Friday, 17 July 2015

5 cleaning hacks that will change your life

I love learning new life hacks, those clever little tricks and tips that help us to get more done in less time. When it comes to cleaning I'm all for getting quick results with the minimum effort and the hacks in this guest post certainly fit into that category. By the way, my cleaning hack is to use bicarbonate of soda to get rid of smells - sprinkle liberally on to the smelly surface, leave for a couple of hours then wipe or hoover up.  Works every time.

There is definitely more to life than cleaning. But every now and again, nothing beats some serious scrubbing and dusting to clear the mind as well as the house. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s good for the soul. Here’s 5 cleaning hacks that will, in a small but significant way, change your life. 

Organise your cleaning cupboards 
If you’re like most of us, that cupboard under your sink where you keep all your cleaning products is likely to be a bit of a mess. Get organised by sticking an old curtain pole across the cupboard to hang all your cleaning sprays on, and two or three plastic baskets to keep everything else organised and tidy. Voila – a cupboard you will be excited to open! 

Give your dishwasher some TLC 
If your dishes aren't coming out sparkling, it's time to give the dishwasher a serious spring clean – all you need is some distilled white vinegar, baking soda, paper towels and an old toothbrush. First take out all the removable parts and wash them in vinegar and water, using a paste of baking soda and water on the really tough stains. Once done, pop a cycle on with some vinegar instead of washer tablets, and wipe dry with paper towels. For an ultra-clean, stop the cycle mid-way through to let the vinegar sink to the bottom. Don’t forget to wipe down the outside too, for a shimmering finish. If your dishwasher is truly on the fritz though, retailers like Tesco offer various dishwashers at reasonable prices. 

Get rid of nail polish stains 
Whether it’s a full-bottle or just a smudge, we have all had accidents with nail polish that appear to be irreparable. But never fear – where there’s a spill there’s a way! First, pour nail varnish remover liberally onto the stain and leave for a few minutes. Mop up with paper towels. Next scrub with a ‘magic eraser’ (available in good hardware stores). And if it is really stubborn, reach for the hairspray. A quick spray and wipe, and the stain will be no more! 

Vanish marks on TV screens 
You sit down after a hard day to watch a bit of telly... only to discover smears all across your lovely plasma screen TV. Not to worry – grab a can of WD4- and pop a couple of sprays onto a microfiber cloth. Gently wipe the offending area in small circles, trying not to apply too much pressure. This hack will also work on laptops. 

Dust off your lampshades 
Lampshades are one place that gets seriously dusty. The simplest way to remove dust from them is not to sit for hours with a feather duster, but instead use a lint clothes roller. A few rolls and you’re done (and they might just let the light through again, too).

Try one or two of these cheap and easy tips next time you feel the urge to reach for the rubber gloves. Chances are they will become habits for life. 

Images by go_greener_oz used under the Creative Commons license.  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The July garden ~ vibrant

Pink is the dominant colour in the garden this month, with the rambling rose, the bright pink of the dahlia and a plummy pink of a rose in the front garden.

The rambling rose, which covers the fence, is the star of the garden this month. Last year I had pruned it back a bit too vigorously in the spring and didn't do very well in the summer; but this year it's so beautiful with dozens of clusters of bright pink flowers. It's look particularly stunning later in the day, in the soft evening light.

The July Garden - pink

The July Garden - pink

The July Garden - pink

The July Garden - pink

There's been a lot of tidying and planning going on in the garden this month. We have some plans to move things around, and extend the decking area, and my brother tackled one of the annual gardening chores by pressure washing the patio, which had become quite slippy due to moss and algae.  

The garden is very shady because of the tall trees in the park behind our house, and we also have a large tree in our garden, so moss is very quick to grow on any hard surfaces.  He spent over 3 hours blasting away all the moss and grime from the path and the patio, and he won't admit it but I think he found it very therapeutic. 

The July Garden - pink

The July Garden - pink

The July Garden - pink

The dahlia has survived the winter in the ground, which is quite unusual, but it looks as great as ever and it really is that pink - the photo hasn't been enhanced, that's it's true colour. I just love the vibrancy of the pink.

The July Garden - pink

I'm joining in with the How does your garden grow? linky again, please click on the badge below to see the other gardens linking up this week.


Friday, 10 July 2015

The joy of a handwritten letter

Six years ago, I wrote about the slow death of handwriting, and asked if anyone still sends handwritten letters.

Ironically, and I'm embarrassed to admit it, since writing that post I still haven't sent a single handwritten letter. I've written letters, of course I have, but all neatly typed up and spell-checked and printed out onto smooth white paper. But apart from birthday and Christmas cards, and the occasional notecard, which I try to pretend counts as a letter (it doesn't) I haven't taken the time to write a proper letter in long hand, with decent writing paper and a smooth-writing pen (really important) in all that time.

A couple of weeks ago I received a package in the post, containing a book and a letter from an old friend, someone I'd been feeling guilty about as I'd lost touch with her over the past few years. It seemed she also felt the same, and was prompted to write the letter while reading the book during an off-grid holiday on a Greek island. The book reminded her of me, she said, "As I was reading it I kept thinking 'Jean would love this'."

Staying at a friend's house on the island, she had written the letter on pages torn from an exercise book or similar, and had used two pens; the first blue and scratchy which was soon abandoned for a black felt-tip, thicker than ideal for writing.  I imagined her sitting in the garden outside the small whitewashed house, at a table in the shade of an olive tree, writing it quickly while the words were still fresh in her head.

The letter was full of news, a mixture of good and not-so-good, all eagerly devoured, and made all the more special because it was in her distinctive American cursive handwriting.

I was really touched by the thought put into it, and the effort she'd made to get the letter and book to me so I decided to respond in kind. But why does letter writing seem like such an effort?

Setting aside the time, finding a decent pen that wouldn't run out of ink halfway through, and some writing paper (I found some long forgotten floral paper in the bottom of a drawer) took more time than was decent (two weeks in all...)  Actually sitting down and writing the letter took less than an hour and, do you know, I'd forgotten how enjoyable it was. No technology, just me and the pen and the paper, a cup of tea and my thoughts. The simple pleasures are the best, don't you think?

Letter writing does seem to be a dying art, but it's such a treat to receive one that I've promised myself I'll send more, which means a visit to a stationery shop is long overdue .

When was the last time you sent or received a handwritten letter?  And if you've read the book, what did you think of it?