Blooming gorgeous home office feat. Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes range

There’s an unforeseen perk to working from home; I get to enjoy my Mother’s Day flowers that little bit more, with Easter just around the corner I’m feeling so springlike!  I recently discovered Urban Jungle Bloggers so I am linking in this post; greenery is a huge mood booster so I’m loving their community!

I’m really pleased with the office space and it’s working really well for me.

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In my last post I promised to look at the colour scheme in a little more detail drawing on the new Graham & Brown Dreamscapes range; in soft pastel shades with motivational quotes about dreaming big these compliment a working space perfectly and add a fun and creative touch too!

Graham & Brown’s Dreamscapes Range

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From Graham & Brown website

Graham & Brown kindly sent me their Air Balloon Cushion and Dreams as Big as the Ocean canvas to accessorise my office space.

I am delighted with the quality, a gorgeous big squashy cushion in lovely muted pastels with complimentary shaded piping (a sign of a quality cushion I think!) that really sets off the scheme and is super comfortable, and the equally impressive canvas which is great value at £20 as it’s enormous and really draws the space together!  The canvases really are brilliant for filling a blank wall space with fun quotes and a dash of colour too, I love the moody blue tones, they draw together my overall colour scheme really nicely.

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Graham & Brown’s affordable art isn’t a newcomer to our home, the LOVE letters in the floral pics have been with us for a couple of years now, they were a gift on the arrival of our little girl, so I know their products are built to last at a brilliant price!

If you’re looking to add a splash of colour to your home you might also like to check out Graham & Brown’s wallpaper ranges too, I’ve got my eye on their children’s range for when we redecorate little Miss’ room later this year!

Disclaimer: I was sent these products for review purposes, all views are my own

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

After five years in my current job I am moving on to pastures new, starting a new full time job working from home. This has its benefits in terms of my personal preference for homeworking, but also enables my lovely husband to drop some of his hours to have more daddy-daughter time which I’ve blogged about before, this is an important change for all of us, and a busy time too!

I haven’t worked from home in the time since I became a parent, and space is at even more of a premium for my family, so I saw some challenges in creating a home office space that I think I have managed to meet happily.

Last time I worked from home my office was set up in our living room, but this is no longer practicable with a toddler around and all of the trappings of life with a small person, so this post is all about setting up a home office space that integrates with living in a small family home and uses smart solutions and technology for making the transition into home working.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

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I’ll precede all of this by saying that we live in a small flat, well, it’s actually a large flat in some aspects, the rooms are light bright and spacious but storage space is lacking, and space for a desk even harder to accommodate!

Home office in a bedroom: planning

I decided to set up my home office from our master bedroom in the absence of a spare room. Creating a home office in your bedroom is actually pretty practical if you’re clever about your use of the space.  I have opted for a bureau setup with the IKEA Secretary desk from their PS 2014 range, complemented by office furniture and peripherals that make the space really work for me.

Opting for a laptop bureau means that I can pop my devices and paperwork inside the main body of the desk at the end of each day so that we reclaim the space as our bedroom and I can literally call time on the working day. The space up top acts as a handy store for all my stationery and keeps important papers and notebooks out of the way of my inquisitive toddler!

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I thought about whether to make the space distinct or keep the colour scheme in line with our existing bedroom palette, I opted for the latter because it’s a calm room and I didn’t want bright and vibrant office ware to detract from the relaxed feel of the space.  Hannah from Mumsdays has wrestled with such issues recently, and I love the palette she is looking at too, but her post really inspired me to look at what we already have and how we can complement this!

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: colour

So… I have gone for a soft, complementary and feminine palette to denote a separate work space that ties in nicely with the overall feel of the room, my chest of drawers gives you a feel for the style of the room.

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Speaking to Graham and Brown about some ideas for the space I decided to build on the soft sage theme in our bedroom drawing in colours from their Dreamscape range which I have also drawn out in the stationery and furniture too. You can see from my home office pinterest board that this draws on peach, cream, soft muted blues and corals.  More on this in another post looking at the Dreamscape range with a review to follow.

Follow Thereandbackagainamotherstale’s board Home Office Edit on Pinterest.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: making the space work hard

I sought advice from Logitech about smart wireless solutions for homeworking and I have found their K400 wireless keyboard and mouse to be really effective in making the transition to homeworking in a way that works for me, they’re sleek and really easy to get to grips with, I’m not very techie but I got these two beauties up and running in minutes!  I can now work from anywhere in the house, so on days when I am home alone and everyone is out I can be in the living room with a wireless setup that I can also take out on the go when I am on site visits too.  This fits really well with blogging life too – with a wireless range of up to 10 meters, I can even browse the web and blog all from the comfort of my sofa!  I thoroughly recommend exploring wireless options as you can make your whole home work for you!

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As a National Stationery Week blogger you will know stationery is a priority of mine! I’ve selected complementary colours from Dutch store Hema, Smiggle and Marks and Spencer drawing on the colour scheme with fun and practical notebooks, pens and office equipment – I know this stuff doesn’t set everyone’s world on fire but I’ve always loved to work with a bit of creativity and this helps me draw a bit of colour into my working day!

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Having some photos helps personalise the space and I wanted to treat myself to a little something special too, when I heard I got the job I treated myself to some accessories from my favourite homeware store, Anthropologie, I adore this coaster and mug, as well as the sweet little plant pot!

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: Practical planning tools

And finally, in terms of literally working from home and doing the do, I selected a bright vibrant magnetic glass noticeboard in Retro Yellow, (no secret that it’s my favourite colour!) from Boards Direct – this lets me make a quick note whilst I’m on the phone, have a visual to do list to hand and handily stores notes and business cards too with super strong magnets.  I love the write on wipe off nature of this, and with a choice of up to 21 beautiful colours and 7 sizes there’s something to suit every office space and budget, with boards starting at less than £25.  This 45cm x 45cm board is ready to be fixed up on the wall later this week, priced at just over £40 it’s a bright statement and functional piece that offers great value and quality.

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What about you? Do you work from home? What tips do you have for making your workspace work hard for you?

Disclaimer: I received goodies from Logitech and Boards Direct, all views are my own, all other brands referenced are of my personal preference and I bought these products or already owned them!
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I passed my MSc!

A brief one for me today because I’m celebrating tonight! I heard I passed my Masters today so I can now use the letters MSc after my name if I am so inclined!

I have however been keeping busy so I have a guest post with the lovely Gina from Cold Tea and Smelly Nappies today, she has started a great thrifty blogger interview series and I was delighted to be the guinea pig (ahem, first blogger) to take part! Her weekly Thrifty Thursday linky is a must for ideas and support from other thrifters!

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Research Skills for Bloggers

As you know in my work and studying a big part of what I do is social research. I find the relationship between research and blogging to be a close one; research helps my blogging and blogging helps my research. I find new topics, organise my thinking and plan using my research skills, and in my work I find blogging forces me to give my personal opinion, to work fast and be reactive to key issues that might increase my influence in the blogosphere.

Research skills relevant to blogging are about:

  • Systematising
  • Defining a question
  • Analysing data (anything can be data, we’re not just talking statistics here)
  • Unpacking complex issues
  • Observing and
  • Arriving at conclusions and understanding their limitations

Five research tips for bloggers

  • Make media alerts work for you

This is something I’ve always done for work but didn’t think about doing for my blog until recently. So my blog focus is a) parenting, but more specifically parental mental health, eco-parenting and child development. Once you can narrow the focus of your interest in this way and understand keywords in these areas you can bring new blog post ideas directly to your inbox by harnessing the power of alerts. I use google alerts but there are lots of tools out there. I have alerts set up for mothering and mental health and working parents. This week these alerts brought a story from the media directly to me, the headline that ‘Working Mother’s no longer Feel Guilty’ so within an hour I had a ‘hot topic’ at my fingertips and could blog in time to join in with the discussions across social media. Alerts help me to be reactive and drive interesting content relevant to my readership. If you’re interested in policy and commenting on institutional approaches to your blog interests you could set up alerts from relevant government departments. I like to get Department of Health alerts in the area of mental health for example. Getting the keywords right can involve a bit of trial and error but once you get it right you have live issues arriving straight to your inbox saving you research time and maximizing the effectiveness of your reading time.

  • Ask questions of data and stories

Ever see a media headline and just run with it? I am really interested in media literacy, asking the right questions of what we’re told rather than accept the journalist’s interpretation. This was highlighted really nicely this week.

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My quick view of this graph told me that gun crimes fell following the introduction of the ‘stand your ground’ law. But take a closer look, the Y axis has been flipped so what looked like a sharp fall actually represents a sharp rise.

Don’t forget to ask:

  1. Who created the message?
  2. What opinions or biases might they have?
  3. Why this headline? What is it trying to achieve?
  4. Might others understand this differently than me?
  5. Is there anything that is omitted from the article? Could I do some more reading around this to see what’s missing?
    • Find new sources in untapped areas

So you usually read fellow bloggers, mainstream news and online magazines. What are you missing? How about reading new sources to find ideas for new material, what about an online journal in your area of interest? It might be quite academic or heavy but have a message you could write in a way your readers might like. I am really interested in motherhood and there’s a great free academic resource called Mamsie an online journal with a lot to say about my area of interest, an untapped resource that I now love to browse for new ideas.

    • Define your question

This is all about critical thinking, so you want to write an engaging blog piece, how can you unpack your topic for your reader? Do you need to define the issue for them? Maybe you need to explain the history of the issue, what is the main idea you want to bring across? Are you wanting to open up a debate, start a conversation or convince someone of your argument? Do you have enough evidence to back up your argument, or a new idea that hasn’t been talked about yet? If you’re writing a piece you think you’re going to want to promote then defining your research question can be a useful starting point.

    • Draft and restructure

Though scientific in its approach I actually see research as a craft, refining and redefining, drafting and restructuring to help the flow of an argument I see a lot of potential for creativity. Mindmapping is my favoured way of looking at an issue, of drafting and then restructuring my points. This mindmap came out of my prep for my recent post on working parents, it didn’t take long but cut my drafting time as I knew what I was going to say before I started blogging:
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What about you, do you apply non-traditional blogging skills to your blogs?

Studying three years on

I was sorting through some uni paperwork when I came across my OU application and realised I’ve been studying part time for three years now. In a sense it’s gone over in a flash, but in that time I got engaged, married, became pregnant and now have an 18 month old. It’s very different studying and living the life of a ‘grown up’. In the Library this week I overheard chatter from two students, they were committing to going back home to have a nap before a big night out, and I was planning dinner, an activity for Joss before bed, what I needed to buy for next days dinner, whether I needed to get a nappy wash on…

I remembered my uni days, I took my studies very seriously. maybe even more than I do now, and back then I was grateful the library was open 24/7, if anything my approach is more relaxed this time around, and yet I have less time but am more productive – an effect of motherhood, or just less time to procrastinate?!

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I’m in the last four months of my course now, and starting to think about two things, 1) what I’ll do with my free time when no longer studying, and 2) what I’ll spend my money on without £150 in course fees going out each month! My work life is entering into a new and exciting period, I have been accepted on a placement learning the craft of research and campaigning, my dream job and I cannot believe my luck, nine months to continue learning, so I suppose I won’t have to face leaving a structured learning environment for a while yet! I’m not sure that I’m ready to leave academic pursuits behind, but I am certainly ready to pick up some lighter reading, and have a shorter to-do list for a while!

Top tips for study from home parents!

It was with great trepidation that I stepped back into a University Library yesterday. I’d made the mistake of forgetting it was the end of September and so had to join a long line of fresher’s for a library card ten years after I was a fresher myself, didn’t I feel old amongst all these bright young things!

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I’ve now been working towards my Social Research Masters for three years, I’ve studied on honeymoon, I sat an exam on my due date, another with a five week old Jossy and am now writing my dissertation with a toddler in tow. This is the last presentation of my course and so I have to finish this year, with no opportunity for extension, so I am feeling the pressure a little, but I do think that it’s the time to finish as I would love to broaden my horizons on the work front.

I really feel in the swing of working life and studying from home, so I thought this is a good time to write my five top tips for study at home parents!

1) Be smart about finding time for your studies

I have learned not to pin all my hopes on nap times, as Joss is quite unpredictable and might have an hour today but only twenty minutes tomorrow. What I do now is try to do any university admin, emails, filing and organising interviews during nap time as these are easy to pick up and put down tasks. If I have to read I keep my aim conservative, even if I manage four pages that’s a start. Anything that needs a lot of concentration, extended reading, writing, real hard thinking and theorising, coding my data, I wait with those tasks til I know I will get a good run at them. At the moment this is two nights a week, where I try to do my housework essentials whilst Joss plays and helps me during the day, protecting those nights for work. I arrived at this routine after some guilt and soul searching, I had been trying to do too much and then if Joss woke from a nap I’d feel exasperated and panic I’d never get everything done, the perfectionist in me was trying to have it all, family, study and work and a neat and tidy home, and feeling like I just needed her to have had another ten minutes made me feel crap, now that I structure my day differently I love that time when I hear her chattering as she wakes up refreshed!

2) Find yourself a study space and keep it out of reach!

My study space travels around with me, it’s a box file with my course guide, two key texts, an A4 notebook and a research diary, with pens and post-its. It comes to work, the library, it sits next to the PC at home whilst I work and it sometimes travels further afield to. I always put everything back in the box and put the box up on a high shelf when I’m finished, as I learned to my detriment that anything that Mammy looks interested in is fair game for a toddler (yes, the baby did quite literally eat my homework…)

3) Remove any distractions if you can

There’s a time and a place for procrastinating, and I found that if I wanted to go to bed feeling a sense of achievement I had to close Facebook, stop checking emails and ignore the telephone during protected study time. I quite liked this little meme that a friend on my Facebook study group sent around!study

 

 

 

4) If you’re studying long distance or with the Open University seek out your local University Library

The SCONUL Access scheme may well apply to you, it allows University students to borrow or use books at other libraries which are part of the scheme. I can now pop into town and use the library for an hour even out of office hours with my access card as my library building is open 24/7, I can get out four books at a time and have a quite space for reading when Joss has some fun time with her Daddy. Having a space that’s not used by the family allows me to concentrate better and having the books to hand makes the whole thing more efficient!

5) When the going gets tough…

Ask for help, talk to your tutor and most importantly of all, remember why you’re doing it. When I started I wanted a better career, now my focus is to create a better life for Joss and my family, I am keen for her to develop self-discipline and a good work ethic, an interest in the world around her and I want to lead by example.

Be proud of yourself for undertaking a challenging task, treat yourself when you hit some of your milestones, and plan in breaks, good luck fellow students!

Studying and reading whilst parenting

Studying and reading whilst parenting

I am reading about new parent’s perception of time at the moment and am probably going to be doing some research around this area. I’m finding studying, working and trying to juggle family life and run a home rather interesting! The way I work is to immerse myself in my topic, I talk to people about it, read about it, dream about it, and now it seems I have so much other stuff in my head, the nappy washes, what’s for dinners and when’s the childminder always, that I also write post it notes about it….all around the house….

So I’m sort of finding that yes, time does fly now I’m a parent, but it could just be that I’ve stuffed my brain to the rafters as any student would. I don’t feel very studenty, I feel like a fraud carrying a student discount card and sort of wish I could use it in useful places, like less Topshop more Mothercare and the likes! Ironically I probably achieve more in less time than I did procrastinating through my first degree!

Any tips for managing not to have anything vital fall out of my head would be gratefully appreciated! Help, I’m a student, send post-its!

I don’t know how she does it…

I love a good book, because I’m reading quite theoretical texts day in day out for my Masters degree I love to pick up something totally light-hearted.  I love Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It – no wonder it was made into a blockbuster film, it’s totally topical for the generation of the juggling mother and Pearson writes with great wit and verve.  For me this is no ‘chick lit’ novel, although the cover betrays this, her protagonist Kate Reddy is brought to life by an author with a brilliant eye for detail, a heroine for the ‘can’t have it all…. can I?’ mother. 

We were the first of our friends to marry, the first to have children, with only other mamas at baby groups to compare myself to they seemed to have made a really easy transition back to work, breezily they’d ask where Joss would be going, how brilliant it would be to have a hot cup of tea, adult conversation, use my brain again.  Inside I was panicking, how would we manage the busy mornings, what if I had to undertake a really big task at work on no sleep, were there alternative childcare arrangements, which would be the best for me, for Joss???

I’ve been back for 12 weeks now, I feel quite settled but am still aware that I want to have it all and I can’t so something has to give.  I’m also acutely aware that my ‘organised chaos’ whilst a tried and tested method for living life pre-children, isn’t so adequate when we have 100 things to do before we can get out the door and only ten minutes to do them in.

things to do

The emotional side of leaving my darling child is a conflicted one, I’d be lying if I said I don’t like my work days, I know a few other Mamas who feel the same but maybe others do and prefer not to say.  I am a better mother the other five days of the week because I have another self that has other responsibilities, space in her head for more than just the housework, contributes and can take some space from the minutae of raising a child.  On the other hand, leaving her is an incredible wrench, it’s knowing that she will be chatting to someone else, sharing lunch with someone else, I won’t cross her mind at all but she’s always in mine.  I pop out for lunch and see something she would be interested to see, see another child doing something that she would be amused by, but I know she’s settled and happy and will be waiting with a huge grin when I pick her up.

What I most struggle with is the pace of time and managing it.  There’s this tension between the start of the week where the hours and days stretch ahead, and the end where I return home on a Thursday, frantic to prepare a meal, get a nappy wash on so she has something for her bum for the next day, make the lunches, wash up, tidy and prepare my own clothes for the following day, into morning, getting everything ready and racing to be at the childminder on time to get to the office on time…. And then the return home, the Metro is delayed because it’s so warm that the overhead line cable has snapped (really!) and so I take a taxi and am late for Joss who is now hungry and crabby…  Kate Reddy clearly feels my pain; “If I stay in the bathroom long enough Richard will fall asleep and will not try to have sex with me. If we don’t have sex, I can skip a bath in the morning. If skip the bath, I will have time to start on the e-mails that have built up while I’ve been away… ”   

Then there’s the guilt, OK if I didn’t work we wouldn’t long have a roof over our heads but maybe I should have had a better career, a better house to take the pressure off… “Personally, I find nonworking mothers awkward company because it’s like someone standing there holding up a large polished mirror, the better to show the reflection of my guilt.” 

I was struck by this when doing some less light hearted reading.  I’m researching and writing about maternal time for my dissertation, I read a really insightful article by Heather Elliot which gave me some real food for thought.  You might like to read it here http://www.mamsie.bbk.ac.uk/back_issues/3_1/documents/Elliott_SiM_3(1)2011.pdf

She also talks about Pearson’s book (fate, no?!) and her own experience of running into a friend and telling her she’s gone back to work “Does he miss you?’ she asks lightly.  Mommy Wars.”  I find the idea of being a ‘good enough’ mother really interesting, as a self-confessed perfectionist could this ever be enough for me?  Motherhood has really forced upon me a sense of needing to let go of this, yet it forms a massive part of my identity and is something I look for in other mothers so it really interested me that Elliot found the same in her research – “I often come away from the mothers I interview wondering if they are ‘alright’, if they are coping. In thinking about my experience of reading, I also spot how vulnerable my mothering was, how easily I started to doubt myself. I am on the look-out for a similar sensitivity in the mothers I interview.”

 So I see these other mothers and think to myself, I don’t know how she does it…  But I do it, maybe not well, but I do.  I do work, study and juggle, there are some practical skills I have yet you hone.  Packing a bag the night before is something that has always evaded me, proper preparation prevents p**s poor performance apparently.  I’m not a preparer, I’m a flapper, a frantic whirligig of activity slowly moving towards the front door, shouting to my husband quick, grab this, that, and the other, and constantly reminding him we have to be about by 8:15 or the world will cave in on us and spark a chain of events resulting in…being a bit late for work.  Remembering things along the way and then, oh sh*t I’ve forgotten x,y,z.  I probably ought to keep a diary, I buy one in December every year, crisp white pages, I love this one, how could I not want to write all my appointments in this, I’ll be a new woman, January 15th comes around and I stop and never return to the damned thing!

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Call it procrastination, call it head burying in the sand, I know I’ll be the Kate Reddy that’s bashing shop bought mince pies for the school fair with a rolling pin to pass them off as my own!  Why change the habit of a lifetime, eh?