Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Preparing for visitors - what to organise before their weekend stay

Often when we have visitors over for a weekend, it has been carefully planned and prepared for well in advance. And then there are other times when their arrival is sprung upon you at the last minute. Avoid the panic of last-minute guests and prepare your home for any eventuality by ensuring you have everything you need to be the perfect host.

Here you will find some of the most common questions people ask themselves when guests are coming to stay such as do I have enough room, are the towel rails stocked up and how am I going to feed all of these people! - and the best ways to answer them.

Where Will They Sleep?

Ensuring everyone has a comfortable bed for the night is a top priority for most. You need to think about how many adults you have, how many children, who will want to stay in a room with whom and even who is the loudest snorer. It is not out of the question to ask your prospective guests to bring extra bedding with them if you are running short. Just remember to have your own sheets and pillow cases washed before they arrive. No one wants to rest their head on a pillow that is covered in someone else’s hair.

What Will They Eat?

Providing enough food and drink for your guests is another important preparation you must think about. Most polite guests will bring along some treats with them to help share the load, but if they are travelling a long distance with a car full of people, there are limits to what they can bring. Easy to cook, freezer-ready food is a must-have if you’re being the host with the most, as you can whip out several dishes at once with minimal cooking. A supply of soft drinks and fruit juices is also a good way to go as you can cater for a variety of tastes. You should also check with your guests beforehand if any of them have any allergies or dietary requirements so you can factor this into your planning.

What Will We Do For Fun?

Entertainment is a tricky thing to plan in advance and sometimes the purpose of the trip relieves you of responsibility anyway. Your guests may be staying at yours while you attend a social event together, which negates any further planning on your part. However, the visit may just be a social call, in which case, you need some back-up plans. Games are always a good bet, whether it is a board game or console games you can play together. Or take a look at your local event websites and see if there are some fun activities happening nearby during their stay.

Do I Have Enough Towels?

This may seem like a minor point but you would be surprised at how many times we are caught unawares by this simple requirement. The fact is, people will want to shower, bathe and wash while staying at your house and using a damp towel is a serious no-no. Ensure you have a fully stocked airing cupboard filled with fluffy towels before your guests step foot through the door.

 This is a guest post.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Trendy Tips for 2014

While many of us usher in the New Year with resolutions for prosperity and health, we often forget to include the most important space within our plans—the home. Energising a tired space doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. By simply de-cluttering and reorganising you can transform your home into a sanctuary for your entire family to enjoy. Sprucing up your furniture can also have a tremendous impact on the quality of your home life. Let’s take a look at how to make your space the epitome of form and function for 2014.
Less Is ‘In’
Fashion mavens are calling 2014 the year for minimalism. What exactly does this mean? Minimalism, on the fashion scene, is defined by clean lines, subdued embellishments, and gravitation towards modern motifs. Before you even consider jumping on the minimal bandwagon, the first thing to do is clean out your clutter. Old and unwanted items should not take up valuable real estate in your home. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of junk you have, set aside one hour per day to separate the salvageable from the scraps. It may be helpful to divvy things up into three categories: sell, donate, and toss. Local charity stores will often take your unwanted junk and allow you to write it off in your taxes. Otherwise you can have a yard sale or if you’re at your wits end, just toss it out. Once this part is done, the rest is a breeze! Remember, it’ll be worth the effort when you see your clean slate. 
Furniture Face-Lift 
 Want to give your old furnishings a new lease on life but don’t know how? Transforming a table or end piece from drab to fab is simple with these two techniques:
            Staining: The staining process is ideal for wooden tables and chairs. As opposed to painting, staining a piece allows the wood grain to stand out. The process is relatively painless, if you’re in a do-it-yourself mood. Sand down the initial coating with sandpaper and then apply a wood conditioner. After the conditioner has enough time to soak in evenly rub on the wood stain.
            Stripping: Stripping old furniture is a bit more dangerous because of the chemicals involved but the outcome can be well worth it. Stripped wood has an air of elegance and simplicity that’s sure to please any fan of the modern look.
If you’ve exhausted your options and would rather invest in a new piece, then consider purchasing one directly from the manufacturer. That way you’ll avoid the middle man and the price padding that gets added by agents, importers and high street stores. has modern yet functional chairs that fit right in 2014’s minimalist theme. These subtle upgrades will translate to major benefits in the long run. 
Image courtesy

So, eliminate years of clutter by organising and rearranging unwanted items, then give your furniture a face lift by either refurbishing old pieces or purchasing new ones direct from the maker.

 This is a guest post

Monday, 27 January 2014

Self Worth...

About two years ago, I wrote what is now my most visited post of all time - The Loneliness of Motherhood. When I look at my stats I can see the search terms people use to discover this post and it makes me really sad. Are we a nation of lonely people who cannot reach out to others? Without a decent support network or simply anyone to talk to? Like a lot of people, I am proud in my loneliness, that is not to say that I am proud of being lonely, but simply that I would never want to accept sympathy or false friendship because occasionally being alone makes me sad.  I have certainly found as I've got older that people seem to be more and more concerned with what is going on in their own lives, and turn a blind eye to whatever is going on out side of their immediate circle. I guess it's a coping strategy.

For me though, I feel I've gone the other way. I guess as I've "matured" I've become less egocentric and more concerned for others, my empathy levels seem heightened to a level where I almost can't bear it and I desperately want to help others in need. I've stopped judging people harshly and feel ready to excuse people when they behave badly. What I've learned is that we never know what's going on in the background of someone's life and the struggles and challenges they face.

I learned something really important recently - true self worth only comes from living a life of integrity. Recently I had the opportunity to avoid something that was going to be really hard for me, I could have got out of it and pretended it had nothing to do with me. That something was the decision I took to save our local children's centre. Just before Christmas with the support of another group doing the same thing for their local centre, I started an e-petition and submitted it to the council. I only got 76 signatures in the end but that was enough for me to be invited to full council and present my case. I started attending the children's centre in Bingley some years ago; it is the only place I have ever felt accepted since we moved here 6 years ago - the mums there are really kind and friendly, I like the fact that the families who attend have a mixture of backgrounds and it works really well. Without the children's centre I would be even more lonely than I already am. I guess you could say that my motives were selfish in wanting to keep the centre open, but the services it provides for vulnerable and not so vulnerable people in our community are utterly vital.

I've done some scary things, like travelling alone and living abroad - but this was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I prepared a speech and spoke to the entire council in "chamber", I was addressed by the Lord Mayor, I was totally terrified and could hardly speak. Anyway, I put my case across and even got some "here heres", at about three points during my speech I was almost overcome with emotion, but I got to the end somehow. I totally believed in what I was doing and the right of it, and the day afterwards I felt utterly elated.
Yes it was like being in court, I spoke in the raised section at the back of the photo.

A feeling like that you don't get from:-
  • excluding others.
  • showing off about what you have.
  • shouting someone else down and forcing your opinion on them.
  • making others miserable by your actions.
  • talking about your achievements.
  • earning lots of money
  • having a huge house
  • having a lovely car.
I can confirm that doing the right thing is the only path to true self worth and it's a journey I now find myself on. That's not to say I won't stray or make mistakes, but I can see my future so much more clearly now and it's a future I can look forward to.  Even if the decision is taken to close the children's centre I can honestly say that I tried my best to stop that happening.

What are your experiences of self worth and self esteem? How would you define them?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

January Hamper Bargains!

One of the best parts of the sales, if you are a "foodie" like me, is buying up all the cut price hampers and food related gifts at amazing prices. This year, for whatever reason, there seem to have been more of these bargains than ever before! Here are some of my top finds online and instore, best snap them up!
1) Thorntons have some amazing deasl on chocolate goodies after Christmas, I like this

Thorntons Christmas Mega Bundle - £30
Christmas gift mega bundle which is only £30. It's great to just have "in" for occasional presents for the entire year as the sell by dates are really good. Bargain! There are lots of others too. The chocs are really nice and there really is something for everyone in here. It's such a good deal and the usual Thorntons quality you might expect.

2) Waitrose are doing a Christmas Cheer Box at £15 from £30. What's not to like? Nice wine, nibbles, Christmas Pudding, love it!
Christmas Cheer Box Waitrose £15
3) I probably wouldn't buy this for myself, but Selfridges are doing a Christmas Taster Hamper for £67 (was £100).
This includes:-

  • Daylesford Christmas Taster hamper

  • Prosecco 75cl

  • Organic sparkling apple juice 75cl

  • Organic Scottish shortbread selection in a tin 330g

  • Organic Christmas pudding 900g

  • Organic Christmas marmalade 227g

  • Organic lemon & ginger curd 227g

  • White chocolate & red berries 65g
  • Pricey, but sounds amazing.

    4) Now this could be hideous, but it seems a good buy? I'm not sure, anyway BHS are selling off their Festive Sparkling Hampers for £48, this include:-
    • Sol Club Bucks Fizz (75cl),
    • M&M Cava (75cl),
    • McGuigan Sparkling Shiraz (75cl),
    • Moonstone Brut (75cl),
    • Moonstone Rose (75cl),
    • Robe D'Or (75cl). 
    I have to say, the Champagne would have to be really good to be worth this price.

    That's all I can find for now, spotted any other hamper deals?


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