Friday, 31 January 2014

Bed edit [ Zzzzzz... ]

It's Friday, I'm tired, and my NEW BED arrives tomorrow so I am looking forward to a weekend of rest and sleep [she says hopefully]. I thought I'd pin up a few of the lovely bed frames I came across in my search for a new one for myself.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

[sneak peek]

As the rest of the house is a bit of a tip I can only show a sneak peak of some of the bits I've already made for our home. Our lovely new sofa is in, with a few cushions [made and bought], along with the plain wooden clock that I'm itching to customise. Got some ideas in mind but no time [excuse the pun]!

My favourite is the pine trees cushion, which I saw on Sylizimo's blog and just had to copy. I love By Nord's cushions but at £45 a pop I can't justify buying one. So the idea to use their £13[ish] tea towels as the cushion front is genius! I bought a couple of other tea towels in the sale that I haven't gotten around to sewing up yet, so check back soon for that...I also got the inspiration for the elephant cushion from Stylizimo and made one in black as well. The yellow cushions are a mix of tie-dye and dip dye. They were plain canvas cushion covers from H&M that I dyed using Dylon hand-dye. They turned out pretty well I think, it was hard not to get carried away tie-dying everything I own! If you want to give it a go, there's a nice dip dying tutorial here. It takes a bit of patience and my top tip is to wet the fabric first so that the colour seeps up it gradually; dip it in bit by bit, a little at a time, until you've reached the line you want the colour to stop. Tie-dying is a lot simpler and instructions to do 'stripes' can be found here.P.S. The throw shown here is actually a scarf from H&M [currently in stores for £9.99] but I have too many scarves and had to justify buying it as a 'throw' in order to feel less guilty about taking it home!
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WARNING, too many [Brazil] nuts!

Image courtesy of רנדום /

Last week I found out that eating too many Brazil nuts on a regular basis can be toxic. This is apparently due to the levels of Selenium found in the nuts, an important trace mineral high in antioxidants.

Like vitamin C, this is a mineral that our body has to consume, i.e. we cannot produce it ourselves, so we get it from food. It just so happens that as well as the multitude of health benefits Brazil nuts offer, being high in protein, calcium, magnesium, thiamine and zinc, they are also one of the best natural sources for selenium, which has been shown to help fight cancer, heart disease and ageing, as well as improve immune function and reduce the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

So it seems they are a wonder-nut... But not if you have too many!

Last week I had been feeling nauseous on a daily basis and my nails were weak and splitting, which is unusual, they're usually pretty strong. I had to wonder what I had been doing differently, when my eye caught my big bag of brazil nuts that I'd been snacking on for a few days. I'm not talking a bag a day, more like a handful (6-10) a day, as I'd recently read that eating nuts regularly can have great health benefits. I knew that you shouldn't eat too many Brazil nuts a day, but I had always just assumed that was because they are high in saturated fat. I did a bit of research and, little did I know, the real reason there is a recommended limit is because consuming too many Brazil nuts can cause an overdose of selenium in your system, which can be toxic.

Apparently, just 1 Brazil nut contains 100% of your daily recommended selenium allowance. Eating too many, and increasing your selenium intake, can result in skin rash, brittle hair and nails, garlic-breath, nausea and nerve damage! Scary stuff!

Needless to say, I promptly stopped eating my bag of Brazils, and from now on will only dip into them once or twice a week for one or two a day max. I also checked my daily ABC Vitamins and I'm already getting 45% of my RDA of selenium, so one or two nuts is more than enough!
I can't be 100% sure if it was the cause of my stomach upset and brittle nails but since I stopped eating them my nails are looking a lot better and the nausea has stopped. I could experiment a bit more to prove / disprove, but I don't particularly want to!!!

Hope this helps someone. These nuts should come with a warning!
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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Time for wall clocks...

^^^^^ This made my day. I love Society6 and we recently ordered a print for the new house [with FREE DELIVERY to the UK!] that I'm VERY excited about receiving, but I am now pretty certain that I need to order a clock. We have 5 rooms in our little house, and each one will need a clock. Before I get carried away ordering clocks, I need to remember not to forget about customising my Bloomingville wooden clock from my post Home, Sweet Home

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Perfect rainbow

Something to distract me from work...!

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Monday, 27 January 2014

Sugar vs FAT

Been away for a while working on the new house. Lots of DIY bits and bobs to come in the next few weeks but in the meantime, sugar is hitting the media again this week with BBCs Horizon programme, Sugar vs Fat - which is worse?

(Top) Image courtesy of Keko64 /
(Bottom) Image courtesy of Suat Eman /

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Friday, 17 January 2014


Going crazy waiting to collect the keys to the new house, I took my frustration out on the cat, who was equally bored! He perked up a bit and started posing for the camera though. Will see if I can persuade him to come and live with us... Trail of cat treats up the road should do it!

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Silly cat!
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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Give it up...

How to give up sugar. Some top tips. 

Image courtesy of Martyn Wright /
1 Go cold turkey

Stop eating [and drinking] it. Just stop. Now. January is the perfect time to get moral support for eating well. You probably have a friend that's started their post-christmas diet so keep close to them and spur each other on... Just don't join them in the low-fat sugar-laced snacking! 

2 Where's it hiding?

So you've decided to go cold turkey but that's hard when you don't know where sugar hides. Alcohol may be your main offender, but with so many people going t-total for January now's the perfect time to jump on the band wagon!
For drinkers and non drinkers alike, check out the articles that point out sugar quantities in your favourite foods. Most of them are enough to put anyone off! No more fruit juice, dried fruit, high sugar fruits (pineapples, mangos, bananas. Instead, try to eat low sugar fruit in stead such as apples, berries and peaches; google "low sugar fruits) alcohol, chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes, sugary cereals, smoothies, low fat snacks.
Check packets for added sweet stuff. Avoid anything ending in -ose [sucrose, glucose, dextrose etc]. Try to give up everything in the list above and if you're not sure don't eat it. A general rule is anything in a packet, tin or jar is a suspect, so proceed with caution. You'll soon learn what's safe to eat and what's not.

3 Get inspired

Celebs such as Gary Barlow and Gwyneth Paltrow are heralding the fight against the white stuff. Get some inspiration from Gary's weight loss and Gwyneth's healthy lifestyle. If they can do it, why can't you?
And Gwyneth's blog:

4 Think about the benefits

Just some of the reported plus sides to giving up sugar are less bloating, easier weight loss, improved sleep, fewer cavities, healthier gums, 
Once sugar is out of your system you'll start to notice how much better everything tastes. It may sound cheesy but I was amazed at how sweet carrots really are when your taste buds are cleansed of artificial sweetness!

5 Follow a plan

If you need a bit more structure follow a diet plan. One I've mentioned before is the Harcombe Diet 5 day detox phase. It's a great starting point and after 5 days you'll feel the benefits enough to carry on. By setting a realistic goal of 5 days you'll feel more capable of succeeding. If you want to continue past that, you can see how you feel and decide. My advice is to plan the 5 days for when it suits you. If you have an event or party at the weekend that might slip you up then start after that rather than struggle through. Start at a time when you know those 5 days will be uninterrupted and you'll have more control over your diet. 

6 Avoid the 'health' trap

Years of being told to swap your fuzzy drinks for glasses of orange juice and smoothies may be engrained into your psyche by now but it's ALL sugar. Ignore Change4life's advert and drink tea or water. 
Don't swap out sugar for honey. Natural sugars are still sugar. Sweeteners should be avoided where possible as they trick your body into thinking it's getting sugar anyway. If you need a sweet fix, coconut or low sugar berries are one option, but only in emergencies. 
And don't go for the low fat option. Taking the fat from our food generally means replacing it with taste enhances such as sugar. It may seem unfamiliar after years of bad advice but give it a miss. Instead eat real food and real, whole fruit. Even better, eat vegetables!

7 Be realistic

Going cold turkey with sugar is like giving up any drug, it will be hard and make you feel crappy. Understand this at the start and it will help get you through. 
When I gave up sugar I got headaches, back ache and lethargic. However, after 5 days or so I felt amazing. Think if sugar as a toxin leaving your system and the aches and pains will be more bearable. No-one wants poison coursing through their system so grin and bear it until it's out!

8 Keep carbs down

Complex carbohydrates raise insulin levels in much the same way as sugars. If you can manage it on top of the sugar-cull try to eat fewer carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread and white pasta. There's tons of info available about the benefits of a low carb diet. Just looks for websites about the paleo diet, or caveman eating, in simple terms. For those that have given the Atkins diet a go, it's a similar rule book. Cutting out carbs completely can be difficult though so where possible just eat brown bread, brown rice and whole grains such as oats.

9 Stay positive

Keep smiling. As with all good things it won't be easy but it'll be worth it in the end. Good luck!

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Affordable artwork: cut-out design

I remember the first time I saw cut-out art at the Royal Academy in London a few years back. I instantly thought, now there's something I can do! 

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Tuesday topic: tripod floor lamps

My boyfriend is adamant that floor lamps are a waste of space. In particular, tripod lamps. Now, I understand his point, but it's frustrating not being able to persuade him that space is not wasted when something beautiful is occupying it. Let me demonstrate. 

Image 2 Cox and Cox Red Tripod Floor Lamp £195
Image 3 Cox and Cox Wooden Tripod Lamp £275

I think I will admit defeat and look for something else, until we have a spacious mini-mansion. Angle-poise lamps here I come. Watch this space for my favourite finds...
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Monday, 13 January 2014

Green thumbs

Why do I love succulents you ask? Because they're bloody hard to kill that's why!

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Even less sugar

My work friends know me too well! After 9 months of self-restraint and declining every offer of biscuits and cake [on a VERY regular basis might I add, they do eat a lot of cake!], a mystery co-worker left this box of chocs on my desk! 

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Less sugar, more myself

Sugar. People go crazy for it, and I used to be completely addicted to the stuff. And I mean addicted. 

Image courtesy of Dennis.B /
Less than a year ago my sugar intake was through the roof. Don't get me wrong, I considered myself to be quite healthy. I ate dried fruit with my breakfast, I drank fruit juice and smoothies, real fruit as part of the '5 a day', low fat snacks, didn't eat sweets and didn't take sugar in my tea. I was doing everything right as far as I was concerned, and only had the odd sugar-laced treat now and again. Most of what I considered a healthy way of eating turns out to be the opposite, which I've discovered more and more over the past few months on my way to a [almost] sugar-free life. 

A bit of background. 
I began looking into my diet ever since leaving university a few years ago; I had started suffering on an almost a daily basis with stomach cramps, which my doctor eventually declared must be irritable bowl syndrome [or IBS], which seems to be a generic term bandied about for any bowl problems that cannot be medically explained. As anyone who's been diagnosed with IBS will know, it doesn't get any easier from there. My doctor, with all her best intentions, prescribed me with antispasmodic drugs and told me to avoid anything that seemed to make it worse. This seems like a logical and fair request, but in reality is nearly impossible when you don't know what it is that is causing the problem. Every time I ate I got a bout of paranoia, making every meal a stressful event. Stress is another common IBS trigger so this didn't help the situation. 

So, I tried my best to cut things out and see what happened. This made eating with other people difficult and a lot of the time I came across as just being fussy. My friends and family couldn't keep up with what I could or couldn't eat and I found it hard to know what I should avoid and for how long. It was all complete guesswork.
Eventually, I came across a book called The Harcombe Diet by a woman called Zoe Harcombe. I'd never picked up a diet [weight loss] book before, but mum recommended this and mum knows best, so I gave it a go. Plus, I was desperate! 

The first phase of the diet, 5 days long, is a full detox. No sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no caffeine, no potatoes, no mushrooms, no fruit and various other no-nos. THIS WAS HARD, but I felt amazing afterwards and as it was only 5 days it was manageable. It was a much simpler task to cut out everything at once than to pick and choose at random what I thought might be causing the problems. 

After the 5 day detox, during which I felt like I had flu, you're supposed to add things in one at a time to see what happens. This is your basic exclusion diet method. To cut a long story short it turned out processed carbohydrates, chilli, caffeine and mainly sugary foods were triggers my problems. I went from having a diet of dried, fresh and juiced fruit every day to almost no sugar and my IBS cleared up practically over night. 

The reports in the news last week confirmed to some extent what I've already been telling people. Articles were splashed across the headlines shouting about how sugar is the real culprit in the obesity epidemic. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but my personal experience is that I lost over 1 stone when I gave up sugar, dropping a dress size without actually meaning to! Whilst I'm back eating most things that the detox cuts out, I still restrict my intake of sugar [including fruit], caffeine and processed carbs and as a result it's been easy to keep the weight off [it's been over 9 months now]!

During my sugar-free journey I've been shocked by the amount of sugar hidden in packets and jars of food. Dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, ALL SUGAR. Essentially, anything ending in -ose. As pointed out in the news articles, most [if not all] low-fat food has added sugar to make up for the taste and needless to say I'm back to full-fat eating, which tastes GREAT. There are sugar substitutes but those can also be triggers for IBS so I was forced to make almost everything I eat from scratch, and tackle my sweet tooth in the process. I feel so much better for it.

The true test was Christmas. I indulged a little in the festive period and noticed a big difference in my energy levels dropping when I'd had sugary food. It also gives me a serious headache, so I'm back to my [almost] sugar-free life once again. My biggest regular treat is dark chocolate, usually 85% or above; much less sugar than milk choc and as a bonus is supposed to have health benefits!

It's not something most people want to hear, but no matter how much you wish it, sugar is not our best friend. My January challenge to you is try giving up sugar for a full 5 days. It's only 5 days and your body will thank you. That's 5 days, in a row. Easy, right? Let me know how it goes...

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Friday, 10 January 2014

Home, sweet home

As I mentioned in my intro post, I'm in the scary but exciting process of buying a new house. Of course, this means I am also buying a lot of STUFF to go into the new house (much to my boyfriend's chagrin).
I thought I'd give a little preview of some of the items I've picked up so far. We don't have a lot of furniture at the moment as have only rented or lived with parents up until now, so we've bought a sofa-bed (for the inevitable overnight guests). We bit the bullet and went for one from John Lewis (!), with the sound reasoning that quality pays. Time will tell, but we're pretty happy... It arrives the day after we get the keys, which is NEXT FRIDAY.

I also went a bit crazy on design-discount store Achica, and bought a handful of items for the house. They are all completely non-essential items but I just went for it: 

2 candlesticks (necessities in my opinion, for power cuts!). They're DHS Nightlight candle sticks in black and white. RRP £60, but I got them for a teeny £15 each!

a clock (Bloomingville wooden clock, £11.99 down from RRP £39)
and a light pendant (Bloomingville wooden balls lamp £22 from RRP £???)

The clock is larger than I expected and the hands are a little too plasticky, but we'll just have to see how it looks in the finished house. For £12 I can't complain. I can always customise it if it's not ringing any bells. 
Now, the light fitting is a contentious item, that a colleague of mine creased up laughing over. I'm not being naive, I know it could look a bit dodgy to those with the dirtiest of minds, but I personally think that it has a scandinavian charm and looks bang on trend. The chuckling critic in my office obviously hasn't been perusing all the interior design blogs that I spend most of my life drooling over... I will concede to the fact that it is definitely a 'marmite' item! Here's hoping my boyfriend loves not hates it. 

If he does hate it I will just have to fill my new decanter with wine and drown my sorrows! (Iittala decanter bought at 50% off from Fab before it updated its website)

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Hi, I'm Alex. I live in Winchester, UK. I'm just about to buy my FIRST EVER HOUSE and I thought I'd write a blog... I'm an interior designer with an addiction to making things and I love a bargain. If I see something I can't afford I'll [try to] make it instead. 

I am also a bit of a foodie health-preacher, and I am a GIRL so there may be the odd post about nails, fashion and all things girly. So, future posts will be about design, style and diet. A bit of an odd mixture... 

Please be kind, first time blogger!
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