A trip to HomeSense is like sailing a lagoon and landing on a desert island awash with hidden gems. A haven of quirky designs at desirable prices; there is something to suit every style. Here I feature some unusual finds, discovered on a recent visit to HomeSense.
First to catch my eye was a stone sculpture. This horse’s head would look amazing displayed on a huge fire place, or as a stand alone feature set on a cabinet in a large hallway. I am not sure who the little guy adjacent to the horse would appeal to, but what a unique side table – perfect for holding a glass of wine.
My browsing became rather like a safari trek, with the odd farmyard animal thrown in. A striking silver lion’s head captured the attention of a lady nearby. Her face lit up in the same way a small child’s would upon entering a candy store; a woman on a mission – the lady excitedly asked a member of staff to carry it for her. A contemporary interior would be an appropriate setting for this piece.
Next, the head of a rhino appeared – twice the size of the silver lion.
I passed by a gentler looking creature, which looked as though it had been part of a glamorous act in a nativity play. The deer’s antlers sparkled with sequins, whilst its ears were splattered with gold glitter; a tassel dangled from its chin. This would certainly add a funky look to a child’s bedroom.
A cockerel was next to emerge, the detail of which was astounding, and it was incredibly heavy. This would complement French country style.
Peeping out from the cushion section, I chuckled as I spotted ‘hello you’ – a friendly gift for someone.
For garden goddesses, maybe this cheeky cushion would appeal – super soft and feather filled.
Or how about these; again, sumptuous quality – perhaps a little reminder for someone special.
An accessory for the bedroom!
A fun cushion for a teenager’s room – and the message really works …
… And as I glanced to the RIGHT, a most elaborate looking candle holder ‘screamed’ for attention; like a bejewelled weeping willow tree, this would make a statement wherever it was placed.
For any wannabe warrior, this could be all the reassurance you need to do battle with – ultra heavy head gear; and with a reduced price tag; from £129.99 to £99.
The photo of this vibrant lampshade does not do it justice. It was approximately 60 cms in diameter, and appeared to be hand crocheted. I would have scooped it up if I’d had somewhere to hang it – simply stunning.
For a useful and attractive gift, these boxed postcards would be ideal. Each box contains 100 postcards; for dog lovers, book lovers, and style lovers.
Couldn’t resist this girlie make-up bag with cute message.
An easily recognisable brand – but a cookbook? I was intrigued. Italian Minestrone Soup with 250ml/8fl oz of Coca-Cola added; and Cherry Cup Cakes with the addition of cherry Coca-Cola. Hmm.
An interesting selection for the garden.
I came away from my trip to HomeSense, delighted with my purchase of a glam looking British Bulldog.
Just before I go, here are two of my favourite accessories from HomeSense, bought a couple of years ago.
I adore this clock. It has a diameter of 74 cms/29″. Made from wood and given a distressed finish, this would make a fabulous feature on any wall; it keeps great time too.
This Moroccan lantern is part of a pair. One tiny tea light is all that is required to bring a magical glow to a dark corner.
Create your own style, it will always be in. Wendy Sefcik
Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent. Victor Hugo
I let out a whoop of excitement – my singing lesson was booked. This time next week I would be running over the local sand dunes Julie Andrews style: the beach would reverberate with The Sound of Music, and I would be surrounded by an army of dog walkers keen to master Do-Re-Mi. Better still, The Partridge Family could be replaced by The Austin Family: son on guitar, daughter on drums, and me belting out I Think I Love You to all and sundry. Wow. You know what they say: ‘Think Big – the possibilities are endless.’ It did dawn on me I may be having a mid-life crisis, but hey-ho this is something to be embraced, as inhibitions are cast by the wayside as years fly by. My son was a huge source of encouragement leading up to said singing lesson (possibly by never revealing his true feelings). He supervised voice training in the kitchen. My sound waves bounced off the walls to Gabriella Cilmi’s song, Woman On A Mission. I switched between this, and Kylie’s, I Should Be So Lucky. I advised son and daughter that after a few lessons I would be ready for them to accompany me on guitar and drums. Hmm.
The launch to fame day arrived. Clutching a bottle of water, I hot-footed it down the road to the singing academy. I must confess I was harbouring a few nerves: my mouth felt like it had been scrubbed out with a scouring pad. How was I going to talk to the teacher, let alone sing. A door to the singing studio opened. Oh crikey! The teacher wasn’t much older than my son. I had expected a plump lady – older than me of course – with a matter-of-fact approach. You see I was brought up in the ‘old school’ way and it is comforting to stick with what you know. But I had already shaken off the comfort blanket by choosing to sing. And so here I was, face-to-face, with a young lad straight out of drama school. Now Matt did have a great voice: a mix of Michael Buble and Justin Bieber. He sang in a jazz band and his idol happened to be Michael Buble. I loved Michael so I was sure Matt would like Gabriella. But he hadn’t heard of her. I was surprised. After all she was young too. My hopes were dashed. No longer feeling like a Woman On A Mission, I waited tentatively as Matt produced a song book. I certainly wasn’t going to be ‘… so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky’ either. Even Kylie was out of the frame as Matt asked whether I knew Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Er. Yes. I had been holding out for Abba at least. There was worse to come. Matt had chosen Hushabye Mountain: a lullaby, which had been sung by Dick Van Dyke in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The song was alien to me but I rolled with it. And indeed did I roll, for Matt told me to get down on the floor. Oh my. He emphasised the importance of warming up. I was hardly prepared for a spot of aerobics – dressed in jeans and high heeled boots. What would happen next? The singing lesson had turned into a thirty minute adventure, which could well end up with us quaffing ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and spending the night with Uncle Quentin.
Matt too got down on the floor, and demonstrated some relaxation and breathing techniques. If only my jeans weren’t so tight. An ancient flashback to the New Seekers prompted wistful thoughts of a floaty dress – smock style. Now if only I could ‘teach the world to sing’ …
I was jolted back into the room by Matt tickling the ivories with one hand. Well at least I played the piano better than he did. And what a good job I could read music which helped me gauge the notes of the tawdry tune. Matt only had one song book so I had to huddle up close to peer at the words. Blimey. Any closer I would be in his lap. Matt sang a bar, and I followed. Not only was he surprised at how well my voice was projected across the room, I was too. Could my ‘letting go’ be borne out of sheer frustration as to song choice: a lullaby. sung by a bloke. from a child’s film? Mmm. We finally sang the entire song. As a duet. Together. As one. Such was the feeling of surreality that the experience was of an out-of-body one. Well, if I had helped to fan Matt’s ego then the whole exercise had been worth it. He was keen for me to book a further lesson but I declined. I would have to check my mid-life crisis schedule first. Hmm.
We are what we sing. Anonymous
I did manage to find out some benefits of singing.
Your posture will get straighter and you’ll gradually look more confident.
It’s a good workout for your lungs.
Singing improves circulation and tones abdominal muscles.
It’s good for the brain and will enhance your mental awareness, concentration and memory.
Singing has been proven to boost your immune system.
You’ll probably live longer, in general.
Tests have shown that singing reduces the risk of heart disease.
The natural stress reliever, oxytocin, is released when you sing, which has been found to alleviate feelings of depression and loneliness.
You’ll sleep better, as a result of being less stressed.
Singing releases endorphins, which make you feel instantly happier!
My top tip would be to wear something loose like Demis.
Demis Roussos was a famous Greek singer. He sold 60 million albums worldwide, and became an unlikely kaftan-wearing sex symbol. Forever and Ever was No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart in 1976. Top song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5or2CMvYIE And I shall go on singing forever and ever … in the kitchen.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)
Moving with style it was not. After a flurry of activity over the past few months, finally our new house feels like home. Indeed I feel it is a magical dwelling as stars dance before my eyes. Could that be due to a frenzy of painting? But what a journey it has been.
All boxed up and ready to go at the beginning of July, the chain collapsed two days before we were due to move: someone pulled out of their sale and purchase at the last minute. And so I found myself unpacking and setting up home in our – er – home. As if it were not enough banging up pictures, of which we have in abundance; most of the furniture had been sold as we were down sizing. Thoughts of relaxing on our squishy sofas were squashed. And thoughts of a candle lit dinner, seated at a huge dining table with lashings of wine, instantly evaporated. It was a balmy evening so thoughts turned to sitting in the garden, but my beloved swinging chair bed had been scrapped. It was on its last legs, but oh! what luxury it would have been at the time. As I pointed out to my son and daughter – ‘Look on the bright side, we have beds.’ Hmm. I could tell the dogs were nonplussed too. They had no baskets: one of the sofas adorned with a fluffy throw had been their bed. I tossed a spare double duvet on the floor for them … and we too joined them there for the evening. I just stopped short of drowning my sorrows in a rather decent bottle of celebratory Champagne, which had been purchased for the move. Drifting into a pond-like state, my mind re-ran mini episodes of house viewings …
‘Walk like an Egyptian’
This lady was a genealogist, and her home was filled with antiques. She gave me a run down on all the neighbours, and knew the state and price of houses for sale in the immediate locality. Naturally her house was top notch and best value for money. I wanted to call her Hyacinth, from Keeping Up Appearances. She offered to give me a tour of ‘the estate’ which was your average English run of the mill back garden: so not very big. Ahem. This garden consisted of artificial grass – of which the vendor was very proud – and mounds of rocks, reminiscent of a miniature Stone Henge. Swags of rope and fake seagulls ‘topped off’ the look. Apparently she had wanted to create a seaside garden. Hmm.
Whilst viewing the interior of the property, I was struck by the lack of opening windows. For I had never seen a conservatory with no opening door onto a garden; and the magnificent floor to ceiling windows in the main sitting room did not open onto the back garden. When the vendor asked if I could see myself living here, I wanted to flee. She had already researched my surname before the viewing, and had many images of ‘sacred’ Egyptian cats positioned around the house. Was this woman nuts? She had kept me there for an hour and a half. Oh my. As I made my way to the front door I touched an Egyptian cat which the vendor told me would bring good luck: it wobbled. And I remember having read that cats were such sacred creatures in Ancient Egypt, even killing one accidentally incurred the death penalty. I hot footed it to my car anticipating an almighty crash followed by a high-speed get away.
Dixon of Dock Green
This house was empty. Set on the outskirts of a local village, the property was formerly a small police station. Enjoying a rural location with far flung views across fields, it looked promising. An attempt had been made to conceal all signs of the property having been a police station, but this had failed. There was a cold feel to the house. The property was swamped in accents of beige. Unimaginative clinical vertical blinds were all around … there was no love. Across the corridor from the kitchen was the original prison cell. Thoughts of Super Nanny sprang to mind: for parents of younger children – what a splendid ‘naughty corner’. We heard rummaging in the garage – a police officer was sorting through an array of intriguing objects. And I wondered whether to salute him. Would he bend at the knees and salute me back, ushering the words, ‘Evening all.’ Did you know Dixon of Dock Green ran episodes for 21 years and was voted second most popular programme on British TV in 1961.
When I stepped outside, I was captivated by the open views and my prospective neighbours. Cows. And the quote by Grant Wood popped into my head, ‘All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.’ Maybe life in the nick wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
There were two things I loved about this house, but sadly they were not part of the fixtures and fittings.
I was greeted at the front door by a super smiley, rotund chap. I do like smiley people. There is a lack of them in my local town and I do wonder whether it is because their make-up would crack with the strain of a smile. Ahem. The vendor enthusiastically guided me around the house which he shared with his father and brother. As we approached the kitchen door, he paused to warn me about the cat. She. didn’t. like. anyone. Not even his father. Nor his brother. She may even attack. Having two cats already, I wasn’t too phased by his words. But in any case I was glad of the large tote bag I had brought with me, which was now placed in front of my body, like armour. The vendor cautiously opened the door whilst I took tentative steps behind him. Well I was blown away by the most beautiful feline ever! Eye contact was made and I crouched down to her level. The vendor looked on in disbelief as this glorious fluff ball swaggered gracefully towards me – as if fresh out of deportment class – and brushed her dainty nose against my hand. There was an instant bond and I felt like ‘Mrs. Doolittle.’ Her name was Muffin. Oh dear. The only creature I knew of that name was Muffin the Mule, and he was a wooden puppet. She should be ‘Duchess’ or ‘Portia’, or at the very least ‘Talulah’. Muffin followed us into the garden. And whilst the vendor apologised for the garden’s overgrown state, my eyes were drawn to an aesthetically pleasing semi-naked statue of a Greek goddess. It had the wow factor and would look spectacular in the grounds of a French Chateau. I knew at this stage I did not want the house. But I did want Muffin and the statue. However there was still upstairs to see.
The vendor negotiated the stairs two at a time. I was impressed. Another flight of stairs to the loft conversion, and I could just about keep up with him. What a surprise when we reached the top: three of the walls were covered in floor to ceiling mirrors. An eclectic mix of equipment made up his ‘fitness studio’, including a smattering of lycra. Good on him. Now if he looked half as good as Mr. Motivator in his spandex …
Despite the vendor’s infectious enthusiasm and non-stop smiles: whilst I warmed to him, I could not the house. And as I sat in my car, poised to start the engine, I contemplated making him an offer for the goddess. This could be the start of my French dream.
The home should be the treasure chest of living. Le Corbusier (Swiss/French architect/writer)
The above were just three viewings out of – er – 27. Fortunately we ended up moving into the house we wanted, albeit four months later than it should have been. The sale of our house was on and off three times. My daughter had broken up for the summer holidays, but I was waiting until we moved before booking a holiday. Unfortunately this never happened. The summer months were taken up with showing the house and purchasing second-hand furniture to replace what we had already sold! The garden table proved invaluable as a dining table: when the weather was hot, we dined alfresco; when it was not, the table was transported into the dining room. I call it mobile living.
Based upon recent experiences, here is a list of moving tips.
When getting valuations for your house from estate agents, stick to your guns regarding pricing. Research the local area which will act as an excellent guide. One estate agent valued my home at £30,000 less than the amount I received for it, and certainly tried to pull the wool over my eyes with his slimy spiel. Ugh.
Don’t believe an estate agent. Ever.
Camp out on your solicitor’s doorstep to make contact if necessary.
The surveyor is on your side and can help you negotiate a lower price with the vendor.
Keep on great terms with vendor and purchaser. Aim to please. This should be mirrored back to you.
Keep the removal men happy – lots of brews – they will go that extra mile for you. Mine carefully fixed a broken wardrobe.
When a prospective purchaser is due, set the scene. Light fires and candles, ascertain the correct lighting in each room, ensure the house is warm – thus creating a welcoming atmosphere. No matter what you do, it won’t tick all the boxes with everyone, but those viewers’ boxes it does tick will be desperate to pull out all the stops to get your property. Despite the chain collapsing, the original purchasers bought my house.
Do an online shop to be delivered to your new address the day after you move. My daughter took charge of this and made all sorts of wicked and indulgent purchases, which wouldn’t normally be in our every day shopping. Nice one.
On moving day, don’t fret about what you have to do. When the removal men have departed, sit down on your sofa – if you have one – and wallow in savouring a steaming hot, sweet cup of tea. It will taste like the best brew of your life. And if you really can’t stop fretting, crack open that bubbly. You deserve it.
Embrace the thought of your new home as the beginning of an exciting chapter. Enjoy!
There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Jane Austen
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Have a great week :)
Nothing will turn a man’s home into a castle more quickly andeffectively than a dachshund. Queen Victoria
The beautiful Nelly came into our lives on New Year’s Eve: a Miniature Dachshund aged eight weeks, who looks like she has emerged from the screen of a rather exclusive cartoon. ‘Soft, Strong and Long’ – Andrex could rethink their Labrador Retriever toilet roll advert. For the Dachshund’s coat is velvet soft, their grip on your hand is vice-like and their bodies are – well – long.
Nelly’s a real corker. Indeed if Nelly were on screen in the human world there is no doubt she would be Juliette Binoche. I certainly didn’t appear as elegant as Juliette on New Year’s Eve, although there was a certain je ne sais quoi about me. Edina from Absolutely Fabulous is probably more apt. As the countdown began, I embraced 2015 adorned in an avant-garde pair of PJs, puppy in one hand, glass of Bolly in the other. What style!
With an eight year old Whippet who doesn’t want to play anymore, I made the decision to have a puppy companion for Lola, my daughter’s five month old Jackawawa (Chihuahua x Jack Russell). Or was it because I had been secretly harbouring a desire for a Mini Dachshund. Is it possible to crave dogs? Maybe it’s part of the midlife crisis whereby I am yearning to show that my nurturing/mothering skills are not quite yet defunct. Hmm. What I hadn’t bargained for was the effect Nelly’s appearance would have on Lola. Already an excitable character anyway – she is three quarters Chihuahua after all – it’s like she is powered by the finest guarana as she shoots across the room bouncing off walls. Poor Paddy (my gentle Whippet) wears a Gromit-like look of disdain … I can almost see him rolling his eyes. Nevertheless, Lola’s exuberance hasn’t deterred Nelly in any way and the pair are firm friends.
Indeed I am besotted with both pups. No doubt there will be more cooing over Nelly. Even the local builder – a giant of a man – crumbled in Lola’s presence. Their little bellies in particular seem to provoke a reaction of affection. And I do wonder about the purchase of a cropped top this summer … could my belly be deemed as cute I wonder. Ahem.
The Dachshund’s affectionate, He wants to wed with you: Lie down to sleep, And he’s in bed with you. Sit in a chair, He’s there. Depart, You break his heart. E.B. White – American Writer.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog – have a great week :)
A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it; a song’s not a song ’til you sing it. Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay; love isn’t love ’til you give it away. Oscar Hammerstein II
This is such a jolly sign and is quite substantial. Made from wood with a metal rustic-style hanger, the sign is adorned with glittering bells and a bow. The words are written in red glitter, and the sign is bordered in the same too. Measuring 28 cm wide, it is just the right size to be eye-catching, adding a fabulous splash of festive colour.
Purchased: local flower shop
May our home be warm and our friends be many. Unknown
Love my daughter’s Christmas themed bedroom – and so does the cat! I particularly like the deer throw and matching cushion. The throw is big enough to cover the whole bed. Made from an easy washable fabric, both items are incredibly soft – perfect for cosying up by the fire on a cold winter’s night. The design is such that the throw and cushion are year-round accessories.
To relish a love-song, like a robin-redbreast. Unknown
The photos of these exquisite robin candle holders really don’t do them justice. These were an ‘accidental’ find on Ebay, and are quite unusual. Made from glass, the holders have been hand painted and given a textured effect. Each robin is slightly different and they appear to be perched in a tree. Painted in festive colours, the holders give out a warm glow when the tea lights inside them are lit. Not just for Christmas, these will look lovely all year round. Ebay is a great place to find something that may have been used, but nevertheless is in good condition and totally unique.
Purchased: Ebay – search second hand shops and car boot sales for similar quirky items.
There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. Charles Dickens
I couldn’t resist these cool, minty penguin chocolates. Made from a minimum of 60% cocoa, these dark chocolates are infused with peppermint and hand decorated. They taste absolutely delicious. I also happened to come across some tiny organza gift bags, and thought of popping a penguin into each one to put on the table on Christmas Day. They will look pretty alongside the crackers and will make a festive after-dinner mint treat.
‘Nutkin danced up and down like a sunbeam; but still Old Brown said nothing at all … ‘ Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter
This wooden set of six Scandi squirrel place card holders is from Next. If you are looking for something different and are not afraid of sticking to a set theme, these name holders will give a quirky edge to the ‘Christmas table’. I think they complement the Nutcracker Christmas crackers beautifully. The set of holders comes complete with blank name cards which slot easily into the squirrels’ tails. They come in two colours – red and grey.
Let us celebrate with wine and sweet words. Plautus
This wine box with a musical theme is a refreshing change from the usual wine bags, and is a more secure way of transporting a bottle of wine. Many a time have I bashed a gift of wine against the car or a wall, and have prayed that there was not a trail of wine behind me and that my gift would be intact when I handed it over to the recipient. The box is covered in some challenging looking sheet music. There is a co-ordinating gift tag of decent size attached, and a glitzy gold lid with handle.
The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories, feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale … Vera Nazarian
Here is a fun set of six Christmas crackers with a Nutcracker theme. Colourful, and made from quality card, each of these crackers contains a stick-on moustache – we’re going to have a giggle with these on Christmas Day; there’s The Casanova, The Rogue, The Smarty, The Partyboy, The Bandit and The Scoundrel!
Price: £16 for six
To be a star you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness for that is when the stars shine brightest. Unknown
This stunning set of four star tea light holders is from Parlane. The holders are made of glass and have a sparkly look to them. They can certainly be used all year round, but will look especially elegant gracing the ‘Christmas table’. I came across some pretty snowflake tea light candles which complement the star holders perfectly. The tea lights look as if they have been sprinkled with a dusting of snow. Although a little more expensive than ordinary tea lights, it would be nice that these were available to purchase all year round, as they are whiter and prettier than standard tea lights.
Star Tea Light Holders purchased: local department store. Parlane products can usually be found in most department stores.
The hawk unto the open sky, the red deer to the wold; the romany lass for the romany lad, as in the days of old. Unknown
This cream and pink cushion featuring a deer is quite striking. It will look good all year round as well as adding something special to the Christmas theme. It is a standard size cushion cover with a flap-over back for ease of cushion insertion – no fear of a zip breaking or popping open. The deer itself has a soft velvet like feel, whilst the rest of the cushion has a linen look to it. The cushion looks particularly handsome set upon plain furniture.
Some people are worth melting for. Olaf from the film Frozen
Well my daughter is, especially wearing this cute snowman sweatshirt! There are some fabulous Christmas jumpers around, with more choice than ever before. This cropped sweatshirt is a more trendy take on the traditional Christmas jumper and will appeal to the younger generation. Made from polyester for easy washing, the inside of the top has a soft, fleecy lining. Looks good with jeans or leggings. Wearing this Christmas top, you will stand out for all the right reasons!