Thursday, 12 October 2017

Shopping for the man who has EVERYTHING

In recent months I have discovered a wonderful website, Uncommon Goods, you may be familiar with it? If you're not then it is something that I highly recommend having a look at (especially with the run up to Christmas coming around so quickly!). For some reason this year, I am feeling a little more organised about the impending festive season, I am yet to make a start in the Christmas shopping, but I have started making lists, and putting aside some funds to make a dent in the shopping lists. 

I have definitely been taking inspiration from the UncommonGoods gift selection, everything is just so unique. This was of course the aim when it was founded back in 1999, they wanted to bring us unique and one of a kind pieces. 

The gifts such as the jewelry, d├ęcor, tabletop items and handcrafted presents have all been created in harmony with our environment and without causing any harm to animals or our fellow human race. They are proud to be a founding B Corp. B Corporations use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems around the world, this means that they meet a rigorous standard on a wide range of issues, including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community.

This work ethic just makes me more inclined to put my business with them, I love that they are helping put back into the world and make a difference. 

I have added a few gifts to my basket over the last few days, and I thought it would be nice to share those with you here, in the hope that it might give you some inspiration for Christmas. Especially if you have someone particularly tricky to purchase for.

My other half is one of those people who I always find it impossible to purchase for. If he ever wants something, he just goes right out and purchases it, so when Christmas or Birthdays roll around, it always feels like there is nothing left to gift him. It does mean that I do have to really look outside the box, and that is why I fell in love with this Deep Sea Sand Art - a rather unique gift idea if there ever was one. 

Uncommon Goods


Luke has always loved things like this, something that little bit different, and I could already see this sitting in his flat beside the big world wide map that is mounted on the wall. The beautiful thing about this piece is that it is forever changing, it always looks slightly different. You can watch as the golden sand shifts into deserts, mountains, clouds, rain, oceans and smoke, as they all flow and drift into one another. 

Uncommon Goods placed their first order with Klaus Bosch's Sand Art back in January 2008, and it's been so popular over the years it has become a firm favourite. It is handmade in Austria, which in itself is pretty amazing, because it is quite simply not something you come across everyday. 

If you are looking for something different for your other half, you can see more gifts for men here.

Christmas may be creeping up on me AGAIN, but I vow that I will not be rushing around in December. I am going to make sure that my Christmas shopping is all wrapped up by the end of November, and then the festive fun can really begin!


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Caffeine: The Health Benefits of Tea

The Health Benefits of Tea

Caffeine. The reason I can physically get out of bed in the morning. 

I can't be alone in opening my eyes and not really feeling awake (or with it for that matter) until the caffeine has got into my system, it's almost as though it has magic properties that can not only hold your eyelids open long enough to get the kids ready and out of the door (in time for school! Win!), but it also paints a smile on your face. It should almost have a warning on the packet saying 'WARNING - May cause good mood'.

Tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage in the world, only losing out to water and it's many natural, health and wellbeing benefits. A new report generated by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) has collected some rather interesting details, there have always been fears about 'drinking too much caffeine' (is there really such a thing as too much?), turns out that it's been overhyped, and actually “Drinking four cups of tea daily is associated with heart health benefits, in particular reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.” says Lynne Garton, dietitian and member of the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP).

“Tea contains polyphenols, caffeine, fluoride and L-theanine, and remains an important source of hydration,” she adds. “Tea’s heart health benefits are related to its polyphenol content. Tea polyphenols help to relax the blood vessels so leading to control of blood pressure, and they protect ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from being oxidized, which makes it less harmful.

Caffeine has always seemed to have a bad reputation in one way or another, but I personally think that if you are sourcing your intake from natural solutions such as tea, is it really a bad thing? There was a point for me where I used to drink a well known caffeinated fizzy drink like it was water, empty calories that really were not doing me any good at all, but now that I have bid a fond farewell to that habit, I won't punish myself for enjoying a well deserved cup of tea.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, independent dietitian and member of TAP says that “Despite being found in 60 different types of plants, caffeine often gets a bad rap, and our latest report which we are just about to publish, CAFFEINE: THE HEALTH ASPECTS OF TEA INVESTIGATED, provides a review of the latest data with findings that may be surprising."

“It shows that caffeine improves mood, increases alertness, and reduces the sense of tiredness and pain. The weight of evidence is so strong that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) thinks that certain levels of caffeine in healthy drinks and foods should be able to make a series of health claims.”

Dr Tim Bond (member of TAP) continues: “All too often caffeine is linked in people’s minds with increased urine output yet research has shown that healthy adults would need to drink 5-8 cups of tea at once to experience bladder effects, such as more frequent toilet trips. In addition, EFSA has concluded that caffeine intakes from all sources up to 400 mg per day do not give rise to safety concerns for healthy adults in the general population.

“EFSA’s advice clearly shows that caffeinated drinks can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups. That means that children aged 4 years and over can safely drink 1-2 mugs of milky unsweetened tea daily, while pregnant and lactating women can have up to 4 mugs of tea daily. Intakes of up to 400mg of caffeine daily are safe for adults enabling a maximum of 8 servings of tea to be consumed. This suggests that worries about moderate caffeine intakes from tea, particularly in pregnant women, new mothers or children, are unfounded.”

Dr Tim Bond adds: “Unlike many other sources of caffeine, tea only contains 40-50mg of caffeine per serving if using a tea bag. At this level of caffeine, a mild improvement in cognitive function would be expected without any risk of negative effects, such as sleep latency or anxiety which have been noted at higher intakes of more than 100mg per serving near to bedtime. Tea is also naturally sugar-free and is typically served with milk, making a small, but vital contribution to mineral intakes over time.”

Lynne Garton adds: “The health benefits of tea and its ingredients are increasingly well established. So, next time you put on the kettle for a brew, consider the amazing blend of natural plant compounds that you are about to drink, and the many benefits that science has unraveled for us.”

So next time you feel that you shouldn't have that one last cup of tea for the day, just have it, because if it makes you feel better why not?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Top 5 Unique Room Design Trends in 2017

Thinking of redesigning or refreshing the decor of your room? Have you thought of incorporating the latest design trends? Trends come in and trends go out, but if you have a unique and interesting design trend in your home you’re always going to have a place your friends think is cool and your family will love to reside in. It needn’t be quirky or too avant-garde, but retain a clean and fresh living space that will serve you through all the ins and out of the year to come. 

Every year you see a new set of interior design trends that are visually exciting and extremely covetable. It can be difficult to stay on top of the latest design trends and overhaul your room each time a new set of trends is introduced. Our recommendation is to incorporate elements of each of the trends that you love in small ways to keep up to date and give your room a much needed revival without too much expense. 

This year is no different, and we are here to introduce the top 5 unique room design trends that you can incorporate into your homes. These trends are chic, stylish, and can be easily incorporated into a room without the need for a total overhaul. 

Top 5 Unique Room Design Trends in 2017

1. Tropical Prints 
This design trend has been inspired by the fashion runway. Catwalks such as Marc Jacobs and Prada featured tropic print this year. The trend easily migrated to the interior design world across a mix of colourful fabrics and bright wallpapers. 

This trend does require you to be bold with colours and print. You can bring a bit of the tropics into your room with leafy prints such as beautiful palm trees. An easy yet dramatic way to do it is by investing in a tropical print wallpaper. 

If you just want to incorporate this trend in a more subtle way, you could find a print and frame it to hang on your wall to inject a quick tropical touch. A pillow with the print on would be an even easier way to adopt this trend. 

2. Textures 
Add a mix of different textures into your room to create a quirky inviting look and feel. Mixing the different types of textures is what makes this really interesting. This is not just confined to fabrics, but can also be incorporated across furniture items and wallpaper. For instance, drape a wool throw over a leather sofa and see how that looks.

3. Marble and Brass Combination
When these two traditional materials combine, they’re an impressive duo in the world of design. This is a very Instagrammable 2017 design trend that would work well in anyone’s kitchen or bathroom. If  you invest in a marble and brass item, you’re bound to amp up the style and glamour quotient of the room you place it in. Make sure that you have high quality fixings such as balustrade components for any fixtures required. It is a combination that has been popular for a while but will continue to be so in 2017 as it just looks so great together.

4. Geometrics
Geometrics make a comeback in interior design this year. Geometrically patterned items add a bold and modern feel to any room. Luckily this is an easy trend to incorporate using prints and patterns. Think about getting a set of geometric pattern bed linen. It could definitely add a sleek and stylish element to your room’s decor. 

In terms of colours, monochrome always looks chic in this pattern.

5. Green

Goodbye blush pink, green is having its moment in 2017.

Yes, it’s just a colour, but it’s big in the world of interior design this year. Different shades of green from lime to sapphire work beautifully in any room decor. If you’re not keen on overhauling your entire colour palette, you can just start to incorporate splashes of green into your decor with rugs or cushions. 

Darker greens in richer fabrics such as velvet are really effective at creating that sumptuous and luxurious look we all desire. 

For more inspiration for your room decor, follow your favourite interior designers on social media and turn to Pinterest. 

Balustrade Components offer a range of high-quality stainless steel balustrade fixings and components.

Visit the website to order online or by phone today.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Leo's Bedroom Make Over

High Rise Bed

Over the Summer break I spent some time making some changes at home, one of those changes was Leo's bedroom. 13 Months ago we moved into our new home, and Leo had begged, pleaded and begged some more for a high rise bed complete with a desk. The one we found and decided to go for even had a built in wardrobe and bookshelf. 

I agreed to the purchase because I loved the overall storage solution that it provided, fast forward to Summer 2017, and Leo is starting to fall out of love of the idea of having a 'ladder bed'. To be honest I was getting to the point where I dreaded making Leo's bed as it often resulted in me banging my head on the ceiling. 

If you are considering a high rise bed for your child's bedroom, I would think about other options first because the novelty does soon wear off for both parent and child. I found that it made Leo's double sized room feel very small, this was due to the sheer height of the bed.

By this point Leo was floating the idea of a double bed and a memory foam mattress, and I couldn't help thinking that it would really open up his room, and although we would lose out on the storage, he would have a lot more floor space. So I put the bed up for sale, and eventually it sold. A young couple came out and dismantled the bed themselves, paid me a very good price for it (Leo had kept it in pristine condition), so I only lost out on about £50 in the long run. 

Space Theme Bedroom

The bed was gone and Leo's room looked like a whirlwind had blown on through. There were toys that Leo no longer played with that needed to be sold, books, clothes and games that needed new homes in his room. I had my work cut out for me, but first I had to cut down on all the clutter that we no longer needed. I asked Leo to decide which toys he wanted, and the ones he no longer played with he could sell and put the money towards something that he did want. 

I took the opportunity to go through Leo's wardrobe and take out all of the clothes that no longer fitted him, some we donated to charity and the nicer ones I put aside ready to go in the loft (you never if you might need them again in the future!?). 

Space Theme Bedroom

Space Theme Bedroom

I have been looking through the children's catalogues at different storage solutions that we can apply in Leo's room, so far we have settled for some plastic boxes that we can slide under the bed when the contents is not in use.

We found a lovely double bed that came in under budget, I kept it White so that we could keep all the furniture the same colour, and I even managed to pick up a bargain memory foam mattress for him. I managed to do everything that Leo had wanted without breaking the bank and even helped him to make a few ££ in the process. 

Leo used the money that he made from selling his old toys to purchase some new games for his Nintendo Switch, which of course consolidated space and got him some lovely treats that he wouldn't have other wise had. 

The double bed may be wider than the single high rise bed that was there before, but it has made the room feel so much bigger than before, and with the way the bed is now positioned, Leo has so much more floor space to play with his toys. 

The only thing I have left to do now is get my hands on a medium sized bookshelf. I would like it to almost sit behind Leo's bedroom door, I have been looking for a second hand one, but it appears they are like gold dust. All of Leo's books are currently at the foot of his bed, and I would love to get them all organised for him, which is my current mission. 

I am really pleased with how Leo's room has taken shape, it really is surprising how much difference swapping a few pieces of furniture around does to a room. 








Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Family Wedding

Family Wedding

It's not very often that we get to get our glad rags on, so when a big family occasion calls for it we all like to make an effort. A year ago, my younger brother got married and the entire family came together to celebrate. Big family events such as this have always been a song and dance, and I have some incredible memories growing up of parties and holidays that are as funny today as they were then. 

These family events included the entire family, great grandparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, you name it. On one family holiday we decided that it would be such a fantastic idea to use our plastic spades to dig a deep hole on the beach front. So between us cousins that's exactly what we did. The hole was deep enough for one cousin to stand into it up to his waist, and somewhere along the way we decided what a brilliant idea it would be to fill the hole back in... With him in it. 

As we carried on throwing sand back in and patting it down firmly as we went, we noticed that the tide was starting to edge closer to where we were all positioned. Long story short? My cousin was stuck fast and his Mother had to borrow a full size shovel to dig him out before the tide came in. To this day everyone but my Aunt can see the funny side of this, and somehow that just makes the tale that little bit more hilarious whenever it comes up in conversation. 

As it happens this tale did come up at the wedding, and again it brought a smile and a giggle as we cast our minds back through time to be back on that beach front as the waves started crashing in (if only they had camera phones back then....). 

Family Wedding


The reality is that everyone has grown older over the years and decades that have followed that time on the beach front, children have become adults and have children of their own, the adults have grown older, and we are now at a time in our lives where the matriarchs of our family are reaching their later life. My Granddad is now in a care home living with Alzheimer's, and it is these memories that put a smile on his face when he isn't really sure of where he is or what he is doing. He doesn't remember the wedding day, but he does remember that day on the beach, the people who were there and the memories that have been cemented from that cheeky prank.

On the big day, the men and boys were kitted out in suits, my other half had spent a great amount of time trying to decide which suit he liked best on Suits Men, and the girls and ladies all sparkled in beautiful dresses. The memory might not be recalled by my Granddad, but we know that he was there and we have the reassurance that although his short term memories of more recent occurrences are not what they used to be, his long term memories are all there for him and for us.

If there is one thing that I have learned it's that you can never take too many photographs, and I am going to make it my mission to dig out all of our old family shots, as I think they will be sure to bring a smile to the whole family's faces.




Monday, 14 August 2017

Super Smarts for Super Fun

Poki Super Smarts for Super Fun

Are you smarter than a computer? 

We humans can perform certain tasks better than machines. In other cases, the robots win. This review is about a game that has been around for a decade. Over the past 10 years, it has improved and stayed completely relevant. The game is called Akinator: The Web Genie, and it knows what you’re thinking.

Akinator is essentially Twenty Questions. Instead of playing with a friend, you play with a virtual genie. The cartoon character looks like an Arabian legend. But, it has the brains of a modern supercomputer. Akinator is a true AI being—it can think and learn without manual intervention. If that sounds spooky, don’t worry; Akinator is harmless and fun!

The game is limited to guessing what it calls “characters.” That’s a broad group of potential answers, as it includes characters from cartoons, books, and movies. Plus, Akinator can guess non-fiction characters (i.e. real people). It knows everyone from the biggest movie stars and international politicians to less popular stand-up comedians and radio hosts. If you think the genie doesn’t know about today’s YouTube celebrities, think again; they might be in one of the first questions he asks!
The Akinator game is a truly ageless game. It was fun (and wildly successful) 10 years ago, and it will be equally fun 10 years from now. That’s because Akinator’s knowledge is partially crowdsourced. On the very rare occasion that he doesn’t guess your character, you can add that character to the database. Then, Akinator will learn about him/her/it, and others will have a harder time stumping the genie.

Poki Super Smarts for Super Fun

There are a couple of key differences between Twenty Questions and Akinator. In traditional Twenty Questions rules, only “Yes” and “No” answers are allowed. When playing with Akinator, you can also answer “Don’t know,” “Probably,” and “Probably not.” This is because you might not know the answer to all of Akinator’s questions. For example, inquiries such as “Do others think your character is cool?” and “Does your character make you happy?” are subjective. If you don’t have a sure “Yes” or “No” answer, you can choose one of the other options.

Another difference is that Akinator can ask up to 25 questions to win. The extra five rounds might be the difference between winning and losing. More often than not, the genie doesn’t need that many questions. If you’re thinking of a really popular character, or one with many unique traits, Akinator might draw a correct conclusion within 15 questions. It seems that certain celebrities are easy to distinguish, while others are too similar. Nonetheless, Akinator almost always wins.

Poki Super Smarts for Super Fun

Akinator is a uniquely satisfying game. It doesn’t have slick graphics or cutting-edge animations. In fact, its visuals have hardly changed since 2008. The core gameplay has remained the same, because it has worked so well. Trying to perplex an AI genie is always fun, no matter what kind of games you normally play. If you’re up for the challenge, Akinator is, too.

Run 3 Review

Run 3 Review

Playing with aliens in outer space sounds like a lot of fun. In Run 3, that’s exactly what gamers get to do. This 3D single-player game isn’t the newest on the market, but it’s one of the best. It has everything that I like to see in a game for kids: it’s free of violence, easy to learn, and doesn’t cost anything to play. In fact, I’ve enjoyed playing Run 3 on Poki, too!

Admiring the Galaxy

This game sends adventurous players on a journey among the stars. The main character is a brave, friendly alien who can run and hop across wondrous tunnels. Her mission is to travel back home, wherever that may be. We’re not sure how far away her native planet is, but we’re ready to go there.

As we travel farther with the alien (also known as “Runner”), we learn more about her universe. The Galaxy Map is an expansive chart. It branches off into several sections, each of which has completely different tunnels. The Galaxy Map lets us keep track of progress and revisit levels at any time. Certain drawings on the interstellar parchment unlock mini-movies to enjoy. It’s just another one of many aspects that makes Run 3 so fun!

Run 3 Review

Characters and Costumes

Runner is the first playable character, and she can help us unlock more. Skater is the next friendly alien. He moves faster than Runner, but he’s a bit harder to control. Other unlockable characters include the all-green Lizard, balloon-toting Child, and gravity-defying Student. Each creature has unique abilities. Certain skills are very helpful, while others are primarily entertaining.

Speaking of entertainment, there are a bunch of seasonal costumes and outfits for players. Halloween costumes can be purchased or unlocked by conquering the Low-Power area of the universe. Winter outfits become available after completing the Winter Games. These costumes don’t modify how our characters move, but they can certainly inspire us to keep playing!

Gliding Gameplay

When I first saw my youngest playing Run 3, I thought that the game looked a bit like Subway Surfers. After all, both games are 3D “endless runners.” But, Run 3 is a lot less hectic. It doesn’t distract with ultra-flashy graphics and speeding railcars. Run 3 is a challenging game, but it’s also relaxing. Players glide, bounce, and skate across colorful tunnels in outer space.

Gravity is one of the most interesting parts of the game. Instead of being stuck on the ground, players can run along walls and ceilings—we’re traveling in space, remember? Creative gamers will make use of 360-degree paths to victory. It’s not just a matter of running and jumping; younger and older players must explore to win.


Extra Stuff

Mentioning all of the extra goodies would be a daunting task. Plus, discovering them while playing is part of the fun! If your children want to befriend alien creatures, unlock intergalactic achievements, and venture into the stars, Run 3 is the game for them. You might as well play, too!