Thursday, 1 December 2016

Holiday Cards

Family Photoshoot

December has arrived, and I have to admit that I have left it pretty late thinking about this years Christmas cards. We like to do something a little different and personal for friends and family, because anyone can send a Christmas Card and I think it is important to make an effort with what we send out. When I spoke to family members it became apparent that they would much rather receive a photograph of the whole family, so I decided that it would be nice to make our very own holiday cards. 

There are two options when it comes to getting the photos done, we can use pre-existing images that we have taken throughout the year, or we can hire a photographer to take charge of a shoot. I love getting family photographs taken, and it's nice to have the opportunity to be in the photos with someone else behind the lens (I rely on my camera timer far too much!). 

Of course it can be tricky at times to find the right person for the job, so when I heard about Bidvine recently I was really excited to give it a go. Bidvine puts you in contact with professionals in your local area who can help you with your personal projects, such as getting photos taken for a holiday card, or even find a cleaner for your home. You simply select your service and start receiving quotes for that specific project. 

I connected my Facebook account which meant I didn't have to fill out a form to sign up, and I started the process to start receiving quotes for my Christmas project. I wanted the photographer to come to the house, I set the budget I had in mind and even how I wanted the finished photographs made available to me.

You can decide how you wish to be contacted and have the quotes presented to you, whether you would prefer to have the quotes phoned through to you or text. I opted for text as I like to have them in one place so that I can refer back to them if I need to. By having the quotes sent via text, it meant that all I needed to do was log in to my account and open them up at my leisure. 

I put a top budget in at £300.00 and asked that I be able to have the images on a CD or USB so that I can use them for my Christmas Card project. The best quote I had back came in under budget at £250 - This included the photographer travelling to my home, taking the photos, editing the photos and finally receiving the photos in the form of digital download from the photographers website.

I had a number of photographers contact me which was brilliant, it meant that I only needed to put my requirements down once and then all I had to do was pick the person who I felt was best for the job. I liked that it introduced me to photographers and businesses that I wouldn't have known to consider if I was putting in the leg work myself. 

I will definitely be using the Bidvine service again.

5 easy ways to teach kids to save water

It’s easier to learn good habits when you’re young, and one really good habit to get into is saving water. In the UK, especially in winter, it’s easy to think that there’s too much water around anyway, but the fact is that globally we do use too much water. Learning how to save water in our everyday lives will help us, and our children, to conserve one of Earth’s most valuable natural resources.

Here are five simple ways that you and your children can save water every day.

1. Turn Off the Taps
Whether you’re washing your hands or brushing your teeth, don’t just let the water carry on running down the drain. If you turn the tap off while you’re not actually rinsing your hands or your toothbrush, you can save most of the water you would otherwise use.

2. Turn Off the Taps Tightly
Make sure that when you do turn the tap off, it’s off! Leaking and dripping taps can waste large amounts of water over time, especially if you don’t notice them at first. Get into the habit of checking the taps are tightly off before you leave the bathroom, and teach your children to do so too.

3. Bath Time for Babies
When it’s time to give your baby a bath, use only an inch or two of water. For safety reasons, you shouldn’t be giving your babies a deep bath anyway, so this is a great way to save water and to be really safe. As your children get older, encourage them to have quick showers, not baths - filling up a bathtub takes a lot of water. Set a good example by having showers yourself. Children will follow their parents’ example in all sorts of ways.

4. Save “Old Water”
Encourage your children to collect water from almost finished bottles, half-finished drinks or from boiling eggs - once it’s cooled down, of course. You can use this saved water to water your grass and your garden instead of using your sprinkler or your hosepipe. There’s a reason we have hosepipe bans in hot dry summers - they use a lot of water! If you save up your old drinks and cooking water, you will soon be keeping your garden green without breaking any bans. Also, using old water in a watering can is much more efficient than using a hosepipe.

Install a water butt under your drainpipe. You can’t drink the water (although the animals will), but you can use it to wash your car, water the plants and even wash your windows. Dirty water pumps can get water out of ponds, ditches and rain barrels to be used efficiently on your garden.

5. Don’t Flush
Sometimes you have to flush! But modern toilets are fitted with two sizes of flush to begin with. So train your children to use the lighter flush if they’ve only had a wee. If you have small children who use the toilet frequently, they don’t have to flush every time. Flushing your toilet uses up to five gallons of water every time, so frequent flushing can use up a lot of water, especially if you have a young family. You can also get a “cistern displacement unit” to fit in your cistern to reduce the amount of water used each flush. These are available from your water provider.

Using less water is energy-efficient. It takes a lot of energy to clean wastewater, or “greywater” as it is known, once it’s in the sewage system. It takes a lot of energy to heat water, so it makes sense to be frugal with your hot tap. If you’re on a water meter, then these five simple tips can save you a surprising amount of money.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Special Jewels

I have adored Opals since I first discovered them back in 2007, an old boyfriends Mother had the most beautiful collection and I remember admiring it on many occasions, and not long after seeing them all for the first time I decided that one day I would own my own.

I have had a few smaller one's over the years, but nothing in the league of her beautiful Opals. It truly is amazing how all of the different colours and effects present themselves within the stone, there are all the blue colouring's that you can imagine, dark right through to baby, reds, greens and orange. The Opal is such a unique stone, and that is what makes them so special to me. No two are ever the same.

I love to have a look at the different collections that you can find online, just to catch sight of what you can find in this big wide world of ours. I love vintage jewellery especially when it combines my all time favourite stone. 

I have been in the process of organising my jewellery box. I am quite sentimental and hold on to every item that has ever been gifted to me, or even little treats I have allowed myself to purchase over the years. I don't have masses of jewels unfortunately, but what I do have is very special to me, whether it was from a significant other at a precise moment in time, or if it is something that has been handed down to me, they all hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another.

I have always been minimalist, I can't pull off huge earrings or have anything that really gets in your face, firstly it's not my personal style and secondly I prefer to opt for simple, beautiful designs. Of course that's not to say that I am opposed to bling, I just have my own way of displaying it.

Having a nice collection of jewellery that actually means something to you is so much more important than having lots of pretty things that don't have a story that relates to you or someone around you in some way. I have a beautiful necklace pendant that is made out of silver clay, in the clay is a finger print of Leo that dates back to when he was a baby, a mere 8 months old. It is as though it has been frozen in time, and although his fingers have grown along with the rest of him, I still have that one dainty reminder that he was once that small.

It may be the most special item that I own, and it is the most worn item out of everything else in that box.

Do you have an item in your personal jewellery collection that really speaks to you?

Locked Out

log fire

A few years ago I was living in a home with my other half and of course Leo, it was an older house and I loved coming home and watching Luke lighting the log fire. Especially at this time of year when it was so cold outside and Christmas was coming, it warmed the entire living area and made the perfect back drop to a cosy night in.

I remember finishing work one cold winter's day and getting to my car where a frost had already started to take hold. My thoughts instantly raced to the log fire and my plan for the evening was set, I would get home, get ready for bed and relax in the glow of the fire. Of course the best laid plans leave margin for error and on this occasion it was the fault of the estate agent we were renting the house from. They take it upon themselves to come and do a 6 monthly check, and unfortunately for me they had an issue with our door and managed to get their copy of the key stuck. Which of course meant that my evening of relaxing and not doing a fat lot in the comfort of my own home was cancelled until further notice. 

I got a call from them while I was just starting to get everything into my car, they were really apologetic and told me that they had already called to get a replacement lock sorted for us, and they would be on there way within the hour. The team were really helpful and they soon had us back inside in the warm.

Of course because it was the estate agency's fault, they footed the bill. I was amazed at how much it actually cost to get an emergency locksmith out to help, and I know that if the ball had been in my field I would have shopped around and found a way to secure the home for less.

I was just thankful to be able to get back inside, after a long day at work and then having to wait around in the cold for over an hour, it was nice to just get back inside and resume normality. 

We haven't lived there for a good few years now, but I still miss that log burner. Our new home doesn't even have a fire place let alone a log burner, so I don't even get to bask in the glow of the flickering flames these days.

Instead it's a case of turning the heating up on high and inviting the dog to sit on my lap (He's like a hot water bottle and very cuddly!) 

Puppy Proof

Dalmatian Puppy

As many of you know, back in August I fell in love with a little (at the time) Dalmatian Puppy! He was 8 weeks old when we first brought him home, but fast forward 3 months he has tripled in size. That little Dalmatian definitely did a lot of growing very, very quickly, and as he grew so did his reach and knack for getting into mischief.

Lux sleeps in the kitchen, it's his little space where all of his things are kept. The flooring is vinyl so it is easy to keep on top of in terms of if there are any accidents, and for the most part I don't need to worry about anything getting damaged. Well that was true until Lux took a liking to the walls, and when I say a liking, I mean he took to eating them, or should I say grinding specific areas with his teeth.

Lux started off by eating the wall under the breakfast bar where his bed used to be, I managed to stop that by moving the bin in front of that section of wall, and moving his bed from that corner of the room. Then Lux started jumping up a little bit further along the wall, just above the kitchen radiator. he did this when he wasn't getting his own way, say for instance I am working in the lounge and he want's some attention... That is when he would start jumping/scratching/nibbling this section of the wall, because he knew that it would draw my attention away from what I am doing and placing it firmly on him. Unfortunately it is not something I can ignore, the noise drives me to distraction and I instantly know what he is doing and have to intervene. For the moment I have placed a canvas print on the radiator just to hide it from his sight, and for the moment it looks as though he has forgotten about it.

Puppy eating walls

Finally the latest section of wall is right by the kitchen door, another place he likes to inflict himself if he is feeling exceptionally petulant. In fact this is now the most damage he has managed to achieve so far. There is no real way for me to remove this one from his sight, which means that whenever he gets the opportunity, he returns to this spot and creates further carnage. The only way I have managed to actually stop this from happening, is by moving one of the breakfast bar stools to sit in front of it. It's far from ideal, but it is serving it's purpose.

I have been thinking long and hard about a long term solution for these areas of the kitchen, because we can't go on like we are with these walls. I was thinking that perhaps I could get my hands on a Clear Perspex Sheet for each of the offending areas, just so that if he continues it will be the plastic that takes the brunt of it, and I can finally get Luke to fill in the offending holes in my lovely new walls.

It wouldn't be hard to cut the plastic to fit the walls and I know that I would certainly rest a lot easier knowing that my beautiful, but mischievous puppy of mine was not taking large pieces of my wall out while I am busy working in the other room. 

Dalmatian Puppy

I know that in the long term it is something that he is going to grow out of, and the fact of the matter is it's just the one room that is taking the brunt of his puppy days, but at the end of the day, I am house proud and like things looking a certain way. 

Time to stop this cheeky pup eating my kitchen!

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Big Boy's Room

moving house

As most of you know, Leo and I moved house a few months ago. It's still a work in progress but every week means I am getting another objective ticked off my never ending to-do list. Over the weekend I managed to tick off another one of those jobs, and it has meant that I can now cast my attention on Leo's bedroom.

Leo's bedroom is one of the rooms I have been aching to complete, it seems we have been waiting on certain pieces of furniture to arrive so that I can really get it to be the functional room I have dreamed that it will be. With the arrival of Leo's bed, it has meant that we can really get stuck into it and start to put that personal mark on it for my little man.

I wanted the room to be a smart but simple design, Leo is growing up and he is swapping and changing his mind about characters and all sorts (As children do of course), so it has just made me that more determined to provide him with a room that can grow with him. I want to decorate it once and then know that he is sorted and happy for at least a couple of years!

Leo had a few requests but the rest he has been more than happy to let me pitch to him, and for the most part he hasn't objected (which has to be a good sign right!?) so here are Leo's demands (demands that must be met):

- The room must have a high rise ladder bed (Tick)
- The room must have room for all of his toys (Tick)
- The room cannot have any of Leo's old soft toys, apparently they are for babies (Tick)
- The room has to have a lava lamp (Tick)
- The room has to be cool

So I had a number of objections that I have to fill, but it still leaves a lot of scope to play around with. I have been having a look at the Esprit Kids Bedroom's and have fallen in love with a number of items that I would just love to install in Leo's room.

Now I don't want to make Leo's room boring, I just wanted to take a step back and give him a room that didn't look as childish as the rooms and designs we have opted for in the past. I can only see this as a positive, especially when he is coming home on a daily basis and telling me that he no longer likes this, and he no longer likes that. So we opted for a space theme and these are some of the additions that I am hoping to entwine.
Esprit Children's room
In the photo we have the Boys Dream Stripe Wallpaper - £ 15.95 - , the Gold Star Cushion Cover - £ 19.00 - and my favourite the Starlet cashmink reversible blanket - £ 75.00 - .

Staying simple doesn't have to be boring, and these items really show what you can achieve. I love all of the different colours and textures that are shown here. There is nothing that pin points a specific age, so it means it can be enjoyed for so much longer. 

I intend to get really stuck into Leo's bedroom this week, and hopefully it will start to take shape pretty quickly. I for one will be over the moon when I can finally just sit back and enjoy it all.

National Home Security Month - October 2016

National Home Security Month

I think we can all agree on one thing, the world that we live in is an unpredictable and crazy place at times, we never really know what's going to happen, and all we really want in life is to provide our families with a safe place to live. National Home Security Month (NHSM) is back this October (Starting from the 3rd) to provide us all with even more top tips for keeping our families, homes and possessions safe.

This movement, sponsored by the security specalist Yale, provides us all with food for thought and encourages us all to consider how safe are home is, and how we protect our own personal bubble. It is such an important factor to highlight, since we moved into our new home I have been meaning to purchase a padlock for the back gate and the shed, but it is still something that I am yet to do, when the reality is, it should have been a priority.

The initiative is to highlight and raise awareness to the likes of you and I, about the importance of home security. It is estimated that a burglary happens every 40 seconds in the UK* with thefts surging by 38% following the clocks going back and the evenings becoming darker. 

National Home Security Month

A few years ago we had our garage broken into at my parents home, and although they only took a few bikes, it still shocked us and made us address the security of the garage. This was actually in the height of Summer at some point during the night. It's a horrible feeling knowing that someone else has been on your property, and definitely takes away the feeling of safety that one would ordinary associate with home.

The campaign highlights a different element of home security each week. The first week focused on providing simple tips and advice on how to protect your home and belongings over the winter period.  

The Second week went into the overall home security and explored traditional security methods that protect the entry points to your home and of course the valuables that we all have within those brick walls. 

The Third week looks at the advancing technology of the smart security industry, it provides an insight to us all about how we can connect these devices with our homes and keep it secure at the touch of a button. I have to admit that it is rather incredible to see just how clever these devices have become over the years.

Week Four will focus on raising the awareness surrounding the darker nights, it will force us all to think about whether our homes, garages and sheds are secure and protected against the unexpected. It will all wrap up in week Five and provide us all with seasonal advice on how to protect our homes against the increase in thefts and damage around Halloween and Bonfire Night.

I think that this year everyone is going to be that little more vigilant thanks to the prankster clowns that have been reported all over the news recently. 

You can check in with NHSM every day on Facebook and Twitter to get security tips, all you need to do is search for 'Home Security Month' in the search bar. 

To celebrate the launch of NHSM, Yale are offering homeowners the chance to win a Yale two camera Smart CCTV kit and a Home View camera to make sure you’re property is secure this winter – not to mention £100 worth of  Love2Shop vouchers! Click here to enter.