Garden Landscaping Splurge

Most things we’re happy to tackle ourselves to save some money, but when it came to landscaping the garden, I decided it was time to get the professionals in. What a revelation!

We got a couple of quotes and went for the guy we felt most comfortable with (who also great online reviews) and in just two days, our garden went from zero to hero! Here are a few before photos:

Garden BeforeThis is how the garden was when we moved in. Fifty shades of brown, anyone?

Old garage

This is just before we took the garage down.

Bare garden

We then lived with it in this bare state for a while, whilst deciding what to do next.

Concrete slab

Oh and then we got a bit carried away and broke up the concrete slab with a sledgehammer (this is when we were still intending to do the paving, turf etc ourselves) which resulted in about 12 trips to the tip and newly acquired biceps.

Sketch Up Garden 1We used Sketch Up to design the layout and initially came up with this, but a we soon realised that running a fence down the side wouldn’t leave enough space to swing the car in (lucky we checked!) I also thought that the curves looked a bit artificial, so we simplified it right down to have a rectangle of paved driveway, a rectangle of grass, a rectangle of gravel and a rectangular planter.


Garden after photo

At the moment, it looks pretty plain, whilst we work out what to plant and how to create some privacy for our seating area, but overall, I’m pleased. These photos were taken the day after it was finished, so the turf is still in squares and the chairs haven’t been put back in place, but the clematis was out then and it looked lovely in the evening sun. The car also gives some context to show the proportions, which are fairly compact, but that suits us just fine.

The table and (missing!) chairs are IKEA’s Angso range, purchased from Gumtree and strapped to the roof of my car for the 2 hour drive home, but so worth it as I paid £100 and this set would retail at £450. They could do with a lick of paint, which is on the to do list.

I will return with an update once we’ve worked out what to plant where and how to shade our table, just in case the sun ever decides to come out again so we can enjoy our garden landscaping splurge, which was totally worth every penny we saved for it!


Seed Pot Maker

I have been wanting to make pots for growing seeds for ages. I came across this seed pot maker in Sainsbury’s and thought I would share with you as today I spotted it reduced to just £1.50. Snap it up quick!

Sainsburys Pot Maker

It’s a pretty simple idea – you get a block to wrap the newspaper around and then a base that you push the newspaper into to form a base:

Seed Pot Maker

The instructions suggest you use strips of newspaper 9cm wide and 58cm long, but after a bit of experimenting, I’ve discovered that the pots work just as well using shorter strips from magazine pages, which allow you to pick some fun patterns for your pots.

I used a selection of my favourite free magazines and pulled out an advert with an eye-catching design for these pots:
Seed Pot

Now to plant some seeds… happy growing!

Magazine Seed Pots


How to Lose a Garage in 10 Days

Ever since we bought the house, I had been desperate to get rid of this concrete monstrosity:

Garage Before

It wasn’t big enough for a modern car and even though a garage is a pretty useful thing to have, in our little garden the extra space seemed like more of a priority.

So I put the garage on Gumtree and said that as long as the collector dismantled, it would be theirs to take. Within an hour, someone who lives just up the road (literally!) had seen the post and agreed to come and take it away the following weekend. I did a happy dance in front of a very disbelieving N, who had sworn blind that nobody would take it.

Last weekend, bright and early, we began to remove everything that was attached to said garage:

Garage removal

Here we both are, hard at work (I look like I’m directing traffic, but I think I’m throwing some garden waste into the sack?):

Garden with garage

N garden

We re-located the plants and compost bin to the other side of the garden and saved the trellis and fence for future projects. N also managed to remove the big fence posts with a lot of heave ho-ing!

Our Gumtree friends came to pick up the garage, which came down remarkably quickly:

Give away your garage on Gumtree ND5_9142 ND5_9141

And now (several trips to the tip later) we are left with a rather barren empty space:

Garden without garage

Hopefully this won’t be for long as I am formulating plans as we speak. Watch this space for a small, but perfectly formed garden complete with hot tub and swimming pool parking, entertaining and growing space coming soon!

New House

So it’s time to share the ‘moving in’ pictures of the new house! This time, I was patient enough to get some photos whilst it was still empty.

The house is very old (nobody quite knows when it dates back to) which manifests itself in lots of ‘character’ – there are wonky walls and floors galore! It’s definitely a project and we were lucky enough to buy it for an absolute steal at just the right time. Hopefully it will last us for a long time.


The side door leads you straight into the kitchen, complete with amazing extra-long butler sink, wooden beams and vintage cooker.

Utility room


Off to the left are a very handy utility room and the main bathroom, complete with very lovely macerator sticker on the bathroom door… nice


Stairs lead down from the kitchen to the basement. I’d love to create a little gym down here and am keeping my eyes peeled on Freegle/Gumtree for equipment (I need to get there first before it becomes a man cave!)

Living Room

The living room is my favourite room in the house with its big windows and beautiful floor

My office

Big Office

Upstairs are the big and little offices (mine is the dinky one!) for our new working-from-home adventures


Guest bedroom

And two bedrooms, with a strange assortment of windows and some lovely stained walls


Finally on the top floor, there’s an amazing attic room with lots of potential. I have grand visions of an amazing master suite … a girl can dream!

There’s also a little bit of outside space with an asbestos-ridden garage to contend with, but that’s a story for another day!

Watch this space, as we begin this thrifty renovation in 2015… Why not follow along on Instagram?

Barbecue Burgers and Halloumi Skewers

Now that the sun has come out at long last, barbecue season is in full swing (as was evident from needing to go to 4 different shops yesterday to buy bamboo skewers, which had sold out at the first 3). I thought I would share some tasty barbecue recipes that we’ve been using this weekend…

Chili and Garlic Burgers
Makes 8-12 burgers

1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 chili pepper (as hot as you dare)
2 packs of beef mince
1 egg
Salt and pepper to season

1. Finely dice the chili pepper and garlic
2. Put the chili, garlic, both packs of mince and the egg in a large bowl and season
3. Work the egg, chili and garlic into the mince with your hands
4. Form into 8 large patties or 12 smaller patties
5. Chill in the fridge for half an hour (or until ready to BBQ) to hold shape
6. Cook on a hot BBQ for 10-15 minutes, turning once, ensure burger is hot right through

Serve in buns with plenty of chutney, cheese and lettuce (ours are stacked up between greaseproof paper in this cardboard box as an unconventional method of transportation to the BBQ we went to last night!)
Halloumi and Vegetable Skewers with Lemon and Rosemary
Makes 12-14 skewers

1 block halloumi (mine was 250g)
Vegetables of your choice (I used courgette, mushroom, cherry tomato and red onion)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon
1 sprig of rosemary
Salt and pepper to season
+ Skewers
1. Chop all veg into bite-size chunks and thread onto bamboo skewers
2. Mix the olive oil, rosemary and salt & pepper in a small bowl, add the juice squeezed from the lemon and stir
3. Brush or drizzle the oil over the skewers
4. Cook on a hot BBQ for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally

Happy barbecuing!

Coffee Grounds in the Garden

The Lodge was renovated before we moved in and to give us a patch of garden, our landlord kindly planted these little fir trees:

 As you can see, some of them are feeling a bit sorry for themselves and they’re all not quite tall enough to give us any privacy in the garden. So I’m trying to grow these little beauties into a garden hedge without spending any money on fancy fertiliser etc.

My first port of call is coffee grounds, which apparently contain nitrogen, as well as smaller quantities of magnesium, calcium, potassium and other trace minerals. See this article from The Gardening Channel for some of their uses.
I have been saving mine up this week, but I think when I’m next in a town with a Starbucks, I may need to pop in for some of their giveaway grounds, as this little pot probably won’t be enough to spurt the growth of my little fir trees!
I have measured some trees as part of this highly scientific experiment (!) to test the benefit of coffee grounds, so watch this space for a tree update.
What do you use to help your garden grow?