• Getting the Most out of Your Weekend

    yoga on a beach
  • Exploring the UK: Birmingham

    Winterbourne House and Garden
  • 5 DIY Safety Tips #MoveOrImprove

    diy safety snippet
  • Review: Browns Brasserie & Bar Bluewater

    Lunch at Browns main

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Getting the Most out of Your Weekend

Weekends matter. Lifestyle experts advise that everyday matters and of course they are right but in a world of work and routine two days recharging body and soul are very precious and to get the most out of them you need to be organised! While some people prefer to lounge at home for the weekend (I have to admit, I am one of them!) and others prefer to go out and about attending events or sampling the delights of a city one thing is for sure, what you do at the weekend will influence how you feel when back at work on Monday.

For many of us getting off the treadmill of work and routine can be difficult. After all being busy is what we are accustomed to. The inclination may be to replace the workday routine with housework and gardening. All very important of course, but not as important as caring for your own needs if you are to jump back on that treadmill again on Monday. Ensure there is space in your weekend for some relaxation, a yoga class, a walk in the fresh air, a round of golf, some “me time”. Whatever it is there must be time in your week to do what you enjoy and the weekend is the ideal opportunity to focus on your interests.

Weekends give us the space to ignore the timetable for a while. Work demands we follow the early to bed, early to rise mantra and everything is pretty much routine. At the weekend grab a late night or a lie in, or even both. Catch up on the enjoyable things that the working week doesn’t allow time for. There may be a book you want to read or a film you want to see. There may be friends or family you want to catch up with. Or try something new, the hillwalking experience you have been promising yourself or the trip to a spa that you feel is long overdue. To avoid spending Monday morning regretting that another weekend has passed and these things didn’t get done, start keeping a list and planning ahead.

List in hand on Friday evening and any necessary bookings or arrangements made, you are more likely to spend your free days engaging in whatever it is you most enjoy. In a society where the world of work consistently makes demands of us, enjoying a weekend cannot be seen as an indulgence. On the contrary, it is what allows us to return to our routine on a Monday morning, rested and with restored zest for the week ahead.

How do you like to spend your weekend?

yoga on a beach

Exploring the UK: Birmingham

I am a big fan of staycations and having the chance to explore the UK, having spent a lot of time when I was younger travelling the country with my family and visiting local attractions. Birmingham is the largest and most populous British city outside London and has an array of exciting things to do and places to visit. Check out my suggestions here.

Where to stay

There are lots of options when looking for somewhere to stay in or around Birmingham, from well-known Hotel chains to Manor Houses. When choosing somewhere to stay do your research and consider the things to want to do whilst staying in the UK’s second city.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

If you’re looking to discover some history and culture then nowhere beats the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which boasts a collection of international importance covering fine art, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, natural history, archaeology, ethnography, local history and industrial history.

The Art Gallery is known for its impressive collections of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Edward Burne-Jones paintings. If you prefer antiquities, I have to admit I do, then the Museum boasts a selection of coins ranging from ancient times through to the Middle Ages as well as fascinating artefacts from Ancient India and Central Asia, Ancient Cyprus and Ancient Egypt.

The BullRing

If you’re interested in retail therapy then head to the BullRing, the shopping hub of the city. Since the Middle Ages the site has seen many commercial uses, and today’s retail centre boasts more than 36 million visitors drawn in by over 160 stylish shops including Apple, Debenhams, Selfridges, Zara and Forever 21.

The Bullring and Spiceal Street offers a choice of stylish restaurants, cafés and places to grab a snack to replenish your energy between shops. The shopping centre is easily accessible and has solid transport links so it is easy to get to.

Jewellery Quarter

For more of a shopping buzz check out Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, Europe’s largest area of jewellery shops which produces 40% of all the jewellery made in the UK and historically the birthplace of many pioneering advancements in industrial technology. It also houses the world’s largest Assay Office which hallmarks and astonishing 12 million items every 12 months.

Nicknamed ‘Birmingham’s Gem’, the Jewellery Quarter has undergone a transformation into an attractive urban village home to a collective of creative businesses. Explore the area by taking the Findings Trail which was designed by maker Laura Potter of the School of Jewellery. The trail is made up of 30 pavement slabs with stainless steel plaques in the form of hallmark tags usually found on jewellery.

Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park

For animal lovers, a trip to the Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park is a must. The zoo features mainly small mammals and is well known for its national red panda breeding program. Other animals include lemurs, reptiles, meerkats, otters, birds, wallabies and a large collection of monkeys. Don’t miss feeding times where you can see the Porcupines, Tamarins and Lynxes get their dinner!

Some species kept at the Conservation Park are endangered in the wild and the Park plays an important role their conservation. The Conservation Park is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria and of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and are part of a high profile European Endangered Species Programme.

Winterbourne House and Garden

I love visiting grand estates and houses, exploring architecture and getting a peek into life at a different time. Built for British industrialist and entrepreneur John Nettlefold, Winterbourne House and Garden is a grand Edwardian historic house set in beautiful gardens nestled in a leafy corner of Birmingham, complete with family-friendly interactive exhibits and a lovely terraced tearoom and gift shop.

The house was designed to make the best use of light with large windows, white painted panelling and south facing rooms. The Edwardian house’s restored rooms showcase furniture dating from the late Victorian era through to the 1920s as well as a selection of antiques. The Grade II listed gardens are a 7-acre oasis with over 6000 different plant species with features including a carnivorous glasshouse,  an original sandstone rock garden and a woodland walk through Gunnera leaves and Rhododendron.

Winterbourne House and Garden

5 DIY Safety Tips #MoveOrImprove

I have to admit that DIY is not my strength, having experienced frustration and impatience at putting furniture together and a slight fear of hitting my thumb with a hammer. I have massive respect for anyone who takes it upon themselves to make updates or upgrades to their own homes. If you do choose to do it yourself, then take heed of these 5 DIY safety tips inspired by the below infographic from Slater & Gorden.

Be Prepared with First Aid

No one wants to have an accident when doing DIY, but you have to be prepared for anything so ensure your first aid kit is stocked and close at hand to address any scrapes, scratches or bumps during your renovation.

Clothing

Be aware of your clothing when doing DIY as getting something caught in a tool or snagged on materials could cause an accident. Be practical and sensible about you attire when doing work on your home, avoid wearing jewellery or any loose clothing with free-flowing fabric. It is important that you wear the relevant protective gear for your job such as goggles or earplugs to reduce the chance of damage to eyes or ears.

Power Tools

I definitely worry anytime a power tool surfaces in my house and it should go without saying that you need to be vigilant and very careful when using them. Ensure that they are unplugged when not in use, and keep out of the reach of children. Be aware of any power cables around you as tripping when using a power tool can be disastrous. Never carry a power tool around by the cord, keep the cable away from sharp edges, oil and heat and avoid yanking a cord out of the socket.

Your Surroundings

It’s not just the tools you use which can potentially cause damage; if you’re not observant of your surroundings you could harm yourself or others. Be mindful of who and what is in your workspace, be sure to clear any unnecessary things from your renovation space and keep track of any other people (or pets!) who might inadvertently get in the way or cause a problem.

The Ladder

I am not a fan of ladders; I hate the idea of accidentally falling off of one and really hurting myself. There is a simple way of avoiding these sorts of problems and that is the 4-to-1 rule: For every four feet in ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from what it is leaning against.

It is important to make sure you read the ladder instructions which will guide you in choosing the right ladder for the job and take note of any warning labels. Always use a ladder which is long enough and welded so it is strong enough to support the weight.

See the infographic below for more information about health and home improvement.

DIY safety infographic

Review: Browns Brasserie & Bar Bluewater

Living within 20 minutes from Bluewater Shopping Centre has its benefits, like being close to exciting entertainment and a generous array of restaurants serving dishes from all over the world. I was recently invited to review the new menu at one of those restaurants, Browns Brasserie & Bar.

Browns first opened in 1973 with the aim to offer quality food and drink in combination with a bustling atmosphere, beautiful interiors and special touches. Browns is open for brunch all the way through to dinner in the evening, including afternoon tea and elegant cocktails.

My husband and I were very much looking forward to testing out the new menu – we can be difficult to please as I am vegetarian and my husband can’t eat grains. We were warmly welcomed and shown to our booth towards the back of the stylish restaurant which reminded me of a first class train station lounge with dark, sumptuous furniture and arched windows.

First, we chose our drinks. I went for a virgin raspberry and grapefruit mojito, unfortunately, they were all out of the cordial – however, rather than asking me to make a different choice they very kindly offered to make me one using an alternative cordial, so I happily had a spiced dark fruit mock-mojito instead. Vlad went for a cider, the Somerset Orchard Pig Reveller.

After browsing the impressive menu we settled upon our starters; I chose the whole baked Somerset camembert which was served with toasted bread and a blob of tomato & rhubarb chutney. Vlad went for the asparagus and prosciutto ham which came with a poached range egg and hollandaise sauce. I almost squealed with delight when I cut open the camembert and molten cheese oozed out, perfect for dipping.

I have to admit that the cheese was a bit more aged than I am used to (we were told by our helpful and friendly waiter Jack that it is aged for 32 days), but I still enjoyed it. Vlad’s asparagus was perfectly al dente and complimented by the rich, salty prosciutto and the poached egg was wonderfully runny. Browns were kind enough to provide my husband with gluten-free bread to mop it up with.

When choosing mains I decided to go for a lighter option in order to save space for pudding. I went for the vegan option of courgette, mint & lemon tagliatelle; a plate of tagliatelle combined with green and yellow courgette ribbons, mint, freshly grated lemon zest, and toasted pumpkin seeds for added crunch. This is a fresh, zingy and satisfying dish. Vlad went for a bigger dish, choosing the 8oz sirloin steak with an added half lobster. The steak was cooked to medium well as requested and served with lightly dressed baby watercress and thick cut chips. I didn’t hear any complaints!

We couldn’t resist a pudding and when I spotted salted caramel profiteroles on the menu I just had to have them. I am such a salted caramel junkie. The profiteroles came with a delicious Devon cream toffee sauce and fluffy whipped cream. The profiteroles were surprisingly light and filled with morish salted caramel and coated in a light layer of chocolate. Vlad went for a decadent pudding too, choosing the trio of chocolate; warm chocolate fondant, white chocolate pot, chocolate ice cream, hazelnut praline.

Overall we very much enjoyed our lunch at Browns Brasserie & Bar Bluewater. The service was impeccable, the food was fresh and satisfying and the atmosphere was elegant and cosy. I would definitely recommend a visit for anyone wanting something more sophisticated than the other restaurant options in the shopping centre. We award Browns Brasserie & Bar Bluewater 5 out of 5 stars.

Bathroom Design Questions that are Worth Answering

We do all sorts in the bathroom, with many of us using it as a retreat, as somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of family life. The fact that it is such an important room means that you really need to stop and think before you change it. You need to get the design right if you want to avoid unnecessary problems.

Is the toilet high enough?

Simple things like installing a toilet that is not too low will make it easier for the men in the family to pee comfortably and reduce the chances of them missing the pan. This means less cleaning and far fewer arguments. You can buy all styles of toilets from betterbathrooms.com, so there really is no need to scrimp on this very important fixture.

Is a shower all you need?

Increasingly, families are installing showers instead of a new bath. For most, this works out well, at least in the short term, but many end up regretting the decision to rip out their bath.

Many homeowners find that they miss being able to spend an hour soaking in the bath, away from distractions, and being able to relax totally. Showers are nice, but for most people they are invigorating rather than relaxing.

There really is no reason to keep at least one of your baths, they are no longer an expensive luxury. These days, it is not difficult to pick up a new one for less than £100. As a result, a bath is a luxury most families can afford.

Is one bathroom enough?

If you only have one bathroom in the house, it really is worth considering creating a separate toilet. Taking this approach will help to cut down on the length of that early morning queue and reduce arguments as a result. In most homes, there is enough space to do this. You just need to check with a plumber whether there is enough room for the pipe work to laid out to accommodate setting your toilet up in a separate room.

As your children get older it is also well worth considering setting up a sink, or small shower unit in the corner of their bedroom. This is not always possible, but it is definitely an option that is well worth exploring.

Do my new bathroom plans meet the regulations?

Another important concern many homeowners completely forget about when they redesign their bathrooms is whether their new plans are compliant with both national and local building codes. This is an important consideration because failing to comply can result in your being fined and having to rip your new toilet, shower cubicle and bath out and start again.

Not complying with the regulations is an expensive mistake that you really do not want to make. You also have to bear in mind that the regulations are there to protect the health of your family by making sure that the waste you produce flows safely away from your property.

Simple supplies list for bullet journal beginners

Have you caught the bullet journal bug yet?  It’s honestly transformed my humble to-do list and the way I manage my time day-to-day and month-to-month.

There are some amazing examples of beautiful bullet journals online (take a look at Instagram for inspiration), but the variety and number of bullet journal supplies can be overwhelming…

So what supplies do you actually need for a bullet journal?

Well, in all honesty, a simple notebook and pen or pencil is all you really need.  Having said that, in my experience, just a few simple extras can make your bullet journal not only prettier, but more useful and effective.

A simple supplies list for bullet journal beginners

Here are my essential bullet journal supplies and why I love to use them.

  • A cute notebook
    I like an A5 size notebook because it’s small enough to fit in my handbag, but the pages are large enough to write a decent checklist or monthly plan. I also prefer graph or dotted paper, as it keeps my handwriting neat and tidy.
  • An automatic pencil
    …with an eraser! I prefer pencil to pen for my bullet journal, so that I can correct any mistakes easily.  I also find writing with a pencil more relaxed – that may be a personal preference though.
  • Washi tape for cheats banner headers
    …for fast-track bullet journal gorgeousness. I am not able to draw those beautiful banners that some bullet journal aficionados do, but I adore the look of them. Luckily there are some fantastic MT washi tapes that give you an instant header (choose from watercolour or chalkboard effect).  You can even use it to colour-code your tasks or add page tabs.
  • Slim washi tape for dividing pages
    Slim washi tape is perfect for adding colour and organising your bullet journal pages. Create a week-to-view layout, add a box, border or underline using slim washi tape.
  • Double-sided tape
    This is by no means essential, but I find it incredibly useful for adding small paper items such as tickets or images/inspiration from magazines. This can add a scrapbook element to your bullet journal, making it a more creative and diverse working space.

So that’s my simple supplies list for bullet journal beginners.  What do you think?  Do you agree with me?  Is there anything that you would add?

Author: Gude Hudson-Gool

Gude is the owner of The Paperdashery, an online stationery boutique supplying all you need to send happiness through the mail.  She is also founder of the #MamaMail project (sending happiness to new mamas).  Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, or sign up to receive The Paperdashery newsletter.

Bullet journal inspiration on Instagram

Review: Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO #Vaping #Ecigarette

Aspire is one of my husband’s favourite vaping brands, having found their products reliable and enjoyable to use, so when he was given the opportunity to review the Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO from ECigWizard he jumped at the chance.

The Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO model is sleeker than my husband’s usual sub ohm e-cigarettes, at 11.77cm tall and 1.97cm wide. It is an all new, discreet, low profile sub ohm device using a 0.6Ω stainless steel Nautilus X U-Tech coil, with a wide Delrin drip-tip and big top-airflow allowing for increased vapour production.

The Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO fills from the top which means it is easy to replace coils as there is no need to drain the 2ml tank (TPD Compliant) first. The device has designed to be leak proof, perfect for transporting the e-cigarette in a pocket, and has a battery capacity if 1500mah.

Handily you can tell how much battery is remaining by noting the colour of the fire button; blue means you have more than 30% power, pink means less than 30% so prepare to charge! One issue is that the kit is not suitable for use with e-liquid with a VG content lower than 50%, although this doesn’t affect my husband.

The Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO comes in four colours; black, white, stainless steel and rose gold so you can pick whichever best suits your style. Vlad has certainly found it to be comparable with his larger, bulkier sub-ohm devices and has been favouring it on days out due to its portability and reliability.

Vlad has been very happy with the elegant Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO and awards it 5 out of 5 stars.

Aspire PockeX Pocket AIO

 

Review: Paperhaul #stationery subscription box January

I have been developing a series stationery addiction over the last few months, so when I was given a Paperhaul stationery subscription box from my husband for Christmas I was over the moon!

I had been considering signing up to one for a while as a way of expanding my collection and stocking up with beautiful supplies for sharing with my penpals and using in my bullet journal. There are quite a few stationery subscriptions now available in the UK and it’s worth doing some research to find the one that would best suit you.

Paperhaul is a monthly delivery service which celebrates great design and high-quality stationery often featuring a fantastic up-and-coming illustrator. Each package has a theme, with all the items in the box following it so you have a set of coordinated goodies.

Each monthly box from Paperhaul (£10, plus £2 p&p) is slightly different, but you will usually receive a greetings card with envelope, a couple of A6 postcards, a sheet of stickers, an A6 notebook, 3 mini notecards with envelopes as well as wrapping paper, all tied up with some lovely twine.

The January box arrived with a fantastically colourful Circus theme including a sheet of stickers, a greetings card with envelope, 3 postcards, a jotterpad and a notebook all with bold, bright colours and circus motifs.

All of the items have been made from quality materials with great attention to detail. My favourite items have to be the three postcards which have such vibrant, joyful illustrations and eye-catching patterns. I will probably keep these for myself!

I really like the Paperhaul stationery subscription box for January which has brought some much-needed colour and joy to an otherwise dull month. I award the January Paperhaul stationery subscription box 4 out of 5 stars. I look forward to using the items in the next few weeks and I’m excited to see what’s in store for February!

paperhaul stationery subscription box

Paperhaul stationery

Paperhaul stationery

Paperhaul stationery

Valentine’s day with Lékué Chocolate Fondue

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like sharing delicious chocolates with those you love and for me, one of the best ways to do that is by enjoying a fondue!

Having originated in Switzerland, fondue was traditionally made with melted cheese into which bread was dipped. Over time there have been a few different variations with chocolate, unsurprisingly, becoming one of the most popular.

I was lucky enough to have been sent a Choco Fondue kit from Lékué to review this Valentine’s Day, a kitchen accessory that allows you to melt chocolate and make a fondue without the rigmarole of using a pan or a bain-marie and keeping the molten chocolate warm for a surprisingly long time!

The kit comes in two parts; a rigid plastic pot in which sits a flexible silicon top with sunken sections to hold the chocolate. Also included is a set of 4 handy forks for dipping, with a spoon at the other end for mixing.

Simply add water to the bottom pot, up to the maximum line, place the red silicon on top and add 125g of chocolate to each section. Put in the microwave for 3 minutes, remove and mix, and microwave for a few more minutes until molten and smooth. The water in the bottom pot will remain hot and will keep the chocolate from solidifying whilst you enjoy your fondue!

I used white, white/milk mix and milk chocolate in my fondue with marshmallows and strawberries for dipping but there are lots of options: pretzels and biscotti are also really great for dipping, as are most fresh fruits, so mix it up! Click here for more dipping ideas.

I really enjoyed testing out the Lékué chocolate fondue kit which as proven itself to be a quick and easy way to set up a romantic Valentine’s Day treat. I award it 5 out of 5 stars.

Lékué chocolate fondue

Lékué chocolate fondue

My Valentine’s Day Wishlist

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’ve been reflecting on what it is that I think really makes a great celebration of love for me. I like to think that I am pretty down to earth when it comes to romantic gestures and I am not expecting to be whisked away for a romantic weekend break, however, some simple touches would really make my night. Check out my Valentine’s Day wishlist!

The quiet night in

When I was younger and when we lived in London I might have said my ideal Valentine’s night out would be out for a fancy meal at a restaurant and then onto cocktails and a show. However, my tastes are somewhat more relaxed and my idea of the perfect Valentine’s evening would be curled up on the sofa at home under a cosy blanket with my husband, watching a good movie.

Atmosphere

When it comes to having a romantic evening at home atmosphere is everything! Get the lights down low and light some delicious smelling candles for maximum impact. I am a Yankee candle junkie so would recommend one of their large Fresh Cut Roses candles for fragrance and some tea lights for added glow. Don’t forget to make a comfy seating area; grab some cushions and a fluffy blanket to snuggle under and I recommend checking to see the heating is on, no-one likes being cold!

Food & Drink

I think it’s best not to have a huge meal but to have a tapas style dinner with a selection of small dishes which you can share and feed to each other for added romance. You can either make your own from scratch with help from some great recipes or simply grab some platters from your supermarket. You can’t do Valentine’s Day without bubbly and chocolates, I love sparkling rose and this year have gone for Sensi 18K gold pinot rose prosecco to compliment some Charbonnel et Walker champagne truffles! Make sure to break out the good china and some sexy champagne flutes to add some extra sparkle to the evening. 

The Gift

I am the kind of woman who only wears a few pieces of jewellery every day, bringing out some other more impressive pieces once in a while to go to a special occasion, so jewellery isn’t really the best gift for me as I tend to stick to my usual items and don’t wear other pieces often. I do love flowers, so a bouquet is always a great gift. For our first wedding anniversary, my husband recreated our wedding flowers which was an amazing gift! I also love plants which I can watch grow. Generally, the best thing to get me for Valentine’s Day would be perfume, as I rarely buy myself any due to the expense. Hugo Boss is my favourite brand and recently I have been loving ‘The Scent For Her’ eau de parfum from the Debenhams Valentine’s range.

What is on your Valentine’s Day wishlist?

My Valentine's Wish List