spring gardening tips

Spring Gardening Tips

We have had our static caravan in Thanet for over a year now and as the summer approaches, we are enjoying the outside more and more – weather permitting of course. It’s nice to have another area to enjoy. We have bought a small table and chairs which comes in very handy for quick snacks and, in this case, sowing our seeds that Tesco kindly sent us through along with a wonderful hamper of bits and pieces to help make our garden even more special.

It’s only a small patch of grass to the side and another stretch in front which was initially covered with a decking area but had to be ripped down by the new management for ‘health and safety’ reasons. Annoying as a new balcony around the caravan will cost a minimum of £7000!

So we want to make the most of the area we have without creating enormous amounts of work. Can it be done?

Tesco set up a conversation for me with Katie Rushworth and I share her top spring gardening tips on how to get the best out of your plot for the summer.

1. Plant out summer bedding, half-hardy annuals

Spring is the perfect time to dust off your trowel, get planting and give your garden some love.

When you start, try to plant and stick to a colour theme throughout your containers and baskets. Maybe a mix of hot colours and the odd chilli plant thrown in to your window box might spice things up. If you fancy something a little more ‘cottage garden’ in style then stick with pastel shades and add some herbs to the mix. Half-hardy annuals such as Cosmos, Zinnia, Cleome and Nicotiana can all be sown straight into the ground at this time of year and are fantastic colour fillers.

acer tree plant

An acer tree plant bought in Tesco

2. Pressure wash, or hose down and scrub

A great and easy way to get your garden looking its best is to get the pressure washer out and give that patio, path or deck some TLC. Just removing any dirt and moss from your seating area will instantly make your garden appear smarter. They are also great for cleaning down garden furniture and children’s play equipment, often they look brand new again.

3. Paint a fence or wall

gardeing tesco

It’s a great time of year to treat any wood that is in the garden – spring offers slightly cooler days with a possible chance of sunshine (unpredictable English weather) so your fence/wall will have time to properly dry. Whether that be fencing, a shed, garden furniture, wooden planters or a children’s climbing frame – all will last longer if given some added protection against the elements, and it will also give them a new lease of life. If you’re feeling brave, add some colour! A brightly coloured wall can make a fantastic statement all year round, a steely grey coloured fence can add a contemporary feel.

4. Costs

Have a plan for your garden and stick to it. Keep an eye out for retailers and garden centres who will have a wide range of deals available in the lead up to the summer months. Tesco is offering some great deals on its garden range available, in store now or visit online for more details and inspiration.

5. Lawn

Don’t forget to look after your lawn, as a freshly cut lawn makes all the difference. One of the top gardening mistakes Brits with a garden are committing is letting the lawn become unruly and overgrown. Make sure you remove any bare patches by getting rid of any dead grass and moss from the area. Then sprinkle some topsoil, followed by some lawn seed. A final fine dressing of topsoil will keep any wildlife from eating the seed as well as ensure that the seed comes into contact with the soil. Lightly water to prevent any of the seed from being disturbed.

6. Stake and support plants

Any plants that you know need support to look their best will benefit if you visit your local retailer or garden centre and get those supports in now. Even if they are weeks from flowering and still have lots of growth to put on, getting those garden canes in now and tying things in is much easier to do when you don’t have to navigate excess foliage and other plants in flower. As the plant continues to grow it will also naturally disguise the canes or framework you have put in place and leave you with beautiful looking flowers.

Tesco summer cup

A quick snack for the workers!

7. Lighting

Garden lighting is often overlooked, but it can really extend the use of your garden and add ambience and atmosphere to any outdoor spaces. String lights always look fabulous and add a festival feeling, whilst clusters of lanterns on steps and tables add charm and elegance. Up lighting a tree can add drama and give the garden an evening focal point, as well as give that holiday feeling. Don’t forget the fire pit which also gives warmth as the evening draws in.

8. Hoe

According to Tesco’s research the most dreaded gardening job for over a third of adults with a garden is weeding. However this task won’t seem so daunting if you find yourself a hoe (this is my favourite garden implement). It makes easy work of keeping on top of those weeds! On a dry day, slice the top of the weed off just below the surface of the soil. This will prevent the weed from photosynthesizing and the root will dry out and die. Sometimes the weed may eventually regrow, but this definitely weakens the plant so it is much less likely to make an appearance. For more persistent weeds, removing the whole root maybe necessary. However intermediate hoeing can make weeding a much more manageable garden task.

aperitivo

9. Prune spring flowering shrubs

Any shrubs which have flowered this spring can be pruned now if they are getting too big and unruly. Tesco has found that people are not confident when it comes to pruning plants but this is really easy to do! Remove any dead or damaged growth first, then any growth which is weak or crossing over one another causing stems to rub together in a tangled mass. Always cut the branch on an angle and to a new outward facing bud to increase air circulation. Shrubs can tolerate being cut back hard now, so removing half of the plant may seem brutal and look a little drastic, but it will recover over the summer months and reward you with lots of fresh new growth.

10. Dress it

Cushions, throws and outdoor rugs are the finishing touches that really make your garden feel like an extension of your house. Tie the colours in with colours you have in the home as well as colours you have used in the garden to create a unified and cohesive design. You don’t need green fingers for this, and it’s amazing how much more welcoming a garden becomes when it has a seat with a lovely cushion and a throw on it. Also, don’t forget to invest in a decent BBQ – this is essential to have, especially if you are planning to entertain friends and dine alfresco. Check out the wide range of outdoor essentials and BBQ’s available at Tesco on tesco.com/direct/garden.

cheers Tesco

Tesco is running unbeatable deals over the next month on its garden range. Don’t forget to head down to store, or shop online, to take advantage of these great deals and get your gardens set for summer.

Disclosure – This is a collaborative post with Tesco, I hope you can make the most of Katie’s tips, I certainly will be over the coming weeks. As you can see I have a lot to do. Cheers!

This is a collaborative post with Tesco.

Margate street art

I love Hello Canvas and when I saw the effects of their latest ideas for displaying family photos, I had to purposely go out and take a great image, the perfect image for an HD Metal frame.

Luckily for me our time spent in Thanet allows for the discovery of a lot of artwork, the Turner Contemporary is a huge favourite of mine – I popped into the latest exhibition this weekend – Every day is a new day and was wowed by the sculptures and paintings. I also love to stroll the streets of Margate, I always find some street art or quirky detail that surprises and delights me. It was in fact, on parking the car that I spotted the mural above and asked dad and the kids to stand in front for a photo opportunity.

I also took a photo of the mural with nobody in it and that is the one I decided on to place on HD metal.

When the artwork came through I was so excited to see how well it turned out. I knew it would work wonderfully in the girl’s bedroom in our new holiday home and couldn’t wait to put it up.

What is HD metal?

HD metal wall art

HD metal is a thin aluminium plate with a coating on top. Your image is applied onto it and the results are sharp, strong, eye-catching quality that really gives images a wow factor that I have not seen before. HD metal is scratch resistant and waterproof – they say it can be used outside but I’m keeping mine inside.

I went for the high gloss version but there is a matt version available too.

The finished product is incredibly light – I hung mine with Command velcro stickers. It is strong and the colours are intense. It comes with a frame on the back which keeps it off the wall giving the impression of depth.

 

The only problem I had with my new wall art was taking a photo of it, you see the high gloss finish reflects the light, so with the window behind me, I kept seeing my silouhette reflected in the picture. Not good when you want to take a serious photo!

I went for something bright and quirky but I imagine black and white would work extremely well too.

I’m really pleased our little holiday home is starting to look more and more like a home these days and a place where we all like to go to and spend some quality time together. Watch out for our Thanet Uncovered posts to find out where we go and what we get up to.

Disclosure: Hello Canvas gifted me this artwork in return for this blog post. All opinions are my own.

Forever Living C9

Forever Living – C9 programme

Forever Living Products was founded in 1978 in Scottsdale, Arizona and today is the largest grower, manufacturer and distributor of Aloe Vera products in the world. Out of the 400 different species of Aloe plants, Forever Living produce Aloe Barbadensis Miller which is known for its magically soothing abilities. It is known for soothing minor burns, comforting and moisturising stressed skin, and helping to aid your skin’s natural ability to regenerate itself. Records of Aloe exist on Sumerian clay tablets from as early as 2200 BC. Aloe is often referred to as nature’s best gift due to the proven health benefits derived from the gel found inside the leaf of the plant.

What attracted me to try C9

I first heard and used the Forever Living Aloe Vera Gel when I lived in Italy where it was very popular, I remember being very impressed with the results and when we visited an Aloe Vera farm in Lanzarote last year, I was very happy to buy some of their products to bring back home. I used the face cream for months and am convinced it was one of the best I have ever used.

aloe vera farm lanzarote

When I saw the BritMums Pro newsletter asking for bloggers to try the F.I.T. programme C9, I applied straight away, not only do I know of the Aloe Vera properties but I have spent the past couple of months not feeling right. I have struggled with my weight, tending to gain slowly but never able to lose it. I have suffered all kinds of minor ailments that weren’t illnesses as such but one after another these minor bugs and feelings start to drag you down into a place where it’s difficult to pick yourself up.

If anything could pick me up and get me back on track it was Aloe Vera, so I applied.

CAN YOU LOOK BETTER AND FEEL BETTER IN JUST 9 DAYS? YES.

Look better and feel great in just nine days with this expertly-devised cleansing plan. Designed to kick-start the F.I.T. programme, cleanse your body and adjust your mindset, C9 provides the perfect starting point for transforming your diet and fitness habits. Based around Forever’s bestselling Aloe Vera Gel drink, this nutritionally-balanced programme will allow you to see real results in just nine days.

I really liked the idea of cleansing and kick starting a new lifestyle, so when my box arrived I dived in like an excited child.

F.I.T. – Foundation, Inspiration, Transformation

Properties of aloe vera

What’s included in the C9 pack

Forever Aloe Vera Gel® x2
Forever Lite Ultra® with Aminotein®
Forever Therm®
Forever Fiber™
Information Booklet

I read through my booklets, got to recognise each product and got myself ready to start, in fact by the time Day 1 arrived, which together with Day 2 is the hardest, I was raring to go. I kept a short diary of my experience.

C9 free foods

Day 1

Surprise! I wasn’t at all hungry today. I have followed day 1 exactly as planned in the booklet and I am full of enthusiasm, I have taken all of my measurements and I recorded my weight this morning too, I am really interested to see the results, if any. Today was a Monday and I was at home from work so able to follow the plan perfectly. If anything I have found it really weird taking all the capsules throughout the day. I thought I would be a lot more hungry than I was and although I prepared a lunch salad from the free foods list I probably could have gone without it.

Steps: 11,383

C9 day 1

Day 2

Once again, I haven’t felt hungry today, so much so I have started to worry that I am not doing the course right but checking and double checking I have followed it perfectly. I have also drink lots of water and visited the bathroom lots too! These were the ‘worst’ days so I’m looking forward to trying days 3 – 9 to see the difference. Today was a work day and with careful preparation I took everything into the office and it was very easy to continue my C9 without any disruption to my working day. In fact I was able to drink my Forever Lite Ultra at my desk and use my lunch hour for a nice long walk.

A few eyebrows were raised in the office and there was a spark of interest from some colleagues as to what the plan was about and wheat I wanted to gain from it. By Speaking to them I was able to understand what exactly it was that I wanted too. To feel energised.

Steps: 11,788

FIT Forever Lite Ultra Chocolate

Day 3

Today is a great day as I can start to eat food again, real food. not that I missed it much the past couple of days. I have organised smoked haddock for tea with vegetables.

It was a work day and once again I found it easy to complete the daily course. I must admit I find all the capsules and fiber sachets a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m not used to taking capsules daily and on C9 there are some to take at every meal time. Personally, once the course is completed I don’t think I’d be continuing with them whereas I would continue to take the Aloe Vera Gel in the morning.

Steps: 10,837

Day 4

I’m really getting into the swing of this and finding the Forever Lite ultra shake to be sufficient for both breakfast (when it’s even a bit too much) and lunch when it is perfect. The only thing disturbing me and reminding me of food is smells. Around lunchtime in the open plan office where I work, people start opening sandwiches, salads and hot soups. It would seem my sense of smell is very acute and although my tummy isn’t rumbling because it’s full of water or other liquids, you can’t deny a good smell. Another successful day and for tea we had chicken breasts with vegetables. I had a glass of wine. It Was Delicious! I figured it would be part of my 100 calories ;)

Steps: 6,439

Under the skin of the aloe vera plant

Once the green skin is cut away, inside you are left with a strip of transparent gel that can be used for creams, drinks and many other products.

Day 5

Friyay! I wasn’t at work today, it’s my day off and it was a very busy one too. I followed the plan very well and for dinner we had steaks and vegetables. I had a couple of chips much to my husband’s disapproval (If you’re going to do a plan Marianne, do it properly or don’t do it at all) I prefer to think of tailoring the C9 to meet my needs and lifestyle.

Steps: 9,460

Day 6

I cannot tell you how cold it was today! The twins were invited to a cinema party and lunch so Paul and I nipped down to the coast. We were curious to see the work going on at Birchington Vale and we wanted to let Baxter run on the beach and try to catch a seagull. I found the C9 plan easy to follow today although I did have a glass of wine with my meal in the evening.

Steps: 7,423

aloe vera lanzarote

Day 7

Sunday. A miserable Sunday too where I did very few steps. I didn’t leave the house but I did stay true to my plan making a couple of swaps. I swapped the lunchtime Forever Lite Ultra shake for a roast dinner and had the shake in the evening instead. Once again I had a glass of wine with my meal but counted it into my 600 calories.

Steps: 2,449

Day 8

Monday. I’m bored now and can’t wait for it to be over. i have no struggle at all with the C( plan but I am looking forward to getting back to a ‘normal’ diet even if I will be making a few adjustments and continuing to take the Aloe Vera Gel as I have some left in the first container plus an unopened container too. We had my beef stew which has lots of  pulses in it tonight for dinner, I took a smaller portion than I would normally serve myself and was pleased to find it was sufficient.

Steps: 10,238

Forever Living C9

 

Day 9 – Tuesday

Back to work today, so I prepared my Forever Lite Ultra shake for lunch and I have my fibre and lunch time tablets to take too.

I am so pleased it is the last day. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing the C9 plan and will admit to stepping on the scales midweek and this morning. I was very pleased with the number shining back at me and consider the plan to be a huge success. Now my goal will be maintaining that weight and lifestyle. Choosing low calorie but filling lunches and not snacking on crisps and chocolate. We had fish for dinner, baked with vegetables and no potatoes. No wine.

Steps: 8,067

Day 10

First day back to normal. I took my Aloe Vera Gel at breakfast, I skipped any food as I wasn’t hungry and took a packed lunch into work consisting of a salad from the free food list plus 150g smoked salmon. It was a birthday in the office and I did enjoy some biscuits and chocolate and if anything this will be my area of downfall. I work with a bunch of chocoholics, there are ALWAYS snacks on the bookshelf. Dinner

C9 review conclusion

I enjoyed the C9 programme and although I was glad to get to the end I was very pleased with the results. If anything I wish I had chosen the vanilla Forever Lite Ultra rather than the chocolate as there were some recipes to try in the booklet which could have made that moment of the day more varied, having chosen the chocolate – which was delicious – I didn’t find any recipes to try out.

I would do the programme again, after a holiday, after Christmas or when I am feeling particularly sluggish.

I Feel that during the programme and after I felt more energised and I certainly got rid of that ‘permanently shattered feeling’ that I have been dragging around with me for months.

Here are some other reviews to read up

Helpful Mum

Chelsea Mamma

Lilinha Angel’s World

Disclosure: I’m working with Forever Living and BritMums in a paid relationship, showcasing the C9 Programme, kick-starting my eating and fitness goals. find out more here

westgate on sea thanet

When I started at James Villa Holidays over a year ago now, I was a little disappointed to only have a part time role. I was full of enthusiasm and raring to go. I wanted to get my teeth into real life work after so many years at home blogging and all that goes with it. However it was the best decision ever. It has allowed me an entire year to get used to working, to find a happy family/work balance and come to grips what a working mum actually goes through in order to tick all of the boxes and stay sane at the end of the week.

This new life hasn’t been problem free, I have found myself walking up to the local supermarket at 6.30pm for milk that I had forgotten to get. I’ve organised quick meals that just need shoving in the oven for 20 minutes and I’ve watched my ironing pile take on mammoth proportions. I have also screeched into the girl’s dance class on Wednesday afternoons at 4.30pm, buns skewiff and uniform not quite perfect every week. It has been an enormous learning curve and it looks like going forward I shall be learning even more as I have been offered a full time role which is due to start tomorrow!

I think the leap to full time, from 22.5 hours to 37.5 is going to be a tough call but one I am ready to put my hand to. It will take a while to get organised and find a rhythm that suits us all. I need to get my girls booked into Breakfast club at school, I need to get into the habit of food shopping online once a week and I need to organise everything for my family so that whilst I am working life can run smoothly – no mean feat!

Fortunately I have an enormous help in Oana.

 

sea waves

In fact she has been here for 3 months now which have whizzed by, Evan has settled into reception class at school and is starting to read (yes Biff and Chip!) Sophie started nursery school at the beginning of January and after a rocky start is actually really enjoying her time with the other children.

Living in 8 in our house is also going smoothly too. The girls are loving having Oana and Tommy around and they are getting used to the little ones plus trying to remember to put anything precious out of reach! Sophie has a passion for scissors and sellotape that is unprecedented in our family, put something down it will be cut up and sellotaped in minutes.

The proudest moment has to be when Tommy and Oana bought their first car a couple of weeks ago. Only an old banger but it is their old banger with a full year’s MOT and it’s in good health too. This will allow them some freedom and movement.

Next step is the big one, finding a place to call their own.

That’s all for now folks. I enjoy writing this kind of catch up so finger’s crossed I’ll find more time going forwards to keep you all up to date.

Wish me luck!

Mari x

sky shot

Images taken on a weekend jaunt to Westgate a couple of weekends ago.

Leetchi online money pots

Leetchi is the new buzz word for collecting money from groups of people, Leetchi.com is in fact, online money pots.

There is always a collection doing the rounds at work, we have three January birthdays in our department alone, a colleague leaving for her maternity leave and another leaving to go to another company. Then I am part of various groups online and sometimes we have collections for Secret Santa, for friends in need and for birthday gifts too.

If I am honest I have never put myself forward very often to organise these money collections as it’s always a bit of a headache, using my personal PayPal to collect the funds and purchase any gifts out of it. It would be so much easier if there was a specific place to collect the money so it kept it separate from my own funds.

Leetchi.com is the answer. It allows you a fast, easy and secure way to pooling money together into one online money pot. You can then use it for anything and everything. You can support local charities or individuals in need.

leetchi online money pots

 

The fact that 6 million people are already using the platform speaks volumes.

How does it work?

leetchi online money pots

In just a few clicks a user can create a personalised money pot online and invite their friends, family and other groups of people to contribute. Each person can chip in to a money pot simply using their bank card. Once the needed money has been raised, Leetchi.com users can spend their money pot as they please: online on partner sites (100% free), ask for a bank transfer (2.9% fee for transfers above £2000 and 4% below) or offer the electronic money pot directly to the beneficiary.

save money pots

Public online money pots

Are you fundraising, or do you just want to see who is fundraising for whom and donate as and when you please? Leetchi.com have an excellent, safe way to raise funds online that cover all manner of topics, take the King family, their house burnt down and neighbours, family and friends created a pot to help them get back on their feet. If you take a look at the public money pots you’ll find pots for people facing unfair trials with 12 years imprisonment, people fighting cancer, Soul food kitchen for the hungry and homeless. There are pots upon pots of collections to choose from.

I think this is an excellent idea and especially useful for friends and families placed in different countries or even counties. It makes the joining in that much easier.

Find Leetchi online on Facebook and Twitter if you want to find out more @LeetchiUK

Disclosure: this post is in collaboration with leetchi.com all opinions are my own.