Tuesday 28 May 2013

Tuesday Treats - Half Term Holidays

It's time for Tuesday Treats again, the weekly feature of great reads brought to you by myself; RuthBecky and Chris.  Yet again my turn has fallen on a Bank holiday week and we're currently sunning ourselves/sheltering from the rain in north Wales.

So this will be brief I'm afraid, but these are my favourite reads of the week.

First up is Annie from Mammasaurus.  We both saw the Channel 4 program Skint last week, and I found it a pretty tough watch. What was much harder however was the unbelievable reactions displayed on Twitter.  I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through this sensible and compassionate post.

My next recommendation is the Country Kids post by Coombe Mill.  Running a weekly linky myself, I admire Fiona's dedication to the cause.  Personally I think she deserves an award for encouraging so many families out to have fun in the great outdoors.  I enjoyed this week's post particularly - I've stayed at Coombe Mill Farm and remember the hills well, so I know that cycling up them is for the super-fit only!

I have to share with you this amazing looking cake from Aly at Plus 2 Point 4.  I don't think there's much that she can't make in a slow cooker, and this delicious orange and courgette cake rather proves the point.

I adored this post by A Residence of their trip to the Viking Spring Thing at Sherwood Pines.  Her stunning photos capture the awe and wonder in her children's faces as they watch history come to life.

Finally, I need to mention Ali's amazing craft post at Kids Chaos.  Joining in with Red Ted Art's weekly craft hangout, she came up with the most incredible bi planes made from lolly sticks and pegs.  They really do look gorgeous, and put my little boats to shame - although hers don't actually fly.  Just sayin.

Last but not least, I saw this brilliant video shared by Emily from A Mummy Too on Facebook.  If you Instagram you'll recognise yourself in this hilarious send-up.  Take a look.

That's it from me, enjoy the holidays.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Bestest ever car tune

The good people over at Carcraft are on the hunt for the nation's favourite driving song.

You know, the one that makes you want to wind down all your windows, belt it out full volume and get funny looks from fellow drivers at traffic lights.

In a bid to keep everyone happy in the car, there are a few tunes that are pretty much guaranteed to please both us and our five year old.

Ruby's favourite song is I bet you look good on the dancefloor by the Arctic Monkeys, and I felt pretty proud that at aged 4 she could hold her own singing the lyrics.

We like a bit of Kings of Leon; and The Jam are always good for some car seat boogieing.

Wayne's World stylee, Bohemian Rhapsody has to rank up there pretty highly, although I do get a bit nervous when hubs starts headbanging at the wheel.

We have a CD in the car of local band Sister Ray which is also a firm favourite, regularly requested in the car.  I think the female lead has now gone solo and performs as Genna Marabese - check her out if your musical taste is of an avant garde nature.  I like her a lot.

However, there is one clear leader in the best car song stakes.  Much as I love ANY remix by Mark Ronson, the version of Valerie by much missed Amy Winehouse will always get everyone singing along.  Everyone - even me, who doesn't even sing in the shower.

Disclosure: This is a featured post in association with CarCraft.  All words and dubious musical choices are my own.  Please see my Disclosure Page for further details.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Room makeover on a budget

The people at Moneysupermarket have challenged us blogger types to makeover a room with a budget of £50.  Now, I'm always up for a thrifty challenge, but up til yesterday I feared I'd bitten off more than I could chew...particularly as I'd just fallen off the step ladder for the 2nd time and was doubled up with post-ceiling-painting-neck-cramp.

Can I start off by saying, I'm not proud of this appalling state of affairs, but in the spirit of before and after shots, I have to show the 'before' at it's absolute worst.  Right?  That's how it's done?


Our much neglected downstairs loo, whilst being the smallest room in the house, is probably the one with the most roles to fulfil.  We've done nothing to it since moving in nearly 2 years ago, and I'm sad to say it has been very badly treated.  As well as being our downstairs toilet, it also houses all our coats (and hats; scarves; wellies; smelly trainers etc). Added to that it's the laundry room as the washing machine is situated there, it's where the dog sleeps and has her food and water bowls, and the previous occupants obviously had grand ideas of it being a wet-room - yes there's a shower too!  I guess you'd call it a little undefined...

Because it wasn't serving any of it's purposes well (and it's all too easy to simply shut the door on it), it got used as a dumping ground.  Shoes are slung in there; dirty gym kit waiting to go in the wash gets chucked on the floor; the overflowing coat cupboard meant that coats are hung from any available place, or stuffed on top.  My wine-making equipment had taken over.  Good grief, there was even a string of garlic hanging off the shower - don't even ask me.

Yep, it was time to tackle this mess!


The simplest, quickest and cheapest way to improve a room is to have a damned good sort out.  De-clutter; re-organise; re-arrange and deep clean.  So that's what I did.  Everything that didn't belong in there was given it's marching orders, then the place was scrubbed from top to bottom.  The windows were cleaned inside and out.  The washing machine was cleaned inside and out; the floor scrubbed; the tiles cleaned and buffed to a shine.  Vanish is great for stain removal and luckily I'd been sent some so I used that to deep clean the dog's bed.

Ordinarily I wouldn't start painting on a quick makeover, but there was no choice here.  The walls were covered in filler and bits of bare plaster where the previous owners had removed something from the wall to take with them.

Both the walls and ceiling were a dull buttermilk colour, so I used some white emulsion I had left over from previous decorating to paint the ceiling, and asked nicely for a pot of bright yellow paint for the walls - well, it was doing nothing in my father-in-law's garage!  It has made SO much difference.  It's so much brighter and lighter in there now, and it feels sunny and cheerful.  It's not a colour I'd use in a room that you live in, but here where most of the walls are tiled, and being a room which won't be occupied for any length of time, it's fabulous.


I'm not a huge fan of net curtains, but being downstairs and having a toilet and shower, it needed something, so I chose sunny yellow voiles for the French doors, and they too give a lovely light to the room.

Although this room is actually a new extension, the previous owners loved their period features and obviously spent a lot of time sourcing items from architectural salvage yards.  The improvements allow these antique pieces to shine.  I added a vintage toilet roll holder which I picked up at a car boot sale for £1, and various other stuff I've obtained over the years!

The canvas was from BHS, and the song is special to us, so I had to buy it!  It makes me smile every time I see it now.

The washing machine was already housed inside a tall cupboard, and now I've sorted out all my laundry products, it's great to have them all on-hand, but out of sight.

The whole place is clean, fresh and organised.

Finally, it is what it should be.

Total spend:

Loo roll holder - £1 car boot sale
Canvas print - £15 BHS
Voiles - £5.85 eBay
Shower curtain - £10.99 Dunelm Mill
Coat Hooks - 3 x £3 from Tiger (mounted on skip-found wood)

Total = £41.84 - the rest went on chocolate chip cookies for the worker's many tea breaks.

What do you think?  Better before or after?  What are your top tips for thrifty decorating?

Disclosure: Thank you to Moneysupermarket for providing the £50 for this makeover challenge.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Sailing down the river - lolly stick boats

The challenge for this week's craft hangout with Red Ted Art was lolly sticks (or wooden coffee stirrers if, like me, you have kleptomaniacal tendencies when in local coffee shops).

Some fabulous ideas shared again, check out the video and links below.

I wanted to make something we could take outdoors and play with, to extend the activity further.  I tried a kite but it was a disaster (combination of size of kite; lack of wind and distinct lack of high hills round here).

So then I struck on the idea of making little boats that we could take to the river and race.

They are super-easy to make.  For speed I used a glue gun, but if the kids are involved and you have a little patience, PVA glue will work fine.

You can come up with all manner of designs with the humble lolly stick and for older children it's good to experiment on what designs and size works well, what floats best and what sails fastest.

Kids can personalise their sails with drawings or stickers or you can use decorative paper, tissue paper or even re-use old plastic bags.

Then take them to the river and...on your marks...get set...GO!

This activity brought out rather a lot of competitiveness (particularly from Daddy it has to be said), but rather like a jockey-less horse, my view is a capsized boat isn't the winner - even if it does come first.

We had some rather persistent interference from a local swan too, so next time we'll take bread to throw him off the scent.

We had such a great time sailing our boats and it's definitely something we'll do again.  Just as soon as I've purloined more sticks.

**Think safety first near water***

Click on the links to see instructions for all these craft stick ideas:

Beautiful bi-planes by Kids Chaos
Red Ted Art's Traffic light biscuit pops and superhero puppets
Craftulate's Craft Stick Magnets
Plus 2 Point 4's snowflakes
Easel photo holders by Zing Zing Tree

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monday 20 May 2013

Magpie Monday - Dyeing for a new lease of life

Today's Magpie Monday comes from a plea for help from a friend.

She had a whole load of lovely Egyptian cotton towels which were too good to throw away, but were beginning to look worse for wear.  They were actually a wedding present so have done remarkably well for 9 years of use, and were in considerably better nick than most of my towels.  They were still soft, fluffy and absorbent, but were no longer sparkly white.  So instead of getting rid of them and buying new ones, she asked for my help dyeing them.

DYLON machine dyes come in a huge palette of colours, and she chose China Blue which is fresh, clean and bright, and will also match her bathroom decor.

If you've never tried machine dyeing, then I'd urge you to have a go.  It's easy and quick and as long as you follow the simple instructions, you can't really go wrong.

First we weighed the towels dry to work out how much dye we'd need.  There were 2 huge bath sheets, 1 bath towel and a 2 hand towels, so we split it into 2 loads and used 2 packs of dye in each machine load.  The towels were then washed as you have to add them to the drum wet.

Into the machine drum we added 1 kilo of salt and the contents of 2 packets of DYLON machine dye.  Then the wet towels are added and we ran a 40 degree wash.  Once the cycle is complete, wash again on 40 degrees.  And that's it.  It really is that simple.

Using DYLON dye won't damage your machine.  Once you have finished, run another wash at 40 with detergent to make sure any residual dye is gone and then your machine can safely be used again as normal.

So if you have any cotton towels; bed linen or table cloths that are looking a bit jaded, but are still in good condition, don't chuck them out but try giving them a new lease of life with a DYLON colour.

NB: always read the instructions before use.

Disclosure: I have an ongoing relationship with DYLON - please see my Disclosure Page for full details.

Have you rescued or reused something this week?  Grab the badge and link up.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Win a Discovery Pass with the Forestry Commission

Regular readers will know that as an official Forestry Commission blogger, we visit our local woods often, and I want to encourage you and your family to do the same.

Not only is it a magical, adventurous place to spend time but a recent scientific study has now proved what I've always firmly believed - spending time in the great outdoors is good for you!

"...new research reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine now provides scientific proof that walking in nature and spending time under leafy shade trees causes electrochemical changes in the brain that can lead people to enter a highly beneficial state of “effortless attention.”

"...Entering this state of effortless attention can occur in a variety of ways—walking in the woods, hiking along a trail in a totally natural environment, or sitting by a stream watching water tumble over rocks. It seems that the experience of being in nature is transformative in and of itself—it can cause a person’s emotional state to be uplifted and mental balance to be restored. Being in nature is truly refreshing in a very deep, meaningful way." 

A discovery pass is a great way to gain year round access to your local Forestry Commission site in England, as well as helping to contribute to it's maintenance.   It gives you free car parking; seasonal newsletters and a range of discounts both on and off site.  The cost and benefits offered vary from site to site, so check out the forest map to see what's available in your locality.

If you'd like to win your very own Discovery Pass and open up a world of woodland adventure, complete the steps on the rafflecopter below.

One winner will be chosen at random after the closing date of midnight on Friday 24th May 2013.  Open to UK entrants only.  The prize will be supplied and fulfilled by the Forestry Commission and the winner must respond with their full contact details within one week of being announced.  The winner's name will be posted here and announced on Twitter.  Only one person per household may enter.  No correspondence shall be entered into.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday 15 May 2013

What does 'buying local' mean to you?

We've all heard the expression, but what does it actually mean in practise?

Does it mean you buy your spuds from the farmer's market rather than the corporate giants?  That you frequent your local coffee shop rather than one of the chains?  Or is it broader than that?

I tend to be drawn to products from companies and businesses with a local connection.  Let's face it, there isn't much in the way of manufacturing left in this country, but I still find myself parting with my cash easier if it is a brand who is part of my community or has some kind of home-town connection.

I live in Bedfordshire.  Always have.  So have my parents and my in-laws.  I've lived and worked in Luton, as have my parents; my partner; his parents and our siblings.  For us, brands like Electrolux, Vauxhall and Whitbread (or Charles Wells for the Bedfordians) will always be thought of as 'local' even if they are global industries.

The Electrolux factory was manufacturing vacuums and washing machines in Luton from 1927 - 1998, and even though they no longer produce goods on site, it is still home to their headquarters.  It was a huge part of the landscape of my partner's childhood, being practically on his doorstep.  He remembers community events in the sports and social club, and meeting the Spurs team and Ossie Ardiles there after a game against Luton Town.

So for me, if I'm looking for a new washing machine, induction hob or even a pint of beer, I like to go with a company that is supporting the local economy and workforce.

How about you?  Do you feel a sentimental draw to certain companies connected to your home town?

Disclosure: this is a featured post brought to you in association with Electrolux.  Any musing and reminiscing is purely my own.  Please see my disclosure page for full details.

Chill Factor Slush Making Cup

Sometimes you see a gadget that just looks too good to be true.  Well, I thought this would be one of those. Something which promised amazing things but failed to deliver.

We were asked to review the Chill Factor Squeeze Cup from Character Online, and of course I said yes.  Ruby loves slushies but after the scary blue poo incident following a trip to the cinema, I've always steered her away from them.  I mean, what's in those things??

The idea of making our own at home, and the control I'd have over what went in them was very appealing, but still I had my doubts it would actually work.

While she was at school, I popped the squidgy cup in the freezer in preparation for home time.  Yes, I guess it's a bit of a fag having to remember to freeze it in advance, but it's no different really from remembering to fill up the ice cube tray so you have a supply for cold drinks.

Once the cup is frozen, you fill it with squash, or juice or whatever drink you want.  You then squeeze the sides (I found that the sides were a little too frozen solid to squeeze, but scoodging it at the bottom and pushing the liquid up over the icy sides worked perfectly).

As a side note, it's an interesting practical science experiment to see how water expands as it freezes and the volume increases - what fits easily into the cup as liquid squash, fills up and over the brim as frozen slush.  "Yeah whatever Mum, what does it taste like??"

Well, it's safe to say it's a huge hit.  The scoop straw with comes with the cup is perfect for slurping/munching and spooning the slush; it's easy to clean; comes in a range of bright colours and allows you to make much healthier versions of slush drinks at home.

I can't wait to get it off her now and make some frappuchinos - oh no wait - frozen daiquiris!  Now you're talking.

Disclosure:  I was sent the cup for the purposes of this review however all views expressed are my own and are honest.

How to make simple felt mice

These little chaps are so quick and easy to make that they're breeding like nobody's business in our house.

Felt is such a great material to work with.  It's cheap; it cuts easily; holds it's shape; doesn't fray; can be glued or sewn and comes in a huge array of colours.

Watch the craft hangout video below for loads more cool idea and felt crafts.

To make the mice you will need:

Felt scraps
Embroidery thread
Buttons or beads for eyes (optional)
Stuffing - poly-fill toy stuffing or use cotton wool.

For each mouse you will need one large circle of felt and two smaller ones.  I drew around a cup for the body and a 2p coin for the ears, but make them whatever size you want.

Ruby managed to sew a couple herself, they are that simple.  She needed a little guidance, but this was a great project for her first proper sewing with a real needle.  For an adult, you can knock one of these up in 5 minutes.

Fold the large circle in half and stitch around the edge, stopping about halfway to stuff with filling.  Then continue sewing to the end, tie a knot and leave a length of thread for the tail.

Next, sew on some eyes, either using small buttons/beads or just with knots. Take the smaller circles and pinch to form the ear shape then sew one each side.

In the video, Maggy shares her felt strawberries and doughnuts; Christmas decorations and pine cone fairies.  Ali from Kids Chaos makes some great character finger puppets - love the Yoda! And Anthea from Zing Zing Tree makes some beautiful felt flowers and pinwheels which can be used for jewellery; hair accessories and gift wrapping embellishments.

What's your favourite felt craft?

Monday 13 May 2013

Magpie Monday - Wine Box Woes

Now, I like a nice wooden wine box as much as the next guy, but do I want to pay a tenner for one?  I mean really?  For something that is essentially just packaging?  No of course not.

I've always tried to sweet talk my way round wine merchants in their little shops to let me take one or two off their hands, but they've got wise to the fact that they can make spondoolies on eBay for them.

The other weekend, while mooching around a nice little market town, me and a friend happened to pass of Off Licence which was packing up and shipping out.

The door was open and a stream of people were loading up display stands and merchandise into the back of a van.  There were a few sorry tins of larger rolling about on the floor, but never before had I seen a sight as sorry as the two supermarket shopping trolleys inside piled high with shards of wood.

Someone had taken a hammer to all the beautiful wooden crates and smashed them to smithereens.  I could have cried.

I tried to show the necessary compassion for the owner who's business and livelihood had obviously gone down the swanny, but actually I wanted to slap him for his wanton destruction!

I managed to spot one unscathed box and asked nicely if I could have it, wished him well for the future and skulked off.

So, what to do with my wooden crate?  First I know I need to remove those dodgy metal staples, but for now it's housing my magazines.  I could put it to use to hold my bottles of home brew (which incidentally tastes pretty good, even if it does make you feel like someone's given you two dead arms after half a glass).  I might have it next to the fire to hold logs.  Or I may use it in the bathroom to hold loo rolls like this.

There are lots of great ideas on t'internet, and I'm quite liking the idea of a pet bed like this one by Glam Mutts - although there's no way my big oaf would fit in there, perhaps better for a cat?

My dawg might quite like this raised feeding station though. Check out this tutorial to make your own by Design Sponge.

And I adore this stylish bike accessory upcycle (bwahaha) by Field Guided.

Or maybe I'll just look out for a few more and wall mount them for storage/book shelves.  Who knows.  Do you have any other ideas for me?

Have you managed to rescue anything lately.  Grab my swanky new badge to go with my swanky new blog and please do link up.

All change for Me and My Shadow

I'm so excited to finally be able to reveal to you my swanky new look blog.

What do you think?

Isn't it lovely?

I just want to stroke it all the time.

I might crack open a bottle tonight and toast it.

It's all thanks to the very clever and lovely Violet Posy who has shown infinite patience with my Luddite ways.  I want to thank her so much for bringing order and calm to my little online space; for totally 'getting' what I wanted when my technical vocabulary is severely limited, and for generally being a top bird.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Ahh Bisto makes midweek family meals special

Bisto are on a mission to free the gravy from the boat on the table at Sunday lunchtime, and are encouraging us to embrace it's versatility by using it to pep up midweek family meals.

Now to be honest, Bisto is not a product I generally use.  It's funny isn't it, how you get into your own little habits making food a certain way.  I guess most of us cook the way our parents cooked for us, I know I do.  To make gravy for a roast, I use the meat juices from the roasting pan, add a splosh of wine and a bit of water from the veg and Bob's your uncle.  My mother-in-law however, swears by Bisto gravy powder.

The trouble with making gravy the way I usually do, is that it's tricky to make it for any dish other than roast meat.  So if I wanted to make a sauce for a pie or gravy for a Shepherd's Pie for example, this is exactly where I can now see the advantages of Bisto's granules.

They recently enlisted Home Economist Sue Ashworth (she worked on all the recipes for the Change 4 Life Campaign) to produce some new recipes for tasty, homely family meals, focusing on traditional dishes, with a bit of a Bisto twist.

She came up with the delicious 'Marvelous Monday Pie' pictured above, which makes great use of leftover meat/chicken and veg from the Sunday dinner.  I love to make pies for dinner and kids love to be given a bit of leftover pastry to roll and cut out for decorating the top.

We got to sample these tasty treats, including Midweek Chicken Roast with Roasted Vegetables; Cottage Pie with Butternut Thatch; Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy and Shepherd's Lost His Sheep Pie (a Quorn based veggie version of the old favourite).

Toad in the Hole is one of my all-time favourites.  I'm definitely going to give this version a try, and I know my daughter will love the fact that it's made in individual dishes, so she gets her own mini portion.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

4 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 pork sausages
110g (4oz) plain flour
1 large egg
300ml (1/2 pint) milk
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
4 heaped teaspoons Bisto Favourite Gravy Granules
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 220°C / fan oven 200°C / Gas Mark 7.

Put a teaspoonful of vegetable oil into each of 4 individual baking dishes (metal ones are best for batter). Put 2 sausages into each one, then bake for 6-7 minutes while you make the batter.

Put the flour, egg and milk into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Beat with a whisk to make a smooth batter, then add the spring onions and rosemary or thyme. (You could make the batter in a blender or food processor if you prefer).

Pour or ladle the batter into the piping-hot baking tins, returning them to the oven as quickly as possible for best results. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the batter is puffed-up and golden brown.

Just before serving, make the gravy. Sprinkle the Bisto Gravy Granules into a jug and add 280ml (1/2 pint) boiling water, stirring until thickened and smooth. Serve with the “toads”.

Cook’s tips:

Try not to open the oven door while the toads are cooking – or else the batter may not rise.

For a vegetarian version use meat-free sausages, though bake for just 3-4 minutes before adding the batter. Make the gravy with Bisto Vegetable Gravy Granules. Remember, to make thicker gravy just use extra granules.

While the toads are in the oven, cook some vegetables to accompany them – such as cauliflower, sweet corn, mixed frozen vegetables. 

How do you add a bit of 'ahh' to your meals?

Disclosure: I attended this cookery demonstration at my own expense.  I received a goody bag of products, but no financial reward.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Upcycled Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces - How to make photo keyrings

I buy lots of vintage jigsaw puzzles from car boots and charity shops, but sometimes I buy a dud and there are pieces missing.  So, what to do with odd bits of puzzles?  I'm sure you all have them - random little bits lying around missing the rest of the picture, or maybe like me an almost complete puzzle, rendered useless by one or two missing bits.

Red Ted Art challenged some bloggers on her latest craft hangout to come up with some repurposed makes, and I have to say, they are inspired. Scroll down to the video and links below to see them all.

I've made some interconnecting photo keyrings.  Pick the right image and you've got yourself a great Fathers Day; Mother's Day; Grandparent's Christmas; Anniversary etc etc handmade gift.  Imagine doing these over a complete puzzle with a large group photo - wouldn't that be lovely for an end of term gift for school friends using a class photo.  Or use a snap from a birthday gathering as a 'thank you for coming to my party' keepsake.  When the photo subjects get together, maybe in years to come, they can join up their puzzle to make a whole again.

For this craft you will need:

Interconnecting wooden puzzle pieces
Printout of a photo cropped and scaled to size
Mod Podge or watered down PVA
Keyring finding

Select your photo and scale it to size.  I just used my home printer and bog-standard copier paper and it turned out just fine.  The original puzzle image was already peeling from my old pieces, so with the aid of a steam kettle, I removed it completely.  But if yours are intact, just glue your photo over the top.  Position your puzzle pieces over the section of the image you want to use.  Trace the outline of the shape onto the photo.

Carefully cut out the separate photo pieces (tip: cut inside the lines, but don't worry too much as you can always trim off any excess with a craft knife later).

Glue your image in place on the wooden pieces, carefully sliding into position.  Then varnish over with Mod Podge (or use a PVA and water solution).  Varnish several times for durability allowing to dry between coats.

Once totally dry, trim off any excess paper from the edges with a craft knife.  Use strong glue such as epoxy resin to glue on a jewellery bail to the back of the wooden piece and add a keyring chain.  Alternatively, you could drill a hole and add the keyring with a jump ring.

The keyrings are completed - one for Daddy of his daughter for Father's Day, and one for Ruby of her Daddy for her book bag.

Take a look at the hangout video for more great ideas on how to repurpose jigsaw puzzles.


Red Ted Art's puzzle snowflake decorations, coasters and fridge magnets
Kid's Chaos printable greetings cards
Zing Zing Tree's aliens and fab resin creations
Crystal's Tiny Treasures brooches
Domestic Goddesque's stick puppets

Last ditch plea... The Blogging in Brilliance Awards close for voting on 10th May.  If you enjoy my crafty capers I'd really appreciate your vote for Me and My Shadow in the Craft category.  You can submit your vote here. Thank you x

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Stable Yard, Hatfield - independent shopping at it's best

I was recently invited along to a press day at Stable Yard, a beautiful shopping venue within the splendid grounds of the Jacobean Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.

I must admit, although it's not far from me, I haven't visited the house for years, and now with a young child I don't imagine walking around a stately home is top of her list of fun things to do.

That's why I was so impressed with Stable Yard.  It's a standalone venue, which you can pop into even out of season when the house is closed.  Full of boutique and independent shops, a fabulous restaurant and even their own children's farm and outdoor play area (entrance fee applies) there's something to keep everyone entertained.

Stable Yard is open Tuesday-Sunday 11am to 5.30, with free entrance and free car parking.

Stop for a coffee or meet friends for afternoon tea and delicious cakes at the Coach House Restaurant, and peruse the delights in shops such as The Oak Room which sells a range of beautiful home ware, haberdashery and gifts.

Get garden inspiration from the Burston Garden Shop, and even pick up a tasty treat for dinner from Frank the Butcher - sausages are made on site to his own recipe and I can personally vouch for them!

Stable Yard Music offers lessons, instruments as well as recording space and children's parties.  There's a huge range of different specialist stores nestling in the converted buildings - a traditional sweet shop; goldsmiths; art gallery; toy shop; gift store and antique centre.

In a world where we are used to shopping in High Street chains, the unique products and personal service is very welcome. The relaxed atmosphere makes time spent here a real pleasure.

There are regular Farmers Markets and Antiques Markets at weekends and every Tuesday crafters can drop in to their sessions to pick up tips and inspiration from others.

Stable Yard is a real hidden gem, go check it out!

Disclosure: I was invited to an event and lunch.  No financial reward was received and all views expressed are my own.

Tuesday Treats - May Bank Holiday

It's time for Tuesday Treats again, the weekly feature of great reads brought to you by myself; Ruth; Becky and Chris.

I don't know about you, but I find holiday weekends so busy, and with not a lot of time to read favourite blogs I hope I can pinpoint some must-reads for you, and save you missing them.

First up, I'm so thrilled that this lady has started blogging.  Family Days, Tried and Tested has up to now been a Facebook page, but she's taken the leap and started a blog.  Let's show her what a warm; welcoming and supportive community we are - go visit!  The Facebook page has been such an inspiration for me with simple ideas on how to make the very best of the outdoors - from taking a portable tin can marshmallow toaster out on a walk, to hauling out an inflatable paddling pool, piling it high with cushions and watching the stars under the night sky.  I guarantee you'll be outside trying these out before you know it.

Damson Lane has been out and about this weekend enjoying the sights that Butterfly World has to offer.  This attraction is not far from me and it's one that I've always fancied visiting, and this review has only spurred me on to go there.

Purple Mum has been enjoying the forest, and the kids made a beautiful woodland crown while they were there. Why do I never get organised enough to take materials with me?

Since the whole world seems to have exploded with daisies and dandelions with the advent of the sun, Cerys at Rainy Day Mum shares her 10 flower craft ideas - loads of great kid's crafts to make the most of nature.

Kylie over at Kykaree has a fabulous fundraising idea to raise money and awareness of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, and if you're in the Manchester area she's calling for people to help her with her yarn bombing project, decorating an area with crochet.

The Brick Castle shares a recipe for Ice Cream Bread - yep, that's right!  With plenty of it in the freezer this time of the year, I think I might give it a go.

Michelle at Mummy From the Heart has a lovely competition on her blog to win a personalised fingerprint keyring - in time for Father's Day.  Be sure to enter that one.

And finally, my lovely friend Chris Tea and Cakes has for a long time been sharing her purchases of retro bed linen on my Magpie Monday linky.  I've always wondered what she's going to do with it all, and she shows off the gorgeous dresses she's made for her little girl - I have a Care Bear duvet cover now pleading with me to get the machine out, and now also a summer skirt for herself.  How great are they?

Hope these little blog finds have got you feeling all summery.  Have I missed out your favourite post from the week?  Please share it in the comments below.