Friday 28 June 2013

Simon Howie - Scottish meat delivered to your door

Much as I like to save money on my grocery bill, there are some areas where I won't compromise on quality or standard.  I will never, for example buy anything other that free-range eggs and I will choose a cheaper cut of meat from a source with good welfare standards over a 'budget' pack of meat which has been pumped full of water and chemicals and has had a miserable life.

When Simon Howie, the Scottish Butcher asked if I'd like to sample a meat box to review on the blog, I was happy to oblige.  I value traceability and clarity of origin, and would always rather cut out the middle-man of the supermarket giants and buy direct from the supplier - whether that's my fish delivery direct from Grimsby or an organic veg box from the farm.

I was sent the Appetizer Box (value £30) which arrived beautifully packed, nestled among ice packs and kept chilled inside a sealed polystyrene box - all delivered to my door.

Inside was
  • 2 x 280gm Rib Eye Steaks
  • 1lb Steak Pie
  • 1 x 300gm Traditional Pork Sausages
  • 1 Small Black Pudding
  • 220gm Dry Cure Bacon

A truly delicious prospect for our meat-loving family!

First up, we tried out the pie.  Some cooking instructions on the label would have been nice, but I've heated up plenty of pies in my time so I figured it out!  

As it turns out, our daughter could eat this (she has a dairy allergy) - we usually steer clear of pastry but this was made with margarine rather than butter.  It does however contain egg (and gluten obviously) so something to bear in mind if you have allergies in the household.  Although it was clearly labelled on the packaging, it would be useful to have this on the site when you make your order.

The pie was delicious.  Generously thick, light and flaky golden pastry with HUGE chucks of beef steak - the largest I think I've ever had in a pie.  The meat was succulent and melt in the mouth.  I'd have preferred a little more gravy, but it made a tasty and filling midweek dinner served with mashed potatoes; broccoli, carrots and Dijon mustard.

The sausages I'm afraid to say, didn't survive the weekend without me.  I was away at Britmums, and apparently they were calling hubby's name from the fridge, so he ate them. Did he take a photo? No.  Were they tasty?  Apparently so.

Being away meant I needed to use up the rest of the box on Monday night.  Yes, I could have frozen all the items, but I wanted to enjoy them fresh.  So I whipped up the most amazing mixed grill - not really one for the dieters, but a real naughty treat (I promise I was munching lettuce for the rest of the week - ahem).

I had to add in some other sausages - a fry-up's not a fry-up without sausages!  The bacon was sweet, crispy and moist.  I was really impressed with the rib-eye steak.  It's not a cut I tend to go for in restaurants - I tend to stick with sirloin as I've been disappointed too many times by leathery, gristly versions.  This one however, was bursting with flavour and not at all chewy.  The black pudding was a great texture, but I wasn't too keen on the spice, it tasted a bit too Christmassy for me.  

They offer a range of different selection boxes as well as the Appetiser one I tried out.  If my fry-up has you tempted, you might want to check out their Great Scottish Breakfast pack, or if you're planning some summer al-fresco dining, why not one of their BBQ boxes.

Overall, I was very impressed with the taste of the meat, and the quality it reached me in.  I won't be buying chicken, as they do not stock free-range (although they do only deal with suppliers who follow the 5 freedoms guidelines), but for good quality, traceable red meat they are certainly worth a look.

Blog readers can enjoy 5% off their order before the end of July 2013 by using code VIPCLUBJUL13 at checkout. 

Disclosure: I was sent the meat box as described for the purposes of this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday 27 June 2013

More cork crafts - mini-beasts and boats

I was very chuffed to be asked to take part in a craft hangout with Netmums, along with a group of other craft bloggers.

We were given a list of a wide range of recycled materials to chose to craft with, and I picked corks (I wonder why that was?)

Ruby was so happy with the fairy toadstools I made and they are still getting lots of play time out in the garden, popping up here and there to delight the elves so I thought we'd make something else we could play outdoors with.

She helped me to paint the corks in various colours after deciding what bugs the cork shape would lend themselves best to.  Popping them on a skewer like I did with the mushrooms was a very neat and easy way to paint them without getting too messy.  We used a range of acrylic paints.

Once dry, we made the appropriate legs and wings from pipe cleaners.  There was much discussion over who had how many legs.

To make the spider:
  • paint the cork black
  • take one black pipe cleaner, fold in half and in half again. Cut through the loops to make 8 legs.
  • spread out then glue on the underside of the cork.  Add googly eyes.

To make the bee:
  • paint the 'head' black and the 'body' yellow.  
  • when dried, add black stripes to the body
  • take one black pipe cleaner and make a figure of eight shape for the wings
  • glue on and add eyes
To make the ladybird:
  • paint the cork red
  • when dry, paint the 'head' black and add spot details
  • glue on eyes

To make the butterfly:
  • paint the cork in any bright colour you choose
  • take one contrasting or matching pipe cleaner and bend and twist to form the wings
  • snip two small pieces of pipe cleaner and tread on a small bead to form the antenna (note small parts not suitable for small children)
  • glue in place and add eyes

To make the grasshopper:
  • paint the cork green
  • take one green pipe cleaner and cut in half. Bend and twist to make two leaf shapes to form the folded legs
  • take another green pipe cleaner, cut in half and twist together to make the other four legs
  • glue in place and add big buggy eyes

These are great if you leave them on the skewer and you can add them to a pot plant - I think it would make a nice Thank You Teacher gift or grandparent's present.  You can also screw in some little screw eyes (net curtain hanging ones) - they screw in very easily to cork, and tie on some elastic to have them bounce and boing from a tree or the ceiling.

Or how about these cute boats for a super-quick impromptu make.  I'm not even sure I can get away with calling it a 'craft' as it literally takes about 10 seconds, but it's a nice way to use up all those wine corks (ahem), and perfect for floating in a paddling pool or in the bath.

Simply take three corks and secure together with an elastic band.  Add a mast and sail made from a cocktail stick and a piece of washi tape or coloured paper and hey presto.

For more lovely cork craft ideas, check out Red Ted Art's cork knights (so cute and I love how she uses all the pieces from a champers cork) and santa bowling gameKids Chaos printable Father's Day truck card;
The Fairy and the Frog's cork printing and Here Come The Girls cork letter and number stamps.

Please do also watch the Netmums hangout video for loads of other great craft ideas for the summer.

 Red Ted Art shared her favourite crafts using loo rolls - I love her latest loo roll mini-beasts
Ali showed lots of uses for tin cans such as paint-dipped plant pots and a kick the can game
Anthea shared egg box crafts including her fabulous bird masks  and box crafts including shoe box storage shelves and dioramas
Kelly showed us loads of uses for paper plates I particularly love her dream catcher
and novice crafter Rosie did an amazing job with her flower pot made from a tin can, straws and other bits found around the house, proving you really can use all sorts to craft with.

Such a lovely hangout and many thanks to Netmums for having us along.  I really enjoyed chatting to other craft bloggers about their favourite craft (mine is our junk modelling sack) and our most treasured craft (mine is our elephant parade which holds such happy family holiday memories).

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Tidy Time Activity Mat Giveaway

Every now and then a product comes on the market which is so clever and beautiful, you kick yourself a little for not thinking of it first.

The Tidy Time Activity Mat and Toy Cube is one of those products.  A solution born from that age old problem of needing to tidy up quickly, yet still have safe, accessible toys and a play area.  This design was the brainchild of new grandparents.

With many of us nowadays having hard floors, the Tidy Time Activity mat gives the perfect space for young babies to play safely, enjoy tummy time and roll around.  But with this clever mat you can quickly convert it into a stylish storage cube, scooping up all those toys as you do.  So, when you have unexpected visitors, or you're exhausted at the end of the day and want to reclaim your living room into an adult space, you are able to do so quick as a flash.

The mat is available in a wide range of fabrics and they even offer a bespoke service to match your decor and ofter furnishings.  Optional extras are also now available including a waterproof under mat so you can play outdoors, activity arches for added stimulation and matching tummy time cushions.

I think it's the perfect new baby gift, or ideal for grandparents; childminders, aunties and uncles who want to welcome their new family member into their homes.

For a thorough testing and review, head over to My Mills Baby and see it in action.

For your chance to win one of these smart activity mats, simply complete the rafflecopter below by 4th July 2013 stating whether you'd like to win a girl, boy or unisex version.

There's another giveaway going on over at Missing Sleep so head on over there too to double your chances!

a Rafflecopter giveaway With special thanks to Tidy Time for offering this gorgeous prize.

Kiddycharts Blog

Monday 24 June 2013

Magpie Monday - Cupcake Capers

Morning Magpies.

Just a quick post from me today as it's been a hectic weekend at Britmums Live and I have so much catching up to do.

Last week as I was walking aimlessly around town desperately looking for an outfit or two for the conference and bemoaning the state of British fashion, I too refuge in one or two charity shops.

The clothing gods may not have been smiling on me, but back in my comfort zone, the second-hand gods certainly were.  I spotted these two beautiful Laura Ashley sets of felt cakes and scooped them up.

They are brand new and still with their original labels and price tags of (wait for it) £30 each.  I paid a fiver each.  So sixty quids worth of Laura Ashley loveliness to go in the present box for a tenner.

Would you give items you'd bought in a second-hand shop as birthday or Christmas gifts?

If you have any special finds, I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Monday 17 June 2013

I was hypnotised by Sainsbury's!

Yep, you read that right.  I mean literally hypnotised.  Not just stood open mouthed and indecisive at the olive counter (which often happens), but ACTUALLY hypnotised by a clinical hypnotherapist, hooked up to an ECG and everything.

Why?  Well, you may well ask.  It was all to do with latest research just released which shows that good, simple food can have more of a mood-boosting impact that many other everyday pleasures.  The results are quite surprising:

  • A cool glass of lemonade straight from the fridge on a hot day, elicits a more positive physiological effect than receiving a text message from a loved one.
  • Biting into a homemade cupcake is a more pleasurable experience than bagging a bargain in the sale.
  • Taking a freshly baked apple pie from the oven and pouring on cream, gives more happiness than finding all the traffic lights turn to green on a journey in the car.

I have to say, I was dubious that I'd actually be able to be hypnotised.  I wasn't sure if it would work on me at all, but closing my eyes, focusing on my breathing and listening to the calming voice of hypnotherapist Susie Woolf I found myself totally and utterly relaxed.  It was an odd experience, I was still aware of where I was and what was happening, but it became dream-like, as though I wasn't actually in the room.

My heart-rate dropped considerably, and when I was fully relaxed, Susie was able to suggest different scenarios to my subconscious and my reactions where recorded via the equipment measuring my heart and sensors on my finger-tips.

The red line shows my heart-rate. Over on the left-hand side is before the start of the experiment. You can see how it drops and stabilises while the hypnosis technique is being carried out.  The 12 bars from the middle of the graph to the right-hand side are while the different scenarios are being spoken to me, and you can see my reactions to them.

I can honestly say now I'm a convert to the power of hypnosis!  When I was 'brought back' I was instantly hit with extreme pins and needles down my arm and fingers.  I had obviously been leaning badly on my elbow on the chair rest and the pain must have been there for some time, so severe was it.  Yet I'd felt nothing!  A bit like when you wake up with pains from a dead arm because you've been lying on it, but you don't notice it at all while you're asleep.

So, the moral of this rather peculiar day out?

If you want a pick-me-up don't head to the sales, but head to the fridge for a refreshing glass of lemonade or heat up a by Sainsbury's apple pie.  And, look into booking some hypnotherapy sessions - I have plenty of issues to address!

Disclosure: I was invited to take part in this scientific experiment and received a small selection of products.  This post contains my own opinions.

Magpie Monday - Pallet Love

This week is Recycling Week (um, that's every week in our house right?), so after the success of my cable reel table, I thought I'd get thinking about my next project.

Our neighbours have been having a lot of building work done and the one advantage to this is pallets.  Lots and lots of pallets.  They've basically said I can take as many as I want, much to my Old Man's horror, as he comes home each night to find another one dragged to our side of the fence.

My father-in-law is a dab hand at upcycling pallet wood and he's made all sorts - garden planters, benches he even made our window architrave out of old pallets for us.  A sand and a gloss and you'd never know.

I've created a Pinterest board of all the things I'd like to try (apologies to those who follow me on Twitter - I didn't realise my Twitter box was ticked so I've inadvertently bombarded people with pictures of pallets all morning - oops!)

The idea that first spurred on this obsessive collecting of pallets, is the vertical garden planters.  We have an awfully large expanse of boring fence in our back garden and not a lot of planting area, so I'd like to be able to grow salads upright and add a dash of colour with some flowering plants too.

via Pinterest - original credit - Life on the Balcony
But there's loads of other things I fancy having a go at too.  I really like this door mat idea and it would make a great New Home gift for my friend who has just moved.  I'm sure I could make a version out of re-claimed slats??

via Pinterest - Original credit Martha Stewart

Or how about a soppy insightful motto or saying painted on in distressed fashion?

Via Pinterest - Original credit - A Fine Farmhouse Blog

Right, I'm off to get my power tools out and get cracking. Assuming I still have all my fingers and thumbs, I'll see you back next week for more thrifting.

What have you salvaged this week?  If you've found, bought or rescued anything second-hand this week, please grab the badge and link up.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Simple Tie-Dye Gift for Father's Day

Ruby has done a great job on this handmade gift, pretty much doing the whole project herself for Daddy.

She selected the colour she wanted to use - pebble beige - which she said was a 'daddy colour'.  I was quite surprised that she didn't pick a more vibrant one from the hand dye range, and if I'm perfectly honest I'm not sure it was the right shade for the job, but I restrained myself and let her get on with it!

It's not easy to stop myself interfering helping, but she was determined to do this herself, and I guess that's what Father's Day presents are all about.

It's quite some time since I've done tie-dyeing so I consulted the very helpful guide on the DYLON site, which gives all the instructions, and Ruby chose the effects she wanted to have a go at - 'swirl', 'tying' (spots) and 'marbling'.

We used a pack of three cotton handkerchiefs and she set about customising them, scrunching them up and tying with string and elastic bands.

I mixed up the dye in the sink and she stirred it around with a big metal spoon.  I think she may have stirred a little too enthusiastically because one or two of the bands got knocked off, but hey-ho.

Once the time was up, I rinsed them out and helped her remove the ties to reveal the patterns.  A quick wash with laundry powder, dry on the line and then ironed, and they were ready to wrap up for Daddy.

Have you tried tie-dyeing?  We'll be doing this again for sure, maybe with a brighter colour next time!

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

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Win 'The Daddy Effect' for Father's Day

A recent survey by P&G found it was not extravagant gifts, but small, personal treats from their children which make dads feel more appreciated.

Their mission is to make products which make everyday life a little bit better, and this Father's Day they want to treat Dad with a special hamper of treats to spoil him.

Dad's are special, let's show them.

If you'd like the chance to win this goody pack containing

  • Head & Shoulders 2in1 shampoo
  • Shockwaves Re-create Styling wax
  • Gillette Fusion Proglide razor
  • Gillette Fusion Proglide blades
  • Gillete Series moisturiser
  • Duracell Plus batteries

simply complete the Rafflecopter.

Good luck. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were sent a hamper too for hosting this competition. Thanks P&G.

How to make cork fairy toadstools

Do you believe in fairies?

What could be nicer than making them a comfy little fairy ring of toadstools to rest their little fairy bums on?  We play with these at the bottom of the garden, or take them to the woods in the hope that they'll encourage the little sprites out to play.

They are very simple to make, and best of all it's an excuse to pop some fizz - see how we suffer for our craft?

Use a skewer or cocktail stick pushed into the base to make it easier to hold and to dry.  First I painted the corks with 2 coats of white acrylic paint.  Once dry, stick on some 'dot' stickers then paint the top section red.  Again, I did 2 coats.  Once fully dry, peel off the stickers and you should be left with neat white spots.

When they were on the skewers I did think they'd make nice decorations for a woodland themed party, and I guess if you use non-toxic paint you could use them on party food.

If you leave the skewer in and break it off to a shorter length you can spear it into the ground helping to keep them upright.  Or take the skewers out, pop some in your pocket and leave some little fairy rings for unsuspecting walkers to find!

This craft was featured on Red Ted Art's hangout - she has previously made some lovely cork mushrooms and super cute fairies to go with them.  Check out the video and links below for lots of other cork crafting ideas - and hooray for featuring a crafting material that I have an abundance of!

Click the links for full tutorials:

Red Ted Art's cork knights (so cute and I love how she uses all the pieces from a champers cork) and santa bowling game.

Kids Chaos printable Father's Day truck card

The Fairy and the Frog's cork printing

Here Come The Girls cork letter and number stamps

Tuesday 11 June 2013

ActionAid - call to action

Last week I was invited to attend a blogger event with ActionAid, with special guest Fay Ripley of TV and cookery writing fame.

Well, let me tell you, even if it had been her former co-star (the very gorgeous James Nesbitt) stood in front of me butt naked with a rose between his cheeks, I don't think I could have sat up and taken more notice.

What Fay spoke of struck so many chords with me it was like listening to a Clapton guitar solo.  I sat there like a demented nodding dog silently agreeing furiously.  At one point nearly forgot I was in a room of real life people and not on social media, and almost did a double hand arrow gesture and shouted "<<THIS".

You see she was talking about how she got involved with ActionAid, and specifically how she came to sponsor a child.  Living amongst the loveys of North London, she was horrified at the obscene excesses displayed at childrens birthday parties.  The extortionate and frankly ridiculous amount of money spent on entertainers; venues; cakes, food and presents.  After a discussion with her daughter, they decided to do something different for her party and instead of asking for gifts, they asked for a financial donation.  The party was pared down, with no waste or excessive food and the end result meant that they were able to sponsor a child for a whole 18 months on her party donations alone.

As a family we've spoken about sponsoring before and all agreed it would be a good thing to do.  The problem I have with Ruby, is not her generosity or kindness - she'd happily share with anyone - but it's helping her to understand how actions can help and why exactly it's needed.

I think campaigns like this are so much better at capturing people's interest.  How many times have we chucked a quid in a bucket and then walked away not really knowing where that money is going to go?  We make the donation and we wash our hands of the responsibility.  What ActionAid want to encourage is ongoing relationships, both with donors and with the people they engage with like me.  Rachel Beer, blogger, founder of  #NFPTweetup and expert in social engagement between charities and activists hosted a discussion session about how best we could all work together.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who remembers sitting at the dinner table as a child, pushing food around the plate only to be told "you'd better eat that, there's kids in other countries starving who'd be very glad of it".  Honestly, I didn't understand what that meant.  I'd think, "well I don't want it, they're welcome to it - mail it to them."  The concept was too far removed for me to comprehend.  Granted, this was back in the day before Live Aid, before we started seeing shocking images on our TV screens, but still, I think it's difficult for young children to comprehend.

We are not by any means privileged, but we are comfortable.  Never do I have to worry about whether there's enough food to feed the family.  Never has Ruby wandered to the fridge or the cupboard and not found a snack to munch on before dinner.  So living like this, how is she to empathise with those who don't get enough to eat, or don't have safe drinking water, or can't get an education because the closest school is too far away?  Can any of us really comprehend that a child dies every 15 seconds from hunger?

ActionAid's ambassador from Kenya Joy Mghoi Mwakisambi spoke passionately to us and summed it up - when we get up in the morning we have to decide what we'll have for breakfast - will we have toast, or cereal, which of the 5 different varieties of cereal will we choose... For many many families in her community feeding their family is not about what it's about how and if there will be anything to give them.

Joy talked about the work she does in her community as a spokesperson, advising people on their rights and raising their plight to the international community.  She spoke about the impact of industry and specifically bio fuels.  How insane is it that people are displaced to make way for factories which burn food so the West can keep up with their environmental commitments and quotas?  Foodstuff is actually burnt for energy, in the same place where people are going hungry.  The land is leached of all nutrients meaning even if it is returned to it's people, it is worthless as arable land.

Listening to her speak was so moving and humbling.  I felt tears pricking my eyes, not through pity or sorrow but out of respect and admiration for this formidable woman, who will not stop shouting about injustice.  She was quite incredible and her rallying final plea was enough to make me ashamed - don't do it tomorrow, do it TODAY, NOW.

We've talked about sponsoring a child but simply not got round to it before now.  Good intentions are great, but in reality if you don't follow through it simply becomes an empty promise.  And you can't eat empty promises.

Just now, I have sat down with Ruby and looked at the website.  It was too difficult to choose which country to help in, whether a project delivering education; safe drinking water or teaching farming and irrigation techniques was more worthy than another. We had a long discussion, read the information and looked at photos and maps.  In the end, we opted for the 'wherever the need is greatest' option and now I've just had an email to say our sponsorship pack will be with us within the next 5 days.  The pack will have a photo and details of the child we're supporting and we will start to receive progress reports and messages.

We're so excited about getting a letter to find out about their life and we'll be writing to them also.  It's the start of a real long-term relationship between our family and another and I'm so happy we've finally done it.

If you've ever tossed around the idea of sponsorship then I'd ask you to please go an give it another look.  Perhaps like us it was just something you didn't get around to.  Seriously, it takes only a few minutes.

If you are not able to support ActionAid in this way, the please take a look at the If campaign, sign the petition and find another way to help.

Monday 10 June 2013

Magpie Monday - the great outdoors

After our incredible trip to Wales, we are loving all things outdoorsy more than ever before.  You wait, we'll soon all be wearing matching Kagoules and yomping over hills and dales like the Von Trapps.

Mooching round the charity shops on Saturday, I spotted a window display of books.  Being the lazy sod I am, I love it when second-hand shops group and order their books into themes.  I hate having to trawl through shelf after shelf of muddled books - cant they introduce the Dewey Decimal system or something?

Anyway, I gave myself a workout lugging around this selection I chose, particularly the mahoosive Natural History book.

I do think they were rather pricey for charity shop books, but I wanted them, so I paid up.  When we used to do pricing in charity shops, we had a straight forward pricing system of 10% of the RRP, it was easy for the volunteers to implement - a £10.99 hardback book was ticketed up at £1.99, a £4.99 paperback novel became 49p.

My books were priced at £5 for the Natural History of the British Isles, £3 for the Folklore and Myths book and £2.50 for the Woodland Walks.

I don't begrudge it because it's going to a good cause, but I really think some shops would do well to keep their eye on the price of used books on Amazon, and indeed new books in discount stores such as The Works.

Anyhow, mostly the books are great, and will be excellent for planning trips out.  The Natural History book is rammed with illustrated information covering everything from wild flowers and fungus, to natural geographical features and wild animals.

I can see many a happy bug hunt or tasty forage taking place armed with this!

The Folklore book really appealed to me, and it hasn't disappointed.  Covering all the weird and wonderful traditions of this isle from cheese rolling and morris dancing, to reported ghostly hauntings and pagan festivals.  There's a helpful calender of customs and events, so if the urge took us, we could scoot off around the country to catch whatever happens to be on.

The Woodland Walk book was disappointing.  Oddly, I didn't flick through like I usually do before I bought it, I just assumed it would do what it says on the tin.  It doesn't.  I was hoping for detailed walks and routes through the forests, and thought it would be the perfect aid for my reviewing work with the Forestry Commission.

The book was written in the mid-80s, and the author comes across as a sulky, miserable man.  He's very disparaging of the Commission, and writes nasty little reviews about places which simply don't fit with my experience.  Maybe things have changed in 30 years, but certainly I wouldn't recommend the book.  Not only do I not agree with the detail on places I am familiar with, the details are sorely lacking - a brief and miserable paragraph is afforded to one of my local sites, one which we have had many many pleasant visits to :

Maulden Wood:

on the A6 just north of Clophill has a picnic place away from the foul lay-by where you have to park. I suppose it's all right inside: there is a school trail, and a forest walk of 1 1/2 miles, described by the Forestry Commission as pleasant - rather faint praise.

Seriously Gerald - get over yourself!

Anyhow, moving on from grumpy Gerald, we popped to a car boot sale on Sunday - my first of the year!!  I picked up a huge bundle of OS maps, partly for crafty crafting (especially the really old ones), and partly for use on walks.  They were only £1 for 3, so I grabbed loads.

As I was perusing the stand, the Old Man whispered to me "I know that lady selling".  He promptly announced "I recognise some of these from my old Geography field trips", and she looked up and leapt across to hug him.  It was his old Geography teacher, and it was actually genuinely touching to see the recognition.  She was a teacher who had a huge impact on him in 6th form, and in his further education and ultimately his career.  She was chuffed to bits to hear that her subject was being used in his day-to-day work and has invited him back to talk to her students.  A really lovely moment!

Have you salvaged anything lately, or bought something second-hand?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Monday 3 June 2013

Magpie Monday - Kid's Garden Table & Chairs, cable reel upcycle

I thought this week I'd share with you a little upcycle I did last summer, but it's one that is still getting lots of use.

We were given some old children's deck chairs which were found in the loft of a family property in France.  They are a perfect size for Ruby and her friends and cousins, but were not very inspiring to look at.

With a lick of garden paint, and re-covering the seats, now they are perfect for lazy summer days in the garden.

I bought a Gillian Kyle tea towel and used that, removing the original fabric and using it as a template.  Buying linen tea towels is a great way to get designer prints and fabrics at a fraction of the cost of buying it as  material by the metre.

For the table, I used a cable reel that was being chucked out from my brother-in-law's workplace.  You can pick these up often in skips, at the roadside or by covertly driving around industrial estates on a Sunday.  What? Oh come on.  We've all done that, surely?  They come in a great range of sizes and are perfect for tables.

The wooden top and bottom were painted in the same outdoor paint, and I covered the cardboard inner tube with hessian rope.  By far the cheapest way to buy a decent length of this sort of rope is to get window sash cord from the DIY store, otherwise it costs and arm and a leg.

What do you think?

Ruby loves to sit here to eat when we have barbecues, or will set the table up for tea parties for her dolls.  I'm on the hunt for a tiny glass to fit in the centre as a vase, and I think that will finish it off perfectly.

Have you salvaged anything lately, or bought something second-hand?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Nature's Playground

I have a deep-seated fear that we are rearing a nation of homogenised children. Ones that are wrapped in cotton wool, kept away from sharp objects and strangers. Sheltered from the elements, shielded from the sun and the rain. Kept indoors lest they get hit by a bus or snatched by the bogeyman.

I confess, I've been party to this conspiracy, but quite frankly I've had enough.  Kids are bombarded with 'do not run' and 'no ball games' signs, prevented from having fun in school or public spaces to reduce the risk of accidents or litigation.  There are too many 'wet breaks', too many regulations - no snowball fights, no going outdoors without a sunhat and factor 5 million.

Will our kids even know one season from another?  Will they know how to do anything in the real world, outside the confines of a soft play park with it's rounded corners, safety nets and padded bumpers?

Uh-uh. Enough is enough.  This week we ripped up the modern-day parenting rule book and went back to proper childhood adventures and escapades.  Boy was it fun!

Rivers; streams and waterfalls were our paddling pool.

The sea was our swimming pool. Or pure, clean ravines.

We ditched the games console in favour of catching crabs off the quayside and spotting boats through binoculours.

Evening TV made way for watching the birds feed outside our window.  We saw woodpeckers; a jay; robins; swallows; blue tits; coal tits and red kites. Instead of movies at the cinema, we watched the moving pictures from the car window as we wound our way through Snowdonia and down to Cardigan Bay, watching the scenes change from seaside town to rocky outcrops to expansive forests and crashing waterfalls to sweeping fields and vast coastlines.

We swapped traffic jams for - well, a different kind of hold up.

No trips to the park or soft-play purgatory.  We found swings in the woods, or hammocks in the hotel garden.

Mountains and rocks were for clambering and climbing.

We swapped the sofa for huge weathered stones, with far better views.

The kitchen; cooker and dining room was dumped in favour of barbecues, blankets and picnics.

Castles; caves and underground mines were for exploring with awe and wonder.

Sure, it was hard at first.  Trying not to worry about her falling in the water, or bashing her head on a rock, but once you got into the swing of it, loosened the reigns and relaxed, it was the most giddily liberating feeling.  A holiday of memories, of good times and the only tears and tantrums all week were when it was time to leave and come home.

Linking up with Parenting Pin it Party and Country Kids - getting kids outdoors.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall