Thursday, 29 October 2015

Woodland style chalk board review

I love woodland style in the home - owls, foxes, trees, stags....It's a theme that particularly suits the autumn and winter and makes think.....cosyness. It can be both whimsical and also fit a more masculine interior, particular items with stags on them - very vintage gentleman's club style.

I recently was lucky enough to receive this Stag Chalk Board from the gift company Qwerkity who particularly specialise in gifts for the men in your life.
stag noticeboardThe chalk board is an ideal addition to a kitchen or hallway, a place to write down notes with that chalk that is provided with it. The illustration is a beautiful vintage stag and the board has a weathered feel to it and a rustic rope to hang it up from. It is 60cm high by 25.5cm wide so a neat size for any room and big enough to chalk plenty of reminders onto. A handy eraser is also provided for wiping clean your lists. 

It's a sturdy board, quite thick and good quality. Hanging on the wall in my family room it looks great and I love the overall look. Perfect for my autumn interior that I have at the moment with my owls and toadstools. 
stag chalk board
The chalk board retails at £24.99 and standard delivery is £3.99 For lots more gift ideas look at Qwerkity, from kitchen items to quirky gadgets there is a huge selection. Certainly a great site for Christmas ideas, I love the tin of beer flavoured jelly beans and the tractor keyrings.

Autumn and winter home inspiration

Now the clocks have gone back and it's dark by early evening I find it incredibly comforting to transform the home into a welcoming abode. Walking along the cold autumn streets I am drawn to windows filled with a warm glow, flickering candles, lights that twinkle and that feeling of homeliness created by lighting. Achieving that ambiance is easy with some clever use of a range of light fixtures in the various rooms in your house. 

For the living room I like to have different types of light to suit the occasion and what you are doing. Wall and ceiling lights will provide the strongest light for activities but having a table lamp for instance is perfect for when you're sat in an armchair reading a book in a corner of the room. Lighting up corners gives a soft glow to a room; think about combining floor lamps and table lamps to alter the lighting depending on your mood. A mixture of light options such as those available from Lampcommerce  provide excellent options from the aforementioned to floor lamps and recessed spotlights. 

In a sitting room, the ceiling light is often a focal point so chandeliers and pendants work well, illuminating the whole room giving an elegant look. In the autumn I love to layer up the sofa and decorate the room with all kinds of autumnal home accessories, a basket for the firewood, cushions and throws in rich, natural fabrics and a hot water bottle to snuggle up with. This area tends to be the hub of the house where we play games, sit to watch television and the dogs snooze away on the rug. For the colder months I keep a little book shelf in here with my selection of autumn and winter reading to hand so when I get a quiet moment I can nestle down in the chair for a while. For relaxing I buy a lovely collection of fragranced candles for the season - cinnamon, pumpkin, sweet aromas of baking or fresh pine.
cosy autumn
Image source; cosy autumn Shutterstock

After autumn family days out we love coming back home, cooking warming food like stews or soups and then eating in our dining room.  I'd love a revamped room with some wooden bench style dining and contemporary lighting over the table such as the Artemide  range to create a Scandinavian designed space - rustic and clean lines. Informal and restful yet accommodating all family activities such as playing board games and my son's homeschool work. 

Two years ago we had a wood burning stove installed and it has been wonderful, aside from saving money on energy bills, it also looks the part for the winter months - logs stacked either side, roaring flames and the hiss and crackle all adds to the effect. It has a feel of the outdoors being brought it, teamed with natural elements and decorations such as stag and bird prints, a vase of winter berried flora and earthy colour palette. 
Image source: Brit+Co

How do you like to cosy up your home for autumn and winter? Do you have different types of lighting in the room too?

*Collaborative post*

Family Halloween Games

We love Halloween and every year have a little get together  - a tea party, spooky music and games. Little Bird likes to join in the best he can and the Junior Birds have a real competitive streak and get stuck in. This year we have two new and exciting games to play - Creepy Hand and Ghost Hunt Evolution by Megableu Games.
Ghost Hunt Evolution

Ghost Hunt Evolution

Billy Bones is a skeleton electronic projector who through his snazzy red specs makes an array of spooky creatures appear on the walls for you to shoot with your electronic gun. It was easy to set up, requiring the usual batteries of course but then we are always well stocked up on them - 4 AA batteries and 3 AAA batteries. 

Darken the room and off you go. Billy Bones makes blood curdling noises and the fear is there - pow, pow with your gun. Where will the bat be as he's worth 3 points. Quick load the gun up again. Well it was a mixture of that slight panic you get even though it's all a game and much laughter. The Junior Birds were very good at this but I was rubbish, scoring an average of 4 points to their 11 - the scores show on the gun's digital display. Must practice more!

Little Bird found it all hilarious and was carried away with the atmosphere so it was a good game all round for the family, even if very little ones can't play. It's recommended for age 5+. We were all keen for a next go and it gets extremely addictive. Great for Halloween parties and a good ice breaker to get everyone into the 'spirit' ;)

Creepy Hand
Very funny from the start with a severed green hand that made me think of The Addams Family, 
Essentially this is a truth, dare or forfeit game so with the pack of cards shuffled and set aside, each player given a Double Dare card Creepy Hand was set in the centre of the table. Press the button and the hand turns slowly around and when he's ready, he slowly lifts his bony digit and points at his victim.

Turn the truth, dare or forfeit card over and a player gives the choice TRUTH or DARE?

Are you afraid of the dark?
Mime playing a sport so the other players can guess.
Have you ever had a nickname?
Improvise a rap about yourself.

If the player doesn't do this successfully or refuses the challenge, they must take the forfeit or may play the Joker Card and choose an opponent to take the challenge instead.

A successful challenge means you keep the card and the first player to obtain 6 cards in the winner. 

The game is for age 7+ so Little Bird looked on but again found it all hysterical and most of the game was spent laughing. The improvisation challenges were especially funny and it was a real bonding game, a good one for getting everyone together. The Truth or Dare cards had some brilliantly creative options so it was a big hit all round. The hand is also a great Halloween prop....just wait for when the trick or treaters knock on......


We received the Megableu games for the review, all words are my own honest opinion.

The Canadian Colossus

Leonard Whitton Macclesfield
Over the summer I went on a cemetery tour and learnt all about the interesting 'occupants'  - here is a favourite character......

Leonard Whitton born in Ontario in 1852, - sold himself as the 'fattest man in America' and worked with a travelling circus. He ended up settling in the UK, in Macclesfield, Cheshire, all 700lbs of him - 52 stone. Eeek!

Leo lodged in the Orange Tree Inn where he was fondly accepted and would charge sixpence a time to see him, becoming a local attraction. When he died, unsurprisingly of heart failure in 1899 at the age of 41, he was so big that he had to be hoisted out of the pub window in a specially built coffin and lowered onto a cart with no sides.

Once the funeral procession reached Macclesfield Cemetery it was discovered that the grave diggers had actually not dug the grave big enough for this almighty coffin. By the time the diggers had returned and finally made Leo's grave big enough, quite a gathering was there since word had got around. 

Now in Macclesfield I often here people whispering if someone is rather plump - here's Leo Whitton......

The other two people in the grave, George and Mary Wood are the pub landlord and lady of the Orange Tree Inn - all reunited.
 Leonard Whitton's grave Macclesfield
Image souce: Reddit

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Home witches tea party

pumpkin spice liqueur witches cat Halloween dresser
This frazzled homebird witch is having a little rest
kicking off her magic shoes and making polite request.
So tired of these antics that keep me up all night
and I don't mean riding broomsticks or giving folk a fright.

I'm talking about the pumpkin ghost, the smallest little pest
That haunts and taunts when darkness falls and causes great unrest
He rattles on the door handle and throws about his toys
Doesn't he realise that past 8 o'clock is bed for little boys.
The sheets not right, too hot, too cold, there's a monster under his bed
I want to tell him, not it's not, he's here awake instead!
pumpkin child skull and candle This Halloween I'd like to have, a long awaited nap
or light a little corn candle, drink Mandrake's Inky Cap
Put Frightly Dancing on for a while, prance in stripy stocking feet
Fill the Jack O'lanterns with dancing flame and leave the trick or treat
Eat every chocolate warty toad, have myself a feast
Or just a bag of peppered pond bites with hair of wild beast

I still hear pitter patter, I still hear pumpkin feet
Getting him to go to sleep would be so very sweet
It's time to take some action, I must go and dust that tome
Of spells from dear old nana witch emitting a greenish gloam.

Carefully through its pages my finger tips do glide
Past incantations for the dead and making hearts collide
I find the one I want, a cautious hocus-pocus
Taking fairy moss and candy floss with a bit of roasted locust.
Wand in hand, tap-tap-tap, weaving sleepy thoughts
Using all my witchy powers of all that I was taught
spell spell book Take twinkle twinkle, sparkling sand and flocks of counting sheep
Make that eiderdown like fluffy cloud, let me not hear a peep.
Wynken, Blynken and some Nod, light from luna dreams
Aromas of fresh lavender, music spun from streams

A blinding flash of All Hallows light, a puff of dragon smoke
Bats will fly, owls will hoot and little froggies croak
Then all I hear is gentle snores, a pleasant hum and purr
Of resting perfect cherub face, a little tot in slumberrr...

I kiss a little cheek, I brush away his hair
Leave a chink of glowing light, creep off down wooden stair
Cauldron bubbles, kettle sings, the sofa looks inviting
A perfect witches tea party, my favourite enchanting
Settling down with fortune cuppa, what a real delight
This mummy witch is going to enjoy her blissful Halloween night. cup of Halloween black potion bottle Halloween glow Join in the party with A Fanciful Twist where all the Halloween merry makers go for some glitter, enchantment and magical creatures.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Magical garden

autumn cottage garden If I were a hedge witch or a kitchen witch gathering ingredients for potions to bring great wealth or turn my enemy into a toad, this might be my garden. I'd park up the broom by the garden gate, straighten my velvet dress and toss my pointed hat onto the bench, then scamper off and weave some magic in the dahlia patch. Maybe even nip out at midnight and stand skyclad by the climbing beans as the moonlight bathes over us. 

That's how this little garden that belongs to the lovely corn dolly man made me feel. Magical. My inner witch came out and wanted to practice spells and gather pumpkins. I did manage to gather some dahlias from a roadside seller on the way home and then started some Halloween decorating with them and some flora from my own little mystical garden. 
autumn dahlias climbing beans black cat cottage garden autumn garden dahlias for sale by the road colourful dahlias dahlias for Halloween Halloween flower arrangement

Mammsaurus HDYGG

The corn dolly workshop

Raymond Rush corn dolly workshop The special workshop of Raymond Rush who for many years has made corn dollies to adorn the inside of All Saints Church at Siddington, Macclesfield. 

The corn dolly dates back to pre-Christian times when the Spirit of Fertility was worshipped. At harvest time when the corn was cut, the spirit would be in the last sheaves which were then crafted into dollies and shapes so the spirit would live on.

The corn dolly would be taken into the home, a protection against evil spirits and in the spring would be taken into the fields and broken open so the new grain would grow.
workshop corn dollies Raymond Rush is now in his eighties and can be found still making corn dollies here. You are welcome to turn up at the farm beside the church and purchase. He has been making them since he was a young newly married man and saw the corn dolly that you can see in the top picture on the left hand side with the red ribbon. He taught himself how to make them and kept practising. 
Macclesfield sign corn dolly workshop Siddington Macclesfield Raymond is also a writer of all things around the countryside, folklore and traditions - I recommend his books the Countrywise series. Still busy, with a new one to be published very soon he told me, so there will be six wonderful compendiums of customs through the 

A thoroughly genuine man and his enthusiasm is a joy. Absolutely if your journey takes you to Cheshire, Ray's workshop and the church are little gems to visit that will stay in your heart and mind forever.

{I'll be posting my pictures of the harvest church full of corn dollies in the next few days}
Corn dollies CheshireVintage fair sign
Raymond Rush in his workshop

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Halloween crafting #BostikBloggers

Bostik-Halloween A whole box of Halloween coloured crafting delight - ribbons, felt, embellishments, black, white, orange. Now step in and mind my broomstick, lets weave a crafting spell......Bostik BloggersTo make a black pumpkin plate decoration we used:

1 black paper plate
Bostik Blu Tack Glu Dots
White foam sheet
1 white pipe cleaner
Green ric rac
Sticky tape

Cut triangles of white foam sheet for the eyes and nose. Then cut a jaggedy mouth.
Glue to the black plate using the Blu Tack Glu Dots. Cut out some circle for freckles and glue them on to to make a pumpkin face.

Loop the white pipe cleaner and attach to the back of the plate with sticky tape to make a hook to hang the pumpkin decoration from.

Tie a short piece of green ric rac around the pipe cleaner, a little pumpkin stalk.
pumpkin plate pumpkin decorationNext for a spooky jester's stick (or maybe a pumpkin wand)

Orange felt
Black felt
Selection of pipe cleaners
Polystyrene egg
Black and green ric rac
Orange pumpkin ribbon
Blu Tack Blu Stick

Twist several pipe cleaners together to make a firm handle for our wand (leave one aside) Place the egg in the centre of the orange felt, place the pipe cleaner handle under the egg and scrunch it around and then secure with a pipe cleaner tie.

Cut out eyes and mouth for the pumpkin from the black felt. Glue on using the Blu Tack Blu Stick glue. 

Tie the ribbon and ric rac around the wand

Cast a spell

orange felt Halloween wandOwl decoration

Silk leaves
Owl embellishment
Black feathers
Black felt
Bostik Blu Tack Glu Dots
Blu Tack Blu Stick
wooden dolly peg

Using the Blu Tack Glu Dots fix the silk leaves together into a rosette.
Stick the owl embellishment into the centre. 

Onto the back, stick the feathers with the Glu Dots and a small piece of felt over the dolly peg. Secure with extra Blu Stick. 

owl decoration

 Happy Halloween!

home made Halloween decorations

Last month was not back to school crafting.
The craft box was provided to me by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club

Top 5 European Spa Retreats

Now we’re into autumn and your summer holiday seems like a lifetime ago, it’s important to look after yourself, factoring in some time for a little TLC. Although an 8+ hour working day may not leave ample room for putting your feet up, a spa stay can push aside everyday distractions and offer much needed respite. What’s more, planning a break, whether it be a day in Hampshire or a week in Corsica, lifts your spirits for far longer than the actual pampering lasts. Indeed, you could fritter away hours drooling over these top 5 European spa retreats - take that as a warning.

Degustabox September - a little hint of harvest

Degustabox September Degustabox time and here is a box that made me think autumn as soon as I opened it. From apple products to trick or treat sweeties and chocolate - my absolute favourite..... 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Halloween preparations

glitter pumpkins
The Halloween preparations have started; the pile of pumpkins is building up ready for carving and decorating, the spooky accessories are appearing on the mantelpiece and on the dresser and a pumpkin candle is burning most of the time.

We push Halloween out for the whole of October, the thinning veil between living and dead, the best month of the year. Ghost stories, warming stews, ghoulish music, chilling films - it's all much celebrated in our house.

For actual Halloween night I have a different theme set up outside each year to make people smile, it's become my tradition - still undecided how the decor will go this year but I'm pretty sure there will be a creepy scarecrow set up by the front door. 

Just returned from the shops with yet more sweeties for the trick or treaters and a banner for the front window, it's all starting to get a little exciting now and I have my blog Halloween party next weekend, hope you'll join me?

Sunday Snap

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Tidal mills and mud flats

window from the tidal millRestored and imposing on a river inlet stands a wonderful tidal mill at Carew, Pembrokeshire. After visiting the centuries old castle, take a short walk along the country lane picking up sticks and skipping if you are 5 years old. 

By mud flats that are a rich source of food for wading birds such as Redshank, is the mill and its causeway, a grand building that turned Pembrokeshire farmer's grain into flour ready for baking wonderful loaves of bread. Although no longer functioning, the mill is an interactive account of the process, rich in heritage and enough to keep youngsters interested. The noise of the water thundering through the mill is an exciting start and from there each level has a narrative that tells you about the millers and their daily lives.

Attention to detail here is fantastic and a table of crayons and colouring in sheets on every floor is a welcome break for a parent wishing to listen to more of the nitty gritty of mill life and its history. There is much to learn, from Medieval times to how railways in the 19th century brought with it an expanding market and a move to grinding animal feeds and bones to make fertilizer.

A popular element is a device where you can experience releasing water from the mill pond to turn the grindstone - everyone wants a go, cue much furious handle pumping. We loved the window overlooking the mudflats of the River Carew where a book is left to record any wildlife seen and a set of binoculars is left for you to use. A lovely touch.

Upon leaving, the gift shop is a treat - from nature identification cards to compasses and all types of toy bugs, it's a great place to buy some educational materials (good for our home education) and to put few things away for Christmas.

A top class attraction that was a surprise to our already great day at Carew Castle.
skipping Carew Tidal Mill mill mud flats fish and shellfish Carew Mill activities grain sack wildlife spotting at Carew Tidal Mill Carew Castle

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall