Monday, 30 December 2013

Guest Post: Seven Deadly Sins of Bathroom Design - what to avoid

The bathroom is an area of space in the home that has become increasingly popular in terms of importance and design over the years. Gone are the days of a room built for practical personal hygiene as more choices for design, appliances and furniture become available. 
Getting the most out of a limited space can be a difficult process and quite often there are essential elements to the design that are not considered. Too often the dreams of a bathroom sent from heaven become a living nightmare.
With this in mind, below are the seven deadly sins of bathroom design:
1.     Considering all guests:  The home should be a place that all close family members and relatives visit in comfort. If a family has members that are elderly then an awkward bathroom to use may stop them from coming to visit. With a few simple bathroom solutions such as grab bars and disabled access into bathing areas the ease of accessibility will be improved significantly. By implementing a few extra elements is could provide the difference to making a comfortable and relaxed home for all the family. For those with an upstairs bathroom, a curved stair lift may be needed to gain access to this important area.
2.     Waterproofing: Quite often the design takes over the focus of the bathroom. It needs to be 100% waterproof to prevent any leaks, rotting wood and other unsightly and damaging aspects water can create for the home. A percentage of the budget on re-designing a bathroom should always have the waterproofing covered.
3.     Cheaper options: Sometimes the cheaper option isn’t always the best. When buying tiles or appliances the idea is to have a sense of longevity in the product. Bathrooms should not be replaced or redesigned often so ensure that the appliances bought are of good quality. A toilet seat breaking or a tap snapping after a few years can be one of the biggest annoyances.
4.     Design plans: From a toilet in front of the door to a sink that knocks an elbow, many bathrooms are of a small size and sometimes the placement can be inconsiderate of the bigger picture. Make sure that the plans are drawn down and measurements are taken fully to appreciate what it will be like in the room once completed. These permanent fixtures will cost more money to change around should a mistake be made.
5.     No natural light: Too often a bathroom can appear stuffy and enclosed without the use of natural light. A bathroom should always have a window; not only will it make the room light and airy but it will give the appearance of being larger.
6.     Condensation: A major sin is not considering the way air, moisture and steam passes through the bathroom. A room that is wet and dry many times throughout the day needs a proper airway system with quality extractor fans or vents to starve off any mould issues.
7.     Stick with the simple appliances: Don’t be worried about staying in with the designs of today and opting for an eccentric appliance. Many people now look on with their avocado coloured bath with disdain and this could be the same for some of the colour options of today. Pearl white has never gone out of fashion and won’t seem out of date once the next trend is realised so is always a safe option.

Guest Post: Laying Laminate Flooring

You may think you are walking on a beautiful wooden or marble-topped floor but you are actually walking on laminate. Laminate is a type of durable flooring that is cleverly designed to have the appearance of the texture of real wood or stone.

It’s practical and economical compared to the real thing, looks just as good and is more resistant to daily wear-and-tear. With a bit of preparation, it is also straightforward to lay yourself and there are many guides on how to lay laminate flooring to help you get it right.

Here we focus on a few extra tips to make the process even easier.

Tip #1 – Let laminate floor boards acclimatise to the room
It is a good idea to let the flooring planks acclimatise to the room for 48 hours before you plan to lay them. This enables them to adapt to humidity and temperature so that they are in good shape when you start to put them down.

The best way to store the laminate boards is in flat stacks on the floor.

Tip #2 – Buy more laminate flooring than you need

Mistakes happen and you may find you run out of laminate planks if rooms are awkwardly shaped or floorboards become broken, damaged or otherwise wasted. Buy around 10% extra but don’t open all your packs at once. That way you can return what you don’t use.

Tip #3 – Prepare the subfloor

The subfloor needs to be prepared before you lay the laminate so give it a good sweep and wash it to ensure that it is free from dirt and debris. If you are laying laminate on a concrete floor, wait until the floor is entirely dry before starting.

You will need to put down a vapour barrier before laying laminate planks too. This is a thin layer of foam which helps to soften sound when walking on the floor and protects the laminate from moisture. Your dealer or manufacturer will give you advice on how best to lay the vapour barrier as it depends on the shape and size of your room.

Tip #4 – Be careful

Carefully match each plank tongue to groove and tap together with a piece of scrap flooring so that you don’t damage the planks. It is a good idea to stagger the planks when installing the next line of flooring by six to eight inches. This creates a more interesting appearance than if the planks are placed flush with one another.
Laying them in such a manner also goes some way to creating a stronger floor than if they are placed flush.

Tip #5 – Choose wisely

Laminate flooring comes in a range of colours, style and patterns but you want something that will stand the test of time and not need replacing anytime soon. It’s therefore important to choose wisely and think about how your selection will look later on down the line.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Guest Post: Enjoy relaxed living in sunny Devon

When most people think about their retirement they dream of spending their increased leisure time in pleasant surroundings with an active social life and amenities that will suit their interests.

Ilfracombe in Devon is the perfect place

One of the major benefits of moving to this beautifully sunny North Devon town is its proximity to the sea, and the fact that there is so much to do and occupy your time. Retirement apartments in Ilfracombe will give you the opportunity to relocate to this lovely town, retain your independence and engage with a group of other neighbouring homeowners.

One of the main advantages of this type of retirement living is that help is on hand if you need it, but you’ll also be able to continue with your own style of life for as long as you can. Ilfracombe is well marked with access guides; in fact there is even a group that promotes access for those with mobility problems in the town. You can borrow or hire a mobility scooter, should the need arise.

Activities in Ilfracombe, Devon

As you’ll be living by the sea, you should try and explore the Tunnels beaches. These were erected in the 1820s and were designed to separate males and females in order to preserve Victorian decorum. If you do decide to spend a day here, relax with a drink or a meal at the stylish Café Blue Bar, right on the beach.

Ilfracombe is jam-packed with cultural activities. There is a wonderful 66-foot Damien Hirst sculpture of a pregnant woman, called Verity, on the pier. The town also has a theatre, The Landmark, where you can go to hear music, watch a play and see a film. This unusual building is also right on the seafront. Further along the pier, you’ll be able to visit the local Aquarium and admire all the beautiful marine life housed in this centre.

Attractions close to Ilfracombe

If you’re thinking of having a day out, then a trip on the nearby Lynton and Barnstable steam railway will be great fun. This iconic narrow guage steam railway has been featured by Michael Portillo, and will take you back in time across moorland and rural countryside in one of its wonderful old-fashioned carriages. The railway is always looking for volunteers, so if you fancy for a new hobby and want to boost your social life, this might be just the opportunity you’ve been looking for.


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Out and About: Cowslip Christmas Fair

Hello hello!  

Man, it's been a few weeks since I wrote that self-indulgent, whinge-fest, hasn't it.  You will, I hope, be pleased to hear that I bounced back very quickly and settled right back into my cosy, happy, little bubble.  The photo above is me, obviously, on a recent dark morning, looking as tired as I felt and delighting in this stars/stripes combo.  I tried to do one of those selfies that Vanessa (Coco Rose) et al do... You know, just a snapshot of my torso with my arm showing my cup in front of my top.  Well, I would like tips on how to do those pictures without the lady bumps stealing the show.  It feels as though I can't quite get the camera far enough away from my body.  Tips anyone?  So anyway, I just took a plain old photo of my boat race!


Life has been ace these last few weeks.  My new job seems to have finally bedded in and I'm out and about, keeping very busy and learning lots about parts of the organisation that were out of my remit previously.  In the last few weeks I've been to St Albans (my office base but it's 50 miles away), Manchester and Edinburgh for work and I'm driving to Leeds tomorrow for a whole day of risk training. 

Last weekend, I was at Cowslip for the Christmas Fair with some lovely friends and my lovely mum and sister.  It was well worth the long, late night drive to North Cornwall and every bit as gorgeous and inspiring as I'd hoped.  Cowslip is a working farm in an idyllic location with a delightful fabric shop and lush workrooms for the sewing classes they hold.  There is also a cafe on site with the most delicious menu - I think they hold cooking classes there too.

A view across the farmland and misty valley from outside the fabric shop at Cowslip.
Anyway, the Christmas Fair was held in a few of the barns and outhouses at the farm.  All decorated wonderfully with fairy lights, wooden reindeer, Christmas trees and hundreds of gorgeous quilts.  So inspiring and such a delight to wander round.  

There were quilts draped over every available surface.  Even the twiggy reindeer weren't safe!

I put a few solid hours into building my fabric stash and rewarded my hard labour with plenty of mulled apple cider, coffee and cake.  Tough, but you just gotta put the work in!  

This little wooden box of fabric makes me very happy indeed.  Stripes, spots and checks.
I have come home with the yarn for two new knitting projects and yarn from Suzie Johnson (The Wool Sanctuary).  I also scooped up lots of redwork patterns as Mandy Shaw had a fantastic stall there.  

I got started on some little redwork patterns straight away.
Mandy's stall was, of course, lush.  The Christmas quilts and toys that she had on display were amazing and a huge Christmas tree that almost reached the ceiling was chock-full of red and white decorations and bunting.  And we all know how much I love red and white.  Just gorgeous. 

Mandy Shaw's stall:  too many lovely things to look at
This weekend is the last time before Christmas that I'll have time to properly relax and do nothing so although I got up early, I sat around in my PJs til lunchtime, knitting and watching Gilmore Girls.  Then, at half past two (!) I had an hour-long bubble bath using every last drop of hot water in the house and started a new Penny Vincenzi novel.  It was bliss!  Afterwards, I put on make-up and some clean PJs and have been pottering around.  Some chocolate tiffin has been made, the kitchen has been cleaned and my craft room is as tidy and fragrant as can be.  It has been such a perfect day.  

Have a great week everyone. 

Much love and thanks for reading.



PS Thanks for all of your comments, I read and appreciated all of them.  I do understand that sometimes we all overshare and, of course, that's what I was doing by moaning about my personal issues here in my little corner of the interweb.  Heck, we all need to offload somewhere.  

I wanted to make the point (to a person in my real life who I know secretly reads my blog) that when you write something on the internet it can be seen by anyone and is live for many years.  So at least make sure it is true! 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The one where my bubble nearly popped

It's kind of been an ugly few weeks.  I'll admit it.  Things I've read and things I have heard have made me wander off into long daydreams about what causes people to behave the way they do.  

I write my blog on the basis that you should be careful what you disclose on the internet because the things you write are likely to remain public for a very long time and you have no way of controlling who will see those musings of yours. 

I am also conscious of keeping my blog a happy and inoffensive space.  Somewhere that I can share the good things that happen to me, so that I can try to gloss over the bad.  I choose not to rant about topical and potentially inflammatory subjects because my blog isn't a soapbox.  It doesn't mean that I don't have views or opinions, it just means that I choose to air them in a more private forum.  I know that I am not alone in my preferences, here.

I am a one-dimensional person to my cyber friends.  That's 'on purpose':  I engineer things to be that way.  I talk about my home, the things I've been making and the things I've been up to.  That's because I like to read about what other people are doing and I like to connect with people over my hobbies and interests.  

There are many things that I don't mention because they are irrelevant to my blog.  I don't talk about my personal circumstances because I assume that they are not interesting to other people.  I am a private person.  I am more of a listener than a talker and I put my trust in very few people.  I am closest to my mum, sister and husband than anyone else in the world.  I can tell them everything and anything; I trust them implicitly.  (Don't get me wrong, I adore my dad but we stick to laughing at each other or having massive debates/disagreements.   He doles out either lectures or cuddles depending on the situation.  We both like it that way.)

I have an Instagram account and I follow the same code of conduct.  Generally, I only share the superficial stuff.  Again, deliberately.

I am often surprised, sometimes shocked (and always amused) to see the things that people publish on the internet.

I am not talking about trolls or cyber-bullies.  Those people deliberately and unashamedly set out to hurt others.  I'm talking about intelligent, ordinary people who use social media sites to complain about things or, worse [shudder], over-share.  

I understand that copying a company into tweets about an unacceptable meal out, a faulty pair of shoes or a late delivery ensures that your complaint goes straight to source and is a means of sorting out a problem with very little effort on your part.  When you complain about your crappy jeans from XShop on twitter, you *want* XShop to read your tweet.  You want them to know you're unhappy:  they will sort out your issue doubly fast because you've publicly outed them and, with a bit of luck, you'll get free stuff, right? I get it.

But when you bitch about your boss, complain about your MIL or declare that you're £s in debt do you *really* want the world to know that?  I have watched, with horror, as colleagues moaned via their smartphones about the fact they haven't received a bonus that year or declared, smugly, that their wife was 'a bit of a goer in the sack'. 

Last year I accidentally collided with someone on Instagram and Twitter who until then had been on the periphery of my family life.  A quick, nosy, scroll through their feed revealed that they had previously chosen to say some very unsavoury things about Andrew and me; some comments were plain nasty, some were (amusingly, it has to be said) fibs and some showed just how misinformed they were.  I cringed for them.   I wasn't at all close enough to them to be offended or hurt by their comments; I suppose I found it amusing and flattering that we were important enough to them to be discussed in a public forum, with strangers.  It was galling to read, of course, but I was embarrassed for them more than anything.  

Don't get me wrong, I like to live in a happy little bubble but I know how the real world works.  I am streetwise enough to know that my ideals are unrealistic and 'haters gonna hate' (ha! love that expression).  I know, also, that even the closest friends are going to moan sometimes.  We're all human and we all get irritated, upset, jealous, angry and frustrated about the smallest things.  I have a sharp tongue which I usually manage to control unless I am tired, hungry or anxious.  Then I get snappy and I am ashamed to admit that I've been a right old witch to my friends and family.   But I wouldn't casually bitch about them to anyone who will listen.  That's just not cool.

Thank the Lord I have such awesome people in my life who I love and who, I know, love me back.  I have made some really great new friends over the last few years and my old friends are as awesome as they've always been even though it is difficult for us to stay in regular contact.  These people - you - are the ones who remind me every day that the world is fit to burst with lovely people and the not-so-lovely ones are the minority.

I wrote this post to sort my thoughts into some sort of order after the ugliness of the last few weeks.  It has helped and I am going to start the week tomorrow afresh.  I am going to continue to be thick-skinned, remain loyal to the people I care about and stand by my basic life values.  Sorry it was all a bit heavy.

Normal service will resume with immediate effect and I'll be back 
to waffle about knitting, books and shopping next time. :)

Have a great week, my lovely friends.  

Love love,



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Late Summer Makes

Morning!  *blows dust from keyboard and peers into screen through thin film of cobwebs*  

Anybody there?  

It's been a while, hasn't it.  Almost three months to be exact.  I don't quite know why I've left it so long to update my blog.  I love writing here.  It keeps me chipper and gives me an excuse to waffle on about everything I've been up to.  I also love the chance to catch up on my favourite blogs and read what my cyber buddies have been up to. 

So.  What have you been up to?  With a glorious summer under our belts, we Brits are now revelling in the onset of autumn.  It occurred to me this morning that it is just two days until actual Halloween and I don't have any pumpkins.  No real ones, I mean.  I made a few fabric ones the other week and I do have a pair of tin lanterns that I bought last year, but I *need* real ones that I can carve and put in the garden.  Bet the only ones left at the supermarket will be misshapen and slightly manky.  Grr.  Must change the subject; am starting to feel slightly panicky about lack of pumpkins.

I used vintage fabric for the pumpkins, bought from Get Smitten
After a super-lovely holiday in February with Suzie's knit club girls, I was dead chuffed to be able to go to Meadowgate again in September.  

My little Mini loaded up with a week's worth of clothes and craft for two girlie girls.
We had such a lovely time.  

Afternoon tea at Gayna's on the way to Meadowgate.  So lovely to see her and tea was a real treat.
The weather was gorgeous for late September and (when we weren't eating) we spent quite a bit of time knitting in the garden.  On the Sunday, a few of us took a bottle of prosecco and some boogie boards to the beach.  It was lush.  Suzie and Deb hit the waves; Helen, Lisa and I gave moral support.  The week passed far too quickly and I now fondly refer to the week as 'patchwork boot camp' as I decided on the Tuesday to make a Christmas quilt and - with the help of patchwork expert Helen - it was basted ready for quilting by Thursday evening.  I am hugely pleased with it and love spending the evenings hand quilting.  

I used a bundle of Lynette Anderson christmas fabric that I found at Cowslip.  It is last year's design (called, I think, Christmas Fun).  I love the murky colours that Lynette uses - I think my quilt looks festive without looking over-the-top or twee.  

I've fallen for patchwork in a big way.  Upon arriving home from Meadowgate I immediately started working on a pattern for a patchwork bag.  I wanted to get stuck into more whilst I still felt confident of the technique.  By the end of the weekend (aided by a lot of swearing, unpicking and tutor texts/phone calls with my lovely friend Lisa) I'd finished the bag and I love it.  It is far from perfect (in fact, it's a bit rubbish really) but I am beyond chuffed to have made it all by myself.

Tilda fabric for this one:  the Sweet Christmas collection.
I've also started some English paper piecing and have embarked on the slightly ambitious project of a hexy lap-quilt:

I'm using Tilda Fabric for my hexies, too. The collection here is called The Corner Shop and is very pretty.
I have been inspired by Ali (as usual) and it was she who encouraged me to 'dream big' and start with a quilt rather than something more manageable like, say, a cushion! Ali sent me LOADS of helpful emails but I can't help but think she has more faith in me than she should.  I will be writing to her when I finish the last stitch in my retirement home, to let her know I finally finished it! 

I have actually finished a couple of things too, would you believe (Erin, I'm looking at you!).  

Tufty Scarf by Suzie Johnson.  Modelled by my 4-year-old niece, Izzie.
I started the neon Tufty scarf (link!) at Meadowgate but it was abandoned for Patchwork Boot Camp.  I managed to finish the scarf at the weekend - it was SO quick and easy to make.  I'm going to make another one.  Well I'm going to have to, because Izzie snatched this one up for herself the second I finished it.  It's really too long for her but she loves it.  I am pretending to be cross with her for stealing it but I'm secretly chuffed that she wants it.

Since coming back from Meadowgate, a few of us have formed a 'Secret Sewing Bee' and we meet on Monday nights.  The 'founder' - Deb from Rushden's Manfield Crafts - hosts it and has so many lovely things at her house that she has completely inspired me to make a whole heap of Tilda characters.  I started by making these little gingerbread men, which I turned into a garland with the addition of some stuffed hearts and thin piece of hessian.

I plan to make the teddy in this month's Mollie Makes next.  Have you seen it? It's gorgeous.  

Right, I'm off.  It's a work day today and I've got loads to do.

Have a great week!