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Let it rain

19 Jun

Rainmaker £8 sciencemuseumshop.co.uk (with plants)

We’ve recently had a new lawn laid, so I’m OBSESSED with watering plants at the moment. But indoors, you don’t want – or need – to faff about with a giant watering can. Instead, how about this nifty little gadget? Called the Rainmaker, it’s an ingenious little cloud-shaped gizmo that screws onto the end of any ordinary water bottle, allowing you to shower your plants with a burst of rain-like droplets.

Just £8 from the The Science Museum Shop, it’d also make a great stocking filler for a green-fingered friend or family member (if you’re thinking that far ahead!)

Rainmaker £8 sciencemuseumshop.co.uk (with label)

Anyone for tennis?

27 Jun

Dunlop Green Flash trainers (pair) £29.99 Shuperb.co.uk

Forget the football. With Wimbledon now in full swing, this week and next week it’s all about tennis.

To celebrate, I’m seriously considering treating myself to a pair of the greatest old skool tennis shoes every created, Dunlop Green Flash. I used to have an amazing pair of my mum’s, which had survived since the Sixties, but sadly I wore them to death. Hard to get hold of these days, you can still buy them from Shuperb.co.uk for a very reasonable £29.99, here.

More original than the flood of Nikes and Converse everyone else is wearing, they’re incredibly comfy and hardwearing; go well with skirts, shorts or jeans; and suit pretty much everyone.

Still feeling inspired? Why not put your pre/post-match Pimm’s in one of these cute strawberry glasses, just £3 for four from Asda; sit down on a traditional check blanket throw, £15 from Sainsbury’s; and dry yourself off after a dip in the pool with an official Wimbledon championships towel, £29 from the tournament shop, www.shop.wimbledon.com

Wimbledon kit

And if you’re lucky enough to get to the tournament yourself, avoid the queues at the over-priced Wimbledon restaurants and settle down on Henman Hill (or is it now called Murray Mound?!) with a picnic carried in a proper hamper. Most wicker hampers cost well over £50, but this little beauty is just £29.99 from Asda, and has plenty of room for a four-person feast:

4 person picnic hamper £29.99 George at Asda

 

 

 

Green-fingered gifts

9 Dec

Garden gifts bee house

Every year on this blog, I promise to help readers find Christmas presents for people who are tricky to buy for.

If you have a gift-giving conundrum, please drop me a line at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com with the details of who you’re thinking of, and anything interesting about them such as hobbies, likes/dislikes etc. I’ll then hunt out some present ideas and post them up here!

This December, the first request comes from Helen, who needs to buy presents for both her dad and her friend Claire. They both love gardening, but she doesn’t want to get them: “something boring, like a spade or packets of seeds”. She also doesn’t want to spend over £25 each.

Luckily, there’s a whole host of gorgeous gardening goodies in the shops this year, and I’ve come up with some suggestions for her.

Hopefully they’ll inspire you too!..

Top of page: Thoughtful gardener bee house £17.50 Berry Red (www.berryred.co.uk) 

Garden gifts ladybird cushion bee cushion

Above: Ladybird and Bee cushions £25 each, Karenza & Co (www.karenzaandco.com)

Garden gifts soap grow own allotment hand therapy

Above: Gnome soap-on-a-rope £8* The Great Gift Company (www.thegreatgiftcompany.co.uk); Indoor Allotment £19.55 Play.com (www.play.com); Gardener’s Hand Therapy hand cream £9 Crabtree & Evelyn (www.crabtree-evelyn.co.uk)

Garden gifts trowels orla kiely gloves garden bag garden calendar

Above, clockwise from top left: Orla Kiely gardening gloves £14.95 Urban Cuckoo (www.urbancuckoo.co.uk); Matthew Rice A Year in the Country calendar 2014 £12.99 Cotswold Trading (www.cotswoldtrading.com); Gisela Graham gardening bag £10.99 Mollie & Fred (www.mollieandfred.co.uk); Garden tool set £15 Tesco (www.tesco.com)

Garden gifts wheelbarrow grabbers

Above: Purple wheelbarrow £28 Asda (www.asda.com/direct) – okay so it’s a little over the budget but it’s a bargain for such a cool wheelbarrow!; Get Gardening Leaf Grabbers £3.50 Wilko (www.wilko.com)

Garden gifts boot brush doormat lunch mugsAbove, clockwise from top left: Owl boot brush £12 Wilko (www.wilko.com); Dig for Victory mug £7* The Great Gift Company (www.thegreatgiftcompany.com); I Garden Therefore I Am mug £6.99 Urban Cuckoo (www.urbancuckoo.co.uk); Best in Show coir doormat £19.99 Retreat Home (www.retreat-home.com); Grow Your Own Christmas Lunch £14.99 The Oak Room (www.oakroomshop.com)

*GET 10% OFF AT THE GREAT GIFT COMPANY http://www.thegreatgiftcompany.com from today until midnight on 13th December. Just enter code SUN10 at the online checkout.

Let us spray!

7 Aug

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWay back when I was a student, I went out with a graffiti artist for a while. He changed the way I thought about graffiti – he and his friends weren’t vandals (they didn’t go around spraying their tags on trains and lamp posts); instead, they were artists, meticulously drawing intricate designs up on squared paper beforehand, then creating amazing works of art on designated ‘legal’ walls or at festivals, using different nozzles, masking tape and all kinds of other clever tricks to create different effects.

Anyhow, he bought me my first ever can of spray paint, and helped me to spray a beside table hot pink. It looked amazing – and from then on I was hooked.

As I’m hopeless at drawing things (although I’m quite good at Pictionary…), I’ve stuck to furniture and accessories – spraying gives a lovely even finish, and transforms even the grottiest item within minutes. The best thing about it is that you don’t need to be an expert – you literally just shake the can, point it at the object, and let rip.

My most recent project has been doing up a retro woven bucket chair that had been languishing in my parents’ loft. I sprayed it red and gave it a whole new lease of life in my new summerhouse  (nothing fancy – we just clad the walls of my shed in cheap pine tongue-and-groove, painted them white and then painted the floor with grey gloss). It was in a terrible state, but now looks quite cool, don’t you think?

spray painted bucket chair in summerhouse

If you fancy giving spray paint a go, my top tip is to start with some old plastic garden planters or windowboxes, or make a tin-can plant display like the one above…

1) Take some old tins outside (soup tins or larger cooking oil cans work well – ask a local restaurant or takeaway to save you some)

2) Lay down an old sheet or some newspaper to protect the grass, then place your can upside down over a wine bottle so that you can spray the whole of it without having to touch it.

3) Spray it in whatever colour you like, then leave it to dry. I like Plasti-Kote Super Gloss spray paints (around £6.50 for a giant can) or Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch (about £5.50) both from http://www.Amazon.co.uk or DIY shops. They both work well on wood, metal or plastic.

4) Bang a nail through the back into a wall or fence post, and your can is ready to fill with soil and flowers. Lovely!

If you do spray anything, please send me a picture! Drop me a line at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com

PS: I still know that graffiti artist and he takes commissions, so if you ever want a really cool mural, painted shop shutters or even just a canvas with your child’s name written in graffiti style, give me a shout and I’ll put you in touch! 

A lot on your plate

4 Jun

Walls split plate ice lolly melamine John Lewis £5

I hardly dare write this in case I’m tempting fate, but it seems as if summer if FINALLY here.

And with all this perfect picnic weather we’re having, what you need is some picnic tableware. I’m currently lusting after these retro-ish Wall’s Ice Cream melamine plates, above, £5 each from John Lewis (www.johnlews.com), decorated with old skool favourites – Strawberry Split, Funny Feet, Twister and Starship 4.

The plates are part of a much larger picnic range in the same design, with cool bags, from £17; beakers and mugs, £4.50 each; water bottles, £10; and a roll-up picnic rug, £25.

Personally, I think they’re all Fab (oh, that’s another type of ice cream altogether!)

Walls split beaker ice lolly melamine John Lewis £4.50

Walls picnic rug £25 John Lewis

PS: Love these designs but want something other than picnicware? Snap up this brilliant storage tin, £7.99 (below), from http://www.safariisland.co.uk.

Wall's ice cream Tin from Ed at Rigby and Mac £9.95

If you live in London, you can also buy the tin in person at Ed in East Dulwich (41 Northcross Road, SE22), for £9.95. Most of their gorgeous stuff is online at http://www.rigbyandmac.com but sadly this is an in-store item only. Shame!

Mmmmn, Bistro!

21 May

GARDENS - BISTRO SET Blooma Saba Bistro table £59 and folding chair £15 each B&Q

Want to update your garden, but short on space and cash? Forget huge clunky brown wooden garden furniture and invest in a compact bright bistro set instead.

Smaller and less expensive than ‘proper’ tables and chairs, it’ll fold away tidily when not in use and add a stylish flash of colour. What’s more, you can pick up some very nice ones indeed for under £90. Not bad eh?

My picks: the hot pink Blooma set from B&Q (www.diy.com), £89 (table, £59 + chairs £15 each), above; or the Courtado set in tomato red or mint green, £79 from Marks and Spencer (www.marksandspencer.com); the pale blue set from Homebase, £69.99 (www.homebase.co.uk); or the great quality wooden set in either retro orange or olive green, £80 from Wilkinson (www.wilko.com), all below.

GARDENS - BISTRO SET Courtado green bistro set £79 M&S

GARDENS - BISTRO SET Folding bistro set £69.99 Homebase

GARDENS - BISTRO SET Retro Orange Bistro Set £80 Wilkinson

Let’s go outside!

3 May

Blooma Moretta garden set, from £60 B&Q

In the second of my summery posts this week (and the first of many on the subject of sprucing up your garden), I had to share these cool chairs with you. Modern, bright garden furniture is usually so expensive – in the hundreds of pounds – so I was pleasantly surprised to spot this retro-style acid green and hot pink Moretta seating  from B&Q (instore and online at http://www.diy.com).

A chair costs £60 and the bench, £99 – not bad for a real statement piece that’ll instantly pimp up your patio.

And if you like these, there are matching rocking chairs, £69 each and a cute egg-shaped charcoal grey table, £40, too (below).

Blooma Moretta garden furniture, from £60 for a chair B&Q

Lolly gosh!

1 May

Sainsburys picnic ware ice lollies full range on shelves

Last week’s glimpse of the sun has got me feeling all summery, so I had to be physically restrained this weekend when I went to my local Sainsbury’s and saw their new range of AMAZING plastic picnicware (above).

In candy colours and printed with gorgeous graphic ice creams and lollies, I wanted to buy the whole lot.

My top picks? The gorgeous large tray platters, £4 (below right)…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies platter and plates

…the cute bowls (perfect for everything from sweets to salads), £5 for the large or £2.50 for the small…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies bowls

…and the reusable double-walled plastic drink cups with straws, £2.50 each…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies cups with straws

Someone in the Sainsbury’s design team obviously loves their lollies, as they also feature on mega cute notelets, £3.99 for 12; a range of stationery (£2.99 for a notebook); and on disposable paper plates and napkins, £1.50 a pack, all below. Yum!

Sainsbury's ice lollies notelets

Sainsbury's ice lollies stationery pads

Sainsbury's picnic ware paper plates and napkins ice lollies

Wheely rather good

18 Apr

Asda Parasene purple wheelbarrow

I’m a huge fan of bright colours, and I love it when designers take run-of-the-mill objects and jazz them up by making them in eye-popping shades.

So I definitely approve of Asda”s new range of cheap and cheerful Parasene boxer wheelbarrows, which come in purple, pink, red, yellow, green or stylish galvanised silver.

Okay, so I don’t really need a wheelbarrow – it only takes about five steps to go from my shed to my back door – but never mind. I think the yellow one would look very fetching indeed parked on my patio, with a bit of soil and a trowel artistically placed inside, as if I might pop out and do some heavy duty weeding at any moment.

I might be getting a bit carried away there (ho ho), but seriously, they’d make a great present for anyone with a bit of style who loves gardening. They cost a wheely (sorry!) reasonable  £28 each – or £30 for the silver version – from direct.asda.com

Better be quick though – the purple one (why does everyone love purple so much?!) has already sold out once, after being featured in Living Etc magazine. Wheelbarrow race to the tills anyone?!

Asda Parasene red wheelbarrow

Ideal Gnome

28 Feb

Giant Gnome

While researching a magazine feature on ‘outdoor living inspiration’ the other day, I was asked if I would like to experience for myself Asda’s biggest-selling new garden accessory. Was it a fancy lounger, stylish oversized pot, shiny new BBQ..? Nope, it was a 3ft high ginormous garden gnome nicknamed Gnorman.

Of course, I said yes. Who wouldn’t?

So, now our garden has a new resident. And while he may not be particularly classy or subtle, he’s brilliant. He’s so jolly and OTT that even my other half, who is usually so minimalist and fussy about anything home-sy, absolutely loves him, while my dad wants him for his allotment (where the local ‘youths’ would kidnap him in seconds, no doubt!).

Only the local cat  -see the top right of my photos, below – is unsure.

If you want to give a home to a gnome, or want to buy one for a friend (he’d make a great gift – just imagine people trying to guess what he was before they unwrapped him!), he costs a very reasonable £24.99 from Asda Direct, direct.asda.com

Gnorman the 3ft giant garden gnome on table Asda

Can you dig these? Yes you can!

25 Feb

OLIVE BISTRO SET _£80

Something very exciting is happening in one of my favourite shops, Wilkinsons, from the beginning of March. They’ve had a major overhaul of their homes department and will be selling tons of gorgeous new designs in everything from cushions and bedding to lighting and rugs. What’s more, if you don’t live near a store, you’ll be able to buy it all at their new website address http://www.wilko.com from the beginning of March.

Don’t worry, I’ll be writing about it all the  minute it goes on sale!

In the meantime, they’ve just released their new range of stuff for your garden. In a stylish palette of stone, olive and retro burnt orange, it’s fresh, fun… and a total bargain.

Here’s my picks of the best bits. I particularly love the watering cans and birdhouse – they’d make great presents for any green-fingered friends.

ABOVE:
Olive Bistro Set, £80 (two chairs and a table)

BELOW:
Watering cans, £12 each…

3307793 _ How Does Your Garden Grow Watering Can, £12

Bird box, £8…

0330772 - Wilko Sustain Get Outdoors Bird House Metal Cream-Green - £8Grow Your Own set of three pots on a tray, £7…

3307717 _ Grow Your Own Pots on Tray, £7My Garden Things utility box, £15…

My Gardening Things Utility Box, £15, 0330770

Aunt these lovely presents?!

5 Dec

First to take me up on my Christmas gift buying challenge (see Monday 3rd December’s blog) is Jill from London, who emailed to say:

“Can you give me some ideas for my auntie? She likes luxury! But I don’t have a huge budget this year – I can spend £30 on her. She enjoys gardening, films, food and pampering. Help!”

Jill, your wish is my command. Here are my suggestions for luxury-loving aunties, below.

PS: Don’t forget, if you have someone you need gift ideas for, just email me at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com

Silver Plated Champagne cork salt and pepper shakers by Culinary Concepts, £27.50 http://www.johnlewis.com
Nothing says luxury like Champagne and these stylish shakers will look great on your auntie’s table for years. They come in a posh presentation box, making them easy to post. Culinary Concepts make several other fancy silver plated table items such as watering can-shaped shakers, mouse detail cheese knives, and a sweet silver honey pot and spoon, all for around £30 too. Check out the full range at John Lewis.

Cmas Jill culinary concepts champagne salt and pepper pots John Lewis

Make mine a mojito set, £32, http://www.plants4presents.co.uk
This fun set includes a good-sized lime tree and mint plant, each in your choice of pot; a mini bottle of Havana club rum; a muddle and instructions on how to make mojitos. All delivered anywhere in the UK. If your auntie doesn’t like booze, Plants4Presents sell all kinds of other lovely plants in fancy pots, such as a Calamondin dwarf orange tree for £25, which looks great in a conservatory.

Cmas Jill make mine a mojito set plants4presents lime tree

Cheese baker, £14.59 http://www.amazon.co.uk
This good quality china covered dish is decorated just like a traditional camembert box. Simply place a whole camembert or brie cheese inside, and pop it in the oven for an amazing melty treat. It comes in a matching box, so makes a great gift, and if you want to make it look even more special, you could always buy a decent camembert or brie cheese to go with it.

Cmas Jill camembert cheese baker from amazon.co.uk

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion jug and sugar bowl, £14 each, http://www.portmeirion.co.uk
Designer – tick. Classy and timeless – tick. Posh mint green presentation box – tick. Decent price – tick! This stylish range of tableware from Sophie Conran looks uber expensive but is actually pretty reasonable. A matching jug and sugar bowl would make a great gift for an auntie, or you can also browse the range for pitchers, serving bowls, espresso cups and even candles.

Cmas Jill Sophie Conran for Portmeirion milk jug

The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box, £20, Boots http://www.boots.com
Your auntie can turn her bathroom into one of London’s top spas with this handy kit that contains everything she’ll need to recreate The Sanctuary’s famous facial at home.

Cmas Jill The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box set from Boots

Dusky pink stud bowling bag, £32.50, Next http://www.next.co.uk
Ok, so it’s £2.50 over budget, but this roomy, versatile bag looks far more expensive than it actually is, and works as a classy day bag, work bag or travel bag.

Cmas Jill dusky pink stud bowlling bag £32.50

Black + Blum Candelabra loop, £19.95, http://www.handpickedcollection.com
Elegant and expensive-looking, this chrome candle holder should look fab on your auntie’s table, mantlepiece or shelf and comes in a presentation box. You can buy just one, or get a second one for your auntie’s birthday so she can link them together!

Cmas Jill Black and Blum candelabra loop flamingo gifts

Carluccio’s Lui E Lei balsamic vinegar and olive oil set, £22.95, http://www.carluccios.com
One of the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil sets that money can buy, in elegant bottles and packaged in a Christmassy box. They not only taste amazing, but they’d also look swanky on display in your auntie’s kitchen. Check out Carluccio’s website for other great foodie gifts too.

Cmas Jill Carluccio's olive oil and balsamic £22.95

Le Creuset Bloom Espresso Mug Set, £30, http://www.lecreuset.co.uk
If your auntie loves coffee as well as labels, she’ll love this chi-chi set of four petal-coloured stoneware espresso mugs from cuisine experts Le Creuset. They’re almost too pretty to drink from!

Cmas Jill Stoneware_espresso_mugs_bloom Le Creuset

Celia Birtwell Garden Trowel and Fork Set, £19.99, from uk_gifts_and_cards at http://www.ebay.co.uk (search under ‘Birtwell Trowel’)
The classiest way to do the gardening, this good quality fork and trowel have a flower print created by iconic designer Celia Birtwell.

Cmas Jill Celia Birtwell trowel set

Gone With The Wind quotation art, £21.75 by wall envy art at http://www.notonthehighstreet.com
Wall Envy Art take vintage novel pages (this one is from Gone With the Wind – you can also get a page from the book of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and overprint them with famous quotations from the same book. They then mount the whole lot in a handmade wooden frame. Cute.

Cmas Jill quotation art Gone With The Wind

Leaf it out!

9 Nov

Dads and dads-in-law. They’re so hard to buy for. Unless they have a very specific hobby, like wine making,  or stamp collecting, or guitars or suchlike, it can be difficult to know what will float their boat when it comes to presents. But I think I’ve found the answer.

My dad has been a total star recently, turning the huge derelict garage-like shed at the bottom of my garden into a half-workshop, half-summer house multi-purpose building (well, it still looks like a shed, but it’s a darn sight more useful now). So, I wanted to give him something to say thank you, but flowers weren’t right, and he’s got all the wine making kit he needs (my mum will attest to that – she has to put up with about a dozen giant demijohns full of fermenting homemade elderfower wine bubbling away in the downstairs loo 24/7).

Then an email from Robert Dyas (www.robertdyas.co.uk) popped into my inbox, saying they had a sale on, and the Pro Craft 2500w Blower Vac was on sale at £29.99. Basically, it’s a leaf blower, that also Hoovers leaves up, and mulches them into compost. This might seem mega-dull at first, but think about it – at this time of year, raking up leaves is a pain in the neck (not to mention a pain in the back), but with this beast, you can run around the garden triumphantly sucking up leaves with wild abandon at the click of a button. Genius!

So, I ordered one. I won’t ‘leaf’ you in suspense as to what Dad thought of it – he was blown away! (just check out the pic he sent me, below…)

Green gifts

5 Sep

A bouquet of flowers is lovely, but I’ve always thought it sad that you can spend £30+ on something that’s wilted and died within a week or so. It’s also not ideal if you’re looking for a present for a couple, or want to send something to a man. Okay, so he might love flowers, but unless his name’s Elton, it’s unlikely they’d be his first choice of pressie.

That’s why Plants4presents.co.uk is such a great idea. It delivers amazing plants anywhere in the UK on the date of your choosing.
You get a free, good quality metal bucket or wicker basket plant pot with every plant, plus a gift card typed with your own message. And we’re not talking specialist or boring shrubs, but fun, useful, easy-to-care-for plants for indoors or outdoors that anyone (of any age) can enjoy.

I’ve used the website four times now and everything I’ve ordered has been a huge hit. I’ve bought beautiful mini orange and lemon trees for my parents’ conservatory – they came laden with fruit, and almost a year on have flowered and grown more. I’ve also bought a mini (well, it’s 50cm high) olive tree as a ‘sorry’ present for someone (like offering an olive branch, y’see) and a demon chilli plant for a male friend.

The site also sells ‘Grow your own curry’ kits (three plants that form the ingredients for a Thai curry); ‘Grow your own tea’ plants (for the friend who loves a cuppa); blueberry bushes for health fanatics; and orchids for traditionalists.

Not sure what to buy? Ring them up – the staff are friendly and won’t just try to sell you what’s most expensive. What’s more, almost everything on the site costs £19-£35 – the same as a decent bunch of flowers, but for something far longer lasting. Bloomin’ brilliant.

The bright stuff

16 Jul

I can think of several uses for these cute mini rainbow-coloured glass bottles. Put single flowers in them for a sweet windowsill display; hang them from a chandelier for a quirky pop of colour; place a slim candle in each and dot them around some branches in your garden; or use them to store buttons, beads, stud earrings or general sparkly bits and bobs.

They’re just 6cm  high and 3cm wide and cost £9.95 for a set of six from http://www.Dotcomgiftshop.com (they’re called ‘mini multi-coloured hanging bottles’ if you’re searching for them).

Want something a bit bigger? You can get a set of four similar coloured 13x8cm hanging jam jar t-light holders (I know that should be tealight but that’s what they’re called on the site!), below, for £7.95.

Go wild in the aisles

27 Jun

French hypermarkets are the best in the world. Not only do they stock amazing food (mmmmn, Brie) and great wine, but they also stock lots of other, non-edible goodies, such as fantastic yet criminally cheap stationery, preppy pumps, cool bags and kitchenware to die for.

British supermarkets are sooooo boring in comparison. Or so I thought until I visited a huge Sainsburys the other day. They’ve given their non-food fare a serious overhaul, and I was seriously impressed.

So, iPhone camera in hand, I took some photos of the best stuff for you. And the really good news is that unlike French hypermarkets, you don’t have to physically enter a shop to buy it – it’s all available online. Now, get loading that virtual trolley!

Welcome gnome

23 May

The other day, I went to Bromley (I know, I lead an exciting life!), and when I arrived at the station, I was nearly mown down by three and a half thousand schoolchildren waving Union Jacks. The reason? It turns out the Queen had been to visit.

Secretly, I was a wee bit gutted I’d missed her, as I’ve had a soft spot for Her Majesty ever since I wrote to her for a school project and she ‘replied’ on fancy embossed paper.

Anyhow, given all this, you’d think I’d  have snapped up all the Royal Diamond Jubilee memorabilia that’s around at the moment. But actually, I’ve been quite restrained. A lot of it is OTT on the Union Jack front and it all looks a bit same-y.

You see, I like my souvenirs to be classy, elegant, understated and unusual – like these Royal gnomes, above (well, one out of four isn’t bad…!). Yep, following the success of last year’s Royal Wedding gnomes, B&Q have created these jolly little people to rule over your flowerbeds. They’re £12.98 each or £20 a pair and unbelievably, they’re so popular they’re likely to be a sell-out. Bonkers.

On a slightly more serious note, I do love the stylish square Jubilee biscuit tins from M&S, below – they’re a great size and the biccies inside are top notch. Tins always age well, and they’ll look pretty on a shelf for years to come.

PS:
If you’ve got children, take them to one of B&Q’s special Jubilee craft workshops while you’re picking up your gnomes. Over 50 stores are running free kids’ classes  for 7-11 year olds on 2nd and 3rd May, where they’ll learn to make little wooden boats in honour of the Thames River pageant. Cute! Visit www.DIY.com/kidsclasses for details.

Milky Milky

18 May

There’s something really pleasing about old skool glass milk bottles. Part of the appeal, for those of us who grew up with a milk round, is pure nostalgia; and part of it is that they just look so chic. A row of bottles with a single bloom in each is a look that’s almost impossible to get wrong (and it’s cheap, too).

If you haven’t got any old bottles in your shed, try boot sales, junk shops and antique stores. Then again, you could just cheat…

One of my favourite online shops, www.dotcomgiftshop.com sell cute traditional mini milk bottles (below), for £2.95 each, or a crate of six for £8.94. For something that really does look like a genuine antique, go for a vintage milk bottle from Pedlars (www.pedlars.com), £7.95. Or, you can opt for a Pintie jug (bottom), made from real bottles sourced from across the UK – they cost £16.99-19.99 from www.giftedpenguin.co.uk.

Finally, I’m just a little bit in love with this quirky double-headed Milkii jug, £30, from http://www.myhaus.com (top of the page). It would look fantastic on any breakfast table.

Bucket list

13 Apr

At this time of year, garden experts say that a hanging basket is the quickest  way to inject some Spring colour into your garden or terrace.

In theory, they’re right, but unless you buy one ready-made, hanging baskets are actually a bit of a faff. You have to fanny around lining them; then there’s the dilemma of choosing which plants to put in them that’ll grow downwards and cover the ugly basket. Also (and maybe it’s just me), while they’re fine outside pubs and restaurants, DIY home efforts often just look a bit naff.

Now there’s another option. New at B&Q (www.diy.com) this month are these fab bright Blooma hanging buckets. Simply pop a single potted plant in them (African Violets, Primroses or Geraniums look fab, as do Gerberas and Ranunculus) and they’re ready to go. No lining, compost or flower arranging skills required. Available in lime, pink, blue or turquoise, they cost just  £4.98.

What a bloomin’ bargain!

Cheep and chic

2 Nov

I think we can safely say there are no more freak sunny spells to come – we’re properly in Autumn now, and winter is just around the corner.

As I sadly put away my garden furniture at the weekend, I realised my garden needed something to cheer it up – birds. But until recently, bird feeders weren’t exactly stylish – if you wanted to feed birds with fat balls, you could either hang them in their plastic netting (which pesky squirrels destroy with one swipe); or you rammed them into ugly wire cages from the garden centre.

So I was pleasantly surprised that someone at B&Q has tackled the issue and come up with these designer-like ceramic fat snax feeders in a classy palette of 1950s’style duck egg blue, mustard or white. What’s more, they’re just £3.98 each – cheap enough for you to buy a few and group them together to feed your feathered friends in the chicest way possible.

Get your peg over

21 Oct

Apparently sales of tumble dryers have plummeted in the last year, as everyone returns to good old fashioned washing lines. And while the weather might be cold, it’s still bright outside, and the wind actually dries your clothes in double-quick time.

However, just because you’re using an old school washing line, you don’ t have to use old school wooden pegs. My mum bought me some soft grip plastic pegs from France at the beginning of this year, and they’re amazing – they don’t mark your clothes, don’t ‘ping’ apart, and what’s more, they look and feel lovely. Oh, and they’re really good indoors too – for clipping shut cereal/food packets.

You’ll be pleased to hear you don’ t have to get the Eurostar to buy them any more – Lakeland and Tesco have just started selling them. They’re £3.99 for 20 at Lakeland (www.lakeland.co.uk) and £2.27 for 10 at Tesco. Pop some in your trolley this weekend!

Tubs up!

26 Sep

No longer just the place for paint and tools, B&Q has got some seriously great home finds this Autumn.

Taking a trip there the other day (I’m having my bathroom done so seem to be living in DIY shops at the moment!), I spotted these brilliant flexitub storage baskets. You can use them as washing baskets; for carrying stuff in the garden; for storing bathroom bits, bags, belts, shoes, magazines, toys, craft stuff; or even as a handy way to take random junk up and down stairs.

They come in green, pink, blue and red and cost just £7.50 each from B&Q stores or http://www.diy.com.

Throw in the towel

14 Sep

There are lots of gorgeous tea towels out there, but this one, £8.75 from http://www.berryred.co.uk is extra handy. Designed by quirky British graphic artist Stuart Gardiner, it’s a calendar showing when different fruits and vegetables are in season.

It makes the perfect present for anyone who loves cooking or gardening, and is obviously easy to post!

Plus, it’s made in pleasingly rustic-looking organic cotton, which as well as helping the environment, makes it extra-efficient at absorbing water (which is, after all, what tea towels are supposed to do!)

For Stuart’s other designs, or to buy this design as an apron or mug, visit http://www.stuartgardiner.co.uk

Gnome sweet gnome

19 Apr

Since posting about the bride and groom gnomes specially created for the Royal Wedding, I’ve started seeing the be-hatted little fellas everywhere. In fact, when I saw these cute gnome flares (above) and candles (below), £7.50 each from http://www.berryred.co.uk/, in this year’s hot bright colours, I even started seriously considering buying one for my own garden. I must be getting old…

Come dry with me

13 Apr

I’ve seen some crazy Royal Wedding memorabillia in recent months – everything from crown-shaped biscuits and ‘commemorative’ garden seats to bride’n’groom gnomes (below, £20 a pair from B&Q, if you must know!). And as someone who secretly has a soft spot for the Queen, I wanted to get at least one souvenir of the Big Day. So, I’ve just bought the blue and green “I Do” tea towel, by Swedish designer Maria Dahlgren.
It’s got sweet little touches like a “W hearts K” carved in the tree, and two little birds, one of whom is wearing a crown, carrying a heart-shaped twig (or is is, slightly less romantically, a worm?) in their beaks. It’s available all over the web, but www.firebox.com have it cheapest, at £11.99 (with free P&P).

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