Friday, 31 July 2015

Rest, silver Butterflies, your quivering wings

Erasmus Darwin house Lichfield with Palladian frontageUnexpected finds on days out discovering new places. A trip to Lichfield, famous for its three spired cathedral knows as the 'Ladies of the Vale' but across the Cathedral Close is a house. A grand Georgian house that was once home to Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus Darwin.

The Erasmus Darwin House & Garden Museum, Lichfield

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Open day at the town allotment

open allotments CheshireThe climbing of runner beans and flowering of dahlias tell me that it is time for the allotment open day in the next town. A chance to view the competition, admiring rows of onions inter-planted with rainbow chard and greenhouses filled with tomatoes and cucumbers.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Bilberry picking and jam making

View from Teggs Nose, Macclesfield Up in the hills above Macclesfield at Tegg's Nose we assembled on a Sunday morning with the local ranger and a Cheshire forest school to go wild bilberry picking. The acidic soils of the area are perfect for bilberries and the rugged landscape here is abundant with ripe ones at this time of year, ready for us to turn into glorious jam.
bilberries growing

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Swan update July

Just to recap on our resident swans who last year and indeed for several years before have not had any cygnets but this year as I reported back in June, they had 8 young.

Weaver locks Cheshire

Monday, 27 July 2015

Church Tales: Saint Michael's Church, Penbryn, Wales

St Michaels Church, Penbryn, Ceredigion On the coast in Ceredigion near Penbryn Beach is a little white parish church on a hill whose history spans back to the 12th century. Perhaps one of the oldest churches in Wales, Saint Michaels, with ancient roots hinted at by its curvilinear churchyard - Celtic perhaps, circular so the devil had no corners to hide in.

Styling in the home with LED's

I've not been much of a light bulb expert but using LED lights from LED Hut I have been transforming corners of my home with a beautiful glow and learning just how efficient LED's are and what a wise investment they are for every home.

Using LED branch lights that are rustic and sprinkled with red berries I have added these to the top of my dresser for some twinkly charm. They could also be put into a big vase as a corner lights and are easy to decorate with being battery powered. 16 warm LED lights that can be used in a variety of ways. In autumn I will put these on my mantle and make an autumn display with pine cones and conkers. For summer they look pretty on the dresser and I've hung some of my bird decorations from them.
LED branch lights decorating

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday Snapshot: Delicatessen

Manchester delicatessen Peeking into a delicatessen bar on a summer's evening in the city. Italian food - breads, hams, pastas and cheeses from Pecorino to Parmigiano Reggiano. A great spot in the city to watch the world pass by or like me, gaze at the amazing food displays and decide what to take home......

Sunday Snap

Friday, 24 July 2015

Oh là là

Vintage cherry red Citroen 2cv
 I love France but haven't been for so long. Part of the master life plan is to move down south so we can get to France a lot easier and start exploring the country. Until then, a little bit of France can come to us. 

Why DIYers Need Safety Gear as Much as Professionals

These days if you see someone working on a house you can quickly tell whether he or she is the home owner or a professional builder or construction worker. All you need to do is to glance at them.
If they are wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, the chances are they are a professional, if they are not it is likely that they are the home owner. The thing is that DIYers tend not to wear safety gear, but professionals do.

Why professional builders use safety equipment
By law professional tradespeople have to use safety equipment. Health and safety laws mean that employers have to care for their employees and provide them with a safe working environment.
Part of doing that is making sure that workers are made aware of risks, shown how to avoid them and are supplied with, and made to use, safety equipment. Failure to do this can result in prosecution and fines.

If someone is seriously injured or killed because they have not been provided with the right safety gear and been trained how to use it the business owner can be prosecuted and actually go to jail. As a result, health and safety is taken very seriously in professional circles and the wearing of good quality safety gear is now the norm.

The level of DIY accidents in the UK
Unfortunately when people carry out similar work at home they rarely take the same level of precautions and some pay with their lives. Every year around 70 Brits die while carrying out DIY tasks. A further 250,000 end up having to see a doctor or go to hospital because they have hurt themselves while doing construction work at home. Goodness knows how many more hurt themselves but not badly enough to need professional medical attention.
Image source: DIY Safety Shutterstock

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Wedding Flowers

church entrance The weekend was a good friend's wedding. Think gorgeous country village, parish church, english flowers and a marquee set in a picture perfect field.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Garden and allotment projects

This year we had so many projects in mind for both the garden and allotment but as yet they are now scheduled for late summer when the harvests from the plot have been collected, maybe a few pumpkins left on withering vines and just the sunflowers and a few nasturtiums are holding onto their colour. Here are my top projects for over the next few months:

Raised beds
We have a couple of raised beds already and I love them, mainly as my son doesn't then trample all over the seedlings on family visits to the allotment. It was a decision I swiftly made this year once a row of spinach and the emerging shoots of chard were swiftly squashed under the foot of a rampaging 5 year old. They also look nice and ordered giving a structure to the plot. They are easy to construct and once done will ease your allotment work rather than having huge open beds. 

Plan it out first with string considering where the paths will be. We used old decking planks, a good way of reusing wood as is the allotmenteers unofficial rules of recycling. 
Onions growing in a raised bed

I'm the chick of the castle

Caernarfon Castle A little surprise at the top of Caernarfon Castle, fuzzy little Herring Gull chicks. More birds at castles for us! Very camouflaged with the stone walls, the moss and the lichen.Herring Gull chick

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The precious trend: Graham and Brown

With living in a Victorian house I gravitate towards old items and have quite a lot of treasures that are precious to me, usually with a little story attached to them. 

 “Precious is an appreciation for all things vintage and antique. W​hether you are redecorating, buying a few wall art pieces, or simply making a statement of your attic treasures, make sure you have fun with this one. Create your very own museum of you, full of memories.” – ​The Precious Trend

My house has been called a museum on more than one occasion and I can't deny that I have a bit of an obsession with creating vignettes for the seasons or for putting together a little collection. I tend to do this on the mantle, the dresser and in the printers tray on the wall. I collect such an array of trinkets and have great enjoyment in what I call faffing. 
all my homely treasures

Sunday Snap: The Dome of Home

Dome of Home New Brighton A majestic Roman Catholic church at New Brighton on the Wirral. We were visiting the area and had been to Birkenhead and New Brighton on a lovely sunny day. A quick look on the map showed the church of Saint Peter, Paul and Philomena to be a place to visit and of historical importance. 

Friday, 17 July 2015

Visualising interiors with Apollo Blinds new Design Space tool

A friend on Facebook recently painted a room what she thought would be a lovely neutral stone colour but once it was finished, the shade looked more bright yellow, which she was not happy with at all and it was soon to be repainted. I have done it myself in the past, painting a feature wall a lovely apple green, only it wasn't, it looked more lime and completely wrong for the colour scheme. The same can be applied to window dressing, how do you know if the blinds you are buying will be the right ones for the look you are trying to achieve?

Fortunately, there is a solution to this with Apollo Blinds who have a new free online visualisation tool - Design Space.
Apollo Blinds visualisation tool Design Space

What the tool allows you to do is select from the different blinds available - Venetian, roller, pleated and vertical blinds, select the colour that you want and then from a choice of room settings, you can visualise what the room with new window dressings will look like.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

London Flora

Covent Garden
Covent Garden
I was back in London, walking around on a muggy day, a little bit nervous as I was on my own but lifted on my own little love cloud as I looked around. I love London. My heart beats faster at just the word. L-O-N-D-O-N. Say it slowly and maybe my stay can be extended. And when I see all the little green spaces around the city, I might have even squealed.....

From the canal to grand street, I walked and took it all in. Wondering who lives behind the pretty door, who sits there watching the world with a glass of wine, do the people sat on the grass, laughing there in the park live near or are they day-tripping like me too.....

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Peer to peer lending information

I have a huge interest in finances lately, I'm on a mission to increase my income and get saving to fund future plans. For this I like to pore over the financial news of a morning and see if I can find any new tips and increase my savviness of anything money related. I feel like my father all of a sudden, perhaps it is an age thing. However, it is great to learn of new products to be able to tell others about it as you never know how it may help. 

Recently I have been reading about peer to peer lending which is an alternative to lending and borrowing through a bank and Lending Works are a provider of this service. 

Here's how it all works:
Lenders receive a great return on their money which is matched to borrowers through the peer to peer platform. 

Borrowers are then able to take advantage of low cost loans, cutting out the banks and building societies lowers the rate.

Lenders choose from two different terms, 5.1% over 3 years or 6.4% over 5 years. A better return than most savings accounts but with a degree of extra risk.

Lenders money is protected in several ways; borrowers go through a check, there is a reserve fund to cover missed payments and Lending Works are the first peer to peer to have insurance against default risks such as loss of employment, fraud and sickness.

 Growing numbers of retired people are using this type of lending as part of retirement finance plans, so Lending Works have launched services for this market from a dedicated customer advisor to bonuses and online help for calculating return on money put in. Money can be withdrawn monthly using the monthly fixed income tool. 

**Feature post. Words are my own. Please do seek independent financial advice. **

Monday, 13 July 2015

5 treats to cheer me up......

There's times when you deserve a treat, something to cheer you up and banish the blues away. I don't spend money on myself that often or have nice surprises but here's what I like:
British books British books - I love to read about the British Isles, so books are top of my list. Books about our wildlife, places to visit, history,our food and train journeys. There's always something quirky to discover about our wonderful island and I'm always hungry for more knowledge. Next on my list is Meadowland, a book that covers a year of a field in Herefordshire, how the seasons pass and the animals and plants that live there. 

Iconic lighting for the home

Habitat is a brand I've grown up with. Before I was born my mum worked for them and as a child we had a local store that incorporated a kid's indoor play area that I thought was wonderful after being dragged patiently around homewares for what seemed like hours. As I got older, how things changed and I could happily spend hours looking around at items for my own home, it's probably a favourite pastime. I love finding trendy and unique items of which Habitat is fantastic for, just as my mum thought too back in the 70's and 80's.

Here is my new Habitat Tommy yellow floor lamp and it certainly is an individual looking piece for my front room. Bright mustard yellow, quirky and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was my style. I love the contrast it has with my grey curtains and blinds and it fits perfectly with my use of colour in my home, picking up the other yellow accents throughout the front room. It is modern yet retro and has a classic appeal of good design that goes without saying for Habitat.
Habitat yellow floor lamp

The lamp has two heads that can be moved and tilted and the arms are adjustable too making it an extremely useful source of light in a room. It's great to have a lamp in a room for that softer lighting as opposed to the ceiling light, it's a gentler feel for an evening relaxing. At almost 1.5m tall, the dimension is just right for my Victorian house, looking in proportion for the corner of the room. It's also a good design tip to have different sources of light within a room, giving the room depth and a soothing ambiance.

Shaker kitchens made for entertaining

There is no kitchen more timeless than the Shaker style,with its simple lines of the frame and panel in the cabinetry and the quality of materials used. It's a look of craftsmanship and over the years has varied slightly for contemporary tastes but still has that classic feel lending itself to any age of house and any style from on-trend industrial to country cottage.

 If you like to both cook and entertain, a Shaker style kitchen is an excellent choice and will work in any room layout. When designing your space, here are some ideas for a Shaker kitchen that will be both functional and sociable.

A Central island or breakfast bar is an ideal option for creating a kitchen where friends and family can gather round, for glugs of wine and laughter whilst also busy preparing the food. In the Shaker style, a central island is a stylish addition showing off its simple clean look, creating space for people to sit, workspace for food preparation and extra storage. A different wood finish to the rest of the kitchen can be a great contrast and creates an inviting space.
Shaker style central island
Image source: Wren Kitchens

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Tam O'Shanter Urban Farm

Tam O'Shanter Urban Farm  Further exploring on The Wirral Penninsula, after the park where we found a lovely lake, the fascinating marine lake and the picture perfect community gardens. Now we are at the Tom O'Shanter Urban Farm, all free and run by a charitable trust. A great community space that relies on volunteers and is super to pop into whilst in Birkenhead to see the animals and nature areas.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Degustabox the June Picnic Box

I am very late to the party with Degustabox, I have seen these monthly food goody box subscriptions on other blogs for such a long time but never tried one. But now I have tried one and what a great parcel to receive - the June Picnic Box. Who doesn't love a picnic?

Degustabox June Degustabox contents June 2015First to get into the box was Billy my terrier who could quickly smell the goodies and what a fine assortment there was inside......

A wander around my allotment site in July

Allotment plot JulySunshine again after all the storms. The allotment survived the hailstorm and no ones shed got hit by lightning forks but perhaps I better check and take a walk around the allotment plots and ensure all is ok........

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Freelancing as a blogger whilst being a home educating mum

Where I am now in terms of family life and my work is not where I expected to be 10 years ago. My son changed everything, being made redundant changed things too, as did writing this blog.

I had expected my son to go to the local school and for myself to eventually find a part-time job but then autism happened, I had battles to fight and I decided to home educate through lack of suitable school options. My blog also started to generate a small income and I thought, I can do this, I can freelance and educate my son. Therefore I can be at home with him and as home education does not have to follow set hours or days I can work around his needs.

Here are my tips for freelancing when you perhaps like me home educate your children or have young preschool children still at home. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Crafting and friendship at Re-creation London

`Creative space in London Stepping off the tube at Borough I wasn't prepared to find the most gorgeous crafting location set in this vibrant area of the City. Re-creation Artroom London is a crafter's paradise. A place for parents to bring their children, for friends to meet and do arty things and natter or just to come and enjoy whatever art or craft you desire. It is for everyone and you will be welcomed by the friendly gang who will help and advise and most of all put a big smile on your face.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

How to keep your bedroom tidy

My bedroom is such a busy area of the house, the terrier feels it is his look out post for any approaching people, sat by the window on guard. My oldie dog thinks it is her snoozing area, peace and quiet in the afternoon and my son thinks the bed is a trampoline and general monkeying around room. The laundry gets dumped in here for sorting out and I do work in there too with my laptop. By the end of the day I have an assortment of books, toys, magazines and clothes in the room to sort out. I'd like to reclaim my room, so it feels a bit more like a calming space but what can I do to sort it out?
Image source: Time4Sleep

1. Grab a couple of carrier bag and go through every drawer, shelf and wardrobe/closet space. Have one bag for the bin and one for charity items or to sell on eBay. It's good to declutter and have surfaces clean and junk free. I have drawers full of costume jewellery that I have not worn in years, old watches, clothes that don't fit any more and probably never will and books on subjects I've long since moved on from. Be ruthless in your sorting and get rid of what you no longer need!

2. I love baskets, one for my make-up, one for my bedside books, lotions and potions. They keep all my items organised and then on busy mornings I know where to find things. 

3. Have clever storage. Organise drawers using separate little boxes, utilise all your wardrobe space - I have mini plastic drawers at the bottom of mine for accessories, use under the bed boxes for out of season clothes. I regularly look for ideas on Pinterest for ingenious ways to organise space. I love the idea of using a pegboard to hang jewellery from.
bedroom drawer storage
Image source: Better Homes and Gardens
4. Spend a few minutes every day doing a little bit of tidying. I have a busy week, as we all do, so a quick 5 minutes each day sorting a shelf or one of my drawers helps and soon adds up to helping keep the bedroom looking ordered. 

5. I keep a bedroom 'want' list in my notebook for my organising and cleaning so I can keep a look out for items as I'm shopping - bargain shops for handy storage boxes and containers or fragrant cleaning products.

6. A baby wipe is my favourite cleaning weapon for a very quick wipe of surfaces in the room, when it's not due it's full clean with the furniture polish. Wipes are great at removing mucky hand prints from walls and splashed drinks on the door frames. 

Time4Sleep are looking for the UK's messiest bedroom, mine is probably not that bad but is yours? if you fancy entering, all you need to do is enter a photo on the competition page along with a description (or tweet #messybedroom) and you could win a storage bed up to the value of £500.

*Feature post, words are my own*

Monday, 6 July 2015

Monster in my house #BostikBloggers

A little late due to the little heat wave meaning that my energetic 5 year old just wanted to race around the garden, jump in the paddling pool and generally turn into a little monster.

As soon as the rain started to fall I still couldn't get my boy in but as the rain kept falling I literally had to scoop him up and say enough. Still full of energy, it was time to occupy him with some crafting and luckily for us out latest Bostik Bloggers box was sat on the dining room table.
Bostik Bloggers Monster Craft box In fact, it's contents had already been investigated by my son and we had some thoughts around our monthly project  - Monsters!  How appropriate.

Day tripping: Birkenhead Park

Birkenhead Park lake Our day trips are always a magical, mystery tour. We aim to go a particular place and end up somewhere else, either by taking the wrong motorway junction, roadworks or a change in weather en route. The sun had broke through cloud mid morning to give the most intense hot day with little breeze and after sweltering around an urban farm, we had then headed to the coast at New Brighton. So it wasn't until the evening had officially started that we found ourselves at one of our original plans of the day - Birkenhead Park.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

By a river one summer's evening {Sunday Snap}

River Nene at Fotheringhay Summer by the river where weeping willow gently dips into the glassy waters and the noise of rooks contemplating an early roost passes over my head.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

West Kirby Marine Lake

Boats at West Kirby It was a sudden decision last weekend to head out to the Wirral Peninsula, another reasonably local destination that we have rarely explored yet there is so much to do there. We had a walk along the promenade, exploring the gardens and then went to take a look at the crabbers on the small jetties by the marine lake. Even the seagulls were joining in as we saw one gull quickly swoop down and in a few seconds guzzle a crab right down. 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Does your garden need a new design?

Looking at our back garden today I am contemplating a redesign, it's all become a bit wild and overgrown and requires some structure. With having a 5 year old and being so busy, all that I learnt at horticulture college has fallen by the wayside, the design rules and the planting the moment, it's a jungle. It can be hard to know where to start but there are many places to seek guidance for landscaping your garden.

My first place to look will be the garden shows that seem to be every other week over the summer months. Latest design ideas can be found at RHS shows and last year we had a wonderful time at Tatton gathering information and photos of dream gardens. So many landscaping elements to consider, particularly for a family garden where functionality is important as well as providing a space for relaxation and for children to play. Consider what surfaces will work well - wood can get very slippy, stone can be expensive. Do you want the play area disguised by some vertical elements like trellis and climbing plants? How can you make the garden less overlooked by neighbours?
RHS Tatton show gardenAnother favourite way of gathering ideas is looking around other people's gardens for inspiration. The National Gardens Schemes open days are a great opportunity to mooch around the beloved spaces of local gardeners for a small entrance fee. Many a glorious afternoon can be spent looking at borders filled with attractive plants and browsing vegetable plots. You can see which hard/soft landscaping elements work well, what plants are growing with gusto in the local soil and ask questions about the gardener's design ideas. Usually you can grab a piece of homemade cake and buy plants grown in the garden too, perfect!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Two little gardens by the promenade

pink summer houseFollowing on from last week and the secret garden I found in London, this week I was ambling along on The Wirral Peninsula when I came across two public gardens tucked away behind the promenade at West Kirby. 

Allotment life: growing in polytunnels

July is full of lush growth at my allotment, the potatoes are happily growing away and we have had a first crop of early spuds, summer fruits are ripening, the tomato plants are looking healthy and the pumpkin vines are starting to sprawl across the soil and will soon take over. The French beans seem a bit behind and sadly a couple of my broad beans have been decimated by blackfly. Every year you learn a little bit more and make changes and think of new ways to improve your crops.
Allotment in July The weather is great now but a few weeks ago it was pretty cool and wet, I wondered if my tomatoes would grow at all. British weather is very unpredictable and we have a relatively short growing season. One way to overcome this is with a polytunnel and every fruit and vegetable grower should look at having one for extending productivity and ensuring a bumper harvest. They make them in so many sizes that even if you have a small space, there are mini ones available.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Open Up Your Space With Internal Room Dividers

It’s great to live in open plan modern homes, or large old character ones with large rooms and plenty of space; however, this does have a few drawbacks. Very often we need to divide up the room. For instance, when we are entertaining the larger area may be perfect but when we are back to family time, smaller individual rooms may be the order of the day.

Image courtesy of Vufold

Botanical inspiration for your home

All of a sudden the garden is in full bloom and all the flower shows are  taking place , this week it is RHS Hampton Court Palace providing inspiration. I love a botanical print and quite often find them in charity shops or even some free postcards at one of the horticultural events. Pinks and purples of fragrant sweet peas or tea roses intermingled with cool and fresh greens of ferns or herbs but how can this be used in home decor?

Bring a few flowers and greenery in out of the garden, place in vases or jars. My allotment plot neighbour has told me to cut as many as his sweet peas as I like as the more you cut, the more flowers you get. The smell is divine and fills the room. I do like having cut flowers on the mantlepiece or on the dresser as it gives a very seasonal look. Add pot plants like ferns, on a book shelf or be inventive and add violets to old vintage china tea cups or have tiny air plants suspended in glass balls.
Botanical fern room
Image source