Friday, 29 November 2013

Chester Christmas Lights

Chester Christmas Lights Chester Sweet Shop We love Chester in winter with its black and white Medieval buildings and quaint streets. Last week we attempted to see the Christmas light switch on. It was absolutely heaving though and we only caught glimpses of the parade over a sea of bobble hats. Must get there earlier in future.....
enjoying the lights Chester Grosvenor Hotel
Even still, it was enjoyable and the modest but beautiful lights and a small firework display were enjoyed by a wide-eyed Little Bird. We eventually saw one of the smaller lanterns on its way back.
bird lantern
Buying lights playing with light toys Eastgate Clock Chester Christmas secret garden Chester fireworks
We found a cute traditional sweet shop and the window was quintessentially Christmassy and so evocative of a novel you might pick up at the supermarket at this time of year. Swirly lollipops, jelly beans and jar after jar of boiled sweets, boxes of fudge and chocolate nuts.old sweet shop Chester topiary light ball Chester winter streets
I like exploring the little side streets and up on the galleries. There are interesting shops up on The Rows and it seems you can find a new boutique or cafe each time you visit.
A bustling fairground had appeared, although we didn't visit but others were saying there were festive stalls and Santa visiting. We just admired the neon lights from a distance which was probably a good thing as in the newspaper this week it has been overcrowded and people were being turned away -ooops!
Chester Winter Fair Racecourse
I much prefer the twinkling lights in the trees by Chester Cathedral and the small Christmas market. By the time we had walked back, the crowds has mostly disappeared and with chilly hands we enjoyed a box of hot chips under the Victorian street lamps.
Chester tree lightsChester Church
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Love Your Appliance

The Vacuum Cleaer Family Tree

I have recently been researching my family tree and I started wondering about if objects had a sort of family tree too. We have recently bought a green Harry Hoover but he has had many forefathers that have blitzed the dust bunnies and dog hair before him. Here they are:

There were the brothers Vax pet hair vacuums that were my vacuum of choice for years. No vaccum bags to buy! Both met untimely ends. My last one had a wheel that dropped off, a handle that broke and was taped up, a motor than only started up when you kicked it and a broken nozzle. He hung on and hung on but in the end it was off to the dump. His older brother, the same type, had an unfortunate incident whilst sucking up a puddle of water. Not recommended.

Uncle Dust Buster and Aunt Dirt Devil were once all the rage and handy for those smaller areas and crumbs left after the dog had been eating its tea. However, they were hardly used as after hours of charging they lasted about 3 minutes and we just ended up using the main vacuum. Both took early retirement at the back of the cleaning cupboard.

Nana Ewbank is the practical and stylish homely old lady. If she could she'd be wearing flowery dresses and eating cake. She's robust and still working - push and pull, whirr, whirr. In fact she is still at my nana's house.

Great Grandad is the old upright with the stiff upper lip and I only vaguely remember him as a child along with Great Grandma Hoover - an old thing that was heaved around the house and made the dog hide under the kitchen table. Daddy Bird as a child would trail the wire down the stairs, tie his action man to it and press the cable wind button to make Eagle Eyes shoot up the mountain (stairs). 

I use my vacuum every day with two dogs and a small child creating dirt in the house and I couldn't be without it. With crevice nozzles and my floor tool I sing as a vac, the dog runs off and Little Bird dances to it, the noise of the vacuum is like music to him. When he was younger he would burst into tears when I turned it off or I could vac away and the noise would send him to sleep!
This appliance gets my seal of approval!

This blog post is my  entry into the Tots100/PartSelect ’Love Your Appliance’ competition

Let’s Get Tropical: A Guide to Creating an Exotic Retreat in the UK

Yes summer 2013 has only just passed. Yes the first real of snow of winter has yet to fall and yes Christmas isn’t even here yet, but we can all look forward can’t we? Summer 2014 is what, seven months away, however that shouldn’t stop you looking forward to the longer days, beautiful sunshine and the ability to spend extended periods of time out in your garden. 

In recent years, the desire to create an exotic garden here in the UK has risen, with many returning from summer breaks in simply stunning exotic locations with an urge to recreate a little bit of paradise experienced on their trip in their own back garden.
If this is something you have considered or having a longing desire to achieve in your outside space, the experts at Pumping Solutions have a few tips on how this can be achieved;

Get to Know Your Space
The first thing you need to do when looking to create an exotic retreat is really get to know your garden. Assess the layout to determine the different areas that will make up your exotic garden. Consider locations for seating, water features and the plants that will all come together to form your own little piece of paradise in your back yard.
It is also advisable to find out your soil type as tropical plants do favour rich soil, so you may have to make a few adjustments to encourage your tropical garden to thrive once you’ve introduced a few exotic plants.

Go for Decking
Decking is a great choice for a (sub) tropical garden and will soon bring memories of the gardens in beautiful sun-kissed locations flooding back to you. Ipe hardwood decking is a popular option and is ideal for creating the perfect area to set up the sun loungers and take in the afternoon summer heat or alternatively set up a barbeque with tables and chairs to welcome in friends and family.

Add a Water Feature
Cascading water and various other water features are commonplace in tropical gardens and can be achieved in your own exotic retreat here in the UK. Adding a sense of peace and tranquillity, your water feature could be the focal point of the garden in the form of a large fountain or alternatively a little hidden wonder in a quiet corner where the water makes its way through a rockery into a pool beneath. No matter how you decide to introduce this kind of feature, the sound of water is a must have addition to any exotic garden.

Incorporate Tropical Plants
The main thing that will separate your exotic garden from others is the use of tropical plants that will, quite surprisingly to some, be able to withstand the colder climate of your UK garden. Many exotic plants, such as the Musa Basjoo Banana Plant and Cannas, will require extra special care and attention during the colder months of the year, however some palms are capable of withstanding the cold climate, with the Trachycarpus Fortunei, otherwise known as the Chusan Palm, being a prime example of this.

There are of course some exotic plants that you will need to lift and keep in a dry, frost free environment, such as the red abyssinian banana plant, ahead of winter so you can plant again when the weather improved and watch them flourish just as you head out into your garden once again.

Finishing Touches
There are a few finishing touches which are staples of tropical gardens and can really make the space a standout feature of your home. These include the addition of mirrors and ancient artefacts positioned around the garden, in addition to railway sleepers to separate off different areas of your retreat and the use of slate to create pathways into various ‘hidden’ areas of the garden.

Whilst you may not have initially thought it possible, an exotic paradise garden can be created here in the UK with careful planning and assistance from experts in the field. It would be great to know if you have a tropical garden and how you achieved it, so leave a comment below with your story.

Discalimer: This post was written by blogger and gardening enthusiast Oliver Kyle in partnership with Pumping Solutions; installers of beautiful water features and fountains for all types of garden, from traditional English country garden to exotic paradise retreat.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wednesday Wishlist: Something for the Pooches

 Doggy Wednesday Wishlist Title Wednesday Wishlist doggy items

1. Woof Cushion - Pets At Home £60 // 2. Flower Collar - John Lewis from £27.99 // 3. Pottager Dog Collar & Lead - Scrufts £30 // 4. Personalised Dog Name Tag - Etsy £6.96 // 5. Stanley Dog Treats Tin - Cath Kidston £8 // 6. Gimme Gummy Dog Treat Toy - Pet Planet from £2.99 // 7. Wine Box Dog Bed - Bark & Whistle from £100 // 8. Dog Argyle Sweater - Urban Pup £18.95 // 9. Dog Lead Hooks - The Stylish Dog Company £38 //

This week I thought my two dogs deserved a treat and I've been shopping around for new collar discs. I've found some gorgeous items to share with you and items that will look very smart on your best friend. My personal favourite is the bright Woof cushion but a wine box dog bed would look very smart in a country home. My two have similar jumpers to the one pictured. Billy has blue and Tara has pink and they look very funny on their dog walks, they certainly always get a few comments. 

Joining in with Mummy Alarm's Wednesday Wishlist.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Air Wick Essential Pearls Candle Review

I love candles especially really nice scented candles so I was pleased at being able to try out a new candle by Air Wick,  the Essential Pearls candle in Amber Mandarin Glow.
Amber Mandarin Glow Candle
Upon opening, you could smell the spicy orangey mandarin and the candle is like a gel and reminded me of orange jelly. The pearls you can see in the candle are infused with essential oils and as the candle burns down, the fragrances are released into the room. I like to have pretty candles all over the house and scented ones are great with two dogs and a small child creating smells during the day :) It cheers me up to have a candle burning on these dark wintery days and a smell evocative of Yuletide spices wafting around. 
Essential Pearls CandleThe candles are available in other scents too such as Scarlet Frosted Mulberry and have a burning time of up to 35 hours. It's in a cute glass container and looks very nice sat on the side near my fireside sofa where I sit in the evening. The candle retails between £4 and £8 and is available in most supermarkets. I used it all weekend and I've still got plenty left so it's burning fine and evenly. The smell is not too overpowering and you can clearly smell it when you walk back into the room. I thought this was a very nice warming smell for this time of year and made me think of drying oranges in the oven to make Christmas decorations with.
Air Air Wick provided me with an Essential Pearls candle for the review but it is my own honest opinions and all the words and pictures are my own.

Monday, 25 November 2013

All things Medieval and Richard III of course

I am loving the chilly weather and have had a great weekend - will share the pictures later this week of our trips out. I feel so bust at the moment with a calendar full of wintery events, project, books to read, shopping to be done. I have list after list.Ricardian Boar BadgeThis week I am helping my local Ricardian Society out with their website. I joined the group recently and they are such fantastic people - all ages and with an enthusiasm for Richard III of course. The monthly meetings I attend are so welcoming and I come out brimming with a head full of Medieval stories and a heart full of new found friends. winter bouquet On Sunday we went to Ludlow for the Medieval Fayre at the castle and I can't wait to show you all the pictures for it was probably one of the best events I have been to recently and urge you to put in your calendar for next year if you have a love of this era too or indeed if you are a foodie. Warming mulled wine, cakes and music. It was pure historical bliss. I wore my Richard III Boar badge with pride. 
winter ornamental cabbage My short course with the University of Leicester has started this week  -England in the Time of King Richard III. It's very excited to be studying again and learning a subject I haven't formally done since being at school. However, it's another thing in my already busy diary! Keeping in with the same theme I also have The White Queen by Philippa Gregory to read for my book group next week. I've seen the series so I'm excited about this book and hopefully I'll have a few evenings to read it by the fireplace. winter peach roses
A few cheery flowers for the house. I just love Ornamental Cabbages and this pretty bunch are making me feel very seasonal especially with the cold bite in the air this week. Here's to a great week for you all. Sam xx

Friday, 22 November 2013

Forgotten Garden

pretty house and gardenDown new pathways that I didn't know existed, tucked away from the town centre, I found a small row of houses. All very leafy around beautiful symmetrical fa├žades with stained glass windows and grand entrances. Very evergreen, casting sun dappled shadows.perfect house
It hardly looks autumnal with all the green shrubbery and as I walk along I start to notice that I'm now passing the old gates to a grand old garden that looks like the gardener long hung up his gloves and spade. I wondered why? The PoplarsLooking through the iron railings is a house all boarded up. The most perfect looking house with what could have been the most perfect looking garden. Once upon a time pathways lined with lavender and topiary, ferns from damp bricks and leafy beech trees overhanging. I imagine a summer's garden of hollyhocks, pink roses rambling along pergolas, purple clematis entwining apple boughs and red geraniums in terracotta pots.Beware of the dog gate
A forgotten spring of delicate snowdrops peaking through the soil and cheery daffodils bobbing their heads. I bet it looked glorious with blossom trees spreading their confetti. Forgotten house and gardenWinters would have been showtime for the evergreens I see here today with red holly berries on huge conical bushes feeding hungry winter birds. Frost tinged hedges around the edge would glitter. Smoke once billowing from the chimney would be seen amidst the conifers and a large Christmas wreath would have hung on the shiny wooden front door.hidden house
Here it stands in autumn. Lonely. Forgotten. A lady sees me peering through and stops to tell me that she knows the house well. She stood on its Minton tiled hallway flooring everyday as she cleaned for the man that used to own it. A cobbler he was and it was a magnificent house and garden. The house had been sold to a local supermarket for the land but then didn't need it after all so here it is. Overgrown. Waiting. Hopefully it will be a home again one day. I would love it and I'd weave magic around that garden and turn it into my secret garden with all year round colour and twinkling lights. Can you picture it?

Mammasaurus - How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Featured Post: Classic Bike Insurance (and my time as a biker!)

I used to have a motorbike. A big motorbike in fact. I felt the freedom, felt the amazing camaraderie and went to bike rallies. There was an annual event in my town - I think it was this that got me started - where hundreds of biker roared in, admired each other motorcycles and had a great time socialising. So many bikes from huge Harley Davidsons, Honda Goldwings to sporty Kawasaki Ninjas and amazing Mod-style Lambretta scooters. A lot of vintage bikes were brought out too, lovingly cared for by their owners who no doubt would have had classic bike insurance to protect their amazing restored bikes. There was one guy each year who must have been nearly 80, who brought his shiny vintage motorbike out to ride a circuit of the town. He was so proud of it.

bikers What I love about the biking community is that all types of people are brought together and you can almost match the personality and style of the biker to their motorbike. This is me on my bike - sorry mum!- it was a Kawasaki ZZR600 and rather big for little me. People are usually quite surprised when I tell them I had a bike and firstly think I'd be matched to a 125cc with my girly flowery helmet but then I never do tend to do things by halves and went straight for a big bike. The training was tough but I'm very proud that I did it, it was one of my life achievements. Sadly I don't have it any more as my son comes first but you never know one day I might be back on two wheels but shhhh don't tell my mum.
 my Kawasaki bike
Disclaimer: This was a featured post in conjunction with Footman James. All words and pictures are my own.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Wednesday Wishlist: Glitter

I could go glitter mad at this time of year. Here are some lovely glittery items which have caught my eye whilst I've been mooching around the Internet recently. Do you like any of them?
Glitter items1.Gold Glitter Triangle Necklace, Bumble and Bracken £17 // 2. Skinny Dip iPad Mini Case Debenhams £20 // 3. Kurt Geiger Lucca Glitter Pumps ASOS £85 // 4. Initial Glitter Pouch NOTH £15
Glitter items 5. Glitter Tape, NOTH £3.75 // 6. Rimmel Nail Varnish Disco Ball Nail Varnish Direct £2.95 // 7. Gold Glitter Gemstone Pumps, River Island £30 // 8. Red Herring Rose Glitter Heart Watch Debenhams £30Glitter Items 9. Beaded Heart Cushion Next £18 // 10.  Silver Glitter Clutch Bag ASOS £17.50 // 11. Too Faced Glitter Glaze Sparkling Shadow Top Coat Beauty Bay £18 // 12. Purple and Teal Glitter Stag Paperchase £4.75Glitter items13. Glitter Duck Coconut Lipgloss John Lewis £3.50 // 14. Shimmy Shimmy Glitter Bar Lush £4.50 // 15. Hunter Kids Glitter Wellies Garden4Less £28 // 16. 12 Glitter Pots Amazon £2.75

Damp in the home - Appliances Direct Dehumidifier Review

I live in a Victorian house and notoriously as a poorly insulated old building it suffers from damp and mould. I don't like the idea of mould spores in the house - I have read reports that these can cause allergies when breathed in and cause asthma.With a young child in the house, damp was something I wanted to eradicate. We did have a damp proof course put in but this in itself was not the solution to the whole damp issue.

In the winter, with windows closed and no regular ventilation the water vapour in our homes increases - whether it's from cooking the tea, having a shower or my big sin - putting wet clothes on the radiator. Even wet dogs coming back in after a walk contribute and all the water vapour hitting cold walls causes the mould. A lot of the damp appears in the corners of the rooms. This is what was happening in a corner of my dining area - you can see the mould and how the paintwork is being ruined as a result of the damp (this was after a damp proof course too!)
A dehumidifier can help slow down the process of mould appearing by reducing the amount of water vapour in the air within your home and help you keep on top of it. I was lucky enough to be able to try out two dehumidifiers from Appliances Direct who sent me them to review.
Amcor dehumidifier Appliances Direct
Firstly I tried the Amcor Mini Dehumidifier which is ideal for smaller spaces, caravans or cupboards. I have an under stairs cupboard that gets so damp my shoes stored here regularly have mildew/weird yellow mould on them and it smells musty too. I put the unit just inside here for the evening and was astounded at how much water it collected in the 500ml tank. After a few hours it was 1/3 full! As it's very compact and portable, I've also used it on the kitchen worktop whilst cooking and kept it on a while after. You can see the water vapour condensing inside the tank straight away. It's also quiet so you can barely hear it on amidst the usual house noises and the tank easily slides out to empty. I've found it really useful, especially for my problem cupboard. 
 shoe cupboard that gets mildew Amcor small dehumidifier
Upstairs, on the landing by the bathroom I tried out a larger Amcor 12 litres per day Dehumidifier. It certainly did collect the water and the tank soon begins to fill up. There are two settings and the highest one is a bit noisy but didn't bother me too much as I had in on during the daytime when I'm mostly downstairs. It's on castors so I could move it around a bit. One morning Little Bird's room had a lot of condensation on the windows, so I trundled it into his room for the morning to do its job. It's a heavy unit so I wouldn't be moving it between floors very often but to be honest, on the landing is probably the best place for it where sometimes I air washing and next to the bathroom of course
Amcor DehumidifierWhen you see all the water collected in such a short space of time it is easy to see why damp forms when there is little room ventilation. The unit will automatically switch off when it is full and the tank slides out easily for you to pour the water away. I will definitely be using my dehumidifiers to reduce the chances of mould forming and damage to my paintwork occurring. It will be interesting to see how much / if any mould is there in the spring especially in previous problem areas. If my shoes have no mildew on them I will be jumping for joy as I had to throw away several pairs this year ruined by this. I love the small dehumidifier as I can move it around very easily but the larger one really is the business if you have a larger damp issue. It is fairly big but it doesn't look too cumbersome in a spot on a landing or in the corner of a bedroom.  Amcor Dehumidifier
Disclosure: I received two dehumidifiers from Appliances Direct in exchange for a review. All words and pictures are my own and I give my true opinions.