my need to have five minutes to boil the kettle and slurp some tea) at the their most sponge like time of life?!?

I have decided to take my tiddlers on an Art journey… Being introduced to artists work and creating ‘something’ themselves in their style. We don’t have inexhaustible art supplies or a big budget so most materials will be found or recycled…. Some activities will be 10 minutes long, some a whole afternoon but all will be achievable in your kitchen (or garden if you prefer creativity to happen outside) and all will be tested before I post them so I can encounter the pit falls and you and your toddlers can produce your master pieces (hopefully) problem free!

Follow us on Twitter @Tiddlerart  on Facebook: Tiddlersartstudio or on the blog!

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As with so many safety-related issues, reducing risk often means taking common-sense action preemptively. Installing a 360-degree camera or anti-collision alarm from a specialist supplier such as Brigade Electronics, for instance. Or perhaps something more obvious - and cheaper - like slowing down on the road. However you choose to do it, you’ll cut the chance of coming to harm in your vehicle and maybe even save money on your motor insurance along the way.

 

Here’s where to start.

 

Reduce your speed 

Not only will driving within the speed limit reduce the chance of an accident occurring by giving you and other road users more time to react to situations as they unfold, it also lessens the impact of one should the worst happen. You’re twice as likely to die if you’re hit by a vehicle travelling at 35mph as at 30mph. Across Europe, 12,000 lives and 180,000 injuries could be prevented every year by sticking to the speed limit and wearing seatbelts, according to insurer Allianz.

 

One new idea currently being tested by a number of car manufacturers is Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). The system registers the speed limit of the road you are travelling on and uses audio and visual alerts to let you know when you breach it.

 

Wear your seatbelt

It shouldn’t even need highlighting, given that it’s a legal requirement in the UK, but the use of a seatbelt greatly increases the chance of survival in a car crash. In fact, you’re twice as likely to survive one now than you would have been 30 years ago, thanks in part to seatbelts becoming mandatory. According to the World Health Organisation, seatbelt use reduces the risk of death among front seat passengers by 40 to 65 per cent.

 

Driver assistance aids

As well as ISA systems, a multitude of innovations are helping to make driving safer than ever. Motion sensors, driver health sensors and even alcohol detectors are beginning to make their way into new cars. Cars that can communicate with each other are on the way too. As well as cutting accidents, this could have a huge impact on congestion.

 

Self-driving cars

Autonomous vehicles take much of the technology that exists today and go several steps further, removing the need for human hands on the wheel. And since human error is a factor in the vast majority of road accidents, that means less opportunity for us to miss a vital indication or carry too much speed into a bend.

 

Increase visibility

Whether it’s a glancing blow from a lampost or a serious collision with another vehicle, a lack of visibility follows on from human error as a major cause of accidents. While you can’t account for roads that are poorly lit, you can make sure you have the appropriate lights on in dark or foggy conditions, and you can plan your trip so that you stick to major, better-lit roads as much as possible.

 

If you prefer two wheels to four, you can ensure others see you. Reflective clothing, running lights, lamps and reflectors can all help other road users see you, especially on winter nights. 

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When it comes to dressing for a winter wedding there are a few key things to keep in mind before you hand your debit card over to the cashier or type your digits into the form online. Here’s the lowdown on dresses for a winter wedding, that should keep you looking stylish but also ensure you aren’t a shivering mess.

 

Let’s start with a coat and go from there. It’s winter, so a strapless dress that falls just above your knees isn’t going to cut it when it comes to photos outside, which is why it’s a very good idea to choose a gorgeous coat first, to wear over your wedding attire.

 

A structured duster coat, a belted mac with a fur collar or a camel coat are all great options and will look smart and stylish in the photos with your heels and ankles on show (be careful what coat you choose if you know you want to wear a long length dress. Throw your coat casually over your shoulders for a really chic look - if it’s not too nippy outside.

 

When it comes to the dress itself, a longer sleeve is a good idea and can be incorporated via lace or sheer material, alternatively a stretchy, form fitting wrap dress with a long sleeve is a flattering look and perfect for exuding glamour at the reception later (plus it can easily be worn again for that work Christmas party or posh meal out.)

 

If the winter wedding is a festive occasion you can’t go wrong with a vibrant red dress or an emerald green to tie in with the Christmassy theme. Dresses featuring a gorgeous leg veil and modest long sleeved bodices are popular now for those of us who like to show a little leg but enjoy a little cover up. Something like this dress Chloe Moretz wore to the premiere of The Equalizer would work well for a winter wedding. It’s the perfect combination of sophisticated glamour, with a little veil for those exposed limbs.

 

When you think of winter, what weather type first comes to mind (okay, we know you live in the UK so probably immediately think of wet, windy days stuck inside but let’s use our imaginations)? It's snow, of course! And what better way to tie in the winter theme than with an outfit featuring plenty of shimmering glitter. Either go for a full-on sequined design or opt for subtle diamante details on an elegant maxi dress and finish off with a faux fur stole or shrug.

 

Alternatively, throw out the dress altogether and rock a structured jumpsuit or even a co-ord. You can pick these up in classic black designs or a bold print; we love this belted, off the shoulder jumpsuit from Warehouse, which exudes effortless glamour and would look amazing with a colour popping clutch and heels.

 

When it comes to winter wedding style, you can’t go wrong. Start with the outerwear first and work in and remember to leave anything white in the wardrobe! 

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Most people spend at least 40 hours a week or more at their place of work.
The chances are that if you work from your house, you’ll probably spend even longer in your home office. It’s important not to create an office that’s purely functional -  after all, you’re your own boss, no one’s going to moan about flowers, music or other enhancements so make your office a place of beauty as well as function.

 

Furniture first

A comfortable office chair is important, especially if your work entails hours at a computer. Make sure that the chair is the right height, well upholstered and castors from Tente will help you glide from one part of the room to another, if necessary. Your desk should be able to accommodate your computer, some pens and a notebook and must be at the right height. This doesn’t mean that it has to look dull. You can always renovate this piece of furniture with a coat of paint so it blends in with the rest of your colour scheme.

 

Colour and design

When painting your home office you don’t have to stick to stark white, or monotonous magnolia. Select a colour that you find relaxing, perhaps paint the ceiling in a light green or blue to reduce your stress levels. Incorporate some art into your office. Having some paintings above your desk, or photographs that you love will always add a personal touch and improve the look of the room in general. The Fresh Home Ideas blog has some innovative ideas that you might want to incorporate.

 

Important essentials

Some people can work against a backdrop of music or radio; others find the additional sounds too distracting. If you do work from home you’ll also have to learn to relax and take breaks in between keeping up with your emails and carrying out your profession. A good sound system with all of your favourite downloaded tunes as well as some effective speakers might be a great idea to help you relax. Music played through speakers does sound better than through earphones.

 

Encouraging creativity

If you love flowers and plants, then introduce these to your office. Alternatively you could keep a window box on your windowsill. The flowers will grow as the seasons change and will add some additional colour to your surroundings, watering them and nurturing them will act as a displacement activity when the ideas aren’t flowing.

The Guardian suggests that your home office should be practical as well as comfortable, and that any personal accessories that will make it easier for you to work are to be encouraged.
 

 

Comfort is important

Whether you have a design business, work as a freelance writer or carry out any other job from home, the addition of a comfortable chair for relaxation in your office is important. A chaise lounge is ideal in a perfect world for this purpose but most people don’t live in a perfect world. A well-upholstered armchair covered in your favourite fabric will fit the bill perfectly and will provide an ideal space to catch up on some reading, plan your work or organise your schedule.

 

Working from home can be difficult, but as long as you have stamped your identity on your office, then it might be a little easier to get started every day!

 

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If you are a keen gardener, the icy temperatures, frost and potential snow of the winter months doesn’t have to prevent you from gardening.

  

You may not want to tackle the elements to be outside and there is very little you could do out there anyway - however, what you can do is continue gardening from the comfort and warmth of your house!

 

Pick up a few pots and seeds, then start growing these seven plants indoors this winter, ready to transfer to your garden (if you wish) when the weather improves:

 

1. Tomatoes

 

Tomatoes are perfect to grow indoors this winter and will be delicious when added to your dinner plate.

 

You can place your tomato seeds on the windowsill in a 6-inch pot filled with good potting soil – and add fertilizer and plant stakes as they start to grow.  

 

2. Polyanthus

 

These are easy to grow and come in a variety of colours. They are supposed to be planted in winter bedding, but you will get the flower for a lot longer inside.

 

Polyanthus like high humidity, so ideally you need a coloured glass container and cover the base with a bed of pebbles in water, then your pot can be placed on top. Ensure you mist-spray the leaves to maintain humidity and water frequently.

 

Polyanthus need bright but indirect light – a sunny, south-facing window ledge with daytime temperatures is ideal.

 

3. Cyclamen

 

The small-flowered varieties of cyclamen are ideal for the winter months. They like bright, indirect light but don’t like it too hot – so it is best not to keep them in the kitchen or by a radiator.

 

4. Spring Bulbs

 

You can bring a bit of colour to the cold and dreary winter months by forcing spring bulbs to bloom inside. You can pick up spring bulbs from You Garden – the most common for winter include; Crocus, Daffodils, and Tulips. Once you have your chosen bulbs the process of forcing the bulbs will need careful thought and timing – the perfect job for the keen gardener!

 

5. Herbs

 

Herbs are perfect to plant inside during the winter and are ideal to add to your cooking! Place them on a windowsill, where the light will keep them happy and healthy until you can plant them in the garden again. The perfect herbs for this include; basil, bay, chervil, chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme.

 

6. Carrots

 

There are plenty of vegetables you can grow inside during winter, which can be mixed with the tomatoes on your dinner plate. The seeds can be planted in a pot or window box that is at least a foot and a half wide and placed on the windowsill or near to a window. Plant the seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other. Keep them well watered and they should start sprouting within two weeks.

 

7. Begonias

If you already have begonias in your garden they need to be brought inside before the frost or they may be lost for good. Once inside, with a little light and space, they can continue to be grown over the winter months. They will need to be kept moist, fertilized, and perhaps use a pebble tray for extra humidity. Be aware that they may need some time to adjust to being moved indoors – and this may mean dropping and re-growing some or all of its leaves.

 

 

 

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It’s an all-too-familiar refrain, sometimes occurring as early as 20 minutes into a journey and lasting for hours: “Are we there yet?” Bored kids, exasperated parents. No wonder we dread long car trips with young children.

 

According to this Daily Telegraph article, researchers commissioned by Disney discovered that, of 5,000 parents contacted, more than 80 per cent gave their young passengers a tablet such as an iPad loaded with games, films and other entertainment to keep them amused on lengthy trips. Fifty per cent of those surveyed said that they got up to an hour’s unbroken peace and quiet as a result. 

 

Just 20 per cent enjoyed the same amount of happy silence without the help of apps and electronic devices, with traditional time-killers like ‘I spy…’ on the way out. Only 14 per cent of parents quizzed found such games useful.

 

There are many tips you can employ to prevent you pulling your hair out the next time you hit the motorway. You can start well before even planning the next family holiday. When it’s time to buy a new family car, take your kids with you. When you get to T W White & Sons or other such dealers, explain the situation: you take long trips together as a family, you’re conscious the children get bored, what do you recommend for young travellers?

 

You might find a new car with in-built entertainment systems, a novel seating arrangement or a glass roof eases long journeys for those in the back and front seats. Here are six more ideas to try.

 

Audio books: Lots of parents swear by these. You can turn every journey into one of discovery both inside and outside the car. As the story of the BFG unfolds or the world of Harry Potter is detailed, kids can become engrossed while remaining engaged with the scenery flowing past the car windows.

 

A tablet: Not the sleeping kind, we hasten to add, but the sort made by the likes of Apple and Samsung. It’s an expensive answer, but incredibly flexible and will offer multiple attractions in one small package. Films, favourite cartoons, ebooks, games, art apps, even educational pastimes - when they get bored of one, they can move on to another. Pro tip: invest in some noise-insulating headphones. 

 

DIY games: Your kids could use those iPads or smartphones to snap photographs throughout the journey, ticking off a list you made prior to setting off. Include famous landmarks, towns, other types of car and then offer prizes at the end of the trip depending on how many subjects they snapped.

 

Plan plenty of exploration stops: You’re going to need to make loo breaks along the journey, so why not combine them with something more interesting for everyone? You could pull up in a new town, at a National Trust or English Heritage site or simply a spot with a fabulous view. 

Filling snacks: Invariably children get more irritated when they are hungry, so keep a ready supply of snacks to hand - but go easy on the Haribos. Instead, choose something that’ll take time to eat and releases energy slowly. Dried fruits and, for older children, nuts are good choices.

 

A good old-fashioned colouring book: Even adults are getting back into colouring books, but for kids, they hold near endless fascination.

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Christmas dinner – the most eagerly awaited meal of the entire calendar year and yet somehow, quite often, it’s the most underwhelming. All that build-up, all that expectation, all that expense, for what is essentially a roast dinner but on a larger, waist-busting scale – meat, two veg (sometimes three) and potatoes. It’s tasty, of course, but sometimes it can feel a bit predictable; especially if you’ve been making Christmas dinner the same way for decades.

 

If this scenario sounds familiar, time to break the habit! This year, why not shake things up a bit by throwing in a few Christmas dinner curveballs and jazzing up the traditional meal? Here’s how:

 

Spice up your roasties

 

There are a plenty of theories regarding the perfect way too cook roast potatoes but not enough emphasis on how to make spuds more exciting. Try this Jamie Oliver suggestion, via the Telegraph – add olive oil, garlic and red wine vinegar OR butter, clementine zest and fresh sage to your Christmas Day potatoes. Beats just plain vegetable oil hands down.

 

Get adventurous with veg

 

Traditional Christmas dinner veg nearly always includes Brussels sprouts and for some reason it might be the only day of the year the family choose to eat them. They’re a veg which can literally divide the household – while some love sprouts, some loathe them. Cooking them with diced bacon or pancetta can completely change the taste. If you’d prefer to keep your vegetables meat free, in this article, chef Pedro Samper suggests cooking sprouts with whole gloves of garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. The AO Christmas cookbook has further cooking tips.

 

Don’t choose turkey

 

Turkey doesn’t have to be on the menu at Christmas. It’s a tradition but not a rule and while it’s a lovely, lean meat some find it bland. Why not consider other alternatives? Goose has a stronger flavour and doesn’t tend to dry out so easily, while guinea fowl – cooked with roasted chestnuts, sprouts and bacon – can be a real show-stopper. Other people pleasers include a large ham hock or gammon joint, perhaps glazed with honey and studded with cloves.

 

If you absolutely swear by turkey, get creative and transform the taste. Nigella Lawson has a great recipe here for turkey breast stuffed with Italian sausage and marsala-seeped cranberries.

 

Focus on starters

 

It’s possible to revamp Christmas dinner by leaving the main course alone and cooking and presenting that in the traditional manner. If you’ve got that down to a fine art and don’t want to mess with a tried and tested routine, why not show off some with very different starters instead? Food Network have these 101 Christmas Starters including an Asian Prawn Cocktail from Masterchef champion Shelina Permaloo and a delicious gorgonzola, fig and prosciutto di Parma Bruschetta. The beauty of many of these is that they be prepared the day before and stored in the fridge (if you need something larger before Christmas head to ao.com) therefore removing much of the stress on the big day itself.

                                                       

These are just a few examples and ideas of how to jazz up a traditional Christmas dinner. There’s no excuse for eating the same meal year after year!

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With childhood obesity on the rise and ever-increasing temptations of unhealthy deliciousness from high street retailers, the battle for children’s hearts and minds can be difficult. A child usually prefers a fattening burger and chips whereas a parent would opt for fruit or nutritious snacks. Here are six ways to fight this particular war.

 

1. Interest your child in fruit

There is no magic wand to make your child fall in love with fruit. You could spark their interest by taking a look at the fruit trees for sale on Ashridge Trees website and try to introduce your child to gardening and the pleasures of picking fruit from a tree in the garden. If you extend this exercise to planting strawberries and other soft fruits, and encouraging your child to have their own special garden plot they might forget about sweets.

 

2. Vegetables don’t have to be boring

A plate of soggy cabbage is never inspiring for anyone. Encourage your child to fall in love with vegetables by experimenting with cooking styles and different types of vegetables. Writing in The Daily Mail the nutritionist Annabel Karmel revealed that over half the kids in the UK don’t have any vegetables at all and only 44% don’t eat fruit on a daily basis. Always praise your kids for eating their vegetables; also a little bribery won’t go amiss!

 

3. Try not to react to the moans

Tantrums in supermarkets when mums won’t buy sweets or cakes, sulks and moans at home when a child doesn’t get its own way are familiar behaviour patterns to all parents. In order to try and overcome these problems many experts agree that it’s best if the parents try not to show any reaction at all. Stuffing sweets into a child’s mouth to keep them quiet is never a solution. You will have to develop the patience of a saint but the child is demanding a reaction and if you don’t play ball, then they will eventually stop moaning or screaming.

 

4. Include your children when cooking

If you include your child in your meal planning and cooking, then you can explain the importance of nutrition and let them cook their own healthy dishes. An article in The Daily Telegraph suggests the more a child is involved in this process, the greater understanding they’ll develop about the importance of fruit and vegetables. Introducing your children to different tastes will also help.

 

5. Make your own shakes and drinks

Fizzy drinks are bad for everyone. This isn’t just a matter of calories; the drinks offer very little nutrition. Show your kids how to make fruit drinks at home. Summer milkshakes can be great fun and will certainly be better for your child.

 

6. Make time

It’s difficult being a parent and many are busy working long hours in order to try to pay the bills. If you use a childcare service, insist that your child has access to nutritional snacks and meals. If you provide a lunchbox for school, try not to include crisps and sweets. Also talk to your kids and explain the perils of obesity and other conditions related to a poor diet; at least they’ll start to understand why they should eat healthily.

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Wedding site The Knot recommends setting aside 8% of your budget when it comes to floral arrangements including the bridal bouquet, and bouquets for bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, corsages for mothers as well as table arrangements and centrepieces.

 

This is all on top of those wedding rings from 77 Diamonds, the wedding dress and amendments from the bridal shop in town and the cost of getting to and from the venues throughout the day.  

 

However, putting budget aside because this is one of the first issues you will discuss with your florist, how do you choose the perfect flowers for your big day.

 

Find your florist

Speak to people you know and trust about who they hired for their big day and choose two or three to visit and interview about what you want. Choose a florist with experience and who can show you their portfolio of high quality work.

 

Work out how much you need in terms of floral arrangements, so you can discuss this immediately with your florist as well as budget and also take along anything you’ve gathered together as inspiration – much like when you visit the hairdresser and take along a picture as a reference. It will help your florist come up with a better quote and ideas.

 

Settle on your requirements

Next it’s time to settle on the flowers themselves, from colours to working out which ones will remain fresh all day and travel well. These are the questions you need to ask your florist to determine which flowers would be perfect for your big day:

 

·      ‘Which flowers are guaranteed to stay fresh all day? Do these cost more?’

·      ‘Can you suggest the best flowers to use at the time of year of the wedding?’

·      ‘Can you guarantee the flowers will be fresh and arrive on time on the day? How do you transport them?’

·      ‘If I order specific flowers for my arrangements and they are not available how do you work out substitutions?’

·      ‘Do you offer any extra decorations or accessories with floral arrangements?’

 

Think about size and colour

Your wedding dress style and the size of your wedding party will make a big difference to the floral arrangements you choose. Therefore, it’s important you choose flowers that are going to complement the size of the dress and the colour scheme too.

 

Time of year is also important when it comes to choosing flowers for your wedding, think carefully before you pick out difficult to obtain peonies or a rare type of orchid, to save yourself disappointment on the day.

 

In the end choosing the perfect flowers for your big day essentially all come down to personal preference, budget and what is in season. Do your research before settling on a design and choose a reputable florist that will ensure everything you ask for is done for you. To get started on your search, here’s a quick inspirational guide to browse before setting up a board on Pinterest!

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We’ve all got an ideal home in our heads haven’t we? A place we’d love to be able to rest, relax and entertain to our heart’s content.

 

It’s one of the many reasons why property listings sites are so popular – it’s great to gaze longingly at dream homes and take a peak inside the properties of others to see what features and decorations we can aspire to.

 

But, there comes a point in your life when it really is time to stop dreaming. By that I don’t mean give up and accept your lot in life. No, there comes a time when you need to plan to make that dream a reality.

 

Firstly, you need a concrete plan. Push your dream as far as you can, while sticking within a realistic goal. Go back to those listings sites and get a gauge for just how much it’ll cost. These days, with property prices rising all the time, a dream home means millions of pounds and that means a sensible business plan to be able to achieve your goal.

 

It also means managing a series of investments carefully in order to get the best returns – probably over a long term period. Be prepared to be bold, thing big and play the long game and you can ‘live the dream’. Here are some ways to build up your assets to achieve that:

 

Property portfolio

It’s called a housing ladder for a reason and in order to climb to the top you may need to lift yourself up a few rungs by building up a careful portfolio of investments. Look at parts of the country where house price growth is strong, buy up properties, sell them on at a profit (with a target in mind before you purchase) and re-invest to build this up. Alternatively find somewhere where the rental yield is strong and get a regular income that can be saved towards your overall target.

 

It’s a strong form of investment and one that requires little prior knowledge and can deliver strong returns quickly. The further you get up the ladder the better the scope for strong returns. Set annual targets and push yourself to make the most from your portfolio.

 

Passion investments

Successful investments rely, to an extent, on putting your knowledge to use to purchase assets that will grow in price over a period of time. This doesn’t always mean complex financial accounts that require a university degree to fathom out. There is a way, for example, of putting your hobby to good use financially through ‘passion investments’.

 

The Coutts Index tracks the performance of such investments and showed how their value has risen 80% in the period from 2005 to 2014. All sorts of things qualify as passion investments – one of the most successful being classic cars, which have shot up in value by 400% in the 2005-14 period. As The Telegraph pointed out, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO recently sold for $38m (£24m) at an auction in California and while it’d be difficult to top that, there’s clearly plenty of opportunity to make money to put to that dream home here.

 

Shares

Depending on the scale of your ambitions, it’ll probably be necessary to supplement that investment through entering the stock market. The returns here can, if done correctly, be even higher than for properties – with the chance to make every £100 you invest worth almost four times that amount in just five years.

 

The trick here is to be prepared to accept risk and lock your money away for long periods. The longer the term and the higher the risk the greater the potential reward.

 

Others

The best investors know that the more varied their assets are, the better chance they have to succeed. Things such as precious metals, like gold, are sound investments that are often able to withstand fluctuations to the market which can impact upon property prices and share values.

 

Set a big target and then set to work. Build up a property portfolio, consider any ‘passion investments’ you could snap up, make sound investments in shares and keep your assets varied to enjoy long-term success and the ability to afford the perfect property you’ve always dreamt of.

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1980

Cleaning on a regular basis not only leaves everything sparkling but it can also kill harmful bacteria, eliminate dust mites and banish other irritating allergens which can lead to health problems such as asthma and eczema. There really is every reason to keep your environment glistening – both at home and work – so as well as the regular detergents and bleaches, here are eight cleaning essentials you didn’t know you needed.

1. Vinyl gloves
Sure, it’s possible to clean the loo or wipe the surfaces without wearing gloves but why expose yourself to harmful germs and bacteria when you don’t need to? These days there are many cheap and cheerful gloves available including disposable and latex-free varieties which are ideal for allergy suffers, so be sure to view more vinyl gloves here.

2. Lemon juice
Believe it or not, lemon juice is a wonderful, non-toxic cleaning agent that’ll leave your property spic-and-span. As well as being a great substitute for bleach, lemon juice can also be used to shine your taps and metal work surfaces and is ideal for removing nasty odours from your washing machine or dishwasher.

3. Baking soda
Like lemon juice, baking soda is another storage cupboard item that can be used for cleaning. It’s a natural deodoriser and when placed in a stinky fridge can help get rid of all those strong pongs. On a similar note, place a cup of baking soda next to your shoe rack and, again, it will disguise all those cheesy smells.  

4. White vinegar
If your drains ever get blocked, remove anything obvious you can see with your hands before spooning down four heaped teaspoons of baking soda and several glugs of white vinegar. Wait for the hissing and bubbling to stop and wash through with hot water – hey presto, your pipes should be clean and clear.

5. Olive oil
Why spend a fortune on furniture polish when you can use a few drops of olive oil instead? Simply pour a little oil onto a cloth and use it on wooden furniture to bring back the shine.
A tiny amount goes a long way and will leave your home lovely and shiny.

6. Newspaper
Got lots of old newspapers lying around? Haven’t yet been to the recycling bins? Then these can be used to clean your windows. All you need to do is squirt the glass with water, screw the newspaper up into a rough ball and get to work – easy.

7. Cucumber peel
Many shop-bought cleaning products contain a host of toxic chemicals which are not overly good for your health, so if you’re looking for more natural alternatives use cucumber peel to remove marks and stains from walls and mirrors. Similarly, if you don’t want your mirrors to steam up when you’re in the shower, rub them with cucumber peel first to keep them from fogging up.

8. Ketchup

As you can see, many food items double up as cleaning products and ketchup is no different. Rub this popular sauce onto any copper items that need cleaning, leave it for 30 minutes and you’ll see how it removes all the tarnish.

 

Cleaning is an important part of life, but there’s no need to break the bank on an array of sprays and concoctions when the above eight products will leave your home in tip-top shape.

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The constant battle to balance childcare, education and your working life can be exhausting. Solutions do exist though, and here are seven part time jobs that you might enjoy.

 

1. Call Centres

Call centres sometimes receive a bad press from the public, which is a shame because they can be great places to work. If you’re looking for call centre jobs in Manchester you’ll see that there is a wide variety of openings. Some are part time and others offer flexible working. You’ll also discover that you won’t be the only parent working in this environment.

 

2. Teaching assistant jobs

The perfect job that will fit around your children’ education is that of a teaching assistant. The National Careers Advisory Service states that you are supporting the qualified teacher in their lessons. You won’t be expected to teach a class, but you will be asked to help out where necessary. Teaching assistants’ hours generally are the same as the school day, which is perfect. Take a look at local school websites to get an idea of the type of qualifications that’ll be required.

 

3. School dining staff

Dinner staff endure in the popular memory and if you want to join the ranks of these wonderful people, it’s definitely worth going online and checking out the necessary qualifications. You don’t have to be a professional chef but you will have to have a DBS check before you can work in a school. Allow some time for this application as it can take up to 12 weeks.

 

4. Community care work

Whether you want to work for a private company or a national charity, you’ll soon discover that all agencies across the UK are crying out for more care workers. If you state that you only want to work a certain number of hours, you can find work. The website Net Mums has a variety of accounts of this type of role in its discussion forums.

 

5. Market research

Some market research is carried out in an office, some of it’s online and some of it is carried out on street corners. There’s always a need for market researchers and you can find part time roles that will suit your lifestyle and convenience.

 

6. Mystery shoppers

If you love a bit of retail therapy and want to get paid for the experience then look out for mystery shopper adverts. You’ll be assessing customer service, and you will then have to write up a report about your experience. If you enjoy a challenge and flexibility, then this role is perfect for you.

 

7. Blogging from home

 

There are numerous blogs on the net that carry advertising as well as articles, photographs and other pieces of information. Affiliate marketing will allow you to work part time but you should carry out some detailed research if you’re considering this option. For every first class blog, there are many that aren’t so good and won’t attract advertising so this option really does entail that you put in some work before deciding that you’re going to make an earning from it.

 

 

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1945

 

If you want to improve the curb appeal of your home, but don’t have the budget for high cost maintenance and repairs – fear not. There are many things you can do to spruce up the exterior of your property without breaking the bank, so here are seven ideas to consider.

 

1. Give the roof a lick of paint
Want to give your property a lift? Then waterproof roof paint – which is often used for commercial and industrial purposes and is designed to be durable and hardwearing – could be just what you need. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do and with products like these repelling water and protecting your abode from the elements, you can’t really go far wrong.

 

2. Paint your front door
If you’re in the mood for a spot of DIY, then painting your front door could also be an option. Always been the house with the blue door? Then why not spice things up a bit and become the property with the purple or green door? Not sure what colour to opt for? Then apps like Front Door Paint will help you decide by giving you a sneak preview of what your paint job could look like.

 

3. Add a stylish doorknocker
Once your door has been painted, wouldn’t it be great to swap an average doorbell for a stylish doorknocker? Solid brass varieties, for instance, are sure to last for many years and come in an array of different styles with nautical-themed anchors being particularly popular. A brass crab would look fantastic on a seaside property with an aqua door and you’ll even find doorknockers in the shape of pineapples, Boxer dogs and keys.

 

4. Mow the lawn
The exterior of your property is the first thing that people see, so whether you’re trying to sell up and move on or simply want to impress the neighbours, make sure your front garden is well kept. Improving the appearance of your lawn should certainly top your to-do list with loosening hard soil, reducing thatch, putting down fertiliser and keeping your grass at about two inches long, taking priority.

 

5. Plant flowers
There’s nothing quite like a bit of colour to brighten up your outside space. Vibrant, eye-catching flowers such as viola, cowslip primrose, tuberous begonias and even sunflowers will make your garden that little bit more interesting and you could even plant an array of pots and hanging baskets to make your garden even more chic.

 

6. Wash your driveway
While you might not think your driveway is overly dirty, you’ll be surprised at how much grime comes off when you squirt it with a power hose. The results are often incredible, so it’s well worth putting some time aside one weekend, sweeping up any loose gravel or stones that might have unsettled over time and giving your drive a good wash.

 

7. Buy a name plaque for your house
If your house has a name such as Little Barn Cottage or Honeycomb Flat Number One, think about buying a name plaque for your property. These are available at a reasonable price online and will help make your home that little bit more polished and unique. Similarly, if you have a house number tile that’s seen better days, consider cleaning or replacing it to bring back the shine.

 

Improving the outside of your home is relatively easy when you put your mind to it and doesn’t have to be expensive either, so go ahead and give it a go.

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The important stuff is pretty important, but sometimes it gets missed to make room for other important stuff. You get the message – everything is important! With this in mind, here are seven ways to save time in your day, to ensure you never skip doing something important again:

 

1. Delegate

Ensure you never forget that item on your to-do list again and enlist the help of someone else! Cleaning the kitchen? That’s important. Hoovering? Pretty important. Changing the bed? Also important. Get a company such as Molly Maid Domestic Cleaning Services on board and never have to worry about cleaning the house again, leaving you a spare hour or so to do something super important.

 

2. Prepare

Struggle to get out of bed in the morning and get dressed? This is taking up valuable time that could be spent on those important things! Choose your outfit the night before and lay it in an easy to reach place by the bed to help ease the struggle.

 

The same goes for cooking, do you just hate preparing meals after a long day at work and think you could use the time for something more… important? Then set aside an hour on a Sunday and prep everything you’re going to eat for the week then chuck it in the freezer. Each day you can pull out what you fancy and sling it in the microwave for an easy, fuss free dinner.

 

3. Avoid

A controversial tactic, but some situations just aren’t necessary and could be avoided altogether if you are clever about it. Avoid saying yes to tasks that you simply don’t have time for. While it might be a nice gesture to pick up your brother from work every day he could get the bus and you could instead use that 20 minutes spent waiting for him to drag himself out of the office, to do something important.

 

4. Turn off your Wi-Fi

The Internet is one of the biggest time wasters you can combat, if you’re looking for ways of saving time for the important stuff. Cut down on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp time to grant yourself an extra half hour or more in your day (depending on how bad your browsing addiction is).

 

5. Reclaim gap time

If you commute to work and have to wait for a bus or train or find yourself waiting in the doctor’s surgery use this time productively and get some important things done in that time. It could be something as small as getting through a chapter of that book you’ve been trying to read for months or answering work emails.

 

6. Put the phone away

The average person now apparently spends more time on their phone and laptop than sleeping, equating to eight hours and 41 minutes, which is 20 minutes more than the average night’s sleep. This tactic is similar to biting the bullet and turning off the Wi-Fi, but has the same magic time creating effect. Stop looking at every social media platform you’ve ever signed up to and get stuff done.

 

7. Embrace the list

A to do list is one of the most important weapons against procrastination and time wasting (unless you spend too long writing your to do list, in which case there is no hope for you). Having a strict bulleted list to work through can help save organise your time better and get those important things done. Keep your list concise, targeted and in order of priority to ensure you don’t get bored halfway through and give up.

 

The important stuff will get done, eventually - it’s just up to you how quickly you go about attempting the task. If you put these measures in place you can save valuable time in your day.

  

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According to research by the AA Driving School, teaching their children to drive is one of the most difficult experiences parents go through. In fact, about one in twenty parents considered it the most difficult - even higher than giving birth for some.

 

The DVSA (Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency) says it takes a learner about 45 hours of driving lessons and some 22 hours of back up practise to pass their test. Therefore, theres much you can do to help your teen to pass their test such as supervising them outside lessons and revising for the driving theory test.

 

Should you help?

 

Some parents simply find it too difficult to actively help their offspring, or are keen to help but cannot remain calm enough to be effective. Its very important to be honest with yourself and assess whether you can be a help or a hindrance to your teen and, indeed, whether or not you have the time to play an important part.

 

If not, then a trusted friend or relative could perhaps help in supervising them. Theres no reason why you cant still help with aspects such as helping them revise the Highway Code and practice for the driving theory test just know your strengths and dont try to do it all if you cant.

 

How can you help?

 

Driving lessons obviously you can organise some, but make sure theyre with a reputable driving instructor. Check with friends and others for recommendations. You can offer financial support too if your child is struggling to fund them.

 

Practice (theory) - test your teen on their Highway Code knowledge. Help them prepare for the driving theory test by using online resources such as this one and acting as an examiner.

 

Practice (practical) - if you decide you will accompany your teen in the car outside lessons, then take advice from the driving instructor. Theyll likely have a view on when you should begin to go out on practice sessions outside of lessons.

 

Make sure you practice what your child has just done in their most recent lesson, and don't confuse them by trying to do things differently to how theyre being taught by their instructor. Remember that the instructor knows the up to date requirements for the driving test and will be teaching your teen accordingly. Your sessions should supplement those offered by a professional not replace them.

 

Dont overdo sessions - too long out on the road can fatigue anyone learning to drive. Encourage your child, but dont push them too far.

 

Brush up your knowledge - before starting to help you teen with their driving, make sure your knowledge is as up to date as possible. Its easy for knowledge to become a bit outdated if youve held a driving licence for several years, so check the Highway Code and maybe read up on practical driving methods.

 

Set an example - try to drive carefully and responsibly when youre behind the wheel and your teen is with you. Seeing you driving properly will rub off on them and establish good habits.

 

Vary your practice times - go out at different times of the day so your teen gets used to different traffic conditions. Unless its pelting down and especially dangerous, dont put sessions off just because of a little rain - after all, your teen may end up taking their test in a downpour.

 

Know the laws - for example, its illegal for you to use a mobile phone in the car when accompanying your teen. Even though youre not driving, as the supervisor youre considered to be in control of the car.

 

In order to supervise a learner, you have to be over 21 years old and have held a licence for the type of vehicle youre supervising in for a minimum of three years.

 

Your role

 

You can be an enormous help to your child when theyre learning to drive, but it pays to put in a little preparation. Proper focused support can really help them overcome the practical and theory tests in double quick time but go into this half-hearted and you could let your child down.

 

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Finding a new family home is a task that should be tackled with plenty of research, careful consideration and feedback - from smaller members of the group - involved. With this in mind, here are five things you must consider when looking for your next home, to ensure everyone settles quickly and isn’t too upset by the move:

 

1. A quick sale

Children seeing people walk around their childhood home, quietly criticising the décor and talking about where they can see their sofa in the living room, will start to concern them after a while.

 

It’s important that you talk to your children about the changes you are planning and to also try and make a quick sale on your home to avoid drawing out the disruption (and having to manically clean at 11pm when you remember visitors are coming the next day).

 

List your home for a price close to what it is really worth to ensure a quick sale or sell your house with We Buy Any Home, a company that will purchase your property for a cash amount with no hidden fees involved.

 

2. Location

Location is important for any homebuyer, but even more so for a family. You want to ensure you are in a catchment area for good schools but also somewhere a reachable distance from your workplace.

 

3. Outdoor space

Local parks and fields where kids can play are an optional extra, as well as a local coffee shop for those Saturday mornings when you want to catch up with friends but don’t want to manage the kids in a restaurant. However, it’s a good idea to look for a decent sized garden to encourage your kids to head outside and stay active.

 

4. Neighbourhood

Do some checks before viewing a property to see what it’s like in the area and whether it is a part of a Neighbourhood Watch programme. Sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla include area stats on their listings, or you can take a look at websites such as checkymyarea.com or ourwatch.org.uk, which should give you a good idea about the neighbourhood you intend to move into.

 

5. Size and requirements

You’re looking for a home you can see your family using and therefore you need to decide what criteria it needs to tick off before settling for something. One of the most important things to consider is the size of the property and whether it offers everything your family needs. Is there ample room for the kids as they grow, does it have a garden for playing in the summer and is the kitchen large enough for a dining table to sit round as a family?

 

However, if you can see that you could extend the kitchen in the future or that the loft space is large enough to create an even bigger area, then don’t write off smaller properties. If you love them still, you can always extend and grow the house as your family grows.

  

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After nine months of pregnancy, the pain of giving birth and numerous sleepless nights, new mums certainly deserve to be spoilt. Caring for a teeny, tiny person isn’t easy, so why not put a smile on a tired mother’s face with a unique, special and memorable gift? Not sure what to buy? Then here are five gift ideas for inspiration:

Personalised canvas
Anyone can run into a shop and buy a readymade present, but how about doing something a little more meaningful? Personalised canvases are the perfect way to turn a beautiful photograph into a sentimental keepsake, so it’s worth digging out a quality snap and checking out photo canvas printing by Helloprint for a great deal. Landscape, portrait and square designs are readily available and you could even put the finishing touches to the canvas by adding a frame.

Postpartum massage
No matter how much new mums love being with their babies, sometimes they just want to get out of the house and enjoy an hour to themselves, and that’s where a professional postpartum massage could come in handy. As well as relieving stress, reducing aches and pains and improving circulation, massage also has other health benefits including hormone regulation and decreasing swelling. Offer to babysit for the hour they’re away and you could be in their good books for a long time to come.

Beauty hamper
Often, new mums find it hard to shower let alone brush their hair, but when the buzz of having a new baby dies down a little and a routine is established they’re sure to appreciate a homemade beauty hamper – a simple yet effective idea that can be easily executed. Everything from bubble bath and moisturiser to hair conditioner and exfoliating cream will go down well and you could even throw in a few candles for an extra special treat. Find a lovely wicker basket to place everything in, wrap it all up with cellophane and ribbon and you’ll have a great gift to present.

Stylish backpack
When you become a parent, suddenly anything remotely practical becomes important.
Your mummy friend probably already has a changing bag to use for nappies, creams, spare clothes, toys and dummies, but it could be nice to buy her a ‘next stage’ backpack for when such a monstrous carrier is no longer needed. Before buying, however, make sure you really do choose a backpack and not a one-strap or across the body number, as this will be more practical with a toddler.

A snuggly blanket
While many people think to buy soft, snuggly blankets for babies, wouldn’t it be lovely to buy a supersized blanket for the new mummy herself? Not only is having something to wrap up in comforting, but many mums find themselves all over the house in the early hours of the morning (when it’s not particularly warm), so this a snuggly blanket will help keep that up-all-night parents toasty.

Babies are sure to be showered with gifts when they pop into the world, but make sure you spare a thought for the mums out there too. One final thought – a really nice touch is to design and send birth announcement cards in the days following baby’s arrival in the world.

 

 

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The living room is the centre of the home, the hub where everyone comes together after a long day to relax and enjoy each other’s company (or alternate between staring at a phone screen and the television for a few hours). If you’re signed up to Magazines Direct and browsing publications such as Homes and Gardens and Living Etc, looking for inspiration on how to make your space more inviting, then you’ll know that the rustic look is always on trend.

 

Here’s how to channel such a strong theme into your living space:

 

Distressed wood

Wood that appears distressed and worn is one of the easiest ways of keeping the rustic theme very much alive in your home. Rustic homes should appear lived in, they aren’t clinically clean, they bear the marks of the family who actively reside in them and are open and honest about what goes on, on a daily basis.

 

Therefore, don’t be afraid to get the sandpaper out and rub away at the pristine surface of your coffee table or paint that large mirror frame and then rub away the paint along the edges once it’s dried. Throw out the coasters and let the kids climb on the furniture.

 

Plush, comfortable seating

A rustic living room should feature a large, comfortable sofa for everyone to lounge on, with fabric seats and plenty of cushions and blankets to cuddle up to in the cooler weather. Grey, brown or cream are preferable colours for a rustic living space, with tones of red and teal incorporated in the accessories.

 

Mix textures

The rustic home has no strict guidelines when it comes to what materials can be used where. Try creating a living area with a leather sofa as the main focus. This sofa can then feature scatter cushions in a plethora of pillow case materials, from faux fur to cable knit to soft suede, and have it sit on a large shag pile rug with a distressed coffee table and side stands to accompany it. Mix and match your textures in the room to really hone in on the rustic theme.

 

Get the light right

Lighting is important in a rustic home; it should be soft and comforting in the form of lamps or dimmed central light fittings. Place your lighting in the corners of the room, to shed some soft light over the space and if you can incorporate a fireplace into your living area even better. Nothing says rustic quite like a crackling fire on a winter evening!

 

Artistic touches

Art prints are the perfect finishing touch in any home and when it comes to the rustic home you should look for pieces that have that ‘shabby chic’ element but also incorporate elements you like. Deer silhouettes, repurposed driftwood or pallets and anything with a nod to nature works well in a rustic themed living room.

 

When it comes to designing a rustic living area don’t feel restricted, simply choose what you feel best reflects your style of living and don’t worry about furniture looking pristine. Live in the space and enjoy it!

 

 

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