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A guide to building your ultimate home cinema

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Having a cinema in your own home is the dream of many. To be able to relax with a beer without the rustling of teenagers’ popcorn and losing your shoes to sticky floors is a very attractive proposition to anyone. As with a lot of electronics however, in practice the prices are astronomical and it is difficult to know whether you are getting quality for your money. To help you choose all the elements of your dream home cinema, here is a quick guide.

Choose a reputable supplier:
It can be tempting to get as much equipment as you can for as little money and there are always cheaper alternatives. However, it may be important to get all the help you can with the installation and upkeep of your home cinema system. Websites such as HiSpek Electronics have fully trained AV technicians who will come to your home and install the system for a reasonable price. This will enable you to utilise your system to its full potential

Sound System:
A basic choice for your home cinema sound system is between 2.1, 5.1, and the less common 7.1 surround systems. The 2.1 system, which utilises two speakers is usually the preferable choice for those with a smaller space for their entertainment centre. Although it is possible to down mix 5.1 formats to play effectively through 2.1 systems, many consider 5.1 or 7.1 the superior set-ups. 5.1 uses six and eight speakers including subwoofers respectively. A third option is a sound bar which pack the capabilities of 2.1 or 5.1 systems into a single long speaker. These are perfect for the small scale home cinema.

Another choice you need to make is between a big screen television or projector plus screen. Although they aren’t cheap, a decent projector should get you a bigger picture for your money than the equivalent HD TV. For purists, projectors will give you a more cinematic experience. The only downside is that a projector set up will require more installation. You will need to ensure the projector is fitted at the optimum distance away from the screen. Also, it bears keeping in mind that you need a dark room for a projector to work to its full capacity.

Go 3D:
For that extra wow factor, you may want to consider adding a dimension. There is now a wealth of choice of 3D Blu-Ray players, HD 3D Smart LED TVs and 3D projectors on the market. If you are thinking of entering the world of 3D it is worth considering the number of people you want to invite to your home cinema. They will all need 3D glasses.

Here’where you can deviate as much or little as you want from the cinematic environment. Some prefer to keep the experience as authentic as possible by installing theatre-style seating but it is worth considering alternatives.

To ensure you truly relax in your new home cinema you’ll need snacks. Get a drinks fridge in the room, a popcorn maker installed or just ensure youre stocked up with sweets.

Brought to you in association with HiSpek.

Advice for Watercolour Beginners

Monday, 22 September 2014

Watercolour painting can be the most enjoyable of pass times,it can also be one of the most frustrating, especially when you are just starting out. 

The medium is wonderfully versatile but also quite unpredictable if you are not used to it.

Here is some guidance for those beginning to use watercolours. Hopefully, this will get you through the frustrating times and enable you to get maximum enjoyment from the hobby.

Buy quality.

You don’t need to buy a vast array of all the watercolours of the rainbow when you embark on your new hobby. The most important to thing is to buy quality products from trusted suppliers and websites such as Artifolk (http://www.artifolk.co.uk/paints/watercolour-paints.htm).
Tube paints are usually recommended by experts as it is easy to vary the consistency.

Start Simple

The best way to get to grips with this tricky medium is to start by experimenting with basic shapes. This will allow you to get used to how to produce darker and lighter shades as well as some blending techniques.

Use Water Sparingly

Blot your brush with cloth if you think it is overloaded with water or paint. Moderation is the watch word for watercolour painting.

Negative Painting

Best practice for watercolour painting is to paint the dark areas first. It is also a good idea to cover any area you wish to remain white, known as negative painting.

Some techniques to try…

Wet-in-Wet Watercolours

Wet-in-wet involves applying paints to a wet background. Wet your paper lightly with a sponge so the paint does not run toomuch and create washes and light backgrounds.


This technique allows you to produce sharper more deliberate images. The important thing to remember with this technique is that the surface must be completely dry so the paint does not run.

Dry brush

This is the best way to add detail to your picture, wetting the brush slightly and not overloading it with paint. Successful dry brushing depends on using short deliberate strokes with limited pressure and can be the most difficult to master.

Some warnings…

Watercolours dry lighter

Because of the high water content of this medium the colours will always look more intense when applied to when they dry. This is a factor you will get used to the more you paint.

Watercolours remain soluble

Even when dry, watercolours remain soluble. This is an advantage if you want to correct mistake but can be frustrating if you adjust something by accident that you previously thought was perfect.

Varieties of Watercolour Paper

Watercolour paper varies in texture, thickness and colour. The only way to find out which one you are most comfortable with or which suits your styles the best is to test the variations.

Have fun!

Brought to you in assocition with Artifolk.

Asda pink boom box review.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Liv was very lucky recently to be sent a lovely pink boom box  to review from Asda.

Surprisingly (or not!) she is a huge Frozen fan so we decided to get her the Frozen CD to use with her new CD player, and we have all been singing it since.

To say she was excited the first time we used it would be a huge understatement! She didn't even know what it was when I took it out of the box but she immediately started to squeal and jump up and down excitedly just at the sight of it.

It honestly couldn't have been easier to set up. I simply took the boom box and power cable out of the box, slotted the power cable into the back, plugged it in switched it on and we were away to go!

The unit has a digital screen to show the track number, a play/pause button, a skip back and skip forward button as well as a stop and power off/on button.

Other than that all there is is a AM/FM switch, radio tuner and volume control and the CD is entered/removed by simply pressing the open button, lovely and simple for little ones to learn to use.

Of course being a boom box it comes with a handle and the option of battery use for travelling - requires 6 C batteries.

The sound quality is very good to my untrained ear, Liv adores the colour, it is nice and compact and an excellent price - just £20! - so we are pleased all round.

There is also the option to use headphones which I'm sure will come in handy as she gets older. 

If this isn't to your taste Asda do a selection of other CD players too.

Thanks Asda!

Disclaimer - I was sent the item for the purpose of the review, however all opinion is my own.

6 Top Tips for Buying Flowers Online

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Buying flowers for a loved one is always a winner, but if you’re looking at buying some online, perhaps if you’re not local to a florist or if they’re for someone far away for example, knowing exactly what you’ll get for your money can be tough.

We’ve put some tips together for buying flowers online as it’s definitely something to think about when buying this gift as you can get great deals, service and good quality ones online.

1. Look into what flowers are in season and where
Even if you’ve chosen the flowers you want them to include, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to if the flowers you’ve selected aren’t in season/aren’t available at that time. There’s a great guide to knowing what flowers are in season here. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask the people behind the website too.

2. Think about your recipient’s tastes and if the site can cater to them
Just because you’re buying online, it doesn’t mean that you have to settle for just the options they have available. If there’s something you’d like to change on an advertised bunch or include, contact the site to see if they can help you. Think about things like what colours your recipient likes, and whether they like really fancy things or more simple things.

3. Shop around for the best deals
There are a whole host of websites out there that offer flowers online by delivery, so shop around to get the best deal. Flowers are one of those things where you will have to spend some money to be guaranteed with good quality ones, so don’t automatically go for the cheapest ones you see. Instead, look for ones that offer good incentives instead, like competitive delivery options and things like free vases/wrapping.

4. Ensure you’ve allowed plenty of time for delivery
Many sites are adapting to hectic lifestyles and you can even get a florist delivery on the day you order on sites like Flowers Same Day. This is great as there’s nothing worse than ordering something and it doesn’t arrive in time!

5. Check the website has a customer services system
As when ordering things online, you will never know 100% what you’re getting, and of course, occasionally, things can go a little wrong. It’s therefore reassuring to know that you’ve got backup and someone that can help if things do go wrong. Check that the site you are using has a good customer services system, and look at things like their customer reviews.

6. Find out how the site delivers their flowers
Depending on the size of the site you are buying from and the location, the way they deliver the flowers may vary, in terms of how they physically take them to your recipient and how they present them. This could be either by personal delivery by the actual florist or it could be via a courier. Check how they look after the flowers during transit too.

In association with flowers same day.

When will I learn?!

Wherever we go, whatever the weather, we always - and I mean always - end up walking for miles and miles. Inevitably in whatever inappropriate footwear we happen to be wearing (flip flops last week on our holiday in Devon!)

We live in North Wales which is renowned for it's beautiful scenery, especially at the peak of our wonderful mountains. We are also quite well known for our lovely wet weather conditions so outdoor clothing and walking shoes really would get used often.

If I've said it once I've said it a hundred times - "we really should get some walking gear" followed by the Husband replying something along the lines of "yeah, next time we see an outdoor shop" - another few months rolls on without coming across such a shop and then we inevitably end up repeating the same conversation.

Well after a discovery this weekend, there will be no more waiting and hoping for a reasonably priced specialist shop to fall into our laps. Why? Because I have discovered that none other than Tesco do a fabulous range of outdoor wear, and a lot of it is on sale at the moment too!

We all need a pair of walking shoes/boots - I particularly like these - mountain warehouse jungle ones, and they are an absolute bargain at half price, just £24.99!

Image source - Tesco.

The below men's waterproof hiking boots would be perfect for the Husband, especially as he could wear them to work in the snow,  he often complains of cold wet feet in the winter. Another half price bargain at just £39.99.

Image source - Tesco.

That just leaves us needing to buy some walking boots for Olivia and waterproof outerwear for us all, which is also very reasonably priced.

I only wish I had seen these bargains before we spent well into three figures kitting Liv out with a hat, coat, gloves and snow boots. Worse still, they will only fit her for a couple of months so no chance of reusing them next year like you can as an Adult.

I will definitely remember where to go next year and send all my Family and Friends flocking to their local Tesco when they see us all cosy and dry in the rain and snow we will inevitably have. There will be no concerns here though, bring it on I say!

Contributed by Tesco.

Getting outdoors more.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

We have made a decision to try to get more outdoors time as a family. Don't get me wrong, we take Liv to the park, walk the dog together and sit with her while she plays in the paddling pool.

But now she is about to turn three - and get her first real bike - I would love to try to go on some short and safe Family bike rides. 

Also living in Wales I have always wanted to take advantage of the beautiful scenery on long Family walks and possibly even climb some of our smaller mountains.

Of course that will mean kitting us all out with the appropriate outdoor clothing from a reasonably priced company like e-outdoor.

I can't see us getting very far at first but starting off small is a start nonetheless! Who knows, we may even be able to rope the Grandparents in and make it a real family activity!
What outdoors activities do you do as a family?
Brought to you in association with e-outdoor.