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My favourite moments from the Home Life Project & why you should join in 2017

At the start of this year I turned a casual and occasional photography post into a regular monthly photography project and I invited those who were curious to join in to. The Home Life Project not only provides a photographic record of my growing and changing family but it also means that whatever the weather, whatever the obstacles I get my camera out at the start of every month and spend a day concentrating on taking photos.

Often when I sit down to edit my photos at the end of the HLP weekend I can be a terrible critic and convince myself I took nothing of value that month, but what I’ve learned is that the images I capture grow in value over time. Looking back over the last 12 months there are so many brief wonderful moments that I photographed solely because of this project. Tiny baby moments that have gone forever or summer days that seem a lifetime away, but I have them recorded!


So today I want to share with you some of my favourite photos and to invite you to join me next year. You don’t need an expensive camera, but a desire to push yourself to capture the best photos within the limitations of your equipment is a great help. The Home Life Project happens on the first full weekend of every month (ie where both Saturday and Sunday are in the month) and the link up opens at 7am on the Monday.

New for 2017 I’ll be publishing a post on the Friday preceding the Home Life Project (starting next Friday) introducing a theme or challenge for the month. I hope you can join us, I promise you won’t regret it.


So what are you waiting for! All the information about the project and the badges for the blog post are kept on this page (bookmark it for future reference) and the first Home Life Project weekend is next weekend, 6th & 7th January! You don’t have to have a blog, you can simply join in by sharing your photos on social media with the hashtag #homelifeproject

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Upcycled Christmas tins!

Upcycled Christmas tins!

by Clare Mansell

Theo is having a bit of adventure this Christmas Eve as he’s decided to spend the day at my sister’s house meeting extended family and waking up on Christmas morning with his teenage cousins, before we join them for lunch. Among the new friends he’ll be making at Christmas are a 5 year-old and a 7 year-old and so naturally he wanted to take Christmas gifts to give them, but we wanted to keep it simple and cheap…


I hit on the idea of upcycling my last two formula tins, but there was a problem… I only had one lid!

Fortunately a lovely lady over at the Make Do And Mend Life facebook page came to by aid and generously posted me one of hers. The tins were spray painted with leftover Pinty Plus I had from other projects I’ve done this year and everything except for some gold coins I added (sum total £2) were from supplies we had in the house.


The labels are chalkboard ones from Amazon, the letters from my dwindling scrapbooking stash (I haven’t scrapbooked for 9 years!) and the contents made up from a range of nibbles from the kitchen, stationery and leftover party supplies. I tried to avoid filling them with cheap plastic toys which would break in minutes and have (I hope) achieved it.


These are the second and third formula tins I’ve spray painted, but if I’m honest I’ve sent many more to be recycled and I wish I’d hung on to them all. They spray up beautifully and the Pinty Plus leaves them with a really robust coat of paint. If I had a few more they would make great party “bags” in the summer.

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Upcycled copper Army men fridge magnets (and giveaway)

Around the corner from our house we now have a brilliant local charity shop which I pass on the school run four times a day. We’ve found a few gems and projects there since it’s opened and on one trip recently, I found a huge bag of plastic army men which were crying out to be upcycled in some way. I debated turning them into a fruit bowl, but instead settled on transforming them into fridge magnets instead.

Decent strong magnets proved easier to find than I was expecting and although I had originally planned to simply glue the magnets on to the men, Jim insisted that we did it properly and drill a hole to recess each magnet in. This involved a bit of trial an error and buying new smaller magnets that neatly fitted the men, but the result was worth it. The magnets were so strong that we had to use superglue to fit them in the hole so that they didn’t pop out when you tried to detach them from the fridge.


After the holes were drilled and the magnets glued in I sprayed them with Pinty Plus plastic primer which is a transparent coating which allows the paint to adhere to the plastic.


After that I applied several light layers of copper spray. This stage always requires some patience! Each layer literally takes seconds to apply and in cold weather this means you have to nip outside do the spraying and then come back inside and patiently wait 20 minutes or so for the paint to dry before applying the next layer. If you add too much at once the paint will run or bubble up. It’s much easier to do in the summer of course when your back door is permanently open and the sun dries the paint quicker!


The finished Army men are now running riot over our fridge providing lots of entertainment and a touch of on trend glamour to our white goods!


GIVEAWAY….. We do however have more than we could possibly need, so I’d like to dispatch a few Army units to different “bases” around the country. If you’d like a set of 5 to adorn your kitchen simply comment below and I’ll pick two names at random and send them out to you after Christmas.

Competition details : You are under no obligation to like me on my social channels, however I will be announcing the winner via Facebook so it makes sense to like my page to ensure you know if you are the winner! UK addresses only, no cash alternative, deadline for commenting to enter is 31st December at 23:59 and the winners have 14 days to respond with their mailing details once they are announced or another winner will be chosen.

Project details…

Pinty Plus Plastic Primer and Copper Spray from novasolspray.co.uk
5mm magnets from eBay


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Preparing a heat-loving Beagle for winter

Preparing a heat-loving Beagle for winter

by Clare Mansell

The other week during our first blast of serious winter weather I encountered a neighbour on the dog walk who greeted me with the words “I’ve just met a Beagle wearing a very smart coat.” We both looked down at my undressed Beagle and she looked back at us silenting saying (I imagine) “See I told you it was cold today…”


So how cold does it need to be before you start dressing your dog up and indeed how cold does it need to be before you stop walking a dog full stop? When we lived in Canada with our big hairy Canadian dog I was advised that “when it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog” but what does that mean?! Too cold for me in a bikini? Or too cold for me dressed in hi-tech ski gear? Sometimes it’s too cold for me in a centrally heated house, if I’m sitting still and not wearing enough layers! And are coats a fashion statement or a necessity?

A lot of it depends on the dog. Whippets and greyhounds don’t have much body fat and will actually shiver in cold weather which is a pretty big clue they need a coat. Macy our Canadian dog sits at the other end of that extreme. She happily ran around in -25c with no side effects other than ice crystals collecting in the fur on her toes and so in the benign UK climate she gets no special treatment in winter.

Bella our Beagle is closer to the whippet end of the scale, but with a few more pounds round her middle to keep her warm. A winter coat makes walking in cold winter temperatures more enjoyable for her, but when temperatures are above freezing, she’s unlikely to suffer too much without one. All dogs have a degree of natural protection against colder weather, as the days shorten their lighter summer coat falls out and is replaced by a thicker winter one. When temperatures are significantly below freezing we tend to limit our walks anyway and do two short 20 minute outings rather than one long one.


One area of concern in winter is paws, both dogs do the morning school run with me along a main road and during a cold spell that pavement is covered in the residue of deicing chemicals which have been applied to the roads and the cars using them. We make sure we keep an eye on Bella’s paws and check for any cuts, cracking or dryness and treat appropriately. As there is usually mud involved somewhere in our daily walks a wash down at the end is a necessity anyway, which means nasty residues aren’t left on her feet for the rest of the day.

The winter months are a time when all of us find we need a few extra calories and Beagles are no exception. Bella has suffered in the past with colitis and we have to keep a close eye out to ensure she doesn’t steal human food (easier said than done with a toddler in a high chair!) but if she loses weight or seems to be particularly keen for her next meal we don’t hesitate to give her a little extra dog food, so this time of year does have its perks!

This post is a collaboration with PEDIGREE®, but all thoughts are my own. For additional pet care information you can read the following PEDIGREE® Reviews for tips and advice.

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Free downloadable Christmas wine labels for teachers

I like to keep it really simple for teachers at the end of term, so I mostly buy them wine. I figure if they’ve been teaching for any length of time they must already have a whole houseful of Best Teacher mugs, handmade gifts, orchids and hand cream. Wine however is always welcome.


This year I looked in my wrapping drawer and discovered I didn’t have any wine bags, I briefly considered buying some, then I thought about sewing some out of fabric and I kept thinking back to my previous post about simplicity.

At the end of the day the bag might look good, but ultimately it will end up as waste, so instead I decided to make some custom labels which I paired with personalised gift tags. I’ve made all the labels available as free downloads, so as long as you have a bottle and a printer on hand you can do this the night before school ends and still look like you’ve gifted something special and personal.

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