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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Staircase Renovation Survey | Could it be worth it?

Our period Victorian terrace boasts the standard narrow, steep staircases which were, back in the day, renowned for many head injuries or deaths of Victorian folk. Yikes!

But that is what we have, with traditional wooden balustrades surrounding the staircase landing. I wouldn't describe it as modern, but it certainly fits the decor of our house in its present layout.
Fast forward a few years (in daydream land potentially) and a room extension could be on the cards which could involve a complete interior renovation. The Victorian qualities may be adjusted or completely lost, but since many of the walls and doorframes aren't even straight I am less concerned about this!

The balustrades could potentially be upgraded to stylish glass balustrades which would involve glass panels and handrails rather than wooden spindles with gaps between. From a safety point of view, our upstairs landing could be made completely secure with an additional stairgate and the glass would facilitate the airiness and lightness which we are so desperate to have in our house. And yes, I would be dusting the glass. A lot!

Staircase renovation image, is it worth it?

Balustrade Components have produced a survey for those who may be thinking about whether replacing a staircase could be worthwhile and provide a return on investment (ROI). It will get you thinking at the very least and will provide some food for thought.

Examples of questions the survey raises includes:

"Do you think you will require planning permission to renovate a staircase?"
"What do you think the average cost of renovating a staircase could be?"

Even these two examples raise questions which I have never really thought of in great depth before, so the end-results of the survey could be beneficial especially if you need convincing on some topics involved in home renovation, notably planning, costs and ROI.

Collaborative blog post: all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set | Review

There is no wonder why the Wooden Growing Swing Set by Plum has won numerous awards; it is capable of seeing a family of children from babyhood right through to the teenage years, which makes it a fantastic investment for the garden.

Lily and Alexander received the swing set in return for a review and they have waited very patiently for it to be set up. Upon our return from holiday Rob started assembling the swing for the baby stage which I would deem to be suitable for babies who can sit up independently until 2 years old. Reaching a height of 122cm at the baby setting, the swing doesn't take up a huge amount of space in the garden or outdoor space and since it is suitably short for a baby it looks perfectly inviting and not as overwhelming as a full-size swing.

The Plum Wooden Growing Set ranging from baby to toddler to child stage

The seat with a fun cat or tiger design features a lime green lap bar to provide additional security for babies - just like what you will find at the baby swings at the local park. We found them very sturdy and rigid to slot in so we were reassured that Alexander (age 2) would be well-restrained, particularly with the addition of the harness which secures around the waist. Alexander is at the stage of being interested in clips and harnesses and tries to secure it around himself, but as yet he hasn't been able to unclip himself. The length of the ropes which suspend the baby stage swing seat allows a very gentle swinging motion within the frame; you can't overdo it that is for sure. Alexander is a small, light two year old, but getting him in and out involved ducking his head so he would't hit it on the top bar of the swing, so after experiencing the baby stage we decided to extend the height of the swing with adding the leg extensions.

Plum Wooden Growing Swing set; bright lime green and orange baby seat
Children have the option of holding onto the plastic seat itself, or the poly hemp rope which is soft and pliable on delicate little hands.

Since Alexander was able to use the baby stage swing, Lily felt like she was missing out. This is the only real conundrum I can see with owning a single Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set. Whilst it may be ideal for one child, seeing them through the different stages the swing can accommodate for, it may be prudent to have a twin swing set or two single swings for multiple children within different age ranges. We are expecting our third baby in December, so by the following summer the baby could potentially use the baby stage swing, however after the disassembly of the toddler/child stage, it could have to remain exclusively for the baby which would not be in the best interests of the two older children.

Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set; siblings playing together; Plum logo on cross bar and lap belt design
Lily enjoys pushing Alexander and at least I know he can't be pushed very high!

For both children to use the swing with the legs and height extended to 190 cm the green baby seat bar had to removed and it will make a reappearance next year for the new baby and the swinging motion will just have to be gentle and monitored especially if the older children heavy-handedly push it! The upper weight bracket for the swing to be used in the child stage is 45 kg which could see them using it at least until they are 11/12, if not beyond.

Rob assembling the Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set in the garden. Started with the baby stage first.

The Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set feels particularly robust and well-manufactured combining premium FSC certified,  pressure treated pine and easy to clean plastic. It will withstand the elements and the seat will just require a wipe down following poor weather. The swing ropes should last as long as the complete set but may be prone to some discolouration, as could the seat plastic, such as sun-bleaching. In terms of instructions, the diagrams were clear but bear in mind that you will require a few tools for assembly, notably a ratchet socket wrench x 2 with two 13mm sockets and one 17mm socket. We didn't have one of these so our assembly was a bit delayed. I got the children to stay inside until the swing was up and they were very surprised and pleased to discover a new piece of garden play equipment. Providing you have the necessary tools, the estimated time it takes to complete by one adult seemed about right; 60 minutes.

Lily and the child stage Plum Wooden Growing Swing Set
Lily prefers the security of having the back support of the seat still in place, which means she can attempt to jump on without falling out the back. This is also ideal for Alexander too. As always, parental supervision is important.

Both children absolutely adore their first ever swing and as parents we are impressed that it is simply more than just a standard single swing and can cater for all of the children's age ranges. It will provide them with lots of fun outdoors in the fresh air, come rain or shine. The Plum Wooden Growing Swing retails at an RRP of £159.99 from the Plum website.

We received the swing in return for an honest review for the Rainbow Toy Awards.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Benefits of Home Learning | What do Employers think?

What do you think about home learning? If you are looking for a refresher course, a hobby or a complete change of direction with flexibility, home learning could be ideal for you. But what do businesses and employers think about home learning?

This survey by NCC Home Learning will get you thinking, particularly if you do happen to be an employer or even just to gauge the employer's point of view.

opinion on different methods of learning; home versus university. What it could mean to the employer

The following excerpts from the survey particularly provide food for thought;

True or False?

"Home learning courses are on average £10,692 more expensive to train your staff in comparison to a university course"

"University courses are on average £23,520 more expensive to train your staff in comparison to a home learning course"

With a high proportion of A-level students being granted a place at university without necessarily the supposedly conditional grade offers, could home learning courses be a suitable choice for younger students? Last Thursday many sixth-form students received the news they had been waiting for over the long summer holiday and the majority believe that it is a case of university or bust.

Try the survey and you may be enlightened by the results.

Collaborative blog post: all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.


Friday, 19 August 2016

20 weeks pregnancy update

How I am feeling:


Pleased to say that I no longer have a cold, but it is taking a while to completely dry up. Better than blowing my nose all the time though! My poor nostril skin!
I had the 20 week anomaly scan and the baby was in the most difficult position for the sonographer to get a detailed look. Eventually we got all the measurements and sights we were after, even if I did have to get up, do star-jumps, jog on the spot and go to the toilet whilst touching my toes. Recipe for disaster?!
The baby did NOT want to let the sonographer identify its gender! So after all that, changing my mind from Team Green to Team Yes lets find Out! I am none the wiser!


Really been enjoying salady bits for lunch, dips, houmous and beetroot salad for example. Occasionally the odd stilton and crackers, mmm.


I've been upping my fruit consumption, particularly melon and this has probably influenced my skin. Lovely and clear, but also been remembering to use my Estee Lauder eye cream more often which could also be helping with reducing the dreaded side sleeping morning creases near my eyes. May have to invest in a silk pillow case or something!

Embryo development:

Baby is half-way there, vernix is covering the skin and it is swallowing the waters and producing its first meconium in its bowels.

Vitamins and supplements:

I came to the end of my 56 or so packet of 75 mg aspirin, so I am no longer taking it. I was reducing taking it , cutting it down each week until I finished the blister pack.
I'm not taking any additional medication or multivitamins now.

What I'm wearing:

Normal clothes for the majority of the time. I have bought some new clothes from Primark in sizes 10 and 12 but these are all tops. I bought some skinny jeans from ASOS and returned them as the under bump waist band started getting all holey and ripped after nearly two days of wear. I'm doubtful I will repurchase the exact same style as it didn't take long before they started sliding down my bum and going baggy behind the knees. H & M maternity over the bump jeans don't have that problem but the ankle holes - oh my goodness! I really struggle putting them on and taking them off. I have size 6 feet and skinny ankles so why are they so difficult to take off? The ankles could do with elastication!

I investigated in Primark and learnt that they discontinued maternity wear a while ago, so no cheapy pairs of jeans from there then.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Bathroom Re-vamp Ideas & Wishlist

Aside from doing up the kitchen, the bathroom always plays on my mind. To be quite frank, the entire rear extension is a bit of nightmare; single brick walls for a bathroom? Such a no-no!

As a result, our bathroom suffers from condensation and who knows what paint layers are hiding on the walls, bubbling and peeling away. Bathroom accessories such as a boat, cute little signs and a lighthouse light-pull kind of jazz the room up but what it could really do with is a complete renovation. I would love to make the most of the space and a shower-bath such as an L-shape bath.

My ideal bathroom wishlist:

Ideal bathroom wishlist; sink vanity units, waterfall tap, white metro tile, butler sink, showerhead
I would love a shaker-style or panelled sink vanity with storage. Perhaps the butler sink style looks too much like a country kitchen sink? A waterfall shower and tap for the sink and bath would be fantastic. I love water features and it would be like having one indoors!

Now obviously these are all material things, albeit necessary but the crux of the matter probably lies in the actual structure of the room and the layout of the bathroom. For some reason, the shower head is above the end of the bath which begins to slope. That doesn't make sense to me, as you have to stand further away from the shower head!

Colour wise I'm afraid our bathroom wouldn't be too different from it's existing colour of white, just minus the white marble effect tiles. I would love to inject some colour into the bathroom though to go with the ever-popular seaside/coastal theme. Duck egg blue, light blues and sand could all go well.

Currently the windowsill houses the bath and shower products in active use which could really do with having its own storage, much like the bath toys. I don't really know what to do with the bath toys and I am not very keen in using a hammock style net so I will have to get my thinking cap on. I always have an orchid plant or two on the windowsill as they love the environment the bathroom create which is a plus.

Bathroom wishlist: shampoo storage, tile ideas and toilet brush
Sand and duck egg blue colours could suit the revamped bathroom with additional accessories which fit the coastal theme.
Once the kitchen is complete my mind will be 100% focused on the bathroom and we will have to investigate just how much work will need to go into it. In the meantime I will continue making my little ideal wishlists and tweaking my plans here and there until I am happy.

Thanks for reading.

Blog collaboration: all opinions and thoughts expressed are honest and my own.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Boardroom & Office Etiquette | Past & Present

I have had experiences of working in two very different office environments; for a well-known London-based publishing house and for an insurance company. 

The London-based job was by far the best even though I did have to commute. I was thankful that the company really considered the needs and comfort of its employees and this was apparent by their choice of office furniture. After a long train journey involving sitting against hard seats or worse - standing, having back and lumbar support felt like a dream. The range of office chairs from Calibre would have been absolutely perfect. I would quite happily sink into one of their chairs right now.

In comparison I had to work very hard to get my insurance employer to provide a comfortable chair. Everyone else needed the support too as 90% of the day involved sitting down, but I was pregnant at the time so each day got progressively worse.

There are many ways in which offices and boardroom environments are run these days, dependent on the individual company and a variety of different factors and there are many differences to how they were run in the past, whether it be decades ago or simply a few years.

Smoking in the office: I can remember when cafes and restaurants had a smoking area often beside windows, but with no partition. I can't imagine what it would have been like to share an office with a hazy cloud of smoke.

Timekeeping: boardrooms are often fairly more flexible than they used to be, I bet so many people are incredibly relieved about that. For some companies Friday afternoons are more casual and many employees leave work a little earlier.

Eating at the desk: providing it isn't an incredibly smelly choice of food (tuna, a whole rotisserie chicken...) neighbouring colleagues won't be reaching for the air freshener!

Smart phone dependency: no need to just count on your Mac/PC at your desk, your phone or tablet travels everywhere with you so there is often no excuse to not being able to check emails wherever you are. However, standard and increasingly inventive "out of office" emails are ideal for annual leave and the weekends.

I think this one in particular can really resonate with a variety of office set ups, depending on its own style of communication:

Some offices are comprised of partitions between desks, some have individual offices and some have a very much open-plan layout so direct communication between internal colleagues is much easier. With some companies running from different parts of the world, online communication is perfect to keep everything up to date and meetings can run well (depending on wifi!).

How many of these examples of boardroom and office etiquette can you relate to?

Collaborative  post: all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Kitchen Makeover Ideas & Plans

I have been wanting to update our kitchen for a while now and recently have just caught the DIY bug again, so I thought I would share my ideas and plans.

The kitchen is a galley kitchen, not a narrow one, but not wide enough for a table which is a shame. I do miss that, but as soon as we get laminate in the dining room the better! It currently boasts magnolia walls which look awful but we have grown accustomed to them. I hate that the kitchen has an overall orange glow in the evening and at night, which is probably also due to the warmth of the lightbulbs. I am hellbent on getting the kitchen to appear as airy and bright as possible; there is a large side-facing kitchen window but like most Victorian properties our rooms can be quite dark. So overall, our colour scheme throughout cannot really steer away from whites and neutrals. Even if I did take the plunge with colour, unfortunately the remainder of the rooms still sporting woodchip wallpaper so the overall effect wouldn't be as aesthetically pleasing.

So far I have tested milk white and clay white Crown paint and absolute white Dulux light and space. I applied one coat of each paint to two different areas of the kitchen; just beneath a kitchen wall-light and around the window frame to see how the colours would fare in different kinds of light. You can see for yourself how different they are, but as they dried my choice changed from the absolute white to the milk white paint. It isn't 'just' white; it can appear to have light grey or even green in it. I don't want the brightest white throughout the house so milk white could be the one.

The tiles are staying as we are on a budget and whilst they may not be everyone's cup of tea, they add some colour to the room and the clipart-style artwork adds a little something extra than being completely sterile white tiles. I have thoroughly cleaned the grouting and will need to re-seal the tiles behind the sink soon. I had better use some tester paints against the white window frames and the tile borders to see which one suits best.

The IKEA picture ledge will be removed in favour of a pair of IKEA STENSTORP 60 cm shelves and will serve as the tea/coffee/hot drinks station, combining tea and coffee canisters such as these from Marks and Spencer with the proximity of the kettle and the Tassimo coffee machine. What currently acts as our tea and coffee shelves will be replaced with a large IKEA STENSTORP plate shelf which also has handy hanging hooks.

I'd love a statement wall clock in the kitchen and whilst on holiday I saw this one from Marks and Spencer which could reduced even further. I love the little pops of colour which is why I gravitated towards it. I will read the reviews and see if it is still available. Of course, home renovation research is always ongoing and quite often my head is buzzing with ideas and my dreams seem to be DIY focussed too! LionsHome website has been proving useful at showcasing a variety of products I'm after; narrowing down results into a variety of budgets and partners including M & S and John Lewis. So perhaps I will be able to find the perfect clock sooner than I think!

Crown paints clay milk white, clay white and Dulux absolute white / Marks and Spencer Multispot wall clock / IKEA STENSTORP shelves / IKEA STENSTORP plate shelf / Marks and Spencer ceramic canisters / Paint testers; milk, clay and absolute

I expect that my plans will change over the course of planning the makeover, but I am looking forward to brainstorming ideas until I eventually satisfied. I will do another update soon! Thanks for reading.

This is a collaborative post; all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own
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