Featured post: Renovating or Updating a Room on a Budget

Most of us invest a fair amount of time and money into our homes. We decorate fairly regularly. But, in most homes, there is one room that is often neglected, the spare room. This is a big shame because there is a lot you can get out of putting that space to use. For example, you could rent it out; use it as an office, set up a snug, gym, game room or playroom in it.

If you fancy doing that, but are short on cash, read on. Below I explain how to get things looking good again without having to buy expensive decorating materials or calling in the professionals.

Sort out the floors

If your skirting boards are all dinged, there is no need to spend a day rubbing them down, filling and painting them. Just buy some new Torus skirting board. This style blends in almost regardless of your tastes in room decor. If you buy the pre-primed kind you will save yourself a lot of money. It does not take long to install and there is certainly no need to hire a carpenter.

If the floor covering needs replacing too, opt for laminate flooring or vinyl. Provided the room is not going to be heavily used you can get away with buying the cheaper kinds of laminate flooring.

Sprucing up the walls

There is no need to use wallpaper. Painted walls are a lot cheaper and easier to maintain. Plus, they are far easier to change up when you want to create a new look.

All you need to do is to put up some new photos, decals or wall hangings. Wall stickers are great too. They cost a bit, but they give the room a fresh, clean look and take about 40 minutes to put up. Just be sure to buy the type that can easily be peeled off and replaced when you want to change things again.

Sorting out the lighting

Provided you stick with the fixtures you already own, you do not have to spend a lot of time and money on lighting. Maybe, just put in a brighter bulb or one that can be dimmed. However, it is worth updating the shades and fixtures every now and again. It is surprising how dated old lighting fixtures make a room look.

Upgrade the storage

A tidy room looks better and you will get more use out of it. So, take the time to clean out the junk and upgrade the storage if you need to. Lidded plastic storage bins are a great way to make the best use of the entire cube of a cupboard. You will be surprised by how much extra stuff you can fit in when you use them.

Redress the windows

If you already have curtains consider making new tiebacks or edging each curtain with a strip of new material to bring them up to date. Potentially, the same can be done with blinds. Should you not be able to get away with this approach, consider making new curtains or blinds yourself. It is surprisingly easy to do. There are plenty of YouTube videos that show you, in detail, how to get the job done.

Featured Post: Some simple tips to help you tackle rising living costs

on the beach
A rare moment of summer sunshine

I don’t know about you, but in the past couple of years everything has started seeming more expensive. I’ve not been spending extravagantly or anything, just maintaining what we’ve been doing. However, I think the reason behind it is that everything really is more expensive! Last year our weekly shopping was somewhere in the region of £100, before you think that’s a lot, there are 5 of us in our household including three growing children. Nowadays the weekly shopping is usually around £200.

 

I know that we are not the only household in this situation, a straw poll at work tells me that nearly everyone is feeling the pinch and it’s difficult to know and to recognise when to put the brakes on your spending. It’s also quite hard to accept that you need to tackle the situation heads on, who wants to feel worse off!

Christmas is just three weeks away and if your household is anything like ours you’ll be entering the red very shortly. I think we spend at least another additional £500 this time of year which I never seem to manage to plan for.

In the spirit of this, and because quite frankly we need to reign our spending in a bit here, I’ve come up with a few practical tips to help you reduce your day to day costs. These are all things we’ve done here (with the exception of the final one) and they seem to be making a bit of a difference.

Shop around for Energy

Revisit your energy suppliers and use a price comparison site to check you’re still getting the best deal. If not, swop! One year we saved nearly £300 doing this.

Shop around for Insurance

Car insurance, buildings and contents for your house and life insurance all add up. Make sure you use a compassion site to get the best deal for this, also you’ll find that you can get some great deals by using the same company in combined policies, for example if you use the same insurance company for two cars you’ll save nearly a third.

Change supermarkets

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with regular trips to the same supermarket. However, I have found that if I shop around a little then I do tend to save money. I’ve noticed that some supermarkets are considerably  and consistently cheaper than others for a variety of things so stock up on pasta in one supermarket and crisps in another and you’ll soon find you make savings.

Use the Library!

One of the most easy and passive ways I’ve found to save money is to use the library digital magazine apps. With your library card you’ll find that you can access a range of free magazines online and they are delivered in exactly the same way as if you’d take out a subscription. No compromise here, just money saving!

Maximise the potential of your house

Some of my friends live close to  the train station and they don’t use their driveway so they rent it out. Others allow television companies to use their houses as location shoots. We’ve not managed to do this yet, but I think with a bit of effort it might be worth considering.

There are lots of other things you can do which can help you maximise your current income and generate some passive income which will all help. If you’d like some other ideas have a look at this website.

Review: Beast Quest Trail at Hampton Court Palace

Beast QuestThis half term we were thrilled to be invited to trial the new Beast Quest family trail, based on the books and specially created for this half term at Hampton Court Palace. We enjoy going to the palace and it never fails us for a great day out! Sadly last minute illness left us enable to go so we deployed our friends to try out the trail for us:

I’ve never ventured to Hampton Court Palace with children before, I’ve always thought of it as a lovely day out for adults, but maybe not so appealing for kids. This half term however, an evil wizard called Malvel has unleashed a host of beasts loose around the palace, and some brave beast questers are needed to save the day. I know just the people for the job!

The price of the quest is included in the general admission ticket, and will take you about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete. Once you pass through the main entrance and enter the base court, you will spot an interesting character in a bright blue robe enlisting new questers. The children were given a codex each, showing where we will go on a map, and lift up flaps to open when charms were uncovered, plus a magic spell to uncode to defeat the evil wizard. The Beast Quest is led by energetic and enthusiastic role players, and imagination is the key here. The actors are aided by nothing more than a few screen projections and the odd prop, and I am sure my children felt like they had encountered a host of beats within the palace.

The quest is aimed at 7-12 year olds, but all are welcome. We had a four year old with us who was engaged throughout the whole experience. Things got a little bit hairy in the Tudor wine cellar where we encountered the dragon, as it was a little bit dark and noisy, but a quick retreat to the doorway was all that was needed.

I found the whole experience charming. The children were engaged and involved for the whole duration of the quest, while the adults got to see a lot of the palace without any complaints from little ones.

Also included in the general admission price is admission to the magic garden. This is a high quality play area including climbing equipment, slides, water fountains, a sand play area, plus an outdoor coffee shop. We saved this bit for last which worked well as the kids didn’t want to leave. Busy periods will limit time spent here to 90 minutes.

Beast Quest is running throughout the day until 28th October 2018 and can be completed at your own pace you can find out more here.

Disclosure: We were given free tickets in exchange for this review, it has not influenced the review in any way!

Book Review- Supertato: Veggies in the Valley of Doom by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet

We all absolutely love Supertato he always has the best adventures with his friends the veggies. In this adventure a game of hide and seek turns into a rather epic treasure hunt. There is a great twist in the tale where they have to enlist the help of evil pea which my six year old really enjoyed and as usual its full of bright colourful scenes born from the genius minds of Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet. We loved the Cactus canyon in particular!

Supertato is a really popular picture book character and has even been a World Book Day read. These are just fabulous books for pre-schoolers and KS1. The artwork keeps their attention, the narrative is great for this age group being easily understandable, funny enough to keep attention and also simple enough to emulate in early writing exercises.

You can find out more herewww.facebook.com/supertatoandfriends 

We give it ten out of ten!

Check out this trailer:

Vintage 1940’s Weekend at Bletchley Park

I’m really ashamed to say that despite being a museum professional and living within 30 minutes or so of Bletchley Park we hadn’t actually been until today. I think its possibly because we tend to have a bit of ‘museum fatigue/ indifference’ about places nearby as they seem so reachable that we just don’t make the effort to go as a family. SHAME ON US! Bletchley Park is completely awesome, it is so worth a visit that we are considering going back again next week.

bletchley parkWe were invited along to Bletchley for its Vintage 1940’s weekend. This happens once a year and the site fills up with 1940’s re-enactors (and geeks). There was the chance to shop vintage fashions and bric a brac, learn how to swing dance or meet with the army! Lots of the visitors also dressed up which added to the atmosphere. It really gave an excellent flavour of life at the time.

Getting our National Identity Cards

For those of you who don’t know, Bletchley Park is the home of the WWII Code breakers, Alan Turing being the most famous, it was where the Enigma machine code was deciphered and a top secret place employing the brightest and best. You can tour the buildings where the codes were broken (absolutely pivotal to the allied success in WWII and see some of the machines. Along the way you can find out all about the spies who worked there, their stories and daily lives. There is even a James Bond exhibition.

We particularly enjoyed looking at the old cars, this one was owned by Mick Jagger who bought it when his production company was making the film Enigma at Bletchley Park.

The interpretation at Bletchley Park was great, we liked all the films which brought it all to life and there was a handy audio tour guide. As adults we enjoyed the exhibition panels, although they were a bit wordy for the kids, so make sure you take up the chance to do the trail to keep their interest. One of the really nice things about it was that there was always a guide on hand to answer questions or provide a bit of added detail. Particular hats off to the man staffing the National Radio Centre who did a fantastic job engaging the children so that we could have a look at the displays in peace.

We enjoyed lunch in the cafe which had plenty of seating an an excellent view of the children’s playground which enabled us to enjoy a peaceful cup of tea! It did get busy but there were plenty of spare tables which is virtually unique and I think related to the variety of places to buy food. It should also be said that there are plenty of toilets which are essential when out and about with kids.

The Potters Bar Zeppellin

Sometimes days out with children can be stressful particularly on busy Bank Holiday weekends, however Bletchley provided the perfect day out for us. There was plenty of parking, toilets, food options, loads to see and do, it didn’t feel too crowded (although there were clearly loads of visitors) and we all learnt something new. There was something really thrilling about standing in the places which had such a powerful impact on the war and without which if the war had taken a different direction, when you think about it, our family might not even exist.

If you’d like to visit you’ll find out all the information you need here: https://bletchleypark.org.uk/

Bletchley Park are holding the worlds largest swing dance lesson on June 23rd 2018 and attempting to break a Guinness World record. It should be jolly good fun, maybe we’ll see you there?