Friday, 31 January 2014

A little box of yummy treats

yummy little bakery items In exchange for helping a friend I received some gorgeous treats for Little Bird. I opened the box and there inside were a buzzy bee fondant, two chocolate trains, two character shortbreads and a dashing gingerbread man. A lovely surprise.Bakery items childresn's cakes and biscuits They are from our local bakery which is family run and they have a chain of them over this side of Cheshire and into North Wales and the goods that they make are gorgeous. In fact I snuck into the bakery shop at the weekend after the battle re-enactment and secretly had a lemon tart. Yummy!little train cakes character shortbreads Little Bird was delighted with all his cakes and biscuits and chose the buzzy bee first. So today we will both be sharing (of course he wants to share with him mummy!) and enjoying our last day in January.
Happy yummy weekend xx
gingerbread man

Kitchen worktop options

Our current kitchen worktop is wooden and needs replacing at some point. Around the sink area through getting continually wet, it has started to rot away and looks unsightly. It also scratches very easily and isn't resilient to a hot pan accidentally placed on it and if not oiled will really start to lose its finish. When we come to replace our worktops there are a few different options to consider rather than wood which in our case would require too much upkeep.

Attractive, low maintenance and extremely tough this is a popular choice and you don't have to worry if you briefly put your saucepan down on it as it is heat resilient. I love its glossy look although there are plenty of other finishes and you can choose many different shades to suit your kitchen's style. The initial cost is higher than other options but you certainly won't be needing to replace it with being so hard wearing, so it is cost effective in the long run. Granite suits all kitchens from modern to country and expert suppliers such as London Granite will advise on the best design for your kitchen. I think the granite look instantly updates a kitchen making it look bespoke and luxurious

Also very strong and able to withstand temperatures and stains, quartz is available in so many colour and pattern options, some are quite contemporary looking like white with specks of red and would make a sparkly fun-style kitchen. Easy to clean so perfect for a working family kitchen like ours and as I do a lot of baking, I'd want a surface where I could directly roll my dough out on with the confidence that it is a hygienic. I particularly like the many positive properties of quartz such as it being non porous and therefore not requiring sealing and it would therefore be a top contender for my worktop replacements.

A beautiful natural product and like granite although more expensive, it will last a lifetime. Very easy to maintain and extremely durable. We use a marble cutting board and it has been amazing, taking a lot of hot oven trays and pans in addition to doing all my food preparation on it. Perhaps a bit too traditional looking for my liking but a whole work surface of marble would so practical.

Stainless Steel
Used in commercial kitchens for its all round resilience to heat, stains and water. Very hygienic but I think would be too industrial looking for our home. I also imagine it would get greasy paw prints on it off my son and easily show fine scratches.

Very modern and available in a huge range of colours. Toughened glass is resistant to heat but can get scratched although they can be polished out. Sounds a bit too labour intensive for our kitchen although the colours appeal and it would really give a kitchen the wow factor.

Cheap and cheerful and available in plenty of finishes but can start to wear very quickly and is easily damaged. Scratches can start to harbour bacteria making it unhygienic. Great as a quick fix on a budget but I would rather save a while longer for a more robust worktop like granite or quartz.

All options would certainly require some upkeep and is always advisable to use trivets for hot pans and to clear spills up immediately but I think when the time comes to replace our extremely worn wooden worktops we will be opting for the high quality but contemporary finish of granite or quartz. As we intend to stay in our current home for a good while longer, it will be a good investment to use the harder wearing materials so that when we come to sell, the kitchen will look in super condition.

Disclosure: This post was written on behalf of London Granite who are experts in stone installations in the home from worktops to floors.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Gardens on my travels - New Zealand

mosaic work A good number of  years ago I was fortunate to be able to have a little tour of the North Island of New Zealand. At this time I was studying horticulture and garden design so whilst I was there I visited a fair few gardens out of interest. I've lost a lot of the photos and I wasn't much into photography in the way I am now so many of the pics are very touristy and have me in them ruining the picture :) These are ones that pass...L'Arte Mosaic Cafe & Sculpture Garden
Pūkeko mosaic
I noticed that mosaic work seemed very popular and bright colours especially in NZ. This was at a cute little cafe in Taupo, L'arte Mosaic Cafe and Sculpture Garden. I love the mosaic rocks especially with the pukeko, which is the blue bird related to the moorhen - you see them all over NZ, quite the little characters. I do love the little cats set into the pathway, aren't they cute!NZ trees Fabulous lush vegetation everywhere and some familiar herbaceous borders but much more green looking and when the backdrop has semi tropical trees it really makes for a different garden. I remember taking a look at my travelling companion's (who was New Zealander) friend's garden and it was lots of rockery displays and much spikier looking vegetation planted. Some of the gardens were spectacular.New Zealand garden Pretty houses too with a lot of care taken in the planting around gates and front doors. The house below is pretty dreamy isn't it?!New Zealand house Now I am not sure where this picture is from and I kind of hope it isn't one from Melbourne that has snuck its way in. If anybody recognises this imposing building do let me know? Terrible really that I can't remember but I was younger than and I'm more into taking note of places now. park I'm pretty sure this one actually was Melbourne and I remember it being a huge street display of sunflowers. I guess perhaps the weather helps but it would lovely to see more displays like this here in the UK. I'm afraid that I do not really like typical council bedding displays. Sorry little marigolds and begonias.........Sunflowers
It was February when I went to New Zealand with a brief stop over in Melbourne and Sydney, so of course it was summer and glorious is was too. Some more sculptures that I came across, sheep of course. They are really into artwork over here - would love one of these in my garden. I bet Little Bird would too, it would be a nice little sheep to perch on and climb over.arty sheep A farm we visited, no longer running as a farm as it belonged to my companion's nana who was in her retirement years. Lots of pukekos roamed around and at night there were glowing eyes up in the trees from possums. It was a truly wonderful experience of walking through streams and through fields of flowers that reminded me of daffodils. I'd love to return one day and take pictures of everything in better detail!NZ landscape I've got some more pictures to show you and I'll save them for next week's How Does Your Garden Grow? with Mammasaurus.NZ garden

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

3 ideas to seamlessly integrate your TV into your living room

The age-old dilemma when it comes to many aspects of home design is how to balance style and functionality. But what about entertainment? When planning a living room design many people spend hours choosing the right curtains, flooring, soft furnishings and lighting – and then ruin it all by placing a bulky television, chaotic cables and scattered consoles and media players right in the middle of their elegantly stylish space. Without considering the integration of your entertainment equipment right at the beginning of your living room design, you can end up with an awkward, disjointed looking room.
Your living room is an important part of the home - it’s often where you greet and entertain your guests and it is where you entertain yourself too. Wouldn't it be great if you could balance your priorities, creating a warm, welcoming space which accommodates your television with ease? Have a look at these three ideas to help you combine the technology of modern living with classic interior design.

1. Wall Mounting
Wall mounting may seem like a lot of hassle, but it’s actually a relatively simple fix and can provide a sleek, minimalist look if your TV is a flat screen. It has the additional benefit of saving floor space, keeping your TV well out of the way and allowing you to enjoy a neat, uncluttered floor area. Choose your wall space carefully, taking into consideration lighting and distance from the TV -because the TV emits a lot of light anyway, it’s best not to have any other lighting nearby.
For the sleekest look, invest in a wall bracket which will be practically all hidden once in place, leaving the impression that you TV is suspended in mid-air. You can also purchase floating shelves from a retailer such as Dekomount, which are relatively simple to fix to the wall and can have up to three levels, allowing you to easily store your DVD player, console and Freeview box or any other devices you wish to. Finally, purchase wall mounting cable covers to complete the clean look.
Picture credit - Pinterest
2. Sliding Cupboard
If your aim is to create an old-style country feel in your living room, you may not want this to be marred by the sight a modern-looking television. A sliding cupboard to house your television is also the ideal solution if you want something else to act as the focal point, such as a fireplace. Try incorporating an entire wall panel unit into your living room design, with some shelves exposed and others covered by doors.
Cover the exposed shelves in whatever you want to show off – ornaments, books or photographs – and keep your electrical units hidden away in closed panels. With a sliding door panel it’s easy to view the TV whenever you want to watch it, but it can remain hidden from view the rest of the time.

3. TV Stand
Your final choice is to embrace your TV, giving it pride of place on a good, old-fashioned stand. The market for TV stands is huge, so you’re sure to find one which suits your décor. Match the material
to the rest of your interior; rustic wood for a country-style or sleek chrome for a modern room. You can choose from a multitude of colours and there are even some quirky, abstract designs available for those who want something a little bit different.
The majority of TV stands will come with a number of shelves, drawers or cupboards allowing you to encase everything you need in one place, and they should allow you to easily loop your wires and cables through the back. Ensure that you place your unit near a power source so that you don’t have to lead exposed cables around the room.

Disclosure: This was a Guest Post for Dekomount

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Elsa Beskow - pretty little books

Elsa Beskow Books book bindingElsa Beskow, born Elsa Maartman was a Swedish children's author born in 1874 with a distinct style of artwork in her books. I first came across them last year when looking into Waldorf education which again I had only just discovered through Pinterest. Oh what that site is responsible for!book binding Elsa was born in Stockholm and was one of six children. She loved fairy stories and started to create her own to tell to her siblings and would also spend her free time drawing the natural world.Elsa Beskow Around the year The untimely death of her father meant that the family had to move in with extended family - her two aunts and an uncle. The Swedish women's movement was prominent at this point in time and this heavily influenced Elsa's attitude and is reflected in some of her books. Elsa Beskow bookElsa studied art at University and it was here that she both met her husband to be, Nathanial Beskow and started her children's illustrations. After marrying they had six children and Elsa started to have her books published. Her first book was The Tale of the Little, Little Old Woman in 1897 but her first real success was in 1901 with Peter in Blueberry Land. flower illustrations The children in her books are modelled on her own children and she drew using their wonderful home and garden near Stockholm as inspiration. Her style of drawing is unmistakeable with nature, fairies, pixies and wildlife. Beautiful drawings that make these books a real treasure to snuggle up with your little ones and look through. Her drawings heavily reflect the seasons and one of my favourites is 'Around the Year' with a poem for each month.January illustrationElsa continued to write books until a year before her death at aged 79 in 1953. I thoroughly recommend her books and they are reasonably inexpensive to buy although I've never seen them in a bookshop but most of them are available through Amazon. I'd like to collect them all and have them on a bookshelf of their own as their pictures are so wonderful and would make a nice display for our snug room.

Have you heard of Elsa Beskow before and do you have any of her books?

Elsa Beskow Books

3 Easy Ways to Keep Your Kids Active

The battle with technology is never ending when it comes to children as these days it is a constant struggle to keep them off the PlayStation or Wii and get them outside in the fresh air. So it is vital that you take steps to keep them active throughout the year to make sure they do not become unfit and overweight; recent studies have shown that, as of 2013, almost a third of 10-11 year olds in the UK are classed as overweight.

This is a scenario no one wants for their child as the health problems could be extremely serious. Try some of these ideas and make the changes for a healthy and active life for your little ones.

No Matter Rain or Shine
One huge aspect that keeps us indoors is the weather. It can be a nightmare when you have a great day out planned and then you wake up in the morning to find that the heavens have opened and wellies are the only form of footwear that you could even consider wearing. However, just because it is cold or raining it does not mean that you have to stay cooped up in doors watching the television.

There are a number of indoor play centres which are ideal for a day when you cannot go to the nearby park. The admission can be as little as £1.50 a child and they will happily run around for hours which will also mean some very tired children at the end, meaning even more time for you to relax. As you have to pay, you may only want to do this on occasion as a special treat but there are many activities that you can do that are free.

Find Local Activities
Keep an eye out in your local newspaper for events and clubs that are happening which can help to keep children active including dance classes, play groups for the younger ones and sports days held in the local community. As recession has hit over the last five years, more and more people are opting for affordable activities in the community over expensive days out to things like theme parks, so the level of choice of offer is usually pretty good. This is also a way for you and the rest of your family to meet people and is great if you are new to an area.

There are also bound to be a number of outdoor play areas which you can visit. Try to mix this up and go to a different one as often as possible so that there is variety for the children. Taking a picnic and making a day of it could also allow for quality time spent as a family.An outdoor play centre will also provide them with hours of fun even up to their teens as swings, climbing frames and slides will keep them entertained and active.

Home Sweet Home
Especially if you have young children, it is a good idea to have a garden which allows them to play outdoors but within the safety of their own home. Create a grass area which is ideal for them to kick balls around and expand their imagination with make believe worlds. Don’t forget to have an area for the adults of the home, so perhaps have a decked section that can be used to dine al fresco. This could also be used to home a sandpit if you do not want a large amount of sand landing on your lawn. Decking is relatively straightforward, and you can guarantee good quality by using specialist retailers such as Millboard; you can lay it yourself in no time at all.

No matter how old or young your children are, the key is to make sure they have variety and are always engaged with an activity. Half of the time they will not even consider that they are taking part in exercise because they are having so much fun!

This post was written by Amy Bennett on half of Millboard, the decking specialist that delivers to your door.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Holly Holy Day

We went to a battle re-enactment between the Parliamentarians (roundheads) and the Royalists (cavaliers)that took place in 1644 in the First English Civil War. Nantwich in Cheshire was under siege by the Royalists but the Parliamentarians came to save the day. The day is referred to Holly Holy Day as the Royalists were defeated and the people wore holly sprigs in their hats to celebrate.
The event takes places every January with a re-enactment society called the Sealed Knot showing us the battle. I have a great admiration for such re-enactment societies as the effort put into such events is amazing and a truly great way for children to learn about history.
As soon as we arrived there was an almighty thunder storm, probably one of the best and the scariest I have seen for a long time. The lightening was forking across the sky and all of a sudden huge hailstones came hurtling down. Little Bird was amazed and looked completely perplexed by it all and put his hands over his head as they were really bouncing down. We then ran back to the car as I was worried about us being struck by lightening. It was all very thrilling and LB's face was full of excitement as we took refuge in the car.
The storm finally passed - I was looking on Twitter to see if others had a storm and it was interesting to work out the storm's route. 30 minutes previous Denbigh Castle in Wales had been treated to the wild storm too so it was moving easterly. We ventured out into the drizzle and followed the loud noise of cannon and guns.
We found a place on a muddy verge behind the river to watch the battlefield. The cannons were a real shock and many of the chldren were upset by them. LB didn't flinch although I was fussing about his ears and put his long eared woolly hat on and then a hood over that to protect them. He seemed to be enjoying the show and we watched the pikemen skirmish and the men do battle - although I noticed that many of the re-enactors are women - yay! 

Drummers stirred up the soldiers and the artillery continued to fire the cannons  through the misty, gunpowder laden air. BOOM!

 I must admit that this era, the 17th century is one I know little about. I shall learn more one day and this event will now be in our annual event calendar. There were many more events happening in town at the local museum and displays but we are mindful of Little Bird not getting too overwhelmed. More to explore in future years..... The pikes are around 16ft long and were usually made of ash. Dressed in their simple armour and helmet - the 'pikeman's pot', the pikemen went to battle. They were the central defence in the army. These all looked a lot cheerier than they would have done :) I just finished a course where re-enactment societies were criticised as being more about entertainment than history but I disagree. These people put in a lot of time, voluntary too, providing a valuable resource of historical info, keeping traditions alive and giving us all a peek back in time. 

There were plenty of re-enactors dressed as civilians too and of course the musketeers who were mostly the ones dressed in red. They each have muskets and the group of little wooden flasks you can see, the bandolier, contains black powder charge for the muskets. It's a whole new world! Who knew how popular it all was. Living history is a wonderful experience.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My M&S Magical Dining Room

My Pretty M&S Magical Dining Room

My M&S Magical Dining Room by happyhomebird 

Love Chic Living and The Treasure Hunter are hosting a wonderful blogger's competition to put together our dream dining room from Marks & Spencer. I have chosen items for a Spring Tea Party with pretty items with insects and animals on such as the bee wall art & vase with the Sketch Chicken mugs. A party isn't complete without fairy lights and these white and sets would be pretty hung over picture frames. 

Some floral pieces would make the table look very pretty so floral plates and a gorgeous red poppy in a  pot. All on a crisp white and blue table cloth. I'm picturing coffee and tea aplenty with cute cupcakes and a jugful of elderflower water. 

Red accents such as the Globe Glass Pendant would look striking as would the retro red clock. I love to mix and match and would team blue chairs with a white table and mix tableware for an eclectic feel.

Mind the buzzy bees and have a slice of cake xx

Here are all my items: