Author Archives: mumjd

Our House swap to the Pyrénées

Regular readers may remember when I told you about the benefits of house swap holidays. Well I am delighted to tell you that we had an excellent house swap to France this summer and have now scheduled another to Germany, both arranged via HomeExchange.com. Let me tell you a bit more about our experiences with this website and our French holiday.

The website is simple to use. You set up your profile with a description and photos of your home, making sure to include all the basics like how many bedrooms and whether pets are welcome or not. You may optionally list specific dates that you are interested in a house swap and whether your car is available for use or not.

Then you can either browse around the 65,000 listings or sit back and wait for others to contact you. We didn’t have a specific destination in mind initially, so we opted for the latter method. The first couple of replies were nice houses in Spain and Italy, but both families wanted to travel 2 weeks prior to us. And of course, my dates aren’t very flexible, as I need to fit it around my shift pattern. But we hit the jackpot with the third reply and it was still less than a month since we registered with the website. A lovely house in France on the edge of the Pyrénées. Whilst we were finalising the details with the other family, I had a bunch of other enquiries that I had to turn down. All we had to organise were our flights and car hire.

Pyrenees holiday

Roll on a few months to the summer and it was holiday time. I made sure our home was clean and tidy. We flew to Lourdes, where we may have unknowingly passed our host family in transit. When we arrived, a tasty welcome meal was waiting for us. Most appreciated. We looked after our host family’s cat, who I’m sure was totally confused by the change of people.

Pyrenees holiday

We packed plenty of sightseeing and fun activities into our holiday. We visited the nearby towns of Pau, Lourdes, Nay, Tarbes and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. We did karting, crazy golf (2 courses), swimming (3 places) and caving. And son2 celebrated a birthday there.

Here are a few of our holiday photos.

Pyrenees holiday - karting

Pyrenees holiday - crazy golf

Pyrenees holiday - crazy golf

Pyrenees holiday - caving

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday - water park

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday

Pyrenees holiday - Chateau de Pau

A fab time and now we’re looking forward to doing it all again in Germany. I’d love to hear about your favourite holidays.

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Disclosure.  I have not received anything for this post.  All opinions are my own.

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The Second Son by Andy Blackman

I have received a free e-copy of the book “The Second Son” by Andy Blackman to review.

The Second Son by Andy Blackman

Here is the book blurb.

As the second son of the Duke of Hampshire, Grenville St John Hampton isn’t likely to inherit his family’s title or estate, leaving him pondering an empty, aimless future. During the summer break from university, he impulsively decides to go backpacking with one of his oldest friends, Johnathan; their destination is Belize.

One sultry night on the Central American coastline, Grenville and Jonathan meet Tom. A game of darts takes a vicious turn. Realising he has nothing to look forward to back at home, Grenville decides to stay on in Belize with Tom, in pursuit of adventure. Together, the new friends establish an import business, and for the first time in his life, Grenville has a sense of purpose.

But back in England all is not well. The sudden death of his brother leaves Grenville with an unexpected – and now unwanted – inheritance, with new consequences and responsibilities. He will return to claim the family’s seat with a dark secret in tow.

I couldn’t wait to start reading this, as I really enjoyed Andy Blackman’s first novel “For the Love of Grace” and could immediately tell from the blurb, that it was a sequel.

I was most impressed how well this story linked in with the original but equally would work very well as a stand-alone book too. In fact, I can say it is the best book I have read in a long while.

The book starts when Grenville has just finished his first year at Cambridge University, but then to set the scene, goes back to his school days at Rayleigh School, where he met his 2 best friends Hugo and Jonathan. We also see his poor relationship with his older brother Stephan and Stephen’s friend Dexter Simon-Smyth.

Grenville and Jonathan head to Belize for the summer backpacking and this is where the story starts interacting with the previous novel. Tom rescues them when Grenville is stabbed in a bar for winning a darts match against the locals. Jonathan flies home but Grenville decides to remain in Belize with Tom where he learns Tom’s unorthodox way of life.

Meanwhile 5 years later back in England, Grenville’s brother Stephen dies in a car crash, whilst fiancée Sara escapes with scrapes and bruises. Jonathan writes to Grenville care of Tom’s PO Box, to pass on his parents request that he return home, with a reminder of the family motto “Duty before honour”.

Grenville returns but continues assisting Tom from afar in their secret dealings, registering Tom’s import business in the UK. He also finds the family estate in dire straits. I can’t say too much more for fear of spoilers, but he reunites with both Jonathan and Hugo, plus forms new relationships. Loads of twists and turns before Tom arrives in London for plenty more interaction with the first story.

The Second Son is available on Amazon, currently priced at £9.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. I loved this story and highly recommend it. A real page turner.


Here is an extract from the book to whet your appetite.

This is where Grenville first meets the two boys who are going to be his closest friends, and later in life help him to achieve his secret with Tom.

Grenville moved towards the waving boy, and as he approached another boy asked him his name, Grenville replied, and the boy told him to stand with the other five boys already there. As Grenville approached, one of the boys smiled and said, “Hi I am Jonathan Spencer,” holding out his hand.

Grenville took the offered hand, and said, “Grenville Hampton, pleased to meet you,” and smiled for the first time since his arrival. Another boy introduced himself as Hugo Thorpe, and the three started to chat while they waited. Eventually there were eight boys standing in the huddle.

The boy with the blue hanky said, “follow me to the Walpole House, where we will meet Mr Raymond, the Walpole House Master.”

Turning, the boy smartly took off followed by the eight boys. Eventually they arrived at Walpole House, and were told to take a seat in the common room and wait for Mr Raymond. Mr Raymond eventually stepped into the middle of the common room and looked about at the eight boys and said, “Welcome to Walpole House, this will be your house and home whilst you are at Raleigh School, until you leave for future endeavours. I am Mr Raymond, the House Master of Walpole House. I am your first point of contact, if you have any problems or concerns whilst you are at Raleigh School or Walpole House, do not hesitate to contact me or if you require my assistance anytime night or day, my house is next door, please do not hesitate to knock. If I am not about, my wife Margret will know where I am at all times.” Smiling, Mr Raymond asked if there were any questions, all eight heads nodded in unison. Mr Raymond went on, “I know for most of you this is the first time you have ever been away from home and all this seems very daunting to you, but I know in a few days this place will seem like home as well.

“In your white envelopes that you are all clutching are the School and House Rules, plus your timetables for your days, evenings and weekends. We at Raleigh School and especially Walpole House expect great things from you freshman boys and I no doubt have the greatest faith in all your abilities to make Rayleigh School and Walpole House proud. That is all for now, I will get Graves here to take you to your new dormitory where your luggage has been delivered, so you can unpack and settle in for the night. I shall meet you all back in here tomorrow morning after breakfast. Graves will be with you in the morning to escort you to the Walpole Dining Hall for breakfast and give you a quick tour of Walpole House, so I will see you all tomorrow morning. Any questions?” And before anyone had a chance to answer, Mr Raymond strolled out of the common room.

Graves stood and said, “Follow me.” Leading the boys up three flights of stairs to the top floor, he opened a door onto eight beds with eight lockers; four on each side of the room. At the bottom was a washroom. “Find a bed and I will see you all at seven in the morning for breakfast,” said Graves before he closed the door on them.

Grenville took the last bed on the right near the washroom; Jonathan took the one next to him and Hugo the one opposite. The room was totally silent as the boys located their luggage from the assembled pile in the middle of the room. Eventually they all started to unpack and placed all their belongings into the lockers and small bedside cabinets. After a time, Grenville lay on his bed and thought of home and his grandfather, but before he had time to wallow, Hugo had come over and said, “Grenville, my dear chap, got any scoff, I am bloody well starving.”

Grenville started to laugh, and that seemed to break the tension in the room and before long, on the table in the middle of the room, a feast had been laid out of all the food the boys had brought with them, and they were all chatting and getting to know each other.


About Andy Blackman

After serving in the British Army for over twenty-five years in the Parachute Regiment, Andy Blackman today lives in Bedworth, Warwickshire and works within the IT sector. In his spare time he can be found visiting his three daughters and grandchildren. His previous novel, For the Love of Grace, was published in 2016.


I’m participating in the book tour and you may like to check out some of the other blog stops on the tour.

The Second Son by Andy Blackman

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Guest post: How to prevent a mess when crafting with kids

Allowing your kids to do craft work is rewarding in many ways. It keeps them entertained for a long time, it gives them the freedom to express themselves and you get to see how their faces light up and how big their smiles are when they do something interesting.

crafting

That being said, we cannot leave out the other important aspect of kids’ crafting – the mess. Crafting is all fun and games until it comes time to clean the aftermath of it. Sure some kids know to be very careful and not make a mess but then crafting loses half of its fun and appeal.

Instead of forbidding your kids to use some crafting supplies because they leave a mess or if you teach them to be super careful when they create their masterpieces what you can do is just prepare for the mess. It’s as simple as that.

crafting

If your kids really love crafting there is a number of things that you can do to prepare the space which they will use in a way that it will be easier to clean up. And also, to make sure they use art and craft supplies that can be cleaned – such as paints and markers that are washable.

Here are some ideas about how to prepare the crafting area for a lot of use and for easier cleaning.

1. Set limits and boundaries – limit the craft area to only one room or even better outdoors. If you have an outdoor space – yard, garden, lawn, patio, etc. If it is a good and sunny day set their crafting zone somewhere outside to prevent the mess inside of your home. Just the coffee table, their room or any other room is fine. Limit the mess in as small place as possible for a quick cleaning.

2. Use cling wrap to prevent stains and splashes of paint and markers on your furniture. Put the wrap on the table and whatever mess your kids make will be easier to clean and you will have protected your table. When the craft time is over simply remove the wrap and have your table untouched.

3. Lint roller – this is a great tool to use if your kids love using a lot of glitter, which we all know ends up all over the house. When your kids are done crafting before letting them run around the house use a ling roller to remove all glitter from their clothes or hands and then from the area they have been working at.

4. Old clothes – as we know kids tend to get themselves dirty paint, glue and all other messes can then be found on their clothes. That is why you should find some old shirts and pants and call them their ‘creative costumes’ and only allow them to do crafts when in them so you will not have to worry about not being able to get the watercolour stains off their new clothes.

5. Limit the supplies – give them one or two sets of markers, crayons, pencils and paint. Give them one or two types at a time, or when their paint is finished give them more. This way they will have fewer things around them to make a mess with.

crafting

But as a whole, try to not take it too strongly and think only about the mess and the cleaning. Worrying about this will only take the fun out of crafting and enjoying your kids’ crafts.

Crafting is the best way of letting your kids’ minds work creatively and express themselves. It is also very therapeutic and is a great way to keep them entertained for a long time. Just make sure you prepare the crafting area well.

crafting

Guest post by Demi Giles

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The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas to review.

The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas

Here is the book blurb.

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

I found this book quite confusing as the timeline kept swapping between nightmare flashbacks to when Max was imprisoned at a POW camp in Siberia and current 1949 occupied Germany described mainly from Max’s young daughter Netta’s viewpoint.

It is a full household with Max, his wife Erika, Netta, Max’s parents Martha and Karl, invalid Tante Bertel and servant Karin. Things get even more complicated as Karin is dating Roderick, who the reader has already learnt had an affair with Erika whilst Max was a POW. Martha knows about this and warns Karin she will lose her job if she doesn’t stop seeing Roderick.

The reader discovers that Netta seems to have an eating disorder, although her family seem unaware. And she tells her father that someone has been watching her. She also has a bad cough due to pollution. Her parents are just deciding to send her away to the seaside where the air will be better, when police arrive. There has been a murder. Are some of them suspects?

There are more characters to meet including some from Max’s time at the POW camp, but I’m going to stop now as I don’t wish to reveal who was murdered. This happened quite near the start of the story, but as I said before I found it all quite confusing.

The Watcher is available on Amazon, currently priced at £8.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. A challenging read and not one that I hugely enjoyed, although okay.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Announcing A Writer’s Path Writers Club: Creating Benefits For Writers

Here’s one for my author followers, shared from Ryan of the Book Review Directory, which is where I know some of you first found me.

A Writer's Path

I’m happy to announce our new initiative: A Writer’s Path Writers Club.

After looking at the writing market for years, I noticed a need for a Writers Club of this kind. Sure, there are Facebook groups, writers groups, etc., but there aren’t many associations that are more than just a gathering of writers.

I wanted to create a club where the sole purpose of it is to solve headaches for writers. Here are some of the headaches I’m looking to solve:

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Win the gift of sleep

Would you like the gift of a good night’s sleep? Then read on for details of a great prize.

Tweak Slumber Sleep Kit

To celebrate the launch of the new Tweak website, I have a lovely sleep kit to give away, which includes a luxury lavender candle, room spray, sleep spray, sleep tea and an eye mask – perfect for a relaxing night’s sleep.

These prizes are supplied by Tweak, who have come up with the answer to a better night’s sleep with their innovative Duo Mattress. Ideal for couples who can now choose the right firmness rating on each side. The Duo Mattress comes with 3 foam inserts in soft, medium and firm.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your top sleep tips.

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Disclosure.  Although I am hosting this giveaway, I have not received any products.  All opinions are my own.

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In The Land of Broken Time by Maria Evan & Max Evan

I have received a free e-copy of the book “In the Land of Broken Time” by married couple Maria Evan & Max Evan for son1 to review. To find out more about the authors, you may see their Facebook page here.

In The Land of Broken Time by Maria Evan and Max Evan

Here is the book blurb.

Join the time travel adventures of Christopher, Sophia and their retriever, Duke, as they find themselves in a hot air balloon that flies them to The Fairyland. They meet good and evil scientists, as well as a dubious gnome. Through this book you will learn about measuring time, creatures that never get old and about friendship. You will also learn how to make your own clocks!
This is a story about time travel for children from 8 to 12 years old, but their parents might find it interesting as well.

This is what son1 had to say.

I’m reviewing a book called ‘In the land of broken time’. I thought it good and rated it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s about a boy called Christopher who sneaks out of his house and into the circus. When someone discovers he doesn’t have a ticket, a girl called Sophie, who doesn’t have a ticket either, distracts everyone else to stop him getting into trouble. They meet a dog called Duke and they ride a hot air balloon 🎈 and land in the land of broken time…

But if you want to know more you’ll have to read the book 📚

In the Land of Broken Time

And I’ll add a few more comments myself. This is a short book at only 48 pages, but it packs in a lot of detail and really brings the adventure to life. Maria is also the illustrator. It focuses on different types of clocks like sun dials and hourglasses and also includes time travel. It features a pair of scientist brothers – one good and one bad. What will happen and will the children get safely home again?

This is the first children’s book by married couple Maria & Max Evan, originally written in Russian for their own son, but expertly translated. And the paperback version has been beautifully illustrated by Maria too.

In The Land of Broken Time is available on Amazon, currently priced at £4.77 in paperback and is also available in kindle format. Highly recommended by both son1 and me.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Britmums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge

Britmums have challenged bloggers to take the #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge to celebrate this tasty, convenient fruit as part of the back-to-school season. And as one of the first 50 to sign upto the challenge, I received a free box of these lovely citrus fruits.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

The boys have school dinners, but they are always ready for an after-school snack at the end of the day. I like to ensure that this is something healthy and nutritious. And what could be more healthy than a mandarin or clementine.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

These certainly lived upto their Easy Peeler name, plus they were pip free. I was surprised when son2 said this was the first time he had ever peeled an orange himself. I think I must be doing too much for him.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

And son1 shows us that they are not just for after-school. He enjoyed one late in the evening.

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

Chilean Easy Peelers Oranges

We all agreed that these were really tasty. Also they are full of vitamin C, plus a rich source of fibre, calcium and magnesium, and a great source of water (about 87%) to keep you hydrated. An excellent point as the boys often barely sip at their water bottles. They are in season from now until November. Ideal for lunch boxes.

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Disclosure. This post mentions products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own. This post is an entry for the BritMums #ChileanEasyPeelers Challenge, sponsored by Chilean Citrus Committee.

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The Tyler Files #1: Smarty Pants! by Brian Rock plus giveaway

I have received a free e-copy of the book Smarty Pants! by Brian Rock for son2 to review. This is the first title in The Tyler Files series. You may find out more about the author on his website.

The Tyler Files - Smarty Pants

Here is the book blurb.

Wimpy Kid meets Gravity Falls!

Tyler has a big problem. His pants won’t stop talking! How will he make it through the day without becoming the school laughing stock? And how will Tyler survive his pants’ “off the cuff” remarks to the school bully (and to his secret crush?) With a little help from his best friend, Tyler gives a first-hand account of the mysterious, improbable and occasionally funny events that are so strange they can only be found in THE TYLER FILES.
In addition, THE TYLER FILES breaks new ground in the chapter book genre by adding interactive backmatter to the end of the story. Tyler poses questions to stimulate creative thinking in readers. He introduces and give examples of idioms related to the story. He gives 10 fun facts about pants, and even tells some jokes!

This is what son2 had to say about the book.
I love this book because it is funny especially when Rob’s trousers split open.
The Tyler Files - Smarty Pants

To put son2’s comment into context, Rob is the school bully Rhino, so it is extra-funny when his trousers split open, when he bends down to try to punch Tyler, who had just lay down on floor, at his own talking trousers’ suggestion. It is an American book, so trousers are referred to as pants throughout. Of course this made it all the more funny in my son’s opinion. The story centres around the bizarre theme of a talking pair of trousers, but as far-fetched as this sounds, it works very well as a children’s title.

The Tyler Files series are written by Brian Rock and illustrated by Joshua Dawson. Smarty Pants! is the first book in the series and books 2 and 3 will be published later this month. These books are targeted at children age 7-10. After the story, there is some interactive material, so I tried asking son2 what everyday object he would choose to bring to life. He couldn’t think of anything but when I posed the same question to son1, he said a mushroom. He hates mushrooms, so we had some interesting answers to all the follow-up questions. There were also jokes, idioms and fun facts, although most of the facts were aimed at an older age bracket than the story.

Smarty Pants! is available on Amazon, currently priced at £7.99 in paperback and is also available in kindle format. Highly recommended by son2.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a paperback copy of Smarty Pants! to one lucky winner. Open worldwide.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear what everyday object you would choose to bring to life and why?

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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Guest post: How to Make Your Party Environmentally Friendly

How to Make Your Party Environmentally Friendly

pouring champagne

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/blur-celebration-dark-dinner-1852926/ – FREE IMAGE

Over the last few years I have made more of an effort to be more environmentally-conscious. In my younger days, I was a little flippant and just assumed that someone would come along and solve climate change within my lifetime. However, as I have grown older and wiser, I have realised that we all need to work collectively to ensure that we leave as small a carbon footprint as possible.

After clearing up after an early summer party this year with a prosecco-induced headache, I realised just how many disposable items I was using. I realised that I needed to make a change and to use more eco-friendly products to do my own little bit for Mother Nature.

Throwing a party that is less wasteful and eco-friendlier is super-easy, so here are my top tips to get you on your way!

smartphone

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/smartphone-mobile-phone-app-icon-569515/ – FREE IMAGE

Ditch The Paper & Go Digital

Now that we are well and truly in the digital age, it is time to ditch the paper invites and go virtual. Most of my friends are on Facebook, so creating a Facebook event is a great way of inviting all my besties and keeping them all updated if there are any changes. Remember that while most people are on Facebook, there are likely to be one or two who don’t have accounts. Make sure that you make a note of all those people who don’t have an account, and send them a quick text or WhatsApp to let them know!

If you need something a little posher for those more formal occasions, then there are online personal invitation services, such as Greenvelope, which are a great way of keeping it formal while cutting down on waste. If you really need to send actual physical paper invitations, then go for fully recycled paper to cut down on the amount of paper ending up in landfills.

sweets

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/jams-food-fruit-sweet-healthy-76547/ FREE IMAGE

Go Local

Apart from the drinks, this is one of the most important parts of your party! If you are only going to be serving nibbles, then make sure that you aren’t serving anything too messy, and encourage your guests to eat with their fingers while they mingle. When you are looking at sourcing the food, rather than going to the supermarket, make a point of a visiting the local farm shop to buy local produce. The hubby and I recently ventured outside of Brighton and discovered a delightful farm shop, in which we found some delightful artisan cheeses and organic vegetables, which provided us with the basis for our nibbles and they went down a treat with our guests!

alfresco dining

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/barbecue-grill-cook-eat-food-meat-2267968/ FREE IMAGE

Keep It Sustainable

When you have many guests it can be tempting to go for disposable plates and cutlery to make cleaning super-quick and easy. If you want to be super eco-friendly then the greenest way to do this is to stick with your regular dishes and glasses – also, does anyone really enjoy those flimsy paper plates!? If you are worried about miss-matched crockery, then keep your eyes peeled in your local charity shops as people often donate matching sets of wonderful crockery which you can get for a fraction of the price and save ‘for best’. I would also recommend investing in some beautiful cloth napkins to cut down on paper waste.

If you are looking for furniture, then you should be on the look-out for British made, long-lasting chairs and tables. The shipping process is kinder on the environment due to goods being transported a shorter distance over land. Also, by choosing folding chairs you can easily store them easily in the shed for use, after use.

glass botlle candle holders

Source: https://pixabay.com/en/wine-bottle-candle-holder-candle-1615854/ – FREE IMAGE

Get Upcycling

Something that I have learnt over the years is that dinner parties can be extravagant but they don’t necessarily need to be wasteful. You also don’t need to go out and spend loads on decorations or ornaments, upcycling is the perfect alternative – and it’s a lot of fun too!

I have found that there are so many fab uses for your old wine bottles! My favourite one is to carefully remove the bottom and place them over tealights for when the evening begins to draw in – it creates beautiful lighting. Painted jam jars work equally as well, with no glass cutting required.

Guest post by Nathalie Martin – blogger at http://www.helpimgettingmarried.com

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