How to revamp your garden on a budget

I think if we learned anything from living through a global pandemic, it’s that we need to love where we live. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor space to enjoy there are loads of ideas that you can use to give your space a well deserved revamp – whatever your budget!

For us, personally, this is the first place we have lived with any half decent outdoor space. Before this we lived in a couple of flats and before that a house but one with the teeniest garden ever.

If anything we probably overshot on this garden when we bought this house. After years of first floor living the idea of joyous summers outdoors in our own green area with a BBQ on the go. Perhaps with children playing quietly while I enjoyed a lounger and a glass of something cold. Well, it was not a hard sell.

Fair warning to everyone currently in a flat and having these daydreams about a lovely garden. I developed my first ever round of hay fever within about 10 minutes of us moving in and these days it feels like all I do is mow the lawn or think about when I next have to mow the lawn. I watch a place in the sun and am envious of the Spanish villas and their lack of grass. Still, if you have a garden it might as well be lovely to spend time in!

Give the kids their own spot

You have a garden. You have a child. It makes sense to make it a place they love to be too. What better way to do so than to let them carve out their own little bit of space. Whether you choose to create a play area or maybe their very own vegetable patch, the garden is an awesome opportunity to educate the little ones.

If you have a spare lawn to use for this then great! If not then large pots for planting in will work just as well. We love the pretty cheap plastic ones you can pick up for a few pounds in most larger stores.

Gardening For Kids has some brilliant ideas for getting your children involved in the great(ish) outdoors

Add some colour

You can add colour to your garden really easily using relatively cheap planters or why not put your teenager to good use with a tin of fence paint. They come in such a wide variety of colours these days. We love Valspar’s Blue Bolero!

Light it up

My most favourite time to spend in the garden is in early or late summer when the evenings are a little darker but it’s still warm enough to sit outside. It’s so lovely being able to use garden lighting to help to enjoy your outdoor space with friends and you can choose to add pretty lights no matter your budget.

Whether you choose path lighting or something colourful to add to a sitting area it will transform how you see your garden. Quite literally!

Take the kitchen outdoors

Is it a garden if you can’t comfortably cook and eat in it? I think not! We loved getting outdoors and making full use of our Barbecue last summer but I would love to install something a bit more permanent I think and allocate a zoned area specifically for an outdoor kitchen!

Maybe a brick built Barbecue with a pizza oven perhaps! We definitely need some comfortable sofa seating too!

Don’t you, forget about Bee..

Of course, it’s not just about us! We must always consider who else uses our garden and how we can design our space so that other creatures don’t lose out.

I love Bees and I try to make sure that we have a Bee friendly space by planting Bee and Butterfly friendly plants. The Wildlife Watch is a great resource for all things bug friendly!

This year I will also make a little Bee and Butterfly bath with Moose. I think he and they will love it!

Mothers Day – Gift Ideas

Products received for the purpose of inclusion in this article

Mothers day already?! Are you sure? This year is flying by!

If you are on the lookout for a special gift for your Mum/Stepmum/Mum in Law/Enthusiastic neighbour or even Gran, then this is exactly where you need to be.

Although it’s true that a Mothers love is (usually, watch it kids…) unconditional, and we would rather you didn’t struggle, we do still like a nice present – who doesn’t! Especially me. If you are one of my offspring, take notes…

For the Mum with a little one

Are Mummies scared of monsters? There’s a noisy monster under Alexander’s bed. Baby T’s monster has a rumbling tummy. Daddy has monstrous problems at work. And Mummy’s sister finds monsters in a faraway place. But what about Mummy? Join Alexander in his latest colourful quest to find the answer to the puzzling question, Are Mummies scared of monsters?

Inspired by the style of Eric Carle and Lauren Child, Are Mummies Scared of Monsters follows Alexander on a quirky, colourful new quest, perfect for curious little ones with a playful sense of humour. This book would make a lovely gift for Mums of little ones.

For the Mum on the go

Most Mums love music and what gift could be better than the opportunity to listen to her favourite music or podcasts while on the go?

Edifier X3 TO-U earbuds achieved a perfect balance between premium sound quality and compact design. Qualcomm chipset provides strong capability with Bluetooth 5.0 while Apt X audio technology delivers CD-class sound quality. CVC 8.0 noise cancelation removes the background noise and transmits clearer voice. IP55 dustproof & waterproof design is perfect for outdoor activities. 8+16 hours of playtime and other technology like one-step pairing and tap control make it a perfect companion of yours.

If your mum is making an effort to be more sustainable then perhaps she’d appreciate some reusable period pants. Modibodi have a huge range of styles and absorbencies to choose from. We love the Classic Full Brief Everyday Bundle which is a lovely set with a mix of plain and brightly coloured underwear. There are so many on the site to choose from as well as some fab swimwear too!

Everyone needs to be organised

Boutique Gifts specialise in personalised gifts suitable for all occasions, including bags, jewellery, stationery and hampers. Many of their products are produced in their inhouse workshop based in Nottinghamshire.

As a lover of stationery I think this is a fabulous gift. This Parker gift box includes an exclusive design magenta Parker A5 notebook and Parker Jotter ball pen. The notebook has 96 lined sheets on cream paper, and ribbon marker. The pen has been personalised and engraved. Practical and thoughtful all at the same time.

The Mum who has it all

If you’re struggling to find a gift, how about an experience for mum? Buyagift have hundreds to choose from on their website. You simply purchase the gift experience and can send this via email to them or you can receive it in a lovely box which includes the voucher and gift it to them in person.

I thought that this Murder Mystery break for 2 would make an excellent present – and if you are lucky enough she might even take you!

 

The far away Mum

Who doesn’t love an afternoon tea? Even better if you can have it delivered to your door! This Afternoon tea hamper combines all the luxury of going for afternoon tea in the comfort of your own home. The hamper is packed to the brim with tasty quintessentially English themed treats and comes with a gift card which can be personalised with a short message

Contains:

Original Cake Company Cherry & Almond Slab Cake 200g

Cartwright & Butler English Afternoon Tea 10’s

Frank’s Vanilla Shortbread 180g

Fine Cheese Co Elegant & English Strawberries & Cream Biscuits 125g

Mrs Darlington Strawberry Jam

Danny’s Lumpy Road Chocolate

For the practical Mum

Give mum the most useful gift around this Mother’s Day with CLCKR’s multi-functional phone stand and grip. CLCKR handily holds your device in different viewing positions so it is useful for the gym, reading recipies whilst cooking, watching your favourite shows, etc. Available in a range of colours and patterns.

Chin Chin

Why not get your Mum her favourite tipple? Bring Me Drink have a massive amount of choice on their website, including a ready made bottle of my favourite – a long island iced tea!

So convenient and at great prices, there really is something for everyone. My tip would be to grab the Aperol Spritz set..

Enjoying Italy’s favourite cocktail has never been so convenient. This kit contains a 35cl bottle of Aperol & a 37.5cl bottle of prosecco – all you need is your favourite glass and a slice of orange to garnish. Before you know it, you’ve made an Aperol Spritz! This kit also looks fantastic in it’s signature orange design so it would make a perfect gift for any Aperol lover in your life.

Fentimans are the home of botanical brewing and their tonic water and mixers are exquisitely crafted to ensure each flavour is the perfect partner for your spirit. This Rose Lemonade is wonderfully fresh, perfect for you to enjoy with your mum this Mother’s Day.

They also have a range of cocktail recipes for alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktails which can be found here

Pocket money prices

Jewellery doesn’t have to break the budget to be special! This beautiful necklace from Amazon – Handmade Mothers retails at just £5.99 but has a lovely look and feel to it. The wax melts smell gorgeous and their scent lasts for ages – a steal at £5.79

I would be very pleased if one of my kids bought something so thoughtful. There are so many pocket money friendly gifts to be found there, make sure you check it out!

For the comfy Mum

There is something wonderful about loungewear. Pretty Polly are a brand which has been around for certainly as long as I remember but did you know that these days they do more than just tights?

Pretty Polly’s Eco-Wear collection makes the perfect gift for the eco-conscious receiver due to their sustainable range of hosiery, seam-free underwear and leggings made from the first biodegradable polyamide in the world.
Renowned for being a trailblazer within the hosiery and underwear industry, the brand has been celebrated as being the one-stop shop for all hosiery needs and boasts a broad denier offering of 20-200. In addition to hosiery, Pretty Polly also stocks loungewear, lingerie, and underwear with Prices ranging from £6 to £35 and a lovely collection to choose from. – You’ll be sure to find something for mum!

Pretty Polly on Twitter: "Our comfortable and stylish botanical lace loungewear is perfect for those cozy winter days 🎄 Check out our range of loungewear in the link https://t.co/YQonrrGNwA #christmas #loungewear #workfromhome #

What would Mums do without gin? For those of us who have completed the whole of the plain gin range and are now ready for an upgrade, thankfully, there are solutions! This trio pack of MOM gin comes in 3 delightfully fresh sounding flavours and is a very affordable £11 from Amazon.

God save the gin!

 

This is a perfect solution for those who are a bit stumped…

Simply select your budget, share a few preferences of the lady in question as well as your note, and the Wellbeing Sisters whisk away and craft a personalised gift box just for them!

Continuing with the theme of being toxin-free, this bundle is all wrapped up and sent complete with a handwritten gift note.

Few things beat the personal touch…and it’s not cheating to seek help from those in the know!

Available directly from the Wellbeing Sisters

 

Sustainable gifting

I’m now a complete convert when it comes to reusable sanitary products and love the selection and comfort of Trade to Aid Reusable Sanitary Pads, who also have a mission behind their products.

Period poverty is a real issue, affecting over 500 million women world-wide. It keeps girls out of school and the workplace. Trade to Aid want to end period poverty and provide women and girls in refugee camps with sanitary products to support them on their periods.

For every pack of pads you buy from Trade To Aid, they give a free pack to someone in need in a refugee camp. They also support menstrual education programmes for young people in West Africa.

I was kindly sent one of the Trade to Aid Reusable Sanitary Pad packs. This retails at £29.97.

The pack includes:

  • Two light flow pads
  • Two medium flow pads
  • Two heavy flow pads
  • One waterproof wet bag

For the keep fit Mum

Maybe your mum is an avid fitness enthusiast but doesn’t always have the time to go to the gym? This ab roller home workout kit is the perfect gift for them! The gym isn’t always an option and with our mums always running around looking after others, perhaps you’d like to give them a gift so that they can easily take care of themselves!

This home workout kit from Amonax is a great way to always keep on track with working out. The kit includes the UK’s number 1 abdominal wheel which helps the user train their abdominals effectively and is a robust way to build their abs. It contains an extendable skipping rope is a must for burning calories and has a great feature that allows the user to adjust the length easily!

This handy workout kit also contains non-slip push-up bars which make it perfect for training arms and shoulders. The bars are at a 15-degree angle, protecting the wrist from any unwanted strain and maximizing work-out efficiency. Perfect for those wanting to get back into a gym routine!

Pamper her

If your mum deserves a touch of luxury and relaxation this Mother’s Day, why not treat her to one of ARRAN Sense of Scotland’s Hand or Body care gift sets. Available in ARRAN’s bestselling fragrances, Glenashdale, an uplifting blend of grapefruit and vetiver, and Glen Rosa, a soothing blend of fig and ylang ylang. These beautifully packaged sets are guaranteed to impress. £30 each.

 

Something Yummy

You cannot miss when it comes to Mums and baked goods. These strawberry & cream ripple cupcakes from Send Them Cupcakes are absolutely gorgeous and what’s more they can be personalised and delivered to your door – or your Mums! Minimum effort, maximum result!

Vanilla sponge cupcakes hand decorated with a fusion of strawberry and vanilla frosting blended together to create a ripple effect frosted design that tastes amazing too. A striking cerise pink disc is hand written in white chocolate for Mum, while a selection of hand cut hearts and flowers are used to decorate the remaining cupcakes  The perfect gift for mum.

Too Good To Go – Costa

An interesting phenomenon which seems to have popped up in the last year or too are apps which claim to rescue unused/unwanted food from being wasted by offering them to the general public either for free or at a reduced cost.

The concept is really simple and although you never know what you might get, the incentive is that it is super cheap. A magic bag via the Too Good To Go app for example will save the consumer at least 50% off the RRP. Result!

But what do you actually get for your money?

I tried the Costa Magic Bag to see.

The ordering process was simple. Just hop onto the app, pop your postcode in and see what comes up in your area. I will just say that the Costa Magic Bags do seem to be quite popular so I think it was a bit of a fluke that this came up.

As well as Costa, on the TGTG app, you will find other big brands such as Starbucks, Aunt Anne Pretzels, Nisa, Spar, Greggs and more!

They all seem to have their magic bags loaded on at different times throughout the day but if you want one then be prepared to have to go out late on to collect.

I happened to be out anyway last night when I noticed the Costa magic bag was available and with pick up less than 10 mins away I thought it rude not to. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What’s in the bag?

After a very swift collection I was able to finally see what you got for your £3 from Costa!

I will be honest here and say that I was hoping for sweet treats like those lush chocolate twists they sell or maybe a slab of millionaires shortcake.

It seems though that I did not get what I was hoping for. Instead it was rather healthier and in the end, not actually Costa food but Marks & Spencer!

Inside my bag I found salad!

3 different salad items to be precise. There was the Prawns with dip, the Italian chicken salad and the superfoods salad. All 3 were dated the same day.

I did eat the prawns straightaway because you do not mess about with seafood dates. The other 2 though I left to the following day and used them at lunchtime (disclaimer: I know the risks of eating out of date food and am in no way suggesting you do this. If you do, then you take that risk) and to be honest they were pretty good!

The superfoods salad did, admittedly, smell a bit…farty…. but there was a LOT of veg so that might be why. It tasted way better than it smelt though, thankfully!

The magic bags from Costa cost £3 and should contain items to the value of at least £10. I would say that, yes, they did achieve this. It would have been nice to have had something sweet though but that’s the point. You really never know what you will get! I will certainly be trying it again.

Would you take the chance on one? Or have you used the app already? How was it?

 

Train Travel – Why We Love It

It’s hard to beat train travel when it comes to travelling long distances. Flying has its ups and downs and road trips require a lot of planning, but train travel is stress-free and can be an enjoyable way to travel. Of course, trains have their limitations in that they cannot take your everywhere, but there are a few reasons why they are many people’s preferred form of travel.

girl standing next to camden town underground sign

Freedom

You get a sense of freedom when travelling by train that is hard to match. This is because once you are abroad you can simply sit back and watch the world go by. People can spend their time on the train reading, listening to music, eating, talking, playing games or any other activity.

 

Cost

You will also find that train travel can be more affordable than other forms of transport. Flying can be hugely expensive and with road trips, there will be running costs to cover, but with train travel, you only have your train ticket to worry about and you can often get discounts on popular routes to make it more affordable.

 

No Traffic & Stress-Free

When you get the train, you do not have to worry about traffic, driving and figuring out the best route to take unlike driving. It can be hard to relax while driving, but this is not an issue with train travel which means that you can arrive at your destination feeling calm, happy and relaxed.

 

Flexibility

There is also flexibility with train travel in that you will usually have a few options for what train to get and what time to leave. When flying, there is not much flexibility and this can add to the stress. If you are travelling to popular areas like London, there will always be an earlier or later train that you could get.

 

Comfort

Train travel can also be the most comfortable way to travel, especially during off-peak hours. Being crammed into a plane with little to no leg room can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially on a long haul flight. Travelling in the car can be better, but with a train, you have the ability to get up and move around which can make travel much more comfortable and enjoyable.

 

These are a few of the main benefits of train travel over flying or driving. There are limitations, but train travel can be a lot easier, stress-free, fun and comfortable than other forms of travel and it is always an option that is worth considering when planning any kind of trip.

2022 – The year we can explore?

I am not one for resolutions and I don’t much like plans. If I make a plan to explore I tend to go overboard and there is too much room then for anxiety and doubts to start creeping in. I can go from writing a packing list to wondering what we would do if the worst should happen – and it happens every single time. More often than not resulting in me cancelling altogether. So, for me, plans are exhausting.

Much more preferable is to wake up one morning and have a feeling that I want to do something and then to just go with it. Obviously you cannot take this approach with all things though and I appreciate that sometimes a little planning is essential. My top tip for this is to marry a spreadsheet lover.

This year is our tenth wedding anniversary (and 20th together) and even though it meant that I had to make a plan, I was determined that we should do something special.

So, after a bit of deliberation over whether it is feasible in our current Covid climate, I have decided that 2022 should be our year to explore! I thought a lot about what that means and from it I made a sort of a wishlist for the year:

Back to the island

Many moons ago when we first met, MrG invited me to come along on the holiday he had booked with his friends. His sister was meant to go but she had had to drop out. So, just a couple of months after this rando from off of the internet, I agreed to go with them. The holiday was to Lanzarote. That was 20 years ago. I thought it would be a lovely idea to return to our first ever holiday destination to celebrate our time together.

I also know that M will LOVE being able to visit a real life volcano!

It’s only for a week but we haven’t been abroad for 5 years and I think it’s about time we try. We are going to be staying in Playa Blanca in a really lovely apartment next to a water park which means we will barely see Elizabeth! That girl grows gils on holiday, I swear.

The Norfolk coast

Remember earlier when I addressed my love of spontaneity? Well, a couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my sister and she mentioned that she had just booked a long weekend to the Norfolk coast for May. She said “you should book it too”. So I did!

I had been umming and aahing over taking the children to the seaside anyway – as we haven’t been in about 2 years – and I think that the Norfolk coast is vastly underrated. So we are now off to a place near to Great Yarmouth. I know it’s only a weekend but it will be a nice break and will also give Bonnie a short trial at the boarding place I have found for her. We have never left her before and this is someone’s home rather than kennels. It will be good to take her for the weekend to see how she gets on before our holiday in the summer.

I would love to tell you that we have an action packed weekend planned. But we don’t. I am looking forward to exploring Burgh castle and Gorleston beach but that’s about it really. Other than that I plan to be giggling with my sister while we watch our children play and the men BBQ (to be clear they will be operating the BBQ and not on it)

Cream teas all round

view of cornwall

Another coastline I adore is definitely Cornwall. I love the idea of staying in a Falmouth hotel and exploring nearby attractions like Pendennis castle. Obviously a must when visiting Cornwall is to treat us all to a proper cream tea. On top of that you have the beautiful beaches of course. The only thing holding me back from visiting is just how busy it can get in the summer so I think we might aim for a bit earlier in the year and hopefully make the most of the local wildlife cruises. I think Bess and Moose would both love a bit of dolphin spotting. We would have to make sure we remember our sea sickness pills though, I still shudder at the thought of our ferry crossing to Guernsey a few years ago!

Castle spotting

When MrG was a youngster he says that his Mum used to drag him round old castles on trips all of the time. Sadly for MrG he has only gone and married a woman who has the same love of history that his Mum did (and does) so an absolute must when I think about exploring HAS to be some trips to castles!

There are so many really cool ones. I love the idea of spending a couple of weeks just going from castle to castle during the summer. For a moment there I did even think we could save loads of money by staying in our tent. Then I remembered that I hate camping so maybe not!

Top of the list though, has to be Edinburgh castle. I have always wanted to visit Edinburgh and never have. If anyone wants to suggest other places we should see in or close to Edinburgh then please comment below!