As you may know, we bought our first house in April. After years of renting, it was such an exciting prospect to start making it into a home. Plus, y’know, it’s nice to pay your own mortgage at a lesser amount to someone else’s. I’d been dreaming of decorating my own place for so long that I thought I’d want to batter in at full pelt, with swatches and samples in every colour scheme, shade and finish. Turns out moving twice with a baby is knackering. By the time we’d unpacked, cleaned, vaguely rearranged the furniture and stocked up on essentials, we kind of ran out of steam.

Even for an old person’s room this would be ‘eh’

I had an idea of what I wanted for Lucas’s room. I wanted something that would grow with him, but was still suitable for a baby’s room. The colour scheme I had in mind was neutral, so that I could tart up it with accessories. It also had to look homely and playful, but still practical. And nothing involving wallpaper. So far, so many, many requests. Thankfully I’d spotted mountain murals during a tumble down the Pinterest abyss and they ticked all of my boxes. They range from simple and stylistic to complicated and multi-tonal. What I liked, was that it could be as intricate (or not) as you wanted.

In the end, I had so many images pinned that mine became a sort of composite of everything. Having zero experience in the field of DIY (other than glossing windows at seven months pregnant and painting my bathroom window), I recorded it at every step of the way. There were loads of ideas online and a few decent tutorials. Since it’s our first attempt I thought I’d put together a wee step-by-step guide of my own, so here it is!

Research It!

Even if you have a vague hypothetical image, keep an open mind. Have a quick shufti on Pinterest, if it’s possible to do so. Look for blogs, articles, tutorials, videos, hell even a Google image search. You might find layouts or colour schemes you hadn’t thought of, or other decorative ideas. Save ’em, pin ’em, stash ’em in a folder. This can give a good indication of what colours you’re going to use. Roughly speaking you’ll need light, mid and dark tones so make sure your colours mix together.

Samples and tester pots are handy as they can often look different once applied, and even days later. I didn’t put too much thought into where I bought my supplies: there’s a B&Q about two minutes’ drive from my house.

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that.

Have a good base to work from

The room was wallpapered when we moved in and stripping it was the biggest chore. We decided a white base was best to work from, as it’d best show up the mural and would give us a clean slate for the other walls. The previous owners had left a couple of tins of white emulsion- yass. This made our choice easier as even white emulsion is a minefield. We ended up using silk emulsion, which has a slight iridescent sheen to it. If you want something flatter, go for a matt. Silk is easier to wipe, but it can also show up imperfections, so go with whatever best suits your needs.

Choose your tools

I didn’t put a great deal of research into the paints I used. The plans I’d drawn required a light, mid and dark grey, and I went from there. My nearest DIY store was B&Q so went there for convenience, and had a browse of their testers. If you’re not sure what colours to go for, testers are great. I painted a few swatches and let them dry overnight, to see what they’d look like dry. I bought three Dulux shades: Warm PewterPolished Pebble and Urban Obsession. I ended up not using the latter as it was just too dark, but it depends on what you’re going for. For the background, I used colourcourage in Soft Grey. It dried to an almost beige-grey which complemented the other shades nicely.

We got paint pads for the white emulsion, instead of using a roller, as they gave better coverage with less splashback. I used a medium-sized one for the bulk of the mural coverage and tidied up the edges with a brush. Don’t forget a dust sheet if you don’t already have one. It’s a licence to make as much splattery mess as you want.

Make Your Mark

There were loads of murals I liked: some more complicated than others, but mostly all for larger rooms. In the end, I drew a sketch of what I wanted it to look like, mapped out what colours should go where and worked from that. The plan itself was pretty flexible. Once I knew what colours I was using I could play about with it. Even if you don’t stick with it to the letter, it’s handy to have a visual reminder. I measured the height of the wall then got bored of measuring. I’d also pinged myself in the hand with the retractable tape measure and it was hell’a nippy.

Plan in other hand, I marked the design on the wall using Frogtape. It’s easy to apply and can be moved about without losing its stickiness. Every time I stuck a bit down I’d step back and readjust to straighten up my lines. With a Scandi-inspired design you want your lines to be clean. Frogtape is great for giving you really sharp lines. Trim off any excess or overlapping tape with a cutting knife or super-sharp scissors. You don’t want any sad, flaccid, blunt lines.

Little hint: once you’ve got your tape where you want it, give it a wipe with a wet cloth or sponge and it won’t budge ’til you want it to. (This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I just bought, like, three kinds of Frogtape and it turned out pretty sweet).

Have At It

Now that it’s all been marked off, start with the biggest area (that requires the most coverage) first. That way, you can work round the fiddly edges while the middle bit is drying. I started with the mid-grey that made up most of the mountain, then got in about the shady shapes behind it. The peaks were the last thing to start and finish.

Once you’ve painted the edges, remove the tape immediately (or at the very most, after an hour or so). That way, you’ll get the sharpest lines and the paint won’t bleed.

Yes, you’ll need to keep applying the tape to get your lines straight and fill in the gaps. Don’t do this right away. Leave it for an hour or so, or you run the risk of the tape ripping off your paint. When you paint on one side of the tape, you’ll need to adjust it to fill in any blank space. It’s fiddly, but the whole design relies on straight lines, so it’s worth the extra effort.

Don’t paint a second coat while the first is still drying- this will make the paint blister and it’ll look weird. Crack a window and leave it for a day. I repeated the process the following day until the paint was smooth and even, the edges were sharp and any blotchy bits had been fixed. Voila- a mountain mural.

The room is still far from being finished- the opposite wall is a complete blank canvas, and as you can see we don’t have curtains yet. The mural gave a good basis for the room’s colour scheme though, so we have a better idea of what else to put in it. This IKEA Gonatt cotbed also comes in white, but the grey sold me on it. It has two heights and you can remove the bars on one side to make it into a bed. Perfect for the whole ‘room that grows with the baby’ thing. There are other random bits and little touches to give the room some colour, too. For a work in progress, and a first attempt at DIY, I’m pretty proud of it. If you’re attempting something similar, I hope this little guide was useful (even as a fan letter to Frogtape).

Happy new year, everyone! The collective mess of 2016 has finally drawn to a close. Never has a year carried such a weight of anticipation as 2017. I know you can’t really blame a year for being ‘bad’. The loss of celebrity idols doesn’t equate to a ‘bad’ year (although Bowie and Alan Rickman within days was a bit sore). If we’re being really pernickety, time is linear and the concept of it is a man made construct, so we can’t constrict bad times to a 12 month period.

Still it’s always nice to put a full stop on a stressful time, which is what 2016 was for me- and a lot of friends, too.

It wasn’t all bad though. One of the good things about reflecting on the past year is remembering how much good actually happened. Upon reflection there was a lot to be thankful for. Even before I started blogging again I liked to have a wee look back on the year that was- it’s something I’ve always done at this time of year. Now that I have a blog again it’s nice to have a snapshot of different times of the year. I can see how my writing has developed (if at all- you tell me). It shows me how far I’ve come in a lot of aspects of my life. In this year of big change that’s been especially welcome. As is tradition I’ve compiled a wee list of some of my favourite posts of this year: ones that are special to me, that I’m especially proud of or ones that have had memorable responses. Let me know what you think of my choices… I haven’t even been blogging again for a year so I guess I’m still learning!

FYI, clicking on the post titles will take you straight to them.

Norwegian For Beginners

This was my first post of the year, although it took me until February. I’d meant to write a travel post after our first Berlin trip in November 2015 but graduation, work and Christmas sort of got in the way. Three days in Oslo seemed like the perfect way to break myself back in to writing, and try something new with travel writing. It also meant I could show off the sweet skills of my new phone camera (alas, we can’t all afford the tools we’d like) and new found love for VSCO. Writing about something new helped to refocus me. It enlivened a love for writing that had lain dormant. I also wrote that Berlin blog after our second trip, which you can find here and here.

In hindsight

Despite being an early entrant, this was one of my favourite posts of the year. It wasn’t written with any agenda or expectation. I was completely free in writing it. It was just a nice way of documenting a spontaneous adventure, something different after a hectic 2015 and the start of (what I thought) would be a year of adventures. If there’s anything to take from this post, it’s that I should learn to just write for the enjoyment of doing it. It’s easy to write yourself into a rut but getting out of it can be tricky. It’s definitely something I’ll be taking with me in 2017.

A Protest

In all honesty I got a little complacent after graduation. The job market started to pick up after new year but- other than just apply for ’em- I wasn’t doing much to make myself a Top Candidate. I fell into a routine of applying for jobs during the day, working in a bar at night time and being thoroughly miserable for the entirety. In March, I received a shock when I was let go, over the phone, without any warning or explanation. I wrote this post after weeks of trying to explore other options (such as employment tribunals) and realising that I had none. My case met all of the criteria for a tribunal, but as I was on a zero hour contract I had no entitlement. It left me feeling at the end of my rope. I felt like no one could help me- or wanted to. I wrote this post to make people aware of the conditions that zero hour staff worked under- regardless of the establishment. After posting it, I went for a walk to prepare myself for the negative feedback. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The outpouring of support was pretty overwhelming and I even got a new job- and a reconnected friendship- out of it.

In hindsight

This whole debacle was one of the biggest hidden blessings of the year. It forced me to rethink where I wanted to go, and look at areas in which I was lacking. It made me take action. I’d gotten lazy. I started looking into volunteering opportunities, and got more involved in the online blogging community. I took my story to my local MP who was immediately on board (because she is amazing). She took my case to Westminster and used it as part of a campaign against zero hour contracts. Unfortunately the DWP still thinks they’re a great idea but there’s a long way to go. The DWP is also headed by a man who allegedly believes in gay conversion while also getting embroiled in extra-marital sexting. Workers’ rights are really close to my heart but I didn’t get as involved as I would’ve liked last year. I’m excited to see what 2017 brings.

Speaking of unexpected twists…

Little Surprises

Writing about personal issues has never been my forte. For all that I post on social media, it’s never that deep. I’m just not a very open person. Some people aren’t. I admire the openness of people who can wear their hearts on their sleeves, but that’s just not me. However the feedback from A Protest gave me a boost in confidence. I found that I could write about personal issues if I felt they could help other people. It didn’t make me feel all that vulnerable if I knew that other people might take something from it, or use it to further their own knowledge.

Our pregnancy announcement was met with an influx of congratulations but I felt like a fraud. It had taken us a long time to get to a happy place with the news. It was a shock for which we weren’t ready, or even sure that we wanted. My first reaction wasn’t excitement. It’s hard when every pregnancy announcement, blog or website talks about the joy of impending motherhood when you don’t know how you feel. The two weeks in between taking a pregnancy test and sharing our news were the loneliest and most terrifying of my life. We didn’t know how we were going to proceed and I couldn’t tell anyone until we did. I wanted to put a little contribution out there in my corner of the internet for anyone in the same position. I wrote this thinking that if at least one scared expectant mum saw it, she’d know she wasn’t alone. It was still scary to publish, but it turned out to be my most-read post thus far and the response was pretty overwhelmingly positive.

In hindsight

I could never have predicted the reaction this post received. This was only my third post of the year. I had no following. I wrote it so my friends could see it. The amount of shares, comments and messages that I received, from people who had felt the same, was unreal. It just showed that the way I felt wasn’t weird. It didn’t mean I was going to be a bad mum. It was normal. It was what spurred me to keep writing, but with the same honesty I’d put into this. To everyone who read this, or who will read it, I hope you manage to take something from it- and please know that however you feel, you’re not alone.

Baby Talk

After months of writing pregnancy updates, I’d hit a wall. Writing about pregnancy had been a great way of helping me navigate it. There had been a few missed weeks where I’d been lacking in inspiration, working back shifts and getting home late or just felt a bit deflated. I’d tried to write different kinds of posts but a creeping self-doubt had set in. Posts where I’d tried to make a serious point descended into hormone-fuelled rants. Deviations from my usual content felt forced, uninteresting, unfunny. I couldn’t think of how to get out of it, but opted to stop trying to make it happen. In that time I’d noticed a pattern in comments people were making about me, my bump and pregnancy in general. The more it went on, and the more I smiled through gritted teeth, an idea came to me. I started taking note of the more common ones, mentally noting the things I wished I could say. Stuck at home with a bout of the lurgy one day, I wrote them all down and voila- a list long enough to make a post out of. Again I almost resigned this one to draft post purgatory in case it came across as ‘woe is me, no one understands my life choices’. To combat this I scheduled the post and busied myself for when it was due to launch. When I came back to it, it had already been shared by some new and expectant mum pals as well as- the ultimate test- child free pals, too. Not too shabby.

In hindsight

I guess a common theme here is to have more confidence in posts that I think people will hate. I know, you should write for yourself and not care what people think. The fact is, as much as writing is cathartic for me, it’s also about connectivity. Getting comments from people who’ve read what I’ve written, and have their own take on it, is the biggest compliment because it means they’ve engaged with it. Even if people don’t agree with me- well, it’d be boring if everyone thought the same. Pregnancy is such a topic of contention- I’d read a few posts and they can come across as a little sanctimonious. I made an effort to not come across that way, and I think it worked. This one taught me that just because a topic has been written about, doesn’t mean mine will be the same. My voice isn’t the same as anyone else’s. If I can take anything into my 2017 blogging agenda, it should be this.

29 Things

Again there are so many “X Things Before x Years” posts out there, I never thought mine would be any different. However, approaching 30 felt like a big deal to me. One that should be marked. I’d never made a “30 things to do before I’m 30” list because, well, I didn’t really know where I was heading. All ambition and no direction has always been my downfall. The place I’m in now as a result is far removed from what I imagined. I thought about listing 30 things I should’ve done, but what would’ve been the point? Listing your regrets, and things you didn’t do, is a waste of time. It’s not going to make them happen. Instead I went a little more introspective and looked at what I’d learned instead.

In Hindsight

Writing has always been really cathartic for me, and none more so than here. Not only that but it was revealing. Thinking about what I’ve learned in the last ten years made me realise how much I’ve actually done. It made me see how far I’ve progressed- maybe I’m not where I thought, but it’s been a hell of a journey getting here. Again I used a sick day (this time muscular pain which had pretty much left me bed-bound) and typed until I had a complete list. The first few took time but once they did, they kept coming. It helped me focus on my achievements rather than my failings. It reminded me that even when I thought I’d gone the wrong way, I’d still taken something from it. Reflection is eye-opening, and it can be scary, but this taught me that it’s worth checking in every once in a while.

His Story Chapter One and Two

OK so this one is a bit of a cheat since it’s technically two posts. One is a continuation of the other though, and they tell the same story, so it’s cool right? These posts were important for a couple of reasons. First of all, superficially, they were the first posts on this, my new blog domain. It seems trivial but it was a big deal for me. Blogging has always been a sideline for me, even with my increased content this year. It was never something I’d invested in (other than time). Investing in a new domain and theme meant paying actual money, which meant I had to really believe in what I was putting out- or rather, in where I was taking it. Going self-hosted was a big step for me and I looked into a lot of options before I did. I haven’t had much chance to get the best of it but it’s still early days.

Secondly- obviously- it gave me a chance to reflect on my birthing journey and share it with whoever might be interested. I didn’t want to present a sugar coated view of labour, but didn’t want to go into the blood, sweat and tears either. I like to think that months of writing about pregnancy in that way had made it easier to write about the birthing part, too.

In Hindsight

I’m not sure I was prepared for how emotional this would be to write. After restarting my blog to document pregnancy, surely I knew all along that a birth story would be the natural end. As I said though, I’d gotten so used to pregnancy that it was hard to associate this baby with the bump I’d grown to love. The birth story was a definite full stop to a previous chapter. In the weeks that have passed, I’m glad that I have pregnancy posts to read back on. It’s nice to see everything that we got up to, and how it felt at the time. However, a very distinct new story has very definitely started. I might be a little melancholy to leave the old one behind. There was so much help along the way, check ins every few weeks, a definite end. The new one doesn’t have an ending, or much direction. That’s what makes it scary, but it’s also what makes it exciting.