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This book is a practical guide to creating 50 different items for the home, most of which can be completed in just a couple of hours. Each project has a list of materials and tools, a guide to the length of time it will take and step-by-step instructions, with illustrations of the work in progress and a full-colour photograph of the finished item. The book is divided into 6 chapters which are Relaxation Spaces, Kitchens and Dining Rooms, Bedrooms, Work and Play Spaces, Laundry and Bathrooms and Outside Spaces. There is also a section with techniques and a list of suppliers. Projects include cushions, a floor rug, curtains, lampshades, a cutlery roll, tablecloths, a duvet cover, a patchwork bedspread, toy bags, door stops, peg boards, blinds, peg bags, and awning and a child's play tent. The projects start off with simple quick projects such as the cushions and work through to more time consuming and complex items. The book is ideal for all sewers as the projects will suit beginners through to the more experienced. The shortest project is a napkin at approximately 20 minutes and the longest is a patchwork throw which takes about 8 hours to make. Most of the projects take around 1.5 to 2 hours, so are ideal if you don't have much time to spare, but still want to be creative.
This book is something of a follow on to 'Sewing in No Time', but it concentrates on more of a patchwork theme, rather than just using large pieces of fabric. As before, each project has a list of materials and tools, a guide to the length of time it will take and step-by-step instructions, with illustrations of the work in progress and a full-colour photograph of the finished item. Again, we have the format of 6 chapters which are Relaxation Spaces, Kitchens and Dining Rooms, Bedrooms, Work and Play Spaces, Laundry and Bathrooms and Outside Spaces. There is also a section with techniques, templates and a list of suppliers. Projects include several throws and quilts, a rug, a draught excluder, a table runner, a tea cosy, an apron, curtains, cushions, a baby's ball, a sewing basket, a coat hanger and several bags. The projects start off with simple quick projects such as the napkins and work through to more time consuming and complex items, like the nine-patch quilt. The book is good for all sewers as the projects will suit beginners up to the more experienced. The longest project (a patchwork throw), takes about a day to make, but most of the items take around 2 hours. The book draws on the previous concept of being creative, but with not much spare time.
This is one of the earliest Tilda books, concentrating on handmade gifts with an Easter or spring theme. The majority of the projects are for decorative stuffed creatures such as hens, rabbits, hares, lambs (which are very cute) and geese, most of whom also have little hats and clothes to wear. Also included are good witches - the book is written by a Norwegian lady and she explains that witches are part of the Easter tradition in Scandinavia. The story is that on Easter Eve, witches gather together in the nearest graveyard to dance. There are other projects including a hare-themed wallhanging, gift bags, cards, stuffed eggs, fabric and twig hearts and a tea cosy. This book has a lovely spring feeling throughout the pages with good photographs and ideas. I would say this is better written than some of the later books as the instructions are very clear and concise. Each project is explained in quite a lot of detail, which makes it ideal for novice sewers. There are also tips on how to add faces and create a good stuffed figure. There are full-size patterns included for all the projects. If you've not read any of Tone Finnanger's other books, you won't be familiar with the colourful Scandinavian-inspired home furnishings and stuffed characters of the world of 'Tilda'. Tilda is the name of the craft range set up by the author and includes brightly coloured linen and cotton fabrics, frequently printed with designs such as polka dots and strawberries. There are also lots of craft supplies (such as doll hair, ribbons, paint, craft papers etc) designed to be used with the projects in the books or with your own imagination. Of course, you don't have to use their fabrics - I've used my own fabrics to make some of the projects. The Tilda range isn't widely available on the high street, but you can get it from quite a few online stores. The Panduro website has a list of current stockists http://www.pandurohobby.co.uk/pan/IboxServlet?p=STOCKISTS&m=STOCKISTS
If you've not read any of Tone Finnanger's previous books, you won't be familiar with the colourful Scandinavian-inspired home furnishings and stuffed characters of the world of 'Tilda'. Tilda is the name of the craft range set up by the author and includes brightly coloured linen and cotton fabrics, frequently printed with designs such as polka dots and strawberries. There are also lots of craft supplies (such as doll hair, ribbons, paint, craft papers etc) designed to be used with the projects in the books or with your own imagination. Of course, you don't have to use their fabrics - I've used my own fabrics to make some of the projects. This book particularly concentrates on home furnishings both practical and more decorative. The book is divided into sections covering the basics (fabrics, techniques, stitching, patterns etc), then works through each room from the entrance hall, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, the conservatory, the hobby room, the bathroom, the bedroom and the children's room. Practical projects include floor mats, slippers, bags, a cafetiere cosy, chair cushions, pin cushions, make-up bags and a hot water bottle cover to name a few. The decorative furnishings include wall-hangings, stuffed fabric pears and strawberries and fabric roses. There are also a range of stuffed decorative characters (which are a big feature of Tilda books) such as angels, cats, dogs, horses and teddy bears, all created in the Tilda style. Patterns for the projects are also included. This is a lovely book to read, especially if you like the shabby chic or country style of decorating, although it isn't specifically shabby chic. There are lots of pictures of the finished items in beautiful light room settings. The projects vary in difficulty, but I'd suggest this isn't a book for absolute beginners as it seems to assume some knowledge of basic sewing techniques. Also, some of the instructions are a bit unclear and you need to find your own technique occasionally. The Tilda range isn't widely available on the high street, but you can get it from quite a few online stores. The Panduro website has a list of current stockists http://www.pandurohobby.co.uk/pan/IboxServlet?p=STOCKISTS&m=STOCKISTS
After eight years of living in Crouch End, Brian and Jane Viner decided to take their three children to live in rural Herefordshire. Quite possibly, they had considered that they might have been slightly mad in doing so - after all, they were happy in London with plenty of like-minded friends and dozens of cafes at which to drink cappuccino; however they knew nobody in Hereford and the nearest coffee outlet was miles away. Along with the house that the Viners bought, they also took on three of the holiday cottages that were run by the previous owners, thus ensuring a steady flow of 'characterful' guests, many of whom are mentioned in glorious detail in the book. There are plenty of anecdotes regarding settling in and adapting to the rural way of life ranging from the marathon trips to drop off and collect the children from school to calling chickens 'darling'. Along with observations of local characters and customs, Brian also charts the progress of bringing the house up to current standards. Although this is another tale of city folk moving to the country in search of a better life, it's not just your average, run of the mill downshifting story. Brian's self-deprecating writing is frequently hilarious - particularly when recounting stories involving his children and things they have said.
I actually bought my dress pre-owned from eBay, but it just proves the good quality of Isabella Oliver items. It's been washed and worn several times and still looks good - it holds its shape and there's no bobbling or colour loss that I can see. You often find that happens with cheaper items. The dress is made from a viscose/elastane mix and is a lot thicker than many of the jersey fabrics you get on the high-street. The fit is also excellent, and as it's a wrap, it fits from early pregnancy through to birth. No reason why you couldn't wear it afterwards as well. It's ideal for day or night - dress it up or down with accessories according to the occasion. The style of this dress has been taken up by several high-street retailers and it's proved to be an absolute classic. Buy one of these and it will quickly become a wardrobe staple. The only downside is the price (the only reason I've given it four stars) - £89.00 is quite high, but you do get what you pay for - cheaper versions just don't hold up so well. Isabella stuff does hold it's price well though, so you could always sell it on afterwards and get some money back. A word on sizing - you do need to check this carefully as the sizes go from 0 to 6, rather than 4, 6, 8 etc. The website has a size chart to guide you. Many celebrity mums are fans of the clothes, including Angelina Jolie, Marcia Cross and others, which goes to show how good the clothes are. There's also a regular range of non-maternity clothes called Isabella Oliver 365, designed with the busy modern woman in mind. You can find out more and buy the clothes from the website http://www.isabellaoliver.com
If you've read Jackie Moffat's previous book 'The Funny Farm', you'll be familiar with some of the tales and characters in 'Sheepwrecked'. However, this book can easily be enjoyed even if this is the first time you've come across Jackie and her Cumbrian farm Rowfoot. Jackie and her family left London in 1982 when her husband Malcolm fractured his spine after falling off a horse. They moved to Rowfoot, a farm in Cumbria's Eden Valley, to start a new life of raising livestock. The book is written as a year in the life of Rowfoot, starting in November when the ram is put in with the ewes for mating. Jackie writes with warmth and humour about the countryside, the everyday goings on at Rowfoot, the animals and people she encounters. There are also brief glimpses into her past and memoirs of previous residents of the farm. New animals have come to live at Rowfoot since the previous book - two new horses in the shape of Bob and Blossom and Katie Morag, the lurcher. The rare-breed Manx Loghtan sheep also make several appearances. You can keep up to date with Jackie's adventures at her website http://www.jackiemoffat.co.uk/. There's also a holiday cottage on the farm which you can stay at (details on the website).
I got this as part of a box of Soap & Glory products that was on special offer at Christmas. I got the smaller tube (75ml), but it's also available in a larger pump-action bottle which is slightly better value. I've used a couple of Soap & Glory body products in the past, but this is the first of the facial range I've tried. I normally use REN's facial wash, but have been finding it a bit drying in the winter. Although Clean Mary is described as a cleansing milk, it works just like a creamier facial wash. It's described as being suitable for all skin types. You work a small amount into dry skin, concentrating on any large pores, then wash off and pat your face dry. I find it works really well for me - although my skin tends to be oily and a bit sensitive, Clean Mary has definitely improved the texture and tone with regular use. It's also described as an exfoliater, but it's a very gentle one as I've used it daily with no irritation. Soap & Glory is relatively new to the UK market, it's a budget offshoot of the Bliss Spa company started by Marcia Kilgore. Marcia orginally created the S & G range in conjunction with Target stores in the US, the philosophy being 'you shouldn't have to spend an arm and a leg to moisturise one'. There are a wide range of products from body lotions and shower gels to a new Men's range, launched in 2009. You can keep up to date with what's happening and buy products from their website http://www.soapandglorycosmetics.com/. You can also suggest puns for the names of new products and they're always on the hunt for photos of retro-glam ladies for the packaging.
Jackie Moffat had a long held dream to 'live in the country with lots of dogs and horses', to echo the words of Queen Elizabeth. In 1982, her husband Malcolm fractured his spine after falling off a horse, ending his career, and the family left London for Rowfoot, a farm in Cumbria's Eden Valley. At first, the only livestock in evidence were the mice, but the numbers soon swelled to include sheep, cows, pigs and a goat. Over the years, Jackie was also to acquire an assortment of horses and dogs. Animal characters include three Jersey cows - Lady, Caroline and Yelper, Kareima the Arab mare (Jackie's horse of a lifetime), Mille the goat, Julie the smiling collie and Gyp & Tess, another pair of collies. There are also tales of the rare breed Manx Loughtan sheep that the family decided to start producing in an effort to boost their numbers. The stories range from tributes to much loved animals (Kareima the horse, Julie the collie et al), accounts of everyday life on a Cumbrian farm and anecdotes from Jackie's pre-farming days, all told with her distinctive warmth and turn of phrase. The book isn't written in a chronological order, it's really a collection of the columns that Jackie wrote for Cumbria and Lake District Life magazine up until 2002. Jackie's particularly moving column about the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2000 was the lead article in Cumbria Life magazine when it was published. This book will make you laugh and cry, whether you've ever wanted to live in the countryside or are a confirmed urbanite. Jackie also has a website where you can keep up to date with what she's up to. http://www.jackiemoffat.co.uk/index.htm
John Lewis Bobi 4 Spotlight Ceiling Bar This is a retro-styled spotlight bar in cream enamel and silver metal. It takes 4 50 watt halogen bulbs, which are supplied with it. It's part of a matching range of lights from John Lewis, which includes a 3 spotlight ceiling plate and a single wall spotlight. We bought one a few weeks ago to replace an existing fluorescent tube light when we had our kitchen ceiling redone. It was fitted by our builder, but is wired in such a way that it can be connected to an existing single point without the need for re-wiring, so it should be fairly easy for an experienced DIYer to install. It looks really nice in the kitchen and gives a warm light. The only disadvantage is that it's not as bright as I would have liked, as the bulbs are only 50 watts. If you have a large kitchen, you might find you need a couple of the wall spotlights in key areas, just to boost the light. The lights retail at £39 from John Lewis and are available for home delivery or store collection.
This is the second of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries by Carola Dunn. Once again we find the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple visiting a stately pile to write an article for the fictional 'Town & Country' magazine. This time, she is the guest of a school acquaintance, whose family own Occles Hall, a gloomy mansion in Cheshire. Daisy is rather unusual for her time - she's a daughter of a viscount, but has missed out on inheriting her own family's estate and is now trying to earn her own living as a writer. She hopes to one day become a novelist. On arriving at Occles Hall, Daisy is met by a chilly reception from Lady Valeria, autocratic matriarch of the hall and village. She learns that Lady Valeria has made several enemies in the village by refusing to allow any modern touches. Later on, Daisy goes to view the grounds of the house, including the walled winter garden. Whilst there, Daisy and the assistant gardener make a grisly discovery - the body of missing parlourmaid Grace Moss has been buried in the garden. Once again, Inspector Alec Fletcher of the Yard is called in to investigate. As Daisy and Alec start to investigate the murder, Daisy finds herself developing romantic feelings for Alec, which throws up all sorts of questions of social positions. For example, Daisy is an aristocrat, but, despite his education, Alec is very much middle-class. Being a modern girl, Daisy doesn't consider this a problem, but she knows that society would struggle to accept them as a couple. This is one of the strengths of these novels - a murder mystery set against the changing social climate of the post World War I 1920s. Dunn leads Daisy and Alec down several dead-end paths during their investigations, but once again Daisy draws to the correct conclusion using a combination of her intuition and people's natural wish to confide in her. As with the previous novel (Death At Wentwater Court), the eventual outcome has something of a twist, with Daisy wanting to make sure that the right thing gets done in the end.
This is the first of the Daisy Dalrymple Mystery series by Carola Dunn. The novel is set in the 1920s and Daisy is one of a new breed of young women trying to make their own way in the world. Daisy is, in fact, an 'Honourable' - the daughter of a viscount. Unfortunately, her elder brother Gervaise was killed on active service during World War I and as her father is dead, the estate has passed to Daisy's cousin as girls didn't inherit estates at this time. As the novel progresses we find out that Daisy also has a strained relationship with her mother, the dowager vicountess - who thinks Daisy should either marry and settle down or live a life appropriate to her heritage. It also turns out that Daisy's fiancé was killed in the trenches whilst driving an ambulance. He was a conscientious objector, which many people disapproved of - it was seen as unpatriotic and unmanly not to want to fight for your country. As the novel begins, we find Daisy on her way to Wentwater Court, where she is to photograph and write an article about the country manor for 'Town & Country' magazine, a sort of Country Living meets Harpers & Queen type publication. This is Daisy's first assignment and understandably, she's anxious not to make a mess of it. Daisy spends a few days getting to know the manor and enjoying the company of the other guests. These include the Honourable Phillip Petrie, a contemporary of Daisy's elder brother, who has a long held wish to marry Daisy, despite the fact that she has repeatedly told him she's not interested in him. Another of the guests is Lord Stephen Astwick, who has a reputation as a terrible cad, or ladies man. One morning, Lord Stephen is missed at breakfast and is later discovered face down in the lake. At first, it's thought that he'd simply drowned after falling through a thin patch of ice while skating on the lake. However, Daisy takes some photographs of the scene and when developing them notices axe marks in the ice - it looks as though foul play is involved! Enter Inspector Alex Fletcher, all the way from London's Scotland Yard. Fletcher sets to investigating the death, with Daisy becoming heavily involved in the investigation. Fletcher tells her to keep out of it several times, but Daisy can't help being drawn in as the other guests seem to want to confide in her and Daisy feels honour-bound to share her discoveries with the Inspector. As the story progresses, the mystery twists and turns until we discover the final outcome - which isn't necessarily what you might think!
From Here To Maternity - Mel Giedroyc I'd always found Mel & Sue quite funny when I've seen them on the television, so I was looking forward to experiencing some more of Mel's dry humour in this book. Most of us mums/mums-to-be can identify with some of Mel's predicaments - the wandering mind during an important meeting, the cheese craving bordering on obsession and the realisation that our bodies belong to someone else for nine months. There are a few funny moments, for example, Mel's violent reaction to their new sports car, but sadly this mostly reads like just another 'celebrity' account of pregnancy. The regular mentions of previous appearances almost feel like this book is more of a 'please could I have some more telly work now' request from Mel. That said, she does talk about her own family with a great deal of warmth, which is really nice to read. Perhaps if Sue had helped write the book, it might have re-captured some of their particular quirky brand of humour.
I've been feeding Burgess Excel Guinea Pig Nuggets (formerly Supa Guinea Excel) to my Guinea Pigs for about 4 and a half years and wouldn't feed them any other brand or type of complementary feed. This is without doubt the best feed they've had - all three are healthy weights, have good teeth, bright eyes and very shiny coats. Excel is suitable for all ages - mine range from 18 months to nearly five years and all very happily eat this feed. The main ingredients are grass, maize, wheat, lucerne, soya bean hulls, peas, soya, oat bran, unmolassed beet pulp, yeast and soya oil. The feed contains 36% beneficial fibre, which is essential to maintain healthy digestion. A guinea pig's natural diet is mainly grass, which is extremely high in fibre. Excel is designed to mimic this as much as possible. Pelleted feeds such as this one are much better for pets than muesli-type feeds as they prevent 'selective' feeding - this is where the animal picks out the bits it likes and leaves the rest. Each nugget is blended so that the pet gets a balanced diet with all the nutrients it needs. Like us, guinea pigs can't make vitamin C in their bodies, so they need a daily supply of this which can be found in most ready-made feeds, including this one. These sorts of feeds are known as 'complementary' feeds as no one food type can provide everything a pet needs. Guinea pigs also need plenty of hay for fibre (and to wear down their teeth), fresh water and a variety of fresh vegetables to keep life interesting. About the company Burgess is a British family-run business that has been involved with agricultural and food businesses for over 300 years. Wherever possible, they source ingredients from local farmers. The grass for Excel comes from a farm near to the company's Yorkshire mill, for example. The feeds have been developed with the advice of vets and nutritional experts. As well as guinea pigs, Burgess also makes foods for dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, rats, gerbils and chinchillas. Cost It's a little more expensive than some brands, but you get what you pay for. I pay about £8.40 for a 4kg bag from my local independent pet store, but you can buy it online at varying prices. Direct from Burgess, the 4kg bag is £8.99. The recommended feeding amount is 20-30 grams a day for a 1kg guinea pig and I find a bag lasts about 6-7 weeks for 3 large adult pigs. Burgess has lots of information about feeding on their website: http://www.burgesspetcare.co.uk/ I pay £8.40 for a 4kg bag
Requiem For a Mezzo This is the third of the 'Daisy Dalrymple' Mystery series, written by Carola Dunn. Daisy is a young woman trying to make her own way in the world by writing articles about stately homes for a sort of Country Life/Harpers & Queen type magazine. Luckily Daisy is the 'Honourable' Daisy Dalrymple, as she is the daughter of a viscount (now dead), so she has plenty of connections in those social circles. The books are set in the 'roaring twenties', the age of flappers, cocktails and the Charleston. Daisy also lives with her friend Lucy who is a photographer, another girl trying to make her own living. After a chance meeting with her neighbour, Muriel Westlea, Daisy has been invited to view a rehearsal of Verdi's 'Requiem', in which Muriel's sister Betsey (also known as Bettina) is singing the lead mezzo-soprano part. Daisy duly attends the rehearsal one Sunday afternoon at the Albert Hall, having also invited her potential love interest Alec Fletcher, a police Inspector from Scotland Yard. Daisy met Alec when he was called to investigate a suspicious death at Wentwater Court, where Daisy was writing her first article for the magazine. This story was told in the first of the Daisy Dalrymple mysteries: Death at Wentwater Court. Unfortunately, to the horror of all present (this is a public rehearsal), the aforementioned Betsey collapses and dies halfway through the performance! Initially, it appears to Alec that she has been poisoned with cyanide in her water glass. Bettina turns out to have been a typical 'diva' - demanding, self-centred and prone to wild temper tantrums and she seems to have made a lot of enemies in her time. Alec and Daisy begin to investigate who might have committed the murder and how. Although Daisy is not a police officer, she inevitably gets involved, despite Alec's warnings to her to keep out of it. There are many theories and motives that appear and are written off before the final revelations of 'whodunnit'. Overall, this is an enjoyable murder mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie and co. If you just read it as a mystery, it's quite satisfying, but the author also weaves in a lot of explorations of social changes that were happening at the time, which lend extra depth to what could have been a somewhat formulaic novel. The only downside is that the end seems rather abrupt and convenient, as if the author didn't quite know how to finish the story.