Thursday, 21 September 2017

Autumn - My Favourite Season for making jam and raspberry vodka

Autumn is my favourite season, especially on those perfect days of vivid blue skies, contrasting with the oranges and reds of the trees. The mornings have that lovely crisp feel to them and the smell of wood smoke makes me think of Bonfire night, sausages and onions, woolly jumpers and hot chocolate.

"Winter is an etching, Spring a watercolour, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of them all" - Stanley Horowitz

I studied English Literature at A level - many moons ago and although a lot of the authors and poets we studied have faded from memory, I still love the poetry by John Keats. To Autumn was the final poem he wrote in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes". The poem is full of rich imagery. I particularly love how the poem describes the progression of the season. It's beautiful.  

To Autumn - By John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies

For me September is a bit like January, in that it is a time when I start to think about new beginnings. I get itchy feet as to what I can learn next. I have been described as a bit of a "butterfly" in that I tend to flit from one idea to another. Last week I embarked on a four week course on learning to crochet. I haven't picked up a crochet hook (see I even know the lingo now!) in my life. I spent a lovely couple of hours learning basic stitches and managed to produce about an inch of respectable looking crochet. Not sure if I can remember how I did it. I was very impressed to see what can actually made in crochet, one lady was making an autumn style wreath featuring, leaves and hedgehogs - stunning!

A couple of Autumns ago my son and I decided to visit a National Trust property and took some beautiful photographs, using my new (at the time) digital camera. It has been in it's case too long now, I should dust it down (literally) and try and capture some more autumnal pictures.

I really love to paint for relaxation and was really keen to paint an Autumn picture. Here's my Autumn tree inspired by Art Sherpa. So easy to do when following a tutorial, next step will be to paint without!

  It's lovely to try and create a cosy and welcoming space to relax at home when the weather turns chilly. Candles are lit and twinkling fairy lights, light up dark corners. This year I am looking to buy some chunky knit blankets to use as throws. I have found a couple on Amazon, the links of which I will put below. I love the handmade one! I think I would like to re learn how to knit as my next project. I would love to be able to knit my own blanket or chunky scarf.

Autumn foods are always so utterly delicious too! When I had my allotment it was this time of year when I needed to be very creative with a glutton of courgettes! I grew sweetcorn, but unfortunately they were demolished by mice, rabbits or something else, that I never found out.

We never had a problem with too many berries as they were demolished by the kids or made into raspberry vodka. It's so ridiculously easy to make and tastes amazing!

Recipe - Raspberry Vodka

500g raspberries
250g castor sugar
1 litre of vodka

Sterilise a 1.5 litre preserving jar.
Tip raspberries and sugar into the jar.
Pour in half the vodka and shake.
Pour in rest of vodka and shake well.
Seal jar and store in a cool, dark place.
shake once a day for the first week, then leave for two - three weeks, shaking every few days.
Strain into sterilised bottles and label.
Will keep for up to two years. 


The pumpkins, didn't quite grow as they should and were ridiculously tiny! Runner beans however, we had to give them away there were so many!

One year we were lucky enough to be given a lot of plums. I made lots of plum jam, which was delicious.

Recipe - Plum Jam

  3lb plums stoned and washed.
3lb preserving sugar.
12 table spoons of water.
Knob of butter


Simmer plums in the water with lid on until soft.
Add sugar, stir constantly until dissolved to prevent burning.
Bring to the boil and add butter.
Continue to boil (you need a very large pan)
Jam will start to look darker and thicker.
Test for setting point by dropping a small amount onto a cold plate, push your finger through, if it wrinkles setting point has been achieved. If not continue to boil.
Pour into sterile, warm jars.
Put wax disc on the top of jam.
Cover with cellophane.
Label with contents and date made.


What To Do When Money Worries Keep You Awake At Night

Are money worries keeping you awake at night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to surveys, there are more than 7 million people in the UK who lose sleep because of their financial anxieties. Everything seems worse at night, and when you can’t sleep, it can be very easy for your worries to overwhelm you. You lose perspective, and in your tired state, you may imagine worst-case scenarios rather than finding a solution. However, there is always a way out of most money problems, even when it seems impossible.

This handy help guide will help you deal with the problem of sleeplessness, but if you are still lying awake counting pound signs in your head rather than sheep, here are some solutions to some of the more common money worries.

Consumed by debt

There are all kinds of ways to get into debt, from credit cards to bank loans. You may be tempted to bury your head in the sand and ignore them, but that will only make matters worse. Fortunately, there are solutions. For starters, we recommend you look at the advice at Especially for those of you with multiple loans, consolidating your debts into one monthly payment will ease a lot of your stress, and cut down on threatening letters from your creditors.

Another option is to use the services of a debt management company. They will give you advice on how to manage your debt and will work on your behalf in dealing with the people you owe money to.

Employment worries

These worries are occasionally irrational, so if you are in employment, you may be secure in your job. However, with the rise of zero hour contracts, many people do feel unstable. You may also hate your job, but you don’t want to risk being out of pocket when you have so many financial commitments to fulfil.

So, what can you do? For starters, start saving money each month. Should the worst happen, and your job does end, you will still have some money to fall back on until you get back on your feet again. If you hate your job, you’re probably right not to quit until you have found something else. However, speak to your local career service who will give you some helpful advice. You should also consider taking qualifications at night school, to increase your employment options in the future.

Paying bills

When you’re living paycheck from paycheck, and still finding your funds running low, you will find it difficult to pay off your bills. However, you may be able to save a few pounds each month by switching to a different energy provider. Use a price comparison service to help you. Secondly, use less energy at home. Here are 100 ways to save energy, giving you a considerable saving on a regular basis.

Final word

By using our advice above, you may find the peace of mind that will give you a better night’s sleep. However, if you are finding yourself feeling unwell because of your money worries, go and see your doctor. Many people become mentally and physically unwell because of the stress caused, so as well as using our advice, you should also make your health a priority.

*collaborative post

Monday, 18 September 2017

Easy Ways To Get Your Kids More Active

The modern world is full of distractions for young and older children alike - and most of them involve a screen of some sort. There is so much choice for little ones these days when it comes to entertainment, whether it’s playing the occasional game on mummy’s phone or an endless stream of children’s channels on the TV. The trouble is, when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, sitting in front of a bright screen of any size isn’t doing them all that much good.

It’s tough for parents, of course. We all lead increasingly hectic and busy lives and trying to fit in a career with childcare, and basic house chores is an endless battle. It’s often just easier to plonk the little ones in front of the telly while you get on with everything you need to do. However, with a little savvy thinking and creativity, there are some easy things you can do to ensure your child has a healthy attitude towards physical activity and gets the exercise they need every week. Let’s take a look at some simple suggestion right now.

Extracurricular classes

While schools will give your kids PE classes, the reality is they will only occur a maximum of twice a week in the vast majority of cases. That said, many schools run clubs and groups after the home time bell, and you’ll often find they are completely free. It’s a good idea to sign your children up for a couple of sporty classes - not only will it give them some much-needed exercise, but it will also give you some free childcare!

On your bike

The vast majority of children out there love being on a bicycle, so why not trade in a few car journeys a week for a good old biking experience? There are bikes available for all kinds of budgets, and the second-hand market is thriving on places like eBay and Gumtree. Then it’s just a case of buying some helmets, sorting out your bicycle insurance, and teaching them how to ride without stabilisers. Once the whole family is confident on two wheels, you’ll find the kids will love the independence and beneficial exercise they get from cycling - whether it’s to school or to the shops!

Get a dog

No matter how much you have on your plate, a pet dog can bring you a lot of joy - and exercise - into your life. True, a couple of walks every day will be hard to fit in, and if you are exceptionally busy, it’s best to consider something like a cat as a pet instead. However, the health benefits of dog ownership are widely known, and making a brisk walk a part of your child’s daily routine is an excellent way to encourage them to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

Active screen time

OK, so inevitably there will be times when the little ones want to play computer games, and even the strictest parents can often find it hard to battle against. So, why not consider buying them active games instead? Most of the current crop of games consoles all have motion sensors and plenty of games that encourage a lot of exercises. There are dancing games, for example, and a lot of sports tournament titles which make your kids get up and move. Even a half hour of frenetic jumping around every day could prove to be incredibly healthy!

Hope this helps - any more suggestions to add?

*collaborative post

Financial Focus: What To Repair, Replace, And Keep The Same


Getting to grips with your personal financial whirlwind is never easy. It might start off that way -- one bank account, maybe a credit card -- but over time, there’s so much to deal with that it’s easy to lose track. And when you’ve lost track, it can feel nigh-on impossible to right the wrongs that are developing.

Thankfully, there are a few time-honoured techniques that can assist you in this goal. Going through your financial dealings in detail might not be the most exciting thing you have ever done, but it could save you a fortune. When you have all the details laid out in front of you, you can simply focus on how to deal with each one individually. You then have a decision for each facet of your finances: should you repair, replace, or keep them the same?

REPAIR: Your Credit Score

Your credit score can have a huge impact on your life. It’s used not only to decide if you should have access to a range of financial products, but also determines how much those products are going to cost you in terms of your interest rate. It can also be used to decide if you are granted a mobile phone contract, a TV package as reported by, or even a job.

So if your credit isn’t as good as it could be, it’s worth having a browse through to see if there’s anything you can do to improve it. Even if your credit is generally good, it’s definitely worth looking through your credit report just to ensure there are no errors on it; it’s not uncommon, so definitely spend a few minutes checking the information held about you.

REPLACE: Insurance Policies

If you find yourself in financial stress, then the first thing you should do is check your insurance policies -- every single one of them. Unless you have very recently gone through them with a fine tooth comb, it’s likely there’s significant improvements to make in this area -- improvements that could save you a lot of money.

Go through all your policies and ask yourself:

  • Do I need this?
  • Is the price worth it compared to the cost of outright replacing what is being insured?
  • Is this the best deal available?
  • Is the coverage suitable for my needs?

If you have a policy that doesn’t answer those questions to your satisfaction, then replace it with one that does.

KEEP THE SAME: Your Bank Account

Good deals are available on bank accounts, which can sometimes mean it’s worth switching -- but for the most part, it’s not a good idea. Your bank keeps internal records on you, which can mean they are more likely to give you leeway if you exceed your overdraft limit or need to borrow money. They consider these records to be as important, if not more so than your standard credit score.

If you have a decent history of money coming into your bank account and meeting payments, then it makes sense to stick with that account and take advantage of the good will you have bought up.

Financial management is tough, but hopefully by running through the decisions above, you’ll make it that little bit easier on yourself.

*collaborative post

Friday, 15 September 2017

Two Rooms In Your Home That You Need To Stop Neglecting!

One of the things that a lot of people complain about when it comes to their homes is that they don't feel as though they have enough space. People always want bigger homes with more rooms and more space. The ironic part about that, is that it's often the case that many people have rooms in their home that they're simply not making the most of. Whether that's because they're wasting space in them, or simply that they're not doing enough to make the rooms as enjoyable as possible, the truth is that most people are neglecting far too much of their homes. If you find yourself wishing that you had more space in your home, perhaps you might want to try seeing if you can get a little bit more out of these rooms.

The bathroom

White Bathtub on White Tile Bathroom Near Brown Framed Clear Glass Window

The bathroom is a really strange room for a lot of people because it's one of the most important rooms in your entire house, but it's also the room that most people tend to care about the least when it comes to trying to make their home into a pleasant place to live. After all, you're probably not going to spend a great deal of your time trying to decorate your bathroom or make it comfortable, since it's generally more of a functional space than a recreational one. (For obvious reasons!) However, just because you're not going to be spending a lot of time chilling out in your bathroom doesn't mean that you can't make the most of it. Hanging a few pictures on the walls can often make the entire room feel far less impersonal, and even the functional items can be made a little more stylish. Companies like Warmehaus sell some amazing designer towel rails and radiators which are not only useful but incredibly sleek and modern as well. Similarly, there are plenty of places where you can upgrade your bath, sink, faucets, and toilets to bring a little bit of extra style into your bathroom.

The attic

Window, Attic, Wood, Architecture, House, Home

For a lot of people, the attic is nothing more than a place to dump things that they aren't using. However, it doesn't take that much to turn it into an incredibly pleasant liveable space. A loft conversion is some of the most popular options for a lot of people looking to get more out of their home. Whether you want to turn it into a spare room, a home office, or simply a space to hang out a relax in, there are plenty of things that you can do with your attic instead of just filling it up with boxes and then forgetting about it.

Sure, even if you do these things, you're not always going to have the amount of space you might want, it's always possible to make the most of what you do have. Rather than constantly wishing for something bigger and better, look at what you can do to make your home the kind of place you can really enjoy living in.

*collaborative post

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Harrogate Gin Rocks Festival At Ripley Castle Preview 12th September 2017

Harrogate Gin Rocks Festival is being held at Ripley Castle on 16th September 2017.
The festival takes place perched lakeside in the shadow of the stunning Ripley Castle in Harrogate - which is incidentally where I got married! 

I have to say, I'm really looking forward to this event. It always feels a little wrong saying that I love gin, but I do! There I've said it :) The chance to listen to experts in the field of Gin and sample Gin from some of the finest Gin producers is a fantastic way to spend an evening. The fact that the festival also features fantastic live music and fine local food ensures that this event should be on everyone's bucket list.

Please read the press release below link included for ticket purchases and information.

'Gin Rocks' say Local Gin Producers, as they Host First Independent Harrogate Gin Festival 

Harrogate is to host its first independent Gin Festival on the evening of Saturday 16th September in the grounds of Ripley Castle. The Gin Rocks Festival sees local independent gin producers come together to share all that's gin-tastic about the nations most on-trend tipple. In addition to gin tasting, there will be talks from industry experts, a host of local street food on offer and the event will also showcase some of the best new-music talent around. Taking place from 6pm to 11.30pm the Gin Rocks Festival is set to be a hugely popular event with over 1,500 tickets already sold.

Yorkshire's finest gin producers including; Harrogate Tipple, Sloemotion, Whittaker’s Gin and the North East’s, Poetic License Distillery will all be offering tastings of their outstanding spirits on the night.  Visitors to the festival will also be able to buy bottles of their favourite gins at discounted rates. Every guest at the event will receive their very own Gin Rocks Festival glass to use, keep and take-home which is included in the event ticket price of £10.00.

In addition to the local gin producers, independent local brewers Legitimate Industries will also be at the festival pouring their beers and APAs for those wanting a deviation from gin. The brewers are also planning to create their very own beer, based on the tastes inspired by Premium Harrogate Gin, especially for the night.

Supporting the local independent distillers are also two big-name gin-related brands; London's Portobello Road Gin, who are one of Britain's fastest growing premium gin brands and Fever-Tree, who are providing all the premium natural mixers at the festival.

Danielle Bush, from Gin Rocks Festival said;

"We've been amazed at the amount of support we've seen for this event already! It seems the whole of Harrogate is really embracing all things gin at the moment and we thought this festival would be the perfect way to bring it to them. We really wanted Gin Rocks Festival to be a celebration of local gin producers and to create a fun, relaxed night for everyone to enjoy whilst supporting local industries at the same time. The mix of local music and street food will make the festival a truly memorable night and we're planning a few extra surprises too!"

Hottest new music talent, EchoTape will be headlining the event with a cracking set to get the gin festival truly rocking. Yorkshire’s, Bare Brass Brand, will be creating a real fiesta vibe with their 12 piece acoustic, interactive music. Plus well loved local-music talent, Blues artist, Dan Burnett will be taking to the stage throughout the night keeping the party going and creating an atmosphere to remember. 

Yorkshire suppliers Red's True Barbecue, the Yorkshire Burrito CompanyBrio Geleti and Rendezvous 54 will all be on hand on the night providing some of the very best local Street Food around, keeping the festival goers satisfied to the fullest.  

For Harrogate locals wondering how best to travel to the event Gin Rocks Festival are pointing guests to Harrogate's No.36 Bus which runs every half an hour between Ripley and Harrogate until 8pm and every hour after that. The festival organisers are also arranging a private shuttle bus which will do round trips between Ripley and Harrogate every half an hour, tickets for which can be bought in advance.

To buy tickets for Gin Rocks Festival or for more information about the event you can visit

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

5 Reasons Winter Holidays Are Better Than Summer Holidays

Everyone loves summer holidays. Summer holidays, after all, are the one time of the year when all your worries can be put to one side and you just focus on enjoying yourself. You and the family, sitting on a beach, going for a dip in the pool - it’s perfection, isn’t it?

While everyone loves the summer, winter holidays are less popular. That’s a shame, as a winter holiday to a cold, snowy destination has many benefits that can make them more enjoyable than a conventional summer break. If you’re not convinced that’s possible, then read on.

1. Different Destinations


When it comes to summer holidays, the destinations all have a tendency to sound much the same: the Canary Islands, the Greek islands, mainland Europe - it’s all very same old, same old. Winter holidays, however, are very different and can take you to a variety of different places. There’s plenty of choice for family snow holiday destinations to unique countries like Finland, Sweden, and Norway; guaranteeing to give variety to your holiday snaps, rather than an endless plethora of sunsets over the beach!

2. It’s Easier To Warm Up Than To Cool Down

Summer holidays come with the promise of sun, but at times, that sun can be a pain. You wake up at 6am and it’s already roasting warm; and it’s notoriously difficult to keep yourself cool. There’s no such concern with a winter holiday; you can wrap yourself in layers or warm up by the fire, sipping on a mug of cocoa, delighting in the snow falling outside.

3. Fewer Tourists

Though winter holidays are popular, they undoubtedly fall behind the summer in terms of popularity. That means that it’s easier to visit tourist sites without having to worry about height of season crowds. If you’ve ever fancied visiting historic landmarks such as the Parthenon in Greece or the Little Mermaid statue in Denmark, then the winter is a great time to go - you’ll have more chance of being able to see what you want to experience.

4. Fun Activities


A summer holiday is always going to be restrained by the heat you have to deal with. For example, you have to avoid the midday sun and ensure everyone is covered in sunscreen if you step outdoors. A winter holiday is blissfully devoid of those issues, meaning you can spend your days having playful, active fun with the kids rather than zoning out on a sun lounger. Snowboarding, skiing, sled rides - active, exciting, and only possible if you’re travelling to a place where there’s snow on the ground.

5. It’s Cheaper

While winter holidays have their benefits, again, they are not as popular as holidays in the summer - meaning it’s easier to snap up a good deal. Most families will find that it’s comparatively cheaper to travel in the winter, even if you’re constrained to the school holidays for when you can travel.

Tempted? Perhaps this winter could be the start of a whole new holiday experience for your family!

*collaborative post