My Living Room Makeover Plans

Do you have a room or area of your house that is off limits for Instagram? Without wishing to sound too Joseph Fritzl, our “hidden room” is our dining room. I call it the dining room because 8 years ago when we first moved in (and prior to doing the kitchen extension) this is where our kitchen table used to be. Once the extension was complete we moved the table to the bottom end of the kitchen, opened up the wall between the kitchen and this room and made it into a second living room. Confused?

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

This side of the room often pops up on Instagram as it features one of my favourite additions to the house: these faux crittal doors

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

The kitchen table which has been relocated to the new extension

I want to say I will artfully sketch you a floor plan in charcoal so you can see how it all fits together but unfortunately I have drawing skills that are on a par with those of a worm drunk on tequila so I am hoping that these next photos will help to make things a bit clearer!

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

The kitchen used to be accessed by a narrow door to the left of this picture. Knocking out more of the wall and shifting the entrance has allowed lots more light into the “dining room”

Opening the artist formerly known as the dining room to the kitchen has made a huge difference to our family life and we use it lots as a relaxed family living room but this space very rarely graces the grid for the following reasons:

1) It is home to a toy storage unit which regularly belches out brightly coloured plastic objects and which can only be moved with the assistance of a small crane or Hulk Hogan

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Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

Thanks to Hulk Hogan for popping round and helping me move it for the purposes of this blog. The whimsical rustic ladder was all Hulk’s idea.

2) There is a 1980s radiator stranded behind the sofa shitting on every shot with it’s Soviet Era bad looks (although it does come in incredibly handy for resting a mug of tea on). In all seriousness as well limiting my insta possibilities it’s current location means it is mainly heating the back of the sofa rather then us.

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My temporary radiator cover up solution!

My temporary radiator cover up solution!

3) The kids treat the sofa as both a trampoline and dinner table meaning it looks like the kind of two piece suite you often find in a mini cab office that has been sat on by 27,876 15 stone men called Keith eating kebabs whilst waiting for a cab.

But I have some plans for this space which may see it making more of an appearance on Instagram in 2019 which I thought I would share with you here (mainly to give myself a kick up the arse to get on with them)

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

The sofa in all of it’s banana and butter stained glory

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Hoping that my mum isn’t reading this blog as I know she will be telling me off for having my shoes on the sofa!

Step One: Re-positioning the Shits On Every Shot Radiator

This is 95% because all of the heat it emits gets lost behind the sofa and 5% because it limits my insta possibilities in it’s current position (ok maybe more like 75%/25% but still…). Kevin my quotes guy has been round to suss out alternative positions and assures me it can fairly easily be removed from this wall and a new vertical column radiator positioned on the wall leading to the kitchen instead. I haven’t mentioned this plan to Mr Malmo yet on the basis that it involves taking floorboards up and he will probably therefore receive it as warmly as an invitation to set his own pubic hair on fire. There were some murmurings from Kevin about BTUs (which I believe relates to heat output rather than the currency of Moldova) which may slightly restrict the choice of radiator I can go for but I am thinking of either a white or light grey one so that it is not too noticeable in it’s new location.

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The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

The re positioned radiator will go on the wall to the right in this picture

Step Two: Pimp My Wall Rustic Industrial Style

With the radiator shot cock block out of the way I am planning on making the wall behind the sofa more of a feature wall. Not in the Lawrence Lwellyn Bowen flocked wall paper sense obviously. It will not surprise you to learn that I have a more rustic/industrial plan up my sleeve. I currently have three of these gorgeous old Brooklyn ceiling tiles on the wall but I now want to go large and cover the whole wall with them. I know that you can now get wall paper with them printed on but I really want the texture and feel of the real deal. My inspiration comes from Baileys Home and Garden where they have done this to stunning effect. Nailing 50 of them to the wall should be simple right? If in the big room reveal it actually turns out to be a feature wall of LLB’s new satin flocked wallpaper you will know that it has turned out to be anything but.

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

Ceiling tiles on the bar at Baileys Home and Garden as captured by @kinshipcreative_dc

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

I picked up three of these beautiful Brooklyn ceiling tiles at Sunbury antiques fair a couple of years ago.

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Only need to find another 49 of them now…..

Step Three: Saying Goodbye to the Seatdrop Sofa

There is a school of thought that says that we should hang on to the minicab office sofa until the boys are of an age when they are able to eat a banana without nearby surfaces ending up looking like they have a bad case of fruit based thrush. However, I am going with a different more visually pleasing school of thought that says that if we have the corner sofa of my dreams in a smoky grey velvet they will love it so much that eschew their previous #badbananamanners. Has anyone else combined velvet soft furnishings and three boys without having to take a Valium anytime they go near it?

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

Trying to demonstrate to the boys that the sofa is for sitting pretending to read a coffee table interiors book on rather than trampolining

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Step Four: Trimming down the Toy Storage and Creating a Magazine Library

We are currently in the midst of a lengthy rearrangement and redecoration of the boys bedrooms which make building the Taj Mahal look like a quick project. Once that is complete I am hoping to relocate the current toy storage holder upstairs and replace it with something that belches plastic less frequently (ideas on a postcard please!). I would then love to add some more picture shelves to this wall to display some of my abundant collection of interiors mags because what woman doesn’t love to get her Kinfolk out for the lads? Although do you think that having more picture shelves might be too much with the wall of many rustic tiles as well?

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

This stunning shot from the home of @bloggabis is inspiration for my picture ledge extension

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

The wall to the left is where I am envisaging the additional picture shelves going

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

But do you think it will be too much with my rustic tile feature wall as well?

Modern Scandinavian kitchen diner

So there you have it my Living Room makeover plans for 2019.  Apologies for the slightly analogue presentation of them.  Learning how to create a digital mood board is one of my life goals for 2019 after I have nailed more regular (by which I mean more frequently than twice yearly) maintenance of my bikini line and the art of loading the dishwasher so that it doesn’t look like it has been done by Gazza upon returning home from a night on the lash.

 

Five ways to grow your Instagram (without also losing your mind)

My Instagram Journey So Far

I started idly dipping my toe into Instagram in late 2016.  I was on maternity leave with my third son and looking for something to help pass the time that didn’t revolve around the contents of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag. I have never really been one for Mumsnet.  I can’t get over the feeling that it is slightly wrong to be discussing baby poo with strangers online so I thought I would try out Instagram instead.  I never set out with a grand plan, goals or a strategy.  It was just me sharing pictures of my bathroom and finding, to my surprise, a community of fellow interiors fans who liked the cut of my rolltop bath and shared a love of metro tiles and blow job gags.

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

The very first instagram post of my bathroom, complete with metro tiles, copper taps and a dodgy instagram filter!

Since posting that first murky shot of my bathroom 2 years ago I have gained 80K followers, had my pictures regrammed on some of my all time favourite Instagram accounts such as Apartment Therapy, seen my home featured in My House Beautiful and 91 Magazine, collaborated with some of my favourite interiors brands and been lucky enough to go on trips to and write about some amazing places including Malmo (my spiritual Scandi home).

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

The beautiful street of Torekov in Southern Sweden, which I was lucky enough to visit this year as a guest of Visit Sweden in the UK and Malmo Town

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

Instagram has opened up many amazing opportunities for me. Including the opportunity for Malmo to go to Malmo!

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In the last 9 months I have also started, for the first time, to earn money from my Instagram and blog. Not the kind of money that enables me to make Ryan Gosling an ‘Indecent Proposal’ he would actually accept (although Ryan if I have misjudged this and you would in fact be my Demi Moore for £20 and a Grab Bag of Roast Beef Monster Munch call me).  But the kind of money that means that my dad no longer tells me to stop wanking over pictures of other people’s cushions (not literally I stress).

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

Picture from a recent collaboration with Visa to promote the local high street and independent businesses at Christmas

However, I have also discovered that whilst Instagram can build you up it can also knock you right back down again and, in the grip of algorithm angst, it can become easy to lose sight of why you started using the app in the first place.  So finding myself with five minutes free when no-one is asking me to wipe their bottom (I have told Mr Malmo he really need to start doing his own) I thought I would share with you five lessons I learnt in 2018 about how to grow your Instagram without losing your mind in the process. 

Serve up a Killer Shot

Errr duhh Malmo isn’t that the whole point of Instagram? It is but it is a basic principle I confess I have at times been guilty of forgetting!  When a post bombs it may well be because the evil algorithm has hidden you down the back of the Instagram sofa but sometime the truth is that actually you just served up a bit of a shit shot! Take this one of my bedroom for example.  At the time I thought I was unleashing #gridgoals but it struggled to get past 1K likes and then died.  But when I look back at it now I can see that I totally over did it with the filters, zoomed in too close on the bed cutting out the windows to the right and shaving off half of the bedside table.

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

Over filtered, over exposed and went down like an lead balloon!

In comparison in this shot I showed more of the whole room so you can see the bed in context and told more of a story in the image (in this case wife eats croissants in bed and sets off husband’s over sensitive crummy alarm).  I also edited the picture in a much lighter way.  Same room, different picture, different result with this picture receiving over 6k likes

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

A rustic bedroom revamp later and a much lighter, brighter photo saw this photo do much better

Filters Can Be Your Friend Afterall

In my last blog about Instagram back in 2017, I wrote that I had learnt to go easy on the filters after an early addiction to adding borders to my images that made them look like they were trapped behind #beigebars.  But what I have learnt this year is that filters and editing tools (if used less cack handedly) can turn a photo from meh to marvellous.  They also allow you to create a look and feel to your feed that people start to identify with your pictures making them stand out from the crowd. 

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

The #beigebars from my early instagram career!

I have started using third party apps like Snapseed and VSCO to edit my pictures and my goal for 2019 is to get to grips with Lightroom.  They have a much wider selection of preset filters to chose from than Instagram and allow a broader range of edits you can make to a picture.  It has been trial and error ( I still get it wrong sometimes as shown above) and you may prefer to leave you pictures au naturel. However, since making this change to the style of my pictures they have got picked up and regrammed by some huge interiors instagram accounts like My Interior, Apartment Therapy, Home Adore and Room Porn.  Those regrams have added about 1000 followers a time to my account.

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

A picture of my bathroom taken nearly two years ago

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style.  It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

The bathroom picture which scored over 70,000 likes when regrammed by Apartment Therapy in my now signature “Malmo & Moss” style. It has been regrammed over 50 times on other accounts and accounted for a fair old whack of my Instagram growth in 2018

Fuck the Numbers

I am not going to pretend that I don’t care the number of likes my posts get or the number of followers I have.  The ping of a blue notification can be intoxicating! But what I learnt the hard way this year was that if the number of likes and follows you get becomes your main motivation and validation then Instagram can fairly quickly go from thriller to killer. 2018 started out well for me, I had a couple of pretty big regrams and gained 4.5K followers overnight when the Frugality mentioned me in her stories.  But then out of the blue my account suddenly ground to a halt. For the first time I was losing more followers than I was gaining and my pictures attracted a fraction of the likes they had been getting when my account was much smaller.

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

2018 got off to a good start with this picture of my kitchen being regrammed by @interior_delux

My first thought was that I had been shadow banned but I was still showing up on hashtags and after the normal two weeks it would take for shadow ban to elapse I was still in insta purgatory!  I drove myself crazy trying to work out what I had done wrong googling “why does Instagram hate me” and reporting the problem with pleading messages along the lines of “Dear Instagram please can I come off the naughty step".

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

My pictures started receiving far fewer like than ones like this, posted in my earlier instagram days when I had far few followers

It was frustrating to watch what felt like everyone else surge past me whilst my account went into reverse.  I had got totally sucked into a “race” mentality.  But then my husband put it all into perspective for me by reminding me of ‘Wanted’.  A truly terrible action film starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy from the late noughties.  The first 30 mins or so of the film are an enjoyable enough action caper in which Jolie and McAvoy team up to defeat a mysterious bad guy. But then it is revealed that the bad guy they are battling is, in fact, a weaving loom of the type that might appear in an episode of Cranford. The weaving loom in this analogy is of course the algorithm. 

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In the absence of a degree in computer science (or even a basic understanding of Microsoft excel) it will remain a mystery to me.  So instead of worrying about  followers I didn’t have, likes I wasn’t getting or how big other accounts were growing I decided to focus instead on engaging with the followers I do have and creating content that I think they will like and which I am proud of. That is what my stay in insta jail taught me and I have been happier and enjoyed insta much more ever since.  Which brings me to my next point.

Get Authentically Social

Getting regrammed by Apartment Therapy may have been one of my highlights of 2018 but so was the night when, home alone and relaxing in my favourite #FlaccidPenisFlanelettes, I shared a picture of them and asked people to show me their favourite #PyjamasPenisesLoveToHate in return.  I received over a hundred entries into the Boner Crusher Hall of Fame with nightwear featuring everything from fleecy festive owls to erection extinguishing ice skating penguins that had me howling with laughter.

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I didn’t share my pyjamas as part of any grand Instagram engagement strategy. I shared them because Mr Malmo was out and I was sitting on the sofa eating doritos and fancied some bants.  Instagram is “social media” and I am sure you have all read advice which says that the best way to grow your account is to be social and engage with other accounts.  There are many different ways you can go about that.  You can comment “love this” or “nice room” on as many accounts as you possibly can before you get thumb fatigue.  But the rather long winded point of my flaccid penis pyjama story is that when you forget about being strategic and make your followers laugh, or share something that allows you to build real rapport with the people following you they stop being a number and instead become your tribe, your champions and, in many cases, your friends in real life! 

Step away from your Phone

“Put Phone Down Mummy”. Four words spoken to me by my toddler this Summer which, combined with my stay in insta jail, caused me to reassess my relationship with Instagram. Prior to that point I had posted religiously every day at the most “insta” appropriate time and driven Mr Malmo mad by constantly being heard to say “just give me a minute whilst I” insert one of “reply to this comment, check my DMs, post this to stories”. Instagram had become like a job and it was zapping the fun out of it for me (not to mention those around me!). I already have a job (in sustainability) that I enjoy very much and I realised that whilst Instagram has brought me some amazing opportunities I don’t want it to become my full time career. And I certainly don’t want to miss out on times with my family worrying about the algorithm or how my posts are performing.

So young and yet so wise.  Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light.  And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

So young and yet so wise. Sometimes a toddler can help you see things in a different light. And sometime they just want to wipe banana on your clothes and stay up all night.

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

Moments like these don’t happen when you are glued to your phone (although technically I was holding the phone at the time to take the photo but you get the point I am trying to make!)

So I did what my toddler suggested and put my phone down. I now take at least 1 or 2 days off a week from posting and do it at times that fit in with family life rather than being preordained by Instagram insights. My account has not fallen off a cliff. I am still being offered opportunities and my account is still growing. Maybe not as fast as others that post more frequently but that is ok with me. Whilst Instagram does seem to penalize you if you disappear for long periods, a day or two off a week doesn’t seem to have angered the insta gods too much. Indeed I think my engagement has been better since I stopped posting as frequently, maybe because it is a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder?! To quote a truly great philosopher (Ray Winstone in the Paddy Power adverts) when the fun stops stop. Whether it is for a day, a week or a month a little insta break every now and then can sometimes be what you need to get your mojo (and sanity) back.

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So there you have it, my advice, for what it is worth, on how to grow your instagram without losing your mind (or being a dick). Thank you to every one of you who follows me, banters with me and encourages me on a daily basis.

Malmo & Moss House: Bringing Scandi Back

As regular readers of the blog will know, we spent our Summer holiday this year in Denmark visiting both Copenhagen and Tisvildleje on the Danish Coast. It was a dream of a trip for a Scandophile like me.  I came home more convinced than ever before that I am in fact a Danish Girl trapped in a Geordie Girl's body (Danish girl in the sense of a female from Denmark rather than the Eddie Redmayne man wanting to be a woman film sense).  Unfortunately my actual body returned home looking less Helena Christensen and more Danny Devito owing to my excessive consumption of kanelsnegles.  Whilst I am waiting for Nationality realignment surgery to become available on the NHS I thought I would share with you some of the fresh Danish interiors inspiration for the kitchen and garden that I picked up on the trip and how I have been translating it into the Malmo & Moss house now I am home.

Let's Go Outside.....

Whilst staying in Tisvildleje we stumbled upon a cafe somebody had set up on their front garden to sell their own home brewed slow drip coffee.  The contrast with our own front garden couldn't have been greater.  There wasn't a wheelie bin or fox poo in sight.  What they had instead, which I fell more than a little bit in love with, was a garden seating area constructed out of palletts.  It was totally inexpensive but looked amazing and I loved the seating cushions they had made to fit it which were a mix of muted greys and monochrome and looked great against the backdrop of abundant lavender, mint and rosemary growing in the planters.  

I had already seen pallets used in other Scandi gardens on pinterest and loved them so when I got home I started scanning skips in search of some I could use to recreate the look.  Luckily @vintagecuratorinteriors came up trumps before I had to go full #StigOfTheSkip.  My long term plan for them is to create a coffee table on wheels but it has been a busy Summer and any time I have started the sentence "could you just pop to B&Q to get some castors" Mr Malmo has given me the kind of look that suggests I have got more chance of getting him to go on a crochet blanket making course with out 75 yr old neighbour Margery.  But for now I kind of like the way the look just stacked one on top of the other.

I have also added an extra shot of Scandi to my outdoor seating area through the purchase of some new cushions and a rug.  All in a mixture of patterns and textures but sticking to a monochrome palette.  I sourced some of the cushions from two of my favourite independent stores for Scandi homeware, Grey September Store and Jo & Co Home, but also picked up a cushion and the rug from B&Q who, in amongst the endless drill bits and polyfiller supplies actually have some really great soft furnishings at bargain prices (this is not a sponsored blog either!).  The large zig zag cushion was just £7 and the rug a mere £15. 

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Now that Autumn is upon us, I have also borrowed another trick from the Danes and introduced a shot of hygge to the garden with a gorgeous rusty firepit from Cox & Cox.  I did a lot of research before choosing this one #firepitbore.   You can easily spend hundreds of pounds but this one is just £80 and is super lightweight and easy to move around the garden.  We gave it a debut burn at our tenth wedding anniversary party in October which was themed around recreating a mini version of the Woodstock festival in our garden.  

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Unfortunately as we are only amateur urban arsonists we did not dry our hastily purchased petrol station logs before chucking them on the fire.  Therefore, instead of creating a warm blaze around which people could huddle, drink hot chocolate and chat, we instead had a smoking inferno on our hands that sent people running inside for a drink of water.  I have since discovered that you can actually buy smokeless logs from Tesco should anybody else find themselves hosting a middle class party and not have twenty four hours to dry their wood out in advance. 

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Bringing Scandi to the Kitchen Table

I follow lots of beautiful Scandinavian instagram accounts for inspiration but my all time favourite has to be that of Signe Bay, a photographer and stylist based in Copenhagen.  Her feed often features of two of my greatest Danish loves: cinnamon buns and ceramics.  Our Summer holiday featured lots of both.  I could have piled the car high with pottery but the reality of going away on holiday when you have 3 children is that you have to travel with essentially all of your possessions so slipping a small dinner service into the footwell was sadly not an option.  

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When we got home I started looking for places I could source some of the beautiful ceramics I had seen on holiday here in the UK.  My inner Signe lit up when I came across Feather & Marble,  a small independent business set up by Emily & Ollie in 2016 after they too visited Copenhagen and fell under the Danish spell.  They now stock over 1000 handpicked items from Danish brands including the beautiful tableware of Broste Copenhagen whose Salt cup and saucer is my new favourite mug and believe me I don't bandy that title around lightly.   It takes quite a cup to come along and turn my tea drinking head.

Taking a tea break with my new favourite mug. Gorgeous calligraphy label made for me by the very talented Kate of  Oysterbridge & Co

Taking a tea break with my new favourite mug. Gorgeous calligraphy label made for me by the very talented Kate of Oysterbridge & Co

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This beautiful bluey bowl from  Feather & Marble  reminded me of the sea in Tisvileje

This beautiful bluey bowl from Feather & Marble reminded me of the sea in Tisvileje

Having secured ceramics fit for a flat lay, I started researching cinnamon bun recipes so I had something #suitablysigne to serve up on my Danish table.  I am not, by nature, a patient baker.  If a recipe features more than 5 steps I tend to turn over.  This BBC Good Food recipe for "simple cinnamon rolls" has, therefore, proved perfect for me.   If I had to sum it up in 4 simple steps it would be mix dry and wet ingredients together to make a dough, roll out into a rectangle, smear huge ammounts of melted brown sugar, butter and cinnamon on said rectangle, roll up and cut into segments like a swiss roll, cook for 30 mins then cram into your mouth fresh from the oven.  The slightly more detailed version is set out below should you be the kind of person who likes to know actual quantiies of ingredients, cooking times and the like.

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I made them on the morning of the Occasional Home Store Autumn Fair for our stallholders and they got hoovered up very quickly.  I have had a few mishaps along the way witht them though.  For example, if you add more cinnamon to the dough than the recipe dictates because you don't think they will be cinnamony enough all you will achieve is giving your buns an off brown appearance that is reminiscent of a pair of corduroy trosuers  your dad might wear in.  Leaving them in too long/cooking them at too high a temperature has also caused me problems as then the sugar filling bubbles out and goes black leaving you with buns that look more like lumps of coal than kanalsnegle.  But other than those two small glitsches I would say they are pretty much fool proof and I would love to know how you get on with making them.

Simple Cinnamon Bun served on beautiful Broste side plates from  Feather & Marble

Simple Cinnamon Bun served on beautiful Broste side plates from Feather & Marble

Simple Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients

  • Rolls:

  • 350g/12oz self raising flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • 2tbsp caster sugar

  • 1tsp ground cinnamon

  • 100g/3.5oz butter, melted and extra for greasing

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 200ml/7 fl oz milk, extra for glazing

  • Filling:

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 55g/2oz brown sugar

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar

  • 1 tbsp butter, melted

  • Icing:

  • 125g/4.5 oz icing sugar, sifted

  • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened

  • 1 tbsp butter, softened

  • about 2 tbsp boiling water

  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Grease a 20-cm/8-inch round tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.

  2. Mix the flour, salt, caster sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Whisk the butter, egg yolks and milk together and combine the dry ingredients to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a large piece of waxed paper, lightly sprinkled with flour, and roll out to a rectangle 30 x 25cm/12 x 10 inches.

  3. To make the filling mix the ingredients together, spread evenly over the dough and roll up, Swiss-roll style to form a log. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 even-sized slices and pack into the prepared tin. Brush gently with extra milk and bake in a preheated oven, 180C/350F, for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin.

  4. Sift icing sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Place the cream cheese and butter in the centre, pour over the water and stir to mix. Add extra boiling water, a few drops at a time, until the frosting coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the vanilla essence, then drizzle the icing over the rolls. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe reproduced from BBC Good Food.

 

Malmo & Moss is One: 5 things I have learnt from my first year on Instagram

When I was up in the wee small hours breastfeeding my second son, I used to download Jilly Cooper books to read to make sure I didn't fall asleep on the job.  It was as close as I am ever going to get to Rupert Campbell Black keeping me up all night.  By the time I had my third son it became clear that Jilly wasn't churning out the menage a trois as fast as I was churning out children so, having exhausted her romping repertoire, I was forced to find a new way to keep myself awake on the milky job.  Enter Instagram. Prior to that point, my only presence on social media had been a work related Twitter account focused on promoting energy efficiency (the Cinderella of European climate policy don't you know).  It was mainly followed by my poor friends who had to endure regular tweets about boiler lagging and solid wall insulation roll outs.  They were no doubt horrified when I told them that I had joined Instagram fearing that they would soon be finding their feeds full of LED lightbulbs and smart thermostats.  However, luckily for them, I ultimately ended up focusing on the interiors rather than insulation of my house. 

Not an Smart Thermostat in sight luckily for my poor friends.....

Not an Smart Thermostat in sight luckily for my poor friends.....

My first few posts were an eclectic mix of shoes, choux pastries and stately homes (think Imelda Marcos takes the National Trust (and then has a nice French Patisseries afterwards) with it taking me a while to find my tribe in cushion corner.  If you told me that one year on I would have over 30,000 followers and my own blog, I would have said there was more chance of me writing a cookbook about my love of lentils (aka Satan's Pulse).  I can honestly say I have not really much of a clue how it happened but here are a few of the pointers I picked up along the way that I thought it might be helpful to share. 

Lesson One: Filters Are Not Always Your Friend

If you scroll back to the beginning of my feed you will notice that my pictures both had weird borders on them in varying shades of taupe and had been put through a filter favoured by 1970s porn directors (and me).  It left the house looking like it had a bad case of jaundice.  What can I say, I thought it looked arty.  It was Mr Malmo who gently suggested that maybe I should step away from the #BeigeBars, dispense with the #HouseofJaundice filter and go au nataurel.

Trapped inside Taupe Tramlines!

Trapped inside Taupe Tramlines!

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Whilst it galls me to admit it, Mr Malmo was right.  Without the #TaupeTramlines my pictures instantly started to get more likes.  That is not to say that I am now 100% filter free.  As time has gone on I have tried to "curate" (sorry I know that word makes me sound like an instagram Alan Yentob) my feed a bit more and create a Malmo & Moss look by using the same couple of filters on my pictures consistently.   I used to be Team Valencia/Slumber but lately I have definitely started to be #LuredByLudwig.

Just a gentle bit of Juno and nothing else!

Just a gentle bit of Juno and nothing else!

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Lesson Two: You Don't Need a Big Gun to Have Fun

The big gun I am referring to here is a digital SLR camera rather than a Kashelnikov rifle. After I had been instagramming a while and wanted to make the move into blogging I started thinking that maybe I needed to invest in a proper camera (aka a big gun) rather than relying on my trusty Samsung phone.  I will admit that this was 35% influenced by how cool the Olympus Pen looks.  But the Pen don't come cheap so before I remortgaged the house I decided to call in the lovely @tiatalula to give me some advice.  Over tea and cake we talked Apertures, ISOs and Megapixels and it turned out anything the Pen could do my trusty Samsung S6 could do better.  Obviously I hadn't bothered to read any of the camera instructions when I first got my phone but it turned out that if I took it off auto and played around in pro I could do all sorts of cool stuff including, most importantly of all, that cool blurry background thing that makes you look like you know your Fuji film from your elbow.

Blurry background all courtesey of the humble Samsung S6!

Blurry background all courtesey of the humble Samsung S6!

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Lesson Three: Turn the lights down low (well off actually)

I am a big fan of soft lighting.   So much so that it would seem I have a reputation as a bit of #HalogenHitler in our family as relatives are always quick to apologise when they put the "big" light on when they visit.  However, when it comes to instagram, I have learnt that I need to ditch the dimmer switch and let the natural light flood in.  This can be challenging to achieve as with 3 kids and a job, there are approximately 23 minutes of any week when I am in the house alone during daylight hours without being surrounded by a swarm of plastic.  However, if you can fight off a fleet of Octonauts and get in before dusk falls, the daylight shots do always do better.  

The bedroom with the lights on.......

The bedroom with the lights on.......

Lights off and things are looking much better.......

Lights off and things are looking much better.......

Lesson Four: Crafting a Killer Caption

 I know it seems hard to believe but I used to be a woman of very few words on Instagram.  The words I usually used described either getting up early with the baby or going to bed late with Poldark (sadly only on the iPlayer rather than being given an in person sycthing to).  However, one day I lost control of an electronic cockroach in the kitchen (like you do) and shared the story on insta and I noticed that as well as my post getting some likes it also got a lot more comments than usual.  So little by little I started sharing less generic captions and before I knew it people were eagerly awaiting the next instalment of #ChroniclesOf ABlowJobBranch and interiors with a side serving of innuendo kind of became my thing.  Now I realise that not everyone will want to share stories of their husband being cock blocked by a hot water bottle (Mr Malmo's struggle is real) but I guess my point, as Oscar Wilde once said (or I read on a card in Clintons) "Be Yourself Because Everyone Else is Taken"and people are more likely to engage with your feed. Although I guess I have also learnt that including hashtags in your posts like #Don'tShitYourShellSuit might mean that some brands cross you off their collaboration list..... 

The dog piss stinking stick that was the star pf the #chroniclesofablowjobbranch show

The dog piss stinking stick that was the star pf the #chroniclesofablowjobbranch show

Chanelling someone who was never afraid to be himself in my flatlay!

Chanelling someone who was never afraid to be himself in my flatlay!

Lesson Five: If in doubt get your bathroom out

I don't want to say that my bathroom is solely responsible for my instagram success but.......The first picture of the it I shared got selected by @jtcollings to feature in a midweek #myhomevibe montage and it is responsible for all of my most liked posts.  So whilst I encountered a severe case of #BaffledBuilderFace when I asked him to weld me some taps out of copper piping it has definitely been worth it's weight in insta gold.   The only problem is my bathroom is frequently off limits for photos because either a) one of the quartet of todgers I live with has dropped something off in the loo that would make you want to amputate your own nose if you popped in to take a picture (of the bathroom not the mega log) or b) I have had to unleash 6 toilet duck refills in a bid to mask the smell of said mega log meaning it is impossible to take a photo because your eyes are stinging too much from the  chemical sunset that has created.  If the Mega Log-Chemical Sunset combination puts your bathroom out action then my advice would be go for the kitchen instead, another reliable instagram performer.

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So there you have it, my top tips for moderate instagram success!  I would love to know if there are some secrets of success I haven't discovered yet.  Well ones that don't involve posting a belfie that is.........