Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Home Improvement Hero - £50 challenge

I (me and my family) have been renovating our home for over year now and it is close to completion. I've posted some before and after photos on the blog before and the transformation is pretty amazing if I say so myself. The interior is pretty much finished and we have added lots of decorative pieces to make it feel like a home. When I was approached to take part in the Home Improvement Hero challenge I wasn't sure there was anything left to tackle in my house.

The challenge was to change the look, feel or function of a room on a low budget. I had £50 to spend and I wanted to do something ambitious. I could have changed the colour scheme of the bathroom with some new soft furnishings and wall art or made some cushion covers for the spare room but I had a crazy plan...

I aimed to change my grotty old shed in to a quaint Summer house and create an entirely new room.


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First up was the slightly onerous task of clearing the shed. We have a huge garage at the back of the garden that's only half full and much more secure than this shed so it seemed sensible to relocate the contents of the shed up there.

I cleaned the shed, mopping the floors and clearing away all the cobwebs and years of dirt so we had a nice clean base to paint on. This is what I had to work with:


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I liked the shed as it was, a bit shabby and run down and it reminded me of a beach hut or the Dylan Thomas Boat House but the wood hadn't been treated for years and needed some attention before the wood deteriorated and I suppose it was a little grubby.
Before painting the cupboard and walls we made sure we did the following:
  • Removed flaking or defective paint and sanded down the surface to remove any sheen.
  • Made sure the surface was clean (no dirt or grease) and dry. 
  • Removed any rusty nails with a claw hammer
     
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To use the surface preparation paint I stirred thoroughly before use to ensure completely mixed, oil settles at the top.
I applied 1 coat with a brush/roller to previously coated surfaces or 2 coats to bare surfaces. I left 2 hours to dry between coats. 

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After leaving the
paint to dry over night I applied a top coat of white gloss suitable for wood to the wall and ceiling. Such a messy job, I still have some in my hair that just wont come out!

Next came the fun part of dressing my lovely new 'Summer house', I already had a lot of decorative items like the cushions and the table cloth so I only really needed to get some bunting to add colour.

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My bargain Ikea lamp was £6 and I know this will get lots of use in the evening when I'm in here reading. I might pop back to Ikea and get some of those fairy lights that you pop batteries in to make it extra cosy.

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I picked up this bit of lace in a charity shop for 20p to use as a table runner but it's never been used. I used little pins and a hammer to secure it to the wooden window frame to dress the window. Not entirely functional but the window is facing a wall so I'm not being overlooked in the shed.

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The gorgeous Hydrangea came from my front garden, I love my free supply of flowers in the summer.

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Another charity shop find coming in at just £1.50, such a pretty print.

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Sookie loves the make over too, she's already dragged some toys in there.
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I'm not going to lie, this took a fair amount of hard work but I'm really happy with what I achieved with my £50 budget. Emptying the shed, sanding and painting took up a whole weekend. I've got a whole new room that I can enjoy and I can't wait to relax in here with a cup of tea and a good book. I'm hoping to find some more chairs for when I entertain on freecycle, I've put an ad on there asking for wicker chairs and I hope to give the floor a coat of paint but can't find the right colour at the moment.
Total Cost: £48.68
Dulux Multi Surface Primer & Under Coat Paint 250ml - £8.98Ikea chair: £11
Lace: £0.20 (charity shop)
Ikea lantern: £6
Bunting: £6 (eBay)
Floral print: £1.50 (charity shop)
White gloss top coat: £12
Paint roller: £3 
So there you have it, with a lot of effort and a small budget you can make a huge difference.

Gemma
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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Pettigrew Tea Rooms and Shellys Shoes

After a crazy weekend I had a few lazy days off work to enjoy and tried to make the most of the good weather by heading into Cardiff for a spot of tea and shopping. I bought my friend Sarah (the one I go to Torquay with) a voucher for afternoon tea at Pettigrew Tea Rooms for her birthday. I always try and get something like gig tickets or an experience for someones birthday so they can try something new and it means we get to spend time together, bonus.

The tea rooms are a fairly recent addition to Cardiff and are in the refurbished West Lodge in Bute park, next to Cardiff Castle. David the owner blogged about the refurbishment and opening of this new business over on I Want to Bake Free.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff is rather pretty isn't it?

Cardiff Castle Wall

I've been to the tea rooms a handful of times before so I knew I would be in for a treat. You get freshly baked scones (a choice of fruit or plain) a selection of sandwiches (brie and chutney are my favourites) a pot of tea and a choice of delicious cakes.

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I opted for the raspberry and coconut cake which was a wise choice but the pecan topped one looked equally as lovely so I may have to pop back and get some cake to take away. All the cakes and bread are baked on site unlike a lot of coffee shops in Cardiff that buy theirs in.

Pettigrew Tea rooms

I wanted to dress like a lady for the occasion so ditched my jersey dresses and converse in favour of this polka dot number and some mental shoes.

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Dress: ASOS
Brooch: Topshop
Shoes: Shellys c/o Spartoo

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Alex has these shoes in Black and I had been lusting after them for aaages so I tore open the box on the day they arrived and wore them straight away. I may have to get the black ones too. I want to wear these to work, the pub and just about everywhere but they aren't that practical.

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I really fancy some cake now, anyone want to take me to Pettigrew Tea Rooms this afternoon?


Gemma
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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Birthday Dress Wishlist

I'm right in the middle of a major dress dilemma. I want some dresses for my birthday weekend but I'm not sure if I want something summery because my birthday is in August or something more practical which will take me through to Autumn. I think I'm being swayed by all the lovely dresses in the sales at the moment and can't focus  on one or two. I'm going for a day out in Bath and meal in Cardiff Bay in the evening and Sunday lunch and a beer garden the next day so lots of conflicting requirements.

I've narrowed it down to the following dresses:

summer dresses

The bold floral dress would be perfect for Saturday night in a nice restaurant before heading on to a bar in Cardiff Bay. I lore the retro shape and I don't own anything with this print and in this shape. It's very Summery and will push me out of my comfort zone a little.

Loving this pretty and practical dress from Bank, great for the day out in Bath and I would get lots of wear from it. It would be very comfortable and jersey material is flattering when you've had quite a large meal ;) This work work equally as well in the winter with tights, boots and a biker jacket.

The feminine Ted Baker dress is gorgeous, very floaty and ladylike. It's on sale at Box Clothing which I normally associate with menswear but they also stock some ladies clothing and this dress is £135 instead of the original price of £299! It's got a lovely bow and flower embellishment which you can't really see in the photos and an underskirt so it's nice and full. Very tempted by a few other dresses on that site from the Pretty Dress Company too.


black and white dress

Sarah (amilliondresses) has got me (and a few others) lusting after Emily & Fin dresses and I found this beauty in the ASOS sale. I love the full shape and bow detail on the waist. It's a great length and great quality.

The next dress is black, leopard print and has a little collar. It's even called the Gem
dress, prefect for me... except it isn't a skater dress shape booo. Shift dresses are just too tight on my stomach but maybe I just need to try it on and hope for the best.

The final dress is from Dorothy Perkins and love the collar. It would be great with heels for my birthday weekend but would be great for work with flats and a cardi.

Which do you like best? Got any other suggestions for me?

Gemma
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Monday, 22 July 2013

One Night Only Badgley Mischka

I'm currently sat in my PJs, drinking tea (so glam) and having a relaxing day off. It's lovely to just catch up on some blog reading, hang out with the family and tidy my room after a manic weekend. I had been looking forward to this weekend for ages because my French friends finished their masters in Cardiff last year and were all coming back for their graduation. I don't need much of an excuse to dress up but having everyone back in the same country for one weekend meant that I wanted to wear something a little special and have a huge blow out. It was a chance to eat, drink and be ever so very merry.

Badgley Mischka

Dress: Badgley Mischka (via Wish Want Wear)
Bag: Charity shop
Shoes: New Look via ASOS
Tights: c/o Stockings HQ

vintage bag, uk blogger, outfit post

After my extravagant purchase in my growing up post I was left with very little money in my bank account. I couldn't really afford to be frivolous and buy a new dress so I used a voucher that I won from Wish Want Wear months ago to hire a dress for the weekend and chose this gorgeous beaded number. The hire price is £80 but the dress retails for around £600, it was so heavy and had the prettiest beading and scalloped edging. I do wish I could wear a dress like this every weekend.

Badgley Mischka beaded dress

Continuing with my thrifty theme I managed to sell clothes online (all old and now unloved) to fund the numerous nights out, made my own decorations with paper and string for the BBQ on Friday night and took a packed lunch to the beach on Sunday. Definitely going to make this a regular thing now that I'm saving for a house.

weekend

Having a bit of a post amazing weekend comedown now after a weekend of dancing, laughing and paddling in the sea. If you have posted about your weekend please leave me a link so I can have a little read and cheer myself up.



Gemma
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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Warwick & Proms at the castle

Last week I headed up to Warwick after work on Friday to hang out with some of my favourite ladies.  CharSarahRosie, Alex and I all stayed with our generous host and master baker Sarah in her beautiful home. I already posted earlier in the week about what I wore but this is what we did...

We met up with local blogger and maker of fantastic dresses Roisin Saturday morning and headed in to Warwick for some beer garden fun and a pub lunch before heading to Warwick castle for a little wander.

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I really don't know much about the history of Warwick castle and the area having not visited before so I really enjoyed walking around the castle and picking up a few little facts inside. The origins of the castle date back to 914 and Edward IV was imprisoned there, pretty cool ey? 

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Such gorgeous interiors, I love thinking about all the people in those portraits, the lives they led and scandals they may have caused.

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Nice little group shot whilst relaxing in the rose garden.

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Dress: Boutique by Jaeger | ShoesMel c/o Spartoo | Ring: Links of London

I really didn't think my wardrobe through did I? lots of black on the hottest day if the year. I think sandals and a strappy dress may have been a wiser option don't you? 

We headed back to the castle grounds in the evening to enjoy the Proms. I've never been to an event quite to patriotic and posh. I'm sure I brought the levels of decorum and class down a little by sitting on the floor and not being very lady like. There was a concert an original WW2 Spitfire aerial display and lovely fireworks at the end. It was such a lovely evening, you really can't go wrong when you are eating M&S nibbles and listening to your favourite songs from Les Mis.

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Sarah and Rosie

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I always enjoy a weekend away with blogging pals. We all talk about the same things, are happy to take 100 outfit photos for each other and don't judge anyone when they instagram their lunch. Blogging has given me so many opportunities to met new people and visit new places. I'm so glad I decided to take the plunge 3+ years ago.


Gemma
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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Wedding guide

Ah, wedding season – a time filled with declarations of true love, inflated hotel prices and thoroughly dodgy DJs. Finding the perfect outfit for a wedding can be a challenge and gift buying etiquette is a minefield so hopefully my guide will help you relax and enjoy the big day.

First up is choosing the perfect dress:

Wedding guest dress

Yigal Azrouel | Jaeger | Reiss


Dress up, make the effort.You have been invited to one of the biggest days of someones life. The photos will also last a lifetime...

Ask the bride or someone in the bridal party if what you plan to wear is ok if you are unsure. I found a lovely cream dress for a wedding once and asked the bride if it was ok to wear it and she was totally fine with that as she was a white wedding dress.

Try the outfit on before you travel to the wedding, you don't want to rush around on the morning of the big day looking for spanx or a strapless bra.

Take a safety pin/mini sewing kit in your bag. Someone at a wedding always has a disaster and you can be their knight in shining armour.

You need a wedding-appropriate coat, jacket or umbrella. Most weddings involve standing around and photos outside and you don't want to cover up your gorgeous outfit with dull coat.

Read the invitation closely for a dress code.

Wear something fun, it's time to celebrate. You're not going to a funeral.

Apparently weddings are a good place to meet men but don't wear anything too sassy. You're there as a guest, let the bride shine and don't steal the limelight. 



wedding gifts

East of India | What's On Your Wall custom canvas | Le Creuset

Take your time.
 Traditionally a guest has a full year after the couple's wedding date to send a gift. So don't settle for something you're not happy with but maybe waiting a full year is a little too long...

Take advantage of gift lists.
 Couples spend the time and effort registering for gifts because that's what they really want/need. Most couples register at least six months before their wedding, so you can hold out for a sale or discount code before buying.
If you really don't like anything on the list
make sure any gift a couple didn't register for is returnable, either for a refund or for store credit.
If you don't want to buy off of a couple's list or if they don't have one, ask the happy couple (or a maid of honour, parent or someone else who's 'in the know') what they would like. This could save a lot of stress and worry.
Buy as a group. For the last wedding I attended I saw that nobody had bought the rather expensive Le Creuset pots on the list so I got a few friends to chip in £30 each and we bought some lovely casserole pots that will last the couple a lifetime.
Stick to a signature gift. If you absolutely love a particular item and know it's a guaranteed hit, give it everyone. I always give a 'memory box' that I make myself or customise.
Money is a great gift option. It might give the couple a little bit of extra spending money for their honeymoon or let them complete a set on their gift list.

What are your top wedding tips?


Gemma
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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Growing up

I'm 25, soon to be 26 and I really don't feel very grown up at all. Lots of friends are announcing engagements, have mortgages and even babies. I buy dresses, live a student lifestyle and can barely look after myself and my dog...

I do have a proper grown up job but my mum still does my ironing. I should be doing my MSc part time but spend my Sundays watching E! (Love some Scott Disick and Fashion Police) I spend quite a lot of time thinking about this and thinking about it really isn't going to get anything done.

I did however make a recent purchase which made me feel rather grown up. My old HP laptop died after four years, all my computers seem to have a three-four year life span. I had never bought my own laptop before, they were always Christmas presents or graduation presents from my mum so buying my own felt like quite a major step. I wanted to replace it with something that would last but was also lightweight for when I finally decide to study again and has a good battery life. After a lot of deliberation I opted for a MacBook air and here she is:

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I can't say that I'm very technical even though part of my day job is IT support so I wont be giving this a full review but I would say that it has amazing battery life, the track pad is easy to use and the back lit keyboard is fantastic. I also managed to get 15% off with a higher education discount through unidays so this worked out cheaper than other computers of a similar specification. I would say the only downside is rather low internal memory but I have an external hard drive and save all my photos on flickr so I can't see this being an issue.

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      I might name my laptop, scrap that... that's insane. I really love it though and it's probably the most extravagant thing I've bought except for my return flights to New Zealand a few years ago. It's funny how buying something like this has made me think about the future. I'm making a good start to get out of debt by paying back the small student loan I took out in my final year of uni to pay for rent. I've started a little savings account and started to keep a little spending spreadsheet to keep on track of my outgoings. The eventual aim is to save enough to buy a house to rent out and start making my way up that property ladder. Scary stuff ey?


      *collaborative post


      Gemma
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      Monday, 15 July 2013

      Painting the roses red

      I spent a lovely weekend with Sarah - A Million Dresses (eating her out of house and home) along with some of our other friends and had the most wonderful time. I'm sorry for all the tweets and instagram updates about food all weekend, you have probably had more than enough of my snaps but I have an outfit post for you and another post later in the week with more photos of castles and cake.


      We spent some time at the very pretty rose garden in the grounds of Warwick castle and Sarah took some photos for me. Us bloggers can sniff out a good photo oppourtunity, this garden was so pretty it was a shame not to take some photos of it and my new Jaeger dress. I've has my eye on this dress for ages and when I saw Jenna Louise Coleman wear it I knew it had to be mine. I wouldn't normally buy fancy dresses from Jaegar but it feels really special and I will get a lot of wear from it. Sarah also has this dress and wore it the next day, we will have to co-ordinate who wears it when we hang out.

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      Dress: Boutique by Jaeger (direct, ASOS, HoF)
      Sunglasses: Vivienne Westwood
      Shoes: flat shoes by Mel c/o Spartoo

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      I'm not sure if the photos do the dress justice. It was a little creased because it had been in my case it it was the hottest day of the year so I looked a little gross. I did feel very glam in it and I've worn it three times since it arrived last week.The only reason I'm not the same colour as my dress is because I covered myself in factor 50 sun protection all day.

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      The garden we visited was first laid down in 1868 and all the roses in the garden are traditional cultivated species and are usually in full bloom from late June till the end of July. Looks like we visited at the perfect time.

      The garden had a tennis court laid over the top after the Second World War but was resored in 1986 and opened by
      Diana, Princess of Wales.
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      Gemma
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      Thursday, 11 July 2013

      Be Positive

      It's easy to get stuck in the same routines and focus on the negative things. Posts be Bee and Lisa
      always leave me feeling fuzzy inside and I wanted to try and share that feel-good factor myself. Why not try one of the following points or make up one of your own for a easy way of adding a little positivity to your life.

      be positive
      credit credit


      Send a postcard, everyone loves getting post.

      Avoid social media for a day.

      Build a fort with lots of blankets, get your favourite snacks and watch a DVD.

      Sign a petition to help save the Royal Mail from privitisation.

      Print some photos and create a collage in a pretty frame, don't just put them facebook.

      Have a makeup-free day, it's great for your skin.

      Listen to this song.

      Arrange a picnic. Pack some Pimms, cucumber sandwiches and scones for a very British affair.

      Have a good sort out, sell things on eBay and treat yourself to something new with the paypal money.

      Visit your local library, discover a new author and make new friends by joining the reading group.

      Laugh! Find out where your local comedy night is and go along for a good giggle.





      Gemma
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      Thursday, 4 July 2013

      Torquay & Brixham

      I shared a few snaps from my trip away in my last post but I got a little snap happy and have loads more for you. My friends Sarah and Katilea came as always and our mate Karen joined us this year too. Going to Torquay for a weekend is turning in to an annual thing now and we have little traditions we follow each year. I always have to make a mix CD for the journey there with lots of classic cheesy pop hits, we all get new PJs and sing Ironic at karaoke in the club house.

      We stay at Widdicombe Farm in Sarah's parents caravan and spend most of our evenings there in the caravan, outside having a BBQ or in the club house embarrassing ourselves in front of OAPs on karaoke. It's a lovely site with new facilities, you can pitch a tent there too and I can highly recommend it.

      We visited the very pretty Brixham on the Saturday, it's one of my favourite towns to spend the afternoon in. People first settled here in Saxon times and William Prince of Orange landed in Brixham in 1688 during the 'Glorious Revolution' so plenty of history to soak up.

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      Isn't it pretty?

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      Spot of afternoon tea with plenty of clotted cream mmm.

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      We took a trip over to Torquay on a ferry for just £2 return, best £2 I've ever spent. We had glorious weather, the staff were lovely and it was a great way to spend a couple of hours. It was so warm when I was there and I didn't pack any appropriate shoes. I should have packed some flat shoes like these tatoosh ones.

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      It took me ages to notice the really silly thing in this photo, Sarah's dad is so funny.
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      On the second day we headed down to Torquay beach with some magazines and relaxed in the sun.

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      I had a little paddle in the freezing cold water and enjoyed one of my childhood favourites, a strawberry split. I always have the best time with my Caravan Club girls, can't wait for CVC14.
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      Gemma
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