Friday 12 July 2024

Our hedgehogs are back!

A couple of years ago we bought a hedgehog house which we placed in our back garden. We were thrilled when the hedgehogs started visiting, and loved watching them on our cameras. But then they suddenly deserted us! We stopped putting out food, and forgot to keep the house clean over the winter.

We have some garden work planned in the next few weeks in the area of the house, and which will also remove one of the entrances to our back garden which we know that hedgehogs sometimes use. So I took the house and gave it a good clean out, filled it with clean straw, and we relocated it to our front garden, tucked away close to our large hedge.

We bought more hedgehog food, set it out along with some water, and to our delight that very same evening we had a hedgehog visitor! I think that they can access our front garden more easily, and it's a very quiet road with minimal traffic at night so they should be quite safe. 

Hedgehog house in the garden by the hedge

I learned early on that I needed to wait until it was dark before I put the food out. One evening around 7pm I put out some food, and the moment that I shut the door the seagull swooped down and gobbled the lot - it must have been watching me! Then every morning a hopeful magpie appears to eat up any food that has been left. I've been putting the food out about 9.30pm, and the hedgehog is currently arriving at almost exactly the same time each night - just before 10pm.

I'm not a hedgehog expert but it looks like the same hedgehog that is our most frequent visitor. It has stayed overnight in the house once, but usually it just wanders about, coming back to the food bowl multiple times until about 3am. One night we even had two hedgehogs which was exciting.

Two hedgehogs in the garden on camera

Most evenings I check in just before I go to bed and there is usually a hedgehog snuffling about that I can watch on the live camera view. We can't see them from the windows because it's so dark, so it's really nice to have the camera to know that they've been there. I'm so glad that we've enticed them back!

Finally I can't resist sharing this photo of the pot by our front door, I think it's lovely! It's just some bedding plants that I bought a few weeks ago, and they have come out in such lovely colours.

Flowers in a pot by the front door

Thursday 11 July 2024

The ultimate Nelson to Queenstown road trip to do before you die

If you ever visit the South Island of New Zealand, one road trip you simply MUST do is the drive between Nelson and Queenstown. Taking you from the very northern part of Te Waipounamu, along much of its spectacular west coast, you’ll eventually land at the island's star attraction, within the guts of its lower section. The drive covers over 800 km and will take you about 10.5 hours to complete nonstop. But there is no fun in that! Instead, we recommend taking your time and savouring the journey for at least six days. In fact, the more time you can spare, the better!

Car Hire

To make this trip, you’ll obviously need a car, and if you have travelled from overseas or the North Island without one, you will have to hire a vehicle. Luckily there are plenty of operators in Nelson (or Queenstown, if you want to do the journey backwards) that offer one way car hire New Zealand rentals.

It’s a good idea to hire a 4WD vehicle, especially if you are attempting a road trip. This will enable you to navigate roads that might be affected by snow more easily.

6-Day Itinerary

If you have six days to spare and want to drive from Nelson to Queenstown, here is a terrific itinerary.

Road towards Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit Patrick McGregor via Unsplash

Day 1 - Nelson to Marahau (59 km distance - 1 hour driving time)

Once you’ve got your car, you should leave Nelson and head to the lovely town of Marahau.

Meaning ‘windy garden’ in the Māori language, crops were believed to have been grown here well before the European settlers arrived.

Today, it is best known for its lovely beach and for being the gateway to the wonderful Abel Tasman National Park, where you should spend the rest of the day exploring.

When you get hungry, head on over to Mapua for a meal at The Boat Shed Café. You can enjoy delicious seafood while taking in superb views of the Waimea Estuary. 

Day 2 - From Marahau to Westport (240 km distance, 3.5 hours driving time)

You might want to spend a bit of time on the morning of day two hiking and kayaking through the national park or relaxing on one of its golden beaches.

However, when the mood takes you to move on, you should make your way down the scenic West Coast towards Westport.

If you have a penchant for thrill-seeking, stop off at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge to enjoy a goosebump-inducing jet boat ride along Buller Canyon. Additionally, you might also want to traverse the swing bridge over the Buller River, which just happens to be the longest in Aotearoa. 

Westport is the oldest European settlement on the West Coast and boasts a rich coal mining history, which you can discover more about at its Coaltown Museum.

Day 3 - Westport to Hokitika (139 km distance, 2 hours driving time)

On leaving Westport, your next overnight stop should be in Hokitika. However, before you get there, make sure you check out Punakaiki, where you can witness the iconic Pancake Rocks and the incredible blowholes.

A little further down the road, you might also want to see the fur seals at Cape Foulwind, which you can do by strolling along a scenic coastal pathway. Have your cameras at the ready!

Day 4 - Hokitika to Franz Josef (134 km distance, 1¾ hours driving time)

If you arrived too late to do so the previous day, you should visit the Hokitika Gorge. There, you will be able to walk through a bosky forest to a scenic viewing platform that showcases stunning views of the turquoise waters.

Having seen that, carry on south towards Lake Matheson, which is situated near the Franz Josef township.

If it's a calm day, you’ll be able to see the Southern Alps reflecting magnificently on the water, which creates a breath taking image that will bring a lump to your throat. 

Day 5 - Franz Josef to Wanaka (284 km distance, 4 hours driving time)

You should explore the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers either via a scenic flight or by hiking your way through them. Try to start early to see them at first light.

As you continue along the West Coast, be sure to detour over Haast Pass. Here, you can enjoy the sight of the fabulous Blue Pools, known for their pristine landscape and translucent waters.

Finish your day by arriving in Wanaka in time for dinner at Big Fig, which offers a delectable menu of Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes. 

Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit Omer Faruk Bekdemir via Unsplash

Day 6 - Wanaka to Queenstown (68.5 km, 1¼ hours driving time)

It is worth waking up early in Wanaka to hike up Mount Iron, which will reward your efforts with superb views of the surrounding landscape.

If you don’t fancy doing that, you can always indulge in some water sports at Lake Wanaka.

When you are ready to leave, go over the Crown Range to historic Arrowtown, where you can try to uncover a nugget while gold panning.

Once you get to Queenstown, here are some of the main things to do there.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

The usual end of term anxiety

It's the last week of term, and I'm really looking forward to the summer holidays. But I always find the countdown stressful, even though now that the children are older there are fewer things to worry about (no more sports day! not quite so much new uniform to buy!) But the children are on edge, with worries about new classes for next year and keeping in touch with friends over the summer, and my husband is away for a little longer than usual this week which sometimes leaves me unsettled. I'm finding myself constantly repeating 'we just need to get these last few days over with'!

I'm clinging on to the last few days of my routine before everything changes for a couple of months. I always find it harder to get out for an early run when I'm not forced out of bed to get everyone ready for school. I know that the housework will fall by the wayside, and it will feel as though I'm spending most of my time preparing food and clearing up afterwards. I'm hoping to sneak out for a couple of hours every week to continue my volunteering work - I'm really enjoying being part of a team of local people that get out and about making the flowerbeds around the village look lovely. I'm learning a lot, and it's given me some confidence to make more of my own garden.

Communal flower bed planted by volunteers

I'm really hoping that the weather improves a little over the holidays. I've been working on making my secluded vegetable patch into a little sanctuary, and yesterday I installed one of our garden chairs so that I can sit and hide around the corner and listen to the bees buzzing. But it just hasn't been warm enough to sit outside!

Secluded vegetable patch with lavender bush

We don't have very much planned over the summer holidays but we always seem to keep busy. There are people to keep in touch with, and the children enjoy peaceful time at home to work on their own projects without the pressure of homework and early starts. I'm intending to have a clear out in the kids rooms - we have lots of books that have been outgrown and toys that are no longer played with. I love a break from the school run and the packed lunches, and the long evenings are perfect for a walk around the village or sitting out in the garden.

If you have little ones in school I hope that the countdown to the summer holidays goes well!

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Vintage San Francisco: Retro Shops and Experiences in the City

This is a collaborative post

As the saying goes, ‘Old is gold.’ If you are the type of person who loves vintage items, this collated list of retro shops and vintage experiences in San Francisco is a treat for you. This is one remarkable way of uncovering the city’s culture and hidden gems. If you are coming from San Francisco airport, take your rental car from SFO to some of these vintage spots and travel back in time. You can choose to visit some antique shops, vintage diners, historic theatres, or flea markets selling some of the most unique and classic items you’ll ever find on your trip. 

Decades of Fashion

This shop is located at 1653 Haight Street. The place is about 13-15 miles from San Francisco airport and it will take you at least 20-30 minutes to reach this vintage spot. From the name of the store itself, you would already have an idea that it is a vintage clothing store. Do you wish to experience some dress dating back to the Victorian era? If so, this is the right place to go. In addition, you can also find accessories to go along with the dress. Vintage aficionados would visit this shop to look for rare collectible items from the 1920s up to the 1980s. Stepping into this store is like travelling back in time.

Haight - Ashbury  

If you went to the Decades of Fashion store, you might as well take time to discover the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. This is where you can find some historic lovers roaming around the area. There are plenty of bookstores, clothing and tattoo shops, eclectic bars, and restaurants around Upper Haight Street. There are also Victorian homes that were preserved over time around the neighbourhood bordering Golden Gate Park. History shows that this area is famous for revolutionary movements, especially during the 1960s. Haight-Ashbury made its name as the centre of the hippies movement back in the day. It’s a place of diverse culture, flamboyant vibe, and modern classics. 

The Alemany Flea Market

Take your Avis Car Rental and head to the Alemany Flea Market. This spot is a short drive from the airport. In less than 15 minutes, you’ll reach this place. If you are looking for some one-of-a-kind items to add to your home decorations, then this market should be on your checklist. This place is located around the Bernal Heights neighbourhood. There are plenty of items you can choose from such as vintage jewellery, home décor, or even furniture. There is a certain upbeat vibe in the place and it's great to spend a few hours visiting in between shops. 


This is another store you can check out for retro furniture, clothes, artwork, and home décor. It’s located at 1545 Pacific Avenue and about a 30 minute drive from the airport. Are you collecting vinyl records? Check out the collection of records they have at this shop. It supports 60+ shops so there’s always something to offer for everyone looking for unique things.

There are several other antique shops you can visit such as S16 Home and the Gaslight and Shadows Antique which is located at 2335 Clement Street, Past Perfect located at 6101Geary Boulevard. The Antique and Art Exchange is also a must-visit. It is located at 151 Vermont Street Suite 4. Some other shops are Golden Age Vintage, De Angelis, Grand Central Station Antiques, Brand X Antiques, Reperch, and No Shop. 

Vintage vinyl for sale
Photo credit Oleg Ivanov via Unsplash

Lori’s Diner  

Visiting these shops could be trying, and if you are looking for a restaurant with a quintessential vibe, make your way to Lori’s Diner. It will take you back to the 1950s and you can order their famous burgers and milkshakes. Enjoy the vintage vibe while you immerse yourself in unique memorabilia decorated around the diner. Lori’s Diner is just 20 minutes drive away from the airport. 

Red Java House 

This is another spot with a vintage vibe where you can eat. This place is located at Pier 30. It will take you about 10-15 minutes from San Francisco airport to get to this place. This is where you can also enjoy delicious burgers, hotdogs, and fries while looking at the view of the Bay Bridge. They have been serving their customers since the 1950s. 

Castro Theater

If you wish to visit historic theatres, the Castro Theater is a must. This place has been well-preserved since its creation in 1922. It has been the venue for many different events over time. Various film festivals and film screenings were held at this place. It’s 14 miles from the airport and would take you at least 20 minutes to reach the theatre. 

These are just a few of the places you can visit for a vintage experience in San Francisco city. It’s a truly unique trip worth sharing with your friends once you’re back home. This is your chance to travel back in time. 

Thursday 27 June 2024

My 'secret' vegetable patch

I've shared lots of photos of my vegetable patch over the years, but I'm not sure that I've every included a photo that gives a proper look at the space. Because I think it's a special space, and with planned building work in our garden this summer I'm working hard to make it a little sanctuary hidden away when I want to spend time in the garden without builders watching my every move!

Entrance to hidden vegetable patch

Our garden extends out from the back of the house like most gardens, but we also have a separate double garage next to the house. The vegetable patch is behind the garage, so it's joined to the garden but off to one side and it can't really be seen from the house. The previous owners put up the trellis sides. Originally there were some flimsy gates but they have broken so I've been training some ivy over the top to make an archway. It's quite low, but luckily I'm short so I can easily fit underneath!

To the left of the entrance you can find Beowulf. I found him hidden behind overgrown vegetation in the garden of our old house and I brought him along with us. I named him after the Old English poem that I studied at university and I call him the guardian of the garden that makes sure everything grows well. If I accidently cut some flowers, I'll leave them by his feet as an offering! 

Garden statue of a small soldier

Also around the entrance I have a couple of decorations that I've made using stones with holes in from the beach - they are really common on our local beaches. Some people call them hag stones and think that they have magical properties. The lovely birdhouse was made by my husband at a team building event, although we've not actually had any birds in it yet!

Hag stones hanging in the garden

My vegetable patch was a little delayed this year as we don't have a set start date for our building works. So last week I made a trip to the garden centre and picked up some bedding plants to put out into my planters - hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll have some more colour to enjoy.

Bedding plants and lavender bush in the garden

At the back of the vegetable patch I just have a few pots and some plants which are probably technically weeds but have some pretty orange flowers and nicely cover a bare patch of ground. This is where I'll be putting my chair when I want to hide away and enjoy my plants and listen to the bees buzzing around the lavender bush.

Corner of the vegetable patch

The rest of our garden is really boring and is in a bit of a state as the summer house is falling down and the old wooden swing set is looking a little dicey. We are hoping to be able to do some work in the garden next summer, until then this is definitely my favourite part of the garden!

Friday 21 June 2024

A book themed "this or that"

I found this list of "this or that" questions over at A Wandering Scribbler, and I love writing about books and reading so I thought that I'd share my answers! 

Paperback or Hardcover

I prefer a paperback because it's easier to carry around with me, but I'll buy a hardback if I think it's a book that I'll want to read over and over again. Sometimes when I buy a book second hand from Wob I'll receive a hardback when I wasn't expecting it and it's appreciated, although it makes it more difficult to shelve with paperback books from the same author!

Fiction or Non-fiction

The vast majority of my day to day reading is fiction but I do read some non-fiction, mainly from the 'wellbeing' genre. I prefer fiction because I can get lost in it, with non fiction I feel that I have to concentrate in order to understand what I'm reading and to benefit from it. 

Historical or Science Fiction

I've enjoyed some science fiction but it would definitely be historical fiction for me. There's a trend lately for historical fiction books which are written from two perspectives - one storyline follows a character during a historical period and one storyline is set in the present. I'm not a huge fan of these because the story is plotted with the lives of the characters mirroring each other, and I just want to read the historical story and find out what happened. I enjoy historical books because I like to imagine what it would be like to have lived during a different time period, even if it's not a historically significant one.

Recent release or classic

Probably a classic, mainly for economic reasons as I very rarely buy a newly released books although sometimes I find them in the library or borrow from friends. When it comes to classic books I love Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, George Orwell...I've never got on with Charles Dickens! I also enjoy classic children's books - The Little House on the Prairie series, the What Katy Did series, the Little Women books, A Little Princess, the Anne of Green Gables series and so on.

Woman reading a blue hardcover book
Photo credit Benigno Hoyuela via Unsplash

Coffee or Tea

Tea, I don't like coffee at all. I only started drinking tea a few years ago and it's more of a social thing as I rarely drink tea when I'm by myself. I prefer a herbal or fruit tea, and I'm not a fan of adding milk which confuses people.

Dog ear or bookmark

I have bookmark stashes throughout the house so I can usually grab one when I need one. Most of my books are second hand so I'm not too bothered about scuffs and marks left by others, but I can't fold down corners myself!

Writing in the book or taking notes

The only time I've ever written in books is when they were set texts for an exam and I needed to annotate and highlight them. I don't write in books because many of my books are lent to other people or passed on when I've finished with them, and I don't want to spoil them for others. Occasionally I use a small post it note to mark something that I want to refer back to, and I have a notebook where I copy quotes that have stood out to me. 

Physical or digital books

If I had to choose it would be physical books for the tactile reading experience, but I definitely embrace digital books when it comes to travelling, so that I can take a huge selection of different books with me to suit my mood. I also like a digital book to read while I'm cooking or eating!

Audiobooks or print

Definitely print, I can't do audiobooks. The only time in my day that I would be able to listen to them is while I'm driving, and I just get too distracted. I listen to podcasts in the car and often realise that I've completely switched off and missed the last few minutes!

What is the most effective method for workplace drug testing? A comprehensive guide

This is a collaborative post

When it comes to ensuring a safe and productive workplace, drug testing is an important element. Workplace drug testing has increased significantly in recent years, and the most effective method for workplace drug testing varies depending on the specific needs and constraints of your organisation. Urine tests are often considered the gold standard for drug screening due to their high reliability and ease of collection and analysis. These tests can detect a wide range of substances and are generally straightforward to implement.

For those seeking less invasive options, saliva tests can be a practical choice. Saliva tests are quick, non-invasive, and suitable for on-site testing, making them ideal for random checks. Additionally, saliva tests can detect recent drug use, which is beneficial for identifying current impairment rather than past use.

An increasingly popular method is hair testing, which can detect drug use over a longer period, up to 90 days. This method is particularly useful for monitoring long-term drug use patterns. Regardless of the method chosen, it's important to utilise premium drug testing kits for accurate results to ensure the highest levels of reliability and legal compliance.

Drug testing vials
Photo credit via Unsplash

Workplace Drug Testing Essentials

Understanding the essentials of workplace drug testing involves knowing the legalities, ethics, and common substances screened.

Legality and Ethical Considerations

Implementing drug testing in a workplace requires knowledge of legal and ethical obligations. In the UK, it's important to have a clear and communicated drug testing policy. This policy should outline why testing is done, how it’s conducted, and what happens if a test is positive.

Employers must get informed written consent from employees before testing. Adherence to privacy and data protection laws is essential. Testing should be fair and non-discriminatory, ensuring reasonable adjustments where necessary. Always respect the confidentiality of test results to maintain trust and compliance with legal standards.

Common Drugs Tested for in the Workplace

Drug tests in the workplace often screen for substances that can impair performance and safety. Commonly tested drugs include cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and amphetamines. Different tests, like urine and saliva tests, can detect these substances. Urine tests are highly reliable and widely used.

Saliva tests are non-invasive and offer quick results. Hair tests can detect drug use over a more extended period, up to 90 days. Knowing your testing options and the substances they screen for can help maintain a safe and productive workplace. For relevant resources, you can explore options like FlowFlex Covid Self-Tests which we used when we were taking a cruise while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place.

Methods of Drug Testing

There are several drug testing methods used in workplaces, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Factors like detection windows, invasiveness, and accuracy can impact the choice of method.

Urine Drug Testing

Urine drug testing is one of the most common methods. It's widely used because it is affordable, reliable, and easy to administer. This test detects recent drug use, usually within the past few days.

Urine samples can be collected without professional medical personnel, making it a practical choice for many workplaces. The results are typically available quickly, which helps in making timely decisions. However, it's important to ensure the sample collection process maintains privacy and integrity to avoid tampering.

Blood Drug Testing

Blood drug testing is known for its accuracy and can detect recent drug use. This method is less commonly used in workplaces due to its invasive nature and higher cost.

Blood tests are highly reliable for detecting substances shortly after use. It requires trained medical professionals to draw the blood, which makes it less convenient than other methods. The time frame for detecting drugs in the bloodstream is shorter compared to urine tests, usually within hours to a couple of days.

Saliva Drug Testing

Saliva drug testing is non-invasive and easy to administer. It detects recent drug use, making it a popular choice for post-accident testing or reasonable suspicion testing.

Saliva tests typically detect drug use within the past 24 to 48 hours. The collection process involves taking a swab of saliva from the mouth, which can be done on-site. This method is less susceptible to tampering compared to urine tests. However, it may not be as effective for detecting long-term drug use.

Saliva swab testing
Photo credit Mufid Majnun via Unsplash

Hair Follicle Drug Testing

Hair follicle drug testing can detect drug use over a longer period, typically up to 90 days. This method is less common due to its higher cost and longer processing time.

A small sample of hair is collected, usually from the head, and sent to a lab for analysis. Hair tests are highly reliable and hard to cheat, as external contamination does not affect the results as easily as with other tests. This method provides a comprehensive history of drug use but is not effective for detecting very recent use.

Choosing the Right Method

Choosing the right drug testing method depends on the specific needs and circumstances of the workplace. Considerations include the detection window, the invasiveness of the test, the cost, and the specific substances that need to be detected.

Urine tests are cost-effective and reliable for recent drug use, while blood tests are accurate but more expensive and invasive. Saliva tests offer a non-invasive option for detecting recent use. Hair tests provide a longer detection window, making them suitable for identifying long-term drug use. By assessing these factors, you can choose the most appropriate method for your workplace needs.


Implementing an effective workplace drug testing programme requires clear policies and fair practices. Pre-employment testing ensures a drug-free start for new hires. Random testing keeps employees accountable but must be done transparently. Incident-driven testing is necessary after accidents to determine causes.

Open communication and good management enable a supportive workplace environment. Above all, combining drug testing with strong managerial practices improves safety, productivity, and staff reliability. This balanced approach leads to a healthier and more productive workforce.

Monday 17 June 2024

Picking up my neglected cross stitch project - Olde World Map by Janlynn

A while ago I wrote a post about my currently incomplete cross stitch projects - there were four in progress, plus at least two that are still unopened. Perhaps not as bad as some with this hobby, but the ones on the go are large projects that will take a long time to complete!

Probably my favourite in progress cross stitch project is the Olde World Map by Janlynn (affiliate link) which appeals to me because I love maps and I love historical cross stitch designs. It's a large piece but I've completed complicated cross stitch projects before like Three Things by Moira Blackburn and the Christmas ABC Sampler by Design Works, so I wasn't too daunted. I started with one of the map sections in the centre and didn't find it too difficult.

But then I reached the border along the bottom, and this is where I got stuck. The cross stitch pattern is very dense, with lots of different symbols for all the different colours and also a lot of the colours are very similar. Here's a small section of the pattern for the border. The pattern is printed with some colours, including the yellow section which refers to a golden coloured thread. 

Olde World Map cross stitch border pattern section

But! When you come to stitch it, you realise that most of the colours you are using in this section are almost identical, including the ones that are printed red on the pattern! Even in natural light it's really difficult to see the difference between a couple of the colours. So I was struggling with this, and that is what had made me put the project to one side. However this time when I picked it up I was determined, and I worked really hard to complete a large section of the border.

I began by adding the stitches in the darkest colours and counting very carefully, so that I had some markers in place. Then I worked on the areas marked yellow in the pattern. After adding in the simple lines I used a post it note and moved it across to work on one column at a time. It was slow going, although the pace picked up once I'd got used to the pattern. Then I was able to fill in the background colours, again counting very carefully and constantly rechecking my stitch positions.

Olde World Map border section before backstitch

However what really makes the border design pop is adding the backstitch. There is lots of backstitch in the border, some of it is simple straight lines and some is more fiddly, although once I'd done one of the outline sections I was able to copy that for the next ones rather than going back to the pattern. It really makes such a difference!

Olde World Map by Janlynn cross stitch border

Now that I've finished this section I have more confidence when it comes to tackling the rest of the border. I've already started to work up the left hand side and I'm finding it all much easier. Even though I've only done part of the left hand section of the design I'm tempted to next finish the border all the way up to the top.

You can see what the finished design will look like in the picture below. I still have a long way to go but the whole thing is starting to feel a little more achievable, and I'm looking forward to working on the more interesting designs in the corner and the middle!

Olde World Map by Janlynn cross stitch in progress

Friday 14 June 2024

My favourite places to read

Where do you like to read? Here are some of my favourite places!

Favourite places for everyday reading:

In bed. This is where I do most of my reading! We have a large padded headrest and I prop myself up with cushions. When my husband is away I go to bed around 9pm and tuck myself up in the duvet with a hot water bottle to read for a couple of hours.

In the egg chair in the dining room. It looks out over the garden and when the sun is out it's really warm. I have to prop a foot against the floor or a wall though to stop myself swinging too much otherwise I get seasick!

In the living room. The living room is cool in summer but lovely and warm in winter, especially on the sofa under a heated blanket.

Woman sitting on the sofa with a book
Photo credit Lenin Estrada via Unsplash

In my study. When everyone is around I can shut the door and sometimes I'm able to enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet to read before someone disturbs me.

In the car at school pick up. I arrive near the school nice and early, partly so that I can get a parking space but mainly because it gives me 20 minutes or so of undisturbed peace and quiet to read!

In the garden. I have to spend some time finding the perfect position - what to sit on and how to make sure that I'm not in full sun but still warm enough.

At the dinner table. I always read while I'm eating my lunch and sometimes also during my dinner if it's a particularly good book!

Favourite places that aren't quite as easy to manage:

The balcony on a cruise ship, ideally in a warm location. If the ship is at sea I can enjoy the breeze and the sight and sound of the waves. If it's docked then there is always something to see - either beautiful scenery or a busy dock with plenty of activity.

Any other kind of balcony. We've stayed a couple of times in an Airbnb in Westward Ho! which had a fantastic balcony with a view over the beach and a busy promenade beneath. I spent hours out there with a book!

Anywhere that I'm on holiday. When I don't have any other responsibilities to distract me and everyone else is occupied. I love a hotel room, even if there are other people there too and it can be a little cramped it always feel luxurious.

Balcony view in Westward Ho!

However - Places to read where the expectation doesn't meet reality!

These sound like good places to read, but they aren't for me!

On a plane. I can never read on a plane, I don't know if it's the vibration of the engines, the fact that it's so cramped, or constant disturbance from travelling companions, fellow passengers or the food and drink service. Likewise reading on a train!

On the beach. It's not that it's difficult to manage - I can get to a beach with a book in about fifteen minutes. But I always get too cold, too hot or it's too windy, and what if I need the toilet?

A coffee shop. I love the idea of sitting in a coffee shop with a book, a hot chocolate and an indulgent cake. But I would feel self-conscious, worry about staying too long after I'd finished my drink, and feeling exposed with people walking past. 

Zero-Emission road trips: Reducing environmental impact with a Tesla

This is a collaborative post

If the hustle of daily living is starting to take its toll on you, going on a road trip is a great way to break free from all of life's stresses. That said, this journey is not without consequences. For gas-powered car owners, going on a road trip means releasing non-renewable resources into the air, damaging the ozone layer and exacerbating climate change over time.

But in this day and age, there's one up-and-coming solution that can help reduce your carbon footprint: electric vehicles. Particularly, Tesla vehicles. Using Tesla vehicles to conduct your road trip is an excellent way of lowering your emissions. Not only is it a highly capable EV, but it's also one of the fastest-selling EV brands in the market--a testament to its reliability in the realm of sustainable transportation.

If you own a Tesla and plan to embark on a road trip, you're doing your part in helping the future generation enjoy a healthy world.

Read on to learn what you need to know when going on a road trip with a Tesla EV.

How Tesla Reduces Environmental Impact

Tesla is a proponent of sustainable design and incorporates it heavily into their product catalogue, including their fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. They do several things to manufacture their products sustainably. For one, their factories are built to maximise on cooling and heating efficiency. They do this by strategically placing windows near machinery to facilitate this efficient temperature exchange. They also ensure that their water consumption is lower than their competitors.

Furthermore, their factories are also partially run on solar panels--with the biggest one being in Texas. They also incorporate AI to help optimise their factory's ventilation and cooling infrastructure. Having said all this, it should be clear that buying a Tesla for yourself is essentially voting on a sustainable future. 

But, then you may wonder, why bother anyway?

Four Benefits of Driving an EV on Your Next Road Trip

It's easy to feel loyal to gas-powered vehicles when that's the only vehicle type you've been driving for your entire life. But, trust us, there's a lot of merit in making the switch to a Tesla EV.

Here are the benefits of choosing an electric vehicle over your standard run-of-the-mill gas-guzzling car.

1) Charging Infrastructure is Expanding Rapidly

If you're anxious about not being able to charge your EV when you're going on a road trip, quell those worries at once. Electric vehicles are becoming more and more mainstream with each passing year, and this effectively translates to an improved network of EV-supporting infrastructure such as widespread placement of charging ports.

Going on a zero-emission road trip with a Tesla or any other EV is a viable option, especially for established routes like the Grand Pacific Drive. Many others have done it in the past, and so can you.

2) You're Not Emitting Greenhouse Gases

Arguably the biggest perk of going electric is your decreased greenhouse gas emissions. The exhaust of traditional gas-powered vehicles can slowly erode the ozone layer's protective barrier. This means hotter days and increased UV radiation. Electric vehicles, over time, produce less of these destructive emissions.

3) You're in For a Smoother Ride

Teslas and other electric vehicles are fantastic choices if you want a smooth ride. They are made of fewer moving parts compared to your traditional engine-powered car. Particularly, there's no combustible engine in cars like Tesla.

The absence of this engine means you'll feel less car movement on the road. You'll also enjoy a more silent drive, which can be a fantastic quality-of-life improvement in the passenger's seat when you're planning to drive hundreds of miles or more.

4) You Have Self-Driving Features

Tesla's suite of features in its infotainment system is extensive, to say the least. Perhaps one of the most useful tools that Tesla provides its customers is its self-driving feature.

This allows the car to take the wheel and do the driving for you, literally. So if you want to take a break, you can kick back, put in a route, and let your Tesla do the work.

This is, of course, reserved for high-end models of the electric vehicle company. But if it's within your budget, then this feature can be a godsend in ensuring that you can stick to your schedule.

Tesla car parked on a scenic mountain side
Photo credit Charlie Deets via Unsplash

Planning Your Road Trip With a Tesla: 4 Essential Tips

If you've been thoroughly convinced to undertake the zero-emission life with a Tesla, then great! It's a wonderful car type with a diverse range of vehicle options, ranging in driving range, size, and more.

That said, you should still prepare ensure that your road trip goes without a hitch and as sustainably as possible. Here are four tips to achieving just that.

1) Get Car Insurance

Whether you're renting out an electric car or buying one outright, it doesn't matter--car insurance is a must. Having an insurance policy for your vehicle grants you peace of mind when driving. Depending on the plan, you can have coverage for collisions, medical visits, and damages to the car - which can help keep your own savings intact.

If you need a lead, ROLLiN' has comprehensive car insurance plans for all Tesla vehicles in selected Australian cities. That said, there are many other insurance plans you can avail of wherever you are located in the world.

2) Plan Your Trip in Advance

Let's face it: having to call a tow truck to pick up your zero-battery EV is pretty embarrassing. On top of that, it's also contributing to car emissions, particularly if the tow truck is gas-powered. To prevent this totally avoidable situation from happening, it's important to plan your trip in advance. You don't have to make it extremely rigid, just a rough sketch of places you want to tick off your bucket list would be ideal.

Furthermore, and most importantly, planning your trip can help you optimise your charging time. If you're expecting your battery's car to hit zero a couple of times throughout your trip, it's good to have it timed with visits and rest stops in desirable locations. You can use EV-specific navigation tools like PlugShare or ChargePoint to help you find nearby charging stations along your route. If you're embarking on a multi-day trip, you can also plan to stay in accommodations that have overnight charging ports readily available for your Tesla.

3) Be Sustainable Beyond the Car

Sustainability doesn't just stop inside your car. You have to embrace the lifestyle and incorporate it into every facet of your life. How to do that, you may wonder. There are a couple of ways. Number one, don't accept or use one-use plastics. Second, reuse and recycle belongings as much as you can. Thirdly, embrace a minimalist lifestyle, pack light, and stray far from consumerism. By applying these habits, you can lessen your rubbish contribution, which can be pivotal when making the world a more pleasant place to live.

4) Have a Plan B

Even with the most well-researched plan, many things can go wrong during travel. You could encounter a flat, roads could be under construction, and so on. If you want to see your trip to the finish, then it's important to have contingency plans in case things don't go exactly how you planned it.

For instance, don't wait for your battery to be at the single digits before you arrive at a charging station. Make sure that there's extra juice left for you to travel to the nearest charging port and a bit more. Secondly, if a site that you wanted to see is closed to the public, think of other spots near the area to visit. And, if your car somehow breaks down in the middle of nowhere, it's best to be prepared and have a GPS phone to ping your location for help.

Doing these things can help ensure you enjoy your time in the face of setbacks and still continue to enjoy your upcoming road trip, whether it’s a family escapade or a solo adventure.


Tuesday 11 June 2024

Craft ideas for a teen girls sleepover or craft afternoon

This post contains Amazon affiliate links

My daughter has hosted several sleepovers over the last few years, and I always like to have an activity or two that will keep the girls busy and away from their screens for a little while. My requirements for a sleepover craft - a project that can be completed ready to take home, something that doesn't require too much supervision or cleaning up, not too expensive or too many materials needed, and a finished product that will be a nice reminder of the sleepover and their friends.

Of course these craft ideas are perfect for groups of boys as well, I'm just writing about my own experiences! These are all crafts and activities that have been tried and tested with great results.

Mini diamond painting kits or stickers

I love all the different diamond painting kits that you can buy, and a small project is perfect for a sleepover. We've had many different kits over the years, and the sticker kits are particularly good because they are inexpensive, really quick to complete and come in all sorts of designs. I would choose something like this Diamond Painting Sticker Set (affiliate link) because there's a wide range of designs and everyone can complete several. We've used them to decorate notebooks and storage boxes.

Diamond painted sticker decorating a notebook

Pottery painting

Hobbycraft sells a great range of pottery painting kits, and they are often on special offer during the school holidays - there's usually a big display near the entrance and sometimes they are as cheap as £2.50 each. They come with a few paints but I usually get out our own acrylic paints for a wider range of colours, you can buy some great value sets of acrylic paints from The Works Save up a few old margarine tub lids for paint mixing, and gather paintbrushes in different sizes for large and small areas. Just make sure that everyone is wearing older clothes, or provide aprons!

Bracelet making

There is some adult supervision required with this one to avoid bead spillage disaster! Hobbycraft is a great place to buy beads as they have a pick and mix selection so that you can pick out some special beads that are themed to the girls' interests. Teenagers at the moment love making beads to wear and swap at concerts, and they like to include words so some letter beads (affiliate link) are a great type of bead to include. Clay beads (affiliate link) are also really popular and come in a huge range of colours.

When it comes to putting a bracelet together I like to keep it really simple. I buy some clear stretch elastic thread (affiliate link) and cut a length that fits easily around the wrist with some extra at each end. I use a bulldog clip on one end to stop the beads slipping off, and then the girls thread on the beads that they want. When it's long enough to go around the wrist, tie it really tightly with a triple knot, then secure with a big blob of superglue before snipping the ends. You can read how I made some bracelets for myself here - simple stretch beaded bracelets.

Simple stretch beaded bracelets

Bath bomb making

This is a fun one for younger children, with some adult supervision! You can keep things easy and buy a bath bomb making kit like this one (affiliate link) or else there are lots of recipes online for making your own. The only drawback to this is that you do need to have some moulds to use, and some of the ingredients might not be ones that you have in the cupboard.

Shrink plastic keychains

We've been playing with shrink plastic for years, it's a lot of fun! We recently used shrink plastic to make some cute keyrings. You just need to buy a set of the shrink plastic sheets (affiliate link) and draw on your designs. We printed out some Sanrio characters that could be traced over and then coloured - follow the instructions on the packet to check how much the image will reduce in size and what type of pens or pencils to use. If you are making keyrings, the most important part is to punch a hole in the design before you put it in the oven! Then when it has shrunk and cooled you can attach a keychain or coloured ball chain (affiliate link) so that it can be attached to a school bag or notebook.

Decorated letter shapes for room decorations

A wooden initial letter is a great keepsake and looks great on the wall. Hobbycraft sell these pretty ornate wooden letters which are easy to paint or colour using marker pens. You can also buy fun wooden fillable letters which can be decorated with fake flowers and pom poms or choose simple mache letters which can be covered with decopatch paper and glue.

Decopatch letter decoration

Friday 7 June 2024

My early summer garden

My gardening this summer has been delayed. We are planning an extension project at some point this year, and I wasn't sure how much of our garden I would be able to easily access. But we won't be starting until later in the year, so a few weeks ago I planted out seeds for the two things that I'm always successful at growing - tomatoes and sunflowers.

One part of my garden that gets more beautiful every year is my lavender bush. When it was planted a few years ago the young plant was confused with a rosemary bush, and so it ended up in my vegetable patch instead of a pot (the rosemary bush that was put in the pot has sadly long since died). This means that it has the space to grow and grow, and it certainly has. I do cut it back every year but I don't over prune as I don't want to kill it!

It's not quite at peak flowering yet but there isn't long to go. The bees love it!

Large lavender bush in the garden

Last week I planted out my tomato and sunflower seedlings into the vegetable patch. Hopefully it won't get any colder, and although they are small I think that they are hardy enough to survive outside. Due to the late start they aren't as impressive as they usually are at this time of year, but I'm hoping that there will be plenty of time for them to pick up and get going.

Small tomato seedlings in vegetable patch

I've also done the first cut of our large hedge at the front of the house. It takes so long - all the clearing up afterwards! Over the years both me and my husband have sliced through the cord on different electric trimmers, so recently I've been hacking at it using a low powered battery trimmer which means I've had to cut in stages and then recharge. It was a struggle, so we've treated ourselves to a new corded electrical strimmer. It's already had a very narrow escape but fortunately the blades only slightly damaged the plastic cord coating and so it's still fine to use - I hope that it can make it through this year at least!

Now I'm looking at my borders and they are very bare so I think I'll be doing a trip to the garden centre to pick up some bedding plants to try and add a bit more colour.

It's been a slow start, but hopefully this week's sunshine is here to stay and we'll be able to enjoy the garden this summer!

Thursday 30 May 2024

RHS Collage the Botanical World - craft book review

This week I've been having fun with a wonderful book that I've been sent to review - RHS Collage the Botanical World. This book is unique collection of over 1000 botanical themed images from the RHS archives. Printed single sided on thick, glossy pages, these elements are the perfect starting point for creative collaging. With gorgeous pictures covering all sorts of themes including flowers, fruits and vegetables, insects, gardening tools, leaves, mushrooms, greenhouses, there's plenty here to get the creative juices flowing.

RHS Collage the Botanical World craft book review

At the beginning of the book you can find plenty of useful tips and advice along with some colourful inspiration. For example, don't just cut out and assemble every image that takes your fancy, instead take some time to look at the different perspectives and lighting, and also think about limiting the colour palette so that the finished collage doesn't become overwhelming. 

Collage tips from botanical collage book

Although at first I hated the idea of cutting into the book, once I had braced myself to cut out my first image I couldn't stop! I snipped the pictures out roughly until I had a small pile, then I spent time with a smaller and sharper pair of scissors to cut them more neatly. Some of the images are very fiddly, so you need to decide whether to cut them down right to the edges or leave a small border. You also might need to use a scalpel for some of the interior areas.

RHS Botanical Collage book sample pages and illustrations

It's relaxing and meditative - both when you are flipping through the book to select your images and then while you concentrate on the cutting out, enjoying a close up look at the picture as you do so.

At the end of the book there's a great selection of different backgrounds that you can use for your collage. Some are vintage and muted, others are modern and vibrant. I was a little hesitant about where to start and I found it much easier to think about adding collage to an existing background rather than being faced with a blank page.

RHS Botanical Collage book background photographs

I can see myself using this collage collection in two ways. The first is to enhance my illustrated journal, and because I often write about what is happening in my garden I spotted plenty of images which would work perfectly. For example these plump tomatoes, pretty sunflowers and ripe apples. 

Illustrated journal with botanical collage images

Secondly is to use the images to make my own collages in my scrapbook, and this was something that I really enjoyed having a go at. I chose a background of some large rocks so that I could play around with the scale of my collage. I took inspiration from one of the example images at the beginning of the book that used mushrooms as a landscape feature, and cut them to look as though they were growing among the rocks. Then I added vegetable greenery at the bottom and images of a woman and a bird to balance it out! I had a lot of fun choosing my images and thinking about where to place them, and I'm definitely going to be making some more fun collages!

Collage page with botanical theme

If you fancy having a go at this yourself, you can click here to order a copy of the book!

Wednesday 29 May 2024

What I'm looking forward to this summer

I'm so glad that the weather is finally turning warmer! After a wonderful weekend spent outdoors I'm really hoping that there will be many more.

Some of the things that I'm looking forward to this summer:

Being able to go out for a run and not having to wrap up in long leggings and a thick jumper. I do warm up when I'm running, but I hate that first step out of the door into a freezing world. I feel self-conscious wearing my shorts, but I remind myself that people aren't really paying me any attention, and I think I run faster in shorts as my legs can move more easily!

Plenty of outdoor pizza and barbecues. We love our pizza oven, and even though this year we've made a switch to a new indoor Ooni Volt rather than the Ooni Koda that we've been using for years, we've still been making the pizza and bringing it outside to eat. For some reason it's only pizza and barbecue food that we eat outside, I need to make more of an effort to take our usual meals to eat in the garden too!

Pizza from the Ooni Koda pizza oven

Enjoying an occasional fire pit. It's so nice to sit by the firepit in the early evening with the family, we usually use a fire log which takes about an hour to burn and it's the perfect amount of time for a drink or a singalong with a child playing the ukulele.

Being able to hang the washing outside. I love our tumble dryer but I much prefer hanging out the washing. I quite enjoy the process of hanging it out and then watching it blow in the breeze. 

Going for long evening walks. On a dry summer evening my husband and I go out for a walk after dinner, sometimes our regular route around the houses, sometimes we drive down to the seafront and walk that way. It's a nice opportunity to catch up rather than just sitting about on phones, and the exercise helps the dinner go down.

Sunset across fields
Photo credit Lawrence Hookham via Unsplas

The longest day of the year - this year it's the 20th June. It always feels like a magical day to me. Last year my husband was away and I sat out alone in the garden for the evening while it got dark, reading and writing in my journal, it was really peaceful. 

Getting away - in July we have a short break booked to a fantastic Airbnb in Devon that we have stayed in before. Our previous holidays have been in December and February, so I'm looking forward to seeing what it is like in the summer. There is a lovely garden and an area with bifold doors so I'm hoping for good weather so that we can make the most of it!

Glastonbury! I love watching Glastonbury on the television and reminiscing about my festival days. We put a little pop up tent in the living room and I decorate with flower garlands and flags. Then I print out the schedule and highlight the acts that I want to watch. I've not had a proper look at the line up yet but I do know that Coldplay are performing and I can always find something that I want to see.

Living room set up for watching Glastonbury

Enjoying having the children around. Now that they are older they are usually found in their rooms, but they will come down if persuaded. I'm hoping that they will spend some time with me, maybe playing in the garden, going for walks, or just sitting together as we work on our own projects.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

Monday 27 May 2024

Reasons that I give up on a book

There are so many books in the world, and although I'm a fast reader there's no way that I could ever read every book that I want to. I usually give a book a good go, but I won't stick with a book that I'm not enjoying. There are always plenty more waiting!

Here are some of the reasons that I'll put a book aside before finishing it:

  • Too many similar characters are introduced quickly, or the names of individual characters are too similar. I enjoy books with varied and interesting characters, but I need to be able to distinguish them from each other.
  • I can't relate to the main character - maybe they make decisions that I don't agree with or they are simply so unlike me that I can't imagine them.
  • Complicated family histories - I can only enjoy books like this if they have a family tree to refer to at the beginning!
  • It's badly written with spelling or grammar mistakes. This is rare, but happens sometimes with the free self-published books that I download for my Kindle. Similarly with sentences that just don't flow, geographical errors or unrealistic dialogue. It just bothers me too much!
  • It was a book that was recommended to me or that 'everyone' should read, but once I start it I realise that it's not my thing at all. 

Woman sitting on the sofa reading
Photo credit Lenin Estrada via Unsplash

  • It is too violent, especially violence against women. And although I'm not averse to a bedroom scene or two I don't always need to know all the details!
  • It's very long or the print is very small. I can handle a long book but only a couple of year - the last one was The Count of Monte Cristo which I loved but it took weeks and I'm used to finishing a book every couple of days! I have War and Peace lined up in my reading pile but it's just too daunting at the moment!
  • I started it at a bad time - maybe just before we went away on holiday and so I forgot where I was up to, or I was given a more enticing book to read which took my interest away. Sometimes I come back to these books, but I usually have to start them over again from the beginning!
  • It's a book that has been written in the hope of cashing in on the popularity of another book. I usually discover very quickly that I preferred the original!
  • It wasn't what I was expecting. Similar to the above, I'm easily persuaded into picking up a book with a similar cover to one that I've enjoyed, only to find it's not what I wanted at all.

Do you stick with a book to the bitter end, even if it's not your thing?