My top 10 posts of 2017

Today I'm taking a quick look at the posts which did well last year, and as is becoming customary it features my Ikea hack first posted in 2015, where I showed how I turned a Hol storage table into a laundry basket. Ikea hacks always do well, in fact there's books published on them, but I'm surprised to see it in the top ten again.

So apart from that one - and making a mental note to do more Ikea hacks - here's my top performing posts:

1. More than just a lawnmower

It seems ages ago since I said yes to joining the Press Trip to the Viking factory in Kufstein. You'll remember it was a busy couple of days jam-packed full of information, experiences and fantastic company. I'm really proud to continue to work with Stihl and I hope to share more soon.  If you haven't read this post and are considering a new lawnmower, perhaps not right now but later in the year, definitely take a look the amount of research that goes into one of their products is truly astounding.



2. Whoops, tulips!

This is definitely one of my oops gardening posts, and it seems to have struck a chord. I'm taking that to mean that I'm not the only one that forgets to plant the bulbs they've bought. They did grow, but were smaller than I'd hoped and let's hope that this year they have a better start.



3. French gardens, my garden and on the plot

This post was one of my review posts which I posted early last year, and the one where I said I'd be focusing more on gardens and gardening, so it's good to see this one high up on the list. As you can tell from the title it's got a bit of everything and the photo below is of a peony in the fabulous Chateau de Cheverny. A gorgeous, gorgeous place - but tell me a chateau that isn't!



4. Travelling light and stylishly so too

In this post from February I showed off my new Freitag bag made out of recycled tarpaulin. It's surprisingly roomy and still my bag of choice for weekends away.



5. A year in Greenwich Park: January

I'm not surprised to see this post in the top ten as last January was particularly picturesque, and this photo of the frozen puddles is one of my favourites.



6. A practical gift guide for gardeners

This post is only a month old, so it's done well to make this list. I stand by all of the items on this list though - some I already have and the others are on my wish list too.  I'm already making a mental note to waft this under MOH's nose at the start of May when he should be thinking about what to get for my birthday at the end of that month.



7.  Hellebores and Hydrangeas

We headed to the Blickling Estate in Norfolk in search of snowdrops, we found them along with some faded hydrangeas and shy hellebores. It was pretty chilly though so thawing out in the cafe after our walk around the garden was very welcome!



8. My current obsession: Scrappy quilts

Still an obsession, but sadly I've very little progress to report. It was on my craft list for my time off over Christmas but it didn't quite get to the top of the list. Cutting it out proved trickier than I'd hoped as I'm using many old garments for this and on the whole they're not square to start with. But now the weather is chillier again quilts are back on my mind, and if I get productive there'll be plenty here of both the patchwork and crocheted sort.  Look out for progress this year...



9. Would you sell your kitchen?

The picture is of our old kitchen which we sold on eBay before I even knew there were companies that help people sell their good quality kitchens, something I wish we'd known about before. Our kitchen was snapped up, so we probably set the price too low, but obviously by then it was too late to change. It does look quite different to our new kitchen, and quite strange to look back at now, even though many of the accessories remain the same.



10.  Happy Valentines and beyond from Homesense

It's interesting to see these faux flowers make the top ten as I was blown away by them. They're realistic and by adding a couple of real blooms during the Spring then you get the scent too. I've been meaning to go back to Homesense for a more wintery looking arrangement as even though these are pretty, seeing peonies right now seems a bit odd to the seasonal me. Next time I'm there, maybe!



So as last year quite a variety of posts, some surprises and some favourites of mine too.  I'll share more of my favourite posts over the next week or so in my review of 2017 in pictures - I just need to narrow it down to two photos per month now, wish me luck!

A practical gift guide for gardeners

Gardening is another hobby that can be a great inspiration for presents. But, and speaking from experience, while it's always nice to have a pretty garden trowel set there is a limit to how many you can have, and often something more practical might also be appreciated.  For this week's gift guide I've put together a mix of items that I use, and which I have my eye on.

While the secateurs I told you about in the summer are brilliant, when there's more heavy duty work to be done I turn to my ratchet secateurs which we bought one year at Grand Designs - they were so good that when we went to another home show later in the year, we bought another pair. Now when we're working in the garden we know there's two pairs available and after having my pair nicked by MOH once too often, mine can usually be found in my back pocket when not in use.

It was earlier this year that I shared my admiration for the Stihl trimmer, and I'd recommend the Stihl range generally. You'll remember I went to visit their factory in Kufstein in January, and not only was it fantastic, the research that goes into these products blew me away. Coupled with the fact that the people were so lovely too, for me, if there's a choice I'd always opt for the Stihl or Viking products, because I've seen how they're assembled and looked their top management in the eye (in a non-confrontational way!).

While I was in Portugal this October they launched a new range of powerful and lightweight tools, and if I'm honest I've got my eyes on the leaf blower from this range - looking at the details it weighs 2kg, including the integrated battery.  Their site says it's quiet and I can well believe this, remember I've been into their Competence Centre, which is Europe's largest anechoic chamber, and totally mind blowing (pun not intended). 

At the time I told you how the echo from all sound, including sound you don't hear, is removed - but anyway, the testing that goes into noise levels means I believe it when they say it's quiet.  Our current leaf blower (and sucker) is far from quiet, in fact it sounds more like a motorbike and therefore isn't used very much at all.  And we wouldn't buy a leaf sucker bit again, as it gets even noisier (which we never thought possible) if it sucks up a stone - worth remembering if you're in the market for a leaf blower.

The henchman ladder is also on my wish list. I'm a bit wobbly up ladders, but I'm also impatient so often can't wait for MOH to finish doing whatever he's doing to come and hold the ladder - which I instantly regret of course, every single time!  This one has a wider base, which will make it more stable and it also has adjustable feet, because no garden ever is ever flat is it?  

My current ladder has a lean guard - that's my non-technical name, but hopefully descriptive enough for you to know what I mean, and having somewhere to rest tools, gloves and string is always a good move too.

The gloves and cloche, well I go through gardening gloves like anything - I'm not quite sure what I do to them - but I do like to have pink gloves, I leave the more usual green ones for MOH. Cloches are also on my wishlist, and this Victorian style cloche would be a great addition to any garden wouldn't it? 

And I wouldn't even mind seeing it, much nicer than anything I've Heath-Robinson-ed together!


Would you sell your kitchen?

Or indeed, would you buy a second-hand or ex-display kitchen?  We sold our kitchen back in 2013 on eBay, and well, it felt odd. I mean, how do you put a price on something that's been in place for years, has had plenty of use and usually you'd expect to throw into a skip?

We didn't realise selling kitchens was even a thing, for all of the reasons I've just given.  But when our kitchen planner suggested it the idea appealed, not only to offset some some of the cost of our new kitchen, but also because there wasn't too much wrong with most of the units., and so if someone else could make use of them, then that was a good result for us.

If the units weren't that bad you might be wondering why we were replacing our kitchen at all.  A couple were starting to show wear and tear, and the inbuilt dishwasher needed replacing and we knew that as the years went on it'd only get worse.  We didn't want to be in the position of having to put in a new kitchen when the time came to move, that felt a waste, and well, we'd rather enjoy the new kitchen ourselves. 

That said we didn't have a clue about how to price this. As you can see there were a few units, as well as two tall larder cupboards that aren't shown. We quickly learnt that we'd priced it too low, when it was snapped up almost immediately on eBay. But it was a price we were happy with and we had time constraints on when it could be collected. Our kitchen fitters removed the old kitchen and our buyer collected it the same day. 

A look at our old kitchen

Looking back at these photos I'm struck by a couple of things. Firstly how tidy our kitchen was, but I think this is an illusion and we'd cleared the worktops to make it look super smart in the pictures, like you do and secondly how dated it looks compared to our new kitchen. We loved this kitchen though. I loved how it didn't match, and that's something we've replicated, but with lighter colours. 

The dark green gloss base units, wooden worktop and chrome sink

From this kitchen we also knew that we didn't want tiled splashbacks and you'll know instead of the laminate board used here we've gone for a glass splashback instead. And one of my absolute musts was to have the boiler enclosed. It used to be, but then the boiler was replaced for a new model and the existing cupboard didn't work, that left us with a sparkling white appliance amongst a row of bottle green base units, and really jarred with me, e-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e I saw it. 

Cherry wood wall units and the chrome cooker hood

I do wonder what became of our kitchen though. I know the person who bought it was hoping to use as much of it as he could, but that it was going into a smaller space. It's unlikely that it would end up in the same horseshoe formation, but I imagine there's so many combinations that would have worked, that it would be like a life-sized jigsaw puzzle. 

I've recently become aware of a company that could not only help people sell their kitchens, but also help people buy used and ex-display kitchens, which if you want to get value for money sounds ideal.  The Used Kitchen Exchange are a family business who specialise in just that and was founded after they purchased a pre-owned kitchen themselves. So they have first-hand experience of buying a kitchen online and also managed to bag themselves a bargain at the same time, and the realisation that enabling people to source quality kitchens at a cheap price from a sustainable source was possible.

The Used Kitchen Exchange also offers a free kitchen valuation for kitchens that meet their criteria, and as part of their service they offer free professional photography, free advertising, the selling part (obviously) and ensuring kitchens are professionally removed, packed and delivered to their new owners.  There's more information about the full process on their website.

And they've saved thousands of tons of carcinogenic MDF from going to landfill. You can't say fairer than that, can you? 

Oh, and if you see ever see a kitchen with bottle green gloss base units and cherry wood wall units, let me know as it could be my old kitchen, and I'd love to see it settled into its new home!

* This is a collaborative post, but all views are my own.