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February 2015

Give a home to bees, without getting a hive (giveaway!)

In the next few weeks some beehives will be being installed on community land in our village. It’s a project which everyone is feeling excited about. They’ll be more bees in the local area pollinating the plants and the chance for people to buy locally sourced honey. At a time when the decline of bees is grabbing headlines, it feels like we are doing a small bit to help.

When we first moved here I toyed with the idea of having a hive in our own garden, but I was put off by the investment and work involved and (lets be honest) the potential of being stung too! However I have discovered that there is a small way we can play a part by providing a home for solitary bees.

Bee House

What are solitary bees? When I first heard about them I thought they might be sad dejected insects which had been cast out by their colony, but no, they are a different species to honey bees and there are nearly 200 varieties of them. They still pollinate plants, but they don’t sting and because they live on their own and don’t produce honey, they don’t need to be managed.

In the wild solitary bees make nests in old trees, but like birds you can encourage them into your garden by providing them with a ready made home. Our lovely yellow Bee House was given to us by Flamingo Gifts and they have given me another to giveaway to one lucky reader (see below)


The first solitary bees will appear in the garden as early as next month which means this is the perfect time of the year to create a home for them. Bees like warmth and shelter, so it is recommended you hang the Bee House in a south-facing spot on a wall. Our southerly aspect faces the sea and gets a bit of a hammering in bad weather, so we decided to tuck our bee house under our veranda on the east side of the house.

Learning about bees has been a lovely project for Theo and a great way of learning about the environment. If you have older kids you could also give them a compass and ask them to find a good spot in the garden that faces south

Bee House

If you’d like to have a Bee House of your own you can enter the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize is one Bee House, it will be delivered within 28 days of competition close. Open to UK addresses only. No cash alternative. If the winner does not respond to their winning email to claim the prize within 7 days, a new winner may be drawn.

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A digger on site again!

A digger on site again!

by Clare Mansell

Hello everyone, I hope you had a great weekend. Our weekend has mostly been about digging… and what little boy (or big one!) doesn’t like having a mini-digger on hire for a couple of days?


We hired the digger to do the final push on a project we started nearly two years ago. Along our boundary we have an area that originally contained a very overgrown hedge and a flowerbed. The first time we viewed the house, I decide we needed to rip it out and turn it back to grass. It took us 4 years to even get near it (as we weren’t living in the house) and another 18 months from the start of the work till now. The ground was riddled with tree stumps, bricks, rubbish, patio slabs, gravel and very heavy clay soil.

Part of the delay was because we didn’t want to do anything to the garden whilst we had building work going on last year, another part because we simply can’t afford to tackle all the jobs we have at once (a contractor quoted £1200 for this job!) and finally because we weren’t sure we could actually get a digger on site without removing fencing. Then after some googling we discovered doorway diggers, which yes, you guessed it can fit through a doorway, or in our case a front gate… and so we hatched a plan!


After two days of digging and then leveling, the ground is finally clear of rubbish and we can think about sowing grass seed on it ready for the summer. The area is pretty big, about 20 metres by 5 metres and it’s also going to be really useful addition to the garden. Jim’s done a great job getting it this far (at a fraction of the cost of having someone in!) and I’m really looking forward to seeing it as a finished grass surface.


Tomorrow the digger is being collected and all the junk and tree roots are going to the dump. After that I’ll be researching grass seed, honestly I had no idea there were so many types for so many different sorts of lawns. You can even get custom mixes!


I think these two have quite enjoyed having a digger to play with for the last couple of days…

Would you like to read more about our home?

Linking up with….


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
Living Arrows



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I love sleep and by that I mean really love sleep.

I am lucky in that most of the time I don’t have too much trouble nodding off, but I think a lot of that has to do with the changes I have made over the years that have turned our bedroom into a sleep sanctuary.

Here are a few of the things that work for me…


Buy the biggest bed you can fit in your bedroom

I have no idea at all how two people manage to sleep in a 4’6″ bed without constantly elbowing each other. Superking’s have only been widely available for about the last 15 years, but at twice the size of a single bed they make complete sense for two people and even more sense if you occasionally have children in your bed. The only down side to buying one is that once you have experienced their expansive luxury you will feel a little cheated when you have to sleep in anything smaller. Hotels and B&Bs are catching up slowly with the demand for 6 foot beds, but I find we still have to shop around a bit when booking accommodation (unless we are staying in America or Canada!)

Treat yourself to a mattress topper

I presume everyone must have one of these by now, surely?! If you haven’t got one but you have a spare duvet kicking around you can do a good cheats topper by laying that across the mattress under the sheet. Our spare bed currently has a really cheap mattress on it, but we put a spare duvet on it and it completely transformed it. No longer was it springy and hollow, instead you sink into the down topper and don’t feel what’s beneath it

Cast aside your prejudices about heated blankets

When we were posted to Cyprus, my parents bought us a heated blanket and we thought they were mad! Then winter came and suddenly “turning on the bed” became a nightly ritual like lighting the fire. It’s like getting into a pre-warmed bed and if you live in an old or drafty house I can’t recommend it highly enough. We generally turned ours off as soon as we got into bed so there were no fears about over-heating during the night, but it is a lovely luxury

Get an alarm clock with a display that turns off

I’m a great believer in having a dark room to sleep in and if you still have a bedside alarm clock (or does everyone use their phone?) it’s great to have one that allows you to turn the display off at night so you don’t have a big glowing light shining in your face. You have to hunt quite hard for one with that facility, but this one does have that option. Some people like to know the time if they wake in the night (in which case you can switch the display on briefly) but personally I’d rather not know the time, so I don’t count down the hours I have left.

Read a book (and I don’t mean a Kindle)

I have nothing against Kindles or eBooks in general, but late night reading on them has two disadvantages. Firstly it (mostly) means staring at a backlit screen which has been linked to insomnia and secondly it’s easy to get distracted from the book and start browsing the web or social media. When we slept in the cabin during the build one of the biggest frustrations about sharing a room with Theo was not being able to have a light on to read before I went to sleep. I find that even if it’s 10 minutes the time spent reading helps me unwind and switch my brain off.

Written for Carpetright

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Improv baby quilt

Jamie’s improv quilt

by Clare Mansell

My first completed quilt of 2015! This project was a challenge of my own creation. I am currently on a fabric diet, I have a big fat roll of wadding and a studio full of bits of fabric and I tasked myself to complete this without buying anything. I succeeded, but what it saved me in money it cost me in time as I spent so long first thinking of an idea and then rumaging around for fabric for it, finding I hadn’t got enough and then repeating the process until I remembered this quilt I made 5 years ago for a baby when we lived in Cyprus and decided to repeat it.

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Home office room tour

Home office room tour

by Clare Mansell


Since our building work was completed I have had the luxury of having a room in the house whose sole purpose is as an office. This room used to be Theo’s bedroom before we added the first floor and is at the front of the house benefiting from the morning sun. It’s always been a nice space, even though it had a few damp problems before we did the work. It remained relatively untouched during the build except for replacing the old bay windows with a new sash.

Despite the fact I knew it would improve the whole look of the house, I will admit that I was a little nervous about the window change because the bay windows were actually wider than the sash replacement and I thought it might make the room darker. I needn’t have worried though, the window is still massive and the room is still very bright. This is what it looked like this time last year…



The carpet in this room is still the original we laid 5 years ago it suffered badly during the building work getting a few obscure stains and some plaster embedded in it. We had planned to replace it with wood flooring or new carpet but the budget ran out before we got this far. Luckily Habitat gifted us the beautiful green rug which covers most of the floor and hides all but one of the marks!


My desk came from Ardingly Antiques fair last autumn, it was love at first sight but I haggled with the seller and started to walk away before we eventually struck a deal! I realised recently that I pinned an almost identical style desk on to my House Remodel board on Pinterest two years ago, long before I saw this one… but that’s a whole other post which I’ll be writing at some point!


If I can, I like to have some flowers on my desk although I am so picky with the flowers I like, that most people have given up buying them for me. Daffodils and Tulips are favourites though. The jug these ones are in was actually a Secret Santa present, possibly the best one I have ever had! It was given to me by fellow blogger Robyn when we worked together in Cyprus and has been used constantly since.


Also on my desk is my diary. This year I spent ages searching for something that did what I wanted. I saw the Organised Mum Life Book in John Lewis at Christmas, but just hated the fact it was called “Organised Mum” urrrgggh. So I searched round for ages trying to find something that did the same but had a better brand name (ha!) before eventually having to track down one of the last remaining copies in the country. It’s brilliant though, even if you do have to get past the slightly patronising brand name.


Behind the sofabed is our Moonpig wall. Basically a collection of all the Moonpig cards we’ve received over the years. We rotate them occasionally and put fresh ones up. We’ve had this set up in four different houses and Jim hates hanging them with a passion! The sofabed is about 12 years old an Ikea bargain corner special which we recovered with a Bemz cover last year. I think the cover was £200 but it was vastly superior to the Ikea original and we don’t have to fight to put it back on if we wash it.


And last but by no means least is the Canada quilt which is draped on the arm of the sofabed. It’s the first quilt I made an each square depicts something we did during our time living there. It’s often requested for snuggling in front of the television in the sitting room, but lives here where I can keep an eye on it!


Want to see other room tours? How about…

Tour of our nautical bathroomInside My She-Shed
En Suite Bathroom Tour

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