Bank Holiday DIY: Terrarium

My collection of houseplants started, as I expect most people’s do, with a humble spider plant. It survived all the way through my university years and now sits on my desk at work. Thanks to my Mum and my boyfriend’s mum, my current house is hardly short of plants – I’ve got everything from tiny succulent pots to a palm-like mini tree over a metre tall. I can’t lie and say I’m green-fingered – my boyfriend is usually the one who waters them!

Houseplants seem to be having a big moment in interiors trends. They are great for adding colour and interest to a space. Plus (here’s the scientist popping up!) some of them remove unpleasant chemicals from the air! Succulents seem to be particularly popular right now.

I’d had my eye on a terrarium for a while and a family member bought me a beautiful angular copper one for Christmas. Despite how much I love it, I’ve only just got around to filling it with plants….this was my mini bank holiday project!


I chose three cute little succulents for my terrarium. I won’t go into detail about how I created it – there’s tons of info out there on the internet (Pinterest is a good start for tutorials :-))

I would consider buying a ‘pre-prepared’ terrarium. This one was surprisingly tricky to arrange. My hand only just fits into the top opening and it took a while to get it looking tidy – the soil and gravel are easily trapped in between the plant shoots. I’m really happy with how it looks though – for now it’s on the window sill in my closet so that I can appreciate it in the mornings when I’m getting ready.



I have also added this Aloe plant to my collection – a plant with white spots in a white pot is a winner!

Let’s see if they survive….

H x


We beat The Monster!

Rewind back to the middle of April. On a cold, wintry morning, we were attempting to park in a field in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside,  delayed by a car stuck in the mud. Given the reasons for us being in said field, not an auspicious start to our day….

We were here for the Monster Race – 10K of  mud, icy water and slippery obstacles. Just for fun!13040873_10156907884060220_2688274105778798666_o

These types of obstacle/challenge events seem to have massively increased in popularity over the past couple of years. Even some of my most exercise-shy friends have completed one, even if it’s just 5k for charity. Aside from raising money, we humans seem to love a physical challenge. I guess it’s an escape from our clean and safe existences – many people’s lives are physically easy compared to what they would have been 100 years ago.

This was completely for fun. I joined a team of guys and gals from work and the team spirit was great. I used to be a complete tomboy: up and down trees and frustrating my mum with the grass and mud stains on my clothes. These days I’m much more girly. Aside from the physical aspect of the race I wondered how I’d react to the dirt!



The terrible weather that morning only made the course more difficult. The freezing cold drizzle sapped our energy (and enthusiasm) and the incredibly sticky mud forced you into an unnatural and awkward running style = lots of aching muscles the next day! I have to admit that I skipped the water obstacles on the second lap as I just couldn’t face the icy temperatures.

Despite the cold, it was a lot of fun. There were plenty of laughs and banter on the way around. There were some hilarious wipe-outs from members of our group. In the end one of the my favourite ‘obstacles’ was the waist-deep ‘Bog of Eternal Stench’ – mainly from the amusement of watching my team mates’ faces as they battled through it! I needed two showers to get clean again…


I would probably do the Monster again, although at around £50 (depending on time of booking) it’s not cheap. With any of these events, I would definitely recommend doing it as a team challenge. I’m now on the lookout for another event in the greater London area – the perfect excuse to catch up with one of my old friends.

For a flavour of the Monster race, the official video of our event is here!

H x

FOMO – First World Disease?


According to a favourite source of mine, Urban Dictionary: ‘Fear Of Missing Out:  A form of social anxiety – a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event.’

I am guilty of FOMO. It’s an intrinsically human feeling and these days, social media only serves to heighten that sense of ‘everyone else is having so much more fun than me’.

Last week I was invited to a little gathering. I like the group but they’re not my closest
friends. It was really nice to be invited but it wasn’t high priority for me as I already had a busy weekend lined up. I thought I wasn’t bothered about going.

But then I spent a ridiculous amount of time agonizing whether to go or not. Why was I so anxious about making a simple decision?

It was FOMO. They were all going to have themostamazingtime.

No one likes being left out. Deep down I think everyone has that very human desire to be liked, to be included, to be part of the group.

I remembered that the girl who was hosting probably had very similar fears. It’s quite a brave thing to do – invite a load of people round to your house and hope that some of them turn up. I realized that (as usual..) I was completely overanalysing the situation. There was no right or wrong answer.

In the end I did go along. It wasn’t the best thing ever. But we had good food, a few drinks and some fun chat. And that’s fine.

Stand back, recognise your FOMO for what it is and take control – it’s your life!

H x

DIY Ikea Kitchen – The Finished Result!

As promised, here’s some photos of our (95%) finished IKEA kitchen.

I talked a little about the trials and tribulations of the DIY process here.



The kitchen is almost a replica of one of the displays in IKEA Bristol at the time – off-white shaker-style doors (GRYTNAS), speckled black acrylic worktop and grey laminate flooring. We didn’t want the fuss (or expense) of tiling, so we chose these narrow edging strips to border the worktop.

Originally I was very keen on wooden worktops with the white cabinets. After a little research I realised that they needed regular maintenance and have to be treated very carefully to avoid burn/scuff marks. I thought this could drive my boyfriend (who is very tidy and clean, bordering on obsessive!) mad with worry. Wooden worktops just aren’t practical for us now, but I wouldn’t rule them out for a future kitchen….

The kitchen is relatively small, narrow and dark at the farthest end, so I  wanted a simple, relatively clean design and colour palette. White walls open up and freshen the space and complete the calm and bright atmosphere that we wanted from a kitchen. To stop it feeling too ‘cold’ I’ve added small pops of colour from kitchen accessories and artwork.




I love fun touches like my Edward Monkton Tea/Coffee/Sugar jars (I love Edward Monkton – I have quite a few mugs with other designs on too!). The Fixie Bike Pizza Cutter was one of my cycle-mad boyfriend’s birthday presents from his family this year.


The ‘Kitchen’ Print was from the lovely Etsy shop Ivory Mint Cards. The moment I saw it I knew it was the perfect wry reminder of the design process – particularly Ikea’s cock-up with the sink measurements! I chose it in orange to pick up the colour of my casserole dish which I sometimes have out on display.

I found this ‘Caffeine Tea’ card in the gift shop of Bristol’s Arnolifini gallery last weekend (from the For Science range) I think it’s a nice nod to our scientific background – it will probably go up next to the ‘Kitchen’ print.



In addition to the bright accents, my reclaimed wood chalkboard adds a bit of warmth to the space and breaks up the white and grey.

Minimalist purists will notice that, unfortunately, there are a number of different chrome finishes – we went with brushed chrome for the handles, tap and plug sockets, but they don’t match the shiny kettle and toaster that we already owned!


I kept the wall above the sink free from cabinets to keep the space open. In hindsight I think it would have been ideal to put all the wall cabinets on that side of the kitchen (with the hob) and have the sink on the other side with clear walls to make the most of the light from the window. However we wanted to keep close to the original layout to avoid the cost and complexity of moving services around.

We’ve crammed in as much storage as possible at the far end of the kitchen with a tall cabinet next to the built-in fridge/freezer. IKEA didn’t have the model we wanted so gave us an upgraded one for the same price (bargain!) – unfortunately the design change meant that the false front at the top of the fridge door wouldn’t open against the slanted ceiling. We got around this by using two drawer fronts instead. Not quite as good aesthetically but at least we can access our food!

The future:

  • I’m going to add some slim white shelves next to the boiler to balance out the cupboard on the other side of the sink. We are also going to build in a small wine rack in a gap under the window.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into how we completed the project – we are really pleased with the result!

H x

Hattie LOVES Sunshine

Have we moved to a different country?? I think April was a crazy month weather-wise for most people in the UK (we had hail and ice in Bristol last week) – now it seems we’re on fast-forward to summer.

A good hit of sunshine boosts my mood hugely. Waking up to a bright, cloudless sky in the morning makes me feel invincible. As a scientist I find the links between sunlight and  production of the hormone serotonin in the brain amazing, but I love the sun’s ability to give me a positive outlook on the day.


After a LONG day at work today I headed straight into our garden to catch some rays. I have a new book to read for my book club (Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve) and new sunnies (an impulsive Topshop buy last weekend). Happy days!

H x

The Saga of our IKEA DIY Kitchen

Our house needed a lot of aesthetic work when we bought it in 2014. The kitchen was a BIG project – original 20 year old cabinets and poor use of space. Outdated design aside, the entire kitchen was filthy dirty with years of chip fat grease lingering in every crevice. I couldn’t wait to rip it out!


First things first – removing an old extractor unit with 20 years’ worth of grease!

As this is our first house and we might not be here in 5 years, we wanted to keep the cost down. We were also restricted by  the room layout and the type of house, keeping future potential buyers in mind. It is a galley kitchen and we kept the oven and sink in the same place to save moving the services. We considered keeping the relatively new cooker and under counter fridge that had been left behind. We eventually decided that in-built appliances would not only help the re-sale value, but be a better use of space.

We didn’t go all out on a ‘dream’ kitchen for the reasons I’ve already mentioned.  It’s not the most radical design ever – the worktop, cupboards and laminate floor are all identical to one of the display rooms in the Bristol store! I’d read a lot on blogs about customising with more unique hardware from other stores, but in the end I was so keen to get a new kitchen that we decided to go all-in at IKEA.

I am terrible for diving head-first into projects whenever I have a spare minute. After just a few months I enthusiastically started ripping tiles off the wall. While we were prepared for the hard work of a complete DIY re-fit, I don’t think we were prepared for the amount of time it would take (7 months) or the stress of unforseen setbacks.

The main stages of the project:

  • Remove all tiles
  • Remove all cabinets
  • Move sockets and re-plumb sink to accommodate movements to washing machine and addition of dishwasher
  • Wire in underfloor electric heating
  • Plastering (An unexpected delay. The tiles had been stuck directly to the plasterboard (d’oh) and after they had been removed the wall surface was a complete mess)
  • Decorate
  • Assemble new cabinets and fit
  • Install worktop
  • Finishing details (e.g. splashbacks, light fittings)
  • Lay underfloor heating and laminate floor.

    Taking over the house with cabinet assembly


    Father to Son plumbing lessons…

Given this was spread out over such a long period of time, it was incredibly inefficient. We still needed to cook, so things were moved in and out. But the biggest and entirely unexpected delay was with the worktop.

We chose a pre-cut Acrylic worktop. As the name suggests, the dimensions are taken and the worktop is cut to size, including the holes for the hob and sink, in Germany. This means a 6 week lead time. It was a crucial stage of the project and was already holding up the installation of half the kitchen.

Unfortunately for us, when the sink section of the worktop arrived the hole had been cut in the wrong place. The kitchen designers responsible for interpreting our measurements had made an error. (They also use a ridiculous system which is very open to interpretation, but that’s another story). It wasn’t our fault so the bill was on IKEA – lucky for us, as the worktop wasn’t cheap – a third of the cost of the entire kitchen!

It’s a well-known fact that IKEA customer service is terrible and it took over a week to painstakingly explain to them what they had got wrong. The replacement took another 6 weeks to arrive. We had removed the sink on the day of the original worktop arriving, so were without water in the kitchen for the entire time. It was incredibly frustrating!


Spot the mistake with the sink cut-out….

Once that drama was over, we were able to get on installing the sink (YAY) and actually finish the rest of the kitchen.

Last thing was the floor. Originally it was tiles laid directly onto concrete and was freezing cold in winter. We removed the radiator to give us space to fit cupboards right up to the wall and plumped for electric underfloor heating, laid on a thick wodge of insulation. The kitchen is so narrow that the area of the mat is only 2m2 – it wasn’t too expensive and we’re hoping that running costs won’t be too high at the low levels we’ll be using.

We have now had our lovely new kitchen for nearly a year and we still love it.  For months I just reveled in the joy of having a working sink! I wanted to try to capture a few memories of the project so that we don’t forget how difficult it was at times. We had an electrician and plasterer in but the rest was LOTS of hard work by the two of us and my boyfriend’s dad.


Half a new kitchen!

I’ll throw in some more pictures and decorating detail in my next post. If you’re struggling with kitchen re-fit at the moment, keep at it – you’ll get there!

H x