HOME: Could You Make Your Own Secret Garden?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Whatever your age, having a secret spot in the garden where you can relax and unwind all year round doesn’t require an outdoor space the size of a small field. As we step into autumn, why not get started on an outdoor project and work on creating a special spot you can enjoy?

Hopefully you've read my last post and will recognise that this is in fact our very own garden!

Just to the right of that tree I have a set of steps which take you down to a secret area in our garden. At the moment it's just an underground garage space, but I can't wait to make it magical with fairy light and lanterns. The magic of a secret garden can leave people enthusiastic about time spent on their own doorstep, so how do you get started?

Artistic Inspiration
Long before the secret spaces written about by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series, the authors of several children’s classics created equally awe-inducing magical places that have inspired generations. Why not look into the idea of the secret garden by reading the novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett? Stories can fuel ideas for transforming your own space, the Narnia books are another great series that could provide ideas for magical features to incorporate. When it comes to the design stage, you may even find you want to draw on little bits from several favourite books to create mini garden areas on a theme.

The Exciting Entrance

In The Secret Garden, one of the key features of the enclosed space is the locked gate. While it’s lovely to be able to incorporate some kind of gate or archway into your design, it’s not always practical. What is a fundamental, is being able to create garden layers, so that whether you’re stepping into the space from a gate or your back door, it’s not always possible to see the full scope of your garden in one glance.
This may mean factoring in a small clearing at the back of the garden or if more practical for your space, you could step straight into the enclosed space. If you have a modern build home, bi-fold doors could provide a real Narnia like effect and give that feeling of stepping into the magic. Try Creative Doors Direct for styles that work well with new and older houses.

Wherever your magical entrance and whatever style you choose, think about it as a gateway to a journey through your garden and support that it with curving pathways and cute signs that direct to different areas. You may even want to put some old mirrors to use to make your garden seem bigger. Place securely at the back of the garden and mask the edges with creeping plants and the mirror will reflect your garden, helping your space to seem larger and longer.

Fantastical Flora and Fauna

Not everyone has space in their garden or backyard for a mini maze and installing one throughout would go against the component of discovery having a garden made up of different elements provides. However, some archways and hedges can go a long way to directing people through a secret garden and to boxing off a special secluded area to enjoy too. Try boxwood or sweet yew or for a quicker fix, use a trellis or pergola complete with climbing plants. Training creeping flowers around archways will provide an extra sensory factor to enjoy in spring and summer.

A Secluded Spot

Whether it’s a small clearing for playing and picnicking or a spot that homes a swing, chair or hidden shed, a secret garden should have a focal point, a spot to find and experience in solitude or to be enjoyed with friends. Choose an area where there are things of interest to be enjoyed. Somewhere with flowers that attract butterflies in summer time or where there is a bird table, so you can watch winter wildlife close up. The size of your garden, or further literary inspiration, may determine the type of feature you incorporate. If you’ve space for a small shed or play hut it will no doubt be a place to treasure for years to come.

Have you read The Secret Garden ? Are there any books that may provide inspiration for a secret outdoor project that ought to be added to the list? If you were to build your own secret garden, what would you include in it and why?

We are very lucky the garden is fully established and didn't need much doing, but this little secret area at the back really has got me excited about gardening!

HOME: Renovation Weeks 1-4

Sunday, 25 September 2016
We've been homeowners now for four weeks and the changes in the house now make it pretty unrecognisable from the house we got given the keys to.

In these three weeks we've gone from just sorting the kitchen to pretty much ripping the whole house out, with the addition of a huge hole in the ceiling in our lounge. I'd been pretty keen to document these changes and dare I say it even vlog some of it, but it has been so much harder than I thought. Getting some decent content over the past two days has been impossible - all I have done is burn gloss of woodwork.

Rolling back three weeks ago, the house looked like this:

Week 1 - Tackling the kitchen

Initially we were going to just do the kitchen and then move in. Having the kitchen renovated without us living there was so important. Not only because it's a huge project, but also with Matt's allergies and the animals - living alongside it wouldn't have been fun. 

The first three days in the property saw the kitchen smashed to pieces and uncovering some issues that we hadn't noticed before purchasing. The two most notable were that the roof (our kitchen is in an extension) had clearly been subject to a leak and the units we rotted from a leak behind the sink. We were particularly disheartened by this as the sellers continuously confirmed that nothing was wrong with the rood. As you can see in the photos above, there were huge holes in the units which had been eaten by their dogs so we were expecting it to not be in the best condition. However, we were still shocked that the sink unit had partially rusted away and the worktops were actually bendy with the amount of water that had leaked in them. 

Week 2

Week 2 of renovations is where things escalated pretty quickly and plans soon changed. The decision to smash out the bathroom at this stage proved wise because turns out it had been leaking for a while, a roof joist is rotten and the ceiling fell through into the lounge! 

Decor wise we started to burn off the million layers of gloss paint that have been slapped on to every doorframe and skirting board. The heated blower (I have no idea what it's called) is a scary piece of kit. Within seconds there is a red hot jet of air bubbling up the gloss and then you scrape it off. This takes ages so that's pretty much all we did. 

One afternoon we'd had enough of paint fumes and decided to move a planter from the front garden to the back. We had to dig out all the soil and plants which took 8 rubble bags! Aside from the 500 spiders we encountered - it was nice to do some gardening. 

Week 3

This week will officially be known as the weekend of steam. Our two biggest bedrooms were lined and then painted, but as you can see by what is left of the yellow below, the walls were really patchy with paper. As there was no consistency in what was on the walls we are going back to the plaster. 

The second bedroom revealed something that reminded me of things you find in horror films. Although it's pretty cool find the history in the house. We've also found Richard's homework from 1981, so sorry to his teacher if it wasn't handed in - it was in the floorboards! 

Burning off paint, never ends.

I also cut the grass for the first time in my life! 

Week 4

I took a weekend away from the house, got back to walking dogs because I'd really missed it and wrote this blogpost! 

I really should have filmed the video that would go alongside this, but I put Harry Potter on and didn't. #reallife

LIFESTYLE: Yankee Candle Haul

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Roll back six weeks ago and I had one small glass Yankee Candle in Fluffy Towels, now my collection is as above and I have four girls to thank for this!

These four ladies are candle connoisseurs and have well and truly got me hooked on Yankee Candles, especially knowing that shops ALWAYS have a huge sale section.

Looking at the photos, I also have a box of Spiced Apple tea lights I got given for my birthday.

I can't even offer a review of each one because I just don't know where to start!! 

LIFESTYLE: My favourite phone covers for my iPhone 6Plus

Saturday, 17 September 2016

I love my iPhone 6plus, it's annoyingly huge and awkward to put in a pocket - and yet I still love it. However one of the most challenging things I have found is finding phone covers that don't make the phone even bigger than it already is. 

After a long time searching I have found these two that are my absolute favourites. 

I'm always drawn to anything with Harry Potter, the last snapchat I opened was a friend sending me a snap of some HP slippers, so when someone retweeted Juicy Creations onto my timeline it was an instant follow.  I also really like the wood design as it's so different from the typical plastic covers that are everywhere and for me I really like that it's a handmade cover from a fellow Welshie. 

There's loads of covers on offer from a welsh dragon to Disney

My other favourite phone cover comes off the back of me dropping my phone down a portaloo. Yes, that actually happened and from the moment the replacement phone landed in my hands I vowed to look after it like never before. As I said before the iPhone 6plus is such an awkward size and that's how it ended up down the loo - it was in my back pocket where half of the phone sticks out - WAHH! I use my phone a lot, especially when walking the Cardiff Dogs Home dogs and so a full waterproof cover was needed.

I expected a fully waterproof cover to be so expensive, however there are so many affordable ones on eBay and mine only cost me £3.29. I always change over to this phone case on the weekends and so far there has been nothing that's got through the cover. 

Another really useful device that I have picked up from eBay is an iRing and whilst many people have laughed at it, it's the most useful phone accessory I own. I have really small hands and I do struggle to use the iPhone 6plus without it. 

Do you have any must have phone accessories? 

ANIMALS: #TropicalChronicals - 10 things I've learnt since owning Guinea Pigs

Tuesday, 13 September 2016
My animals regularly feature on my blog, I've written about Bertie, The Guinea Pigs and all the hamsters I have ever owned. The last post I did was about when I lost Basil and sadly last week Mouse died in my arms. My team is now just me, Rocky & Bertie.

I'd always considered myself to keep fairly "normal" domestic animals, however what I found out fairly recently is that guinea pigs are considered an exotic animal. I will openly admit that before I adopted Basil and Rocky I had no idea just how messy and much work they would be. After owning many hamsters over the years and Bertie being a house rabbit, I didn't think they would be much different.

I feel I need to add here that I did do plenty of research before adopting them!
As part of the RSPCA's #TropicalChronicals I thought it would be fun to round up 10 things that I have learnt since owning Guinea Pigs.. or should I say, from them owning me!! Most of these points I learnt from the both of them, so I'll still say them/they etc, even though Basil is no longer here.

1. They are feisty little beings. 

Rocky is one hell of a diva, he will regularly click his teeth at me if he's not happy and he has been known to bite a couple of people! 

2. They are quite possibly the messiest animals I have ever owned. 

I have never known animals to poo quite like a guinea pig. Despite spot cleaning everyday, it mounts up. Literal poo mountains. 

3. They eat like no other. 

Your weekly shop will include vegetables for you AND for your guinea pigs - settling for scraps will just not do!

4. You won't be able to open the fridge quietly again. 

Squealing and wheeking as soon as you touch the fridge door is a thing. Especially when you live in a flat. Consider them a fridge alarm, you'll never be able to sneak a late night snack again. Ever.

5. You will literally be shouted at if something isn't right. 

I'm not talking about if they squeal when they are in pain, I mean I get shouted at if I give the rabbit a treat before them.

6. They will act like you are trying to poison them when you give them medicine.

Basil would give me this look every time it was his medicine time. He looks like he thinks I was trying to kill him, except I was trying to save his life! I'm sure he was a little bit grateful. 

7. When things go downhill, they go downhill fast. 

Guinea Pigs are really good at hiding that they are ill and with two it's just that little bit harder to spot when one stops eating as much. They seem to hang on for ages and then when it gets bad - it's really bad. 

8. They are actually exotic animals.

I'd also considered exotic animals as the scaly or feathered kind, but nope my boys are exotic and I think there needs to be more awareness about this. It's campaigns like the RSPCA's #TropicalChronicals that are so important to raise awareness - I didn't know and I'm pretty clued up on these things. Luckily I was able to adapt very quickly to their needs (even after weeks of research!). 

9. They will give you so much love and joy.

Nothing else to add, they are amazing. 

10. When they pass, they take a piece of you with them.

Everything will be so much quieter and you realise that despite all the money and mess - you'd do it all over again. 

If you own an exotic pet tweet me, I'd love to find out more! 

HOME: We are homeowners!

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Last week Matt and I completed on what will be the biggest purchase of our lives, our first home. 

Our first home is a bit of a project, 3 bedroom semi detached with a beautiful garden and it's in a lovely area in our city. Here's some photos of the property without giving away location and too much detail. As it's a project, I'm going to be documenting our renovation work on my blog and possibly on my youtube channel. 

Rewind to the start of the year and our property hunt finally began after many years of saving. I wish I had been more prepared for the stresses of the whole process and even though we now have our house, it's sparked a huge relapse in my anxiety and panic attacks. 

Our hearts had originally been set on a certain area but due to a new school built in the middle of it, the house prices rocketed. Houses were going for £20k - £30k over the asking price and very quickly we were priced out. We wallowed in the upset of that and expanded our search area on rightmove.

A few weeks later this property popped up and after a detour to drive past on our way home one day we booked a viewing. Within three days we had viewed the property twice and made our first offer, after four days of negotiating (which was horrible!) the price was agreed. Two days later so was our mortgage and then almost 8 weeks later, it was ours. 

I felt totally unprepared for it to take this long and our experience has been one of the quicker ones, I feel I need to film a bit of a "Q&A" video about buying a house because there just wasn't many out there at the start of the year. 

In the week that we have had the keys there have been some pretty substantial changes, more on those in my next posts. There's probably going to be weekly updates now as we use up our annual leave and try and get the property ready in time for Christmas. 

This house is a project, but it's ours.