There are things in this life that I decide without which, life will not be worth living. This is partly because I am a spoilt little (big) Madam, and partly because I am a Drama Queen. Not for me the “wouldn’t it be nice to haves…”  of this world.

No Siree, I am right there deciding that if something is wonderful I have to have it or else everyone I know will have to suffer the slings and arrows of my outrageous mis-fortune.

(These kind of ludicrous dramatics are why you love me right??)

 

 

So anyways I was losing an hour or six to wandering around Facebook when I happened across the Penna Keyboard and within an instant I was suffering from a bout of the got to have its so bad that I developed an earache.

It is a retro inspired, wireless, bluetooth keyboard for your iPad. It comes in beautiful colors, with old-fashioned chrome key caps. And better than that it makes typewriter noises when you type! For isn’t the world a lesser place now modern keyboards are so sulkily silent? Isn’t writing that much harder without the tap, tap, ding to give form to our words? And wouldn’t it be downright fabulous to have a keyboard that didn’t look so terribly modern in our scrumptiously vintage houses?

So yes. I want one and I want one NOW. Never mind that I don’t actually own an iPad.

Yes. Never mind that particular, very minor detail

 

Money. Ouch. Yep that’s all. Ouch.

I envy those people who can stretch a tenner out for a week and started saving when they were six. But it just isn’t me. I can’t quite manage frugal, because frugal seems so darn dull. But I am now a fully-fledged grown-up and there is just no getting round it: one cannot avoid making sensible financial choices all ones life. So there comes a point when frankly becoming sensible overnight, despite drama, death and all the other things that are sent to try us, is simply not something we can afford to dither about it.

And so Ste and I decided to get sensible.

It wasn’t pretty. There was much argument about what sensible looks like and it turns out we have vastly different opinions about what constitutes essential, but we are mostly on the same page when it comes to how we want our future to look and we are both committed (after a season of dilly-dallying, job loss, moving house and worry) to securing that future for ourselves and our boys.

Six months later we are in a much, much better place. Six months later we are taking money very seriously indeed (beyond the wine bill!) and though it takes more commitment and daily attention to detail than I had visualized. month on month our situation is improving.

We began by learning about money. We read and read and read. (My favorite – Kate Northrup’s Money: A Love Story and Ste’s -Tony Robbin’s Money: Master the Game). Ste took out a subscription to The Investors Chronicle and did a crash course in stocks and shares and is now having a fine old time cautiously dabbling with his pension pot, and I took a long, hard look at the potential of BrocanteHome and had terribly grown-up conversations with accountants and book-keepers and bank managers.

Because we are grown-ups. And this isn’t about managing our pocket money but about making sure we can eat when we are stoop-backed and wrinkly. Because money is energy and it shouldn’t be the thing standing between us and true contentment.

The other five things we did…

We Became Slaves to YNAB.

I know. You have heard me rave about YNAB before. And that is because it is FABULOUS. I have been using it on and off for a few years now, but never quite with the same commitment that Ste and I are now using it. We check in daily, have created a month’s spending grace (through sheer hard work!), have pots in which to save for everything from a holiday to our wedding, update the app’s on our phone whenever we buy anything at all, and reconcile all bank accounts each and every evening so we don’t miss a thing…

We Agreed to Share Everything (Almost).

This is I’m sure the cause of much debate at the beginning of the financial relationship of every new (middle-aged!) couple. Whether to have joint accounts or maintain our independence. In the end we decided to have a bit of both. Because we like to have our cake and eat it. A joint account was necessary to make YNAB work smoothly and to be able to track exactly what this life of ours costs, but we both saw the necessity to have our own money too. The kind that  doesn’t need to be explained, but is also available should it be needed for the greater good.

We Joined The Utility Warehouse.

I wasn’t happy about this at first. I was in fact deeply skeptical about hanging all our hats on the one hatstand, but The Utility Warehouse has simplified EVERYTHING to such a degree that I cannot help but rave about it. Not only have we saved significant money by having phone, broadband, gas and electricity on one bill, we have now added our mobile phone contracts and home insurance to the same bill and the joy of monitoring only ONE BILL is unsurpassed. Not to mention the free light-bulbs throughout the house, the cashback card, the Gourmet Society Card and much more besides.

Sometimes somethings really are so good, they are true.

We Made Big Lists

This is something Ste and I have done almost since we met: once monthly we sit down with our BIG LIST and focus on exactly what we want out of life. We add anything and everything from a new car to finding a gardener and then we close our pink book and put it away until the next month. And here’s the thing: somehow we manifest our little dreams.

This has been astonishing to both of us. But each month as we tick through the things we have created together as a couple we kind of sit and stare at each other in amazement. It is I suppose the Law of Attraction at work, but even if you don’t believe in matters of an airy-fairy nature, making a Big List helps you focus as a couple on what you both want out of this life.

And We Stopped Playing Small.

If you have experienced financial trauma of any kind you will know that thereafter there is the potential to play it safe for always thereafter. To imagine that somehow you do not deserve better. That better is scary so better the devil you know and all that jazz, right?

But Ste and I have been playing small all our lives and it was time to swap up the goldfish bowl. To believe that we could be more, do more and have more. To believe in ourselves and to stop harboring the frankly ludicrous notion that a stint in debtors jail was just around the corner if we so much as dared to dream…

So we gave each other a good talking to. We made plans. We stopped leaving money to chance and good fortune and decided to believe that we too, were finally grown-up enough to create the life we want.

*

And the upshot of all this? Today we are picking up a new, straight off the forecourt, car. A shiny, white object of loveliness that was one of the first things we wrote on our Big List when we were both chugging around in sheds on wheels.  We dreamed  it up and we made it happen.

I am so proud of us.

Fit to burst with excitement in fact. Mostly because this new car has got massaging seats and frankly I may just  spend the rest of my days just driving around the vicinity for the sheer pleasure of it…

 

All of a sudden I’m a social elephant. Known for laughing too loudly and falling asleep on the sofa when the taxi takes an age to arrive and I am up way past my usually preposterously early bedtime. Not only are we attending parties past ourselves but we are also, spurred on by the success of our last effort, in the midst of organizing another.

Oh yes. Not content with nearly sending myself to an early grave throwing the last “NOT AN ENGAGEMENT PARTY”, I am here to tell you that Ste and I have agreed to throw another. The conversation went thus:

Ste: Lets have a do for my birthday.

Me: Maybe a barbecue? 

Ste: A BARBERDOO!

Rachael: Lets make it a Gin Barberdoo!

And so it was that the Gin Barberdoo was born and I went into an organisational flurry and it was declared that each participating couple would attend carrying a different bottle of gin and we would have a little tasting session and thus find ourselves throwing our very own Gin Festival in our own back garden!

I swear too much fun is going to kill me. And frankly I don’t know what I did to deserve such a busy social life.

But anyways, I decided that if I was going to do it I was going to it properly and so I opened up a board in my very own copy of Trello for Housekeepers and set about planning with aplomb.

First up the invitations. While word of mouth is my usual modus operandi, this time I worked in conjunction with Paperless Post to fashion the perfect Gin Barberdoo email invitation, to be issued in a timely fashion to all those we are inviting. A rather darling way of issuing invitations because one does not have to remember to buy stamps and troll to the post office nor engage in long phone conversations merely to invite your favorite peoples. (I’m social, but honestly? I’m just not that social.) Win win right?

Oh so much more than that actually. For not only can you customize card designs from everybody from Oscar De La Renta to Kate Spade, you can also add pretty backdrops, choose your envelope and line and address your card to your chosen recipient. And so I played with all manner of designs, for in among all the many cards for everything from garden partys to weddings, to baby showers and birthdays there was quite a collection for those of us throwing barbeques!

But I am Alison and I am nothing if not floral and so it was that I settled on a happy, summery, floral design and customized it to feature the words Gin Barberdoo and lo and behold I was issuing invitations for our very own gin festival!

Next up, came the gin. For here’s the thing: we cannot have the world and his wife turning up with the same bottle of Bombay Sapphire when there is a world of beautiful gins to be tasted: and so a kind of gin themed Secret Santa was organised and our invitees chose a number and got a corresponding gin match and thus we can be sure that there will be a range of gins to taste alongside the fabulous collection of mixers I am currently in hot pursuit of (Aromatic Fevertree y’all?)…

All this and the food. For people who plan on tasting a multitude of gins need something hefty with which to line their stomachs and while most barbecues are a feast of burgers and sausages, this is a Barberdoo and thus things have to be done a little differently and so grilled mackerel, chill king prawns, panzanella and grilled halloumi  it is…

Now if only I could invite you all…

This post was brought to you in co-operation with Paperless Post.

 

Eeeekkkk! Seriously, I could crush a grape, I’m that excited to be able to announce the launch of my lovely (if I do say so myself!) Trello for Housekeeper’s System.

You see I want you to get the muddle that is keeping house out of your head and in to the devices I know you are using daily: your blessed, beloved mobile phone, your iPad and your laptop. I want you to be able to switch on whichever is closest to hand and know in a heartbeat what you should be cooking for dinner, what ingredients you need to buy, whether it’s non-uniform day at your little one’s school tomorrow, which yoga routine helps you sleep the drowsiest, loveliest sleep, and which housekeeping routine you have allocated to any given day of the week.

There is nothing quite like this on the internet!

I want you to be able to switch meal plans at the hint of an invitation to eat out instead, to know exactly when the kids are breaking up for the Summer holidays (and how the heckity pie you are going to entertain them!), to have portable reminders to practice extreme self-care with you at all times, to know who bought what for Christmas so you never find yourself re-gifting that little something right back to the original recipient (the shame), to carry all the Brocante downloads you own in your pocket and to know your account number for your insurance policy the very second that you need it.

All In One App!

Not fifty-three apps for this, that and the other, but one beautifully designed app to slay them all!

With Trello for Housekeepers you run your entire domestic life from inside one easy to use app and you will be utterly blown away by its potential to organize every, last aspect of your daily routines, rituals and celebrations…

Want to learn more?

Then allow me to show your around. (But do forgive the Liverpool accent and the rather abrupt ending to this video won’t you? Technology and I are yet to become the best of buddies…)

What happens when I sign up?

Good question! When you sign up you will find yourself in my lovely School of Life and immediately after purchase you will be taken straight over to your very own School of Life Library, where you will discover access to the Trello for Housekeepers System.

The system starts with an introduction to Trello itself so you can get to grips with using this easy-peasy app. Then you will find the first four “boards” including “Housekeepers Central” – a routines and rituals board (including description of MY routines and rituals that YOU can use for inspiration), then the Meal Planning Board, so you can plan a months worth of evening meals, a Recipe Board to be used in conjunction with the Meal Planning Board, and finally a Shopping List Board with lists for every type of shopping from the Farmers Market, to the chemist, the shoe shop, the book shop and every shop inbetween.

Thereafter you will get automatic access to one new board each and every week until the system is complete. I have structured it this way so that you have time to adapt to the app itself, work out your own routines and rituals and then slowly but surely work through organizing each and every aspect of your domestic life without getting overwhelmed…

The best part?

Trello for Housekeepers is GORGEOUS. I have worked hard to make it as pretty as possible because if you are anything like me, the pretty MATTERS and I am so very shallow that I am much more likely to commit to an app if it is both aesthetically pleasing AND reflects my lifestyle. And Trello for Housekeepers really does reflect every aspect of my lifestyle: from the puttery treats I love, to the Miracle Morning Routine I adore, and while you are welcome to use my lists as inspiration, the very best part of my system is that it is completely customizeable for your own way of life…

Ready to get organised?

Click here to buy Trello for Housekeepers today, then prepare a little tray of nibbles, sit down with your iPad, laptop and phone and get busy changing your life! 

P.S: Don’t forget that if you are a member of the Salon, Trello for Housekeepers is completely FREE and if you are a member of the Living Room, you are entitled to an instant 25% off the full price with your discount code!x 

 

There are somethings I just cannot help but want to share with you when I happen upon them and today that little something is a free downloadable print from Design by Claire celebrating the now ubiquitous feeling that is Hygge.

Available in  five colour ways, (You could change your framed print according to the season!) I do believe you should warm up your printer right now and remember to leave a little note of gratitude on Claire’s blog thereafter…

Off you go.

This is why a life less ordinary matters isn’t it?

 

So you know how I am always spectacularly late to the loveliest of parties because I live in a bubble and very rarely pop my head out? Well yes: I am still that way. Still oblivious to the wonderful until it comes along and joy slaps me around the chops.

So it was with Bella Grace. Oh my goodness Bella Grace: a magazine that I do believe only my very own soul could have devised. Only it seems there is a world full of sister souls out there I have been very terrible at instructing the universe to introduce me too…

 

bella grace 2

Bella Grace is a special, 160-page publication devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary. It’s not just a magazine, it’s a movement. For anyone who is tired of trying to fit ill-considered standards of what beauty is supposed to look like or reaching for unattainable ideals – Bella Grace gives you permission to just go ahead and toss them. Embrace imperfection. Celebrate your messy life. Shine a spotlight on small, everyday moments – they are special, and they are yours. If you are looking for the most creative, inspirational women’s magazine available today, we hope you will join us in celebrating life’s beautiful journey.

Bella Grace comes from Stampington & Company and like all magazines from their gorgeous stable, it is not only a feast for the eyes but is also filled with authentic, creative words that really do speak to those of us with messy hearts.

 

 

I want to write for them. Heck I want to move in with them. To live inside the pages of a magazine that says it just mighty fine and doodle dandy to be yourself. To seek joy in teeny tiny graces. To live a Brocante life: a life less ordinary. A raw, true life that acknowledges the little stuff that honestly matters.

And so this weekend I am going to download the first issue to my Kindle and as I set off to Oxford for the weekend so that we can as a family set about creating our new business and enjoy each others much missed company, I will accompany these pleasures with words that remind me who I am and more… why I am.

I will be back on Monday and I wish you the loveliest of weekends in the meantime.x

Network marketing is a conundrum isn’t it? A cloak and dagger business renowned for selling overpriced nonsense to excitable housewives while not really being about said products at all, but ultimately about selling a lifestyle based on persuading others to sell a lifestyle to their own others. And on and on it goes…

There now. I have summed it up for all of us. And in that one paragraph lies the very reason why I stopped working with Doterra, despite the fact that I truly believe that they create some of the finest essential oils on the market.

For starters. I just couldn’t cope with the very first rule of marketing those oils: that here on the internets we do not talk about Doterra. We do not link to them in blog posts praising their rather incredible peppermint oil. Or say that their lavender oil is quite the purest we have ever experienced. We can’t say that.

We have to say pssssstttt…come here. I know this great lavender oil but you have got to give me your email address so that I can tell you what it is and why it is so great and you mustn’t tell anyone else unless you tell them in secret too or else the FDA will come out all guns blazing and close the entire company down and in fact only those who are already making megabucks with Doterra will be permitted to talk about it because the rest of us cannot be trusted not to make spurious claims. Email address please??

Oooh I feel better getting that off my chest. For yes though I must confess to being uncomfortable with a company the FDA are apparently “uncomfortable” about, I truly LOVE Doterra regardless. In fact I cannot imagine never using their On Guard products again simply because during an entire Winter usually hounded by coughs and colds, not one person in my family has had to endure anything more than the merest of sniffles, so enveloped are we in a kind of fierce aromatic bubble.

I love Doterra but I cannot be a part of marketing their products because I cannot authentically market them to you without looking like I am trying to deal drugs, or persuade you to give up your career in favor of joining my cult. I want to be able to say this lavender oil is the best on the market, here’s the link, please buy it if you think it will serve you and I am happy to tell you more about these products I truly believe in if you are interested.

I want to be able to accompany posts about Doterra with images of their products, but that is not permitted. Here on Brocantehome I could not post an image of anything Doterra related. Can’t even pop up a snap of a Doterra product in my own home. And it makes me uncomfortable.

You see that is ALL I wanted to do when I first joined Doterra. Have a range of products that supported the lifestyle I describe here at BrocanteHome. Products that would both provide a small income towards my efforts to keep the site online and ultimately products I could authentically recommend without feeling like a sleazy saleswoman trying to get you to part with all your worldy goods. While the promises made within the network marketing industry as a whole might be inviting, achieving high sales all to often requires the selling of your soul to persuade others to play by the same rules, and that is fine until you happen across rules you do not believe in and cannot authentically sell on.

I have never been about relentless sales here on BrocanteHome. I  want you to understand that I only recommend those things that have truly made a difference in my life. The things I really love and use everyday. I want to show you those things, and not have to insist that you buy that information with an email address.

This then is ultimately about trust. When I say I LOVE something I want you to trust me enough to know that I really do LOVE it. I want my recommendations to feel like an ordinary part of the conversation here on the site and I want those recommendations to feel like those made by your best friend, so you can take them or leave them safe in the knowledge that I recommend them from the place of authority that is having personal experience of those products without trying to force them down your throat. Because a best friend wouldn’t do that and she definitely wouldn’t declare Frankincense oil to be a cure for breast cancer or a million other ills – which is above all else what Doterra fear most: their representatives making ludicrous claims about their products online.

But here in lies the rub. Those of us online may not be making such grandiose and frankly occasionally preposterous claims about the powers of essential oils, but offline in the course of emails and Skype conversations those very same claims Doterra so fear and the FDA are looking to eliminate exist and are frequently repeated among the chattering marketing classes. The tumor in the jar drawn out from the breast by the power of Frankincense alone may be the stuff that urban legends are made of but it is a claim I have heard more than once and one I want no part of.

Doterra understandably cannot legislate against conversation so they have brought down the heavy guns on small bloggers (though not upon those who are the Diamond Leaders in the industry with blogs of their own): making it possible to make whatever claims one wants once an email address has been acquired, or indeed to make similar claims on social networks because media like that is transient and apparently without influence, but not possible to market those same products on anything with the permanence of a blog post. For me that makes working with Doterra impossible because I do not want to have to manipulate my readers but would rather now say, by all means buy Doterra products because they truly are worth the investment, but I can no longer ask you to buy them here because marketing like this simply doesn’t sit well with me. Doterra wellness advocates are all over Pinterest and I know you will be able to find an alternative advocate.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I wanted you to understand why I have stopped marketing Doterra here on BrocanteHome and indeed why I am choosing instead to work with Modere to support BrocanteHome financially.

Like Doterra, Modere is a network marketing company. But it is one with a crucial difference: there is no obligation to become a “wholesale” member. I will never ask you to commit to spending upwards of £100.00 a month to be able to recommend those products to anyone else and you can spend as little or as much as you like and I will not pop up reminding you to place an order on a monthly basis!

I have chosen Modere because their Laundry powder is the best I have ever used and as we integrate more of the Modere range in to our daily lives and experience the benefits of #LiveClean in every aspect of our homemaking and well- being I become more certain that this is the company I am happy to hang my Brocante hat on because I know for sure that I am recommending products that really are beneficial to the Brocante way of life.

Finally I want to say thank-you to all those of you who were part of my Doterra journey and of course to those of you already enjoying the benefits of Living Clean with Modere. Without your loyalty and trust in me and the products I recommend here, Brocantehome would not be financially viable and I am so grateful to your ongoing trust in me personally. It is an uncomfortable truth that blogs are businesses and that as the years go by they are becoming harder and harder to monetise sufficiently. Thus offering Modere products to you my lovely readers is both part of committing to this lovely lifestyle I have created and ensuring the future of a blog I know we all adore.

Tomorrow I will explain in more detail about why I believe so very strongly in Modere and it’s business model and I hope you will join me again then.

Have a lovely day Housekeepers.x