Stylish, Unisex Baby Changing Bags

This round up post isn’t strictly interiors, but we’re bending the rules a bit with this one, as it’s something I had to hunt for fairly recently now that I have a new small person in my life (note: for anyone who knows us this is Kath posting not Liz – Liz would like to stress that she hasn’t secretly acquired a child).

The world of baby changing bags was entirely foreign to me, but when I started looking I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of choice. I was also a bit put off by the out-and-out girliness of a lot of the bags, which isn’t me at all, and I certainly wouldn’t inflict a pink cupcake-print bag on my other half (not if I want him to ever change a nappy).

Below are my pick of bags that I think are simple, stylish and practical (ie. you can wipe them down / stick them in the wash) and don’t scream ‘changing bag’.   Some are specific changing bags, and others are simply backpacks that you could use as a changing bag if you pick up a handy changing mat insert.  Any of these I’d be happy to use as a normal bag beyond the changing bag stage and, most importantly, all have passed the husband test of ‘minimal embarrassment if made to carry’.

For those of you interested, I ended up buying a unisex navy changing backpack from Etsy shop One Duo (which has Mary Poppins-like capacity and zillions of pockets) along with a spare travel changing mat from JoJo Maman Bebe.  It’s been worth the investment as I love the look of the bag, and other handbags aren’t getting a look in at the moment!

Hello-Walls-Baby-Changing unisex

1. Herschel Pop Quiz Backpack – Grey £59.95 | 2. Storksak Noa Changing Bag £75  | 3. Fjällräven Kånken Backpack £56.99 | 4. Laessig Neckline Changing Bag £83.92 | 5.  Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station Bag £30 | 6. Skip Hop Duo Signature (Heather Grey) £60 | 7. PacaPod Hastings Changing Bag – Navy Stripe £69.95

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Our Top 5 Finnish Design Discoveries

Lapland probably isn’t the first place you’d think of going in order to investigate the Nordic design scene (unless you live in a log cabin and it’s permanently Christmas). But that’s just it – Lapland, more specifically Finnish Lapland, isn’t a tinsel tastic tacky explosion it’s a tasteful, charming and authentic place with a design and interiors scene that extends far beyond baubles and bells. Having been lucky enough to land a trip to the city of Rovaniemi (read more about our Lapland for Grown Ups adventures here) we weren’t quite sure what to expect on the design front. Liz has a long-standing obsession with all things Scandi so hopes were high that their Nordic neighbours would be equally as sharp in the style stakes.

We weren’t disappointed. Having already explored the likes of Finnish giants Marimekko and Iittala we stumbled upon a small concept store in the city called Mainoa which bills itself as a ‘Design shop that offers high quality Finnish craft and design‘. It was here that the real local gems were discovered, we only arrived 20 minutes before closing but left with a bag full of goodies each…

The Finnish design scene is definitely thriving and should certainly be more celebrated. So in a small bid to raise it’s profile we have compiled our top 5 Finnish design discoveries.

 

1. Kauniste

Kauniste means to decorate or to make beautiful – a pretty apt name if you ask us. This independent Helsinki based company works with talented and award winning illustrators and artists to create a paper goods, fabrics and homewares. Lucky for us they have an online store, but incase you want to browse in person you can find a list of UK stockists here.

kauniste 2015 Finnish design kauniste 2015 Finnish design kauniste 2015 Finnish design

From the top: Note book set €12.00, Calendar 2016 Kitchen Towel Mint €15.00, Mökkilä Blue Cushion Cover €24.00

 

2. Mifuko

A certified member of the World Fair Trade Organization Mifuko’s products are all handmade by women’s self help groups in rural Kenya. Combining contemporary Finnish design with traditional Kenyan handicraft techniques to produce colourful baskets, bags, rugs and ornaments.

Mifuko finnish design Finnish-design-Mifuko Finnish-design-Mifuko-ornaments

Kiondo baskets From €29,00, Ornaments 3pcs €20.00

 

3. Lovi

This family run company based in Northern Finland produce 3D figures from the highest Finnish quality birch plywood. They come flat pack so it’s your job to assemble them but I imagine it’s slightly more enjoyable than our experience with Swedish flat-pack furniture… Take a look at their online shop, there are loads of different ones to choose from – our favourite was the famous Finnish Moomin character, ‘Snufkin’.

Lovi Finnish design Snufkin with Hattifatteners

Snufkin by Lovi €14.50

 

4. Polkkajam

A family company run from a studio in an old dairy on Kimito Island (southwest Finland), talented creatives Kristiina Haapalainen and Sami Vähä-Aho produce playful imagery inspired by their surroundings (which sounds pretty idyllic to us) and then applied across variety of products including stationary, postcards, posters and wrapping paper.

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polkka jam finnish design  polkka jam finnish design

 Postcards €1.30, Wrapping paper from €4.50

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Posters from €12.00

 

5. Mark Roberts – Photographer

Mark hails from Blighty, but has made Rovanemi, Finland, his adopted home town, as he goes hiking in the Lapland wilderness searching for the perfect shot. We picked up some of his limited edition prints at Mainoa Design Shop, but you can get your paws on them online, via his online store.

Misty Island photograph by Mark Roberts

Photograph of landscape with trees

 Prints from €12.40

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Lapland For Grown Ups – Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of our adventures, we pick up with day 2 which involved a trip to Santa Claus Village.  Now you might think this is no place for the over 10’s, but amongst the souvenir shops were nestled a huge Marimekko outlet store (Finnish design icons) and an Iittala store (specialists in Finnish tableware and cookware).  Liz was basically in Nordic interior design heaven.

Marimekko exterior

Marimekko

Marimekko2

Stepping over the official Arctic Circle Line, we ventured into Santa’s official post office to write a few postcards, and observed the young elves earnestly (and genuinely) sorting through the piles and piles of letters received from kids around the world.  You’d have to be a true Grinch not to be slightly charmed by the sight. And they’re not perfect – we rescued a stray letter that fell on the floor, so we reckon that puts us on the ‘nice’ list for this year.

Elf post

Santa Claus Village also surprised us with it’s eateries. No generic McReindeer Burgers to be had here – there was Santa’s Salmon Place, which rates very highly on Trip Advisor as the best food in Rovaniemi, and who could say no to salmon roasted over an open fire in a massive tipi?

Matti Korva

We also experienced the fantastical and wonderful world of Santamus (another Trip Advisor favourite restaurant), where we were shown exemplary Lappish hospitality by the owner Matti Korva.   Matt explained his journey from music professor to the creator and proprietor of this log cabin feasting venue. The interior is like stepping into a fairy-tale, complete with babbling stream, birdsong, open range cooking, a dessert boat and an on site traditional wood fired sauna (and no, we didn’t drink too much gloggi and imagine all of that…).  We were treated to a musical serenade on the kantele (traditional Finnish harp thing) and the saw (yes, a saw – he had a special case for it and everything).  Making a smooth segue from Mary’s Boy Child into Proud Mary, Matti admitted to a penchant for a bit of Tina Turner.  We exited the lantern-lined path still slightly stunned that such a place existed in the rather innocuous surroundings of a kid’s adventure park.

Santa village

lanterns

Aside from the more high-octane skiing and snow-mobiling opportunities, we also found time to stretch our legs and take in some of the picturesque snow dusted spruce, pine and birch woodland, albeit wrapped up nice and warm in snowsuits and boots.

Huddled under fur blankets, we also took a very leisurely reindeer ride through the forest at night-time.  With the Plough looming large above us, we noted what a romantic occasion it would make for a proposal, until the reindeer pulling the sleigh behind us became frustrated by our lax driving and nearly ran us into the trees in an enthusiastic overtaking manoevre.

reindeer sign

Reindeer3

After all the activity, good food and drink is a must and we made sure to explore the local offerings. Arctic Boulevard emerged as the star of the show. Kath indulged in some amazing reindeer steak – albeit slightly sheepishly after being at the reindeer park only hours before. The waitress reliably told us there were more reindeer than people in Lapland, so there was no need to feel guilty, though we couldn’t look them in the eye afterwards. Dessert involved artfully-presented lingonberry cake (the Finns are big on lingonberries) accompanied by sweet hay marshmallow and salted butterscotch ice cream, and a rhubarb and caramel conconcotion that would have had us licking our plates clean were they not massive slate slabs (tricky to wrangle).

Reindeer AB

Artic Boulevard

Obviously the trip had to conclude with a visit to see the big man himself, and on the final night we were taken to a remote location in the woods, fed Christmas fare by elves, and waited patiently (ish) for our big moment.   After arriving on (another) reindeer-pulled sleigh to the accompaniment of fireworks (no sneaking required here), he proceeded to invite the very excitied children in one by one.  The excitment reached fever pitch, and there were even nosebleeds and tears, before we got our turn.  Ever the pro, Santa pocketed Kath’s nephew’s letter, gave us some sage advice on reindeer driving (all in the rope action apparently), and didn’t seem phased that we had no children with us (except in utero).  We’ll have to leave him an extra splash of sherry out this year.

adults can love christmas too

As we waited for our departing flight the next morning, there was many a small, sad face and a few tears at leaving the elves and the Thomson crew behind.  We felt a mite teary too, and wished we had a little longer to mooch around Rovaniemi, explore the local wilderness and hang out with the lovely locals like our guide Laura.

So, much as we’re never usually happy to prove a child wrong, in this instance we were very happy to prove that Lapland should be a destination on everyone’s wish list.

Winter romance

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Lapland For Grown Ups – Part 1

Lapland-for-grown-ups-Hello-Walls-Header

‘So why are you going to Lapland?’ asked the mum next to us on the plane. ‘Well, we’re here to write about why it’s not only a destination for kids’. ‘Lapland is just for kids’ objected her daughter, ‘it’s not for grown ups’.  Well, there was the gauntlet thrown.

Lapland has always sounded like an enchanted mystical far-away land, so when we pitched our idea of Lapland For Grown-Ups to Thomson Holidays back in June it seemed a surreal notion, and we were slightly stunned and incredibly exited to find out that they would be sending us to Rovaniemi in northern Finland.

Commute to work, Rovaniemi

Liz & Kath

Quick geography lesson for those who are as clueless as we were: Lapland spans an area in the Arctic Circle across northern Sweden, Norway and Finland (and a bit of Russia), and is traditionally inhabited by the Sami people (or Lapps). It’s pretty nippy there in winter (it can get down to -30C, so pack your thermals!) and the days are very short this time of year – about 2 and a half hours between sunrise and sunset, which made opportunities for daylight photography limited, but meant that we snapped some impressive skies.

Lapland forest

View from our hotel, Rovaniemi

Sunrise through the trees

Some friends were sceptical of our destination and thought we’d signed ourselves up for living in Santa’s grotto for 3 nights, but there’s a lot more to Lapland than Disneyland transplanted to the Arctic.

Yes, there were elves, but they were pretty darn cool Finnish elves, complete with skater style snow boots and not a jingle bell in site. There was also a very helpful beardy elf who sorted us out when we looked lost at the arrivals lounge. Every airport should have one.  And of course we got to meet Santa, but more about that later…

Elves Snowball fight

On our first day we were whisked off to try a range of winter activities. We tried our hand at snowmobiling, which is basically like quad biking but on skis and a whole lot less muddy. It’s quite an adrenaline buzz bombing through tree-lined paths.

Snowmobile adventure

Snowmobile adventure

If you fancy taking a back seat in proceedings, whipping around on a husky sled is equally fun (and if you do have sprogs with you, you can all get in on the action). Liz got close enough to the huskies to get some impressive pictures but they had a wild glint in their eye which suggested they weren’t the stomach rubbing kind…Husky riding

Our husky friend

Sledding down a massive hill on tea tray size bits of plastic was by far and away the most popular activity, and we spotted far more adults in the queue than kids.  It was great fun with just the two of us, but you could see a more competitive edge emerging with a larger group of thirty-somethings that were on our trip (Kath was at a bit of a disadvantage in our snowball fight, being 6 months pregnant).

Our friendly Gloggi server

Kettles simmering on an open fire in the snow

There were fires and warm, spiced berry juice on hand to help defrost between activities, and in a cosy tipi we came across Janna, who (being chummy with Santa), told us a few tales around his fire and reliably informed us about who was and wasn’t on the ‘nice’ list.  We also caught him one-on-one; he was a Rovaniemi local who was happy to chat about the recent Independence Day celebrations (a bit like the Oscars but with ballroom dancing and a massive buffet). Also, he wasn’t the least bit cynical about Christmas as he proudly told us about the Finnish Christmas traditions, which seem to involve a big ham and a booze-up on Christmas Eve – we could definitely subscribe to that.

Elf elder and storyteller, Yanna

Stories around the campfire

Between activities we had time to explore the town, and got ourselves down to the spectacular Artikum Museum, which houses exhibits about Lapland’s climate, geology and culture. It’s worth a visit for the building alone – a geometric structure half underground, as though in hibernation, with a tall glass corridor (‘The Gateway to the North’) that stretches out towards the Kemijoki river. It was our intention to take a stroll back one evening along the river as it’s apparently a good place to spot the Northern Lights but for some reason the prospect of a 1am jaunt in -9C didn’t appeal at the time…

The Artikum

Artickum timber exhibition

The Artikum promenade

For those who are as obsessed with design as we are, this part of the world is pretty pleasing. Be it interiors, architecture, fashion or art – just like their Scandi counterparts, the Nordic people seem to have an in built sense of taste. Needless to say both of us are now saving up for our second winter homes. More to come on the design front at a later date, but for now enjoy some of our dream home shots.

Next up:  Competitve reindeers, saw playing, and the Big Man himself….

Liz's dream home 1

Liz's dream home 2 copy

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Marimekko: Finland’s Finest

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Myself and Kath are off on a Finnish trip together (more specifically Lapland) – in fact when this post goes live I think we’ll actually be there, hopefully drinking glögi and eating smoked salmon… But as well as gorging ourselves on the local delicacies and hanging out with Rudolph I’m also hoping to learn a little more about the Finnish design scene.

I’m a huge fan of Scandinavian design, there’s a whole section on this site dedicated to my obsession, but I’m not as familiar with the Nordic offering.  However there is one store that immediately springs to mind when thinking about our northerly Nordic neighbours and that’s Marimekko.

Marimekko is a Finnish institution and has been since the 1950’s.  It was the brainchild of Armi Ratia’s (pictured) whose vision of a bold, graphic future for textiles was fulfilled through her collaboration with various young artists and fashion designers. Fast forward 60 years and the company is now internationally successful, and the same ethos and desire to collaborate and create bold and beautiful patterns remains. Many of the original designs are still in production today, and the range includes homeware, clothing and accessories. So if you really wanted you could co-odinate your trousers to your teapot or your socks to your serving dishes…

Lucky for us our Finnish destination, Romeneivi, has a Marimekko store so we’ll be sure to pop in for a nosey. But for all those based in the UK the online store has some fantastic offerings, i’ve shortlisted some of my favourites below…

 

Hello-Walls-products-Finland-Marimekko-post

1. Oiva/Sääpäiväkirja plate, 32.00GBP 2. Round Fokus tray, 62.00GBP 3. Oiva/Siirtolapuutarha plate, 26.00GBP 4. Hattarakukka tray, 62.00GBP 5. Oiva/ Siirtolapuutarha pitcher, 53.00GBP 6. Sukat makkaralla stemware, 32.00GBP 7. Hauki plywood tray, 44.50GBP 8. Oiva/Unikko tea cup, 17.00GBP 9. Hauki oven mitten, 22.00GBP 10. Hauki tea towel, 29.50GBP

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Christmas Comes Early at Hello Walls

You may have noticed a common theme in our most recent posts. Christmas is indeed creeping closer and winter has definitely arrived but the real reason we’ve been starting the seasonal countdown early this year is that, thanks to the folks over at Thomson Holidays, we’re jetting of to Lapland today! Just the two of us – and yes, we’re going to be meeting Santa and no, we don’t have any kids…

Earlier in the year we went to a gathering of like-minded bloggers (Blogtacular) at the impressive venue of The Royal Institution, London.  Among the Georgian grandeur and the lofty scientific alumni, the Thomson crew landed the interior of a Boeing 737 and invited us to roll up and pitch our dream destination to them.

Thomson at Blogtacular Hello Walls

Blogtacular 2015 Official Photos by Piers MacDonald. Thanks to Mollie Makes.

With Liz being a fan of all things Scandi/Nordic, Kath being averse to any climate warmer than Yorkshire, and both of us Christmas-lovers (albeit mostly for the food), we plumped for Lapland – under the guise of convincing the Thomson chaps that it’s not just a place for kids.

Having been friends for twenty-*cough* years but never having visited Santa together, we concocted a joint Christmas wishlist.  We were shocked and delighted when Nicky + Christian from Thomson (pictured above) chose to make it a reality by sending us to Rovaniemi, Finland (the Official Hometown of Santa Claus™).

 

Hello-Walls-Thomson-Santa-Latter-Lapland

 

Dear Santa, this Christmas we would like to:

1. Visit your Lapland home and elbow some kids out of the way in the Grotto queue
2. Watch you turn on the northern lights for us
3. Go on a husky ride and shout ‘MUSH’ in a Yorkshire accent
4. Smash up the karaoke in the bar at the Levi Ice Gallery
5. Gorge on Finnish tapas at the Arctic Boulevard restaurant in Rovaniemi
6. Venture into the wilderness for some ice fishing …
7 …. and then defrost with some glögi
8. Cure ourselves in a real Finnish smoke sauna
9. Have a legitimate reason to force our other halves to wear their Christmas jumpers in public

 

Keep your eyes peeled for reports back on our snowy adventures and encounters with Santa and his entourage…

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Mix Tape: Music For A Winter’s Night

 

Original image ‘Retkinia’ by Kamil Porembiński

 

A selection of the finest winter songs to keep you company on long, chilly evenings

1. Valley Winter Song by Fountains Of Wayne
2. Winter by Tori Amos
3. Winter Is All Over You by First Aid Kit
4. I Smell Winter by The Housemartins
5. White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes
6. Calling and Not Calling My Ex by Okkervil River
7. Set The Fire To The Third Bar by Snow Patrol Feat. Martha Wainwright
8. Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) by Laura Marling
9. Footprints In The Snow by Robert Earl Keen
10. Frozen Man by The Albion Christmas Band
11. Cold Coming by Thea Gilmore
12. A Long December by Counting Crows
13. Winter Song by Colourmusic

 

Posted In: Lifestyle, Song Exchange
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Etsy Picks: Christmas Cards

ESTY-picks-christmas-cards

Our pick of this years Crimbo Cards. Head over to Etsy to view the full festive collection…

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Our Favourite: Nordic Interiors

We’re heading off to Finnish Lapland in a few weeks’ time, thanks to the nice folks at Thomson Holidays. As well as checking in to say ‘hi’ to Old Saint Nick, we’re also going to be exploring the activities that Lapland has to offer for the (marginally) more grown-up traveller.

To get us in the mood, we’ve been looking at Nordic-inspired decor to cosy up our living spaces, now that November is coming into full force here in Blighty. The wild and windy weather and dark evenings are making it far more appealing to stay holed up inside, so it feels like we should make the most of it and embrace the Nordic spirit….

Our-Favourite-nordic-interiors

1. Skog Poster 48 euros  |  2.  Nordic Nights Hot Water Bottle £12 |  3. Danish Geometric Pots from £24 | 4. Golden Magritte Bookends £30 | 5. Copper Trim Chopping Board Set + Stand £71  | 6. Gran Tray, Green/white 42 euro | 7. Wooden Storage Boxes from £16  | 8. Ströva, Soft toy £12  |  9. Senior, Casserole with lid £30 | 10. Bears Mugs – Set Of 4  £4 | 11. Faux Fur Throws £35 (incl p&p)

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M&S Breton Cider: The Sweet Taste Of France

Bottle and glass of marks and spencer Breton cider

Ooh la la!  Everyone likes a bit of French fizz in their life, but this is fizz of the apple variety; a light sparkling Breton cider courtesy of British stalwarts,  Marks and Spencer.

It’s not a typical cider – it clocks in at a mere 2%, so only very lightly fermented giving a sweet, gentle taste with a delicate sparkle.  It has a lovely honey colour and the taste is of a slightly alcoholic fruit juice, so it goes down very easily indeed (but with minimal hangover the next day!).

As an introduction to French cider, there are better examples out there (and it wouldn’t win over any fans in the beardy, scrumpy loving fraternity), but it’s no alchopop either, and sure to please anyone at a gathering that wants to take it easy on the booze.

Posted In: Cider House Rules, Food & Drink
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