c February 2016 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Warm, Rich and Relaxing Bedroom Scheme

I think a bedroom should be a place in the home you can retreat to, relax, unwind and recharge your batteries. By using the right colour combinations can help to create and harness this atmosphere. The use of purples, silvers and greys achieves a colour scheme that will appeal to both men and women.

I was challenged by Julian Charles to create a blog post that would enhance my home interior. Julian Charles are a family run business established in 1947 sell a selection of soft furnishings including curtains, bedding, throws, cushions and candles. All you need to help co-ordinate and bring together your bedroom haven. 

Silver and Purple Bedroom Scheme 

The Fiorello Silver Paisley Jacquard luxury quilted throw not only adds a layer of warmth but also that touch of decadence. Finish the bed by dressing it with some scatter cushions the contrasting Hamilton purple square cushions along with the Silver Fiorello silver paisley jacquard cushions

The delicate fragrance of scented candles adds to the ambiance of a room, the Lavender Garden candle in particular can help promote relaxation. But no dozing off when there is a lit candle in the room, and do not place them on a plastic surface. I love candles and have many at home but like to ensure they are used sensibly. So take heed otherwise I will  be fretting for you. I am sure I am not the only one like this! Many people swear by the use of lavender to aid a restful nights sleep. One of my favourite things is to relax after a shower or bath, light a scented candle, lie on the bed and read a book for half an hour. How sumptuous does that sound, surrounded by a luxurious and affordable decor.

Finish the room with co-ordinated curtains. The use of Luna silver grey blackout curtains will ensure a peaceful nights sleep and block out any external light pollution that may disturb a light sleeper or shift worker.

This is my entry to the Julian Charles Blogger Best Dressed Interiors Competition. 

Update: I am so pleased to announce that my Warm, Rich and Relaxing Bedroom Scheme was chosen as the winner! 
Julian Charles
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Giveaway - Tickets to the Sewing & Cake Shows Birmingham

For the first time this spring, The Sugarcraft, Cake Decorating & Baking show (Cake International) joins Sewing for Pleasure, Fashion Embroidery & Stitch and Hobbycrafts at the NEC, Birmingham.  For the dates 17 – 20 March 2016 you can visit all shows with one ticket.  Visitors can make the most of four shows for the price of one and an extensive offering of supplies, workshops and demonstrations.

ICHF Events have given me 4 pairs of tickets to giveaway on my blog, valid for any day too. Four winners will each win a pair of tickets  for all four shows. You can find out more information about each of the shows on the ICHF website.

Closing date for the giveaway is 9 March so be sure to enter today for a chance to win.

How to enter

To be in with a chance of winning this lovely prize enter your name and address details using the Rafflecopter widget below. Tickets will be sent directly to the name and address collected in the Rafflecopter widget. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
That's it, no need for tweeting, following or signing up to emails. 

This giveaway is only open to UK residents, aged 18 years or older. Only valid entries using the Rafflecopter widget will be accepted. Multiple entries will be disqualified.
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Kitchen Makeover: New Wall Tiles

I inherited my kitchen when I bought my house. It was not a bad kitchen just average. The kitchen wall tiles however, green, terracotta and beige, would not be my choice. I so dislike terracotta, something to do with all those decorating programs on tv in the 80's. My sister on the other hand quite liked the colour combination, for the past six years they remained. Then last year it was time to decorate the majority of the downstairs of the house. Which apart from repainting, nothing had been done since moving in.

Whilst there was no way a brand new kitchen was in the budget, a sensible refurbishment was. This included painting, new kitchen wall tiles makeover, removal of old blinds and new light fittings. I do not know why it has taken me a year to share it with you.

Paint colours were chosen, sample wall tiles selected and narrowed down to a few. These were propped up against the kitchen wall for a few days until we finally settled on a style and colour.  A white rectangle tile called Metro with gloss finish. It is a popular tile style and most commonly used with a dark grout though we choose white. My sister who is very handy removed the old tiles.
Refurbishing a kitchen new tiles
Lucky for me my brother is a plumber and tiler by trade, so with the promise of cake and endless cups of tea he patched up some damaged plaster and tiled the kitchen. Wow what a difference it made. Who would of thought by just changing the tiles in a kitchen you can achieve big impact on a small budget.
Kitchen makeover changing wall tiles
You can just make out the paint sample above the new tiles, warm cream subtle yellow colour. 
The Metro Tiles were from Topps Tiles along with the trim, adhesive and grout cost just over £100. I have to say the staff at my local Topps Tiles were very helpful, it is certainly worth using the sample tile service to help you decide. Labour costs tea and cakes.

I am linking up with Mrs Crafty B #MakingHome, see my sidebar for the linky details.
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Essential Kitchen Accessories

When I redecorated my kitchen I also changed some of my kitchen accessories. Some so they would co-ordinate with my new look, others because I had been making do and they were not particularly functioning well. I had a lovely set of designer glass storage jars which were very decorative, but from a practical point they no longer had an air tight seal.  For me if an item is out on display it needs to be stylish and both practical and functional. 

Photo credit: House of Fraser
Are looking for kitchen accessory inspiration that adds both function and form to your kitchen? Here are some of my favourite Kitchen Accessories currently available at House of Fraser.  

Fruit Bowl 
Linea Serenity Brass Fruit Bowl £30 

Linea Round Acacia Tray - £30
Every one needs a tray at some point. Not only is this practical but it looks stylish too, perfect for setting up your kettle, teapot and sugar bowl on. Then when guests arrive use to carry your drinks through to the garden on a Summers day.

Set of 3 Rice Tea Towels £18.99
Choose from muted colours or something a little more funky for your kitchen.

Kitchen Utensil sets do not have to be black. This set of Joseph Joseph utensils combine wood and colourful heat resistant silicone handles to add a little colour to your kitchen.

Kitchen Roll Holders range from plain and functional to positively works of art.
Universal Expert Kitchen Towel Stand £25

Linea Glass Storage Jars -  prices range from £12 to £18
A practical jar that you can easily see just how full it is. I store muesli, granola, bran flakes and raisins in my glass jars, my doesn't that make me sound healthy!

Do you have an essential kitchen accessory you can not live without?

Kitchen Accessories ideas decor essentials Kitchen makeover interiors

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.
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Shropshire Countryside - Attingham Park and Ironbridge

I am so lucky to be surrounded by the beautiful Shropshire countryside, no matter the weather it always looks splendid. At the end of last week I took a short stroll around some of the grounds at one of most popular National Trust properties in Shropshire - Attingham Park
Snowdrop Walk Attingham Park
Snowdrop Walk - Attingham Park
River Tern Attingham Park
River Tern Attingham Park
It was a fresh sunny February morning, the Snowdrops carpet large areas of the woodland. They are a real pleasure to see, it was surprisingly quiet too. Turning back I headed for one of my favourite spots, a bench that enjoys views across the River Tern to the Deer Park. Way off into the distance frantically waving at me was my sister, she loves a good walk, nothing like my slowcoach stop and start walking.  We met up later, back at the secondhand bookshop for a warm around the log burner. I have mentioned this bookshop previously as it is my favourite secondhand bookshop, so so charming. 
Frozen flood water Dale End Park Ironbridge
Dale End Park - Ironbridge
This week with the children on a term break from school, my sister and I got to spend the whole day with my niece who also got to enjoy a sleepover too. Off we went to explore locally around Ironbridge along with some geocaching. Our first stop was at Dale End Park, a successful geocache find followed by a brief walk into the park. It was an exceptionally cold day, so it was wrap up warm in a hat and scarf weather. Here we also found the remains of the recent flood water in the park which had frozen over. Yet the Crocus all managed to keep flowering.
Dale End Park - Ironbridge
Dale End Park - Ironbridge
The day was filled with plenty of hot chocolate and cake stops, a necessity to make sure we warmed up. More geocache finds at the Ironbridge itself.  We then went for a stroll around the Maws Craft Centre followed by a brief walk along the frozen canal at Coalport. Here the ducks were demonstrating their ice skating skills. Although they did have other things on their mind to keep them warm - wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The freezing weather certainly did not dampen their ardour. 
Coalport Canal Duck
Frozen Coalport Canal
I am sharing with you five of my favourite photographs of my recent Shropshire days out, and linking up Five on Friday at Love Made My Home.
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Bring Your Social Media Photos to Life with Cheerz

I love my Instagram photo feed, I enjoy sharing my snaps with the world. I always try to put some thought into my photos - is the light good, is it framed right. It is a real pleasure when people engage with me, I love that you too love my photos. But like many of us I am guilty of never having printed any of them.  So when Cheerz a photo printing site contacted me saying just how much they too enjoyed my photos, I jumped when they offered me a chance to see them in print.
Cheerz Box and Retro Prints
Cheerz Box and retro prints
You can choose from a variety of print types, photo magnets, boxes of photos, strips of photos, posters, retro prints, big prints, frame photos. 
Cheerz Box
Select 30 of your favourite social media photos, you can choose to fully customise each photo if your wish. They are safely packaged in a pretty box, to keep them in perfect condition. Use them to create a photo display, or in a photo album or frames. I have all my days out and holiday photos displayed on my homemade pin board in my craft room. 

Photo Strips
I captured holiday, days out and my blog onto the Cheerz photo strips. I real liked these they reminded me of the instant photo booth film strips which I found so much fun when I was younger. The addition of wording, a place name or occasion is a nice touch and great memory prompt for the future. 

Ordering and Selecting Your Photos
You can link all your social media accounts and access all the photos. You can do this online using a tablet device and the cherry app. Or on the Cheerz website if you are using a laptop, this will   also allow you to access any photographs you may have saved on your hard drive. 

I found it easy and straight forward to select my photos, you can see at a glance how many photos you have left to complete your selection. You are then able to review all your photos, customise the lighting/style of photograph, add text, change the font, select your colour surround. You can even change your mind, just save your selection and go back to delete and add your chosen additional photos. Once completed you can even select the design of the box they are packaged in. I selected a classic polka dot design.

A few days after ordering your photos will arrive on your doormat. I was very impressed with the quality of the photographs and the decorative Cheerz box they are packaged in.

Just allow yourself a little time to do the customising of the photographs, it real is worth the while. 
Favourite National Trust Photos
I love… 
that each photo can be customised, change the colour of the border of the prints. I particularly liked adding text to mine. I also added a few hashtags, in the years to come it will be interesting to see if hashtags still have the same prominence of use. 

Could do better…
I could not find a criticism as I loved the products and choice of photo types available. If you to make the most of the ability to customise your photos allow yourself time. There again if you want to keep things straight forward, select and print and it takes no time at all.

Perfect for…
sharing with friends and family and creating a welcoming token gift. If you have used your phone to capture natural and impromptu moments, don't leave them on your phone. Print a set of photo strips to share with friends or family. 

The important stuff…
The Cheerz box of 30 retro style prints costs £13, the Photo Film Strip cost £6.50 for a set of five. 

Disclosure: I was sent a voucher to review Cheerz products.
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Sew your own Lip Balm Keyring

When I first rediscovered my sewing machine I mostly stuck with easy and quick sewing projects. I found a lot of inspiration on Pinterest, and I went through a phase of making key rings. I thought you may like to see some of the successes. They are nothing spectacular, but at the time they gave me a sense of accomplishment. 
Lip Balm Keyring
This little key ring is perfect for using up fabric scraps. Handy to store a lip balm in and know where is it, no hunting in the bottom of your handbag. Oh the times I have spent doing that. Attach your house keys to the key ring, or through a loop inside your handbag. 

You can find lots of sewing inspiration on on my Pinterest Sewing board

Or there is my sweet little bird key ring, my nod to Twitter. These handmade key rings make a thoughtful token gift for a friend. are also great as a gift or stocking filler.
Twitter Bird Key Ring
Twitter inspired Key Ring
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Williamson Kenyan Earth Tea Review

In the new year I received some Williamson Tea, a brand of loose tea. I know that not everyone will be familiar with the brand, but you may be familiar with the elephant branding they use for their packaging, particularly the elephant tea caddies. I have spotted these in numerous garden centres.
Williamson Tea loose tea tea bags

Not only do they sell loose tea, but also loose tea teabags. So no need for a tea strainer, or that sudden 'fiddly dee' moment when you realise you forgot to use the tea strainer as you start pouring your cup of tea.

Williamson Tea have been growing tea for 140 years in Kenyan, unlike many tea brands Williamson Tea own their own tea farms. Their tea is 'naturally grown, pesticide free teas straight from their bushes to your cup'. Thus creating a reduced carbon footprint on the plant.
Williamson Tea loose tea tea bags
Williamson Loose Tea Teabags work a treat
I tasted the Kenyan Earth Tea, Pink Love Elephant Tea Caddie containing 20 loose tea teabags. It was a lightly fragrance tea, very similar to breakfast tea but not quite so strong. This being loose tea, it is important to allow the tea bag to brew. I brewed mine in a teapot longer than you would an average blended teabag. Milk is of course optional, but I am a milk kind of girl unless its a highly fragrant tea. Of course the strength of tea varies to the individual - so enjoy it just as you like. 
A cup of tea and a slice of cake
A cup of Kenyan Earth tea, cake and a recipe book - perfect!
I adore the enamel Williamson Tea mug included in my tea parcel. I can not wait for the weather to change, so I can take my cup of tea out into the greenhouse and make a start sowing seeds.

I already have a spot in my craft room to put the empty  pink elephant caddie into  use. Not only practical for storing things but it looks beautiful too.
Loose Tea, Tea Bags from Williamson Tea 
I love… 
  • No need for a tea strainer.
  • That the elephant caddie is not just practical, tea must be stored in an airtight container but delightfully pretty too. I can certainly see people collecting the different designs.
Could do better…
  • There is no indication on the product packaging or on the website indicating if the teabags are compostable. Having made enquiries all became clear. "We were advised that the material used to make biodegradable Loose Leaf Teabags requires more energy, chemicals and inputs to produce than the nylon teabags and as such is worse for the environment. We therefore opted for less chemicals and carbon emissions so are using nylon loose leaf teabags." As a gardener and someone who shares Williamson Tea's concerns for the environment I would love to see this information readily available on their website.
Perfect for…
  • all tea lovers. Also a great way of introducing someone to loose tea, without the need for a tea strainer.  
  • Additional convenience - ideal for work or travel. If you enjoy a good quality cup of tea but do not have a teapot or tea strainer to hand these teabags are perfect.
The important stuff…
  • Williamson Tea is available from some garden centres, Waitrose, Amazon and online from Williamson Tea. The Elephant Kenyan Earth tea caddie costs include RRP £12.99

Elephant Caddie Williamson Tea

Disclosure - I received a sample of Williamson Tea for the purposes of this review.
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Five on Friday

Now that I am a lady of leisure I find that the weeks are flying by and sometimes I wonder what I did with my time. So for the first time I thought I would join in with Five on Friday a way of capturing five things that have happened to me during the week.
Blog Logo Badge Design Fiverr
Blog Badge Design
Following on from my blog revamp last month, I have had a blog badge/logo created, which is already in use on my Facebook page. I am currently debating whether to replace the photo of me (on the right of your screen, just there do you see me) with this lovely logo. I will then move my photo onto the About Me page, which seems more appropriate.  I should say they I do not have the skill to create this little beauty myself, I used a website called Fiverr. Where you can commission work from creative people from all of the world, starting from £5, although mine cost me £25 from a lady in Canada. 

Narcissus Bulbs in bloom
Narcissus Bulbs
A good friend brought me a vase and pebble set complete with some Narcissus bulbs for a Christmas present. The bulbs were already sprouting green when I opened them. By Boxing Day they were in the vase with water, and few weeks later 2 of the bulbs put out roots but the other 2,  nothing. Six weeks since Christmas and one of the bulbs is exceptionally tall and in flower, with a delightful scent. The second bulb is exceptionally short and just starting to bud, quite bizarre but equally beautiful. 

Knitting work in progress
I am currently wrestling with my latest knitting project, a scarf, which is proving a little tricky. I am too embarrassed to include a photograph, as I had to unpick around two evenings worth of knitting. I think I had become distracted by the tv, and repeated a row twice. It has lots of taking the yarn forward and slipping stitches, so when unpicking the knitting  you soon lose where the yarn forwards are. The only solution was to strip it back and start again. Never mind, I can only improve my knitting from learning from my mistakes.

TV Fire
Some of you may already know that I am a conservation volunteer at the National Trust property 'Sunnycroft'. Today the Thursday volunteers went out for lunch to a local pub hotel. In the bar and restaurant area they had some lovely warming fires. Well that's what you first think, but once you approach them you soon realise they are television screens! But don't they look realistic, they even had the crackle sound a fire makes. Very convincing indeed.

Opera La Traviata
I'm typing this having returned home from watching my first ever opera. La Traviata performed live at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden but broadcast live to thousands of cinemas around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the singing as you would expect was excellent and the costumes exquisite. Sang in Italian but with subtitles allowing viewers to truly understand the story. When the performance breaks for intervals, those of us watching at the cinema get to enjoy behind the scenes interviews, as well as a chance to get that all important ice cream. One of the huge draws to watching this at the cinema, it only took me 10 minutes to get home. My nearest main theatre is at Birmingham and it would of taken me that long just to make it out of the theatre.

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How to Run an Instagram Photo Challenge

Instagram has become my favourite Social Media site for sharing and engaging with people. Photographs are an instant method of communicating without the need of words. I love taking and sharing my photos, this inspired me to Run an Instagram Photo Challenge in December.

I learnt a lot from creating and running my own photo challenge, and Instagram users from all over the globe joined in. As a result I thought I would share my tips on how to create and run your own successful Instagram Photo Challenge. You will find me on Instagram as Garden Tea Cakes and Me.

1.  Consider the purpose of your photo challenge
Is there a specific theme e.g. Summer, or maybe a colour.  I chose to run my photo challenge in December capturing a Christmas/Winter/Holiday theme. Or maybe you want to run it for a specific interest group e.g. knitters, sports, beauty bloggers, gardeners.

2. Give your challenge a name and hashtag. 
This will allow everyone to easily find photos in the challenge. I called my photo challenge 25 Festive Days.  Search Instagram for your chosen hashtag to ensure it is not already in use, I used #25FestiveDays.

3. Decide how many days you want to run the Photo challenge
Two Weeks, 20 Days or a month.  I ran #25FestiveDays for 25 Days starting 1 Dec running up to Christmas Day.  You may find it easier to run a short challenge the first time.

4. Create a Photo Challenge photograph which lists each days theme. It should include:- Who you are, your Instagram name, when the photo challenge starts, name of the Photo Challenge and hashtag required to accompany each photo. List each days theme. Do not make this too fussy in needs to be easy to read. Those joining in with the photo challenge will have this photo saved on their phone so they can easily check on the theme for each day. I used Pic Monkey to create my #25FestiveDays photo challenge list.
Photo Challenge Daily Theme
5. Allow yourself time to engage with people joining in with the challenge. 
This should not be underestimated, people from all over the globe join in with #25FestiveDays. So whilst my Day 1 challenge in the UK started at midnight, I already had photographs posted in Australia, and as my day was ending I had photos being posted in the US. I made every effort to heart and comment on those on Instagram who had joined in.

6. Is your photo challenge fun, serious, social or business related. 
A serious Photo Challenge should encourage people to interpret the theme of each day as creative as possible. If you do not want people to use stock photographs within the challenge you should specify this. For a social or fun photo challenge try and encourage people to search and visit other users photos using your photo challenge hashtag. 

7. Spread the word. 
Share the launch of your Photo Challenge, firstly on your Instagram account, and other Social Media accounts.  Posting on your website or blog are great ways to share the news, including a link to your Instagram account. Here is a link to my photo challenge launch blog post.  Ask people to post your Photo Challenge photo listing the theme for each day on their Instagram feed, this will soon help spread the word.

8. Consider sharing hosting and co-ordinating the photo challenge with a friend. 
This will help to both spread the word of the Photo Challenge and also help with the engagement on photographs of those joining in.

9. Share your favourite photos of the challenge on your Instagram feed. 
This may be a favourite photo of the week, or the whole challenge. I created a blog post at the end of my #25FestiveDays photo challenge, capturing my favourite photos that used the hashtag.

10. Ensure accounts are set to Public.
If people have their Instagram accounts set to Private no one will see their photos, this sounds obvious but worth reminding people. You should also mention if you are going to share photos outside of Instagram, as I did on my blog roundup. 
Most of all enjoy creating and hosting your first Instagram Photo Challenge. I met so many creative and wonderful new people on Instagram by hosting my first Photo Challenge. If this sounds all too daunting, then keep it small scale and create one just for your friends or family or local group.
How to Tutorial run create instagram monthly photo challenge

Joining in with a Instagram Photo Challenge. If you are looking to just join in with a photo challenge on Instagram and rather not run your own, try searching the following hashtags: #PhotoChallenge also add the month or year to the end e.g. #PhotoChallengeApril or try #PhotoADay

I would love to know if my tips have inspired you to create your own Instagram Photo Challenge, leave me a message below and I will help you spread the word. 

If you have a question that I have not covered above, leave me a comment below and I will do my best to help.

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