My Top 5 Back to School Essentials

school milk bottles

School milk bottles from Ella James, Not on the High Street

 If you are anything like me, you will be ready for the kids to go back to school next week, but also a bit sad that the holidays are nearly over.

Often, our routines will have changed over the summer and it can be hard getting back into a rhythm, but there are lots of ways to help you feel organised and school-ready.

So today I’m taking a look at some of my favourite tips for starting the new school term in the best way possible.

Check off Uniform – With a few days to go, do a quick inventory of their schoolwear to make sure you are not missing any items of uniform or PE kit and ensure it is hung up ready to wear.  Some websites have a uniform checklist like this one at Netmums to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, or the school may have supplied you with one.  Even if your child wears badged school uniform, it’s a good idea to have a spare supermarket school outfit for emergencies.

Label everything – yes, it’s a pain but you’ll be glad you did when they go and lose a brand new jacket or school jumper in the first week!  (You will earn extra brownie points from the staff too who spend far too much time trying to reunite stray uniform with the correct owners.)  Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to sew labels in these days; there are name stampers, iron-on or adhesive labels that do the job and you can often write names on with a laundry marker pen – no excuses!

School bags – remember they will need a bag for school work such as a satchel, messenger bag or backpack, but also a lunch bag if they’re not having school dinners and a PE kit bag.  Even if they won’t be taking a packed lunch to school, it’s a good idea to pack a water bottle so they can grab a drink if thirsty.

Pencil case – as a girl I used to love shopping for a new pencil case, pencils, erasers  etc.  My sons just don’t have the same appreciation for a nice new pencil case and would happily make do with a chewed, stubby pencil borrowed from a friend!  But it is a school bag essential – and I happen to think that having a smart pencil case, pens that work and sharp pencils to write and draw with can help them take a bit more pride in their schoolwork.  Shoddy tools = shoddy workmanship!  And I can’t recommend enough getting an automatic pencil sharpener.  Believe me, you will thank me.  You can find lots of good value back to school products at The Works right now.

Getting Organised – they key to a less stressful start to term is getting organised at home.  A noticeboard or wall planner can be invaluable in helping you keep track of what day they need to take a PE kit, any afterschool clubs, cookery ingredients etc.  Plus, by putting it on the wall for everyone to see, each person can take some responsibility for remembering.  But if you prefer to write everything down on paper, there are lots of desk diaries, calendars and planners available on the high street and online.


Mums School Year Planner from The Works

We have found that a wall-mounted letter rack near the door, with a section assigned for each child has been helpful in keeping school letters, homework, reading books etc. organised and within easy reach.  But a file folder for each child, kept in a designated spot can also work really well.

Also try and find a space for school bags and school shoes to live in which will avoid floor clutter and tripping hazards.  Wall hooks for coats and bags and a crate or storage box or basket for shoes can be invaluable and save a mad dash around the house in the morning, looking for errant shoes.

Organise breakfast the night before; get the kids to lay the table with breakfast things such as cereal containers, bowls and spoons, glasses for juice.  It will make the kitchen much less chaotic in the morning and the kids will have a better start to the day.  Don’t forget to set your alarm the night before, too!

I recommend doing some batch cooking in preparation for those busy evenings ahead when you may be dashing in from work and out again to an after school activity.  It is really easy to make up some freezer bags of slow cooker meals that you can defrost overnight and cook slowly the next day while you are out and it will be ready to enjoy when you walk through the door.  There are lots of crockpot recipe ideas on Pinterest.

Have you got any more back to school ideas?  If you have a routine or a tip that really works for your family I’d love you to share it in the comments below!

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Den Making with Dunelm Soft Furnishings!

Dunelm_soft_furnishingsSo on Sunday we planned to do a BBQ as we had my husband’s cousin was visiting all the way from Plymouth.  The day started out fab weatherwise, then when the guys went to get the BBQ food, it started pouring down.  The kids could no longer play outside, so we thought about what to do inside and since Dunelm had recently sent us a gorgeous chunky throw and a couple of cushions to give our living room a lovely, seasonal update we put them to good use making an indoor den!


It took 5 minutes and the youngest member of our family played happily under the canopy, sitting on a cushion.  After a bit of Lego time, he took a tablet under there and some snacks and was as happy as Larry!

In the den

We still had the BBQ despite the rain and later were able to cosy up on the sofa with these lovely new soft furnishings.  The ‘Revival’ throw is a gorgeous, vibrant ochre colour in a chunky knit that also has a fine metallic thread running through it, giving a hint of sparkle.


I love its tasselled edge, too and it’s a generous 120cm x 170cm.

Dunlem homeware

The cushions are also lovely – cotton with duck feather inserts and that gorgeous retro design, featuring the same mustard colour from the throw, as well as a soft shade of grey, on a neutral background.   Despite the fact that our sofa is on its way out and not looking its best these days, until we get a new one these lovely, inexpensive accessories have helped to brighten it up and give our living room a new spark of energy.  You can find the Revival throw here (£29.99) and the Leaf cushion (£14.99) here, plus many more throws and cushions to take your living room into the next season – so why not stay cosy with Dunelm soft furnishings.

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Win a Wallsticker worth up to £50 with Wallboss!

Wallboss_custom_decalYou may already know I’m a fan of wallstickers, having used them before to bring an instant change to our kitchen and boys’ rooms.  They are perfect for creating a wall feature, giving lots of impact without too much effort!  If you like to change your decor a lot, they can be a great way to do it and affordable, too.  It’s easy to personalise a space and make it your own, without it having to become a permanent feature – which is also ideal for renters.

Wallboss provide high quality removable wall graphics and have a wide selection of stylish and very contemporary wallstickers to choose from, such as these:

wallstickers collage

But they also can create custom decals, which is what I tried out this time.  I hadn’t thought of it before, but if you have a business and need some signage in your shop, cafe or office it can be a fantastic way to do it.  Or if you would just like something in the home that refers to your family, perhaps your newborn child’s name and birth date over their cot, for example.  Custom is the way to go!

Tempted as I was to have a ‘Tidy Away HQ’ or ‘Tidy Towers’ logo created for above my desk in the corner of the kitchen (tee hee) I decided to go with a slogan that I have seen quite a bit in Blog-Land and that I can totally relate to as a mum of 3 mucky boys:  Wash – Dry – Fold – Repeat

Not a mantra I ever aspired to, but hey, it’s a part of daily life now so I may as well embrace it.  Plus I had the perfect blank wall in our little laundry area to place it.

So I typed the words out in the font I liked and provided some measurements to Wallboss.  I could have any colour too and chose a dark grey.  Wallboss promptly got back to me with a proof and all looked great so we went ahead.

Sticking the custom sticker on the wall was a doddle, as I received a sheet of easy to follow instructions.  I positioned the decal where I wanted it and placed a piece of masking tape down the centre.  This holds it in place, allowing you to start to remove the backing sheet and pressing down the lettering as you go.  Then once you have done one side you can get on with the other.


The last step – and the most fun part – is peeling off that top sheet to reveal the wallsticker underneath.


I love it!  Now if a blank wall in your home or office needs a little design twist, something to raise a smile or an inspirational slogan, Wallboss are offering a 10% discount code on their website when people like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.  Not only that, they are kindly giving away a fab wallsticker as a prize in my latest giveaway – the lucky winner will be able to choose a sticker from the Wallboss website, up to a value of £50!  So if you fancy taking part, follow the steps below and best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Wallboss

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Win a Waltons Helios Summerhouse plus £250 John Lewis vouchers!

One of the aspects of blogging I really enjoy is entering fun and creative competitions.  Sometimes they are blogger-only comps, where you need to do a post on your blog to enter, but others are open to everyone, such as the one I’m sharing with readers today!

Whether you are a blogger or not, all you need is a Pinterest account to take part in this one – and the prizes just keep on getting better!  Organised by Waltons Garden Buildings, the lucky winner will receive a fantastic Waltons Helios summerhouse, plus £250 of John Lewis vouchers to kit it out as you wish!  The whole package is worth £1250 which is a very generous prize indeed, so I’m sure you’ll be as keen as me to enter this one.

Just imagine a fabulous summerhouse in your garden and the many ways you could enjoy it – as a chill out space, a crafting studio, a home office, a games room for the kids etc etc!

Over to Waltons with the entry details (you can also find them here):

“We are inviting you to get creative and create a board dedicated to your perfect garden room – we’re talking colour schemes, decorations, furniture ideas and anything that you would put in it.  Get as creative and pin-happy as you like, and you could be in the chance of winning a brand new summerhouse Waltons Helios Summerhouse PLUS £250 vouchers to bring your ideas to life.”

How to enter

  1. Follow us on Pinterest (
  2. Create a board called “My dream garden ___” – fill in the blank with what type of room it will be e.g. My dream garden craft room.
  3. Pin your favourite garden building from the Waltons site.
  4. Get pinning!
  5. Enter here

Terms and Conditions

  • This competition is for UK Residents only.
  • You must be over 21 years old to enter this competition.
  • This is a one off competition to win a Helios Summerhouse
  • There is no alternative prize or cash alternative.
  • In order to be entered for the prize you must follow the entry instructions: Follow Waltons Garden Buildings on Pinterest, create a Pinterest board called “my dream garden” and fill in the blank of what type of room it will be. You then have to pin an image of a building from the Waltons website. Once you have created your board, submit the entry using the form. Users can only enter this competition once.
  • There is no cost to entering this competition and it is not endorsed by Pinterest.
  • The winner will be announced on the 8th September 2015 and will be announced via email and on Facebook.
  • The winner has 48 hours to reply. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours the prize will be transferred to another winner.

Amazing, right?  So to hopefully give you a bit of inspiration, I’ve had a go at creating my own Pinterest board entry.  Now there are lots of truly gorgeous, girlie pastel-coloured summerhouses around with pretty bunting draped over them, and they look adorable.  But my entry is about imagining a garden den for my boys.  So although sugary shades would be out for me, I think it would still be fun and possible to create a stylish space!  I’m thinking a dark, smoky charcoal exterior for a smart, masculine look and to soften it I would add gorgeous, frondy palm trees at the door and some tubs of lavender.  Inside there would be pallet shelves for a rustic look, plenty of comfy seating and some faux fur throws for snuggling down to watch a movie.  I would treat the boys to some extras like a popcorn maker and a fab drinks dispenser for homemade lemonade they can serve themselves!

Here is my Pinterest board:

Follow Antonia’s board My Dream Garden Den on Pinterest.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what other entrants come up with!  Don’t forget the closing date is 8th September – follow all the steps above if you plan to take part and good luck!

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Summer Kitchen Hanging Herb Feature

Wickes7 v2

A few weeks ago I was challenged by Wickes to come up with an idea to create a ‘Summer Kitchen’.  As you may have gathered, I love a good home DIY project!  So this was ideal, especially as I had the perfect blank canvas to work with.

Blank wall

This area used to feature a little gallery wall, but eventually we got bored with it and fancied a change.  Not really being sure what to do instead with the space, it remained bare and empty like this for several weeks.

So I thought it would be nice to bring a bit of greenery into the kitchen and pondered over a way to display some planters containing herbs on the wall.  The options were either to use a Wickes garden trellis panel, which I think would look nice painted with some Colour @ Home emulsion, particularly in a rustic or retro kitchen.  For me though, and my preference for a more industrial look, I was tempted to use two of these Galvanised Mesh Panels from Wickes and a couple of packs of their Zinc Plated S Hooks to hang my pots with.

What a bargain too; it is less than £20 for two panels and some packets of hooks.  We positioned them side by side on the kitchen wall and fixed them securely using some galvanised brackets that we already had in the shed.  But you could use any strong hooks really to hang these panels from as they are pretty light, although if you planned to hang anything heavy from them, make sure they are well secured to the wall.


I also sourced some craft metal buckets, chalkboard labels and shopped for my herbs in the local supermarket.


The copper pails looked a bit brownish and since I already had some copper spray-paint from a previous craft project, I gave one of the little buckets a quick spray to brighten it up and teamed it with two glossy white buckets and one galvanised silver one.  The chalk labels add a nice finishing touch and are easy to write on – just remember to do this before you stick them on!  You can use either a stick of chalk or a chalkboard pen, available from stationers, which can be wiped off with a damp sponge and re-written on any time.

As well as perfect for supporting containers that hang from S hooks, the mesh panels are also great for clipping cards and photos to if you use some craft pegs.  I love contemporary postcards, so added a few in the gaps between the herbs plus some other accessories to add interest.

Kitchen wall

Kitchen wall 2

I like how the wall has become both decorative and practical and can be changed as often as we like with different herbs, plants or accessories.

Wickes wall display

It could even become a giant wall planner, with the addition of a chalkboard hanging from a rope, plus extra pegs for holding reminders, appointment cards and party invitations.  Alternatively, you could hang your mugs and kitchen utensils to keep them nicely organised.

Of course this is just one fun and inexpensive feature for a Summer Kitchen, but there are lots of other ways to improve your home with Wickes.  Right now they have some amazing offers including 50% off kitchens units this summer, making a stylish new kitchen more budget friendly than ever.  There are many designs to choose from, such as the smart and classic Heritage range for a more traditional look and the sleek and modern Sofia range which has a glossy, streamlined style.  So if you are keen to do some kitchen upgrades of your own this summer, why not head to the Wickes Kitchen showroom now and start planning!

Wickes wall feature project

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