Wednesday 30 January 2013

Pipe cleaner crafts - Dolly Dress Up

The other day I took part in my first Google + Hangout - crikey mikey!

Not to worry, the lovely Maggy from Red Ted Art was there to hold our hands, and along with Kelly; Chris; Anna; Cerys and Anthea, we talked about kid's crafting with pipe cleaners.

You can watch the whole thing here.  It was lovely to have so many different ideas and suggestions covering such a wide age range.

Being the ever disorganised me, I was unable to do any more than 'talk' about my craft since Ruby insisted on taking it to school, leaving me looking a bit of a numpty.

I'm going to try and rectify that now.  What I had wanted to demonstrate was making simple dolls clothes with fabric scraps and pipe cleaners.

It's really simple, no cutting or sewing required so littlies can do it themselves, and best of all the fabric is undamaged so you can use it again.

With the exorbitant cost of Barbie outfits in the shops, this is a really thrifty way to get lots of different looks and let your child play at being Coco Chanel/Ralph Lauren to their heart's content.

We had a pile of fabric offcuts; remnants and left overs and a stack of pipe cleaners.  There's no rules really, just mould the fabric to the doll using the pipe cleaners to hold in place.  You can twist to create waists, necklines and cuffs.

Have a play and experiment!

Erm didn't I say no cutting? And I'm pretty sure I've told you 100 times not to sit on the table?!!

If you want a more finished look, roll the edge of your fabric around the pipe cleaner to hide it, rather than having it on show.  but as we had some sparkly ones, Ruby wanted to show them off.  She made hairbands and accessories, belts and bangles too.

She played at this for ages, mixing and matching, stripping off and starting again.

Then she lined then up, did catwalks and papped them!

We had such fun, right up until we had meltdown because her dolls didn't have matching shoes for their new outfits.  *big sigh*.  I can't THINK where she gets that from.

What creative ideas do you have for pipe cleaners?  Do you fancy following me over on Google +?  Maybe you could watch our next hangout. x

Come rain, come shine

It might be cold outside at the moment, but spring isn’t too far away. The days are getting lighter, and it seems to be getting a little bit warmer outside, so you might want to think about making plans for when the snow finally melts (if it hasn’t already) and the evenings are light.

Being indoors for what seems like forever can be boring, but the winter weather has made it impossible for everyone to go outside and truly enjoy themselves. We all know that the weather can be a bit on the grim side in our beloved Britain, but when it does finally brighten up, why shouldn’t we be able to make the most of it? I mean we only get a few weeks of real summer per year, and I am surely not missing out on these days, when they finally decide to appear.

When the weather’s better, why not spruce up your garden and make it a great place to have a gathering with your family or friends? Having the perfect garden might seem like a distant dream, especially when parts of the country is just coming out of a cold snap (which might return at any time), but you could make a start over the weekend. Nothing beats conviction, right – not even bad weather J

Think about what would make the perfect garden dinner party or barbecue for example. I found this page on OprahWinfrey’s site very useful, especially some of the recipe ideas. Try and ask your family what they want to do in a few months’ time, and see whether they have any good ideas, kind of like a brainstorm of sorts.

You might want to “doll up” your home and garden a little with all that garden furniture you’ve been hiding in the garage or storage room. Some nice garden décor or even the addition of patio awnings as depicted here could definitely spruce things up a bit; and best of all – you can sit outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun for hours without worrying about your kids being overexposed to harmful UV rays.

Disclosure: Guest post brought to you by Nationwide Ltd.  For full details please see my disclosure policy.

How to make Silver Birch Bark Candle Holders

I'm sure you've all seen these in the shops and on swanky interiors websites.  They were everywhere at Christmas, and still featured heavily in magazines and homeware articles.

They add a rustic, Nordic atmosphere to a room, and I just love them.  The trouble is, I didn't want to pay anything up to £20 for one.

The solution was simple: make my own!  It's easy, and best of all, it's totally free.

You can add cut-out designs of hearts or initials - perfect for a thrifty handmade Valentine's gift.  Or make several, with a cut out letter on each to spell out a name or word.

I apologise in advance for the photos.  I keep forgetting to buy batteries for my camera, so these were taken on my phone.  Plus it's impossible to take pictures of candles in the daytime!

First up you'll need to source your bark.  Personally I think this is the most fun part.  A great excuse to wrap up and go for a family walk in the woods.

Remember, NEVER take bark from a live tree as you will damage it.  Only ever use bark from fallen trees.  Don't take too much - it may look like perfect crafting material to you, but to a little bug it's a bijou home.  Finally, never remove from private property without the owner's permission.

Once you've found a suitable specimen, carefully peel off the bark, trying to keep it in one large strip.  This is easier done when wet.

When you get your bark home, give it a good clean in warm soapy water.  Rub the surface gently to restore the white colour and knock off any loose bits of bark from the reverse so you have a nice smooth surface.

Leave to drain, then measure an empty glass jam jar and using a sharp craft knife, cut to the required height and length - enough to wrap all the way round and overlap slightly at the ends.

You can either cut straight at the top and bottom for those neat cut log effect candles, or as I have, leave the top edge as it is for a more natural look.

Decide what and where you want for your cut outs and do these now.  On one I cut a heart, on the others I opted to use the holes already present on the bark.

Once cut, wet again under the hot tap and wrap tightly round your jar securing with string or rubber bands.  Leave overnight to dry.

When you remove the string, your bark will have moulded to the shape of the vase and be easier to glue as it's already bent (it's quite brittle when dry).

Line up your bottom edge and glue gun some glue along the short end.  Carefully roll the bark around the jar, keeping it nice and tight to the glass.  Finally, glue the other end and you're done.

Pop a candle or tealight inside and admire your handiwork.

Do you like collecting things when you're out walking in the woods?  What's your favourite craft using bits from nature?

Linking up with #GetYourCraftOn

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Exploring different fantasy figures

It can be really easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same things every day, especially during the colder months.

During the summer there seems to be so much more to do with your time and if you’re not careful during the winter fun activities can fall by the wayside and you could end up watching yet another cartoon on Cbeebies!

A great way to get out of the winter rut can be to do something new. After Christmas you don’t want to be going out and spending a huge amount of money on craft supplies. Polarn O. Pyret – a fun kids clothes brand, recently shared this PDF, containing a few spring activities for kids, which made me look at my recycling bin in a new way.

The idea is that you gather together your spare boxes, fabric and anything that is destined for the bin and make a character out of it.

You could make a robot with foil and bottle top buttons, a princess out of a kitchen roll and some fabric scraps, or even an animal with an egg box. The idea is that you make something new. You can even get your child to design their own character and try to recreate it.

What I loved about this idea is that it doesn’t cost any money, and was a great way of learning while having fun.

You can talk about shapes, colours, bigger/smaller; all types of vocabulary can be expanded and can give your child a chance to let their imagination run wild!

What would your child make?

Disclosure: Guest post brought to you by Polarn O Pyret.  For full details please see my disclosure policy.

Poundland Challenge - Brand Names for Less

It's well known that I'm a tight-wad like to be frugal and thrifty, and I love nothing more than a mooch around Poundland to see what they have on offer - see, I'm a really cheap date.

Their ranges are ever changing, but it has to be said I tend to favour their craft and stationery aisles, as well as habitually buying packs and packs of paper doilies.  Apart from the one time (for which the Old Man still refers to me as a Poundland Princess) where I came out with armfuls of Duchy Organic Earl Grey tea bags, and boxes and boxes of Dorset Cereal, I don't tend to pay the grocery aisles too much attention.

But my interest was piqued when Poundland got in touch and challenged me to see how much I could save on branded grocery items.  I was given a £15 voucher, and off I went on my stealth mission.

With so many of us tightening our belts in the economic climate, one of the most suggested ways to cut back on your food bill is to 'down-grade' from branded items to own label, and then to value ranges.  Well, Poundland is here to tell you that you don't have to.  You can still stick with the labels you know and trust AND save money.

Now, if you're really serious about saving money, then you actually need to have your wits about you in discount stores.  It can be very easy to pop in for a packet of envelopes or some rolls of sellotape, and come out £20 lighter because you keep going "oooh it's only a pound" and popping things in your basket.

It's also worth noting that you are not always comparing like for like.  Often pack sizes and weights will be less than those you buy in the supermarket, and it is perfectly possible to actually spend MORE in Poundland on some items than you would in the supermarket.

Those pesky supermarket chains are forever changing their prices and putting on special offers, so you really need to keep on top of prices in your normal store.  I guess that's one very good thing about Poundland - you know where you are with them!

I had a cunning plan though.  I downloaded a free grocery shopping app onto my phone, which meant I could instantly compare prices with what they'd cost me in my regular supermarket.

So, here's what my £15 got me.

I stocked up on lots of bits for Ruby's school lunchbox.  Shock horror, not exactly healthy I know, but she does always have at least one of these items in her lunch every day, so they are things that I would normally buy.

Course, if you're really serious about saving money, you won't go for these conveniently sized portions where you're effectively paying for the packaging, but would, for example buy a pack of jelly and make your own, or a large bag of raisins from the baking aisle and put in tupperware containers.  But hey, it's what all her little mates have in their lunchboxes, and I'm all for saving energy (mine that is).

I got some health and beauty items.  The children's Haliborange multi-vitamins actually turned out to be the best value purchase of the lot, normally retailing at Tesco at £4.  I cautiously bought one pot to see if she liked them -  which she does - and have since gone back and stocked up on loads more.  With her dairy allergy and pathological hatred of citrus fruit, her vitamin intake is something I do worry about, so these are a godsend, and she loves popping a 'healthy sweet' into her mouth each morning!

The Hello Kitty toothbrush went down a storm too.  It's got a little cap on the end so it's perfect for sleepovers and holidays.  This was actually the one item I couldn't find in Tescos to get a comparison price, but they are for sale on eBay and Amazon for anywhere from £1.95 - £4.  So smart kids, if you wanna turn a quick profit.....

I also got some general groceries, and the one I want to talk about is the Esscents laundry liquid.  This is now actually the only washing liquid I ever buy.  The range by Katie Elizabeth, comes in different fragrances, has a plastic in-drum cap, and does 28 washes.  For a pound!!  Up until about 6 months ago I used to buy the big named brands of laundry liquid, which cost anything up to £7+.  I can't believe I used to waste so much money.  The Poundland range works just as well, smells just as nice, hasn't affected our skin or clothing in any way, and it's a fraction of the cost.  One bottle lasts our family a month, saving us around £6 a month, or £72 per year.  Just for that one simple switch.  I recommend this to everyone now, and have converted several friends and family members.

So, just for the purposes of this challenge, I've listed below the equivalent cost as best I can from Tesco, which is our usual supermarket.  You can see at the bottom line, just how much I saved.

McVities Lyles Golden Syrup cake, twin pack   £2.60
1 litre Del Monte Orange Juice  £1.59
Typhoo 100 teabags  £2.29
Dorset cereal simply delicious muesli 410g  £1.40
Katie Elizabeth Laundry Gel  £3.58 (based on supermarket own label)
Skips multipack crisps 8 + 2 free £2.99 (based on equiv 25p per packet)
Hartleys strawberry jellies x 3 £1.44
Hartleys orange jellies x 3 £1.44
Raspberry School Bars pack of 5 £1.59
Sun Maid Raisins 9 mini boxes £1.60 (based on equiv weight)
Pizza Express Pomodoro tomato & basil £1.99 (not currently stocked but based on RRP)
Arm and Hammer Advance White sensitive toothpaste £2.79
Haliborange multivitimins 30 £4.00
Pantene smooth & sleek shampoo 250ml £2.87
Hello Kitty toothbrush £1.95 (Amazon price)

Grand total: £34.12

...plays £15 in Poundland.  So effectively, that shop cost me less than half what it would have done in my supermarket.

Thanks Poundland!  What's your best Poundland bargain?  What do you always stock up on when you're there?

Disclaimer: We were sent the vouchers for the purposes of this challenge.  All opinions are my own and prices were correct at time of shop/comparison.

Monday 28 January 2013

Luxe for Less - Biotherm

Welcome to a brand new feature on the blog.  Here I will be bringing you smart ways to continue with those little self indulgent treats.  They may be special offers; savvy swaps; freebies; voucher codes or DIY versions.

I've been really inspired by Becky Goddard Hill's book, 100 ways to be a thrifty family.  Even when you're on a budget, you can still find ways to have life's little luxuries.  Saving money is all well and good, but going without sucks!

My first Luxe for Less is a little online freebie deal I found for Biotherm skin care at Boots.

Biotherm is a high-end product, therefore not one I was familiar with!  However, with the years creeping up on me I'm well aware that I need to take stock and sort out my skincare regime (or even put one in place - that would be a start!).

It's fair to say that the beauty counter in a department store is not my natural habitat, but I brazened it out and guess what?  Those white overalled girls are not creatures from another planet after all.  They are just like you and me.  Only oranger.

No, I'm being unkind.  The lady who served me was lovely and had the kind of complexion I'd love.  She was friendly and approachable and put me totally at ease.

If you download this voucher (tip, print in black and white - it will be easier to read, plus you'll save on expensive coloured ink!), before end of February 2013 and take it along to the Biotherm counter at Boots (larger stores only) you'll be treated to a free consultation and 3 free samples.

Biotherm is a French company, producing skin care since the 1950's.  They use natural extracts from the sea - micro organisms; plankton and algae - making products which refresh and revitalise the skin.

Their new range, Blue Therapy, contains blue micro-algae, golden algae and pure thermal plantkton to combat the three signs of ageing - wrinkles, firmness and dark spots.

The serum is a rich, luxurious lotion, instantly moisturising and leaving a delicate shimmer from the natural golden algae.  I really did love this!  The consultant demonstrated this on my hand, and even now, some 8 hours later, my skin is still soft and silky, with a shimmery sheen to it.

But.  Remember, freebies are only freebies as long as you don't fall for the sales patter.  Be firm and stick to your guns.  I was nearly wavering, and almost came away with a £50 bottle of serum.  £50???  Seriously?

I politely told her I'd try out the samples first and see how I got on before deciding to invest or not.

The products are currently on 3 for 2 at Boots until this Thursday.  So I may be tempted after all.

In fact, I finally got round to making a phone call I should have done ages ago.  I called the Boots Advantage line.  You see, I'm forever losing my card and picking up temporary ones.  I've moved house twice and not updated my details.  Turns out, I have 3 different Advantage cards on the go.  The lovely call centre assistant has now amalgamated all my points onto one card and is sending is out to me.

To my joy, it seems I have amassed over 8,000 points!!  So in theory I could get 3 pots of the serum for nothing.  In fact, buying online through my cashback site, and with the new Advantage points I'd earn on that purchase, they'd effectively be paying me to buy it!

If you don't have an advantage card and you want to purchase Biotherm, it's worth doing it through their site as they also have a special offer on (also ending 31.01.13).  Spend over £40 and you get a free kit worth £23.

So, have you tried Biotherm?  Would you recommend it?  Is it worth the price tag?  Or perhaps you have a budget skin-care routine you'd like to share?

**All prices and offers correct at time of publication.  These may be subject to change, please check first.  This post is my own, and not endorsed or financially rewarded by any company.**

Fancy Dressing Up For World Book Day?

Thursday the 7th of March 2013 marks one of the most magical days of the year; World Book Day. No matter what your age, you should go ahead and put all your efforts into celebrating this wondrous day.

One of the most important raison d’etres of the festival is to get children interested in literature. Children can learn a lot from reading as studies show that children who are involved in reading from a young age are more likely to be interested in books in later life and thrive academically.

As a parent you should not leave learning to read just to schools, children take a lot of what their parents do into account and if you show an active interest in books, they are more than likely to follow.

If your children, like most, are active, playful and have a short attention span, it can seem like quite a tall task to get them to sit in the same place for a long period of time and keep them fixated on just one thing.

 The World Book Day website has loads of handy hints and tips to help you make the most of the day and really make the effort to get your child interested. The most important point is to spark your child’s imagination and work with a story they already love.

If you want to go the extra mile, why not have a little party celebrating the characters from your child’s favourite book. Classic costume ideas include Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”, any Dr Seuss character from “Sam I Am” to the “Cat in the Hat” and fairy-tale princesses from Rapunzel to Sleeping Beauty.

Fancy Dress Ball has World Book Day costumes for kids, so you can order them online and relax on a day that should be reserved for the bond built between a parent and their child over classic children's literature.

Disclosure: This is a featured post from Fancy Dress Ball.  You can read my full policy here.

Magpie Monday - Purple Dress

I love the colour purple.  I don't mean the book (although I do actually love that too), I mean the actual colour.

It must be a hangover from my goth days, it being the only hue I would deign to wear other than black.

Purple cheers me up, it makes me smile.

I spotted this dress on the mannequin of a charity shop in town last week and bought it on a whim.  It was only £3 so even if I only wear it around the house, it will be worth it.

The positives:

  • It's from Apricot - a label I buy often and I know fits me well
  • It's purple!
  • It's a jumper dress (I spend approximately 6 months of the year in jumper dresses)
  • It was only £3
  • I love the folksy forest print 

The negatives:

  • That weird braided yolk thing it has going on.

I'm really not sure about that.  I fear it will make me look like an ageing hippy.  I might have to take my quick-unpick to that.


Linking up with Frugal Fashion Friday.  If your 2nd hand buy is clothing or fashion, why not link up there too? x

Me and My Shadow

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Sammy's Great Escape - A Turtley brilliant movie!

The last time we went to the pictures we had the usual bombardment of trailers - you know, those that go on so long you've actually finished your popcorn before the movie even starts...

One such trailer totally caught Ruby's imagination and she's been banging on about it ever since and badgering me to go and see it.

Well, I'm pleased to say that 'Sammy's Great Escape' is scheduled for release on 15th February and I'm pretty sure I know what we'll be doing that weekend.

Sammy and Ray, leatherback turtles and friends forever, are enjoying an atoll’s water and sand, shepherding new hatchlings Ricky and Ella out to sea. Suddenly, a poacher swoops in and ships them off to be part of a spectacular aquarium show for tourists in Dubai. The kingpin of the place, Big D the seahorse, enlists them in his plans for a great escape. But with their new friends Jimbo the bug-eyed blob fish, Lulu the snippy lobster and a whole family of penguins, Sammy and Ray hatch breakout plans of their own. That is when little Ricky and Ella arrive, determined to break in to rescue them. After a series of thrilling adventures and narrow escapes, our heroes head south to meet up with Shelly, Sammy’s first and only love.

It's the follow up to A Turtle's Tale which we haven't actually seen yet - guess I'll have to get that on DVD!  But still, she's adamant that it's THE film to see.

We've recently been watching The Reef, another Warner Bros underwater animated adventure, so maybe that's what's sparked her interest?

Do your kid's enjoy going to the cinema?  What films are you looking forward to this coming half term?

Monday 21 January 2013

Magpie Monday - Baby Bluebirds

How are you enjoying the snow?

My promised trip out on Saturday with an afternoon mooching around the charity shops didn't turn out as expected.  To say I was disappointed is something of an understatement.

So, really I've not been able to get out and find any treasure - I might be forced to eBay at this rate.

Luckily, carrying on my study re-org, I found a little box of bits and bobs that still hadn't been unwrapped from our house move.

Two little newspaper packages were nestling in the bottom, and revealed these little china beauties.

I have a vague recollection of buying them at a car boot sale, so I suspect they would have cost me about a quid (knowing my tight-arsed tendencies).

Aren't they gorgeous?

I just need to find a place for them away from clumsy little hands.

Did you manage to do any thrifting this week, or has snow stopped play?

Grab the badge and link up.

Me and My Shadow

Friday 18 January 2013

Sleep better with Lenor - a dreamy giveaway

Ahhhhhhh.  Sleep.  Bed.  Sleep.

I adore my bed.  I'll be honest, I think I can safely say it's my favourite place in the world.  The only thing nicer than collapsing into bed after a hard day, is collapsing into a freshly laundered bed.  There's nothing quite like clean sheets is there?

I've been trying out the New Lenor fabric softener and their 7 day fresh sheet experience - delicate fragrance that lasts the whole week.  I've been pretty seduced by the subtle scent of Pink Topaz and Magnolia which wafts as you move - it's released by touch - and while I'm not sure I was still getting it for the full 7 days (maybe my nose was just used to it by then), it certainly remained a lot fresher for a lot longer than usual.

Much as I love my bed and my sleep, I'm plagued with constant tiredness.  So I jumped at the chance to have a personal analysis of my sleep patterns by Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist and sleep expert, author of The Good Sleep Guide.

With the help of some goodies like delicious hot chocolate; a relaxing CD and a silky sleep mask, I set about  kipping hard and keeping my sleep diary.

My week's results were sent off, and I received back my personal suggestions and recommendations.

It doesn't seem to matter how early I go to bed, how late I lie in, whether I get an unbroken night or whether a small person wakes me up at 2am needing a wee...I'm ALWAYS knackered.

Sammy has suggested some useful hints which I will try.  Suggestions like keeping my bedroom a little cooler; getting more fresh air and spending more time outdoors; rearranging and positioning my pillows to help with my ever-present backache.  All good stuff.  Whether I can go the whole hog and reduce my caffine intake remains to be seen...I do love my tea!

If you have trouble getting good sleep, I have just the giveaway for you.

One lucky winner will be able to experience the Lenor 7 day freshness, and a whole heap of other sleep related goodies to help with their slumber.

Lenor are giving away a 'sleep sack' to one of my readers, which contains the following:

  • New Lenor Pink Topaz & Magnolia
  • A doodle pillowcase and washable pens so you can jot down those inspired thoughts that strike in the middle of the night
  • A plain sleep mask
  • Hot chocolate and a very cool mug
  • A relaxing sleep sounds CD
  • A copy of the Good Sleep Guide

So, if you want to win this dreamy set, simply leave me a comment below offering a tip on how to get a restful night's sleep.

For an extra entry, please tweet "Yawn. I want to get a better night's sleep with a dreamy prize from Lenor and @missielizzieb".

Please leave an extra comment to say you have tweeted.

MAKE SURE you leave a method of contact with your entry.  Anonymous comments without an email or twitter ID will be invalid and removed.

The closing date is 12:00 midday Friday 1st February 2013.  Open to UK only.  One winner will be selected at random from valid entries.  The prize will be fulfilled by Lenor.  Failure to respond with postal details within one week may result in winner forfeiting their prize and a re-draw.

Disclosure:  We were sent a sleep sack as described for the purpose of this post.  No financial amount was given or  received.

Summer Holidays - thinking ahead

As I sit here watching a blanket of white snow envelope my world, my thoughts are drifting to sunshine and holidays.

Don't get me wrong, I love the snow and I don't have any desire to go jetting off halfway around the world to escape it.  But after 2 lovely weeks of family time together over Christmas, I'm looking forward to us all relaxing and having fun again.

This will be the first summer where we are affected by school terms and the associated rise in prices, so maybe booking a few weekend breaks is the way forward?   There are great parts of the country I've never visited and lots of deals on offer to keep my feet firmly in GB, and besides, Ruby's child passport expires before the summer anyway so we'd have the hassle of renewing that - aren't child 5 year passports just the biggest swizz ever?

Ruby's been consumed with all the holiday adverts that appear on the telly at this time of the year.  She sits there wide eyed and open mouthed at the activities; pools; lodges and cottages.  The idyllic summer holiday.

The other day she came rushing in to me while I was doing dinner, begging:

"Mummy, mummy pleeeeeeaaaaassssseee can we go to Butlins?"

I laughed and told her I wasn't sure what we were up to this summer, and I wasn't sure if we could afford it as we've already committed to a couple of other things this year.

Quick as a flash she came back with "but Mummy, we can afford it.  The first child goes free.  I'm your first child aren't I mummy".

Fair dos.  I can't really argue with that can I?  My little queen of the back-chat.  Little Miss I-have-an-answer-for-everything.

We have a trip to the Lake District planned already for Easter time, and a trip away with friends that we've already agreed to do this year, so I guess it is time to start thinking about a main holiday.

There's a new holiday park opening about a mile from our front door later in the year.  I was rather hoping to bundle her into the back of the car, drive round and round a few roundabouts, and 'ta-dah' we're on holiday!! She'd never know would she?

Him indoors is keen for us to invest in a family tent.  Something more practical than the poncey Cath Kidston flowered effort I was seduced into buying a few years ago, but which, realistically won't fit 2 adults, a small child and a dog in.

I can't say I have any desire to go camping.  Trudging across a field to use a dubious toilet or a communal shower block gives me the willies.  Sharing a confined canvas enclosure with various family members farting and snoring is not my idea of fun.  But with his new found enthusiasm for outdoor swimming, I keep catching him sneaking onto Google Earth looking for suitable places to pitch a tent near large lakes. Oh if only he'd been bitten by the 'staying in boutique hotels with spa grade toiletries and gourmet meals' bug...

I'm not looking forward to seeing the prices rocket when schools break up, and I guess now I'll finally understand what everyone moans about.  Best get checking out those 'free child places'.

What are your holiday plans this year?

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Sponsored Post: How to maximise savings on your dishwasher:

The dishwasher: a kitchen appliance that is an everyday necessity yet whose usefulness is somewhat taken for granted. The modern family bases its life upon the easiness with which we can wash dishes or even pots and pans. You and your family can make as much of a mess as you like, knowing that you have your dishwasher to clean it all away!  

However, there’s far more than meets the eye to the modern dishwasher. For example, the effectiveness of a dishwasher can be affected by what type of water area you live in. 

How hard can loading your dishwasher be? You put your dirty plates in, you take your clean plates out. Well there’s more to it than you may think. If you live in a hard water area, it is absolutely essential to use Rinse Aid and Dishwasher Salt for every wash, otherwise you will attract unwanted lime deposits. Without such aids in a hard water area, you could potentially cause damage to your dishwasher, an added inconvenience any family could do without!

One further aspect to take into consideration is the money-saving the modern dishwasher offers. Many people are of the opinion that hand-washing your dishes is an easier and less time-consuming process than using a dishwasher. However, this is an all too common misconception. In reality, the cost of managing a dishwasher is far less than what people imagine. For example, if a family of four was to hand-wash 18 dishes a week, they would be missing out on savings of up to £85 per year, a small but nonetheless significant saving simply made by using your dishwasher! Think of all the things you could buy with that amount of money! Not only are you saving money, you’re saving water resources as well. 

So, if your New Year’s resolution is to be more careful with your money, you need look no further than your dishwasher to start your money-saving. 

Monday 14 January 2013

Magpie Monday - Gilt frame upcycled memo holder

Whenever I'm in a charity shop or at a boot sale, I'm always on the lookout for pretty picture frames.  Intricate gilt ones; unusual wooden ones, ceramic matters not.

I have a whole stack in the garage waiting for me to find the time to get to work on them.

Some will be turned into chalk boards, some will be re-sprayed, a collection will be arranged together to display old photographs in, some will house Ruby's works of art...

All I need is a few spare hours...

This weekend, I found half an hour to do a quick makeover on a little frame I picked up for a couple of pounds a while back.  Since I'd re-arranged my office/study/craft room, it seemed like the perfect time.  It's super-simple to do and looks really effective (I think!)

These are great as desk organisers, or to hang in a hallway for mail - you could label up each pocket for each family member's post.

You will need:

  • A frame (it doesn't have to be gilt, any would do depending on your style.  You can paint or spray it a subtle pastel colour, or a bright, vibrant gloss if you prefer)
  • Fabric (I've used hessian - burlap to our American friends - but you can use linen or patterned cotton, again, depending on your style)
  • Staple gun

Carefully remove the original picture and glass if it has any.  Put aside in case someone informs you at a later date that it's a Renoir.

Measure out a strip of fabric at least 4 cm wider than your frame and double the height - you will first need to work out whether you are having it portrait or landscape.  I tend to cut my fabric AFTER I've finished, but if it's a large piece you may need to trim it down first so it's not too unwieldy.

Iron your fabric to remove creases.  Then, working from the bottom, start folding upwards to create 'pockets'.  Iron the folds as you go to make them nice and crisp and keep in place.

Keep folding until you have the desired amount of flaps.  Place the frame over to check it fits ok and you are happy with the look.

Flip over and staple gun onto the back of the frame, keeping the fabric taught but being careful not to distort your folds.  Trim if necessary, and if your fabric is prone to fraying like hessian, fold over and staple the  excess again.

Et voila!  It's ready to hang on the wall or stand on your desk.  Get ready for your new, organised life.

What second-hand gems have you found lately?  Do you have a stack of 'projects' waiting to be tackled?  Grab the badge and link up.

Me and My Shadow

Linking up with Ta-Dah Tuesday.