Seven Spring Cleaning Tips

It is finally starting to feel like spring. When I took the dog for a walk the grass verges were covered in daffodils, the bright yellow colour reflecting in the morning sun. The days are lighter and sunny and even warm.  For me this always lifts my mood and makes me feel happier. The problem with the days getting lighter and the sun shining is that it reveals the dirt lurking in your house. When you are out at work all day and return when it is dark you simply do not notice the cobwebs on the ceiling or the dust lurking in the corners of the room. The light evenings reveal every speck of dust. It is time to start Spring cleaning.

Giving your house a spring clean is a big job but when you have finished the house will sparkle, you will have more space and you will feel better. Often the hardest part of the whole job is getting started. I have put together some tips to help you get your spring cleaning done quickly and in the most effective way.

Snowdrops

Seven spring cleaning tips

Tackle one room at a time

Instead of trying to do everything at once, break the task down into rooms. Completely finish one room before moving onto the next. When you see how good it looks it will give you motivation to tackle the rest.

Get all the tools ready before you start.

Gather all your cleaning equipment before you start. Place everything into a container so you can carry it from place to place easily. You will need bin bags, microfibre clothes, cleaning sponges, a duster, scrubbers and a range of cleaning products. It is also useful to have a dustpan and brush, vacuum cleaner and steam cleaner handy as well. Having everything ready will allow you to get on with the Spring cleaning quickly without having to search for the correct tools.

Spring cleaning

Start at the top of the room and work down

I looked up the other day and noticed that there were some spider webs hanging from the ceiling. There is often a lot of other dust that gathers at the top of rooms unnoticed. Starting at the top will ensure this is removed. Any dirt that falls to the floor in the process can be removed later. Remove dirt from light fixtures and shades, ceiling fans, curtain poles, book shelves and the tops of books. This can be done with a duster and a damp cloth. Wash down walls to remove any dust that is clinging to them. Curtains should be cleaned to help prolong their life. If they are machine washable this can be done at home, otherwise take them to the dry cleaner. If the curtains have pleats at the top pull them apart before washing to release the dirt.

Clean your windows

The sunshine coming in though the windows reveals all the dirt and smears on them. Cleaning your windows will let more light into your home making it easier to see what you are doing. A solution of one part vinegar to one part water will clean your windows effectively and remove grease. Old newspaper can be used to buff them to a shine. Don’t forget to wipe down windowsills and frames removing any mildew that may have appeared on the surfaces over the winter.

Tackle the furniture

With constant use furniture can start looking a little grubby and worse for wear. With a good clean furniture will look better and be given a new lease of life. Take the time to give all the cushions and pads a good vacuum. Run your hands down the edge of the cushions and back of the sofa and remove any crumbs and dirt that may be lurking. I often find money hiding here as well. An upholstery cleaning product can be used to tackle any bad stains and give the covering a good clean.

Give the floors a good clean

Carpets and lino can get very dirty. If you have a pet muddy paws often track dirt into the house and the wet winter weather can result in ground in dirt making your carpets look worn. A good vacuum will shift most of the dirt but a good steam cleaner will help lift out old stains and make the carpet look much more refreshed. I have been trying out the Vax Steam Fresh Pet which has been brilliant on both carpets and lino, making my floors look much better. It also acts to neutralise pet odour and remove pet hairs. Having a King Charles Spaniel I often find pet hair all over the carpets and the Vax Steam Fresh Pet has given my carpets a new lease of life. When tackling the carpets do not forget to wash the skirting boards and dust behind radiators. Lots of dirt can build up here.

Spring cleaning

Remove clutter

Whilst cleaning you will often come across items that you no longer use or that are so worn they should be thrown out. Take the opportunity to sort out items into piles to bin and to donate or sell.  Be ruthless, anything you never use should go. It is just taking up space in the cupboards. When you have sorted the items into piles then take action.  Bin the pile of items that are no use and giveaway or sell the rest. After the clutter has gone take the chance to reorganise your cupboards and drawers so you can find things easily. It is amazing how good you will feel when you have some space and can find things.

I have already started my spring cleaning and the house is looking much better as a result. Have you started doing yours yet? Do you have any tips to make the job easier? Do let me know.

I was given the Vax Steam Fresh Pet to help me with my spring cleaning.

Hidden Newcastle: The Art at the Civic Centre

If you live in Newcastle Upon Tyne you will be familiar with the Civic Centre. Found near the Haymarket the tower with twelve seahorses is easily visible from a distance. It is the administrative centre for the city, I got my son’s birth certificate here and you can often see weddings taking place in the grounds.  Seahorses on top of the civic centreThe building was completed in 1967 and was formerly opened by King Olav of Norway in 1968. In days gone past council meetings were announced by the town crier, ringing his bell and huge barrels of tar were lit along the front of the building to bring in the crowds. The design of the Civic Centre took in this tradition with nine huge flambeaux spanning the entrance. These can be lit when required and there are bells in the tower which can be rung to mark the start of an event.  Civici CentreThe grounds are lovely with plenty of green and water where ducks paddle. It is a perfect place to sit and relax away from the rush of the city on a summer day. If you wander around the grounds you will come across a number of hidden artworks. Attached 5m up the wall on the outside of the Civic Centre is a statue of the River God Tyne. River God TyneIt is a bronze statue by David Wynne. Over the years it has changed colour from dark brown to green and brown due to running water. The figure has an outstretched hand from which water is meant to be dripping over his head and across his torso. His face is hidden from view by his wet hair, unless you stand underneath and look up. River God TyneThis reveals a wise looking face weighed down by the knowledge of ages. It is an impressive looking statue and worth taking a moment to contemplate.

Across the road from the Civic Centre is a Weatherspoons bar named The Five Swans. It has only appeared in recent times, it used to be Luckies bar when I first came to Newcastle. It is named after the five swans of the Civic Centre. If you are like me then you may start to wonder how they manage to ensure they always have five swans at the Civic Centre. How can they stop them flying away or prevent new ones appearing? If you walk around the corner all is revealed. The five swans are actually another statue, Swans in Flight by David Wynne. It depicts five swans taking off from a rectangular pool. Swans in flight Swans in flightSwans in flightEach of the swans are 2m in length and the sculpture is certainly effective. The swans are graceful and elegant and you can imagine them flying off into the sky. The sculpture is based on the poem The Swans of the North by  Hans Hartvig Seedorff Pederson. Each swan represents a Scandinavian country, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Finland and the links between these countries and Newcastle.

I have passed the Civic Centre many times and never seen these sculptures. I love discovering hidden parts of Newcastle like the Vampire Rabbit. Do you know of any hidden parts of the city? I would love to hear about them

The Ultimate Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is one of those meals that everyone knows how to make. There are lots of variations on the basic recipe, everyone has their own little twist that makes the meal special. It is a meal that is perfect for serving when the family get together. When all my family got together at Knockbrex Castle for a family occasion, my brother cooked spaghetti bolognese on the night we arrived. It is a meal that is best cooked slowly, allowing the meat to gradually infused with the flavour of the tomatoes and herbs. Served with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and herbs on top of spaghetti, it is messy to eat but totally delicious. Strangely my dog loves spaghetti and will lurk under the table hoping for a strand. He will suck it down in Lady and the Tramp fashion, providing some entertainment while we eat.

Spaghetti bologneseRecently Lea and Perrins got in touch and asked if I would like to try their Lovelea recipe for spaghetti bolognese. The recipe uses a secret ingredient, Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. I love eating spaghetti bolognese so was happy to try. It is one of those meals that can be eaten at any time and if you have any left over it can be frozen and used another day. In fact I often make twice as much of the mince mixture for that very reason.

Spaghetti bologneseTo make the bolognese the main ingredient is mince. To this was added panacetta, garlic, onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. To make the sauce I used a mix of tomato purée, chopped tomatoes, red wine, beef stock and of course Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. I love my sauce to be full of tomato flavour so always add extra tomato purée. To complete the dish I had some basil, parmesan cheese and spaghetti. I got to work chopping, simmering and stirring.

Spaghetti bologneseA gorgeous smell wafted though the house as the mixture simmered on the stove, making me hungry and prompting my son to ask when dinner would be ready.  I cooked the mixture slowly wanting to impart the full flavour to the mixture. Soon it was time to boil the water for the spaghetti and wait for that to be ready.

Spaghetti bologneseFinally I served the dish, sprinkling over the parmesan cheese and a little shredded basil. The dish was worth the wait, it was full of flavour, the ultimate spaghetti bolognese. As Lea and Perrins say “A dash makes all the difference”, and in this case it added a lot more flavour to the dish. There were empty plates all round, much to the dogs disappointment.

Spaghetti bologneseSpaghetti Bolognese Recipe

Spaghetti Bolognese
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Ingredients
  1. 1 onion
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 stick of celery
  4. 5 chestnut mushrooms
  5. A small handful of panacetta cubes
  6. 500g beef mince
  7. 1 tbsp tomato purée
  8. 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  9. 200 ml beef stock
  10. 1 glass red wine
  11. 4 tbsp Lea and Perrins Worchestershire sauce
  12. 350g spaghetti
  13. Handful grated parmesan
  14. A few sprigs of basil, chopped
Instructions
  1. Add some oil into a pan and fry the panacetta until it browns and becomes crispy
  2. Add the mince and cook until brown
  3. Peel and chop the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and mushrooms and add them to the mince mixture, stirring well.
  4. Add the tomato purée to the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring to coat everything with the purée.
  5. Add the red wine and the beef stock and simmer until the liquid reduces by half.
  6. Add the tin of tomatoes and the Lea and Perrins Worchestershire sauce to the pan.
  7. Simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  8. To make the spaghetti bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for around 8 - 10 minutes.
  9. Place the spaghetti on a plate and add some bolognese to the top.
  10. Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese and the chopped basil
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

If you wish you can serve the meal with a green salad and garlic bread to make a much more elaborate meal.

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Eric Lanlard’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Egg Cups

Easter is on the way and that means the Easter bunny will be bouncing around delivering chocolate eggs. Recently the Happy Egg Co got in touch and sent me a signed copy of Eric Lanlard’s Totally Chocolate cookbook which features chocolate recipes galore. They also sent me recipe that he has specially created for the Happy Egg Co, Eric Lanlard’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Egg Cups. Loving a challenge I decided to do my best to recreate the recipe.

Peanut butter and chocolate egg cupsBe warned the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Egg Cups are filled with chocolate. A dark chocolate exterior is cracked away to reveal a dreamy chocolate mousse with hints of peanut. It is really rich and a little goes a long way. The egg cups are the perfect container for serving them, it gives just the right amount of chocolate goodness. If you do not have a sweet tooth then this is not for you.

Eric Lanlard peanut butter and egg cupsThere is a slight degree of skill in making these peanut butter and chocolate egg cups. Making the mousse itself is simple, it is just a question of melting chocolate and whisking egg whites. The skill comes in getting the mousse into an egg cup. A piping bag would be ideal for this, but my piping bag had gone astray. I had to spoon the mousse in and do the best I could with a knife. I did manage to make a fairly good egg shaped mousse which I left to set.

Peanut butter and  chocolate egg cupsCovering with the chocolate is slightly more messy. I left the chocolate to cool after I melted it but it still managed to drizzle down the edges of the egg cups. I added some sprinkles to make them look a little bit more pretty. Despite their lop-sided appearance they did taste lovely.

Peanut butter and egg cupsThey do also look a little bit like they are going to walk off into the sunset in these egg cups. I have no idea where I got the egg cups from, they are one of those things that have been in my cupboard for many years. They always make me smile when I have an egg in them. If you are looking for egg recipes, you can find this and plenty of others on the Happy Egg Co website. If you are wondering what the original recipe looks like this is a picture, do you think mine are close?

Eric lanlard's peanut butter and chocolate egg cupsEric Lanlard’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Egg Cups

 

Eric Lanlard's Peanut Butter and Egg Cups
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Ingredients
  1. 120g dark chocolate
  2. 30g smooth peanut butter
  3. 3 Happy Egg Co eggs
  4. 50g golden caster sugar
  5. 100g dark chocolate
  6. 25g salted peanuts, sugar strands or edible confetti
Instructions
  1. Separate the eggs and put the whites and yolks in different bowls
  2. Melt 125g dark chocolate in a basin over boiling water.
  3. When it has melted add the peanut butter, sugar and egg yolks. Stir until smooth.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Transfer into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to set for at least three hours.
  7. When the mousse is firm pipe into egg cups and use a knife to shape into an egg shape.
  8. Place back in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  9. Melt the rest of the chocolate in a basin over boiling water.
  10. Leave to cool. When it has cooled drizzle the chocolate over the top of the mousse.
  11. Decorate with sugar sprinkles and chopped peanutes.
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/
 I was sent the recipe and a recipe book in order the try out the recipe.

 

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Using the JUST EAT Mobile App

Do you ever have one of those days where you know nothing is going to go right? For me it happened the other day. I got to work, turned on my computer and it told me it was installing updates. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but an hour later it was still installing updates. There is only so much sitting twiddling of thumbs and drinking cups of tea that a girl can do. I decided that enough was enough and restarted the machine. This time the computer started but would anything else work? The computer decided it was going to sulk. I was advised to scan the disks so I did, thinking this would be a quick task. I was wrong. I sat for most of the day looking at the computer scanning files. Not the most exciting day ever. Luckily I was still able to access my email and other apps on the my phone. While I was doing this I found out that JUST EAT now have a mobile app. After a frustrating day a takeaway struck me as the perfect way to end the day. With my computer still scanning disks I was not able to order on-line but the mobile app saved the day.

JUST EAT mobile appJUST EAT allow you to order from local takeaways and quickly find the ideal restaurant. Using the app is simple, all you need to do is to put in your postcode and it will show you a list of all the takeaways in your area. The app will even use geo-locate to find where you are, just press the target shape at the end of the section where it says Your Postcode and it fills it in for you. A list of takeaways in your area then pops up.

Just Eat Mobile appIf you know what sort of food you want you can easily refine your search to show a specific cuisine. You can even filter by distance, offers or user rating to find the type of takeaway you require. You also have the option to show those with Delivery or Collection which makes ordering much easier. If you know the name of the restaurant you want to use you can easily find this in the list as well.JUST EAT mobile appIf you are not sure where the restaurant is the app will show you on the map. You can also read user reviews to see what other people think.  Once you have chosen a restaurant then you can see all the dishes on the menu and the prices. Just pick the dishes you want and add them to your basket. If there is a delivery charge this will also be shown.

Check out is easy, just log into your JUST EAT account or create one and then make your order. You can choose to pay by card (there may be a charge for this) or by cash when the takeaway arrives.  You are given a time for the delivery and then you just need to wait expectantly for your food to turn up. Even better the app remembers what you have ordered previously so you can reorder quickly the next time you use it.

I was really pleased to find the JUST EAT mobile app, after a frustrating day at work it was a relief to be able to order a takeaway quickly and easily. The takeaway came at the time specified and was hot, I really enjoyed it. The app would also be really useful if you had been out for the day, you could order a delivery for later whilst you were on your way home. I think I will be making a lot of use of this app.

I was provided with credit so I could make an order using the mobile app in return for an honest review.