Halterneck top out of a scarf – beginners sewing tutorial

Upcycing scarf into halter neck top tutorial

This is a tutorial to show you how to create a summer halterneck top out of a scarf. It is really easy and suitable for beginners. This tutorial makes a halterneck backless top. You can use a sewing machine or sew by hand, as there is not much sewing involved.

Upcycing scarf into halter neck top tutorial
Continue reading Halterneck top out of a scarf – beginners sewing tutorial

Truth and Justice, and the Serial Podcast

Serial podcast

What were you doing on a particular day 16 years ago?

This is the question at the heart of the Serial Podcast, an award-winning series which reports on the murder investigation of Hae Min Lee, an 18 year old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore. She was abducted and killed on 13 January 1999. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted of her murder and given a life sentence. He’s still in prison, despite protesting his innocence throughout. Continue reading Truth and Justice, and the Serial Podcast

Spamalot! – Top spam from my blog


It’s been a little while since I logged into my WordPress dashboard – holidays, family, work have all got in the way of writing random posts for this blog. One of the first things I always do is check the spam folder, just incase someone nice has written a genuine comment on one of my blog posts (I know, stranger things have happened!).

Today I was overwhelmed with the tremendous response my blog has had from all sorts of random people around the world who were motivated to leave me a lovely comment. I received some lovely comments about weight loss, search engine optimisation and other random comments that have nothing at all to do with the post they were submitted against. Here are a few of my faves from today’s haul of Spamalot!

Sorry my blog ate your comment
How do you get stuckness?
Yes, dieting is a nasty word in the world of… dieting
Some great points about blogging in my post about shiny nails
Weight loss is so confusing that I had to write a ranty post about yarn bombing.
It appears that Easter Egg hunts are much more popular than even I thought. Stay up this great work!
The experts need to know about my carrier bag obsession!

Thankfully WordPress has a handy feature called Akismet that keeps comments in a queue rather than auto publishing them, so I can stop this nonsense from appearing on my blog. There’s plenty more Spam waiting in my dashboard for the next edition of Spamalot!


Image: freezelight on Flikr

DIY Gel nails at home

DIY gel nail colour

Gel nail varnish stays on for two weeks and has a better finish than normal nail polish. However it will cost you at least £20 every two weeks to have the polish soaked off and re-applied, as well as the time it takes for the appointment.

DIY gel nails are really easy once you know how and it means that you can do your nails whenever it suits you (evenings in front of the TV for me). I like the Blue Sky range but you can also use Shellac, OPI, SensatioNail or any of the other brands. Continue reading DIY Gel nails at home

Blogging with WordPress is as easy as childsplay

Ok, so I have not been great at posting regularly on this blog, but you know how life gets in the way of doing all the things you want to do?

Setting up a blog really is easy – in fact it was easy enough for my nine-year-old to do this week with minimum help from me. Just follow these steps and you can’t go wrong.. Continue reading Blogging with WordPress is as easy as childsplay

The Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast

Excited by the prospect of fossils and rock formations our Easter road trip took us in our shiny Campervan “Ruby” to the Jurassic Coast – which spans Dorset and Devon in the South of England.

VW Camper-tastic

Now that we have Ruby we weren’t afraid of camping so early in the season and booked into the fantastic Hook Farm camp site in Uplyme, near Lyme Regis. Despite the slightly soggy ground (we had to be pulled out of the mud by the tractor) the site was quite busy with campervans, tourers and a few hardy canvas campers. It’s a lovely quiet small site, suitable for young families and adults and I would definitely recommend it.

Fossil hunting

I’m disappointed that neither of my children are the type to spend hours beach-combing as once they had found their first fossils they thought that was ‘job done’ and time to get an ice cream! There were fossil hunters everywhere, but plenty for everyone to find as the photo below shows.

Ammonite Fossil
An Ammonite Fossil I found

Branscombe Beach

Branscombe hit the headlines a few years ago when a cargo ship lost some containers which were washed up on Branscombe Beach and looted by the public. The beach was idyllic on sunny Easter Monday with the kids diverting a stream or relaxing on the pebbles. A short walk away in Branscombe village is the National Trust Old Bakery tea room which served the perfect cream tea!

Cream Tea!
Cream Tea!


So food features quite highly in my list of holiday essentials and we weren’t disappointed at the Good Food Store or the Harbour Inn where the kids put away an adult meal each! The mussels were the largest I have ever seen and the choice of seafood was fantastic.


The South West Coast Path runs the length of the Jurassic Coast. We walked sections of it most days, and whilst hilly it provides ever-changing scenery and breathtaking views of the coastline. From Charmouth you can walk up to Golden Cap, which is the highest point in Southern England.

South West coast path
South West coast path

Happy travels!

The Black Forest with kids

February in the black forest

It’s probably been about 15 years (or more!) since I holidayed in the Black Forest in Southern Germany as it was a firm family favourite whilst I was growing up. This year we decided to revisit the Baden-Wurttemberg area as parents with our two kids in tow.

Here’s my top 5 great things about holidaying in the Black Forest:

1. Karneval or Fashing (not ‘fishing’!!)

Fashing is the German version of carnival, but it is a week-long series of festivities during February, culminating in Rosenmontag, where a traditional parade takes over the streets of every village, town and city. The parade is made up of every local club and association, each having their own theme, float and characters. Sweets are thrown at the children and confetti thrown at the crowds. It’s great fun and a great taste of local tradition.

The Fashing Parade
The Fashing Parade

2. Pine forests and snow

Winter in the forest is beautiful, and we got a couple of day’s skiing in as well as sledging and some awesome tabogganing. The area is really well equipped and you can also hire snow shoes or cross country ski gear, or simply go hiking along the trails (which are really well marked).

You can hire sturdy sledges at the Rodelbahn to sledge a 3km long taboggan route through the forest. Take the chair lift up and slide back down!

Ski goggles
Goggle girls hit the slopes!

3. Food

If you’re willing to try something different then you are sure to find it in the Black Forest! Game is a favourite, so be open to trying Wild Boar or Deer. Fish is more popular here than in the rest of Germany as they have access to River Trout, and the traditional egg noodle ‘spaetzle’ is delicious. You’ll get some juicy Wiener Schnitzel and of course a great range in Bratwurst sausage.

BUT (* here’s the reason for the asterisk above) there is very little in the way of variety for vegans, vegetarians or anyone with a diet that doesn’t involve meat.  Meals are rarely served with vegetables, so you will need to order a salad as a side dish to make sure that you get your 5-a-day!

4. Great adventures

There’s loads to do beside winter sports or rambling, for instance:

  • The Rodelbahn in Todnau is (perhaps) the longest mountain rollercoaster in Germany. It winds its way along a 2.9km track down the side of the hill. It was closed when we went due to the huge amount of snow, so a return trip is called for to experience it!
  • The city of Freiburg which lists the minster amongst its many historic buildings – and is great for a day out.
  • Indoor and outdoor spas such as this one in Titisee-Neustadt which boasts 18 slides and a wave pool. We ran out of time to go there, but are planning a visit on our next trip!
The Rodelbahn
The Rodelbahn out of action due to heavy snowfall

5. Hospitality

A warm welcome is pretty much guaranteed to people travelling with children as the folk in this area of Germany are very family focussed. If you make a little effort to speak some German – even if it is rudimentary – then your efforts will be appreciated by the locals.  We stayed at the excellent Haus Erika guesthouse, which is run by ex-pat Lesley and her German husband, which is perfect for British families trying the Black Forest for the first time.

If you’re visiting the Baden-Wurttemburg area of the black forest then flights to Basel-Mullhouse-Freiburg are your best bet. Happy travels!

Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

I love the idea of the traditional Easter Egg hunt for kids, but somehow it always seemed to rain when we wanted to do it outside, and in any case the idea of putting chocolate eggs near mud and slugs makes me shiver.

Instead I devised two variations of Easter Egg treasure hunts that can be played inside or out, depending on the weather and the amount of space you have available! The second one comes with a free clue sheet ready for you to use.

1. Plastic Egg hunt

For the first version of this game I used plastic eggs hidden around the home and garden. They come in lots of bright colours and can be bought cheaply in kits from pound shops. Sometimes they come apart to hide things in, but other versions are just solid plastic. Either works well, but egg shapes cut out of card work too if you don’t want to go to the expense of buying a load of plastic eggs.

Preparation: Get the children otherwise occupied (eg in decorating their Easter bonnets or some other Easter themed activity) whilst you scatter the eggs around. I hide them in plant pots, behind leaves and up in trees, all within easy reach of little ones. Just remember how many you have hidden or you won’t know when the game is over!

How to play: The idea of the game is to collect as many eggs as you can until they are all gone. The children can race off into the hunt area and collect eggs into their baskets. Ours tend to get quite competitive but love discovering eggs hidden behind pots or garden gnomes! This game avoids having chocolate sitting in soil or being accidentally left out in the garden!

And the winner is: The person with the most eggs when no more can be found. The reward can be whatever you like – everyone gets the same goody-bag; winner gets a bigger prize, or they can trade in their plastic eggs for the same number of mini eggs – it’s up to you!

Easter Egg Treasure Hunt
And the winner is…

2. Easter Egg Treasure Hunt

This is my favourite, but it takes a bit more preparation. This is a treasure hunt with written clues hidden around the house and garden, leading them from one clue to the next. You can hide the clues inside plastic egg shapes or print them onto the back of egg-shaped cards.

Preparation: Use my template document below to create your clues. I’ve given you 30+ clues to get you started, but you will need to adapt these to suit your home and garden.  The final clue will bring them to the hoard of eggs, or whatever you determine your big prize to be!  Once you are happy with your clues print them off twice and cut up one sheet into separate clues.

The most important thing to remember is that when you are laying your clues out that you need to do the treasure hunt BACKWARDS! So, in my example from the clue sheet, you would start at the toy box, where you would hide your big prize, then put the toybox clue at the pink chair, the pink chair clue under the child’s pillow etc.

You can hide the clues inside plastic eggs if you want to keep the Easter theme going strong!

How to play: Start the children off by giving them the first clue and ask them to solve it together. When they have guessed the answer they go there together to find the next clue. Our children took it in turns to read out and try to solve the clue regardless of who found the egg.

And the winner is: Everyone wins as they should get to the final location at the same time. If you use a toybox or cupboard as the last place then you can create a buzz by hiding balloons or confetti there, that will fall out when they open the door and find their Easter goodies waiting for them!

You can download my Easter Egg Treasure Hunt clues here.


Easter chick
Happy Easter!

Upcyling charity shop clothes – easy no sew skirt alteration

I love rummaging through charity shops to see what I can find. I have brought home some awesome clothes for the kids in the past and things for the house. Quite often I find clothes that I really like but are the wrong size or not quite the right shape, so I have taken to upcycling them. Doing your own skirt alteration may be a bit daunting if you are not used to it, so here is an easy method to alter the length of a skirt that doesn’t involve any sewing!

This skirt caught my eye because of the colours and tweedy pattern. It was the right size for me but way too long. So here is my step by step instructions on how to shorten a skirt using the ‘no sew’ method!


The skirt before alteration
The skirt before alteration

1. Get the skirt length right

Use an existing skirt to measure the length.
Use an existing skirt to measure the length.

I used an existing (black) skirt that I have to guide me in the right length for my alteration.

Measure the skirt’s length from waistband to hem and then pin that same length along the fabric of your skirt to be altered. Try it on at this point as the waistband of one skirt might sit higher than the waistband of the other, which would result in the wrong length! It’s also worth trying the skirt on with the shoes you would normally wear with the outfit, as heels vs flats will make a difference in how the skirt sits on your hips.

Measure the hem allowance.
Measure the hem allowance.

Cut the excess fabric off, leaving around 5cm additional length for your hem. If your skirt is lined (like mine was) then just cut the lining to the same length for now.


Cut away!
Cut away!


2. Create the hem

Iron creases into your hem allowance to create the folds for your hem by folding the fabric up into the wrong side of the skirt. It can be easier to do this if you turn the whole skirt inside out. You want to fold the hem up about 2cm, iron it flat, then fold it up again, about 2.5cm and iron it flat again.

By doing this you will make sure that your hem is even all the way around and you can double check that the skirt length will be even all over, using a tape measure. Pop a few pins in and try the skirt on again.

Fold, iron, fold, iron
Fold, iron, fold, iron

3. Iron in place

Iron hemming tape in place.
Iron hemming tape in place.

Once you are happy with the hem length you can iron in the hemming tape (Wundaweb). Take care not to touch it with the iron as it can get very sticky!


4. Dealing with lining

If your skirt is lined you will need to lay it flat and mark out the final length of the skirt on the lining using either pins or tailor’s chalk. For the finished garment you ideally want the lining to fall 2-5cm shorter than the skirt, so cut away any excess and repeat steps 2 and 3 for the lining.

Because lining fabric is harder to work with I tend to pin it through to the ironing board to keep it in place better. For lining you want the hem to sit on the outside of the skirt so that any rough edges are away from your legs.


Cut away excess lining.
Cut away excess lining.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin lining hem.
Pin lining hem.
Iron into place.
Iron into place.

5. Wash and iron – finished!

The finished skirt!
The finished skirt!

Here are the tools needed to do the job with a link to suggested products on Amazon:

How I cut our energy bills by half

Energy Company logos

I realised this week that we have cut our energy bills (gas and electricity) by half compared with what it was this time last year. I’m quite proud of that! I haven’t done anything radical, but I have played the system a bit, so here are my tips to see if you can make a saving too.

You probably shop around for a mortgage deal and the best credit card, so why not your energy account too? We’ve ended up saving hundreds of pounds per year on our energy bills, which actually makes me quite embarrassed now that we paid so much before!

[At this point I will declare an interest that I have an energy company as a business client, but what that does mean is that I can share a bit of insider knowledge!]

1. Get an online account

Most of the UK’s energy providers allow you to register for an online account. This enables you to access your details via the web and gives you better visibility of your energy usage and therefore puts you in control. Look for a ‘log in’ or ‘register’ button on your energy company’s website.

2. Check you are on the right tariff

Using your online account you can see if you are on the right tariff for your needs. If you have come to the end of a fixed term deal (just like mortgages you can get 1-year or 2-year fixed price deals for energy) you may have been transferred onto a standard tariff, which is normally higher rate and will be costing you more. Use your company’s tariff checker to see if you could save money by switching to a different product. Before you switch check if there is an exit fee for the product you are currently on.

3. Select the money saving options for your new tariff

Some companies give discounts for paperless online billing and monthly direct debit. Unless you have an aversion to either they can save you a reasonable amount of money (£50+). If you are on a pre-pay meter try to get a credit meter installed as they generally offer better priced deals. If you opt to take both gas and electricity from the same provider you may also qualify for a dual fuel discount of £15-£20. Some providers offer extra benefits such as Tesco Clubcard points or Amazon vouchers either as a one-off golden welcome or as an ongoing customer benefit, so take those into account too.

4. Opt in to price alert emails

Some providers will notify you each time they drop their prices or issue a new product that could be cheaper. Other providers will notify you 6-monthly. Either way, it is worth signing up for this service as it ensures that you are kept up to date on the latest deals from your current provider.

5. Join the Cheap Energy Club and switch supplier

Sign up for Moneysavingexpert.com’s Cheap Energy Club. This works as an intermediary, using the collective buying power of all the members to negotiate the best prices for a fixed time period. Again, it is worth signing up to join the club and you will be notified when a collective switch is available. When the switch opportunity comes along you get to select the best tariff for you, from whichever company you want, and the switch is managed via the intermediary.

Before you switch just check out the green credentials and customer service ratings for your new supplier, as it is sometimes worth paying a little extra to get a good service. You can however even use the club to switch tariff and stay with the same supplier.

6. Get accurate bills

Estimated bills are not good for you or the energy company, so provide regular (at least monthly) meter readings (either online or via your company’s mobile app) to ensure that you get an accurate bill. Otherwise you could be paying over the odds for energy you haven’t used. Watch out for what they call the ‘billing window’ which is a period during which the meter reading/estimate that is on the system is used even if you provide an accurate reading.

Once Smart Meters are installed across the country you won’t have to provide meter readings any more as they will be automatically transmitted to your provider, but for now the responsibility is for you to provide accurate consumption data to your provider.

7. Cut your energy use

Whilst the biggest savings to be made are by switching supplier and/or tariff you can still save money by cutting down on the amount of energy you use.  A lot of the energy saving tips will save you a few pounds a year, but I discovered that the biggest savings you can make are by turning your heating and/or hot water down by a few degrees.

Being completely nesh [Nesh: Nottingham slang for a person who feels the cold] I couldn’t face turning our heating down but have dropped our water temperature to 60 degrees (Hot water should be stored at 60 °C at least in order to kill legionella bacteria.) No-one has noticed and I am sure it has made a difference to our energy bills!

Many energy companies offer an energy saving tracker tool online, or a counter-top energy monitor which are worth using for a while at least to understand where you use energy and how you could make savings. Worth looking into if you have the time and sufficient attention span!

I’d love to hear how you get on and if you manage to make savings too!