Thursday, 6 December 2018

how to refresh curly hair - 2nd day curls

one of the most important things to figure out (and also one of the easiest) when you start the curly girl method is how to fix those wonky and frizzy 2nd and 3rd day curls. and so i'm letting you in on my secrets today, about which products i use and all of my tips to achieving a great curly hair refresh. at the end of this post is a video i created for my YouTube channel so you can actually see the process unfold.

firstly, let me start by saying that when i started the curly girl method i didn't even attempt to refresh my curls, i just took one look at them and wrote them off, thinking they couldn't be saved, instead i put my hair up in a ponytail or pulled back with some grips... i didn't realise how easy it would be to rescue the frizzy mess, so i didn't try.

i do still very often put my hair up in some way, especially when i'm in a rush and want to get out the door pretty fast. because however "quick" a refresh is, you still need to wait for your hair to dry.

there are also days when a refresh isn't necessary, all i do is shake my hair at the roots and scrunch a little with dry hands and it regains its curls from the previous day - i think it depends how hard i slept and whether i was tossing and turning in the night... also, i tend to put my hair up in a pineapple to sleep, which helps it keep the curl a little better.

so, how do i refresh...

1. shake the hair from the roots and scrunch.

2. if time allows, leave the hair to settle for 30minutes (sometimes it's enough to let the curls sit naturally back in the right place).

3. assess the situation, feel the hair. does it need a refresh all over? can you just refresh the back? does it just need a couple of bits twisted and clipped?

4. using a spray bottle (regular - US/UK , continuous spray - US/UK) generously spritz with plain water on either the whole head or the part that needs refreshing. if it feels dry, add a small amount of styling cream to your hands and scrunch that in on the dry parts. if it feels like it might need a bit more hold for the day, add a tiny amount of gel to your hands and scrunch that into the ends.

5. spray a little water on your hands and scrunch your hair until the curls are looking just as you'd like. if the curls are not returning as you scrunch, add a little more water.

6. if you have time to air dry, then simply clip at the roots around your crown with double-pronged clips (US/UK) and wait for the hair to dry, or diffuse on a low heat setting using a pulsing technique until 80% dry - see video below - and then root clip and leave until it is completely dry.

7. once dry the hair will likely feel crispy from the gel/products you applied the day before. so, scrunch out the crunch with dry hands or a dry cotton t-shirt. and make sure to give your roots a really good shake.

8. at this point, consider if the hair looks frizzy at all, if so, add a couple of drops of your favourite hair oil (mine is Rose Hair Elixir from The Innate Life) to your hands and then rub your hands together thoroughly and distribute through your hair before scrunching it in.

9. enjoy your hair all day!

extra notes:
 - i find that mixing any conditioner into my water spritz will weigh my hair down too much, so i don't do this, but a lot of people find that this works for their hair type.
 - everyone has a different hair type and lifestyle so the way i refresh may not work for you...
 - i tend to use the same styling products i used during wash day if i need a little extra gel or cream, just to make sure that all the products are working together and not weighing your hair down.
 -  i only use oil on the day before i wash it, which is usually the 3rd day, but if i've had a bad wash day experimenting with new products or combinations then i will use oil on the 2nd day and wash one the 3rd instead of refreshing again.
 - if it all goes wrong, then the Scunci hair clips (US/UK) are my best friend - they help to keep the dodgy hair off my face without disrupting the curl pattern.
 - the longer i've been doing CGM the easier a refresh is for me, but also the fewer the amount of refreshes i do, because the curls are stronger and they survive being slept on. so it does get easier with time.
 - my favourite diffuser is the Gama Professional Diffuser which you can purchase from Amazon (US/UK)

thank you for reading today, if you liked this post, you may also like:

have a lovely day x

Saturday, 24 November 2018

gift guide : for the 2-year-old toddler

it occurred to me this black friday that i love reading other people's gift guides, and that i thought i'd write one of my own, in case you find it useful! i especially look for ideas for things to buy for my 2.5 year old son, because i always want to buy things that he will truly love for years to come.

so, i thought i'd add my twopence, and share the toys we play with the most...

before i start completely, i did do a video showing you all our toys over on my YouTube channel (click here to watch), in case you're interested in seeing even more ideas. but let's consider this the Top 10, the abbreviated version of that video, and also an update. i'm also going to tell you the things we are buying for him this year.

also, i want to highlight a fab post written by the lovely Meagan over at Whole Family Rhythms (read it here), in which she explains a philosophy i truly believe in. it's a brilliant way to make sure that you don't overdo your spending, and that the children end up with useful things that they appreciate. it follows this little rhyme, "Something you want, Something you need, Something to give, Something to read".

instead of following this to the letter, instead we just don't go crazy and we like to talk about and consider what specific items to get. we also like to ask relatives for specific gifts to add to his collection so we don't end up with too many unused and unloved things at the end of the season.

so, here goes with our top toys that he plays with most of the time, and will hopefully give you ideas for your own children, or for any toddlers you know.

  1. paints - our boy is obsessed with paints, and so this year we are getting him some washable dab and dot markers (US/UK), which i know he will love. he also really loves his giant a2 sketchbook (US/UK), which he is almost finished with and needs a new one. and most importantly he LOVES his Faber-Castell gelatos (US/UK), because he can use them in so many different ways and they're easy to transport too.

  2. cars - he loves every single type of thing with wheels he's ever received, however small. his absolute favourites are the smaller ones that he "accidentally took" from his gran's house because he can take them with him in his backpack. if he didn't already have so many i would buy the Viga Vehicles set (US/UK) or the Le Toy Van London set (US/UK). so cute!

  3. trains - he's obsessed with trains, and he's already got a lot of hand-me-down pieces of Brio and Bigjigs, but we've got a few members of the family contributing to the collection this Christmas, and we are also getting him some new bits - in particular the Bigjigs Fire Sea Rescue (US/UK) and the "Crazy" track (US/UK). i think his love for trains will continue on for a good few years to come (i hope! i love it too)

  4. books - this one is probably too obvious to mention, but we absolutely LOVE when people buy us books as presents. if you've not seen my toddler book video (watch it here) then go and have a watch because it has so many more ideas in it. this year we are following the icelandic tradition of the Christmas Book Flood (Jólabókaflóðið) and getting a Christmas book to read on Christmas Eve - this year we've got him Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht (US/UK) - and also one more non-Christmas one called The Dot by Peter Reynolds (US/UK).

  5. clothes - another gift we always love is clothes, because you can really never have too many and he is also a boy who is starting to like to choose which things he wants to wear each day. and although this year we've already got enough clothes for him, usually we do get him something! clothes from Marks & Spencer and John Lewis always make really great quality gifts to give and receive.

  6. bath toys - the best thing we ever bought our son for the bath were his Boon Building Bath Pipes (US/UK) which he has played with since he could hold something and still is finding new ways of using them. and they're also really easy to keep clean! he doesn't otherwise have heaps of toys, because along with his Green Toys tug boat (US/UK) and a few sea animals, he doesn't ask for any more and he's so content to play for ages with just those.

  7. sticker books - we've got him 2 new sticker books for Christmas, because when we were on holiday last, it was a great way to entertain him in small spaces (the car and the plane) and is also a fab way to learn new words. so we've got him the Zoo book (US/UK) and also the Airport book (US/UK). i think colouring books will be for his next birthday as he's not really shown interest in them yet, but that could also be a great gift for some.

  8. magnetic easel - a toy that everyone who comes to our house loves to play with, and is also a great gift for giving from a young age to last many years to come, we've got a fabulous set from Toys of Wood Oxford, which comes with magnetic shapes, alphabet and numbers, and it even has a chalkboard on one side to use and a white board also (US/UK) - we love it!

  9. backpack - our son really loves his backpack, and loves to put things in it to take on a walk or on a trip to see his Grandma. the one we have isn't super high quality but is a cute design from last year in Zara, but if i had a do-over i would buy one of these gorgeous Skip Hop Zoo ones (US/UK).

  10. animals - the last thing we have bought him for Christmas are a couple of new animals for his Schleich collection, we bought the Elephant (US/UK) and the Deer (US/UK) - he loves to play with his animals outside, in the bath, make them eat soap, etc. they are very robust as well as life-like.

if you're stuck for ideas for new parents, curly girls, faith journaling ladies or more, please go and check out my Amazon Shop, where you can see my favourites from Amazon, and there might just be some more ideas for you there (only for Amazon US at present though, they haven't made the "shop" feature available in the UK yet).

please know that i receive a small % of commission from anything bought via any amazon links above. it doesn’t cost you any more, but is a little way that you help keep the blog going. so thank you!

thank you for reading today, i really hope this helped you! if you have any other fab ideas, please let me know in the comments below, because i'd love to hear them (always on the hunt for good gift ideas) x

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

anything could happen at any moment

one of the hardest things i've found about my journey in grief so far has been the anxiety of knowing that anything could happen at any moment.

and today i want to write about it, because writing about things helps me understand how i'm feeling, and i guess i feel that by sharing it in this way i can start to move through it a little more. it's not something i can easily talk about face to face, so those of you who know me or see me in real life probably haven't realised what's been going on in my head and why i've been quite so flaky lately.

so, if you're new here, you need some context, because this anxiety all stems from losing my beautiful littlest niece earlier this year - i wrote a post about it at the time, which so many of you have been so kind about.

it's been over 6 months now, and one of the major repercussions of this tragic loss has been how it has affected my anxiety levels. because, you see, the way in which she was taken was so very very very unexpected, and it was so sudden and simple. it could have happened to anyone. but it didn't happen to just anyone, it wasn't something that happened to someone else in the newspapers, it happened to her and it happened to our family.

i do believe that God took her that day for a reason, that it wasn't random, and that it was very much a part of His bigger plan and that He was protecting her from something worse in her future. i talked about this more in my previous post. and i guess i feel confident in His ability to do the right thing, but i feel exactly the opposite about my own ability. i feel like if i step outside of the house, however tired or awake, however well or sick, something bad could happen.

and that IS the reality - anything could happen at any time. i just didn't see it as clearly as i see it now.

i believe more than ever that we do need to live in a way where there are no regrets and in a constant state of preparedness for our final day, where we make sure to speak kindly and gently and thoughtfully to those around us, because only God knows when that last day is going to be. and we make sure to not go to bed angry with anyone, and to say goodbye properly.

but, instead of believing and living in the positive sides of this truth, i'm currently in an opposing extreme, where i stay in more often than not because i feel safer that way. and i only do things outside my comfort zone if it's been in my diary for a while and i feel comfortable with all the variables. i hardly ever do anything last minute. i cancel things a lot; when my sugar levels are slightly out of control (i have type 1 diabetes) or if my toddler is grumpy or sick (he's 2.5 so it happens a lot), or if i haven't had enough sleep, because then i don't feel in control.

of course, the irony of this is actually that the fewer people i spend time with, the harder i find it to go out the house and spend time with people and hold a conversation, especially new people. i seek comfort in the people i've known for ages because i know that if i say something stupid they'll still love me.

being a stay-at-home mum really does compound this situation rather a lot too. as well as just my own personality type (a people-pleasing introvert/INFJ). to make my stress levels higher also, we moved country at the end of last year, and we are in progress with moving again shortly... it's all just rather a lot at the moment. it feels the same as the last time i had proper doctor-approved "stress" and took two weeks off work - i have shortness of breath, chest pains, foggy brain, i cry all the time - only i can't exactly get a prescription for time off to fix this one...

so that's where i am, and that's how i feel. and that's why you may not have heard from me, or that might be why i've cancelled our dates. thank you for bearing with me those of you who have, you are so dear to me. and thank you for your encouragement and support, you will never know what one kind word or message can do to change my day. please keep praying that i feel His confidence to get out the door, and that i fully know that in Him i can do all things.

so then, there's this gorgeous song by Lauren Daigle called You Say, and the lyrics are so perfect that i want to share them with you, because each time i hear this song at the moment i cry, and each time i hear it i want this song to be my song...

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

i hope these words speak to you. please go and listen to the song because it's so beautiful (you can listen/watch here on YouTube). it's a reminder of some key truths that i need to get stuck down deep in my head and my heart - i need to keep singing 'i believe what you say of me' until i do.

i don't believe in being a hands-off Christian, one that just does whatever they want and hopes God will protect them, because i do believe He gave me a brain for a reason. but i do also know that He would rather i have a life lived confidently outside of these walls, and that i would chose to do things in His confidence more often. that i would use His strength and His love to move forwards.

if you've experienced stress or anxiety before, i'd really appreciate your practical advice as well as verses or words of encouragement - so please add them in the comments or send them to any other way you can. i believe our words can change lives.

thank you for reading today x

Thursday, 18 October 2018

a beginner's guide to faith journaling : part 2, supplies

so, in the first part of this series i talked about my approach to faith journaling, and so if you missed it, please do go and check it out because it talks through the process as well as why i love my faith journal!

today we are going to talk about everything to do with supplies! and i want to start by saying a cautionary "please don't get carried away" - there's something about stationery that can be so addictive, and i've also fallen prey to this... the costs seem so small, but i can guarantee you that they all mount up in the end.

instead now i add new things i want to a wish list and i plan carefully about what things i will buy with my budget that month - i appreciate them more and i save money! i also buy second hand and repurpose things, but more on that in a bit.

so, i'm going to start by running through a list of supplies that i love and use on a regular basis, you'll probably find you have a few things to get you going already...
  • glue - i use a 2 sided glue roller for sticking in photos and card (UK/US), i use Pritt stick for paper and i use PVA glue for things with odd surfaces.
  • scissors - i have one small pair and one larger pair, both are very handy to have.
  • paper trimmer - this is one of my most used items, because sometimes you just want a really clean line, and i'd eventually like to have a slightly bigger one but for now i have a small one that works beautifully (UK/US)
  • eraser - i like Pentel Hi-Polymer erasers (UK/US)
  • pencil(s) - i literally only have hotel pencils, because i've got a huge backlog of pencil supplies! but they work fine for what i need. if i got more into the painting side of things i might invest in pencils with different thicknesses
  • sharpener 
  • metal ruler - a metal ruler is great for journaling because you can easily tear paper objects with the edge of it, and you'll get a really clean line (UK/US)
  • washi tape - i get a load of mine from aliexpress, but also amazon and ebay too. it is endlessly useful.

  • hole punch - i've just got a regular double hole punch, but it's super useful just to use one side of it so you can create holes to add ribbons to. but i've got my eye on a single hole punch (UK/US)
  • stapler and staples - i've got a mini stapler which i use, which is great for now because i can easily take it with me in my holiday journaling bag. but i also have a larger one in my wishlist because it would be great to get a bit further into pages sometimes. i also have various types of colours of staples, including copper (UK/US) and white (UK/US).
  • paint! - i started simply with a beginners set of acrylics (UK/US) and a small watercolour palette (UK/US), and these are still my most favourite things to use. i've also got a larger white acrylic tube now because it's great to mix and make different colours. i also like metallic paints, and distress oxides are fun to play with too.
  • paint brushes and brush pens - if you're going to paint, then brushes are essential - i've got a set of Pentel brush pens (UK/US) for easy watercolouring on the go, as well as easy colourful lettering too. and then i have a few different brushes that are suitable for acrylics also. i'd just pop to your nearest craft supply store and get a cheap set to see how you get on with different shapes. you may also find a little spray bottle quite helpful for watercolours, so you can make the paint move more easily.
  • craft heat gun - a pretty essential piece of kit if you want to speed up the crafting process and be able to turn your pages without waiting for something to dry. i have a hand-me-down craft dryer from my mum and it still works! you could probably use a hair-dryer too, but these are slower and also have a smaller end so that you can be specific with the area you heat.
  • heatproof craft mats - this is one of my most used items, these Teflon sheets (UK/US) are great for putting under your pages whilst you work to stop any other pages being damaged. i bought one and cut it in half, and it works great.
  • stickers - i've collected lots of stickers from lots of different places, i love stickers! they are a fab addition to most of my pages and they just add a little something, whether it's phrase stickers, floral stickers or stamp stickers. i get mine from ebay, aliexpress and etsy. i also love enamel dots for embellishing pages (UK/US).
  • clear stamps - one of the best things to happen to crafting for a while is the invention of clear stamps, so they take up a fraction of the space in comparison with the old ones backed onto a piece of wood. although i have still kept a few of my favourite wooden ones, i've also got a couple of sets of clear stamps too - some alphabets, some flowers, some random patterns. you'll also need an acrylic block to use with the stamps.
  • stamping ink - as important as the stamp is the ink you chose, i really like mini pads, because i don't stamp a lot so they suit me just fine.  my favourites are from Versafine (UK/US) and i have a couple of different colours.

  • gesso and matte gel medium - depending on what sort of journal style you go for, you may find preparing your page to be helpful so that no inks bleed through to the other side of the page. gesso is made perfectly for this (UK/US) and it also helps create more texture on the page too. matte gel medium (UK/US) is a thicker version, and can be useful to add more 3D elements to your page.
  • papers! - i bought a few paper packs back in the old days of scrapbooking and they come in really handy when i want to give a frame to a photo or make a pocket, or if you just need something a little bit thicker - i love this style (UK/US). printer paper and white card are also essential.
  • sticker paper for printing - i bought matte white sticker paper on a whim, but i've really enjoyed having it because it's a really simple way to add your own cute designs to a page. 
  • iron - you've almost certainly already got an iron at home, well i use mine all the time to iron out my pages after i've used watercolours. just make sure there's no water in your iron and then use a low setting, grab a paper towel to put between the iron and the reverse of the page and then press over it a few times. this also works with bible pages.
  • paperclips - great for adding in extra elements, and you can get so many sizes, shapes and colours for additional interest.
  • bulldog clips - if you're far through your journal and you need to keep pages open, then big chunky clips are important, especially if you want to paint on them so you need them flat also.
  • border, shape and corner punches - i've got a couple of rounded edge corner punches and circle punches and i use them a lot! i also have a couple of pairs of craft edging scissors to create some interesting edges. 
  • ephemera - this is really a fancy word for extra stuff to stick in! you can buy "ephemera packs" on amazon but my favourite ephemera pieces are things that i pick up in my daily life.
  • stencils - i've only got one alphabet set and one leaf pattern stencil, but they are useful for adding texture and more "mixed media" type spreads.
  • tombow dual brush pens (UK/US) - my favourite above all because they make your writing look so pretty without much effort, and the colour range is fab. i've built my collection up over years, but i've still only got a small pencil case full because they're quite pricey. if i had to pick just a few colours i'd have 553, 312, 912, 020 and N95.
  • uniball signo white gel pen (UK/US) - this is my most used pen! it writes on everything and works beautifully on darker papers.
  • sharpie bronze metallic pen (UK/US) - i seem to use this on most spreads to create borders or doodle.
  • uniball signo bronze (UK/US) - same as above but thinner
  • sakura pentouch gold (UK/US) - a lovely way to add some extra dimension to your page
  • ballpoint pen - i have a Waterman Hemisphere with a medium black refill and it writes so beautifully (UK/US), and it was a gift from my father when i turned 18. but any black ballpoint will work great - i love doing most of my journaling with this pen.
  • tombow fudenosuke (UK/US) - this makes anybody's handwriting look a thousand times better - really easy to use scripting pen
  • staedtler triplus broadliner (UK/US) - a thick fineliner that works great when you want quick definition
  • pilot g2 black gel pen (UK/US) - there are some surfaces that need a gel pen, and the pilot g2 works great for that.
  • artline fineliners (UK/US) - i bought a set of these fineliners and they come in really handy for doodling, and they're waterproof so you can paint over them too.
repurposed items:

  • old books, papers and stamps from secondhand stores or charity shops - these create a really warm interest to any page, i just love how they look and the different things you can do with them.
  • junk mail - i love making pockets out of inside out junk mail envelopes and then using my sewing machine to sew up the edges.
  • cut up magazines - i receive a monthly subscription of Country Living as a gift from my dad, and i love it! it also has great fonts, pictures and other bits to stick into my journal.
  • ribbons and fabric scraps - i've got a collection of bits and bobs that i use to add things to the journal, things from old crafting days. you can add them to the edges of a page, sewing them in, or you can make tags or envelopes. or make another page to attach in.
  • pressed leaves and flowers - great for adding in autumn leaves or seasonal flowers. i just press mine in the pages of a really big book and then put more big books on top of it!
also, for those interested, when i travel i use a Bonthee Canvas Tote Bag (UK/US) and then the Lihit Lab pen case (UK/US). also a5 tuff bags for storage (UK/US) and an a5 wiro display book from Paperchase for storing my stickers (UK/US).

i've got a bunch of new tapes and edgers saved in my wishlist ready for Christmas, and also a couple of bits for making my own junk journals with. that should be a fun thing to try next year!

i hope you enjoyed this post and it answered some of your questions - please let me know if you have any other questions in the comments below and i will get back to you x

don't forget to follow me on instagram to see more spreads, and to watch my flip-through faith journal video on YouTube.

please note, this post has got amazon affiliate links in, which don't cost you anything extra but do help me keep my blog running, so thank you very much if you do chose to use them.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

a beginner's guide to faith journaling : part 1, process

hey all, today i'm going to answer some questions about faith journaling - what it is? what's my process? why i do it? how to start? i've only been doing this for a few short months, but i've picked up lots of tips that i hope will be of use to those of you interested.

let's start with the reason why i even started to journey down this path... i think i'd seen a "related" video on YouTube about "bible journaling" and clicked on it - i watched til the end and i had never seen anything like it before! i thought, wow, a creative way to spend time in the bible, why haven't i thought of this before?! honestly until that moment, each time i'd taken my bible out to study i'd found it a real struggle to spend much time reading, let alone meditating on it. i love group bible study but that had been a challenge for me to get to with a little one, and it's not the daily practice that i knew i needed.

so, after watching that video, i actually started this whole process off with getting a proper "journaling bible" (the ESV Crossway Double Column - US/UK), which is super pretty and was a great starting place for me.

i did a few spreads with craft things i already had, but it felt a bit too "confined" for me - the margin wasn't big enough and the text wasn't big enough, and the paper is really thin (and i'm not the most delicate of people!). and i also felt a lot of pressure to do it perfectly because i didn't want to ruin my bible...

so i bought a Leuchtturm 1917 journal (US/UK), which is one used often for bullet journaling, and started writing, doodling and painting in there, and then my real style evolved...

i have previously done quite a bit of scrapbooking, both in the traditional sense and also with a Project Life style binder (i recorded all of our time living in Belgium that way). so i had quite a lot of stickers, washi tape and other bits and bobs i could use. though i must admit to purchasing a few new bits to experiment with.

i'll list in part 2 some of the things that i think are quite essential items if you're interested to start, and i'll definitely share a 'what's in my journaling bag?' style video in the future to show you what i've been taking on trips with me.

but let me first explain the process, because a lot of people have asked that on instagram...

 - firstly i search for a quiet hour or two, most often when my son is sleeping, so that i know it won't be disturbed time and i can fully let myself enjoy the process of creating and spending time in the Word. 
 - i like to get out all of my craft things before i start so i know what i've got to work with. i don't have a separate craft room, i just keep everything in boxes under our sofa bed and then get that out each time - it's a bit of a faff but it's so worth it!
 - next i get out a bible study, turn on a podcast or just open my bible and turn on worship music, and sometimes a combination. and i open up my journal.
 - sometimes i just start writing as i listen and read, and sometimes i listen and read first and then create. it just depends on the day. sometimes i just create a journal spread based on some amazing quote or verse that i've read that week and want to remember.
 - as for quite how i go about it, i take inspiration from a lot of my favourite creators on social media, (see below) and then i just go from there. sometimes i have an idea in mind of a picture i want to paint or a medium/craft tool/method i want to try out, but other times i just journal what i am reading/listening to. 

there are lots of people who've inspired me along the way, and i wouldn't be doing this if they hadn't inspired me, so here they are, some are Christian "bible journalers" and some create other types of journals:
 - Scribbling Grace
 - Doodling Faith
 - Grace Laced - and I would really recommend Ruth's book with the same title (US/UK)
 - Johanna Clough
 - The ReBookery
 - Merel Journals 
 - Meg Journals
 - Katie Jobling
 - Sarah Swan
 - Cheyenne Barton
 - Pinterest! i've got a whole board full of journaling ideas, so that's also another great place for inspiration from a wider variety of creators.

i would love for you to comment on your favourite inspirations in the comments box too - it's always fun discovering new people!

and without these people i wouldn't have felt confident enough to try out acrylics or watercolours or collage. i find watching other creators really inspiring.

the MOST important thing for me is to have a time and space allocated at least once a week, if not daily, to get out my bible and spend time in God's word, meditating on a verse or worshiping with music, and this is the first time i've really been able to and feel excited to do it!

so i praise God for leading me down this path, where i eagerly anticipate my next session, where i carve out time in my day to sit with Him and spend fully focused time. it's a great way of putting your phone to one side and relaxing too.

i've spoken to a few people who've said they would find my style of journaling too distracting - they thought they'd end up getting too caught up in whether something looks good rather than with spending time with God - to this i can say 2 things; 1 - journaling isn't for everyone and 2 - give it a go! if you end up spending at least some time reading the bible instead of none it's a big win!! i also find that some days when i spend time making just one verse look pretty instead of an intense study, i still spend the rest of the day thinking about the verse, meditating on it and singing praise songs. it's a bit like creating adult memory verses.

anyhow, i've loved it so much that i've created a journaling travel bag that i've taken on my last two holidays so i can keep on creating and reading His word. i'll share more about that in part 2!

extra notes:
 - my bible book tabs are from a seller on Etsy, you can find them at OpenBookPrintShop and they are the 'Magenta Rose' edition (click here).
 - my favourite podcast to journal to is the Journeywomen Podcast with Hunter Beless - it's been a fantastic blessing to me, and i'd recommend it to anyone. also the associated playlist on Spotify is fab.
 - i've had to take a lot of pages out of my Leuchtturm 1917 because i have been adding in so many pockets and tip-ins/flaps and other things to bulk it out, you can easily take out pages by finding the middle parts of each signature and gently taking them out where they've been sewn.

to see a talking flip-through of my journal, watch the video below on my YT channel:

please let me know your questions, and i will do my best to answer them! otherwise, head on over to part 2 to see what my favourite supplies are...

*and also please note, this post has got amazon affiliate links in, which don't cost you anything extra but do help me keep my blog running, so thank you very much if you do chose to use them.

Monday, 3 September 2018

i cried when i crossed the border

this last week we've been in France. Normandy to be exact. Valliquerville to be even more exact. and we had a wonderfully relaxing time, enjoying the good food and relaxing environment of French holiday living.

we've been on many family holidays with the little one, and each time, even from his youngest age, he's loved to travel and be away from home. we make sure to pack well, and plan even better. you can see some of our previous travelling with toddler posts here, here and here, and here for my essentials checklist for our toddler.

this time we bought Pete's mum along with us, and we road-tripped there and back through the Eurotunnel. which all went pretty great, other than on the way over he burst into tears the second he saw the train we were driving on to and didn't stop throughout the whole time in the tunnel - i think he was confused about the sort of train it was, as well as tired, and he thought it was too loud. anyhow, the way back he loved it!

and also the second we came off the tunnel and landed in France i started crying because i just really miss our life in Belgium and all the people there, and i was wishing we were driving the other way instead.

but France isn't so bad...

we stayed in an AirBnB in the grounds of a chateau. we got a good deal and it was a really beautiful location in the middle of nowhere amongst fields of potatoes and sweetcorn. the house was stunning and cosy, and there were plenty of animals to keep the youngest and oldest amused.

we were thankful for the fire, because the weather was a little chilly round the edges and windy some days too. so a few days we lit a fire in the evening and it was just what we needed - which helped give us something to look at as the wifi didn't work and the television was all French channels.

we did a good lot of looking around the local area at some of the tourist spots, but we also spent a good lot of time at home, reading, playing, cooking, eating and bible journaling (for me).

some of the places we did visit in Normandy:

 - Caudebec-en-Caux, a cute town on the Seine, which has a glorious church, fab museum, lots of boat tours and (arguably the most important) the best bakery of our whole trip

- Monet's Garden in Giverny - i've visited before, but it was half my life ago when i was a teenager. now with a finer appreciation of beauty, as well as a greater knowledge of flower varieties, i enjoyed it more than i could've imagined. totally worth the wait.

 - The Chapel Oak in Allouville-Bellefosse (Le Chene Chapelle) - this was a cute surprise one, as it was just down the road, but i've never seen anything like it before. it's two little chapels carved into a tree, and then with this big staircase going up around it. it's a pretty little village to walk to as well.

 - Honfleur & Deauville - these two places on the coast were lovely little towns, and we took one morning for each, and got to go over the Pont de Normandie twice.

Deauville is the best place we visited for clothes shopping, if that's your thing. i wasn't in need of anything so i just enjoyed window shopping! the beach front is huge and very famous for its boardwalk and beach-huts named after celebrities. the architecture is so well preserved and unlike anything i've seen anywhere else in my travels.

Honfleur is a quaint little tourist town, with lots of artists and patisseries and good places to eat. there's also a great old wooden church and this fabulous carousel, which our little one thought was amazing...

- Velo-Rail to Etretat - on the last day of our holiday we all took the railway down to Etretat, which was so much fun on the "bike", as you can tell from our sons face.... it was all down hill so mummy was also smiling!

the line was short and stopped in the pretty coastline at Etretat, where we spent a good few hours walking the boardwalk, eating cake, playing in the park and my husband walked the cliffs with the toddler on his shoulders.

it ended up being a very relaxing holiday, despite doing something every day, there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy doing our own things. and Normandy was a brilliant place to visit with our toddler - i would recommend it to anyone with children. the only caveat i would have would be that the French people in Normandy did not like to speak English, so if your French is limited i would stick to the more touristy places like Deauville and Honfleur.

thank you for reading, i hope you have a lovely day x

Sunday, 12 August 2018

gardens in the rain, and the restorative power of plants

yesterday we spent the afternoon out at exbury gardens. it was one of those mornings that started great and then disintegrated... so we packed ourselves into the car, let the todder fall asleep and drove around the new forest. almost as soon as i was in the countryside i could feel my spirit lift, and so my husband decided to drive us to somewhere new (to us) that he knew would make us all feel brighter.

exbury gardens was created by the De Rothschild family, and is a really well established garden. it blends into the Beaulieu River in a way i've never experienced in a garden before, and the view from the bank is absolutely phenomenal, even in the rain.

obviously, right now we're sort of into visiting gardens (see our visit to Hillier Gardens), because the 2.5 year old just loves to run around and i am really enjoying the restorative power of creation, especially in its cultivated form rather than wild - but i think with these gardens being in the middle of the forest, there was a good deal of both on offer.

since working with flowers for a living, i love to see them cultivated so beautifully, and it inspires me one day to do the same - i hope one day i will have a garden that i can invite other people to sit in and enjoy. i even love having just a few pots at the moment because it brings me such joy!

there is one particular garden at Exbury, the Sundial garden, which is hidden away and is absolutely abundant with flowers at this time of year, it was so gorgeous and i could've stayed there for a whole day.

the garden also has its own steam train to ride on, which was fun for all of us actually, not just the toddler!

we also ate at the cafe, which was really delicious! the only thing i'd say is that it's a pretty pricey experience, so it wouldn't be a super regular thing for us, but it's definitely worth going and we will go back in another season (and maybe on a sunnier day!)

thank you for reading x

currently listening to: better love by green river ordinance

you may be interested in reading: 25 things to do with a toddler

Friday, 10 August 2018

love and marriage : my relationship advice

hey all, today i'm sharing something close to my heart - i'm talking about marriage, my tips and advice from all the things i've learnt these last crazy 6 years!

if you're new to this blog, my name is Alissa and i'm married to a guy named Pete, and our story is not super typical (but then whose is?). we got married 11 months after we met, and we planned the wedding in a short 11 weeks. we didn't live together, and he was my first ever boyfriend - it was a steep learning curve for me in particular, and i think a lot of people thought we were crazy! but we were madly in love, and we still are, praise God!

honestly, the first year of marriage in particular was tremendously difficult for me, because there was a lot of new things to learn about living with a man, about living with Pete and about what marriage meant. i even honestly had a very real moment where i almost packed my bags to leave, because it was all too much for me... but i stayed and fought, because that's a big part of being married, fighting for each other. 

so here goes on my list of marriage tips for you. please read them all, take those that are helpful and discard the rest - not all of these will be relevant for all of you, and some you may already have learnt or not be ready to learn, or maybe they just don't relate to how you see marriage... anyhow, here goes!

1. put yourself in their shoes.
the surefire best way to end an argument is to throw away your pride and your way of seeing things and try to see things from the other persons point of view. maybe they're tired from a long day and they aren't thinking clearly, maybe they were taught a different way to handle that situation as a child and they've never seen it another way.

i reckon if you take the time to see things from their angle you'll feel both empathy and understanding and solve your argument much more quickly. that doesn't mean that you tell them how you think they're seeing it (although sometimes that is appropriate), instead it means just accepting their perspective and gracefully sharing your own or trying things from a new angle. 

         “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. don't always listen to the world around you. 
no-one knows your marriage like you two. you are the only two people in this marriage and whilst outside advice is sometimes helpful, you shouldn't take it from every single source. everyone's understanding of the inner workings of marriage is different, because every person is different and every couple has a different way of working things out.

even family can get it wrong too, and they're often the first to give you their opinion on the way you do things. but you need to be wise and thoughtfully weigh up the opinions you take on board, because sometimes they can be damaging to your relationship.

i've found the best advice we get is from other married couples, especially those that have been married for longer and/or are similar personality types to us. make sure you make time to ask those people for advice when you're having a more serious issue or you need some tips.

3. figure out what your expectations are/were of marriage.
with marriage comes a lot of expectation and assumption of how things should and shouldn't be. and for me, a lot of that came from movies that i'd watched - and it is so funny to catch myself almost playing out a scene from a movie but in real life. you know what i mean, when something cliche in life happens, say the man has left his dirty clothes in a heap on the floor, we have a lot of movie reference guides for how that scene should play out...

instead, every time you assume your partner should be doing a particular thing in a particular way, or your marriage should resemble something else, ask yourself why? where did that assumption come from? try and eradicate those expectations from your marriage and start in a fresh way - do things the way you two would do them, don't copy other people!

4. be endlessly forgiving. 
a major life lesson, especially within marriage, is to not set a limit on how much forgiveness you will show your spouse. just keep on forgiving them, keep on showing them love, and keep on being understanding. it's emotionally exhausting sometimes, and often involves you laying down your own pride, but isn't that what we should do for our spouses? lay down our lives for theirs? 

this goes especially for those little things that annoy you about them, those little irritating habits that can build resentment in you over time. we have a choice in marriage - we can either be the typical wife that moans about her husband coming home late after work all the time or we can chose to not let it bother us, accept our situation, forgive him and move on with a smile on our face (a real one).

      "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no account of wrongs. Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth.…"
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

if you saw the video i did about resenting my husband then you'll have more of an understanding on this point, and if you haven't seen it yet i'd recommend to because there's been a lot of positive feedback from it...

5. serve each other, in ways you each appreciate.
if you've not read the 5 love languages (US/UK) then why not? it's a really helpful book that can help you understand how every single person sees love in a different way, and it has really helped our marriage, because quite often we find that we're trying to show love using the wrong sort of language - say Pete says "i love you" but doesn't hug me, then i think that he is lying. or for him if he comes home and i give him a hug but then he sees that the house is a mess then he thinks i don't love him. we all have different ways to understand and appreciate love, and they're not wrong, they're just different. 

and when we choose to accept these differences and show each other love in ways we understand then marriage is SO much sweeter. 

      “A good marriage is a contest of generosity.”
-Diane Sawyer

also, please note, that these "love languages" change over time and with different seasons of life, so make sure you're always communicating if something isn't working for you and you need something different.

6. understand that men and women are different. 
last night we watched The Female Brain (see trailer) which was actually a really funny comedy movie about how our brains are wired differently and it reminded Pete and i of some important truths.

sometimes we come from different angles because we're wired differently - and we have different emotional attachments to different scenarios. and that's ok! accepting these differences is part of the battle, and then you can communicate in a different way about them.

7. TALK!
lack of communication is the reason that marriage counseling exists. you need to make space to talk with each other, share not just problems, but share your life with each other. don't hide things, always be open and 100% honest, even to the point of embarrassment or an argument. remember that its better to say it than not say it... however difficult.

8. be naked!
if we're ever struggling to communicate then one of the easiest ways to resolve an issue or think more clearly is to get naked. this may just be in our marriage this one, but we often find it helps! generally we just lie naked in bed with the sheets over us, and we end up having a much better discussion than we would've done clothed on the sofa. sometimes anyway. but if the conversation doesn't happen, then something else might, and that's also helpful in a marriage ;)

9. don't gossip about your spouse.
respect your partner by addressing them directly with the issues you have with them. i think i used to think it was normal to talk about problems with my spouse with my family and friends, but then referring back to point #2, not everyone has helpful advice.

also it wrecks trust and makes them respect you less. and breeds resentment towards your husband in other people, which isn't great as the years go on and your still married to them. i know this one first hand, and i wish i could go back in time and not say bad things about him to my family and friends.

      “The best thing we can do with the failures of the past is to let them be history.” 
― Gary Chapman

10. do stuff together.
when you got married you wanted to spend your lives together, doing stuff together right? but then life happens and it's all too easy to get swept up in careers or children, and forget the importance of doing life together. so make time for each other in whatever way suits you both - for us its going out to lunch at the weekends with our son, or just cooking a special meal for each other in the week. making time to do thing together is so key.

11. accept change in each other. grow together.
one of the things we're learning right now in our marriage, during this period in our lives where a lot of major things have happened (see here and here), we've both been learning a lot about ourselves and the world around us, seeing things more clearly and sometimes seeing things differently. one of the things we've made sure to do is to talk to each other about these things, go on the journey together, talk about how we're feeling, help each other through it, and repair together.

i think it can often happen that people drift apart as the years go on, and i think that's because it actively takes effort to bother to share stuff with each other over time, because you can assume you already know how the other person is feeling or what they're thinking. but however well you know someone, they will probably still surprise you. share you personal journey together.

so there you have it, my marriage advice!

now really quickly i want to address those people who aren't married but are thinking about getting married, wondering 'should i get married?' ...

1. don't settle! 
only marry someone you think is smoking hot inside and out. AND that you honestly love like the love in the movies, that proper head over heels thing is REAL people, i live it and i see it all around me. and without that passion, marriage can work, but it's not as fun.

2. don't marry because you think you 'should', because you think 'it's time' or because you think that's just the next step in your relationship. 
marriage is HARD and should be entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons. the only reason to marry someone is if you LOVE them and you GENUINELY want to spend your life with them, however hard it gets. and seriously think about if you should really get married if you're doing it so you can have kids or because your parents want you to or because you think you're getting too old!

and for the guys in particular:
 - run after her, especially when she wants to run the other way. women are more flight than fight. be persistent, it's heroic!
 - listen to her, even when you have no idea what she's saying. don't try to "fix" it, just listen.
 - work on your physical spacing in an argument, it's taken 5 years but finally i realised the best place for my husband when i'm annoyed with him isn't cuddling me, it isn't the other side of the room, it's sat right next to me. 

and lastly,
      "In marriage, each partner is to be an encourager rather than a critic, a forgiver rather than a collector of hurts, an enabler rather than a reformer."
 - Norman Wright and Gary Oliver

thank you so much for reading - please ask if you have any questions - i'm here x

Monday, 6 August 2018

chocolate truffle tart for breakfast | gluten free, refined sugar free

this is one of those blog posts where i'm really writing things down for the sake of my own memory, because this tart is delicious! and i want to be able to make it again...

yesterday afternoon i was just in the mood to bake something, and i had a load of chocolate in the cupboard - good chocolate that needn't be wasted, and needed to be celebrated. and i'd been in the mood for a chocolate tart like i used to get down at the patisserie when we lived in Brussels. and i managed to make one!!

chocolate truffle tart
makes 1 large tart, serves 10

for the crust
a handful of dried dates
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 a large banana or 1 small banana
3/4 cup oats
a sprinkle of sea salt
approx 1 cup buckwheat flour (or other flour)

for the filling
200g dark chocolate
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 can coconut milk (the creamy bit not the watery bit)
drizzle vanilla extract
a sprinkle of sea salt
2 egg whites

coconut shreds, for topping (optional)

1. pit the dates and put them in a bowl and cover them over with boiling hot water for 10-15 mins to soften them.
2. pour off the water from the dates and add them to a blender, with the coconut oil and banana. blend until totally smooth. 
3. add in the oats and sea salt and blend again until smooth.
4. put the paste into a bowl and add buckwheat flour until the mixture is not sticky any more and you can roll it with a rolling pin. it will depend on what type of dates you use, the size of your banana and what type of flour you use as to how much you will need, so go slowly until you have the right consistency. 
5. roll the pastry dough out into a circle and place/press into a tart pan.
6. bake in a preheated oven (180c/350f) for 10 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden at the edges. remove from the oven and let cool.
7. place a pyrex bowl over a pan shallowly filled with 1 inch of water. add your chocolate and sift in the coconut sugar. bring the pan of water to a medium temperature, almost a simmer but not too hot or else you could burn the chocolate - slow is good! (mine took 20mins or so)
8. once thoroughly melted and incorporated (the sugar will still look quite grainy at this stage) add in the vanilla extract, sea salt and the creamy coconut milk and whisk until very smooth. 
9. separate your eggs if you haven't already and whisk the egg whites in a bowl until they form stiff peaks. 
10. fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. then pour this mixture into the prepared pastry crust. sprinkle over any toppings you so desire (i used coconut shreds) and then place in the fridge to set for 2 hours or overnight.
11. enjoy!!

cook's notes:
 - to separate your coconut milk more easily, pop it in the fridge and then the cream will harden and be really easy to separate. otherwise pour slowly and do not shake the can before doing so, and it should be easy enough to stop pouring once you see the coconut water at the bottom.
 - you could also substitute soy cream for the coconut milk.
 - to make this vegan, simply omit the egg whites and it is still a very light and delicious mousse! (and arguably more similar to the original Belgian version)

this is a really light and fluffy mousse-like texture, and actually would be delicious without the crust too served in individual ramekins - it would be a great chocolate cream pie filling too topped with whipped coconut cream and bananas! this is such a versatile mousse.

and i did eat it for breakfast today! because of the high amount of dark chocolate in it, there's a fair amount of caffeine, so it makes a good morning treat - there's even a version of this in my old breakfast cookbook in the brunch section ;)

thankfully my little Buds doesn't really like dark chocolate yet, so even though he tried a mouthful it came back out again - i'm so proud of him for always trying, i hope that always stays!

thanks for reading x

currently listening to: farther along by josh garrels