Monday, September 22, 2014

Living Arrows - 38/52

ISO 320, 35mm, f/3.5, 1/5000

Theo had a cold last week and though he soldiered through it, he spent much of the time on a precarious cliff edge of tears. I took this photo after a trip down the slide had tipped the balance. In the series of images before and after you can see him laughing one moment and looking thoughtful the next. Young children experience such a range of emotions I like to ensure that the images I take of him reflect that.

At three, he has just started full days at nursery and combined with some busy weekends he is still trying to build the stamina to keep up. But with all the fresh air and exercise he does at least sleep very well.

living arrows

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Training the untrainable...

A few weeks ago I was challenged by Pets At Home to make a video of one of our dogs doing a short training routine. As regular readers will know, we have two dogs. An older Retriever Cross from Canada called Macy and a slightly crazy Beagle we rescued in Cyprus called Bella.

We took Bella in long after our first flush of enthusiasm for dog ownership and so unlike Macy she never attended puppy classes and to this day cannot even grasp the basics of sit.  So we thought our dog training challenge would mainly consist of the hilarious contrasting efforts of the well trained older dog versus the younger chaotic dog. We were wrong.

We had failed to take into account one crucial thing. Bella is highly food motivated.  Very quickly Macy got tired of our obstacle course and sloped off to a quiet spot in the garden, but Bella just kept on going and emerged as our unlikely star....

Watch the short video below to see what happened...

Many thanks to Pets At Home for providing us with the dog training equipment. Bella was utterly exhausted by the end of it all, but I think it's clear to all she had a great time.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Grip It Giveaway

I've posted before about the problems we have had fixing things to the walls of our various military homes (some made of concrete, some made of cardboard) and whilst wall fixings themselves are not a terribly sexy subject, I am a sucker for good design, which is why I leapt at the chance of trying out a rather beautifully constructed new gadget.

You may well have seen Grip It fixings on Dragons Den a few weeks ago when Jordan Dakin the 18 year-old entrepreneur who invented them in his grandfather's shed, won the backing of Deborah Meaden.

Grip It are an innovative new kind of universal fixing with metal wings that unfold inside the wall to securely support heavy objects. Safely supporting everything from curtain rails to kitchen cabinets. As the majority of new homes are constructed with plasterboard walls, Jordan's invention is an eloquent solution to an ever-growing problem.  

We tried them out and once Jim got past his resrervations about drilling a larger hole than he was used to (for rawl plugs) he thought that they offered a great solution for heavier objects.

Grip It have kindly offered readers of this blog a chance to win a starter kit with a range of different size fixings. To enter all you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

5 remodel overspends that paid off...

Last week I was interviewed by a journalist for an article that Self Build & Design magazine are going to be running on our house remodel. We had originally said no to the feature, because unless you have a business you want to promote there is no real benefit to the homeowner. However after a little negotiation, they agreed to pay a fee for using some of my photos and so we decided to go ahead.

One of the questions they asked me was about the areas where we'd splurged a bit and although we did very little splurging as such, we definitely overspent in certain areas of the budget and didn't regret it. There are so many decisions to make on a project like this that I think it's useful just to note down our successful overspends for the benefit of others who may be doing similar builds.

Wooden Floor

Our wooden floors could easily have been a disaster. We bought our first wooden floor from a large national store. It was under budget so we thought we were being clever, but as soon as we got it home I realised we'd made a big mistake. We returned it and then spent a bit more to get what we really wanted. Some corners aren't worth cutting, particularly if you have to look at them every day and wish you'd just spent the extra £200.


Our Velux windows turned out to be one of our best purchases. I originally priced up a cheaper alternative window, but after a lot of debate we decided to pay the extra for a known brand, largely because you can retro-fit electric blinds to them. It paid off almost immediately as we made as we had to change the size of one of the windows we'd ordered and Velux collected the old one and dispatched the new at no additional cost and with very little hassle. 


There was nothing at all in our original budget to replace the rundown garden building we had. We considered hiring a caravan, but access problems ruled that out. In the end buying the cabin not only enabled us to live on site (and escape to a dry, warm, dust free space) but also gave me a brilliant sewing room at the end.


Our original spec for our juliet balcony was for simple galvanised steel, but we upgraded to glass to give a simpler more modern look. It was more than double our original balcony budget, but it looks great and it doesn't obstruct the view.

Slate roof

It seems incredible now, but because we original costed everything at the minimum spend to make the project achievable, our initial plan was to reuse our old concrete roof tiles from the bungalow. Early in the build we decided to ditch this idea and cut back in other areas to spend more money on the roof. The extra cost was 1% of the entire bill, well worth the money I think, especially as we have a lot of roof!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Living Arrows - 37/52

livuingarrows150914 ISO 1250, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/250 

This little stool that Theo is standing on was a purchase at Ardingly Antiques Fair and it's been so useful. Suddenly he's got the freedom to reach the sink on his own and wash his hands independently. I honestly don't know why it took me so long to get one, except for the fact it took me till this month to see something I actually liked.

This week Theo started full days at nursery and the transition has been very smooth. He already loved his half days and accepted the news of the longer stays without question. It's a time of growing independence for us both. For him to be away from the home with children of his own age and for me to rediscover the potential of long uninterrupted hours.

Though he was still a two year-old a couple of weeks ago we suddenly find ourselves applying for primary schools already. He will be the baby of his year, but he's tall, outgoing and bright and I think (hope) he'll be ready next September.

living arrows

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer plans in September...

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year and there's something about it that lends it to making plans. Maybe it's the farmer planting next year's crop or people harvesting berries in preparation for a glass of sloe gin at Christmas. Whatever the reason, I find my Pinterest activity goes up at this time of year too as I build boards full of autumn fashion or I start to dream of next summer's holiday.

This year I was asked to try out a new tool for holiday planning, allows you to build a holiday plan by pulling flight information from all over the internet. I wanted to plan a trip to Cyprus in April and allowed me to see how flight prices vary across the month as well as the average temperature in my destination. I was able to instantly see that the weather in May would be much better and the price for flights moderately cheaper too.

Last year we managed to accidentally book two trips during school half-terms and I suspect paid more as a result. This kind of tool allows parents of pre-schoolers to take advantage of those cheaper windows for flights and as Theo will be starting school next September, we should be canny while we still can.

Another area where is particularly useful is if you are planning a group getaway. Maybe it's a hen weekend, a business meeting or several families booking a summer holiday together (I have fantasies of hiring a huge villa in France!) Using, one person can create your trip plan and then make it public for everyone else to see either on the site or via facebook.

There are plans to develop the site further and I think it would be great to be able to see how flight and accommodation prices vary alongside each other, perhaps with the potential to book tickets for events too. Why don't you try it out for yourself and start planning your next trip too, you might be pleasantly surprised by some of the flight prices.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Autumn resolutions (and a short film)

Whilst the rest of the world is going back to work and school after the summer, I have just begun university leave. Distance learning has turned out to have a few surprises in store, not least of all the topsy turvy system of terms and holiday, which means we work solidly from May to September. Summer? What summer?
After dragging myself through the final weeks of the semester I now have a glorious five weeks off and a list of things I want to do as long as my arm. There are photo books to put together with Blurb (I'm planning for Christmas already) at least one quilt to make, the cabin/sewing room to sort out, time set aside to take photos and short films to make.

It's been a year since I filmed our Center Parcs video entry and the months have flown by. Last night I saw Kirsty's brilliant footage she shot with the GoPro and it got me inspired to shoot film all over again, so I sat down today and put together a short film of our community Apple Day event with some footage I shot last October. It's amazing to see it all again and how much Theo has grown. It made me acutely aware of how quickly he's changing and of all the moments I haven't recorded.

September always feels like a new start, so I think here and now I'll make it my new season resolution to shoot more film.

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