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The Ultimate Autumn Bucket List

Autumn is my favourite season. It’s all about cosy jumpers, roaring fires, long walks kicking through the fallen leaves and everything pumpkin. It’s a season packed with fun things; from Halloween to Bonfire night and conker season to pumpkin picking. There’s a lot going on, so I’ve created this awesome Autumn bucket list of things to do this season so we don’t miss a thing.

The Ultimate Autumn Bucket List

My Ultimate Autumn Bucket List

Go apple picking

Bake an apple pie with your family

Go bat watching at dusk

Make clay tree faces

Collect some conkers – apparently putting conkers in your house keeps spiders away, I’m not entirely convinced this works.

Have a game of conkers

Dress up for Halloween

Gather seeds to plant next spring

Go for an autumn walk and kick through the leaves

Go stargazing in your garden, wrap yourselves up in blankets and drink hot chocolate whilst gazing at the stars.

Decorate the house for Halloween

Put together a hot chocolate station, marshmallows, squirty cream, your favourite chocolate toppings and sprinkles, go for it!

Make some Halloween chocolate bark

Do some leaf crafts with the family

Autumn Leaf Crafts: Simple Autumn Leaf Faces

Have a go at leaf printing or leaf rubbing

Make a bug hotel in the garden and give your garden critters somewhere cosy to spend the winter

Collect some leaves and make autumn leaf crowns

Make hot apple juice

Bake a pumpkin pie with your family

Visit a pumpkin patch and pick some pumpkins

Carve some spooky pumpkins

Go out for pumpkin spice lattes

Toast marshmallows or make smores

Play with torches to create spooky shadows

Go for a torchlight walk

Make a batch of treacle toffee

Visit a farm and watch a combine harvester at work

Watch Hocus Pocus on Halloween

What are you up to this autumn? We’ve got lots of plans for pumpkin picking, leaf crafts, long walks and so much hot chocolate. The bat watching season is in full swing and we even spotted some in our garden last night. What’s on your autumn bucket list?

The Ultimate Autumn Bucket List

How we slay stains and keep our clothes bright

We’re an average family, but perhaps an above average family when it comes to the amount of stains we find on our clothes. The washing machine is on most days and over the years we’ve developed tried and tested techniques for slaying stains.

There may only be three of us in the house, but we are a bunch of mucky pups. With an 8 year old in the house, his clothes are always covered in various foods he’s eaten that day; mud, grass stains, paint, felt tip, glue, everything and anything. My husband is a printer, and whilst it’s a much cleaner industry than it used to be, he’s often sloshing ink and chemicals over himself. Me, well I’m a grease-monkey. Baking and cooking every day mean my tops often have grease spots and splatters on them. I know I should wear an apron, but I don’t. As a result my clothes bear the brunt of the worse of it.

How we slay stains and keep our clothes bright

With my grease spots I’ve learnt to keep a small bottle of washing up liquid in my bedroom. I’ll squirt a bit of washing up liquid on my grease stains before throwing them in the laundry basket. I only wear cotton clothes and for the most part I’m not that precious about what I wear. What I’m saying is, don’t do this to your best silk blouse.

My husbands chemical soaked clothes are often washed separately at a fairly high temperature. The wash that goes in after that wash is usually something we’re not too precious about; dog bedding or old towels used to dry a soggy dog after a walk in the rain maybe.

How we slay stains and keep our clothes bright

My son’s clothes; a glorious collection of school uniform, cubs uniform, martial arts kit, PE kit, swimming gear and whatever clothes he wears in between. Well that’s a mixture of fabrics which often need a deal more special attention than my collection of grease splattered cotton tops.

His clothes often need more delicate handling, specialist stain removers and a bit more TLC. We’ve tried a lot of different stain removers over the years, some smell too strong, too chemically or too weird. Some just aren’t up to the job. My son is especially gifted at staining his clothes.

For the last few months we’ve been using some of the ACE Stain Remover range and honestly, they’ve ticked all the right boxes. Gentle on the clothes but tough on the stains. For individual stains, the ACE Multi-Purpose Spray and the ACE Power Mousse are really powerful. Plus they can be used around the house too. Kind of a two in one deal. Personally I like to save them for tackling the terrible state of his school shirts.

How we slay stains and keep our clothes bright

For more general stain removal and brightening whites and colours which are dulled by general grime; ACE for Whites and ACE for Colours are really effective and don’t have that bleachy smell that some laundry brighteners can have.

Whenever you encounter a stain, it’s always best to act as soon as you can so it doesn’t fix in the garment. Dabbing it or scrapping off any dried on food is a good start. Most stains need to be treated in special ways; but for general food, mud, and glass stains, a general stain remover is usually enough to tackle the trail of baked beans down a white school shirt.

What are your top tips for stain removal?

How we slay stains and keep our clothes bright

Disclaimer: We were sent a selection of stain removal products for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

When we moved into our house in 2011, one of the things I loved the most about it was our open fire. It’s such a cosy feature and we love to sit round it in the winter; we sometimes even toast marshmallows on it. Most of our friends have had log burners or open fires put into their homes, so talking about how to store logs and season them is a surprisingly regular topic of conversation.

Our open fire is a relatively cheap source of heat. We get most of our logs from a gardener friend and all we need to do is season them before they’re put on the fire. Seasoning wood just means you need to dry it out. You don’t need to do anything more exciting to it than chop it up into the size you need, stack it up somewhere to dry out and then leave it for around two years. The amount of time you need to leave it depends on the kind of wood it is, but two years is a decent length of time.

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

For the last seven years our wood has been stacked up in a small shed which came with the house. About a year ago the roof collapsed and the sides rotted and so it was time for a new place to store logs while they dried. We were keen to get something specifically designed to store logs, something which would allow the air to circulate around the wood and dry it out, whilst looking neat and tidy too.

When you’re buying a log store of your own, it’s important to make sure it has slatted sides and a raised slatted floor to allow the air to flow freely through the log pile. Good dry wood will give you a higher heat output and the wood will leave less tar and residue in your stove or chimney. We get our chimney swept every year and our sweep always compliments us on the lack of tar build up. If you burn wood which isn’t dry enough, the build up of tar could be a fire hazard. The tar could also make your chimney or log burner smoke inside the house, which isn’t great either.

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

We’ve replaced our rotten old shed with a lovely solidly built log store. It’s from Gardensite and is made in Dorset from Swedish Redwood. The log store is guaranteed against rot for 15 years. We opted for the Melbury log store, it’s a nice classic design which would look unobtrusive in the garden. You can choose to have it delivered ready made, or flat-packed. We chose the flat-pack option and it took less than half an hour to put together.

We’ve put ours in our side yard and it takes up less space than the old shed, but somehow manages to hold more wood. We have given the log store a couple of treatments with creosote; we will make sure to treat it regularly to keep the wood in good condition. I am so pleased with the quality of the log store, we’ve already filled it with logs to dry out for this winter.

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

Once our wood has been seasoned for at least two years, it is ready to burn. What we do is we have two baskets for wood in the house; one by the fire ready for burning and one in the pantry, so it gets to dry out inside the house a little more before burning. We know this two basket arrangement isn’t really necessary, but it does mean that if it’s raining there is extra wood in the house and no-one needs to get rained on to fill a basket.

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

  • Stack logs neatly making sure they are raised off the ground a little.
  • Make sure air can flow in and out of your log pile, a log store with slatted sides is ideal for this.
  • Locate your log store in a sheltered spot, somewhere out of the wind and sheltered from the elements a little.
  • Think ahead. You can either buy seasoned or unseasoned wood. If you’re buying unseasoned wood, you will need to store it and season it yourself for a couple of years. Seasoned wood will still need to be stored appropriately to stop it getting too wet again.

If you’ve got a log burner or an open fire, it’s important to put some thought into where and how you will store and season your logs ready for winter. Where do you store your logs and kindling?

How to store logs and keep them dry for winter

Disclosure: We were sent the Melbury log store from Gardensite for inclusion in this blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

Holiday Memories: Vintage Style Cornish Art Posters

I’ve been holidaying in Cornwall since I was a baby. Cornwall has a way of getting under your skin and making you fall in love with it. Whenever I’ve visited Cornwall I’ve always picked up momentoes to remember the wide blue skies, rugged scenery and clean sandy beaches once I get home. One thing I’ve been wanting to bring home for a while has been a vintage style Cornish art poster. Artist John Dyer specialises in these. If you’ve ever visited Cornwall, you will almost certainly have seen his work on display somewhere.

The vintage style Cornish art poster I chose features a print from the well-known and acclaimed Cornish artist Joanne Short. Working with her husband and fellow artist John Dyer, Joanne has spent much of the last 25 or so years travelling around Cornwall and painting the stunning sights that she sees. You can buy their original paintings and prints in The John Dyer Gallery in Cornwall and they have recently launched their new range of affordable vintage style framed art posters.

Holiday Memories: Vintage Style Cornish Art Posters

We visit Cornwall several times a year as a family. Last year we spent a wonderful weekend in Rock as guests of Sharp’s Brewery and Chef, Nathan Outlaw. It was such a special weekend that I wanted something to remember it by. When I spotted this beautiful Vintage Style Seaside Cornish Art Poster by Joanne Short of the Camel Estuary, Rock in Cornwall I had to have it.

This colourful print reminded me so much of that wonderful weekend. I especially liked that it wasn’t the standard Padstow Harbour scene. The print came beautifully framed and looks fabulous in my light, bright kitchen; it really lifts my spirits every time I look at it.

The framed A3 sized print costs just £45 and I’m delighted with it. The white frame really helps the colourful print “pop” out. I love how the pools of water shimmer on the soft sand and how they’re beautifully framed by the elegant flowers in the Cornish hedgerow. Looking at it, you can almost smell the fresh sea air!

Holiday Memories: Vintage Style Cornish Art Posters

I love my Cornish art print so much; I think I’m going to buy a few different prints and make a feature wall of them. That way when I look at them I can remember all the wonderful holidays we’ve had and all the beautiful places we’ve visited.

For more information, or if you want to buy a print of your own visit The John Dyer Gallery’s website.

I was sent this Vintage Style Cornish Art print in return for this review. All images and opinions are our own.

Review: A New Stylish Slate House Number

There are many ways for your home to make a great first impression; an attractive front door, pots of flowers, a neatly swept path and an easy to read and stylish house number or nameplate.

Since moving to our home seven years ago, we’ve been slowly changing things to how we want them to be. The house has just been freshly painted throughout; the avocado downstairs loo is still on the to do list and this week, we finally put up a slate house number. We’ve been numberless since we moved in, visitors have for seven years been counting down the houses to find us. But the days of receiving texts saying “I can’t find your house” are hopefully now over.

Giveaway & Review: A New Stylish Slate House Number

We ordered our slate house number from The House Name Plate Company. They have been handcrafting house signs and numbers for over 30 years from their workshop in North Wales. I love a slate house number, we had one in our old house and we’ve been meaning to get a new one made up for years.

They have a huge range of signs, and numbers; available in many different colours and in materials such as natural slate, cast brass and aluminium, hand fired ceramic, solid granite and contemporary acrylic. It’s so easy to order; just choose your preferred sign or number style and use the online sign builder to preview and order your own house sign or number.

My sign arrived within a couple of days and was well packaged. We’d chosen a smooth slate and needed two digits engraving onto it. It cost just £20.99 plus £3 postage and packing. The slate came with all the fixings too, so all we needed was a drill with a masonry bit and ten minutes to put it up.

It looks so smart now and really finishes off the front of the house. Even the postman has said very complimentary things about it. I have no idea why it took us seven years to order and put up our house number plate!

To see the full range of house number and name plates, visit The House Name Plate Company website.

Giveaway & Review: A New Stylish Slate House Number

Disclosure: I was sent a slate house number in exchange for this review. All images and opinions are my own.

Review: Fantastic Services – professional cleaning

We’ve been without a cleaner for well over a year now. We’ve haphazardly tried to tackle this much hated chore by ourselves, but for some months now I’ve shuffled around the house trying not to look too carefully at the dusty corners and the dirty marks on the walls. A couple of times a year we like to properly blitz the place. One of those times is before the Christmas tree goes up. So this week we bit the bullet and booked a three-hour spruce up and scrub of our home from Fantastic Services.

Review: Fantastic Services - professional cleaning

It was ridiculously easy to book cleaning services through the Fantastic Services website. You just enter your details and what you need doing and the website comes up with a quote and a selection of time-slots for you to choose from. It’s as easy as that. If you get stuck there’s a live chat option too.

I have a large lounge and big kitchen to clean, as well as bedrooms and bathrooms, so I opted to have two cleaners come for a three-hour slot to properly blitz the place. This costs £78 but for a big deep clean it was really worth it.

I had a tidy up a declutter before the cleaners arrived. Having a seven-year old means my house often resembles a toy assault course, so I think it’s only polite to have a tidy up. There was no need for me to leave out any cleaning products or anything, they brought everything they needed with them.

Review: Fantastic Services - professional cleaning

The cleaners arrived bang on time and they were really lovely. I gave them a tour of the house, outlined what I needed them to do and I just left them to it. I sat working in my office as they cracked on with cleaning my house.

After the three hours were up I went to chat to them and have a look at how they’d got on. Everything I’d asked them to do they had done. They’d even cleaned things I’d stopped noticing; like my kitchen bin and that corner of my bedroom where all the spiders live. I think all cleaners are different and have slightly different things they like to focus on. We were very happy with their work and I think my house looked about 300% better for having them visit.

I think Fantastic Services offer a really easy to use, well priced service. For a one-off clean (which I had) it was £13 per person per hour. There were no booking fees or extras added on top and they brought their own cleaning products and equipment.

Review: Fantastic Services - professional cleaning

Fantastic Services offer a wide range of services including regular and one-off cleans; gardening and landscaping; pest control and handyman services. They’ll even get you a Christmas tree and decorate it for you! They’re really easy to book and pay for online. The cleaners they sent me were very professional and did a great job. I’ll be booking them again!

Here’s a FANTASTIC Discount Code for you to use! Use the code “HodgePodge10” to get £10 off your first booking. Does not apply to regular domestic cleaning and Christmas services. Cannot be combined with other deals and promotions. Min charges apply. Subject to availability and area coverage.

We received a complimentary clean from Fantastic Services in return for an honest review. All images and opinions are our own.

Pretty prints and greeting cards from Shepherd Illustration

Shepherd Illustration specialise in wildlife illustration, art prints, screen print tees and greeting cards. They have a pretty, quirky, contemporary and unique style which is pleasing to the eye and looks great in any home. It’s always nice to send cards and gifts which you know are pretty unique and special. Something not mass produced and something which a small artist has produced and developed with care. This week I’ve been looking at the beautiful cards and gifts on Etsy made by Shepherd Illustration.

Shepherd Illustration is owned by Lauren Shepherd who is a motion graphics designer and illustrator based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Her illustrations are predominately drawn in black fine liner pen with some gold detail. Most of her illustrations are of wildlife and wildflowers with others featuring anatomical drawings of parts of the body.

Pretty prints and greeting cards from Shepherd Illustration

I was very taken by this goose print. The three geese tied together reminded me of our three-person family and I have plans to frame it nicely and have it on the wall of my office at home. The description on her Etsy store does suggest that this print would be great on a nursery wall, especially if your family of two has recently become three and I quite agree.

I like both the simplicity and the detail of this A5 print which has been printed on high quality 300gsm recycled white card and individually signed and numbered. This print costs just £7.50 and would make a lovely gift for a new baby.

Pretty prints and greeting cards from Shepherd Illustration

This cuddly baby sloth is really detailed, even down to his claws. This would make a lovely gift for a first wedding anniversary (which is paper). This sloth print is also available as a greeting card. 

I love giraffes and I was pleased to find the giraffe greeting card in my illustration package. Again the detail is stunning, even down to the little gold heart on the neck of the giraffe. 

Lauren Shepherd describes herself as a “dachshund mom” so it’s not surprising that they do feature in some of her illustrations. Again these are drawn in black fine liner pen with accent details highlighted in gold.

Pretty prints and greeting cards from Shepherd Illustration

The greeting cards from Shepherd Illustration are priced at just £2.50. I always think that if you’re sending a card then it’s worth sending a good quality one. I often keep good cards I receive and keep them on my desk because they make me smile. These are the kind of cards which will make me smile. 

Shepherd Illustration have a good range of art prints, screen print tees and greeting cards available in their Etsy store and on their website. Something for all occasions, from new baby, birthdays and bereavement, all in their unique, understated style.

Note: Shepherd Illustration sent us these prints and greeting cards for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Interiors: Melody Maison – Shabby Chic furniture & accessories

Like many people, spring is the time I tend to look around my home with fresh eyes and start to think about re-decorating, decluttering and re-organising things. It’s also a great time to really ring the changes and invest in new furniture or accessories. In recent years, vintage and shabby chic furniture has been one of the key home interiors looks. Specialists in vintage, French and shabby chic furniture, Melody Maison are one of the leading companies specialising in this style. I’ve been finding out a little more about them.

Melody Maison was started in 2004 a small spare bedroom in Yorkshire. The company grew into a leading retailer of shabby French Chic and vintage style home furnishings.

Vintage & Shabby Chic Furniture from Melody Maison PLUS Giveaway

Melody Maison is a real family business, with cousins, brothers, aunties and daughters all working together. They pride themselves on exceptional customer service, with everyone striving to provide the very best service every step of the way.

They design, manufacture and distribute French style furniture all over the world. Their range of furniture is either designed by and made exclusively for Melody Maison, or sourced from selected suppliers. 

“French style” can mean so many things in interior design. From the understated pale aged shabby chic look, to the ornate and grand rococo style, to boudoir style chic using jewelled colours paired with gold. French style furniture is rarely modern in design. Vintage and shabby chic styles are full of character and can give your home a bespoke one-of-a-kind look.

Their website is full of so many gorgeous pieces of furniture and accessories for every room in your home, including clocks, lights and mirrors. I’ve quite fallen for this White Wooden Window Pane Mirror which I think would look fantastic in a conservatory, or in a sheltered spot in the garden perhaps.

Vintage & Shabby Chic Furniture from Melody Maison

This Window Pane Mirror is made from wood to look like a rectangular window with 2 sides and panes of mirror where glass would be.  It is painted white with a washed finish to look aged, and it can be wall mounted. Its dimensions are 49cm wide x 58cm tall.

Visit the Melody Maison website to see their full range of vintage and shabby chic furniture and accessories.

Review: Home Fragrances from Quinn Lilly

Like many people I love to have scented candles around the house. I like different fragrances at different times of the year. Right now I’m all about fresh zesty scents to liven up my home. Now I’m a parent I try not to have lit candles around my son, so candles are reserved for after his bedtime.

A few years ago I discovered reed diffusers, which are ideal if you enjoy home fragrances, but without the worry of burning a candle around children or pets (or if like me, you forget and accidentally leave it burning all night long). I always have at least one in the house these days. I’ve recently been introduced to Quinn Lilly, a luxury home fragrance brand based in Scotland. They specialise in reed diffusers, glass candle jars, travel tins, fragrance oils and car air fresheners.

Quinn Lilly started making candles and other home fragrances in 2015. They work to create high quality soy wax candles and other natural fragrances which are sourced from different parts of the world. They strive to ensure their products are environmentally friendly and use combinations of natural soy wax and oils to try to create cleaner products. Soy wax is free from pesticides and herbicides, which make the wax eco friendly and cleaner for the environment and your home too.

They have four signature fragrance collections to choose from – Grapefruit & Mimosa, Lavender & Rosemary, Lime Basil & Mandarin and Pomegranate. Plus a range of other fragrance products available.

Home Fragrances from Quinn Lilly PLUS Win a Reed Diffuser

Quinn Lilly’s luxury reed diffusers last for around three months and cost just £12.99. They’re stylish, elegant and are ideal for discrete fragrancing in any room of your home. With a range of beautiful fragrances available, which would you choose?

To view the full range of Quinn Lilly candles, reed diffusers and other home fragrance products, visit their website.

Home: Giving my kitchen table an update for spring

Like most people, the heart of my home is my kitchen table. We eat together around it, we do homework and our work at it, we paint, we draw, we sew, we argue and we make up. Our kitchen table gets a lot of action and it shows. Our beautiful wooden table is scratched and worn. Three years ago when the boy was a toddler we got a wipe clean tablecloth from Wipe Easy Tablecloths and it was a godsend and a real game changer.

Home: Giving my kitchen table an update for spring

This spring I decided it was time to give my kitchen table a little update. So I turned once again to Wipe Easy Tablecloths. I wasn’t sure what to go for, my kitchen is light, airy and neutral. Virtually any pattern of tablecloth would work well, I wanted one that wasn’t too busy, but with a bit of a pattern. 

I went on their website and managed to narrow it down to just a few choices, after giving it some thought I plumped for the confetti oilcloth tablecloth. It has pretty pastel polka dots on a neutral background. I had hoped it would look lovely in my kitchen and brighten the place up a bit for spring.

Home: Giving my kitchen table an update for spring

The tablecloth I liked is 135cm in width, so I just had to measure our table and order the length I needed. It was really easy to order using the website and a roll containing my tablecloth was delivered the next day. 

I love my new tablecloth. It looks really smart and it’s brightened up the room a treat. I don’t think you can beat an oilcloth tablecloth for everyday use. With a house full of messy boys and the constant rigours of family life, it really protects the table underneath. Cleaning up after crafts, painting or just a messy dinner is so much easier too.

Home: Giving my kitchen table an update for spring

Wipe Easy Tablecloths have a huge range of oilcloth, PVC and vinyl designs to choose from. You can easily find a tablecloth to suit your style and they’re really reasonably priced. Ours cost just £33 which is great value, especially as I’m expecting to have it on the table for several years.

I’m very happy with the design I’ve chosen. I think it’s light, bright and just the right amount of informal for our busy family kitchen. What do you think?

Note: I was sent this tablecloth for review purposes from Wipe Easy Tablecloths. All images and opinions are my own.