A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

A Residence Blog

Travel and adventure taking, memory and home making, parenting and play shaking, never faking, tales of family life.

Why Dad was right about Chelsea Flower Show

Have you been following the Chelsea Flower Show coverage? I really enjoyed watching it for the first time while visiting my Dad this week.

Dad said it is a great way to gather garden inspirations. He also joked that it gets very busy, so he would rather do this via television. I would love to go along one year, because the camera pans round faster than my eye, and I would also like to smell these fantastic creations, especially the first of my picks.

Here are my top three favourites, do let me know what you think, and which ones you liked best.


A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by L’Occitane



I immediately loved the way this was described, an old and forgotten, Provence perfume plantation rescued, the plants allowed to overgrow and then teased into this majestic scene. It sounds a lot like my garden, which constantly verges between the overgrown and beautifully wild and naturalistic. The idea here is that overgrown and forgotten perfume plantations in Grasse are being regenerated thanks to ecologically sensitive companies like L’Occatine.

I loved the way the garden has a shelter or ‘lavoir’ at the end, the idea was to represent the traditional way Provençal women, the ‘occitan’, would gather in lavoirs to wash their clothes and then leave it to hang and dry on the rosemary or lavender bushes to scent them. Sounds heavenly. Our rosemary bush is so vast and overgrown, the washing often catches on it, but now I have a use for it!

Designed by James Basson. Built by Peter Dowle. Sponsored by L’Occitane.


The Time In Between by Husqvarna and Gardena




This immediately resonated, Charlie Albone designed this garden as a space to tell his late father about his life. The presenter felt the path was too wide, but I love that Charlie designed it to be wide enough for a family to walk through side by side. I loved the shapes and the gestures and the aliums especially made me smile. The rich and multi layered planting just feels like the patchwork of life to me.

The water feature was incredibly emotive, a giant brick layer basin which filled in 8 minutes and emptied in seconds, a poignant reminder of how time plays tricks with us and the ways emotions effect us.

Designed by Charlie Albone. Built by Conway Landscaping. Sponsored by Husqvarna & Gardena.


The M&G Garden



There was much debate about whether this should have been gold, in my (humble and untechnical) book I think it should absolutely have a gold medal. It was the literary connections, the calmness of the water, the soft edges and the idea of a secluded garden retreat that really appealed.

The garden features ‘a two-storey oak-framed building inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s writing room at Sissinghurst, a large natural swimming pond edged with water loving plants, a woodland of river birches, acacias and acers, and a garden with tumbling roses and peonies.’

I came close to visiting Sissinghurst in February, now I think I missed a trick, although it wouldn’t have been at it’s best in Winter. I think you could really find peace in a garden like this, don’t you?

Designed by Jo Thompson. Built by S H Landscapes. Sponsored by M&G.


Watching the coverage of Chelsea Flower Show really helped me to see what my tastes are, and what plants and garden schemes speak most to me. It was great fun debating who got which medal and why. It also made me see how far reaching inspirations for gardens can be and…who knew gardening was so emotional? Excuse me, I have something in my eye.

Did you have a favourite this year? Even better, I would love to hear about your top three!  If you want to have a look round all the gardens are here.


Photo Credits – Royal Horticultural Society

Why 8 year old bedroom makeovers need to break the rules

She wanted to keep the butterflies, she wanted more blue, and a Tardis, and owls and a splash of Wonder Woman. She wanted that stupid cupboard and shelves to not be green and pink flowers anymore…it was making my brain ache trying to pull it all together.

8 year old girls bedroom - 11

At the same time, I didn’t want to inflict my ideas on her or over style her space. I think it is really important to design kids rooms alongside them, to reflect their tastes and interests, even when all you want is for them to be tidy. We shopped together, planned together and painted together. Now she has space to play her guitar, make up songs, draw at her desk, read, dream and play.

Painting a Tardis Wardrobe


There are colour and style clashes, but there are also lots of consistencies, themes she loves and storage solutions that work.

She inherited the wallpaper on the chimney breast, as this used to be our bedroom. The walls were white, but we used Dulux Niagara Blues 4 (seen above) behind the wardrobe and on the facing wall,  with Dulux Mineral Haze 4 on the other two walls. We used endurance paint so it can be easily wiped clean.

Mineral Haze 4 is a greyish white, which really complements Niagara Blues 4. You get a sense of that here, the wall is Mineral Haze, and the wave shelf below is Niagara Blues (It was pink). The Dr Who poster, from WayfairUK, ties in brilliantly with the Tardis Wardrobe, which I will show you shortly!


8 year old girls bedroom - 04


The wave shaped shelves, which had been long forgotten in a cupboard, are perfect for small trinkets, which we had a little sort through.

We repainted the shabby chic dresser, which was an ebay purchase for her 6th birthday, using the same paint as for as the walls. We looked for planet knobs (they had flowers on) to match the Dr Who theme, but in the end we decided it was easier and cheaper to just spray paint them gold. You can see her desk area on the facing wall reflected in the mirror.


8 year old girls bedroom - 01


We had so much fun with the Tardis wardrobe, which you can see here and read about in my post about how to make one yourself.


How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe

How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe


She has had this solar system mobile for a while, I think it looks great against the Tardis. We kept above the picture rail white, which I think works best for high ceilings and small people.


8 year old girls bedroom - 12


We also repainted this chest, which she had outgrown. If you use Zinsser first, you can then use any paint over the top, we had plenty left from the walls so it was a great way to use it up and make the room match. Bye bye babyish cupboard!


green kids cupboard


So now the chest co-ordinates with the black desk she chose. It is also blackboard paint, so if she wants to she can chalk on it. And we repainted the other pink wave shelf with Zinsser followed by Mineral Haze 4, to co-ordinate with the Niagara Blues 4 on the wall.


8 year old girls bedroom - 03


We managed to introduce a bit of an owl theme, this blue owl lamp from WayfairUK was the perfect thing to sit on her dressing table which also doubles up as her bedside table. I couldn’t believe how perfect it was when i spotted it and it is reasonably priced. She loved it instantly too. It is available in dusky pink too.


8 year old girls bedroom - 08


The old toy box belonged to my brother and I, and bizarrely,  it was already painted exactly the same shade as the walls. The owl bag we bought in a gift shop on holiday, and it is perfect for storing teddies.


8 year old girls bedroom - 06


Another little trick that made a big difference to the room was this broderie anglaise valance from WayfairUK, it hides the ugly divan base and drawers under her bed. The bed base was from free cycle, we just added a new mattress. I know I could have ironed it before I put it on the bed, but shhhh sorry,  I don’t iron.


8 year old girls bedroom - 10


Thanks to Dulux for supplying the paint, and to WayfairUK for some of the items featured. Others we bought ourselves, I now know why most Wayfair staff shop at Wayfair, it is addictive.

Enough of 8 year old bedroom makeovers for now, maybe next time we will venture in here, my youngest’s room…you have been warned!


Superhero Boys Room - 1


This is part of my New Home Resolutions for 2015, see more makeover projects here.

2 super fast and super easy veggie burger recipes

It was a bit of a revelation, after 27 years of being vegetarian, to discover how easy home made vegetarian burgers are to make yourself. And with shop bought ones being, well a bit variable and with more meat eaters looking for healthy alternatives, these two easy veggie burger recipes are great to dig into.


My husband is a meat eater and loved them, my 8 year old loved them, I loved them, my 6 year fussy son couldn’t be convinced to try them, but then pleasing 3 out of 4 is pretty standard round here.


Chickpea and Coriander Burgers



I found this recipe in an old veggie student cook book. I guess these are a bit like a falafel burger. They certainly go really well with hummus, green salad and a side of sweet potato wedges.

This is a food processor job, I bought a nutri bullet a while back because we don’t have much surface space in our kitchen, and every week I find another clever use for it.

Ingredients a tin of drained chick peas, a bunch of fresh coriander, a red onion (I ran out – white is ok, but red will be sweeter), a tsp of ground cumin, a pinch of chilli, an egg, juice of half a lemon, a whole lemon’s zest, 2 slices of wholemeal bread made into crumbs, salt and pepper.




First make the breadcrumbs and stick them in a bowl for later. Then stick everything but the onion and breadcrumbs in the processor.




Whizz it up!




Mix in 3/4 of the breadcrumbs and the chopped red onion. Form into four patties, either by hand, or I love using my burger press. I put a layer of cling film in the press to make it really easy to get the burger out – but really the press does all that for you. Dip each burger in the left over breadcrumbs.




Fry in oil and serve with hummus and salad and sweet potato wedges. I didn’t need a bun, in fact I think the bun actually detracts from the tastiness and texture of the meal, maybe a wholemeal pitta packed with hummus and salad instead, and some avocado and salsa?

Lovely smile, shame he wouldn’t test them, but hey, one day I will win him over and the rest of the family loved these.




Sweet Potato Wedges

To make the wedges, just cut up the wedges, drizzle in oil, I use rape seed oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, give it a good shake to coat and bake at Gas 7 for 320 minutes, turning over half way through.


Sweet potato and black bean burger



A friend gave me this recipe, but this is originally from the Minimalist Baker, so you can go there for the recipe – you can use Quinoa or Brown Rice, I am not the biggest fan of Quinoa, but I quite liked the bite it gave to these. I think next time I will go for rice though. The spices aren’t enough for me though, so I added a pinch of chilli and 1 tsp cumin, plus you need to know that chipotle powder is smoked paprika.

You can bake these burgers, rather than frying them, so they are extra healthy. I like to have a sweet potato when the rest of the family have jacket potatoes, so if you bake a couple extra, the next night you can use the leftovers in veggie burgers.

Can’t quite believe how much fun I had with the burger press too, the best invention, WayfairUK have a choice of burger presses, the mini ones are great for kids or smaller bites too!


home made veggie burgers


So those are my favourite easy veggie burger recipes, but I am on a roll now, so what I want to know is – do you have any good veggie burger recipes you have tried?

Giveaway: How to Chop Vegetables Like a Pro!

How to chop like a pro

Can you chop quickly? Many years ago, when I worked in a restaurant kitchen for pocket money, the chefs there taught me how to chop vegetables like a pro and it has to be one of the best tricks to learn. It is a rocking and rolling motion that comes easily with practice, but it does help to watch someone else do it. This video covers in neatly, and of course the all important claw you need to make with your other hand to keep your fingers safe!

Many chef’s argue that all you need is one well sharpened chef’s knife like the green one above, but here Chef Bernard Guillas seems to have some kind of machete! But check out his technique…



Leisure jobs know all about recruiting top chefs, so we’ve teamed up today with a great prize for budding chefs, or anyone who wants to make another leap in the kitchen. Leisure Jobs have supplied a 90 minute Cooking Class at L’atelier des Chefs with Wine for Two and Wayfair UK a set of knives and chopping board, so you can continue the great work when you get home.


The Prizes

90 minute Cooking Class at L’atelier des Chefs with wine


L'atelier des Chefs


Thanks to Leisure Jobs you can have fun with a friend or partner while learning new culinary skills in this 90 minute Cooking Class at L’atelier des Chefs. The two of you will choose from a range of different lessons for this hands-on session which will teach you how to prepare a three-course meal inspired by a classic cuisine from around the world such as France, Asia or even Britain, with guidance of a fully trained chef.

Situated in two locations in central London, this cookery school’s contemporary kitchens boast an impressive selection of utensils and equipment for you to use. You’ll both be provided with everything you need to make the dishes including all the fresh, seasonal ingredients required, and after each of you has prepared your three courses, you’ll be invited to enjoy them with half a bottle of complimentary wine in the stylish dining room. As part of this extraordinary experience, you’ll also both receive a fabulous L’atelier des Chefs apron to take away with you – the perfect souvenir to use when recreating your marvellous dishes for family and friends.


L'atelier des Chefs



What’s Included?

  • A 90 minute cookery lesson
  • A half bottle of wine each to enjoy with your food
  • A L’atelier des Chefs apron each to take away with you
  • An email containing all the recipes you learnt
  • Experience gift pack including personalised voucher and message card
  • Cancellation indemnity


What happens on the day?

On arrival at your chosen class, you will meet your fellow students and be introduced to your chef. You will then both be handed an apron and the class will begin. Throughout your 90 minute lesson, you will be guided through each step of the process, with expert tips and tricks of the trade from your professional chef along the way. Once everyone has finished creating their three-course meal, you will both make your way to the modern dining room to enjoy your food with a complimentary half bottle of wine each.


L'atelier des Chefs


At the end of your visit, you’ll receive an L’atelier des Chefs apron each to take home with you and all of the recipes used will be sent to you via email – so you can put your new skills into practice at home.


Kitchencraft Knives from WayfairUK


Thanks to Wayfair.co.uk the homestore, you can continue to chop like a pro when you get home. Certain to stand out on your kitchen surface, this funky Kitchencraft 9 piece chopping board and knife block set is a must have, kitchen essential. With 4 colour coded chopping boards for easy identification, all with their own index illustrated tabs, the boards are perfect for preparing fish, meat, vegetable or cooked food.

Featuring a range of everyday knives, including a utility knife, paring knife, bread knife, carving knife and the all important chef’s knife, all knives feature coloured superior easy grip handles for safe and secure use, with a different colour for each knife meaning you never have to waste time struggling to find the right knife! Designed to co-ordinate with a number of items in the Colourworks range, allowing you to mix and match your kitchen in a striking array of colours.


To Enter

1. Simply visit the Wayfair.co.uk Kitchen department and choose one item, apart from the Kitchencraft knife set, that would make you a better chef, then let me know the product name in the comments.

2. Then simply follow the rafflecopter for additional entries and do check out our other giveaways.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Terms and Conditions

There is one prize of a 90 minute Cooking Class at L’atelier des Chefs with wine and a Kitchencraft Knife and Chopping Board Set. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Wayfair and A Residence and Crabtree, Astonish and Vorwerk.
Closing date for entries is 31/5/2015
One entry per person
Entrants must log into rafflecopter and leave a comment
Optional entry methods are to follow on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tweet on Twitter.
The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries
The winner will be informed within 14 days of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 28 days or a new winner will be chosen
The winner’s name will be available on request
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address
This is a joint promotion between Wayfair and Leisure Jobs.
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

Image credits – L’atelier des Chefs, Kitchencraft.

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/cooking-experience-two-and-knife-and-chopping-board-set#sthash.6kipmzcl.dpuf

My Home Rocks: A Grown Up Space

chimney breast painted Crown Night Fever black

The minute the blogger behind today’s My Home Rocks posted a picture on Instagram of her black feature wall, I had to ask if she would share it here. Black feature walls look amazing. I also think this makeover is like a ray of hope to anyone battling with a living room chock a block with plastic toys. We overhauled our playroom last year – which the kids had stopped using – it is so liberating to create a more grown up space once more.

Over to today’s mystery blogger, I know some of you like to play ‘through the keyhole’, so I will reveal her identity at the end!


Hi and welcome to our living room, which is also our latest decorating project:

 chimney breast painted Crown Night Fever black


This front room used to be a playroom for our children for a while, but as they are growing up now and have moved on from the large, bulky plastic trucks and play kitchen-type activities now, it is very nice to be able to reclaim the room as a grown up space!


bay window


This room is probably my favourite one in the house.  It has a large square bay window, a cosy fireplace and exposed wooden floor boards.  I like the proportions of the room, too – not too big, not too small.

Recently, I was inspired by a dark feature wall I had seen on an interior designer’s website (Karen Knox of Making Spaces).  She had used a paint by Crown called ‘Night Fever’ to great effect and I was really keen to try the look in our front room.  I would never before have thought of such a dark paint colour, but I thought our room could take it, because of our large bay window there is lots of natural light and the fact that our fireplace on that wall already had a black marble background, it shouldn’t clash with anything.  Also by keeping the rest of the walls light, it wouldn’t feel gloomy, but instead make a striking feature.

Nevertheless, I was nervous about putting black paint on the wall and especially about not getting a crisp line at the edges!  So I was very careful about using masking tape.  I used the green Frog tape you can buy at DIY stores which is supposed to be very reliable and I’m glad I did as it gave a nice clean paint line at the corners.


Painting a wall black - I used the green Frog tape you can buy at DIY stores which is supposed to be very reliable and I’m glad I did as it gave a nice clean paint line at the corners.


I was a bit tired of our chrome light fittings, so simply spray painted them copper for a different look. This was a quick and easy, as well as inexpensive option.

The rug is a new addition; it is a Louis De Poortere ‘Fading World’ rug which gives a lovely vintage look.

a Louis De Poortere ‘Fading World’ rug which gives a lovely vintage look.

Some bronze and gold accessories, such as candle holders, add a further warm metallic touch.

bronze and gold accessories, such as candle holders, add a further warm metallic touch


The room is still a work in progress, I’m deciding on a new pendant light for the centre of the room and would like to add some new artwork and cushions – the beautiful vibrant butterfly one is a new addition to the room (I noticed Wayfair stock this Curio Butterfly Cushion and other Graham & Brown products).


vibrant butterfly cushion from Graham & Brown at Wayfair UK


The tallboy cupboard belonged to my husband’s grandmother and it is probably from the 1930s or 40s and complements the original features in this room, for example the 1930s handles on our doors.


1930s tallboy cupboard and black walls

1930s black door handle


We’ve got a couple of old chests in the room which are great for storage and act as a coffee table and a place to stand decorative candles.  I love candles and they – like the colour palette – help to define the room as a grown up space.




You need to know more about the person who lives here right? This is a beautiful room and I love the way this grown up space has come together. It might use moody and dark black, but feels so welcoming, grown up and has drama which I love.

The owner of this gorgeous home, is Antonia Ludden who lives with her husband and three sons in Sale, Cheshire. You can find more of Antonia’s stunning interiors and ideas at Tidy Away Today and do follow her on Instagram & Twitter.


Get Antonia’s Stunning Look at Wayfair


My Home Rocks - A Grown Up Space


Dar Lighting Pineapple Table LampFirefly-Moroccan-Cutout-Metal-LanternHomestead-Living-Martel-ArmchairGraham-and-Brown-Curio-Butterfly-CushionHome-Essence-Sincerity-Vintage-Black-Tufted-Rug

Would you paint a wall black? What inspired YOU about today’s home? Please share in the comments or join the conversations #myhomerocks @pennyalexander_ @WayfairUK @tidyawaytoday

To be featured on #myhomerocks, please contact me using the email/social icons at the top of the left sidebar.

My Home Rocks at A Residence


Real Bread Challenge – Breadmaker vs Handmade bread


Wow Mummy… what is that incredible smell coming from the kitchen?

Mum, don’t you dare try and stop me, I need to eat that bread now!

Can I take it to school for sandwiches and tell everyone my Mummy made it?

I am married to you, I am a very lucky man.

I love this bread almost as much as I love you.


How to make real bread - by hand versus the bread maker


The point of making ‘real bread’ wasn’t to get my family to love me more, it was to experiment with which method, breadmaker vs handmade bread was best, but I unintentionally hit on the most wonderful flurry of compliments. I think making bread for your nearest and dearest has to be up there with the most magical things you can do for people.

It took me back to the wholemeal loaves my Mum made when we were kids. Dense wholemeal bricks, but just incredible with a little bit of honey on them.  They were heaven to come home to after a long day at school. Nowadays we don’t always have time to stop and enjoy making bread, even my Mum had to resort to loaves from the bakers when she went back to work full time.

Sustain’s Real Bread campaign this week, is all about encouraging people to find time to reengage with real bread. Real bread can be made in the bread maker or by hand, it is simply bread without additives, or chemical preservatives. So many people have found health benefits from real bread, and avoiding the processes and the added ingredients in mass produced loaves.


Breadmaker vs Handmade bread

So I decided to make two loaves, one by hand and one by bread maker. I used the same ingredients. For the bread maker I used the manual for the method and for the handmade I used a Jamie Oliver method.


How to make real bread bread maker vs by hand


I started with the homemade loaf. You make a well in the flour, add half the water.


How to make real bread - 03


Then add the yeast, sugar and salt to the well.


How to make real bread - 04


And stir it with a fork until it looks like porridge.


How to make real bread - 05


Then add the rest of the water, and start to bring in the water from the side of the well until it is all mixed.


How to make real bread - 08


Then the fun bit, squash it into a dough. And in Jaime’s words, smack, slap, knead and roll it for five minutes.

Cover it in cling film and leave it in a warm, draught free place for half an hour. Mum always put it in the airing cupboard, but we don’t have one. Yesterday my office windowsill was getting all the sun.


How to make real bread - 09


Meanwhile, to test the bread maker method, I put all the ingredients  in the bread maker pan, in the order specified in my manual.


How to make real bread - 10


I put it on a wheat medium cycle which takes 4 hours and 44 minutes. At this point I wondered which loaf would be done first, but more on that later.


How to make real bread - 11


There was a little more washing up for the handmade version, but only really the chopping board I used to  knead on, and the big mixing bowl. I was definitely feeling more attached to my handmade loaf already.


How to make real bread - 12


Breadmaking is the kind of thing that can fit really well round a day at home or working from home. The first rise takes half an hour, and knowing I had my bread to pound made my emails go faster.

After the first rise, you need to knock the air out of the loaf and shape it into whatever form you want – I went for a loaf shape in a greased loaf tin –  and left it to rise for another hour. This time I cracked on with writing a blog post while my loaf sat next to me. Knowing I had my bread to sort in an hour gave me a bit more momentum.

Real Bread - might win me wife of the year, not yet an outstanding contribution to bread making

Real Bread proving on my office windowsill next to some awards – this loaf might win me Wife of the Year again, not quite an outstanding contribution to bread making just yet….


After an hour on the windowsill it should double, but I am not sure 100% wholemeal bread ever quite reaches those dizzy heights. It had definitely risen out of the tin though.

I put it in the oven for 30 minutes at Gas 4. Then left it to cool and went to get the kids from school. The Breadmaker still had 2 hours to go. So for a fast loaf, hand made is the answer.


Breadmaker vs Handmade bread – The verdict

On the left is the handmade, the right the bread maker.

How to make real bread - 13

We couldn’t taste a difference, they were really similar, but there were other differences. The bread maker loaf shape wasn’t quite as attractive and the crust was harder, although I might go for ‘wheat light’ next time, whereas perhaps my hand made loaf could have done with little longer in the oven to crust.

I think the handmade bread had a softer, smoother texture, but there wasn’t a lot in it.

So in conclusion, if you are keen to eat real bread, just go with whatever suits your lifestyle or mix and match – I don’t think there is a huge difference in taste. But I do feel lots more love for my little home made loaf and I would like to try and build more handmade bread making around my life, but a bread maker is great when I am not at home much.

Although, to really be able to take the kind of compliments like the ones above to heart, I think you have to go down the homemade route.

I’ve summarised some my findings below, this takes me right back to Science lessons at school, I’ll leave out evaluating my methods however!


Breadmaker vs Handmade bread


Benefits of handmade

More control over the process and understanding – you can check things are working as they should.

Sounds silly, but I definitely bonded more with that loaf!

Quicker from start to finish.

Great stress relief – fits well round other home based activities

Satisfaction is higher

The loaf looked slightly neater


Benefits of a bread maker

No need to be around to check on things, just leave it to work

Quick to prep – takes just 10mins to prepare, hand made needs about 20-25 minutes of your time

Less washing up

Can set the bread maker to work overnight using a delay, so you wake to fresh bread.

It might be a machine, but it is still ‘real bread’.


Top tip

Keep all your bread making ingredients together in a box or basket you can bring to the table or work surface ready to make bread. Much quicker this way!


Wayfair have a range of bread makers, including gluten free bread makers, and kitchen ware.

I used Jaime’s recipe from Happy Days with the Naked Chef.

Spring Cleaning Secrets Giveaway

Spring Cleaning - 1

Windy Washing Day. Laundry box from Premier Housewares at Wayfair.co.uk


This weekend was spent on a spring clean. When I say clean, I really mean clear out. We’ve cleared out half a roomful of stuff we don’t need from the house, so now we can start to clean some corners that haven’t been so easy to access for a while.

I read a really interesting article about living minimally at the weekend, and I am hoping this will give us more time to spend together as a family, and less time looking for stuff. We’re not huge or problem hoarders, but we’re lucky to have spare rooms where stuff gets put and forgotten, we’re busy, and like any family, we find kids outgrow stuff so quickly.

I work from home, I can’t stand the place being crowded. Little things make a big difference. An example, it sounds silly, but I am much preferring looking at this new laundry tin on the window sill, instead of a big box of powder. Clean windows from the inside make a big difference too of course.

I hate washing, some days I curse each family members socks, but now spring is here I am beginning to see it in a new way. Little things make chores more enjoyable, (like taking photos rather than doing the chores).




I won’t lie, clear outs are always an emotional process and progress seemed slow at first, but by the end of the weekend I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Clearing has moved on to cleaning… so I thought I would share some wisdoms from a weekend spent spring cleaning, and I also have four fabulous prizes if you are planning a spring clean.


Spring Cleaning Secrets


Get everyone on board

It’s miserable when you feel like no one else is helping, so find ways to make it fun and get the people you live with on board.



Crank up the stereo, dress up in silly clothes, buy a bag of Maltesters, have a Gin and Tonic while you clean, plan a few meals out, or take aways.

Spring Cleaning Secrets...



Time Out

Break it up with walks in the fresh air to remind you that you don’t need ‘stuff’ to be happy. I found this bit really key!

Spring Rape field


Occupy the troops

If you have kids reward them for a realistic time spent helping sort their rooms, with a new DVD, magazine or toy that will keep them busy while you keep going. Explain you need some time and patience and that there will be rewards for helping. For my children 6 was a turning point in being able to part with things easily, especially if they could swap a bag with something new in the charity shop, before that rotating boxes of toys helped to keep me sane.


Get your kit organised

Think like a professional and keep all the products and cloths you need in one place. I love this Kitchen Craft Housekeeping cleaning caddy one of the prizes in the giveaway, it has a lovely vintage look about it and reminds me of working in a 5 star hotel housekeeping department, where you just have to crack on and get the job done. I hate chores in my house, but little things like this can bring more joy to the job. Same with things like peg bags, or washing powder caddies.



Stock up on cleaning products, Astonish make cruelty free, vegetarian society approved ones and have a box flu, for every room in the house, to giveaway.

The Vorwerk VC100 handheld vacuum cleaner quickly and easily sucks up anything from dry mud to pet hair from tricky nooks and crannies. It is exactly what we need for our old Victorian table full of cracks. And it is much lighter than your average handheld vacuum. I also have one to giveaway today.




Start with a drawer and line it

Decluttering gurus say to start with something small. Start with the drawer in the kitchen full of nonsense, or in the bedroom, your sock drawer. Throw out the things that need to go, be ruthless, and then why not line that drawer to encourage you to keep it pleasant? I love these Summer Hill drawer liners from Crabtree and Evelyn, they smell lovely too and they are part of the giveaway.



Use containers

Having containers and baskets within cupboards helps to keep like with like, and makes cleaning up and moving condiments – or my favourite, moving breakfast things to and from the table – a breeze.

Spring Cleaning 2 - 2


Use labels

We labelled the pegs on the back of the kitchen door, and for weeks the stuff on them has stayed ordered. Amazing. You could get a proper labeller of course, but a sharpie works just as well, or sellotaped paper.

Spring Cleaning - 2

Spring Cleaning 2 - 1

labelling kids drawers


Have four bags/boxes

One for recycling, one for rubbish, one for ‘doesn’t belong in this room’, and one for charity.  It really is that simple. Or in rooms lots of people use, have a basket for each member of the family, which you can put things in for them to sort out.


Always seal the bag to the charity shop 

It’s too tempting for people to change their minds.  Even better, take it straight to the boot of your car, so it doesn’t get unpacked or clutter up another room in the house.


Use a timer

If you really can’t face it, stick a timer on and promise to keep going for 10 minutes. You’ll probably find you are happy to keep going at the end, getting started is the tough bit.


Eddingtons Magnetic Retro Timer in Sax Blu from Wayfair


Storage Solutions

People often think about storage the wrong way. 9 times out of 10, after a big clear out, you will find you have enough storage, can use what you have differently or need something very different indeed.  Sorting gives you time to think about how you really use things. The tub chair at the end of our kitchen gets used as storage not seating, and a bench with storage, or a sideboard would be much better, rather than a new shelf for cook books I no longer use to gather dust.


One room at a time

We focussed on the kid’s rooms and three big cupboards over the break, it seemed not very much for a weekend, but it does feel like we have broken the back of the biggest problem areas. Anything is possible after tackling their rooms!


Eyes on the Prize

Try and visualise what you want your home to be like and how that will make you feel. The secret of people who can clean without procrastination is that they can clearly visualise how great the end result will be and how it will improve their circumstances in their mind before they begin.



To Enter the Spring Clean Secrets Giveaway


I have a fantastic Spring Clean bundle of these four items to giveaway.

1. This vintage style blue metal cleaning caddy from Kitchen Craft at WayfairUK is the perfect place to store your Astonish products.


2. Astonish cleaning products. They are cruelty free and Vegetarian society approved and Alexander Residence tested – as you can see from the photos, they definitely work! Set includes, kitchen cleaner, window and glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, mould and mildew remover and oven cleaner.

Astonish cruelty free cleaning products

3. For fast clean ups the Vorwerk VC100 handheld vacuum cleaner quickly and easily sucks up anything from dry mud to pet hair, and the sleek, stylish design means it doesn’t have to be hidden away in the cupboard.

VC100 on wall

Made from a high quality, durable white gloss thermoformed plastic and weighing only 750g – the rough equivalent of two cans of Coke – it is optimally engineered so that the weight distribution is centered near the handle making it extremely light and easy to manoeuvre. RRP £149.00.

4. To keep your home smelling lovely, and the inside of your drawers looking pretty, some Crabtree and Evelyn Summer Hill drawer liners.


Just follow the rafflecopter instructions and check out the other giveaways too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spring Cleaning Secrets

Terms and conditions

There is one prize of a set of Astonish products, a Cleaning Caddy from WayfairUK, Crabtree and Evelyn Summer Hill Drawer Liners and a Vorwerk VC100 handheld vacuum cleaner. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Wayfair and A Residence and Crabtree, Astonish and Vorwerk.
Closing date for entries is 31/5/2015.
One entry per person.
Entrants must log into rafflecopter and leave a comment.
Optional entry methods are to follow on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tweet on Twitter.
The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
The winner will be informed within 14 days of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 28 days or a new winner will be chosen.
The winner’s name will be available on request.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Wayfair and A Residence and Crabtree, Astonish and Vorwerk.
Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder

House Fantasy: Beside the Sea – New Nautical

Georges Fish and Chip kitchen Nottingham


Who doesn’t dream of living by the sea? Once upon a time I lived on the seafront in Hove.  I can’t lie, after you’ve lived by the sea it is hard to settle. Landlocked Nottingham is far from the sea, but it was here at George’s Fish and Chip Kitchen that I found today’s seaside house fantasy. I know, it has been far too long since my last house fantasy.

I was immediately struck by these fisherman’s lights, at the bar and I’ve since spotted a gorgeous blue pendant light at Wayfair today. But I also love the pale blue bar front, like beach huts in Wells-next-the-sea. The overall look reminds me of a Sarah Waters novel I read, Tipping the Velvet, the main character works in her families oyster bars in Whistable. It’s definitely got a Victorian seaside feel and a dash of industrial.  I’m calling it new nautical.

I always remember my Mum singing this song and I love the little jars filled with driftwood. I’ve spotted a lovely collection of these roped jars here. Wooden crates for Condiments are such a clever idea. Fish cushions inject a bit of fun, but fish themed patterns can also be a more subtle way of playing with a nautical theme.


Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 3


The restaurant building has dramatic high ceilings and has a specially built mezzanine floor, I love the tiling and copper lights, you can also just spot the brightly coloured metal tea pots. I’ve always fancied a more open plan house with a mezzanine….I digress, back to nautical.


Georges Fish and Chip kitchen Nottingham


The mezzanine is home to beach hut booths, now if I can’t have an actual one on a beach, I would love a beach hut in my home, wouldn’t you? I was also hooked on these hooks which hang the light fittings. I love the more industrial take on the nautical theme.


photos Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 04


The door handles are these amazing fish, and the large glass doors give you a glance across to Victorian Nottingham.


photos Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 02


The toilets have porthole mirrors…


photos Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 07


The roped glass continues in the toilets too.


photos Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 09


And the wallpaper is hilarious…


photos Georges Fish and Chip kitchen and National video game arcade Nottingham - 10


if you’ve enjoyed this, do visit George’s Fish and Chip Kitchen in Nottingham, or read more about the family food experience here on my personal blog, and check out my Fisherman’s Huts style Pinterest board. A bit of fun, but it seems to be enticing a fair few followers who share this particular house fantasy.

Follow Penny Alexander’s board Fisherman’s Huts on Pinterest.

Find of the Week: Rustic Planters


I hope you had a lovely weekend? For the first time in a while ours wasn’t full of travel and days out, we were at home and on a mission. We tackled the kid’s rooms, a few over stuffed cupboards and the garden. I am shattered, but really pleased – for a while I’ve been feeling as if the walls were coming in on me, so it feels great to have had a big clear out.

I will share some pictures later in the week, but after a back breaking day of gardening I just about have the energy to share my find of the week! One of the nice things I did was reclaim the decking at the end of the garden – it had become cluttered with toys the kids no longer play with, but now it is home to my sun lounger and a few plant pots. We left room for their mud kitchen, so now everyone is happy.

Each year I like to add a few more pots to the collection in the garden, slowly but surely, so I know I can manage to look after all the plants within them. I love rustic planters, this Fallen Fruits 5 piece planter set from Wayfair.co.uk would perfect for starting off my succulent collection. In my last garden post succulents were one of my suggestions for time poor gardeners.


I like that you can move this set, so you don’t forget about it or if what you have planted doesn’t like its spot, that is the joy of container gardening – another of my suggestions for time poor gardeners. They are also small but manageable – again perfect for someone like me who just doesn’t get as much done in the garden as she would like. It could also make a nice feature on a garden table.

I’ve been set a bit of a style challenge this week for Find of the Week by Becky over at Thrifty Home, along with Jen from Love Chic Living and Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary. Amanda picked the theme of planters, but we’ve all chosen different style planters – rustic, thrifty, luxury, contemporary. Have a look and see what you think of the other’s choices, and let us know which one you would pick! Mine?

Have a great week! Have you done any planting recently?

How to Make A Tardis Wardrobe

How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe - 09


I had to laugh at the title, not something you are going to do everyday, once in a lifetime maybe, even for a Time Lord. But if you have a Whovian in the family, it is going to make them seriously happy. The useful thing about this, is it can be transformed back into a blue wardrobe in seconds. I’ve also matched the blue to the whole room colour scheme, so if my daughter ever decided she doesn’t want a Tardis in her room, we just whip off the printables and she has a very classy Dulux Venetian Crystal Blue wardrobe. I suspect she might pass it to her brother as she grows though.

Since our Dr Who Experience, with Visit Wales, my two have become completely obsessed with Dr Who. I had been wracking my brain to pull my eight year old daughter’s bedroom together for weeks, as she wanted it to grow up a bit. On Pinterest, I spotted a tardis wardrobe. The one I saw had the windows painted on, which I didn’t want, a) because I am too impatient and b) because I liked the idea it wasn’t a permanent feature and c) printing looks sharper than my painting skills – so we made the windows and signs using a home printer instead.

The windows were the fiddly bit to find, I used this desktop background made by One Geek Girl, (do check out her other Dr Who ideas!) I had to crop the window bit and fiddle about a bit to get them to print the right size. You can get the other signs easily by image googling ‘Dr Who signs’ and ‘St John’s Ambulance sign’. We used photo paper for a nice sheen.


How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe


We made the police sign stand up by blu tacking it to a piece of plywood which we blu tacked to the top of the wardrobe.


How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe


My daughter had a mix of really mismatched furniture, some of which she has had since she was born, so I decided the easiest thing to do would be to paint some of it. The room was also crying out for a spruce up, and so the walls were painted too. We used Dulux Venentian Blue for the wardrobe, and Dulux Niagara Blues 4 behind the wardrobe and on the facing wall with Dulux Mineral Haze 4 which has a greyish tint on the other two walls, you can see them both below. You might recognise the Venetian Crystal from my travel themed hallway – I had just enough left over to cover the wardrobe.

My daughter really enjoyed helping with the painting.


Painting a Tardis Wardrobe


I will do a full room reveal next month, as part of my New Home Resolutions, this bank holiday has been dedicated to putting the last of the pictures and shelves back up, and finishing both kids’ rooms. But for now, here is the Tardis, are you ready?

As soon as you stop by her room it’s pretty clear something awesome is in there, and I think we’ve done a great job of blending it into the room too, it’s still a little bit feminine, we’re thinking Doctor’s companion, not total Sci-fi take over!


How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe


So here it is, one Tardis wardrobe.

By the way, I know the signs are on the wrong doors, but there were some stickers stuck to the door that she didn’t remove properly before painting, so the Police Telephone sign does a good job of hiding them. I digress, I’m nervous to see what you think, it’s time!


How to make a Dr Who Tardis Wardrobe

Might have been one of my proudest parenting achievements yet. Except now he wants one too…

playing in the tardis wardrobe


How to Make A Tardis Wardrobe – What you need

Printer photo paper
Printer ink – Find my Supplies do free next day delivery if you need to buy printer ink in a hurry.
Small piece of wood
Blu tack
Old wardrobe
Dulux Venetian Crystal 1 in Satinwood. I used about half a 0.5L can. It took two coats with no primer or undercoat. My local hardware store mixed it up, I don’t think you can buy this one off the shelf.
Dust sheet

We are on the hunt for a blue light to put on top, if you see anything let me know!

I’ll leave you with our Dr Who experience, made by a professional crew for Visit Wales, read more about that trip and other awe-inspiring Welsh holidays that will stay with you forever here.


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