Filed In: Lifestyle

Coping With Loss During The Holiday Season

It’s crazy how you never quite know what’s coming at you from one minute to the next. Two weeks ago I got all excited about putting up the Christmas tree. Given my penchant for all things bright and beautiful, and the huge progress I’ve made in my healing over the years, I relished the level of excitement I felt. I had the best time decorating the tree with the prettiest ornaments in my signature non-traditional Christmas colours of course, then I jazzed it up with glittery gold letters, which are the initials of my nearest and dearest loved ones (yes, I included mine too). Finally, I added the most beautiful tree topper which I customised with my precious daughter’s name (my angel is real!), and the tree was complete.

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Now, I’ve decorated Christmas trees before, and have always been very happy with the beauty of my handiwork afterwards. Only this time around, the end result was different. Moments after I finished, I was overcome by an immense feeling of sadness. I was suddenly missing the sight of my little girl prancing around the Christmas tree with the boundless level of excitement that only children can generate. I wept, while repeatedly asking myself, “How can I miss an experience I never really had?”. Then it dawned on me that although Robyn’s life was cut so painfully short, her spirit is still very much here with me, and because I carry her in my heart, it feels like we are still growing together. This Christmas, Robyn would be at an age where she could understand the idea of celebrating Christmas. If she turned out to be anything like her Mama (highly likely I think), she would indeed be prancing around the Christmas tree, all googly-eyed by the lights, and curiously touching every ornament within reach. The painful feeling that I’m missing out on that experience with her really floored me. Okay, she may have disliked it too… but this is the trouble when you’re a hopeless sentimental like I am, you never imagine that as a likely outcome. The truth is, I think and speak about Robyn EVERYDAY, so it’s not that being reminded of her is difficult – because I NEVER forget. It’s just that sometimes even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant activities and events can trigger a tidal wave of painful emotions when I least expect it. I’m very proud of how far I’ve come on my journey of healing, but the past two weeks have definitely reminded me that there will always be these special times when I need to be a lot more gentle with myself than others (times).

The good news is, I didn’t try to fight the feelings. Instead, I owned them, and truly felt them. Then I scooped myself up, gathered my thoughts, and dedicated time to planning some special things to do in Robyn’s memory during the holiday season. Despite the pain of living without her physical presence, I’m still incredibly happy that I now know the indescribable feeling of unconditional love, which grew from carrying her within me all her life.

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If you are struggling with loss and grief this holiday season, here are a few useful tips that can help you cope.

Express Yourself: Don’t suppress your emotions and suffer in silence, and never worry that you are ‘spoiling the mood’ with your sadness. Allow yourself time with your emotions, and cry as much as you need to. Sometimes a good cry really helps to ease the pain. If you’re the type who needs to talk about your feelings, reach out to the friends and family you feel most comfortable talking to, find a grief group, or arrange to see a therapist. Having the freedom to express my thoughts and feelings about Robyn really keeps me sane.

Practice Self-Care: Make an extra effort to be gentle and kind to yourself. Treat yourself to something that will help you relax, or something that will give you an energy boost. We’re all different types, so choose your ‘remedy’ accordingly. Remember, every little helps, so go for walks, eat well, read inspirational material, listen to uplifting music, or book yourself a pampering session. Listen to your body because it often tells you what it really needs. During my early stages of grief, I went through several phases of self-neglect, but whenever I found the impetus to do even the smallest thing for myself, I felt significantly better following my activity of choice. Of course, the sadness was still there, but I managed to relax my mind a bit, and that always helped.

Pay Close Attention To The Children: Sadly, loss and grief are not partial to adults, children have these experiences too. Depending on their age/maturity, they may not really understand what they’re going through. This often results in a myriad of behavioural changes, some of which may be quite unpleasant and troubling. As such, it is very important to exercise patience with them, spend quality time engaging in activities they enjoy, and encourage open communication. Extra doses of cuddles can do everyone a world of good, but also remember they may want to have ‘alone time’ too.

Practice Self-Preservation: Protect yourself! Don’t allow yourself to be forced into feeling festive. It’s okay if you’re not in the mood for celebrating the holidays, so don’t be afraid to politely decline invitations to the usual holiday events/gatherings. Sometimes you just need more time out from ‘normal’ life. Heck, cancel the holiday celebrations this year if you need to, it will come around again when you’re feeling less fragile. From my experience, it always helped to be direct, so people knew what to expect from me. Being honest about how I was feeling resulted in a more respectful, compassionate and caring attitude from others.

If you are feeling strong enough to join the festivities, and decide to attend some events, planning your own transportation is a good idea. This gives you more control over how long you’ll be there. That way, if there’s a sudden shift in your mood and you feel the need to leave early, you can do so without having to wait around for others or feeling like a ‘party-pooper’.

Make a New Holiday Tradition: It doesn’t have to be a ‘major production’. It could be as simple as lighting a candle at the dinner table for them, or making a special holiday wreath to lay at their resting place. I create a wreath for Robyn every Christmas, and I find the entire process (from sourcing and gathering the flowers, to making and placing the finished wreath) very cathartic. Perhaps its a good idea to still hang a stocking for someone you’ve lost this Christmas, encourage everyone to fill it with funny stories and fond memories of them so you can all share your stories throughout Christmas Day. Don’t be afraid to also skip a tradition if it’s too painful after your loss.

Give Back in Honour of The One(s) You’ve Lost: Doing something charitable in honour of a loved one can be very satisfying. Spend some time at an orphanage caring for little ones, volunteer at a children’s hospital, feed the homeless. Some of these suggestions are quite relevant to the nature of my loss, but there are really no limits to what you can do as a meaningful way of honouring the memory of your loved ones. Whatever you choose to do, simply do it with love, and you’ll be sure to feel some level of comfort streaming in like a ray of light. Service is a powerful healer. This won’t miraculously take the pain away, but it certainly helps with the healing. Yes we all grieve in different ways, and we’re all at different stages, but I’ve always found that doing even the smallest things in Robyn’s honour often brings me a significant amount of joy.

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

Urban Jungle Bloggers: The Plant Shelfie

I love taking shelfies! Which is just great as I never take selfies…it’s just not my thing. Lucky for me, the avid shelfie snapper, November’s Urban Jungle Bloggers focus is the ‘Plant Shelfie’. This couldn’t be more perfectly timed because my houseplant count has increased significantly over the past month as a result of two gifts and a few purchases. So what better way to show off  a few of them than with a few shelfies?

Of course, the perfect little green newcomers to the Mews deserve an equally perfect spot to thrive and stay healthy here, so I’ve been changing things around a bit, much to my own delight. My current favourite newcomer is this cutesy little terrarium I made two days ago at the Heal’s Store Christmas Party, under the supervision of Emma & Tom from London Terrariums. I think I did pretty well, considering it’s my first, and I made it after having a few glasses of Processo and Sipsmith Damson Vodka! Given my obsession with ribbons and bows, I’m sure it isn’t surprising that I’ve since dressed up the little gem with pink and green velvet ribbons and turned it into the first sign of Christmas in my living room.

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You may have noticed in the images I’ve shown of my living room previously, that the windows are in alcoves/recesses, and are also quite generous in size, making them the perfect little stage for shelfies of all sorts. The arrival of my new plants triggered some lovely ideas of how I could jazz-up my windows with a colourful display.

In the early summer of this year, I bought a few MT Casa products including a 200mm wide roll of pretty pink stripe Washi Tape without having a clue what I was going to use it for. Then 2 weeks ago I decided to use it as a backdrop for my window shelfie, which turned out to be quite a satisfying little styling session. I usually change things around at home very often but I’m thinking these shelves might stay this way for a while, at least until Christmas decor comes rushing in.

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This is my second Urban Jungle Bloggers submission (see my first here), and I thoroughly enjoyed styling and photographing my plants, even the ones that didn’t make the cut for this post. I hope you like my plant shelfies as much as I do, and be sure to look out for future posts with other fabulous shelfie ideas for your home.

 Urban Jungle Bloggers is a monthly series run by Igor of Happy Interior Blog and Judith of JOELIX.com, with the aim of highlighting the beauty and benefits of houseplants and other greeneries in urban spaces. To find out more, visit the website or search #urbanjunglebloggers.

Houseplant Love

Remember the blog post in which I resolved to add some greenery to my home and care for them like a true green thumb? Well, I have some very good news for you! I am now the very proud owner of 6 potted plants, and they’re all thriving beautifully in my care. If you know me personally, you might be pretty shocked they’re all still alive. The truth is, I’d be shocked too if I maintained my previous mindset about plant care. As if by fate, just a few months after making my resolution, I met the lovely founders of Urban Jungle Bloggers, Igor and Judith at the 2015 Blogtacular conference. During a few brief and friendly conversations with them throughout the afternoon, Igor managed to convince me that “green-thumb is just a myth” and the bright and cheerful images of Judith’s plant filled home on her blog inspired me to banish the green thumb myth from my mind, and focus on caring for my plants in a similar manner to the way I take care of myself. That’s lovingly fed, watered, and beautifully groomed by the way. 😉

 

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Now, with living proof that I’m capable of caring for houseplants, I’m very keen on adding a small tree and perhaps a few other small plants to my collection. I’m currently in search of a middle sized Fiddle Leaf Fig tree, a small Hawaiian Palm, a Jasmine plant and perhaps a few additional ferns and miniature succulents. Yep, you can call me the crazy happy plant lady… Of course I’m okay with that! Had I known that caring for plants could have made me feel this relaxed and happy, I would have started a collection years ago. They truly add a different vibration to the atmosphere of my home and it feels so damn good! All this time I relied on fresh flowers for this feeling, whilst having no clue that living plants could truly magnify the experience. Of course I still buy fresh flowers (it’s just not something I can resist!), and in my opinion the blooms often look even more exquisite when displayed beside houseplants. What an awesome feeling, having the responsibility of nurturing something and having the opportunity to watch it grow beautifully day by day, right before your very eyes. If you could ever see how excited I get when I discover a delicate and shiny new shoot on Michiko, my Ficus Ginseng Bonsai. Oh, and let’s not even mention my reaction to the appearance of new fronds on my Asparagus Fern or this cutesy little hanging Kokedama I made using a Maidenhair Fern. The new fronds are a lovely lime green colour that commands your attention by instantly brightening the space around them.

 

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So what have I gained from keeping up with my first real New Year’s resolution? A happier home with a lighter and far more relaxing atmosphere. For some, keeping houseplants alive and healthy might be the norm, or even like second nature. However, given my track record, this is a huge achievement and definitely something to write home about! Hence the reason I’m writing about my houseplant love, and sharing these photos of my gorgeous green friends. Yes, I’m quite proud of myself, but my next step is to figure out how to prune my bonsai like a pro as I’m worried it’s at risk of becoming overgrown.

 

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Do you have houseplants? What are your favourite plants, and what do you enjoy most about your experience of caring for them?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. #houseplantlove

Thanks for stopping by!

Nova xo

Light a Candle Today for International Wave of Light

Once upon a time, I welcomed the month of October purely for its natural beauty. The enchanting splendour of autumn leaves, atop the trees, floating weightlessly through the air and scattered all around us like golden confetti. Of course I still appreciate its beauty, but the significance of October is forever changed for me now. If fate had been more kind to me, October 2012 would have been the month I welcomed my precious daughter, Robyn Reese, into this world as a healthy, happy and beautiful baby girl… But sadly, she came silently, 3 months before. Now, October is the month I join the millions of families across the globe, participating in International Wave of Light, a worldwide lighting of candles in observation of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

 

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October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day (PAILRD). In observation of PAILRD, everyone is invited to participate in the International Wave of Light, by lighting a candle at 7pm on October 15th in their respective time-zones, and keep it burning for at least one hour. This will result in a continuous chain of light around the world for at least 24 hours in honour and remembrance of the babies who died before, during or shortly after birth.

Thanks to 3 American women, Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown and Tammy Novak, who petitioned the Federal Government and governors across the 50 States, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day was passed in the House of Representatives on September 28, 2006. Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, is now observed annually on October 15th in The USA, Canada, the UK, Italy and parts of Australia. Through the legislative campaigns of individuals worldwide, it’s only a matter of time before PAILRD becomes an international day of observation.

 

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” Here I am reflecting on the words of Anne of Green Gables, as I saunter along this magnificent golden avenue in the park. Thoughts of my precious little love make all my Octobers much more special. Although I appear to walk alone, she’s always with me…IN MY HEART.

 

Visit the the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (SANDS) Charity website for useful information on how best to support someone dealing with baby loss.

Honouring My Baby’s Memory

Here is a photo of some playful bubbles my sister blew for my precious little girl, as we marked her 3rd birthday at her memorial picnic on July 1st. Which 3 year-old wouldn’t be fascinated by bubbles? When it comes to honouring my baby’s memory, even the smallest acts such as blowing bubbles count… I generally don’t share much about my daughter Robyn publicly, in fact, this is the most I’ve said on a public forum in the 3 years since her transition. I make exceptions around her birthday for 3 reasons:

  1. Although Robyn is no longer on this earth, I realise I’m no different from any proud mother who likes to talk about their child. I embrace that, and I still honour the very real relationship I had with my baby.
  2. To help eliminate the silence and shame associated with baby loss, as well as the cultural confusion and discomfort that often surrounds a mother’s grieving process.
  3. To encourage survivors (who really want to) to speak openly and guilt-free to friends and families about their beloved little ones who have gone before them, while finding the most beautiful ways to mark the milestones and keep their memories alive.

Bubbles For Robyn

 

In my experience, being able to talk about Robyn has been hugely beneficial to my healing process. It’s shocking how many women I already knew, had suffered miscarriages/stillbirths but I had no idea because they kept it a deep dark secret. What’s even more shocking is that many of them have kept it a secret, not because they really want to, but because they worried about how people would react to them talking  about their child who is no longer alive. One of my deepest fears was that everyone would forget my baby, and I unashamedly confess, that my friends and family haven’t really been given the option of forgetting little Robyn because I really just can’t shut up about her. I’m now forever grateful that I have the most supportive and understanding family and friends, who have openly expressed that they have no desire to forget.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom, I often have pleasant conversations about my daughter too. My precious girl filled me with a love I never knew existed from the moment I learned I was carrying her, and that love has only intensified since. So it’s probably not surprising that I still think about what she may have been like at different ages and stages of her life, which personality traits she may have adopted, which toy we might have had to buy in multiples because ‘all hell would break loose’ if it mistakenly got left behind at Grandma’s house, and even the foods she may have liked or disliked very much growing up. I don’t know whether there’s a connection here, but I shockingly lost my obsession with cake during the early stages of pregnancy, and it never returned since. Meanwhile, my tolerance for pepper and spicy foods skyrocketed…it was already VERY high to begin with! I remember having high hopes of her being an exceptionally well-behaved baby, just like her Auntie Toni (my sister, 16 years my junior, deserved Best Behaved Baby of the Millennium Award, if ever there was one), and to this very day I wonder whether that would have been the case.

There is no greater love than the love I feel for my daughter. I’ve accepted that my life is now changed forever. To anyone who have experienced baby loss or child loss, never feel afraid to celebrate your child’s life, regardless of how short it was. If it’s helpful to you, then share your thoughts and memories with your loved ones who want to be involved in preserving your child’s memory, keep a journal, write poems, or even write letters to your child. Honour your child in a way that makes you happy. My little Robyn was born on July 1st, but this year I’ve chosen to celebrate her short life for the entire month of July, because it just feels right.

I’m doing this in a number of ways, but here are a few of the many things I’ve done which may inspire you to do something special for your dear child too:

  1. A colourful picnic by her side on her 3rd birthday followed by the release of 3 gorgeous pink balloons.
  2. Lighting candles to mark other special and important dates surrounding my loss – It’s 3 years today since I saw my baby girl for the very last time, and took her to her final resting place. These are small details many won’t remember, but it helps me to mark this day too.
  3. I’ve decorated a special space at home with little mementos, making it the perfect place to sit and write to her, while I reflect on the best memories of the experience of carrying her.
  4. All year round, there’s also a shelf dedicated to Robyn in my home. It always has the letter R, some flowers and something pretty girly with a bit of sparkle.
  5. I’ve created a memory box for Robyn. It holds photos and other items belonging to her, cards/letters of support I’ve receive over the years, dried pressed petals from the flowers from her funeral and anniversaries and a myriad of other keepsakes.

I find living without Robyn immensely painful, but there’s still a sense of beauty shining through in her memory, so I continue to mark the precious milestones in the most meaningful and beautiful ways I can, and I keep a record of it all so she too has a legacy. For me, it’s about preserving her memory in a way that brings me even the tiniest moments of joy, despite how deeply unhappy I am that she’s no longer physically here. Although little Robyn was stillborn, there’s no denying nor forgetting that she was still born. She was born silent, perfect and beautiful.

Nova

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED. 

FRIDAY FIVE: Easy-Care Air-Purifying Plants To Get For Your Home

Hello and Happy Friday! I’ve had a pretty exciting week since my very special house guest arrived last Saturday. I absolutely love having family visiting from overseas for a number of reasons but my top two reasons are, having the opportunity to spend quality time with them (they often stay a while because of the distance travelled), and getting a chance to visit many of my favourite spots in London & the English countryside all in just a few weeks while I play tour guide. Yay me!

Now, back to the matter at hand… Previously, I mentioned here that I was looking to get some air-purifying plants for my home. You might also recall my confession that although optimum plant care has never been one of my greatest strengths, it’s still something I aspire to. My aim is to get plants that will get rid of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) lurking around the home like benzene and formaldehyde which seem to be found in almost all our creature comforts.

Having done a bit of research, I’ve compiled this list of 5 easy-care air-purifying plants that I am confident I can care for. I’ve deliberately excluded the aloe vera plant and other succulents as they’re a no-brainer (even for me!). I’ll definitely be taking a few of these pretty green things home from my next trip to the garden centre.

1. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Comosum)

The resilient nature of this adaptable plant makes it an excellent choice for non-green thumbs. This beautiful plant send out shoots with flowers that eventually grow into baby spider plants or spiderettes.

Pollutants removed: Formaldehyde and Xylene

Care: Well-drained soil, bright and indirect sunlight. This plant can grow in varying conditions and has few problems other than brown tips.

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2. Snake plant (Sansevieria Trifasciata)

The snake plant is also known as the Mother-in-law’s tongue. It thrives in low light and steamy humid conditions, making it good choice for the bathroom. In addition to purifying the air and increasing oxygen in your home, this plant also increases the level of moisture in the atmosphere.

Pollutants removed: Benzene, Formaldehyde, Trichloroethylene, and Xylene

Care: The snake plant prefers drier conditions, some sun, and requires occasional watering.

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3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

The peace lily is among the most popular of houseplants. Its glossy leaves and beautiful fragrant white flowers make it the perfect plant for bringing life into any room in your home.

Pollutants removed: Ammonia, Benzene, Formaldehyde, and Trichloroethylene

Care: Keep in a shady spot and keep soil moist without overwatering. Mist the leaves a few time per week and trim any unhealthy leaves from the plant.

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4. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata cv. Bostoniensis)

Boston Ferns are relatively tough ferns. This very attractive fern with its long, graceful fronds and tiny frilly leaves look great in hanging baskets, on pedestals and window sills.

Pollutants removed: Formaldehyde and Xylene

Care: Keep soil moist and mist. Keep in partial shade in a cool room. Avoid direct sunlight and draughts. To maintain humidity in winter, set your fern’s pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Mist daily in higher temperatures.

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5. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea Seifrizii)

The graceful bamboo palm, also called reed palm, can reach a height of 7ft and a width of 5ft. It grows in a cluster of bright green bamboo-like shoots and its delicate fronds make it such a beauty. This tropical delight is good for adding dimension to larger rooms – it’s perfect for a spacious living room.

Pollutants removed: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene

Care: Bright, indirect light is best, but will survive in lower light areas. Keep moist but do not allow to stand in water. Fertilise regularly in the spring and summer months.

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Images: Pinterest

5 Ways to Make Your Home Cleaner And Greener

I was never too crazy over new year’s resolutions as such but I’ve always, in my own little way, made the effort to ensure that my ‘todays’ are better than my ‘yesterdays’, and that feels like enough. Of course I make important plans for the future too, but I just find it a lot easier to take it one day at a time with most things these days; it just works better for me. Right now my focus is on living a greener and cleaner life so it seems fitting that my very first post of the year is to share with you 5 easy ways make your home cleaner and greener.

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1. DE-CLUTTER

How lovely would it be to have a simplified, uncluttered life? Extremely lovely I think! Which is why I’m trying to achieve that, starting with my home. I’ll admit that I have no original or failsafe ideas for you on decluttering, as I’m still trying to master this myself. The general rule is, if you you haven’t used it in months, then you probably no longer need it. If you no longer need it, then it’s time to get rid of it. But it’s not always that simple right?

Last year, I made numerous trips to the my local charity shops to donate bags of things I no longer needed. Yet somehow I still have lots of stuff to go! I’ve now decided on a strict new strategy and given myself a deadline for getting rid of the remaining items I no longer use. I learned this one from Apartment Therapy’s The January Cure, which is a realistic and manageable ‘one day at a time’ approach to getting your home fresh, clean and organised throughout the month of January. In Assignment #3 of the January Cure, Janel Laban – Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy suggested that we all need a clutter collector which she calls ‘The Outbox’.

The Outbox – We’re encouraged to choose a clearly defined space in our home that is out of the way of daily activities and can be allowed to get a little chaotic. This space will serve as a ‘halfway house’ for items while you decide their fate. There are rules for managing the outbox, there will be prompts to use the outbox throughout the duration of The January Cure and you will be given a date to empty it. My outbox is the spare bedroom, which is perfect given the amount of stuff I plan to drop in that halfway house! I’m confident that this method will help me to get rid of the excess baggage I’ve got around here. Wish me luck!

It’s not too late to join the January Cure, just hop over to Apartment Therapy to subscribe and you will get your assignments via email. Good luck!

 

2. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the three Rs which are fundamental to environmental stewardship. It’s pretty self explanatory and really important to practice in the correct order as mentioned here.

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Reduce – the most effective of the 3 Rs. We’ve all fallen into the trap of purchasing items we don’t really need at one point or another, and if you’re a sucker for packaging like I am, then it’s likely that you too have bought products being sold in more packaging than necessary. While I’m very good at carrying around my reusable shopping bags in my handbag, I’m fully aware that I need to pay a bit more attention to what I’m purchasing and how it is packaged.

Here are a few easy ways to start reducing waste at home now:

  • Eliminate the use of paper towels by investing in good quality reusable cleaning cloths and fabric napkins. Mabu Cleaning Cloths are an excellent choice. They don’t get smelly, they’re super absorbent and they’re biodegradable too
  • Avoid using disposable cups, flatware and cutlery even for your summer BBQs and garden parties
  • Avoid using plastic shopping bags by carrying your own reusable bag when shopping. There are a myriad of styles of reusable shopping bags out there, many of them fold up into a nifty little bundle that you can easily take with you everywhere. I love this one I found on Etsy with the cheeky print below.
  • Avoid buying products in excess packaging where possible

Reuse – Let’s face it, sometimes you’ve just gotta get those items. After all, this is not about stopping the circle of life, it’s quite the contrary. I’ve got into the habit of choosing what to buy based on how I can reuse its packaging or the item itself and I can be a major show-off when I find a clever way to reuse just about anything. A perfect example of that is how I reuse my Aesop Mouthwash packaging.

  • Think of different ways to use items or packaging before throwing them in the bin
  • Donate your unwanted goods (in good condition) to charity/seconhand shops, this could mean less items going to the landfill. You might also find some pretty awesome things you could buy from there too. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure!
  • Buy products that are made from recycled materials

groceries n shitRecycle – Recycling gives new life to materials. Although there’s always a huge drive for recycling, this should really be the last resort after you’ve made your best efforts to reduce and reuse. It’s easy to recycle most materials these days. Glass, plastics, aluminium, and paper can all be broken down to make new products.

You can make or buy partitioned recycle bins to make the process easier at home. You might even be able to get free recycle bins from your local council at no extra cost; I returned home to find they delivered recycle bags for my neighbours and I without our request. It’s pretty good too, a sturdy rectangular shaped bag with a wide base so it stands on its own, with 2 labeled sections so you can sort your recycling right from the start.

Two good tips to get you into the habit of recycling at home:

  • Start thinking about recycling when you’re out shopping and try to choose items that are recyclable, or at the very least, packaged in recyclable materials.
  • Invest in a recycle bin. Whether you decide to make one or buy one, it’s a good idea to allocate specific sections for specific materials so you can sort items immediately after use

 

3. USE NATURAL AND NON-TOXIC CLEANERS

I’ve always been more than a little irritated by the harsh residual scent of regular store-bought cleaning products. I mostly felt I should be wearing a hazmat suit while using  many of them, so there’s a long list of brands and products that I’ve completely avoided over the years.

For me, this was the easiest switch to make; I started by discarding all the toxic cleaners from my cupboards and I have no regrets. Now armed with lemons, vinegar and baking soda, I can make the whole apartment sparkle! You can do the same. Just scour the internet for ways to make natural household cleaners, you’ll find that most of what you need is already in your pantry. One of my favourite places for natural cleaning recipes is the Hello Natural website. Don’t forget to check out the green beauty tips and delicious food recipes over there too by the way!

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Not too keen on DIYs or creating your own cleaning products? As you’re probably already aware, there are many environmentally friendly, non-toxic plant-based cleaning products readily available in stores these days. While I’m happy to make my own natural cleaners for daily use, my go-to eco-friendly brands for hardcore cleaning days are Method, Ecover and Earth Friendly Products. When making the switch, bear in mind that product performance may vary across different brands so it’s worth trying items from a few different brands to find what’s most suitable for your needs. For example, I like Method for the kitchen, hand wash and laundry liquids, Ecover for the bathroom and laundry liquids, and Earth Friendly Products for laundry liquids. I recently tried and liked the Fruit & Veggie Wash from Earth Friendly Products which is 100% biodegradable, natural, non-polluting and most importantly, non-toxic. Another good thing worth noting is that all these brands are available in refill and bulk sizes which helps you save money and reduce  waste.

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4. INVEST IN AIR-PURIFYING HOUSE PLANTS

Believe it or not, there are a wide variety of toxic substances lurking around our homes and compromising the quality of the air we breathe. One of the most prevalent chemicals in the household is formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted in low levels by various household building materials and furniture. It is found in carpet, flooring and furniture glues, sealants, paints, furniture finishes and even in water/stain-repellent finishes of upholstery and clothing. That said, our exposure to VOCs is virtually unavoidable, but lucky for us, in 1989 some trusty NASA scientists discovered that having specific types of plants indoors can eliminate this and other chemicals from the air.

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My non-existent green-thumb always made me too scared to buy indoor plants in the past but I’m finally ready to give it a good try. While I vow to care for them the best I possibly can, I think it’s only wise to do a little research to find the more hardy types air-purifying plants first…it just makes sense, given my history.

I’ll be posting my top picks here next week but for now, let good ol’ Google be your guide or get a copy of the book How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B C Wolverton.

 

5. STAY ORGANISED

Once you’ve de-cluttered, deep cleaned and finally got everything in its place, the challenge at hand will be to maintain your newly organised home. Naturally, some of our days are busier than others, and we won’t always have time to clear up after ourselves and each other every day. However, it’s worth remembering that if you make a habit of returning things to their rightful place after use, your next scheduled cleaning day will be far quicker and easier than your last.

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Here are a few things you can do to help yourself along:

  • Return books to the shelves once you’re through with your research or browsing
  • Spare a few minutes before bedtime to tidy the sofa and cushions in the living room
  • Return outfits to the closet once you have decided against wearing it
  • Return cosmetics to the bathroom cabinet immediately after use; if they’re empty, bin immediately unless you plan to reuse it.
  • Keep your dining table clear and tidy between meal times. Somehow dining tables and kitchen surface areas become an automatic hoarding place for random items like water bottles, books, spectacles, keys, mobile phones, and other gadgets. If your household struggles with this problem, see the next point below
  • Have a designated ‘hold-all’ tray or ‘tidy’ basket near your kitchen or dining area where you can drop the random items mentioned above. Be careful not to turn it into a ‘junk’ basket by returning the contents to their rightful place once you no longer need to have them at hand
  • Place items in the dishwasher immediately after use. They’re going to end up there anyway so you’re only providing more work for yourself by making the sink and worktop (or any other piece of furniture) their half-way house. The same reasoning applies to your dirty laundry
  • Fold and put away the clean laundry once they’re dry

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. If you can get into the habit of doing these simple things, then cleaning day can be reserved for actual cleaning and will take only half the time and energy than before. Even better, you won’t feel so stressed about tidying up when your Mommy’s coming over to visit on short notice!

Make your home cleaner and greener today. You can do it!

Happy green cleaning!

Nova xo

IMAGE SOURCE: Method Product Still Life by Annabelle Breakey Photography. Groceries & Sh*t Canvas Bag from Emily McDowell Draws Etsy Shop. All other images from Pinterest

©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.

Pop Fizz Clink – Glassware 101 For Champagne & Other Wines

Hey lovelies, it’s nearly time for the mother of all Pop Fizz Clinks of the year! Yes, New Year’s Eve is just a wink away, and as many of you are looking forward to attending or hosting a fabulous party to welcome the new year, I thought I’d make my final post for this year a short and sweet Glassware 101 for Champagne and other wines. I could have posted this a bit sooner perhaps, but surely you haven’t ALL resolved to give up alcohol for the new year… Right? So these little tips will certainly come in handy again some time soon.

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Believe it or not, the vessels in which we commonly serve wines have not been chosen at random. The idea is that the shape of each glass will enhance the flavour characteristics of the wine type it was designed for. So the next time someone appears dubious about the glass you’ve poured your Malbec in, perhaps they’re not being as snooty and judgemental as you think, but instead just trying to help you enjoy and appreciate your reds more. 

GLASSWARE 101 FOR CHAMPAGNE & OTHER WINES

The Champagne Flute: The champagne flute is a stem glass with a tall narrow bowl. The narrow, tapered opening of these glasses helps to concentrate the aromas of the wine and preserve the bubbles for longer, while the depth of the bowl enhances the visual effect of the bubbles as they rise to the top of the glass.

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Champagne Coupe or Champagne Saucers: The champagne coupe is a shallow, broad-bowled stem glass, which are traditionally stacked used create a champagne fountain at weddings and other special events. These were rather popular back in the 1930’s through to the 60’s but soon made way for the champagne flute. An excellent move, as the wide surface area of the coupe caused the champagne to loose it’s fizz pretty quickly. They do however have a stunning shape and are perfect for serving eye-catching , girlie cocktails. So yes, those gorgeous coupes/saucers you’ve got on your wishlist are still very much justifiable. 

champagne coupes

Whether you decide to use an elegant flute or a pretty coupe for your serving of bubbly, here are a few ‘use and care tips’ to consider:

  • Using a chilled glass is always a good idea
  • Holding your glass by the stem rather than the bowl helps keep you drink cooler. The heat from your hands will not affect the temperature of your drink
  • Avoid putting your champagne glasses in the dishwasher as the detergents residue inside the glass can make the bubbles dissipate faster, giving the wine a flat taste and appearance

SIZE MATTERS… AS DOES SHAPE

White Wine Glasses: White wine glass vary in size and shape, but are smaller in size than red wine glasses. The idea is, because they hold less wine, you’ll top up your glass more frequently from a chilled bottle. As with the champagne flute, you’re encouraged to hold your white wine glass by the stem to ensure the chilled temperature of your wine is maintained.

red and white wine glasses

Red Wine Glasses: Red wine glasses have a much larger and rounder bowl than white wine glasses. This allows the wine to breathe and develop and it increases the rate of oxidation. Simply put, the large surface area and that swirling action maximises air contact, allowing the wine to release its complex flavours and aromas resulting in a more pleasurable drinking experience and appreciation of the characteristics of the wine. I’d like a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape please.

HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY?

Remember not to fill a wine glass completely! Instead, serve the glass half full to allow enough space to swirl and air the wine, allowing it to breath and develop. Of course, this doesn’t apply to champagnes and other sparkling wines where you want to retain the effervescence…but do keep an eye on that mousse! No guest wants to have their host spill champagne all over them. Well…it’s likely not that kinda party if you’ve stopped here for advice. 

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Okay guys, that’s it from me for this year… this post stopped being short a few paragraphs ago but I’m pretty sure you already know that short posts don’t come so easy around here.

Whatever you do to celebrate, have an amazing time welcoming the new year. Drink responsibly and don’t forget to choose your designated driver wisely.

Happy New Year!

Pop. Fizz. Clink!

Nova xo

Image credits: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

My Merry & Bright Christmas Dinner Party In Pictures

In early autumn this year, I sent ‘Save the Date Christmas Dinner Party’ calendar invitations to my closest friends in the UK on whim. At the time, my sole intention was to save us from the debate about where to go and the imminent struggle of finding a table for 6 at a good restaurant – given our usual last minute decision-making. Needless to say, the ‘super excited let’s make everything pretty and girlie’ party planner within me totally took over the idea. A few weeks and plenty of pretty colourful decorations later, we all had such a lovely evening together, that I suggested doing it again during Spring/Summer next year. With a few nods to the idea so far, this could very well be the start of a lovely tradition among friends! Given the numerous party ideas buzzing around in my mind pretty much all day long, every day, our at home dinner parties can only get better in the future!

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While I’m keeping the shenanigans of the party between my friends and I, I’m delighted to share a few photos of the decor with you as it’s all very much what 18 Chelsea Mews blog is about. Yep, you got it… All things bright & beautiful! See also my handmade invitations here if you missed that DIY post.

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Not only was the party tons of fun but I had an awesome time with the planning and preparation too. From the planning of the menu to the designing and making of the invitations, and every little other design detail was a great deal of fun for me to work on. Who knew pom-pom making and ribbon shopping could be so much fun?!

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18 Chelsea Mews - 2014 Christmas Dinner Party Invitation.9

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Of course no well planned event goes off without a hitch, and my lovely little party was no exception. Thankfully, there were no real problems, just a few little annoying struggles. Like when I found these gorgeous glittery letters in Marks & Spencer and decided, at the last minute, to use them instead of name plates for my guests as we all have a different first initial. Lo and behold, I couldn’t find the letter A in gold. It was also sold out in silver, and bronze (as if that really mattered)… it was only available in red. RED, the one colour that had absolutely no place in my Christmas table decor. Gee thanks! This kind of thing annoy and excite me in equal measures. Annoyed for obvious reasons, but then I really enjoy the challenge of solving problems like these with little time to spare.

18chelseamews.behindthescenes.christmas2014Hope you enjoyed the pics!

Nova xo

Merry & Bright: Dining With Debenhams This Christmas

Hello lovelies! I hope you’ve had a great week. I sure did with all this prepping for the fun and fabulous Christmas dinner party I’ll be hosting for a few of my friends here in London.

So, what have I got planned for our Christmas dinner party? Well, it would be rather un-cool to spill the beans before the date, but what I will say is bordering on pretty obvious… I’m not your average ‘red, green and white Christmas with bells on’ kind of girl so my Christmas dinner table features the more alternative festive colours like pink, turquoise, lime and yellow. The advantage is, it’s never too difficult to put together a table setting with a mix of these beautiful colours as they feature throughout my home in various shades all year round. So there’s none of that ‘I’m buying this for use only at Christmas’ or worse, ‘Let’s put this away until next Christmas’ happening around here. There just isn’t enough storage space for that kind of thing. The tree, the baubles, miniature Rudolph, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Blitzen and the gang are the only exceptions, of course!

This week, I was delighted to see that Jen Stanbrook over at Love Chic Living blog is hosting the ‘I’m Dreaming of Debenhams Dinnerware’ Competition in association with Debenhams. As I’ve accumulated quite a few colourful and well loved pieces from Matthew Williamson’s Butterfly Home range at Debenhams over the years, I was immediately reeled in by this. Of course I wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to buy myself more of that colourful goodness…and have you seen the gorgeous Abigail Ahern lamps they now have in stock? The Grey Hare and the Green Parrot are my absolute favourites! Swoon! Anyway, I digress. Let’s take a seat at my dream Christmas dinner table, shall we?

THE INSPIRATION: Owing to my legacy of growing up in Jamaica, my dream Christmas dinner table is set on a cool and relaxing, evening by the beach. It features glassy turquoise and pinks, with hints of yellow and lime upon a pristine white linen table cloth that shimmers in the early evening light. There’s a lively play of colour, reminiscent of the blushed pink bougainvillea’s rhythmic dance to the cool evening breeze, with the sprawling beauty of the Caribbean Sea as it’s backdrop.

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THE MOODBOARD: I’ve styled my moodboard with my favourite decorative jar from the Butterfly Home by Matthew Williamson range at Debenhams. I often use it as a vase (it looks amazing with the big pink fluffy hydrangeas hanging over the edges), but it looks just as gorgeous with lemons and clementines, bringing a refreshing brightness to my table, reminiscent of the sunshine Christmases I used to have back home in Jamaica. The multi-coloured baubles and luxury Christmas crackers are the perfect combination of colours! Borrowing a bit of sparkle to reflect the season here in the UK, my second home, I’ve added the most gorgeous metal snowflake table confetti I recently bought from Debenhams. These are such an excellent buy as you can use them again in the future as many times as you wish, without the constant sighting of stray paper confetti around your home for days after use! I simply had to include the Aynsley Belvedere 12-piece fine bone china set; I’ve had my eyes on it for some time now. Have you noticed the champagne flutes with the decorative snowflake clip-on wine charms? These are available in 6 colours pretty metallic colours. What could be more charming? I love these J by Jasper Conran Burlington Champagne flutes the most because the stems are longer than average, giving them added elegance, and of course more room for the festive snowflake stainless steel clip on wine glass charms. I welcome every opportunity to use these flutes; they’re made from good quality glass that make a very merry crystal-like chime…CHEERS!

NOW LET’S EAT!: So the table is beautifully laid and we’re all seated, now let’s enjoy one of my favourite Christmas dishes. I’m a pescetarian so my Christmas dinner seems more like the traditional Southern Italian Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes. My favourite Christmas meal is Pan-seared Maple Bourbon Glazed Salmon with Sweet Cranberry Chutney. Tieghan over at Half Baked Harvest blog recently shared an excellent and easy-to-follow recipe for this and she’s served it with  Salt Roast Potatoes. Give it a try! Maple bourbon glazed salmon is quite delicious on its own, but coupled with Cranberry Chutney, it’s divine! The complex combination of flavours and the beautiful colours make this the perfect Christmas meal. BON APPETIT!

18 chelsea mews. merry and bright christmas with debenhams

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GET THE GOODS: So here are the 18 top picks from yours truly at number 18. HAPPY SHOPPING!

1.RJR John Rocha Orr Polished 16 Piece Cutlery Set 2.Royal Doulton Set of Four Porcelain ‘1815’ Dinner Plates 3.J by Jasper Conran Set of Four Burlington Champagne Flutes 4.Salt & Pepper Metal Snowflake Bottle Stopper 5. Butterfly Home by Matthew Williamson Designer Pink Optic Glass Jar with Lid (also available in blue6.Debenhams Pack of Twelve Luxury Teal Mistletoe Christmas Crackers 7. Sagaform Set of Two Pink ‘Spectra’ Dessert Bowls (also available in blue) 8.Royal Doulton Set of Eight ‘1815’ coloured olive trays 9.Dartington Crystal Aqua ‘H2O’ Carafe and Tumbler Set 10.Salt & Pepper Metal Snowflake Table Confetti 11.Guzzino Pair of Green Espresso Cups and Saucers 12. Debenhams Set of Six Multi-coloured Christmas Baubles 13.Royal Doulton ‘Pop in for Drinks’ Stainless Wine Cooler with Pink Interior  14.Debenhams Cream Set of 4 LED Tea Lights  15.Debenhams White Medium Damask Tablecloth and set of 8 Napkins 16.RJR. John Rocha Designer Aqua Glass Tea Light Holder 17.Salt & Pepper Set of Four Silver Snowflake Napkin Rings 18.Debenhams Silver Glittery Reindeer Christmas Ornament

MOODBOARD IMAGE CREDITS: – baubles, plates and Christmas crackers all from Debenhams (see links above), centre image of baubles under bell cloche, all other images are my own.

GET THE GOODS IMAGE CREDITS: All images numbered in the ‘Get the Goods’ shopping section are from Debenhams (see links above)

This post has been submitted to the ‘I’m Dreaming of Debenhams Dinnerware’ Competition hosted by Love Chic Living in association with Debenhams.

UPDATE: This post was chosen as the winning entry for the ‘I’m Dreaming of Debenhams Dinnerware’ Competition! Thanks to Jen Stanbrook & Debenhams.