The sun is shining, and the windows are flung wide – the world is definitely feeling Springy.
But all that glorious sunlight flowing into the house has a definite downside; yes, you know I can see you grimy windows and dusty surfaces. And grey skirting boards. And grubby carpet edges. And oh those dusty lampshades… *shamed face*
It’s time for a spring clean. Which sounds an Evil Thing when you look around, but here’s something I’ve never admitted in public before. Once I get started? It’s addictive. It’s like when you start shining your kitchen sink and you notice the state of the tiles… and then the cupboard doors… and then the extractor hood… two hours later your kitchen is gleaming, your hands are raw, but you’re wearing that satisfied smile on your face as you prance across your shiny floor to reward yourself with a cup of tea.
So with those lampshades glaring at me through their gloomy winter coating of dust (Kim & Aggie are right y’know; clean the shades and it’s amazing how much brighter the room looks instantly), it felt like a proverbial boot in the rear end when BHS asked if we’d like to run a comp around their amazing Lighting department.
So here’s your chance to get ahead on the spring cleaning – what more of an excuse do you need to freshen up your winter den than the chance of £200 to spend on goodies to spoil it with?
If you’re a blogger, tell us in a blog post (leave the URL in the Rafflecopter magickery below) and you get TEN entries. If you’re not a blogger then fret not – you still get chances to win too, just by telling us what you’d spend it on in a comment instead.
And there’s all the usual extra entry options with tweets and facebooking and the like.
To be in with a chance to win a £200 Gift Card for BHS, please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The closing date for this competition is 18th May 2014 and only entries received on or before that date can be included. The 1st prize winner will be the first randomly selected entry. Good luck!
This month’s Bostik pack was all about Easter Crafts. We had felt and foam sheets, polystyrene eggs, coloured cake cases, fluffy pompoms, googly eyes, foam sticky-backed flowers, coloured pipe cleaners, glitter pens and from Bostik the ‘Glu Dots’. Oh the potential – the possibilities were endless.
With no real plan but for an afternoon spent with the 7yr old, I laid out the pack before her and waited to see what her imagination did. Naturally, she honed straight in on the fluffy pom-poms and googly eyes…
But that wasn’t enough – we are Easter Egg Hunting on Sunday, and we need baskets. Having meandered around Pinterest for a bit, I decided to combine a few ideas I had, and design my own Basket Craft. I know, brave or what?
The results were a bit hit-and-miss, but we had a LOT of fun, and spent an entire afternoon sitting around a table chatting – which is probably my very favourite reason to do crafts with my children.
Thanks Bostik; we loved the mess-free Glu Dots – can’t wait to see what you send us next month!
This had us oooing and ahhing, we love this very pretty Pollys Pantry Jug by John Lewis, and guess what..there are loads more to buy in the same range…you lucky things :-)
Polly’s Pantry is a sweet range of durable crockery ideal for everyday use. Its hand painted pattern of pastel dots, stripes and flowers instantly conveys the mood of a modern-day farmhouse cottage. Charming and chic, this collection is perfect for vintage-style enthusiasts. Use on its own or mix it with white pieces for a gentle contemporary look.
- H18 x W17.5 x D9cm
- Dishwasher Safe
- Material – Stoneware
- Microwave Safe
We were really lucky when we bought our house 20 years ago – the previous owner had been a Gas engineer, and we had a seriously good heating system already installed. We actually have thermostat controls for both upstairs and downstairs, which we’ve always loved, allowing us to just heat the parts of the house we’re using.
Once the children are all tucked up in bed at night, there is absolutely no need for upstairs to be anything higher than 16 or 17 degrees, – but we can make downstairs a nice cosy 21 if we want to.
So I totally ‘got’ the idea instantly when I read about Evohome’s new system, which controls your heating room by room.
How brilliant is that?
So if we’re spending a family evening watching a movie together, we can adjust the rest of the house to cool down, and only heat the room we’re all in – not the whole of the downstairs, mind, like we can now – just the one room. Brilliant.
Similarly, the husband and I work from home, using just the one office for most of the day. In the winter it gets SO cold (WHY do your fingers get so chilly when you’re typing?), but it always feels so extravagant to heat the house (or in our case just the upstairs) for one solitary room. We did have an electric fan heater for a while, until we worked out it was actually more expensive to run that than it was to heat the whole of the upstairs with all its empty rooms!
We do have quite a large house y’see – we extended our modest 3 bed semi to a 5-bed with office. Which means it’s not a very deep house, but it is wide. So all that heating going on when we’re in one spot in the middle seems such a waste. To be able to just heat the office, using our economical gas central heating system, strikes me as a genius idea.
You can create up to 12 zones in your home that can be controlled individually - for me that’d be living room, kitchen, bathroom (oh, imagine setting a toasty bathroom just before you head off for an hour’s isolation floating in the bubbles…), dining room, kids bedrooms, our bedroom… and I’m out of ideas. 12 is WAY more than we’d need, even if we set the children’s bedrooms individually (which’d be a good idea, actually, as Bear’s room is right over the hot water pipes, thickly carpeted and never chilly, while two of the boys have two external walls plus laminate flooring – and are ALWAYS chilly!).
Honeywell suggest that upgrading a basic timer and a thermostat controls to Evohome smart zoning can deliver up to 40% savings on heating your home. Which is not only genius, but plain ole smart too.
On top of all THAT (as if that wasn’t enough) there’s a mobile app too.
Which means that when you ‘pop out’ for an hour and find yourself coming home hours later, in the dark, to a freezing cold house – you don’t need to now. You can set your heating while you’re out, so when you get back it’s warm and toasty and welcoming for you. And if you go away for a winter break and a cold snap occurs – no need to worry about the house and all the heating being turned off because you can turn it back on again from wherever you are.
I also happen to know someone (you know who you are) who uses her phone to turn the heating up when she’s at her computer; because the control panel is upstairs and that’s just WAY too far to go.
Shocking, I know, but it’s true.
If, like me, you think 12 zones are probably WAY to much for you, then just take a look at the Evohome System Planning Tool – you can quickly figure out just how many of which bits of the system you’ll need for your own home.
We like this charming soap-filled tin with floral details brought to you by Museum Selection. Inspired by richly-coloured chromolithograph scraps, popular in England from the 1850s and used to decorate greetings cards and furniture. Designs include tulips, crocuses, roses, peonies and daffodils.
Contains 30g vegetable soap, 2″ long.
Each tin 2 ¾” long.
6 assorted designs, 3 designs available.
A snip at just £5.50I think you will agree :-)
Handmade in softest biscuit coloured cotton corduroy, with a delightful bunny rabbit appliqué face, and cute claw paw pockets. A perfect Easter gift, and great for the Easter egg hunt.
With a cheeky little pom pom tail and pink spot print trim on pockets with felt claws. This little dress is sure to be a favourite piece all year round, whilst promoting role play.
Not only thats it grows with your child with two adjustable buttons. Layer with tights, and can also be worn as a tunic, as she grows.
An exclusive Wild Things character play dress. Handmade in the UK.
100% cotton European quality super soft needle cord. Fully washable at 30 degrees .Gentle cycle.
Sizes from 6mnths all the way up to 8yrs!
Brought to you by Sparks Living on Not on The High Street, we simply love this idea and to be honest it would suit most occasions as well as Easter, but we just couldn’t resist it.
With these kits you have everything you need to make cute little birdhouses. It is supplied as a kit that pops out with easy to follow instructions. Once made they can be used as party favours to fill with sweets. Personalise them with a name as a place name for your party table.
They make a fun create and make activity for children.
The price is for 1 birdhouse kit you can also buy in a set of 6 or 12 at a reduced price. Comes complete with ribbon to hang the birdhouse.
Made from sturdy card and ribbon
We love these Clucky hen Egg Cosies by Mogwaii and brought to you by Not on The High Street.
Each one is made specifically to order so are unique!
They are hand made on the isle of Lismore . Their sole purpose in life is to keep your eggs cosy and they do it very well. They are are made entirely of the finest wool tweed and tartan and measure 3 3/4″ x 4 3/4″
Due to small parts we are advised this product is not suitable for children under 36 months
Chocolate had to appear in our offerings somewhere so here it is…and this has to be the Daddy of Easter Eggs, and we do love our choccy don’t we! This monster half and half Ostrich Egg is brought to you by those very fab people at Hotel Chocolat :-)
You’ll also discover six fabulous foil-wrapped milk chocolate egglets hidden in your Ostrich box, each filled with a thrilling salted runny caramel.
1.125kg / 39.7oz
The passenger van, or people carrier, is a bit of a standing joke of a car, isn’t it?
You only drive one when your family has grown so much there’s really no other choice. Oh, it’s alright if you simply fill the back with surfboards – THEN they’re cool. But for a parent to be buying a passenger van? It’s public symbol of a resigned acceptance of your fate, isn’t it?
The new crop of passenger vans are, at first glance, nothing more than work vans with extra seats in.
Glamorous, I know.
But we’re grown ups now. What do we need with swish, slick and sharp? We were facing a 1,277 mile journey with four children in the car. I’ll just let that sink in. One thousand, two hundred and seventy seven miles.
In one car.
With four children.
We didn’t need a red stiletto of a car – we needed a comfy ballet pumps version.
And potentially our head’s examined.
So, quite frankly, we leaped up and down in glee when VW asked if we’d like to take the lovely Dora*, the VW Caravelle, on our now infamous Road Trip to Scotland. Genuinely for no other reason than that we could see no way of carrying 2 adults, 4 ‘children’ (two teens and a pre-teen included there), an elephantine rottweiler plus essential bedding for her duff limbs, and all the luggage and essential supplies for two weeks self catering in the remote Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
We do actually own a pretty huge Toyota Landcruiser and a Previa, and yet the topbox was sobbing when we pulled it out of the shed to check it over a couple of months ago, begging us not to make it carry our holiday packing again.
So we said a rapid “Yes Please!” to VW, and waited for the Caravelle to arrive on the appointed day.
It arrived, and we all took a casual not-very-excited look.
And we “oooh-ed” a bit. Yes, all of us.
It was… nice. Sharp. Swish. Definitely a bit… red stiletto-ish.
HUGE, in fact.
But still Very Nice Indeed.
It felt like… a car inside. We’ve hired vans before, and apart from the obvious size thing, the Caravelle is nothing like a van inside. Not at all.
So departure day arrived, and we started packing up Dora (the explorer). We had the short wheel base model, which despite it’s cavernous interior did mean that there still wasn’t acres of room for cases PLUS the dog & bed in the boot. We played with the seat positions – the boys wanted to swivel their 2nd row seats to ride backwards, facing their siblings with the table up between them. So we shunted the third row bench seat forward a little to allow extra space in the boot whilst still not taking away all their leg room (we were going to be in this car for a long time. We did not want to start with the “oi! You kicked me! Move your legs! Shove your foot over!” shouts within an hour from home).
But once we adjusted our thinking to move away from the ‘everything goes in the boot’ packing strategy we ended up with plenty enough room.
Because the Caravelle has clearly been designed by someone with a large family.
There is storage EVERYWHERE. Underneath every seat is practically a cupboard. You might lose foot space when you swivel the seats, but you gain in storage facilities in the space behind them.
The table has storage, the doors have storage… you’re more in danger of losing things or forgetting where you put them than you are to not be able to fit things in.
So, everyone packed in, personal travel bags stowed neatly within reach, dog squooshed into the boot with just about enough room beside the cool box and the large suitcase, and satnav set, we were off.
And what a hideous journey the first leg was – the sat nav cheerily told us 5hrs, but it was over EIGHT hours later that we arrived at our first stopover. The traffic had been terrible, the roadworks on the M5 and M6 had been ridiculously long and slow, and we had stoopidly timed our journey to hit them at rush hour.
But inside the car, all was serene.
There was no cramped squashed complaining.
Not one child uttered that hated phrase – they were all too busy.
We had a three-way challenge on the DS’s (Dragon Quest IX – BEST DS game we ever invested in) while the girl caught up with an audiobook on my ipod.
The table was excellent for propping up tablets – in-car movies were provided via the awesome Seagate wireless drive, and at one point we had Dances with Wolves, Harry Potter and Brave all running simultaneously.
We had a long conversation giving names and voices to the people we passed on the motorway, building stupid life stories for them – “oh look, that’s Mildred in the passenger seat. She doesn’t approve of Reg’s driving, the only reason she agrees to let him drive her is because he said her beef cobbler was the best he’d ever tasted”… You’re so high in the Caravelle that visibility (all around, not just into other people’s cars, mind) is excellent.
The air con is zonal, so the overheated No.1 could have it on cool while Boy sitting opposite could turn his off and not be blasted with chilly air. And when I had my window down to cool off in the front, they could put their own heating on in the back.
Each window has its own sun shade, which the children all loved as they settled down to watch a movie or close their eyes to an audiobook.
When we finally reached our destination and got out of the car I noticed that everyone leaped out and started grabbing bags – there was none of that slow-moving stretchy-staggery-joints thing you’d expect after such a long car journey. In fact, the eldest two commented that they felt like they’d been on a train journey, it wasn’t like being in a car at all.
Right then and there, as a parent, I was sold. If any vehicle could carry my children on dull motorways for 8hrs in solid unyielding relentless traffic jams and have them arrive at the other end cheerful, un-cramped and having not had a single tetchy word spoken, it deserved a medal from me.
On top of which – we’d all rather fallen in love with the way the Caravelle looks. There’s no denying it’s a big beast, but Dora is… cool. We got a lot of admiring and covetous glances on the motorway; lots of Dads in their estate cars filled with baby baggage and child seats eyeing up the dimensions and the space and wondering if actually the people carrier might have been the better buy after all (yes, yes it would)
Never mind the carrying side though – how was the Caravelle to drive? It was a joy, that’s how it was.
Although big, Dora was nippy and responsive, just as at home cruising on the motorway as she was powering up the huge climbs of the Highlands. It seemed that every time we asked something new of her she merely sung a gleeful “of course I can!“.
(Except the one time we followed the satnav on a shortcut through the forest… which descended into a mere forestry track… which descended into muddy rutted pits… which Dora got oh-so-temporarily stuck in and might’ve needed a quick disembark of all passengers for a slight push… but ssshhhh, we didn’t tell VW that happened, so don’t let on, okay?)
I did wonder if, due to her size, she’d be a terribly practical car on tiny little bendy rural roads. And to be fair, there were a few times when we met other cars that there was no way we were going to get through and had to back up. But visibility is so good, and the steering so light, that reversing her is not trouble at all.
My last question was exactly how much all this space and practicality was going to cost us in fuel. I already drive a people carrier, I know they’re not the most economical of cars.
When we set off from Dorset, we had a full tank of fuel. Our next fuel stop? The outskirts of Glasgow – 410 miles away. Including those hours and hours of stop/start traffic jams on the motorway. We weren’t empty either – we were between empty and quarter of a tank. Which meant overall our journey had been running at 26mpg – though we were clocking consistently over 30mpg on the motorways when the traffic was free running.
Our entire trip was over 2,200 miles. Yes really.
And we spent in total just £406 on fuel. Which not only surprised us, but made us Very Happy Indeed.
So. Vans. Still think they’re an ugly and embarassing necessity, do you?
Honestly – nothing else matches the practicality for a family. The sliding rear doors and low step-in height afford easy access for passengers, and the huge assortment of storage spaces and the infinite seating arrangement possibilities solve the travel problems you didn’t even know you had.
And I haven’t even mentioned the brilliant bluetooth phone system, the excellent satnav, the best-warm-bums-in-the-world seat heaters…
And the VW Caravelle is just so damned Good Looking.
How much do we love the Caravelle? I’ll tell you how much.
This summer we’re trading our Landcruiser and Previa in, and we’re buying the long wheel base version.
THAT’s how much we love it.
How about these very lovely Woodland Rabbit Party Lights to bighten up your Easter festivities and right on trend too..bought to you by DotComGiftShop
Love these Peter Rabbit treat holders from Museum Selection
The pack contains 8 Peter Rabbit decorations: add cupcakes, sweets or other Easter treats for a festive place-setting or gift.
Printed on both sides, sturdy cardboard slots together.
Includes 24 paper cupcake cases decorated with Beatrix Potter illustrations.
5″ tall x ¾” wide, 3″ deep.
Make a great addition to any Easter day celebration table!