In Praise of Handbags FalcondaleLife blog

I’ve got a birthday coming up soon and I’d like a handbag. Or two. My family gang up on me over the issue of my handbags. Not one of them – neither my husband nor my two daughters (a teen and a tween) can see any point in my ever having more than ONE handbag, and they like to tell me this loudly (especially the girls). I can just about get away with “special occasion” handbags as extras but for every day ONE is enough, they say. They see handbags as entirely functional, practical objects for Carrying Stuff. If I say I’d like another one, I get laughed at. A zip has to break or the lining come to shreds before it’s acceptable to replace it. Christmas or my birthday has to come around before an extra handbag can be excused. Accessories get very low billing in our house.

Latona Fringe Hobo Handbag House of Fraser

Image Credit House of Fraser

Choice of Handbags

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no dreams of handbag excess, I have no wish to become to handbags what Imelda Marcos was to shoes. I don’t even feel the need to fill one entire cupboard with handbags. I just would like to have an option of large or small, summery or wintery plus a choice of colours. I’m not even asking for lots of fabrics or shapes. It’s the point about choice of colours that I don’t seem to be able to get through their heads. For months I had only a red leather handbag and although it looked great most of the time oh boy, it really looked odd with my favourite turquise trousers. I coped with my colour clashing appearance by not looking in the mirror and just generally hoping that most people aren’t really fashion police.

Linea Tote Handbag

Image Credit House of Fraser

Most women are well aware that a good handbag is a wise fashion investment. You will never get too fat or thin for a handbag. One can improve a drab outfit or pull together a look. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve heard, I don’t think I have ever worn an outfit fashionable enough to be called “a look”). But in my house I am alone in my appreciation for handbags.

Orla Kiely Stem Handbag

Image credit House of Fraser

And the Husband Bought …

I do, however, appreciate my husband’s unique role in my handbag life. That is, he has never bought me a bad handbag. Impressive, huh? I explained to him that I am forever accidentally tipping my handbag upside-down. I just keep putting it on unsteady surfaces and it rolls off and things fall out. So he carefully buys me bags with fully sealing zips, and no little gaps at either end. This, from the man who needs help telling whether or not his green t-shirt will clash with his blue trousers, and yet he has never bought me a naff handbag. I shall keep him.

(not a sponsored post)


Here’s my Pinterest Board called Style – Bags





Father’s Day is just around the corner and quite honestly I find that men are very difficult to buy gifts for. Do you? All the same sorts of Father’s Day presents like socks and miniature whiskeys get trotted out every year. So I’ve been keeping my eyes open for new ideas. I hope you like some of these and there’s something for all budgets.

1. Banksy T-Shirt

Banksy T shirt from Shot Dead in the Head

This T-shirt at £16.99 is from Shot Dead in the Head, an online shop which sells a lot of funny and sweary T-shirts and mugs. There are a lot of wordy gags as well as some smarter visuals like the Banksy T-shirt pictured above. Most t-shirts come in a choice of colours and if you fancy getting one for someone else there are womens syles and sizes too. *NB the website is a little bit NSFW*

2. Weed puller that sounds like a shotgun

Fiskars weed puller a bit like a shotgun

You might remember the TV ad for this one. The Fiskars weed-puller has a kind of pump-action shotgun movement to make the guy next door jealous. It doesn’t shoot anything at all, it pulls the weed gently out and then you have to use the pump action to release it into the bin. It certainly looks like a fun gadget and is really useful in the garden at this time of year. Available for around £28 to £35.

3. James Bond Apron

James Bond apron from Amazon mens gifts

A perfect gift to use for the barbeque or kitchen and pretty suave to boot, this James Bond theme apron is only £4.44 including delivery from Amazon uk and perfect for the kids to buy for Dad on a pocket-money budget. Licence to Grill!

4. Gift Set from the Chilli Jam Man

Chilli Jam Man Fathers Day gift set

We’ve encountered the Chilli Jam Man and his delicious chutneys and jams at a few farmers markets, and they are available in shops too (see website for UK-wide stockists). A Fathers Day gift set includes a selection of three different jars, two sauces for the barbeque and some spicy pork scratchings for £20. The website has a great barbeque recipe for chilli-jam marinated ribs cooked on a garden rake!

5. Leather washbag


Leather washbag from Aldi gift idea

This is a more traditional gift. It’s a leather washbag from Aldi which caught my eye because of it’s classic look. The full-length double zip opening top is really practical and as it’s durable leather this will help guard against damp and spills. It will never go out of style and is available instore or online at £12.99.

5. Rochester Ginger drink

Rochester Ginger non alcoholic drink from The Grape Tree gift idea

This non-alcoholic ginger drink from The Grape Tree is made to a Dickensian recipe and the label claims that it contains “the kick of two very angry mules”! At only £3.99 it’s another idea for kids shopping for gifts on a pocket-money budget.

6. Animal print tie

Animal print ties from Elegant Extras gift idea

Ties are a great gift but they don’t need to be boring. I’ve found a shop called Elegant Extras which sells quality silk ties with animal prints, most very tasteful! There are dogs, horses, chickens, pigs, cows, elephants butterflies and birds of all kinds. There are also ties with sporting patterns and interests like music. Prices range from £16.99 to £38.00.

7. Slab Teak Click Clock

Teak Slab Click Clock from notonthehighstreet gift idea

This stylish slab teak clock is an irresistable gadget with a number display that seems to float magically on the surface. It has alarm settings, temperature display and night-time dimming. It’s sound-activated too, so for added coolness just snap your fingers! Available in several different finishes including walnut and marble, from Not On The High Street for £49.99.

If you liked my suggestions please leave a comment!

Prices correct at time of writing. This post is not sponsored or affiliated. Image credits belong to each individually identified vendor or manufacturer.
















Summer has barely started and we’ve already had both bees and wasps making nests on our property. It’s always a surprise when we find them, after all they didn’t call ahead before arriving! This is the first year we have had both bees and wasps at the same time. When this happens we have to decide if we’re going to do something about the nests. After all, my first thought is “oh no, they sting!” but this isn’t always true.

Bumble bee in flight

They are really hard to photograph! Blurry 🙁

Wasps’ nests

About ten years ago we had a wasps nest in an airbrick outside the kitchen door. They were a small species of wasp and not agressive so at first we thought we could ignore them, but they became so numerous it was a real problem. They got everywhere. My husband put on clothes with elasticated cuffs and a hood and squirted wasp-killing powder in the brick. Then he ran! The wasps didn’t chase him and the nest died. The powder was definitely the right thing to use in the airbrick. Within a week we started getting quite a few spiders and flies and we realised that the wasps had been killing other bugs. You win some you lose some.

We’ve let other wasps nests live undisturbed if they are not in our way and have found that they didn’t last. We were briefly worried last year that a nest was growing but I think it was just a few solitary wasps. I prefer not to use chemicals or kill bugs if I can avoid it. Besides, a few wasps can be beneficial in a garden by killing unwanted caterpillars and aphids.

Bumble Bees

Two years ago some bumble bees made a nest in our extension roof. I didn’t know what to do at first so I took some photos (very tricky!) and identified the species with the help of the internet. They were Tree Bumblebees. I learned that they would only live there for about three months and they are not aggressive. In fact, I can get away with telling the children that bumble bees don’t have stings (my parents told me this and I actually believed them until I was about 30 years old!).

Tree bumble bees in the extension roof

This year the bees are back. They nest in the roof above our sofa and in the evening we hear them making a noise like two balloons rubbing together. It’s kind of cute. They love our blackcurrant bushes and last time we hosted these bees my blackcurrant bush gave me nearly 6kg of fruit instead of the normal 1.5kg. That is an amazing increase in yield, these bees did me a huge favour. This year I’ve netted my blackcurrants already as I’m not prepared to share them with the pigeons!

blackcurrant bush with netting


These bumblebees are so benign that we can sit on the bench right underneath their nest entrance and eat a meal in peace. They don’t like to get too close to us. Just rarely they fly by and investigate. I bet their inner monologue goes like this: “Ooh is that a flower? Sniff-sniff. Hmm. What do you call that smell? BO? Yikes! I’m off!” Most of the bees sound the same but there is one huge one with a deep bass buzz, I call him Barry White. He always makes a bee-line (yes I know) for my neighbour’s blossom tree.

Tree bumble bee in the extension roof

Destroying a Wasps’ Nest with Foam

We had a wasps nest in the garden shed a couple of weeks ago. It took me a while to spot it. I was using the shed and sometimes a loud buzz would make me jump. Eventually I spotted a wasp nest about the size of an apricot in the apex of the roof, just inside the door. That was no good, we couldn’t share this space and they were large wasps.

Wasp nest in the shed

This sort of wasp nest can grow to be enormous. There was nothing for it but a can of wasp-nest destroyer. We used this one from Homebase. It comes out of the can like hair mousse, but there the similarity ends. It covers the nest and the wasps are history.

Foam Wasp Nest Destroyer from Homebase

I have to confess that my use of the word “we” is misleading. You guessed it, my dear husband deals with the wasps. I merely admire the bees and try to learn about them.

We are quite lucky in the UK because we don’t have some of the more large and aggressive species of wasps. Nor do we have wooden houses, which can be damaged by a lot of bee honey or all kinds of insects. A relative in the USA had a lot of bother with a massive bee swarm in his roof. Anyway, I hope my experiences are useful and reassuring. Of course any buzzing insect nest can cause a great deal of trouble if it gets too big or grows in an unacceptable place. I enjoyed reading this article by a photographer who tempted some wasps to build brightly coloured nests.

How to deal with Bees and Wasps Falcondale Life

school holiday planner free printable from

Are you off on your holidays soon? Best wishes if you are. I don’t know anyone who goes away for every day of every school holiday, there are too many. If you have time at home perhaps or have time to kill in the school holidays, how about getting your children to help you plan how to fill the days? When I teach my girls to plan their time I find they don’t respond so well to rigid lists and timetables. They don’t want tick-boxes or calendars with all their time and activities marked out. So using a bit of fuzzy logic I created this school holiday planner free printable, using bubble-thinking techniques. A link to the PDF is at the bottom of this post. It’s not strict or rigid, it’s flexible, flowing and child-led. I’ve aimed it at children aged 8 to 16 but it can be used by younger children too. It could even be used by teachers in their time off!

There’s no right or wrong way to use this holiday planner, you don’t have to fill it all in, you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t do everything you have planned. You’re on holiday! My girls used my original hand-written version to write their own lists, but now I’ve put my years of Photoshop training to good use and made it into a colourful form. You can write straight onto it. If nothing else, it triggers ideas. It should mean that you don’t so often find yourself thinking “what on earth can I persuade the kids to do today?”. It should also mean that you don’t get to the end of the holidays with a child whining at you that they didn’t get to do something that you did not even know they wanted to do. Does that sound familiar?

This is my first printable on my blog, please test it, give me feedback and if you like it do please share!

Here’s the link to download the the PDF:

School Holiday Planner

Several years ago my talented friend Karen the photographer invited me to join Pinterest. You used to have to have an invitation, way back then. I quickly became hooked on this visual social media platform with a link in every image to some fascinating fact or blog or website. I enjoyed curating my thoughts and bookmarks by pinning them to virtual pin-boards. Then I discovered that other people liked to follow me. It’s a bit addictive, like Candy Crush. A few months ago Pinterest changed their algorithm, their categorisations and their popularity index (repins). It’s not much fun anymore; people are not finding me or connecting with me. I had a proper moan about it to the very knowledgable Emma from The Life Edit this week and she looked at me and said “Janet, you should contact Pinterest and tell them”. So I did! Here’s what I wrote.

Pinterest boards image

Has Pinterest Died?

Hi, I am a long-time user of Pinterest and I have been a big fan of the platform for many years, pinning on most days. Up until a few weeks ago I used Pinterest as a private individual, I gained about 240 followers which I think was pretty good – it’s not like I sold my soul to it, but what I was doing was popular with followers. I enjoyed that! But earlier this year new followers just dried up, I haven’t had any new ones for ages. I feel utterly unappreciated! What has changed and why? I used to really enjoy this platform but now there’s little fun in it. It doesn’t spark joy. The life in it has died.

Pinterest appears to have put emphasis on the most popular pins instead of new content. Is that really wise? It makes for a stagnant and stale environment, it’s little different from google images.

Also there’s a lot of encouragement to follow subject areas but how do I get my pins to appear in those subject areas, when the only thing I can do to categorize them is to use the very brief and inadequate list of board categories?

I really feel that the freshness and life in Pinterest has been stifled and the platform has joined the ranks of populist internet curators, which only serves to repeat old material and supress new ideas and creativity. Isn’t that a shame?

Sort it out! Please!

pinterest boards image

Do you use Pinterest? What do you think, has the spark of joy gone for you too?

An open letter to Pinterest from falcondalejan