Friday, 26 August 2016

stitch and forage

I've known Hannah at Seeds and Stitches for about five years; we met when I stumbled across her wonderful blog in 2011, and bonded over crafts, the environment (although she's far better at her ethical efforts than I am!) and gardening. She's now working as a stylist and writer, and has teamed up with Natasha Richardson of Forage Botanicals (definitely check out the podcast if you haven't already - there's so much to learn) to produce a summer e-course titled Stitch and Forage.

Made up of four modules, the course teaches you how to pass the summer in a more ethical and thoughtful way, focusing on crafting, cooking and enjoying the natural world; working through each section you'll learn to make simple sewn projects, discover the joys of foraging for food and find out how to make the perfect fire. As well as the tutorials, there are also added extras such as printables, planning guides and resource links, so everything is as easy as possible, even for the absolute beginner.

As we're heading towards the end of the summer, Hannah and Natasha have reduced the cost of the course to £15 - but it's only available until August 31st, so don't leave it too long to take advantage of such a brilliant bargain!


Thursday, 25 August 2016

saving the bees with Taylors Tea

I've not had much success in the garden this year; I've not had the time to dedicate to growing lots of veg, and to be honest I've really missed the evening watering and the gentle therapy of digging, but I did manage to get some flowers planted - I always choose the ones marketed as 'bee-friendly', because the thought of living on a planet where bees have declined by 50% in the last twenty-five years is frankly terrifying. We've got several large lavender bushes, a huge (I'm talking tree-sized!) fuchsia, towering 6ft hollyhocks, laden with palm-sized pink flowers, and some deep purple and pink veronica, and I also added some bishop's weed, trailing lobelia, alyssum and nasturtiums. The RHS have a brilliantly comprehensive list of plants and flowers that are perfect for our pollinators, and can be found at any good garden centre or DIY store - you can find it here.

The plight of the bees is something that people are starting to take more seriously, and quite rightly; bees are largely responsible (with some assistance from butterflies and other insects) for pollinating flowers and crops - they're natures way of providing us with food, and without them, we're looking at a very bleak world with rising food prices and increasing chemical use. Taylor's Tea, famous for their incredible fruit and herbal flavours (we've been drinking the sweet rhubarb every summer for years!), have dedicated their most recent campaign to saving the lives of bees everywhere, with their 'Grand Beedapest Hotel' - it's one of the most impressive and intricate things I've ever seen, so do make sure you watch the video below!

When they got in touch and asked if we wanted a bee hotel for the garden, I jumped at the chance (they also included a few boxes of tea, a beautiful handmade mug, a beeswax candle - my favourite! - and some wildflower seeds); we nailed it to a small piece of dowel, and nestled it amongst the lavender, mint and hollyhocks ready for the bees to move in. Bee hotels are vital for the survival of lone bees - while most tend to reside in a hive, there are a few that choose to go it alone, and bee hotels give them somewhere to nest and shelter. They're also great for urban bees that live in cities and towns, because they replicate the natural environment that they choose to live in.

I think this is probably one of the best campaigns I've come across in a long time; you all know I'm mad for nature and the environment, so this really made me smile. For more information on any of Taylor's wonderful teas, or the campaign, head to the website - you can even win a trip to Kew Gardens! 

Many thanks to Taylor's of Harrogate for collaborating with me on this post. I was honoured to be included in the campaign! 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

summer fun: staunton country park

If you don't like flowers, then you're probably not going to like todays post much - so sorry in advance for being a botanical bore!

I've lived round the corner (and I do mean literally round the corner!) from Staunton Country Park pretty much my entire life, and I'm ashamed to say until recently I'd never been. (Actually, my Mum said we went on a school trip when I was in the infants, but I definitely don't remember that!) It's a really great place to go for the day; there's a whole load of farm animals that you can feed, two giant play areas for the kiddos, plenty of outdoor space to explore and roam, and the most beautiful walled garden I've ever seen. Something for everyone!

We bought some grass nuts on the way in, and the kiddos had a grand time pottering about feeding the sheep and goats - they made the most of the walk-through encounter area, where the animals were roaming around. (I stayed outside with the bags and prayed that nobody trod in anything nasty!) I left the three of them at the adventure playground and wandered round to the garden, which was HEAVEN. It was a beautifully warm day, and the air was filled with the heady scent of lavender; the tallest aliums waved in the breeze alongside deep purple spires of Veronica, and a sea of golden flowers nodded their heavy heads. I could have quite happily spread out a blanket and taken a nice long nap!

We've decided that we're going to make more of an effort to start venturing out to new places; it's easy to fall into the habit of going to the same old favourites, but that's not much of an adventure is it? I've got a whole list of houses, gardens and outdoor spaces to visit, and this Saturday we're off to Lewes for a look in the independent shops and cafes (the weather has forecast rain, so why not!).

Whatever you're doing, have a wonderful weekend - I've got some great posts lined up for next week; a shop feature, book reviews, and a few other things. Hopefully I'll get them finished in time!


Friday, 12 August 2016

summer fun: the Hogwallops and some beach time

Hello! I've not been around for absolutely ages - I tend to be an even worse blogger over the summer than I am usually! As well as still having to work, both kiddos are at home at the moment, and there's pretty much never a time where I'm going to stay in at the laptop to blog rather than going out in the sunshine with them. I think now more than ever I'm aware that childhood is fleeting; Daisy is starting school next month and Ben moves up to Juniors, and this sort of feels like a 'last' holiday - even though it obviously won't be! - but I wanted to make sure we all enjoyed it.

We've not been anywhere exotic, so if you're holding out for tropical photos, you're going to be disappointed - none of us have passports (yes, really!) and we seem to always be more on the skint side. We're really lucky with where we live though; Portsmouth is an hour away from London, Brighton and Bournemouth, and ten minutes in any direction can take you to beautiful beaches, rolling countryside and lovely towns - and we've had some pretty decent weather this year as well.

Ali had the week before last off work, so we planned loads of day trips and had a mini local holiday - starting with a trip to the circus on the Saturday. The lovely folks at Hampshire Cultural Trust had got in touch a couple of weeks before to see if we'd be interested in going to see a slapstick comedy circus show, and of course, we were - acrobatics and humour, what's not to love?!

The Hogwallops is performed by the very talented Lost in Translation circus, and tells the story of a family of misfits and their attempt to celebrate Grandpa's birthday; over the space of an hour, we watched incredible balancing, spectacular aerial acrobatics and impressive tumbling - and on top of that, there was the ongoing mystery of the stolen banana. The whole thing was brilliant, and I know the kiddos loved it purely because neither of them moved for the entire time (massively rare!). What we also thought was great was the seating layout; both of our kids are pretty fidgety (especially Ben, being autistic), so I always dread any kind of event where they need to sit in an enclosed space for a long period of time - but they'd arranged the inside of the big top with a row of folding chairs at the back, and then left lots of open space at the front to spread blankets and cushions for people to really get comfortable. There were people with small babies who were rolling round happily, younger children sitting cross-legged and older children lounging on piles of cushions - it was probably the most comfortable performance I've ever been to!

We've been to a few circus events before, but I think this one was the most enjoyable so far - the length of the show is ideal for children, and it's nice that there's a story to follow rather than just series of tricks and acrobatics - I think perhaps that's what kept the kiddos interested; they wanted to see where the banana ended up and what happened in the end! I can't think of a better way to have kicked off our stay-at-home holiday, and we thoroughly enjoyed it - if you ever get the chance to go, do!

On Sunday, we woke up early to glorious sunshine, so we threw everything in the boot and headed off to Whitterings for breakfast. Just twenty minutes away, this gloriously sandy beach has rolling dunes, beautifully clean water and plenty of opportunities for beachcombing, and the drive is one of my favourites - lots of thatched cottages, winding paths and open fields full of wildflowers. Heaven!

Hope you're all having a good summer, I'll try not to leave it so long between posts next time!

Many thanks to Hampshire Cultural Trust for sending us off to the circus - you certainly got our holiday off to a good start!
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