My Sunday Photo: How Low Can You Go?

It’s amazing what fun can be had even from a carpark barrier! Who needs the fair?
Although we were at one at the time 🙂



My Sunday Photo: Bubble Girl Attacks!

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5 Tips About Choosing the Best Flooring for Different Parts of Your House


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The floors are one of the most important parts of your house. Sure, the roof protects everything inside and the walls matter as well, but you walk on your floors daily. They get plenty of abuse. For this reason alone, they need to be well cared for – after you choose the best ones, that is. Picking out new flooring from grapevine flooring should be fun, not a chore. These five tips, courtesy of Wraps Studio, will help you with the process. We’ll go room by room, giving you some ideas for the most common spaces in your home.

1) Go with a Low Maintenance Option in Your Mudroom

Mudrooms get a lot of abuse. They’re the first room entered, as well as the place where your kids will track in mud (hence their names) and place all of their belongings. You need a mudroom floor that will last, such as ceramic or porcelain tiles. Both are easy to clean and can take quite a beating.

2) Pick an Easy To Clean Rug for Playrooms

Playrooms require soft carpeting. Your kids will spend hours sitting on the floor in there. The best carpeting for this room is something that’s tightly woven, yet soft. Consider something made of nylon or polypropylene fibers, since they’re easy to clean. Carpet tiles are another great option, since they can be switched out easily when they get too damaged or stained.


3) Consider Soft and Warm Flooring In Bedrooms

Many bedrooms have hardwood floors. They look great, but the problem lies in the temperature. There’s nothing quite like getting out of a warm bed and stepping on cold floors! (Unless you like that sort of thing, since it helps you wake up.) Instead of choosing hardwoods for the bedroom, consider going with a nice mid-pile carpet from grapevine flooring. Carpeting is comfortable to walk on, is warm, and since the room won’t receive a lot of foot traffic, you can get away it something that is a bit higher maintenance.


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4) Choose a Versatile Option for a Guest Room and Home Office

If you have a room that does double duty, such as the classic guest room/craft space/home office, then you need a rug that fits the décor, yet doesn’t shout that it belongs in one category or another. Instead, look for a colorful rug or patterned carpet that looks like it should be in such a versatile space.


5) Think Outside of the Box in Your Kitchen

Tile is the most common flooring option for the kitchen. Some people also choose linoleum. While both of these are valid, since they’re easy to clean and will stand up to such a high traffic area, they aren’t exciting. Instead, you should consider something a bit outside of the box, such as wood laminate, cork, or even rubber tiles from Wraps Studio. These are all comfortable to walk on, which is great for a room that you’ll spend quite a bit of time standing up in.


Collaborative post

A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.


Written on behalf of CSI Wall Panels

For many people, home is not the place to live in; it’s a place where they feel energetic and want to refresh. There is nothing like being at home. We all have dreams to decorate our home extraordinary well: from the entrance to the bedroom, from the kitchen to the bathroom. We want every corner of our home to be perfect.

We think of everything. Right?!

Do we think of everything? The answer is NO.

We think of everything but the wall. What about the wall? What is there to think about it? You can’t move the walls; they are the boring, stationary and never-changing things. All you can do to is paint it, and just by adding a touch of colour, new wall colour, your room feels absolutely new and looks perfectly awesome.

But why only paint it? What if you have the option to change the texture of the wall as well? Moreover, along with that, you have various patterns to choose from. Yes! It’s an ‘old wives’ tale’ isn’t it? – the wall is only for painting. We bring you a perfect solution for that. Now a makeover starts and ends with the WALLS.

While renovating we actually focus what is between our walls; we bring different artefacts, showpiece, and home decor items to bring some beautiful changes. Why spend so much when you can bring astonish transformation with only one change?

Use WALL PANELS and give a dazzling look to your home, an innovative approach to change the look of home by adding a spice of texture and pattern to the wall. A wall panel is just a single piece of material. Wall panels come in a wide range of designs, shapes, sizes and colours, so picking the best one that suits your home is easy. The decorative wall panel will offer you all the inspiration needed to get your home the improvement you’re looking for; sensational change within no time and without much hassle.

We offer you a wide variety of wall panel material and types: for instance decorative, wood veneer, textured, gypsum, felt, panels for the ceiling and many more. You can play with different colours too; from light-coloured wall panels to bold coloured ones. We offer decorative acoustic or 3D wall panels too – an impressive and even ravishing look for your living room or bedroom – which come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and textures.

Colours help you to enhance your mood, so choosing the right colour for your living room or bedroom can improve your sleep pattern. Green and blue, for instance, are perfect bedroom colours, while white can have a stress-reducing effect. If you want to go for a completely white decorative wall you can choose different textures and patterns, which will add a stylish look to your bedroom. While white bedrooms depict a calm and peaceful ambience,  if you have smaller rooms where you cannot store so many decorative items for the wonderful atmosphere you want to create, you can balance it with our decorative wall panels. Select cleverly coloured, patterned and textured panels for the walls. If you add lighter colours like white or pastel tones it gives an impression of a bigger room, while bold colour gives the impression of optically reduced space. You can also add textures with 3D effect, and find the right light to give it a smashing atmosphere.

You can bring an extra dimension to a basic common wall. It feels good to be surrounded by beauty. doesn’t it? A simple change to your walls can bring warmth and add that reviving aura: the wall will speak thousands of words. There’s no need to add other showpieces when you can have these amazing, beautiful and decorative wall panels.

A wall panels gives a model-refashioning look. It comes with the perfect accent; you can give the decor a traditional or contemporary look using wall panels. Now make the walls pop and let them be the centre of attraction in your home like never before! After finishing with wall panels installed over them, they not only change the eye but attract attention. They are unbreakable and will never lose their shape: hence you can use them for wall decoration both  indoors or out, whatever you need. Change the entrance, and you will be surprised to see the outcome.

Alternatively, want a quick makeover of the bedroom to try different textures? Small changes can make a big difference; this is definitely true with our wall panels. A wall panel will add a beautiful touch to the decor. Wall panels will give your home a look you and your friends will be surprised to see. Incorporating felt wall panels, architectural wall panels or architectural wood veneer wall panel to white bedrooms will give a glaring look to your room. They give a complete insulation on your walls, with no spots, no rots in future and no wasted energy.

The wall panel is ideal for any exterior and interior applications. It needs virtually no maintenance. You can include it in offices, conference rooms, building receptions, homes, flats, reception areas, entryways and more. These wall panels are water-, impact-, and stain-resistant, and they come at a very affordable price. As well as being durable and timeless they are also stylish, instantly adding a dramatic that raises the room’s ambience and leaves a lasting impression. They are perfect for any room, including the garage, basement, study or utility room.

You have endless options to choose from and possibilities with which to decorate your home. Good interior decor now has an ally: you can balance the style of the furniture using wood veneer panels. You can style any room using vivid pastel, cool tones and texture. They are elegant, cordial and balanced, and can be suited to the taste of a home’s inhabitants. And using wall panels can help you not to go overboard with decorative items: balance and harmony is key while designing the room to support the look you seek.

DIY Palette Bar

Can you think of anything better than having a bar in your own home? It sounds like an expensive project, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a guide on how to make the perfect bar to suit your social needs.


Gather your chosen palettes and position them in the way you’d like your bar to sit. Choose the correct height and width of the bar and, if necessary, saw the parts off that you don’t need. Use another palette and saw off each section so that you’re left with numerous wooden slats.

Concentrate on building the front of the bar first, select a couple of slats to nail onto the top of the palette, this section will be the top of the bar.

Next you need to attach the palettes together, again using nails hammer the sections together, giving you the frame of your bar.

When positioning your bar, remember to make sure that behind the bar is enclosed, leaving an open section to enter and exit from.

Believe it or not, you’ve don’t the hard part. You should now have your assembled bar.

Touching Up

Now that you’ve built your bar, you need to consider maintenance. The last thing you want is for your bar to only last a few months. Start by sanding down the wood, removing any possible lose bits that could cause splinters. Then use a varnish to cover the wood, this will help maintain the life of the bar, as well as making it practical to use in the garden too. Now you’ve done this messy bits, you can concentrate on the exciting part, the details.

Detail and Alcohol

How you decide to design your bar is entirely down to personal preference. If you’re hoping to use the bar to entertain guests, why not display some nice spirits on the bar top along with some photographs or gimmicky items. If it’s more personal use, get all of your favourite beers or wines and position them neatly on the bar, next to a couple of glasses or maybe even a decanter for added effect. If you’re wanting to use the bar outside, which is a great option especially when it comes to summertime, think about adding lights around the outskirts of the bar. This will add character to the bar, and if used outside will help create the perfect social area for you and your friends. One thing to remember if using the bar outdoors with lighting, install yourself a weatherproof junction box, this simply ensures that the cable for the lighting can be outside without any risk or potential dangers.

Now you can sit back and enjoy your hard work, why not crack open a bottle of wine or pour yourself a well-deserved pint.

Written by Jasmine Smith

A Parent’s Guide for Knowing Your Credit Score

Credit score (1)Accessing credit and loans, especially for big items such as a mortgage or a car, are of course a regular feature of family finances. Applying to lenders and hoping that they will agree to your request can be a stressful experience. However, it can be made a whole lot easier simply by better understanding how a potential lender might assess your application.

The key question for any lender is the chances that you will repay a loan in full and on time. By assessing the risk involved as best they can, lenders can make an informed decision. As a result, most lenders will refer to a credit score constructed by one of the UK’s three registered credit reference agencies. Your credit score is a snapshot of your credit status. It isn’t too difficult to understand your credit score – It is based on a 0-999 scale and the higher the number, the lower the risk.

So, how do the agencies assign your score? A major although not the only factor is your credit report. This is compiled by credit reference agencies from a whole range of available information to paint a picture of your financial reliability. Whether you know about it or not, there is a credit report on you and you can expect it to be the first port of call for any potential lender.

Credit report (1)Your credit report includes personal information such as date of birth and address. It also contains details of your credit accounts and money you have borrowed and your repayment record during the past six years. Although it may seem trivial, even if you have paid a mobile phone bill late or missed an electricity bill, it may appear on your credit report and have a detrimental impact. It is therefore important to make sure that you and your family pay bills in full and on time. If you haven’t listed yourself on the electoral roll, then do it. This is one of the resources used by credit reference agencies and gaps in your residency may seem suspicious. Another thing worth noting is that if you are making mortgage overpayments, make sure that you don’t miss out on an entire monthly payment. Even if you are overpaying in order to reduce outstanding debt or guard against interest rates, a missing mortgage payment could be a red flag on your credit report.

Thankfully, it is very straightforward to check your credit report and it is advisable to do so regularly. You can simply request it from any of the credit reference agencies who will likely post it to you within a week. Once you receive the report, make sure that you check it thoroughly for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, then you should contact all three agencies to have the report rectified. If there is an error connected to family members with whom you have no financial link, then you can ask to be “disassociated” from them through the agencies. If there is an inaccuracy concerning your credit record, then your first port of call should be the creditor who can update their records and then inform the agencies. If the creditor does not agree to amend their records, then you are entitled to attach a 200 word “Notice of Correction” to your file, explaining the disagreement.

Hopefully though, your credit report will need no corrections, in which case you are well advised to simply check it regularly and make sure it remains up to date.

 Written in collaboration with David Taylor, finance writer from Leeds

6 Reasons Why You Should Get Started on Your Dream House Today!

It is good to have dreams, but at some point you have to take steps to make your dreams come true. Whether it is a big home on a large plot of land, a flat in the middle of London, or a modest cabin on the edge of a nature reserve, now is the time to find your dream home. If you have been dreaming about the home of your future, why not take steps to make your dream a reality?
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1. If you don’t start now, you might never start.         

Sure, it’s easier to sit back and be content with what you have. Maybe you are renting and you are simply complacent, paying the mortgage off for your landlord. The time to start reaching for your dream home is now. You will never be any younger or more motivated than you are today to start the process of getting into your dream home. Start investing in your own future by finding a property you love and making it your own.

2. Mortgage rates are at an all time low.    

Mortgage rates are incredibly low throughout the world and in Australia, rates are as low as 2%. With the expectation that home prices will remain stable and economic growth will occur in 2014, Australia is a great place to find your dream home and make your dreams come true. With the help of 1300 Home Loan you can own the home of you have always wanted. The only place for mortgage rates to go is up and as rates go up, home affordability goes down.

3. It is still a strong buyer’s market.            

Prices are stable throughout the world and buyer’s still have an advantage just about anywhere over home sellers. The markets have enough supply unless you are looking in a city such as London, and with lower mortgage rates homebuyers can purchase homes that were once considered above their means.

4. Foreclosures are still going strong.

Homeowners are still trying to get out of bad mortgages and are unable to keep their large homes. You will be able to get a better home for your money, but not for long. The rate of foreclosures is expected to decrease as the market continues to stabilize and the economy remains in a pattern of growth.

5. Confidence in continued economic growth is high.

No matter how you look at it, economic growth is happening and is expected to continue. We’ve all been living in a period of economic decline for years and the economy is taking a turn for the better. Home prices are low and only expected to rise. Job security is strengthening for employed workers and most experts agree that now is the time to buy for the best return in your investment over the years.

6. DIY Home Restoration and Interior Design Is Easier Than Ever

Whether you are tuned into HGTV or regularly check websites like Fine Home Building, the knowledge is out there on how to do redesign projects and make the changes you want for your dream home. It will save you money, so if you’re holding back because of a few thousand dollars, you can make up the money when it comes to the design aspect of your home.

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My personal circumstances have changed dramatically recently – more on this later! – so this is particularly relevant to me at the moment.

Written in collaboration with David Taylor, a finance writer from Leeds, England, who also spends time in Melbourne, Australia.


DSCF3876For the first 2 years of your lives we all lived together in our big house in the Midlands. The “big old house”, with the big old garden.

You don’t remember it. I do.

I remember how I was your full-time, stay-at-home Daddy. For your first year with Mummy, and for your second year by myself when Mummy went back to work, with reduced hours.

034I remember it all so well. You don’t.
Continue reading “Blackberries”