Decorating with Shells – Please Don’t

Let’s face it, shells are beautiful.  The bigger the better.  As a child, we used to collect shells on our weekly summer visits to the (New) Jersey Shore.  Most of the time, we just used them to decorate sand castles we built and left them behind.

Fast forward many years later to when I learned how to scuba dive.  I did my open water in The Maldives.  The Maldives are many atolls with a resort built on them.  Most of the beaches on the atolls are made up of coral.  It is against the law to take any shells or coral that is washed up on the beach or to take anything from the sea.  I have tried to respect this law – it is really difficult when you see a beautiful piece of coral washed up onto the beach, but it isn’t worth the fine or the time in jail.  Many islands in the Caribbean have beaches made up of coral.  Just think about it.

I currently live near the sea.  You would think that it would be natural to go for the beachy look when decorating your home.  Well, I live in the UK and the light isn’t always right for the light and airy beach look.  It only looks good on sunny days and we don’t always get many of those even though I live on the ‘Sunshine Coast’.  At this time of year, the blogosphere is rampant with ideas for decorating with shells.  Google it yourself and see.  I am not posting any photos with shells used as accessories in decor as I do not want to encourage this trend.  We do have a few shops that sell seashells, by the seashore.  They are most likely imported.  It isn’t something I want to encourage and so I don’t buy, even though they are beautiful.  There is a price to be paid for decorating our homes with shells and I don’t want to be responsible for the outcome.

By the way, I have not been immune to shell buying in the past.  I have some shells.  However, there is no point in throwing them out as the deed had been done.  I don’t buy them anymore.  There are a few companies that make faux or artificial shells.  I would buy them if there were any in the UK, but they seem to be made in the good ole USA.  Instead, I try to decorate my home with shell inspired items or paintings that depict the sea or seaside life.

Here are some beach inspired items I have purchased for my home…

This is a wooden shell sculpture that I purchased at Home Sense.  I love how it looks like a shell, but it obviously isn’t.

This vase reminds me of a sea urchin skeleton.

This vase has colours like mother of pearl.  This and the vase above were also purchased at Home Sense.

You don’t have to limit yourself to vases, sculptures or painting to get the seaside effect.  The colours of your home can give it that seaside feeling or you can put up photographs of shells.

Here is a photograph I took earlier in the year on one of my diving holidays…

This is what those giant clams look like in the sea, where they belong.   When they die, they stay where they are and the coral moves in to make a new home.  You would have to dive down and take this off of the reef and kill it if you wanted to sell it.  You would never find a clam shell such as this on the beach.

Nowadays, when we decorate our home, I think it is just as important to think about the effect on our environment as well as the look we are trying to achieve.  Might be time to start thinking out of the box to get the seaside look for your home.

In (love with) Bruges!

I have been wanting to go to Bruges for a long time, and well before I saw the film, In Bruges, with Colin Farrell.

I finally went with my sweetheart for my birthday.  Well, we didn’t go for my birthday, but we went as a birthday treat before my birthday.  Hope that clears that up!  Anyway, we took the car on the Euroshuttle/Eurotunnel and drove to Bruges.  Bruges is only about an hour and a half from Calais.  It takes me about as long to get to Bruges as it does to drive up to Rugby to see my sweetie.  And Bruges is much, much prettier.

In fact, I loved Bruges so much, that I really didn’t want to leave and wondered if we should have booked for longer, but we had 3 whole days and 2 nights.  We got up at the crack of dawn to catch the Eurotunnel so we could make the most of our stay.   The weather Gods were also looking favourable upon us as we also had glorious weather.

I am not going to have any links here for Bruges.  You can Google it for yourself.   It might be a little bit touristy, but that is the way it is for many popular cities and towns these days.  However, it is a very beautiful and safe place to visit.  Our bed and breakfast was about a kilometer from the city centre.  It didn’t take long to walk anywhere.  In fact, the place is very flat.  It is very easy to walk around.  We tried to avoid the really touristy bits of town and explored the edge and more quiet areas.

The place is so beautiful, with really lovely architecture, that you could spend your whole time taking photos.  I limited myself.  That was a real challenge as around every corner there was something really quaint or pretty to photograph.  I have made some collages of the highlights.


One of the first things we did was take a canal trip.  It isn’t very expensive and is a great way to get a feel for the town and learn a bit of history.


The place is full of Spires.  There are churches all over the place.  However, it isn’t just the churches that have spires!  I love them, partly because there aren’t that many in the USA and I find them really quaint.


Bruges is a chocoholic’s paradise.  You can get chocolate in pretty much any shape or form.  I limited myself to some truffles. 🙂


Bruges has some windmills, and one you can even go into!  Who would have thought!  We found a bar near one and admired it from afar while having a glass of beer and chatting to some locals.  There are  some really unusual sculptures and remnants of features, like this water mill.

Pretty Doors and Windows

There are lots of unusual, and pretty, doors and windows.  People are not afraid to paint their doors and windows in vibrant colours.


And last, but not least, there are the bicycles.  I have never seen so many people over the age of 50 on bicycles!  Bruges, and the area all around, is pretty flat.  There are cycle lanes going in both directions on the streets.  Many of the streets in Bruges central are one way.  Most of the cycle paths are protected with a barrier so the cars can’t knock them over.  What most people consider to be ‘girl’s’ bikes, the step-over style is used by men and women alike.  It is just easier to get on and off a bike without a crossbar.  Cycling keeps you moving and that is surely a good and healthy thing.  I like the idea of retiring to Belgium if it means that I can cycle everywhere!  We will definitely coming back to Bruges, but next time we will take our bikes and try to explore a bit further afield.

The beer and food is also very good.  We had to have the moules and frites!  There is only so much one can do when visiting a city for a couple of days.  We didn’t go into any museums or tourist attractions, the weather was too nice!  We just walked around the city and relaxed.  There was no hurry to do anything.  Isn’t that what a break is for?  We will just have to go back again!



On Being Grateful for my Life!

I have been working pretty much non-stop since mid-March, sort of.  OK, I have had two weeks off in total since then.  I had a week off in-between jobs and recently had a week off for my Birthday.

I am working in areas I have never worked before.  I have done some work for social services, and I am currently working in a Nursing Home.  Although different, there are many similarities.  What they do have in common is extremely low pay.  However, I am not complaining as it means I don’t have to tap into my savings as much.  I am really enjoying my current assignment.  I really wanted to leave the first day.  There was no-one to hand over and I didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do.  But then I stared into space for about 5 minutes and ping, I had a brain wave and called the head office.  Within 3 weeks I was down with all of the financial stuff.  Each day got better.  It was one step at a time.

I was actually offered the post that I am in, but it really isn’t financially viable long-term.  I make marginally more than what they are actually paying and one days wages out of five pays for my petrol.  I wouldn’t mind this job if it was nearer to home as it takes me a long time to drive to work.  In the meantime, I have owned the job and am getting everything ready for when the new lady starts.

My colleagues are also amazing women, and men (but there are mostly women).  I am going to miss them when I leave.  However, I feel that I have made some nice friends, and that is always a good thing.  I also have some very good references!

Since I have worked for the Nursing Home, a couple of the residents have passed away.  The main part of my job is administration, so I very rarely have anything to do with the residents.   I have only spoken to a handful.  Most of the residents are not very mobile or they are confined to their rooms.  Saying that, it is still very sad when someone passes on.  It is the family that really suffers afterwardes.  Unfortunately, there is only one way that the residents are going to leave.  In the time until then, the staff try to make things as nice as possible for them.  The chef makes lovely food. Who cares about calories at this stage of life?  It might be the only nice thing to experience before they go.  I was worried about what type of Nursing Home I was going to be working in, but this place is really lovely.

Working in a place like this makes you think and puts many things into perspective.  I have huge admiration for the nurses and carers.  They work long hours and do a sometimes thankless job.  The managers are doing their best to make sure that everything is running smoothly without losing focus on customer care.  My job is to make sure that all the finances and administration processes are up to speed.  I am afraid that there is still a lot of catching up to do in this area, but we are getting there.

If there are some down sides, I try not to think about them, after all, I am only temporary and am working on being grateful for what I have, which is a lot.  Hopefully, something better will come after this.  It usually does.  This job does put things into perspective and I am grateful that I still have my health and don’t have to rely on others to look after me.

I just have to tell my kids to start saving up as it isn’t cheap to put your parent into a home. 🙂