Thursday, 28 July 2016

A year on the allotment: July 2016

July featured some of the hottest days of the year so far. The warm weather means our crops start to reach peak production. It also means more trips to the allotment to water the plants...which I don't mind as it's better than going to a gym.

This year we've had our first crop of blackcurrants. We've picked loads and I've heard people talking on Instagram about it being a 'good year' for blackcurrants. They are certainly very juicy. I made an apple and blackcurrant crumble with some of them, it was delicious. I don't think I've ever eaten fresh blackcurrants and it packed a real taste punch. Magoo declared the crumble was 'too tasty'...which I think is a thumbs up!

It's also the first year our Gooseberry bush has produced fruit. We've had lots of fat, juicy gooseberries which I made into a compote to pour over fresh yogurt.

Summertime means plenty of people are out and about at the plot. It's always lovely when someone passes on some of their vegetables to us. This year our broadbeans have been virtually wiped out by slugs and black fly. They look so moth eaten and only have a few tiny bean pods hanging off the sides. One of our neighbours felt sorry for us and handed me a bagful of broad beans from his plot. He also gave us a bunch of freshly picked radish. We have some growing on our plot too, but I never like to turn down free veg...

The community aspect of allotmenteering features in my five ways an allotment makes family life better blog post. In my opinion, allotments are one of last true community spaces we have in towns and cities. They are open to all, affordable and act as a green space in urban environments.

Thankfully, the peas Magoo planted in her raised bed have produced lots of pods. The broad beans in her raised bed have fared better than the ones planted out in the main beds. We've been picking a few pods each time we go to the plot. Popping peas straight out of the pod and eating them raw is one of the best perks of growing your own food.

July marks the month when the allotment beds are full to bursting. At this point in time we currently have the following crops growing on the plot:
- Parsnips
- Broad Beans
- Celeriac
- Beetroot
- Sprouts
- Potatoes
- Strawberries
- Butternut Squash
- Runner Beans
- French Beans
- Peas
- Raspberries
- Tayberries
- Rhubarb
- Sunflowers

We've managed to squeeze in quite a few after-school trips to the plot with Grandma. It's always lovely to catch the last of afternoon sun and Magoo loves running around after being in class all day. We're now in the first week of the school holidays and we're planning a visit to the allotment later today. Hopefully there will be more peas to pick...

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Creating a sensory activity for adults living with Dementia

My husband has recently started a new job as an activities coordinator at a nursing home. He has worked as a support worker for many years now and has sung at a number of Dementia Cafes in our local area. I also work as a Shared Lives Carer and support a lady living with Dementia. You can find out more about our caring roles in my recent "It's Cool to be Kind" blog post.

a selection of herbs and flowers used in a sensory activity

As part of his activities coordinator role he devises ideas to stimulate the residents who live at the nursing home. Many of whom have limited sight, poor hearing and often live with dementia. One of the key features of his job is to promote discussion and stimulate old memories in order to try and keep minds as active as possible.

The home where my husband is the activities coordinator subscribes to the Daily Sparkle, a great tool for carers working with the elderly or dementia patients. The Daily Sparkle features evocative images, quizzes and reminiscence articles - all designed to stimulate memories and conversation.

collection of roses, lavender and homegrown herbs used in sensory activity

Taking this idea forward, he decided to create a sensory activity using plants from our garden and allotment. Fragrance and memory can be closely linked, certain smells often act as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience.

homegrown rose used in a sensory activity aimed at adults living with Dementia

At the start of the week I helped him put together a selection of plants...these included:
- A highly fragrant rose
- Sprig of Jasmine
- Bunch of Lavender
- Handful of mint from our allotment
- Fresh Sage
- Fresh Oregano
- A few branches of Rosemary

homegrown jasmine used in sensory activity

It is true that your sense of smell can decline as you get older, but we chose plants with the strong scents. My husband also encouraged the residents to crush the plants, particularly the herbs, to release the smell. The sensory activity using fragrant plants proved to be popular. Those with the ability to see closed their eyes and tried to guess the name of the plant they were holding. Many of the residents have limited sight, so this activity was good for them because other senses like scent become more important.

Also, with limited mobility, some residents cannot access the garden at the home - so the opportunity to smell fresh plants was a pleasant experience for many. As an avid gardener myself, I take the scent of freshly dug soil, cut grass and floral scents for granted. If I were to lose my mobility or sight, then having fresh plants bought closer to me would be an important part of improving my quality of life.

rose, sage and jasmine used in nursing home sensory activity

I thought the large rose would prove to be the most popular scent. I was surprised when my husband told me it had been the fresh Sage that had prompted the most discussion. Many of the residents recalled cooking with the herb, particularly to make Sage and Onion stuffing for Sunday roasts and Christmas dinner. Before the days of packaged food, most people would have used fresh herbs in their cooking.

It's actually really lovely the Sage evoked memories of family meals. I think it's easy to forget elderly people living in nursing homes once had busy lives, running a home, possibly cooking with small children at their feet, multitasking - something many of us are familiar with. I'm glad the Sage from our garden bought back happy memories of families gathered around the dining table.

My husband and I recently signed up to the Dementia Friend initiative. The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is their biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. Please visit the Dementia Friends website and take a few minutes to watch the video or attend an information session in your local area. And then hopefully you will pledge to become a Dementia Friend and help to support people in your community.

This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:
"Happy Days Linky" over on and
"Sharing the Blog Love" over on and
"The List" over on and
"Blogger Club UK" over on, and

Monday, 4 July 2016

Vintage embroidery transfers and my first piece of embroidery

I went up in the loft the other day looking for suitcases. As is often the way when venturing into our loft, I got sidetracked by boxes of nostalgia. Whilst rummaging through one craft box, I was bowled over to find my first ever piece of embroidery. I think it was stitched when I was about eight or nine. The white cotton hankie given to me by my Mum 'to practise on' was still in the embroidery hoop. Exactly as I left it over thirty years ago.

I must've tucked it away when I left home to go to university. It has followed me around several house moves and it was lovely to see it again. Alongside my childhood attempts at embroidery were the vintage transfer sheets I'd used. These were my Mum's from when she first started to sew, so they date from late 1950s to early 1960s. Most of them were free gifts inside magazines, which my Mum must've carefully saved.

I grew up watching my Mum sew and she always encouraged me to have a go. I remember her showing me the 'Mazurka' piece she had sewn as a young teenager. It combined embroidery stitches and applique, I thought it looked beautiful. She made the appliqued piece of linen into a cushion cover and it sat pride of place in my childhood bedroom for many years. I don't know what ever happened to it, which is a shame.

I was in awe of her sewing skills and I must've badgered her to let me have a go. She gave me free rein to search through her delicate embroidery transfers. I was drawn to the flower posy and she ironed the image onto a hankerchief for me. She also gave me the embroidery threads from her childhood, which in turn had belonged to my late-grandmother. I blogged about the tin here.

In hindsight I bit off more than I could chew for a first project and I must've lost interest after a while. It has remained unfinished for over thirty years. I wonder if I could attempt it again now? Even as an adult it looks a bit daunting. Even though it's not complete, I do remember enjoying sewing my wonky satin stitch. As a child I felt relaxed by the repetition of pushing the needle in and out of the fabric. I enjoyed seeing the colour build up on the fabric.

It's something I still enjoy to this day and I have my Mum and Grandmother to thank for instilling a love of sewing at such a young age. When sitting with some embroidery, my own daughter occasionally watches over my shoulder. She is starting to take an interest in sewing. She can even identify some stitches and comments on 'my lovely sewing'...which makes me smile. I hope she will be inspired to be creative with thread too...

Me You and Magoo

I've linked up with July's Crafting is my Therapy with this post. I co-host #craftingismytherapy with Jennifer Jain. The focus of this linky is crafting for pleasure, basically taking some ‘me-time’ to unwind in our busy lives. It doesn’t have to be a finished project, we love seeing work in progress, planning posts or tutorials too.

This week I am linking up with these lovely blogs:

Craft Frenzy Friday over on

Share The Joy over on and

HomeEtc over on

Pick 'n Mix over on

Blogger Club UK over on

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Crafting is my Therapy #6 + Sugru giveaway

Welcome to the Sixth “Crafting is my Therapy” blog link-up.
I hope you’ve had a wonderful month or making and creating.

- June has been a hectic month for me. I have so many things I want to make and not enough time. I’m really grateful I started the Crafting is my Therapy project because it does spur me on to sit down and create. Even if it is just for half an hour. It doesn't have to be a perfectly finished piece of craft, just tapping into your creativity for a few minutes can help with your wellbeing. I did manage to sew this little “Crafting is my Therapy” hoop. It’s embellished with vintage buttons that belonged to my late-grandmother. I am hoping to make a start on a piece of embroidery featuring a butterfly motif in July.

In June we had a lovely selection of crafts added to our link-up.
It was nice to see new craft bloggers getting involved with our crafting community.
We loved seeing everything you’ve created.

This month we are holding another giveaway. The lovely people at Sugru have donated a fab prize. One lucky winner will win:
Sugru Starter Kit
Sugru Magnet Kit
Sugru 8 Pack in a range of bright colours

Never heard of Sugru?

“Sugru is the world’s first mouldable glue that sticks to almost anything and turns into a strong flexible rubber overnight. Invented for people looking to repair and improve stuff, it’s used by people in over 160 countries - from homeowners planning DIY projects through to people making small improvements to gadgets, appliances and even toys.”

Sugru is amazing stuff. Jennifer, my co-host, has used it many times and is a big fan. You can see her crafty Sugru makes here. Sugru actively welcome customers to share ideas with others. You can see tons of ideas on their website...I particularly love their “Craft & Making” section

You can find the Sugru giveaway rules at the bottom of this post...good luck!

Last month we also held a colouring book giveaway. There were 10 posts (not including the hosts) added to our link-up in June. Using the random number generator, I can tell you that the winner is…A Saucy Stitch! Two colouring books will be heading your way shortly.

Have you created anything crafty this month? If you sew, knit, crochet, paint, work with ceramics…please join in and share your blog posts.

The focus of this linky is crafting for pleasure, basically taking some ‘me-time’ to unwind in our busy lives. It doesn’t have to be a finished project, we love seeing work in progress, planning posts or tutorials too.

Grab the Crafting is my Therapy badge:

Me You and Magoo

I co-host Crafting is my Therapy with Jennifer Jain. She writes the popular craft blog Jennifers Little World

Jennifer hosts our Pinterest group board. Would you like your blog posts to be seen by over 700K followers? Craft Bloggers linking to #craftingismytherapy are welcome to join our board. It's a great way for your posts to reach a wider audience...

The “Crafting is my Therapy” linky will open on 02/07/2016 and stay open for the whole month – giving you plenty of time to get involved.

–You can link up with maximum of three posts per month, old or new.
–Grab the linky badge or link back to our blogs on your post.
–Please share the love and comment on other people’s posts.
–If you could share your post and the linky (using the hashtag #craftingismytherapy) on any social media channels that would be great. This will help us to grow the community. We will retweet all your posts via Twitter if you mention us (@pouchvintage/@JenniferJain )
–And finally, if you would like to follow me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, you’re more than welcome! Jennifer Jain’s links are here too: Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Giveaway Entry Rules:
– One winner will receive the Sugru kits described above.
– The winner will be chosen at random from eligible entries to the linky this month.
– In order for an entry to be eligible it must be a relevant post, it must mention the "Crafting is my Therapy" linky either by text link or using the badge. It must link back to one of the hosts. The linky will remain open until 11.55pm (GMT) on the 31st July 2016.
– If the winner does not respond within 28 days we will redraw and reallocate the prize. There is no cash alternative. Invalid entries will be discounted.

Monday, 20 June 2016

A year on the allotment: June 2016

I never cease to be amazed at the growth spurt our plants put on in June. The end of May and early June were really warm and the plot looked parched. Then the weather changed and we've had buckets of rain over the past ten days or so. It's not great for picnics, trips to the beach or festival goers - but it's great for the allotment.

child holds a rip allotment strawberry

One crop in particular loves the wet British weather - the humble spud. The photo below shows Magoo watering the new bed on the 3rd June. You can just see the potato leaves poking out of the soil.

child helps to water the crops on the allotment

Fast forward to the 18th June, just fifteen days later, and you can hardly see Magoo as she weeds the area around the same potato bed. The rate of growth is amazing. We should be able to start harvesting our first spuds soon.

child helps to weed the allotment plot

We've already started to eat our first strawberries - they are delicious. Sadly the slugs and snails have munched their fair share of them. The wet weather brings the slimy molluscs out in force. We did spot a large frog in the strawberry bed. Apart from making us jump when he jumped, I'm hoping our resident frog is making a dent in the slug population...

strawberries ripening in a raised bed

We've also planted out some sprouts. It's the first time we've grown them, so I'm hoping we will be sitting down to Christmas lunch with homegrown sprouts. It's hard to imagine these fairly small seedlings will grow into sturdy sprout trees. If the slugs don't get them first. We don't use slug pellets, so we aim to plant out more than we need, then we can cope with some losses.

brussel sprout seedlings on the allotment

Magoo has her own raised bed and she gets to choose which crops go in there. This year she wanted to grow peas and broad beans. The peas are doing well and we spotted the first pods at the weekend. The broad beans are getting attacked with black fly as per usual. My Mum has sprayed them with a soap solution, so hopefully they will perk up soon.

peas growing up sticks on the allotment

We have a section of our allotment dedicated to flowers. Many of them are native wildflowers and the bees love them. Apart from brightening up the plot, it's important to attract pollinators. A neighbouring plot holder has two bee hives, so there's always plenty of them making the most of our flowers.

native wildflowers growing on our allotment

I've installed these windspinners made with recycled drinks cans by the raspberries and tayberries. I'm hoping they will deter the birds away from the soft fruit when they start to get ripe. If you'd like to make your own windspinners, head over to my tutorial. I'm planning on making more because they look great spinning away in the wind.

windspinners made with recycled cans on our allotment

Magoo did a sterling job helping to clear our ever expanding weed collection at the weekend. I find that the promise of fig rolls and a few jelly sweets help to coax Magoo into assisting Mum and Dad with the weeding. I think her limit is about twenty to thirty minutes of working away with her trowel, which isn't bad for a six year old. Plus we found these pretty blue flowers amongst the weeds. As Eeyore quite rightly says "Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

small blue fower found on our allotment

This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs...

"Country Kids" over on

"How Does Your Garden Grow" over on

"Point + Shoot" over on and

"Making Home" over on

"Whatever the Weather" over on

Thursday, 16 June 2016

How to become a Dementia Friend

As part of my Shared Lives role I support a lady who lives with dementia. I was asked to go along to a Dementia Friends Information Session yesterday. I enjoyed the session and wanted to blog about the knowledge I'd gained and to help promote the 'Dementia Friends' initiative via this post and social media using the hashtag #dementiafriends

The hour long information session, in partnership with Alzheimer's Society, hopes to help make the county I live in a Dementia Friendly Community. My local authority is keen to create a large team of 'Dementia Friends' within the council and key public services.

At the end of the session I pledged to become a Dementia Friend. So what does this involve?

"A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it's like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action - anyone of any age can be a Dementia Friend. Whether you attend a face-to-face Dementia Friends Information Session or watch our online video, Dementia Friends is about learning more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From telling friends about Dementia Friends to visiting someone you know living with dementia, every action counts."

We started the session talking about words we associate with dementia. Nearly all of them were negative. I think for most people, the thought of yourself or a loved one being diagnosed with dementia is frightening. But living with dementia doesn't have to be a completely negative experience.

Over the hour long session we talked about the five main things we needed to take away from the information session:
- Dementia is not a natural part of ageing
- Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain
- It's not just about losing your memory
- It's possible to live well with dementia
- There's more to a person than the dementia

The Alzheimer’s Society would like us to move away from the idea of someone 'suffering' from dementia and think of it as 'living with' the condition. With the right support and initiatives like Dementia Friends, some of the myths surrounding dementia can hopefully be dispelled.

We talked about the five points listed above in more detail, and in a relatively short time, I learnt a great deal. One of my favourite parts was the analogy of dementia and a set of Christmas fairy lights to explain simply how dementia affects everyone differently. To read a full explanation of this analogy you can follow this link. I found the 'fairy light' analogy really helped to clarify the concept of dementia in my mind.

Once we'd completed the information session, we were asked to turn our understanding into action...

Some of the ways Dementia Friends suggest you can do this are:
- Getting in touch and staying in touch with someone I know living with dementia
- Volunteering for an organisation that helps people with dementia
- Campaigning for change, eg by signing up to Alzheimer’s Society’s campaigns to improve the lives of people with dementia
- Wearing Dementia Friends badge and telling 5 friends about the Dementia Friends initiative
- Carrying out a personal action eg Be more patient when out in my community

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is their biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. Please visit the Dementia Friends website and take a few minutes to watch the video or attend an information session in your local area. And then hopefully you will pledge to become a Dementia Friend and help to support people in your community.

The paper doll images used in this blog post were made by my daughter and I over the weekend. Creating brightly coloured chains of people holding hands is one of her favourite things to do. It would be lovely if community focused initiatives like Dementia Friends really took off. I hope so.

In early May I wrote a blog posts called It's cool to be kind: why we should value carers. In this post I mention one of my favourite quotes: “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”. I think that's so true. We've all been in situations where someone's kindness, either from a stranger or someone we know, has changed our day, week or even our life. So please, if possible, pledge to become a Dementia Friend today...

This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs...

"Share the Joy" over on and You Are a Daisy

"The List" over on and

"Blogger Club UK" over on, and

"Happy Days Linky" over on and

Thursday, 9 June 2016

How to make amazing windspinners with upcycled drinks cans

completed upcycled drinks can windspinners

I’m always looking for interesting decorations to put on our allotment.
I spotted some upcycled wind spinners made with drinks cans online and decided to have a go at making some. I’m really pleased with the results and wanted to share the making process in this tutorial.
They are really simple to make and once you’ve made a couple, you’ll get the hang of it.
I hope you enjoy making them too, I think they look great spinning away in the wind…

what you will need to make wind spinner

You will need…
2 clean aluminium drinks cans
10” of stiff wire (I’ve used PVC-coated garden)
Kitchen scissors
Bradawl (a nail & hammer work just as well)
Long nose pliers
Combination pliers (to cut the wire)
Tin opener
4-6 beads (plastic or wooden)
Masking tape
Marker pen

For my wind spinners I have used tall aluminium cans, the type you get beer or cider in. The taller cans make a larger spinner. You can use smaller soft drinks cans if you prefer.

preparing drinks cans to upcycle into wind spinners

Step 1:
Using a tin opener, cut the tops off the cans (ring pull end). Once the top has been taken off, rinse out thoroughly and leave to dry. Once dry, trim down the excess aluminium at the top of the cans.

prepping drinks cans to make wind spinners

Step 2:
Now you need to cut the cans to create 12 fairly equal ‘spokes’. One method is to wrap a piece of masking tape around the can and mark off equal sections with marker pen to guide you. Try to get the spokes as equal as possible, but don’t get too hung up on it. Once the spokes are joined together, the overall effect looks good even if you haven't got every single spoke exactly the same width...

marking off spokes for wind spinner

Step 3:
Once you are happy with the marking off of your 12 spokes, use the kitchen scissors to cut slits from the top edge to within 1/4" from the bottom.

cutting spokes on upcycled wind spinner

Step 4:
Next, open out each of the spokes outward and down. Tip: press your thumb against the bottom of each spoke before bending them out - it will help stop the metal from crimping.

creating wind spinner spokes

Step 5:
Once you have fanned out the spokes, you should have something that looks like this. Repeat with the other can…

fanned out spokes on windspinner

Step 6:
Using the bradawl (or hammer and nail) punch a hole in the bottom of both cans.

fanned out spokes of drinks can wind spinners

Step 7:
Use the long nose pliers to fold over the end of each spoke (about 1/4" is enough). Repeat process on both cans.

pliers bend ends of wind spinner

photos showing process of creating wind spinner

Step 8:
Now you are ready to construct your windspinner by joining the spokes together. Overlap the end of a spoke from one can with the end of a spoke from the second can. Slide the corners together and hold firmly with the fingers of one hand, use the long nose pliers to bend the corner over. Use the pliers to crimp the corner tightly together to secure the spokes.

step by step tutorial showing how to make drinks can windspinner

Step 9:
Move onto the next spoke and repeat the above process. Keep linking the spokes together until they are all joined up. Your wind spinner should now look like this…

completed upcycled soda can wind spinner

Step 10:
Using the long nose pliers bend the end of the wire to make a small loop. Thread 2-3 beads onto the wire and then thread the wire through the holes, top and bottom, in the cans. The wire should now run through the centre of your wind spinner. Thread the remaining 2-3 beads onto the wire.

attaching beads to upcycled windspinner

tutorial making drinks can windspinner

Your wind spinner is now ready to hang either in your garden or on an allotment plot. It is possible to stack 2-3 spinners on top of each other. Just join the wires together or thread a longer piece of wire through the centre. Just remember to thread beads between each spinner or they wont rotate in the wind.

tutorial showing how to make upcycled drinks can windspinner

They really come alive when they are spinning in the wind. So I'm going to try and get a video of one of my spinners 'in action' on our allotment plot...

There you go, a great way to upcycle empty drinks cans…enjoy!

Feel free to pin the image below to your Pinterest, but please link back to this post, thank you!

I'm linking up with...

Trash2Treasure over on

HomeEtc over on and

Making Home over on


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