Hi I'm Alex! I started writing a blog back in 2013 as a way to capture my thoughts, feelings and emotions as I married my childhood sweetheart and we had our first child. I'm now a Mum of two little boys (Ethan & Logan) and I've continued writing, photographing and videoing ever since as a way to remember all of the little details that make up this amazing journey of Motherhood.
As any Potterhead knows, there is only one real difference between Muggles and wizards: the magical gene.
Spell-casting can be taught, of course, but only people born into magic can make it work. And that simply isn’t Muggles, no matter how much they’d like to become wizards. It’s all a little bit sad, isn’t it? It also leads to some unfortunate consequences…
Muggles can’t attend Hogwarts
Every Harry Potter fan that has patiently sat at home, waiting for an owl to deliver a Hogwarts letter knows the disappointment that being a Muggle brings. For those born without the special magical gene, there will be no feasts in the Great Hall, dances, Triwizard Tournaments or Quidditch, and the wonders of the Hogwarts Castle will never be ripe for exploration, at least not as a resident. A studio tour could bring some of the magic to life, however, especially if you go online and get more information before you book.
Can you imagine how upsetting it would be never to know the fun of lounging in your house’s common room? Not to mention never seeing all the portraits move and talk to you while you flit from your potions to defence against the dark arts classes. Maybe that’s why Dudley Dursley is always so mean to Harry: jealousy!
There are other magical schools other than Hogwarts, but the principle is the same – only magical folk can attend or teach there.
The Muggle and wizarding worlds are kept separate
The segregation between Muggles and wizards is so extreme that each has a separate world. The wizarding world is hidden, invisible to Muggles. And in the Muggle world, magic is covered up, with Muggle memories wiped of magical activity. Unless Muggles have a magical relative, they are unlikely ever to know their mystical counterparts even exist.
Watching the films, it’s fascinating to see how wizard spaces are hidden in plain sight. From Diagon Alley behind a few taps on a wall to the Black house squished between others in a terrace, Muggles and wizards are always tantalisingly close, but rarely interact. But the Ministry of Magic takes things to a whole new level.
Accessed via telephone boxes in the Muggle world, the Ministry governs the entire wizarding world with departments including education, legal and even Muggle research. The Ministry is where most wizards work when they leave Hogwarts, depending on the career they have chosen, and it’s also where all trials take place, down in the basement.
Some wizards can be snobby about Muggles
The foundation of prejudice is usually a fear of the unknown or people who don’t have shared life experiences, and in the Harry Potter stories, Muggles and wizards are frequently at odds with each other. There are a few notable exceptions to this rule, such as Mr Weasley, who find Muggles fascinating, in a good way, but I’ll get to them shortly.
Some wizards believe being a Muggle is a disadvantage in life. They are actively snide and unpleasant about non-magical folk, using them as an excuse to create some kind of blood hierarchy in the magical world.
Muggles are seen as curiosities by some wizards
The more kindly wizards have a fondness for Muggles – possibly none more so than Ron Weasley’s father, Arthur, a pure-blood wizard who would love to see Muggles and magical folk as equals. Working in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office, he spends his time fascinated by everyday objects of the non-magical world, as well as the people that use them. When Ron and Hermione become friends, he is able to ask her plenty of questions to get a more rounded idea of what makes Muggles tick.
In the pure-blood wizarding community, though, Arthur is rare. Some just avoid and distrust Muggles, thinking them dirty, second-class humans; others, like Voldemort and his Death Eaters, would happily see Muggles wiped from existence. When Voldemort is finally defeated, this attitude lifts, and tolerance and harmony return.
So, while there is only one specific difference between Muggles and wizards, it creates a huge divide. There are probably times when some wizards would like to live a non-magical life, but it’s more likely that non-magical folk are a little jealous of their conjuring counterparts.
Just look at Harry’s mum and her sister, Petunia Dursley. Her envy leads to Harry being treated appallingly while in her care. If only she could have mustered a little magic!
If you're looking for ideas to keep your little one/s entertained during car travel or a flight then I hope you will have found yourself in the right place. My boys are 6 and very nearly 4 and tomorrow we leave for a family holiday to Cyprus for a week (I can't wait!).
The last time I took my boys on a plane, the journey didn't go particularly smoothly and my youngest who was quite young at the time (around 2) screamed during most of the flight (he hated having his seat belt on for some reason). Thankfully we had very patient and understanding passengers around us so that helped a lot. I think a lot of it was his young age, it's difficult for a toddler to sit on a plane for hours. So we expect that this time around things *hopefully* will be a lot smoother now that he is very nearly 4. We've also made sure that we've stocked up on things to keep both of our boys entertained during the journey. We've got activity books and little toys that they haven't seen before to keep them busy and we'll be taking lots of snacks and a few treats with us to for lots of distraction.
I wanted to share what we're taking with us in he boys carry on cases just to give anyone else that might be planning a family holiday a few ideas of what sort of things you could take with you to keep your little ones entertained whilst you travel.
The boys' carry cases are both Trunki's - if you haven't seen these before then they are quite cool little cases that come in many different themes. (We have a blue one and also a police trunki for our boys). They are the perfect size for hand luggage and children can sit on them and be pulled along, to save tired legs in the airport and for lots of fun, or they can scoot themselves along on them with their legs whilst sitting on the top.
Inside of each of their Trunki's we've packed the following..
A spare change of clothes
1 x hoody for if they get chilly
Spare socks and spare pants in case of accidents
Their sunglasses for when we get off of the plane
Their headphones for use with the iPad
Snacks - things like BEAR snacks, raisins, crisps, breakfast biscuits, brioches, breakfast bars, a pack of love hearts. They'll also have a sandwich and fresh fruit cut up in a tub (I'll do this the evening before and just take them out of the fridge in the morning).
A plastic bottle/cup (we take a small Squash'd Robinsons that's the perfect size for getting through airport security and then we'll buy water on the other side of security, so that we can make the kids drinks up.
Entertainment wise we have packed the following in each Trunki..
The iPad pre-loaded with games, films and TV shows. I recently discovered that iPlayer Kids lets you download any Cbeebies programme and you can then watch the shows offline. We also download movies/shows onto the Sky Q app at home and then we can watch them offline too.
On top of this the boys will probably choose some other things that they enjoy playing with to take with them and we will put their favourite cuddly teddies in there too.
I'm also packing these little drawstring bags (below) inside of their Trunkis - these are smaller than regular drawstring bags but they are a great size for carrying little bits in, so they'll be perfect for the boys to take some of their entertainment bits to dinner in when we are on holiday and I'll also be able to hand them the drawstring bag full of some of the bits we've got for them for the plane when they sit down in their seats.
I'll also have things like the squash I mentioned above, calpol satchets, wipes and antibacterial hand gel in my own carry on case for the boys.
I hope that this post has been helpful if you're wondering what to take with you in your little one/s hand luggage/carry on case when you travel. :)
Disclosure: We were invited to Bluestone in exchange for an honest blog post & supporting social posts but all opinions shared are, as always, entirely my own.
We've been fortunate to have been kindly invited to Bluestone Wales twice now. Our first time at Bluestone was when I was heavily pregnant with my second Son Logan, so just over 4 years ago now and the second time was a couple of weeks ago when we returned this time with both of the boys.
If I was going to sum up how I feel about Bluestone, I'd have to tell you first of how both times I have returned home a more chilled version of myself. Despite all of the many activities and exploring that you can do at Bluestone and at the places surrounding Bluestone itself, I find that there's such a relaxed vibe at Bluestone and the accommodation (the lodges) help to massively encourage that vibe.
What I love most about the lodges, is that they really feel like a home away from home. I'm a Mummy to two young children and as lovely as staying in hotels is, I generally find myself feeling on edge a lot as I worry that my boys might be making too much noise and disturbing others. This, however, isn't something I worry about at Bluestone, the lodge we've stayed in both times has been detached and we've even had our own grass and bench area outside so that if the weather is nice we can't sit out there with a drink or dinner whilst the boys scoot up and down the path that leads up to our lodge door. There's an open plan kitchen, a dining table, a living room area with sofas and a TV. The bedrooms have enough space for us to sleep and for the suitcases to be kept out of the way. It all feels very homely and on both occasions we've been fortunate enough to have had the most amazing views from our lodge - sitting there in the evening watching the sun go down is just amazing.
There's so much to do at Bluestone itself, they're known for their free-range fun and it's honestly so true. There's a whole list of daily activities and entertainment you can get involved with and they have the most amazing swimming pool and water park called The Blue Lagoon where there are some seriously fun slides, a lazy river, jets, a fun section for babies and toddlers, a section where there's a pirate ship for the kids to play on and our favourite part - the wave pool which is SO much fun! The only reason we ever leave The Blue Lagoon is when our skin starts to shrivel up from being in the water for too long!
Bluestone also has such fantastic indoor and outdoor play areas. The play park located outside is right in the centre of Bluestone in the village area which is just by the shops and their own restaurants. This is amazing, especially so during the warmer weather, as it means that you can sit outside having dinner or a drink and see your children playing in the play area right in front of you.
The indoor play centre is incredible - my boys played for hours in there as there's so much to go on asides from just the giant activity centre, including a bouncy castle and little trikes that they can hop on and off of. There's also free crazy golf which is something the whole family can get involved with!
At Bluestone you can do things like hire bikes and follow bike trails, there's the option to do some kayaking, paddleboarding, raft-building and coracle racing. There's a tournament field when you can have a go on the shooting and throwing range. There are some amazing woodland walks not to be missed and also the opportunity to have a go on High Ropes, Zip Wires or Tree Climbing. Inside the activity centre, the children can have a go at indoor rock climbing and sky trails. Children can also get involved with being a Bluestone Ranger where they get to further explore the magic of nature, discover exciting wildlife, making new friends and learning new skills. Some of these activities incur extra cost, but the many options are there.
On both occasions that we've visited Bluestone, we've explored the surrounding area too. I can totally recommend a few nearby places like Folly Farm (which we visited last time we were there), Tenby Beach (which is SUCH a pretty beach town to visit) and Pembroke Castle (for anyone who also loves their history and castles).
Bluestone is the sort of place that is hard to sum up in one blog post, I've always thought that it's the sort of place that you need to visit yourself to really understand how amazing it is there. We've visited both times with the boys' Grandparents (my in-laws) and I have to say that it is the perfect place to go with family or close friends. The lodges are all different sizes so can accommodate different size families/parties and because of how much there is to do there, there honestly is something for everyone. And because of this, I honestly don't think there's a perfect age to take your children, you could go with them at any age and have the most incredible time and then go back a few years later and again have an incredible time doing different experiences.
Bluestone Wales is somewhere that I hear a lot of people sing high praises about and I can safely say that we are those people too. I know that we'll be back again in the future, it's a place that captures your heart and makes you sad when you leave!
Some top tips for a trip to Bluestone
My top tips for visiting Bluestone are to go with family/friends if you want to or can as it's the perfect place for a get together/family holiday.
I'd also advise hiring a buggy to get around Bluestone in as Bluestone is HUGE and it saves for having tired legs. The buggies, in my opinion, could perhaps be a little cheaper (we paid £95 for the 4 days we were there), but even so, it was worth having.
I'd also advise doing a click and collect grocery order before you arrive (if you want to be super organised). There is a village shop at Bluestone, but I personally found it so easy to order what I wanted before we arrived and have it picked, packed and ready to collect from the nearby Tesco there. There's a fridge and a small freezer so you can order a few chilled and frozen items and have them in your lodge for any nights that you might like to eat in.
A trip to Tenby beach is definitely another recommendation of mine, especially so if the weather is nice, it's not to be missed.
I'd also advise maybe upgrading the WiFI in your lodge. We found that it was quite slow and so instead, we used our 4G. There is an upgrade option for a small cost, so if you don't have a great amount of mobile data then it might be worth doing that.
We found personally that because of how much there is to do and see at Bluestone and in the surrounding area, we easily could have stayed for longer than four nights. Of course, ideal holiday lengths are different for everyone and it's just our personal opinion, but we'd easily have filled our time during a 7-night trip and that really is a testament to Bluestone themselves.
If you'd like to find out more about Bluestone Wales and the cost of their holidays then please visit: bluestonewales.com. There's a video embedded at the bottom of this post showing a tour of our lodge and some of our favourite trip highlights if you'd like to have a look at that too. But finally, I'll leave you with a few more of our favourite photos from our time away in Wales.
* A huge thank you to Bluestone Wales for inviting us on this trip in return for an honest blog post and social posts. We can't wait to return in the future!
Take a look at our video to see what else we got up to during our trip to Bluestone:
BLUESTONE WALES - LODGE TOUR & SOME TRIP MEMORIES | GIFTED STAY | Alex Gladwin - YouTube
Summer is almost here and while for many that can mean surfing and soaking up the sun on sandy beaches, for others it can mean sunburns and relentless sweating. Not everyone was built to withstand the summer heat. And the good news is, we don’t all have to.
If you are not a fan of hot weather, there are plenty of spring destinations across Europe where you can enjoy an amazing travel experience. Below are just a few that I currently have in my travel list.
The Norwegian fjords are indeed a stunning sight to behold. While there are more than a thousand fjords, the most iconic are located in Fjord Norway. These include the Geirangerfjord, the Nærøyfjord, the Lysefjord, the Sognafjord, and many more others.
The fjords are amongst Norway’s most popular attractions and draw visitors from all across the world. These magnificent waterways are an extension of the sea and are often intertwined, allowing sailors to cross from one fjord to another.
The fjords pass through massive cliffs providing boat riders with an awe-inspiring scenery. Additionally, there are great hiking trails along the fjords, and the region is easy to explore both on your own and through guided tours. In Alesund, the art nouveau town, you can indulge in different activities for Easter with kids.
Warmth, sunshine, crystal clear sea... Crete is lovely in spring. The coastal town is one of Europe’s hot places in April and offers lots of attractions and activities. You can hike along the coastline or enjoy a swim. Popular spring sea activities in Crete include surfing, parasailing, snorkelling, kayaking, and yachting.
There is plenty of sightseeing in Crete. You can visit the Palace of Knossos and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum or go shopping in the boutique-lined boulevards of Agios Nikolaos. When in Rethymnon, don’t miss the opportunity to look in on the narrow alleys of Old Town, which has been around since the 11th century.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum has a vast collection of art and artefacts, some of which span some 3000 years of history. From visiting the water parks to hitting the mountain bike trails,
Warm weather and the Promenade des Anglais, Nice seems made for spring. The famous seafront stretches over 7km from La Colline du Château to Nice airport. Take a stroll along the La Prom as you take in the ocean view.
Nice is also a city of culture. The Musée Matisse, Villa Masséna Musée, and Musée National Marc Chagall are all worth a visit. You can also charter a yacht for a fun filled cruise.
The city provides a breath of fresh air and has amazing carnivals that you do not want to miss. While you are in town, you might want to visit the Vieille Ville or Old Town. The neighborhood is vibrant and has an excellent assortment of restaurants where you can enjoy delicious French dishes.
Krk Island, Croatia
If you can’t visit Krk in the summer, come in spring. The “golden island,” as the island of Krk has been called since ancient times, has many different landscapes. While the north is almost bare, the southern part boasts green and gentle bays. The rocky hills of Krk provide fabulous hiking trails through the woods. You can also take morning or evening walks as you enjoy the blossoming nature by the seashore.
Krk’s weather is magnificent and provides a pleasant day out for ride boat or a yacht sail in the deep oceans. With its long indented coastline, coves, inlets, and secluded beaches, the island is ideal for sea lovers. From hiking to jet-skiing at Baška, parasailing at Njivice and windsurfing at Kornić, there are lots of things to do and see in Krk island.
If you are a history enthusiast, Krk could be your perfect spring get away. The island’s main town is home to Croatia’s key historical remains. The Frankopan castle towers over the city square, and the town medieval fortifications and Roman ruins are quite the sight. Along with this tangible historical backdrop, Krk town also has a picturesque marina and scores of world-class restaurants.
Cruises and boat rides make Amsterdam the perfect spring destination. A tour along the canals is a great way to discover the city. You can visit art galleries, art museums, specialty museums, and there are also beautiful children’s museums in the city. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum boast significant collections and are among the top spring attractions.
Visit the Jordaan district, which was created in the 17 century during the Great Expansion. Dam Square is also another city point that’s worth checking out. This jam-packed space used to be the scene of Amsterdam’s central market in medieval times and is home to the Royal Palace, National Monument, and the gothic “New Church.”
A five-minute walk down the Damrak from Amsterdam Centraal is all you need to reach this fun-filled square. Free walking or hiring a bike are among the many ways you can enjoy Amsterdam on a budget.
Athens frequently ranks among the best destinations to visit in Europe. The city oozes history and hosts world-class cultural attractions. With a recorded history going back over three thousand years, Athens merges the past and the modern splendidly.
Few sights compare to the Acropolis which is perched on a hill in the capital. The UNESCO World Heritage site is the most visited ancient site in Greece. Be sure to also visit Agora, the ancient gathering place as well as the temple of Olympian Zeus.
Athens also has great attractions for kids as well. Allou Fun Park in Rentis is one such destination which offers fun and entertainment for people of all ages. Isn’t it time you paid a visit to Athens?
Mallorca is the largest of the Spanish Islands. Its white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters, attract spring tourists from Europe and beyond. You can soak in the history by visiting the Old Town’s winding alleyways and immaculate courtyards.
There is nothing quite like sitting on the Magaluf Beach at dusk and watching the sunset after day-long excursions in the sea. Magnificent promenades line the sand and offer great shopping and dining options. You will get delicious seafood meals at the beachfront restaurants, and we won’t blame you if you Instagram it.
While many visitors to Mallorca stay in seafront hotels and flock to the island’s closest beaches, there are great secluded spots you can visit. Cala Figuera Beach, for example, is nestled between mountains in a quiet cove and boasts spectacular views and few crowds.
Paris stands out as one of the best places to visit in the world. We all remember their first trip to City of Lights. Paris has more than enough to offer, from the neat city streets to the Haussmannian architecture. The Eiffel Tower is, without doubt, the most famous landmark in Paris, and it’s a must see when in the city.
While in Paris, Seine River cruise is another must-do experience. It’s a fun activity conducted by multiple operators who offer cruises up and down the river. You can also hire a chauffeur driven vehicle and tour around the city. Likewise, there are many places purchase Paris souvenirs and make your trip memorable.
Finally, Tour Montparnasse is a beautiful location with the best view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. It’s even better if you can time your visit for sunset.
Spring presents a great time to tour Europe. Whether it’s the Fjords of Norway or the warm beaches of the Mediterranean, there are lots of things to see and do. So, saddle up and get ready to be mind blown by these amazing spring destinations.
Some men like to go clothes shopping, others don’t. There are guys out there who will happily wear the same thing day in day out, literally. I have an uncle who has only ever worn Green Flash trainers, jeans, white t-shirts and bomber jackets.
The only time he wears something different is weddings and funerals. Then, he hires a suit. His girlfriend does not mind at all. But, I know a lot of women who are driven insane by living with someone who never buys fashionable clothes. If you fall into that category I have a few suggestions that should help.
Update his t-shirts
Most men wear t-shirts and are not too fussy about what type they wear. So, you could start by buying one or two of the latest styles of t-shirts from somewhere like Jacamo. It is generally best to stick to the colors he likes wearing and just try to get him to wear a different cut. This year, granddad style and longer cuts are the main new trends.
Introduce new clothes gradually
If someone is not keen on trying out a new look, you need to change things gradually. For example, if he likes baggy jeans trying to get him to wear a skinny cut, is not likely to be successful. Whereas he may well give a pair of straight cut or boot cut jeans a go.
Rework what he already owns
Adapting clothes that he already owns to fit in better with more recent fashion trends can work. You can get plenty of ideas from this Pinterest menswear up-cycling board.
Adjust his clothes so that they fit better
When it comes to looking your best the fit is critical. You will be surprised by how much better an old shirt can look if it is taken in slightly. It could be as simple as adding a belt to a pair of jeans can make them fit better.
Look at old photos for inspiration
Fashion is cyclical. For example, at the moment, a lot of fashion designers have taken inspiration from the 90s.
The chances are if your man wore a certain style of clothing once, he will less resistant to wearing them again. So, get your old photos out and take a look at how he used to dress in the 90s. Not all of the fashions we wore in our youth will work well for us a couple of decades on. But, sometimes they do. So, using old photos to get some fashion ideas for your man can work.
Mimic what his friends are wearing
We all want to fit in, as a result, without consciously setting out to do so, most of us end up dressing a lot like our friends do. So, if most of your husband’s friends have started wearing denim jackets buying him one too could work. He is far more likely to want to wear something different if it fits in with the way his mates are dressing. It sounds childish, but it is not, it is human nature to follow the crowd a bit.
If you would like to read more fashion inspiration posts, by me just click here to read my latest one.
Have you noticed that I'm not listening to you anymore?
You've always acted like you've got my best interests at heart, like you only want to protect me, but I'm starting to see that you're only holding me back.
On the bad days, you tell me that I'm not good enough, you flood my head with guilt, make me feel inadequate.
When I sit down to write from the heart, you always say what's the point? There are others who write better than you.
When I try to have an opinion, you tell me that I'm probably not smart enough to express it the right way.
When I give my all to my children, you're there reminding me of the things I didn't do or get right, rather than the things that I did.
When I begin to even dare think about what I'm good at, what I've been successful with or what my goals for the future are, you shut me down and find some way to make out that I've just been lucky or you tell me that it's no big deal.
When I want to organise something and I go to step out of my comfort zone, you keep me securely in it by telling me that people won't really want to meet up, that they'll not really get me or that I won't really get them.
You've stopped me from doing everyday things like driving on the motorway, like meeting up with friends, like being kind to myself. You've desperately tried to control and contain and perhaps even stop me from getting hurt, but in doing so you've caused more hurt than anything else.
I'll be honest, it's been so long that it's hard to shut you out, but after 30 years of listening to your loud and constant voice, I'm starting to learn how to drain you out and I know that in time your voice will drain more and more away until finally, it becomes just the faintest echo.
Learning to ignore you is empowering, it's freeing, it's life-changing. Instead of letting you stand in my way, blocking doors that I want to walk through, I can finally see that I'm strong enough to push straight past you. I know you don't like it, I know it's hard to let go, but I need to do this for me. To grow and to be able to live this one and only life that I have to the fullest.
So this is a letter to you, my self-doubt, to say that I'm not listening to you anymore. I've been learning not to listen to you for a while now and it's how I intend to move forward with my life. I know they'll be days when you'll knock at my door, you'll try to be let back in when it's raining outside. You'll try to creep in through the windows, underneath the door, anyway that you can. But I won't be letting you in, even when it's pouring outside, because I know that after the rain there's a rainbow, after the storm there is calm and after an end there is a new beginning and I've been learning how to never doubt that or myself again.
I'm looking at my boys and they're looking back at me and I can't quite really believe that they're mine; that I created them. Two tiny little humans, that together with their Daddy, I made.
It's hard to understand the feelings of pride and love and every other overhwhleming emotion you feel towards your children when you're a parent, until you actually become a parent yourself.
I was never a maternal person until a year or so before I had Ethan, I didn't really understand the love and joy that having little people would bring to my life. I never knew how content it would make me feel. How much more alive I would feel. How a hole would be filled that I didn't even realise was there.
All parents love their children, they love them dearly. But there's much more than love there - there's so many other feelings that come when you're somebody's Mummy or Daddy, with pride being one of the biggest and the best.
When your child draws a scribble on a page but tells you it's a picture of you.. when they wear a helmet and use a bike... when they learn a new word.. when they smile and laugh.. when they tell you that they love you.. when they go off and make friends at the park with you watching on.. when they tell you things you didn't know that they knew.. when they learn to count.. when they say their pleases and their thank you's.. even when they use the potty.. (who knew a poo in a potty could feel you with so much pride?!).
It's a hard feeling to imagine until you've been there, but overhwhelmingly proud is how you feel.
I say that time flies a lot and it does it really really does. But I do know where the days and the weeks and the months and the years are going - they're not lost, they haven't run away with themselves, they're well spent, every single one of them. I've spent the last one thousand, one hundred and seventy nine days, the amount of days I've been a Mummy (thanks Age calculator), raising my children as best as I can. Putting them first even when I've felt like I've had nothing left to give, being persistent even when things have felt tough and teaching them the things that I know. And whilst they're still so so tiny, they're becoming little individuals, they're finding themselves and learning about the world around them.
I'm looking at my boys and they're looking back at me and I see all of this and I'm proud. I'm proud of them and I'm also proud of me.
There’s something special about spending the summertime at home with the family. Sure, the summer is all about trips to the beach, picnics in the park and booking holidays. But it’s also about hosting BBQ’s in the garden, having friends and family round to enjoy the lighter evenings, and making the most of your garden space while you can.
For homeowners, it also opens up another door: tackling those home improvements that you put off all through the winter. The summer months are generally best for assessing what needs repairing or upgrading, and getting on with it while the weather is warmer - especially for any outdoor tasks.
Summer home updates can range from large remodelling projects to little changes that need doing around the house. Knowing where to start, and which ones are worth it, can sometimes be the problem that encourages people to leave it for another year.
Here, we’ve put together a list of summer home improvement ideas which will make your home a more enjoyable place for the family this summer:
Landscape the garden
No matter whether you have a small yard or a large, impressive garden, summer is the time to get your garden into shape. It needs to be a safe place for children to play, and a relaxing space any friends and family to gather.
Landscaping is always on the top of every homes summer ‘to do’ list, as it not only reflects the quality of the home, but the neighbours will also be checking out your garden too (even if you think they won’t!).
Start by fully mowing the lawn, trimming the edges, pulling out weeds and tidying up overgrown bushes and shrubs. Then, invest in new plants and flowers to plant which should bloom in full by mid-summer. If you require a seating area and need concrete or decking laying down, look into local companies who can come in and do this for you. If it’s done wrong, the results can be problematic.
Bring nature indoors
You can also bring nature to your home from the inside, as well as focusing on your gardens. Summer is the ideal time to have a look at the decor and themes you have running throughout your home. With the natural sunlight beaming through during summer, it’s the ideal time to bring some greenery indoors and introduce a touch of nature.
The first thing to do is look at reasonable house plants that can be placed in various corners of the home. You can get beautiful floor plants which grow fairly high, making great additions to those odd corners in the home that don’t currently offer anything visual.
Don’t be afraid to bring real plants into the equation, too. You can work on some creative set-ups here, such as fresh flowers on the coffee tables and dining table, you can put herbs on the windowsill in the kitchen, and blooming summer plants and hanging planters can be placed around kitchens and hallways.
Energy efficiency improvements
Summer is a great time to start looking at ways to be more energy efficient in the home, which is extremely appealing to cost-conscious homebuyers when you do come round to selling up.
Sustainability in the home is becoming a growing trend, so it could be worth investing in improvements around this topic. Here are some to keep in mind:
Update your windows: Windows are a key aspect to the home that buyers look at, therefore old single-pane windows just won’t do. Instead, you will need air-tight windows which don’t let any warm air out (or cold air in). This will save you lots on heating bills.
Smart thermostats: Smart meters are becoming the norm these days, and potential buyers will be impressed if they see a house which has one set up. This way, you’ll give possible buyers the chance to control the temperature of their home themselves, with total flexibility. It can be done from a mobile device, and the best part is the thermostat can learn the heating habits of the homeowner, making it easy for you to control temperatures.
Fridges and freezers: Did you know that fridge freezers (combined) are the biggest energy drain among everything in the home? It’s important to have a quality one, after all, it's your fresh food it’s keeping chilled, but there are now energy efficient fridges out there which use don’t drain energy use as much. You can find out more about these here.
A lick of paint
Lastly, painting a house has to be one of the most important - and cost-effective - summer updates you can give to your home. If nothing else, painting the rooms of your home with newer, fresher paint will make the rooms look good as new, and create a totally different atmosphere than before. However, don’t just buy a pot of cream paint and plan to paint every room in the home a clean, neutral shade. Think about whether it’s a job you can do yourself, or should you leave it to a professional?
If it’s the whole house that needs painting, it might be best to invest in a painter and decorator to come in for 1-2 days when you can take the kids out. Otherwise, it’s a huge job, and may take up a lot of time this summer, while you could be enjoying a brighter, cleaner looking house quickly!
Remember that just like your wardrobe, your home deserves the attention of a complete transformation from the inside out every season. Make sure you give it a good one this summer!
Work on our garden finished early this year and honestly, I think out of all the money that we've spent turning our house into a home, doing our garden really has got to be one of my favourite things that we've done! There's nothing like sitting out in the fresh air with a drink on our new outdoor sofa on our new decking area in the sun, looking back at our family home and everything we've achieved with it whilst watching our two little boys play. It's bliss!
Today I am going to share a few ideas that I have, plus some things that we've done personally for making the most out of a family garden, no matter what the size.
1. Think about where the sun is
If you're in a position where you are redesigning your garden or changing it around, make sure you take into consideration where you get the most sun in your garden. We've never really got a lot as our garden faces the wrong way for it, but since redesigning our garden and adding decking to the corner of the garden where we did get a little bit of sun, it feels like we get SO much sun now. Obviously, this hasn't actually changed, we are now instead simply utilising the space that we didn't before.
2. Bring the inside out
One of my favourite things to do when the sun comes out is to bring the indoors outside. Things like cushions, toys for the boys, their tents and tunnels, candles in the evening, blankets and even small outdoor rugs. It all helps to create a cosy, relaxed environment and almost feels like your home has gained a new room!
3. Add some fun
If you've got little ones, add some fun to your garden with whatever works for your garden space. If you've got a large garden then these days you can get some really brilliant swing sets that can be combined with slides and climbing extensions from brands like Wickey. If you've got a smaller garden, then pop up tents and tunnels work well and can be easily stored away or back indoors. We've got quite a small garden and Ethan was recently bought a pair of football goals for the garden, the brilliant thing about them is that once he's finished playing they simply pop down back into the bag they came in and then they fit into the shed without taking up much room.
4. Add mirrors
It might sound a bit odd, but this is such a clever way to create the illusion that your garden is larger than it is. A small garden mirror not only adds a feeling of more space, but will bring more light to your garden also, especially in corners that may be a little dark. You can get some really great looking garden mirrors and even ones that look a bit like windows.
6. Add lighting
It's so inexpensive to add some lighting to your garden, it really doesn't need to be anything fancy. Most stores sell solar lights for a pound or so each and they can really add that something extra to your garden, not to mention how cosy they'll make it feel in the evening.
7. Hide your bins
If you store your bins in your back garden, you can hide them easily using things like willow or wooden screens so that you don't have to have them on show when you're trying to relax in your garden space.
I hope this post was helpful. I'd love to know any tricks you know of or use for getting the most out of back garden space?
Before I begin I should tell you that this isn't a collaborative post with Amazon, I simply go to Amazon for most things and over the years I have found and purchased quite a few things that we absolutely love and use daily or near enough daily.
Amazon is the place I always check first when it comes to finding out the usual cost of something. They tend to have pretty much everything on there from tech to toys, to home decor to cleaning products and so much more - I've even bought cat food and litter from there too! Their prices always seem to be really good and some stores will even price match with Amazon if you ask them too.
Over on my YouTube channel today, I've explained in more depth why these 9 items below have made the list when it comes to some of my top Amazon purchases (though it was particularly hard to narrow it down), but here's a small run down also.
Eletorot Candle Lighter Rechargeable We've always had the candle lighters that need refuelling, but this clever little candle lighter is rechargeable with a USB. There's no flame on it, just an electrical type spark. There's a display on the front which tells you how much power it has left and what's even better is that you can bend and adjust the neck to reach into awkward places. It's so clever and was such a good find! Find it here.
Groov-e Kidz On-Ear Headphones These are our boys' new headphones, we only recently bought them, but I can already tell that we're going to get good use out of them. We bought them for half price on Amazon and they're so comfortable. The sound is also crystal clear making them perfect for use with the iPad at home or when we are travelling. Find them here.
Folding Step Stool with Carry Handle We use our folding step stool in our kitchen every single day. It's brilliant because it folds down very easily and super quick to go flat, so it can be stored easily and can also be taken when going away if needed.
The boys use it to wash their hands and to reach the side when they're helping us out. We also use it to reach up into our extra tall kitchen cabinet units. We already have a stool in there, but it would be brilliant in the bathroom too for helping little ones reach the sink when brushing their teeth or washing their hands. Find it here.
VonShef 3 Tier Spice Herbs Rack This clever spice rack has been one of my favourite ever Amazon purchases from as soon as it arrived. It is such a clever storage idea - utilising the inside back of the kitchen cabinet door (a place we never would have otherwise been using it). And I love how it displays all of the spices and herbs that we have so we're not having to root through them to find the one we need or re-purchasing certain ones that we already have. Find it here.
Recipe Kitchen Book Holder Stand Following recipes is so much easier thanks to this clever recipe stand my Husband found. You can very easily adjust the height at the back depending on how much you want the recipe book to be and it also folds completely flat for easy storage. We use it with all of our cookbooks and recipe cards as well as an iPad stand for when we are following a recipe online. Find it here.
Munchkin Miracle 360 Degree Sippy Cup We've used these cups for the boys for years as they are the best we've ever tried. They're clever little cups that let the liquid inside pass through the rubber at the top, but that prevent spillages when the drinks are knocked over. I wouldn't say they are 100% spill proof, but when compared with other drinks cups we've tried, they're amazing! Find them here.
Neewer 18-inch Outer Dimmable SMD LED Ring Light I honestly can't believe the difference owning and using a ring light has made to my videos. If you want to see how much of a difference, then head over to my YouTube video to see what it looks like when I film with and without it. Obviously, I use mine for the sit-down youtube videos I film, but it's the sort of thing that is perfect for anyone with an interest in photography or for anyone that needs to take pictures of products for their own home business. Find it here.
Anker 4-Port USB Plug Charger This Anker 4-Port USB Plug Charger is ideal for travelling or for those of you who stay away quite a bit. When we go away we literally just take this plug and a couple of wires for our tech like our phones, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook and any other items that work or are charged via USB and then when we get to our hotel we just need to use the one plug socket. (Anyone else find that hotels tend to not have very many convenient plug sockets?!). It's so handy and it means when we leave we just simply unplug this one plug from the socket and go. It can also be used abroad with just one travel adaptor. Find it here.
Packing Cubes (6 pack) It's difficult to explain just how good packing cubes are, but they really are amazing for keeping your suitcase organised when you go away. I initially bought one pack, but after realising how good they were I've since purchased two more packs in different colours so that I can organise by colour too for different people.
I always manage to keep on top of what I've packed using these. I also always manage to fit more in as I roll the clothes up into sort of packets and then secure them by zipping up the cubes. I find that when it comes to sharing suitcases it keeps clothes organised and separate which makes it so much easier to find different people's clothes when on holiday. Our suitcases stay a lot neater with these and when we've worn clothes on holiday that need washing, I separate dirty clothes into one of the cubes ready to simply empty them straight into the washing bin when we're back. Find them here.
What things have you bought from Amazon that you now couldn't be without?