Wednesday, 4 May 2016

It's cool to be kind: why we should value carers

As I write, my husband is working a late shift as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities. He often isn't at home to kiss our daughter goodnight because caring is a 24/7, 365 days of the year job. It's also a job that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Caring for the sick, elderly or vulnerable is often seen as menial work. People who work in hospitals, nursing homes and social care are often underpaid, under valued and burnt out. And yet the job they do is essential. We may all call on their services at some point in our lives, either for relatives or for ourselves.

I have so much respect for the work my husband does. He supports adults with challenging behaviour and complex needs. His role can involve being verbally abused, physically attacked and calming agitated individuals. It also involves lots of hugs, laughter and genuinely moving moments. Sometimes all in the same shift. Good support workers can change people's lives.

I also work as a carer supporting adults with learning disabilities through the Shared Lives scheme. I offer day support on a one-to-one basis in our own home. I find it challenging at times, but it can enrich someone's life by offering access to the wider community and it provides families with valuable respite. We both get alot of job satisfaction from our work.

As I said above, you certainly don't do support work for the money. But I sometimes wish that caring roles had more value in our society. Somehow we celebrate inane celebrities and people who create wealth for others over those who offer hands on support with the nitty gritty of human life. These are the people who care for our Mums, Dads, siblings, offspring and friends when they need help.

Alongside paid caring staff are the army of unpaid carers. And when I say army, I'm not exaggerating. In the UK today 6.5 million people are carers. They often support loved ones who are disabled, seriously ill or require help in old age. They do many hours of unseen work with little respite. Unpaid carers save the UK economy billions of pounds each year. And many are unfaltering in their support, the suggestion that you turn away from a loved one would be unthinkable to them. Thank goodness there are organisations like Carers UK to offer carers support too.

As part of my "Crafting is my Therapy" project I decided at the start of the year to create at least one sewing project a month and share it on my blog. This month I was inspired to stitch "It's Cool to be Kind" as a tribute to all the kinds acts taking place across the world at any one time. It's a more positive twist on the 'cruel to be kind' phrase. It can be easy to see the world as a bleak place. But there are many selfless people helping and caring for others. Kindness is a trait that is often overlooked, but it's something I value greatly in my own life and in other people.

Last year I visited Banksy's Dismaland and I saw this banner in the Geodome display area. I think the sentiment behind the banner is spot on. I would also add we need to value the people who support those vulnerable people too...

Carers UK

Carers Trust

Shared Lives Plus

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A year on the allotment: April 2016

April is the time when the growing season begins in earnest on the allotment. Suddenly the place becomes a hive of activity with plot-holders digging, rotivating and make a start on planting crops...

muddy homegrown leeks pulled fresh from the ground

Whilst we've done plenty of digging and rotivating, crops are still thin on the ground at the moment. We pulled out the last of our leeks at the start of April. Yes, I know they look like spring onions, but trust me, they are leeks. They actually tasted really delicious.

yellow daffodils grow in the sunshine on our allotment

This April has been particularly cold, so we're behind with planting certain things out. Only the other day I had to do a double take when I saw snow and hail falling outside my kitchen window. Here's hoping May is going to be warmer so that we can catch up with seed planting.

I have planted out some parsnip plug plants, but they look a bit battered in the cold and wet weather we've been having recently. Hopefully they will perk up once some sun hits them. We also have onions and garlic happily growing away. I managed to put in two rows of spuds, but will wait until May to put more in.

parsnip plug plants waiting to be planted on our allotment

We've rotivated most of the open beds on our plot ready for planting. Magoo loves to help with raking the soil, although she often declares that "it's hard work", and she's not wrong. Watering is her favourite activity, but we have to guide her away from the cans. More water is something we certainly don't need at the moment. I'm thinking of putting aside a 'muddy area' where she can pour water and stomp about in her wellies to her hearts content...

Magoo rakes the soil on our allotment

One job ticked off the list this month was painting the shed. Magoo and her cousin did a sterling job of painting most of the wood before they got fed up and started to play hide and seek. Magoo's cousin chose the colour of the paint and I think it looks fantastic, it lifts the whole plot.

our freshly painted sky blue allotment shed

Over the past year we've struggled to keep the surrounding grass from invading our beds. Mr M and Magoo have worked hard this month putting edging wood around the plot. Hopefully this will help to hold back the invasive grasses that can swamp us if we're not careful.

We've also found a great source of cheap woodchip from our local disused quarry. There is a tree surgeon who runs his business from the quarry and there's always a huge pile of woodchip for sale. You can fill a large garden waste bag for just £2, which is a bargain. We've covered the main path running up the middle of our plot so far. We plan to use the woodchip around the whole plot as a mulch to keep weeds and grass to a minimum. Lets hope it works!

spreading woodchip on our allotment path in spring sunshine

evening sunshine on our woodchip path on the allotment

April has been busy month for prepping the plot and we've got lots of jobs done in the lighter evenings. We just need a warm spell in May to get some crop growing underway.

This week I am linking up with these lovely blogs:

Country Kids over on

How Does Your Garden Grow? over on

Making Home over on

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Beach combing, frisbee and messages in the sand

young child throws frisbee into the air against a blue sky

I have taken a complete blogging break over the school holidays. Magoo likes to be out and about as much as possible. Plus my Mother-in-Law came to stay for a week, so I wanted to give them both my full attention. Our holiday was filled with trips to the park, meeting up with friends, walks to the allotment, bike rides, ice creams and lots of trampolining.

We seem to be a little bit out of step with our Easter Holiday break. Most schools had their holidays around the bank holiday weekend. Ours started a week after the Bank Holiday weekend. Although it has been a bit grim and grey at times, we have enjoyed the occasional burst of Spring sunshine.

sweeping photo of somerset coastline towards sand point

Saturday was a bright and beautiful day, so we decided to make the most of the sun and head to the beach near our home. We love this particular beach because there are lots of places to explore. Along the tide line you can often find interesting pieces of drift wood, pebbles in a hundred and one different shades and sometimes the odd fossil.

Due to high tides and Winter storms, the sandbanks were more exposed than usual. It looked like large chunks had been washed away. We could clearly see the exposed layers of sand, stone and shells in the bank. Magoo and Mr M couldn't resist having a dig around to see if there were any fossils or interesting stones to be found. We particularly love finding pebbles containing quartz because they glitter in the sunshine and look like jewels.

coastal erosion on sand banks in north somerset

child and father search for pebbles and fossils in sandbanks

We took bucket and spades, beach mats and a frisbee. Magoo loves the frisbee, and spent quite a while throwing it into the air just for the fun of it. I really wanted to try and capture a photo of the neon pink frisbee against the blue sky and Welsh coastline in the distance.

neon pink frisbee against bright blue sky and welsh coastline

We also spent some time collecting stones to write messages in the sand. I though it might be nice if another family or a dog walker found our 'LOVE' note later on in the day. I hope it survived the tide coming in...but if it didn't, there's plenty more pebbles to write a new message next time we're on the beach.

love note written in the sand with pebbles

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

"Country Kids" over on

"Twinkly Tuesday" over on

"Point + Shoot" over on and

"Whatever the Weather" over on and

"Let Kids Be Kids" over on

"Blogger Club UK" over on and

Friday, 1 April 2016

Crafting is my Therapy #3 + Giveaway

Welcome to the third “Crafting is my Therapy” blog linky.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful month or making and creating.

This month we are holding a giveaway.

Up for grabs is a fab selection of crafting materials including: * Mini alphabet stamp set * Crayola Twistables coloured pencils * Mini cross stitch kit * Blu Tack White Glu * Blu Tack Glu Pen * Blu Tack Micro Dots * Blu Tack Glu Dots * 2 rolls of patterned Sellotape * 3m yellow spotted ribbon * Sellotape tape dispenser and tape

For a chance to win, simply link-up below with your crafty blog posts.

Full entry rules can be found further down in this post.

This month I have been:

- Finding it hard to make time to complete a full piece of embroidery. This month I just haven’t had time to put together a finished piece. Having said that, I have attempted to learn some new stitches. I’m really pleased with the results and enjoyed taking some time out to sew. You can see my embroidery stitches blog post here.

- Over the past few weeks I’ve spent lots of time looking at various embroidery stitches and tutorials over on Pinterest. I made a start on attempting to learn some new stitches over the Easter weekend.

My favourite links from last month’s Crafting Is My Therapy:

– I was really happy to see “Tilly’s Vintage Workshop” linking up with us last month. Tilly Rose wrote this uplifting post about collaboration, the crafting community and the work she has created recently. I’m hoping to see more posts from her over the coming months…

Here are some other crafty corners of the web you may like to check out:

– I saw the Five jawdropping crafts from around the UK article over on Facebook a few days ago. Put together by BBC Arts it shows some eye catching pieces of craft. I particularly like the ‘counter-knit” £10 note…very clever.

– I love the idea of crafting bringing people together. I saw this “Hashtag roundup: Making for others” post on the Mollie Makes website and thought I would share it with you. It details various charity projects and the hashtags associated with them. For example #make2share involves giving an unexpected handmade gift to someone who could do with a boost. There are lots more initivates listed, so I would recommend taking a look at the article.

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

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, I love seeing work in progress or planning posts 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

The “Crafting is my Therapy” linky will open on the first Friday of each month 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 Facebook, you’re more than welcome! Jennifer Jain’s links are here too: Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.

Giveaway Entry Rules:

- The prize is a box of crafty goodies as pictured above. This giveaway is open to residents of the United Kingdom only.

- 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 craft related post, it must mention the Crafting is my Therapy linky, and it must link back to one of the linky hosts, either Me, You and Magoo or Jennifer's Little World. The linky will remain open until midnight on May 3rd 2016.

- You can link up a maximum of three eligible posts.

- 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.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Learning new embroidery stitches: tips and tutorials

At the start of the year I made a promise to myself to make more time for creativity. My aim was to create at least one sewing project a month and share them on my blog. I also launched the 'Crafting is my Therapy' blog linky so other crafters could share their work with me. This month I have been learning some new embroidery stitches.

For many years I have used Backstitch and Blanket Stitch. I feel very comfortable using these stitches and use them alot for sewing text onto fabric.

I wanted to try and push myself out of my embroidery comfort zone and learn a few more stitches. I admire pieces of work which combine multiple techniques and think it's good to expand your embroidery repertoire.

I started out by attempting the 'sheaf filling stitch'. I first found this stitch on Pinterest a few weeks ago and thought it looked really interesting. You can see my first attempts in turquoise thread in the top left of the hoop. I felt all fingers and thumbs and they didn't look like the images I've been studying online. I started to feel disheartened and frustrated.

Thing is, because I love my work to look neat, I've never taken the plunge to try new stitches.

But then if I carry on thinking like that, I'll never attempt anything new with my embroidery. It made me think of the 'strung out on perfectionism' part of one of my favourite Anne Lamott quotes. Being a perfectionist is something I'm often guilty of. I guess there's nothing wrong with wanting your work to look good, but you have to make mistakes sometimes too. Maybe they aren't even mistakes...maybe I invented a new stitch :)

So instead of giving up and falling back on my faithful Backstitch, I decided to carry on. I did another batch of 'sheaf filling stitch' in red thread. This time I felt more in control of the stitch.

I also attempted Split Stitch and Stem Stitch. I quite like Stem Stitch, but didn't feel in control of the direction I was going in and somehow went round in a curve. Need to keep working on that one.

Then I attempted chain stitch and oh my word I think I'm in love. I really clicked with this one and couldn't stop once I started. I could literally sew this stitch all day. It was so satisfying seeing the little chain form on my calico fabric.

I'm always fascinated by the back of embroidery. It often bears no relation to the stitches appearing on the front. Here's the back of my hoop...

In the end, I'm really pleased with my first attempt at trying some new stitches. I went from feeling downhearted to completely relaxed in the space of half an hour of sewing. It goes to show that it's good to persevere when learning something different. I'm already thinking about the next stitches I'd like to attempt.

To help you try out some new embroidery techniques, I've put together a list of places to find sewing tutorials below:

- Top of my list is Sublime Stitching. I love the enthusiastic tone of Jenny Hart's writing. It really spurs you on to try new stitches. Plus her tutorial for chain stitch is so simple, yet effective...

- Next up is &stitches. Sadly this blog has now closed down, but there's a wealth of tutorials to be found on here. Including the 'sheaf filling stitch' I mentioned above.

- Mollie Makes has a fab online library of embroidery stitches. Don't know your Stem Stitch from your French Knot? This is the site for you.

Mollie Makes library of embroidery stitches

- If you want to feast your eyes on literally hundreds of embroidery stitches, then take a look at the craft section of Easy Fresh Ideas. Just looking at the images on this blog post has already inspired me to try out Feather and Web stitch next...

- One great way to practise embroidery stitches is to create a sampler. My little hoop is an example of a fairly basic sampler. Some more intricate ideas can be found on Needle n' Thread. Plus there are some video tutorials on there too if you prefer to see a demostration rather than still photos.

If you'd like to see more of my sewing work and embroidery ideas, head over to my 'Sewing is my Therapy' Pinterest board

Follow Pouch : blogging + craft's board Sewing Is My Therapy on Pinterest.

Grab the Crafting is my Therapy badge:

Me You and Magoo

Monday, 21 March 2016

A year on the allotment: March 2016

March has been a busy time on the allotment. We've been visting the plot three or more times each week. There's loads to do, mainly digging and tidying up after the cold Winter months. Everyone is waiting for the soil to warm up before the planting gets into full swing.

little girl holds garlic cloves in her hands ready for planting

Despite the soil being cold and wet for most crops, we did manage to plant some garlic and onions. Magoo enjoyed breaking the bulbs up into individual cloves. Planting garlic and onions is the perfect gardening job for little fingers.

separated garlic cloves ready for planting on the allotment

a selection of onions waiting to be planted on the plot

Whilst we were busy planting the garlic and onions, Mr. M was cracking on with the digging. I'm glad he enjoys it so much because it's back breaking work, especially when the soil is so damp.

plating onions and garlic on the allotment

Once the planting was finished, we stopped for our all important picnic lunchbreak. Chunky sandwiches and tea from a flask taste so much better in the Spring sunshine.

eating an allotment picnic of doorstop sandwiches

After lunch Mr. M carried on with the digging, closely supervised by Magoo. Plus there was a robin keeping a close eye of proceedings. He darted down and ate one or two fat worms as they were dug up. It's so nice to see these beautiful native birds up close.

digging in march on the allotment

At this time of year the allotment gets regular deliveries of horse manure. Large mounds of the stuff appear from time to time and everyone is welcome to help themselves to it. We filled our wheelbarrow and started spreading the muck onto freshly dug soil. Magoo didn't need to be asked twice to get involved with the 'poo throwing' as she called it. We all agreed she is a pretty good dung flinger.

wheelbarrow full of horse manure waiting to be dug into the soil

spreading mnaure on the allotment

In other exciting news, we finally have a new shed. In my February post I explained how Storm Imogen turned our old allotment shed into firewood. Mr. M and my brother worked for over six hours last weekend putting it together. They are more fiddly to construct than you'd think. It's lovely to have a shed on the plot again and it looks great...we just need to paint it now.

brand new shed on our allotment plot

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

"How Does Your Garden Grow" over on the beautiful

"Point + Shoot" over on and

"Making Home" over on

"Whatever the Weather" over on and

"Share with Me" over on

"Blogger Club UK" over on and

"Country Kids" over on

Friday, 11 March 2016

Gardening in March: confessions of a seed hoarder

I love this time of year. The first hints of Spring are starting to appear. The sun feels warmer on your face, new shoots are appearing and I get a chance to rummage through seed packets.

colourful selection of flower and vegetable seeds

My trusty Mr Men tin sits on the shelf for most of the Winter. It's only in late February, early March that I dust it down and have a look at the masses of packets I've gathered over the years. There's all sorts in there, including sunflowers, cucumbers, salad crops and wildflower mixes to attract the bees. There's also lots of home-dried seeds from plants I like the look of when I'm out and about. I dry them in paper bags over the Winter. If I'm feeling particularly organised, I might even label the bags with what's inside.

using a mr men tin to store my seed packets

I 'borrowed' this tin from Magoo a while ago and she seems happy for me to use it for my seeds. I think it reflects my serious attitude towards gardening...or maybe that should be 'winging it' attitude towards gardening. I'm not Little Miss fact I'm almost definitely Little Miss Busy, which leads me to be Little Miss Scatterbrain most of the time.

planning the plants to grow in the garden this year

Anyway, I'm nothing if not ambitious when it comes to seed planting. The Spring always makes me want to grow tons of different things. In reality, come June or July, I'm usually growing my favourites. Things I know will survive on semi-neglect.

These include flowers such as:

- Nastursiums

- Calendula

- Petunias

- Cosmos

- Geraniums

On the allotment we usually stick to:

- Masses of potatoes

- Wig-wams covered in runner and french beans

- Beetroot

- Garlic

- Onions

- Parsnips

- Courgettes and squashes

- Strawberries

As per usual I've ordered loads of seed catalogues and this year I'd like to grow something new. Hence the carrot seeds. I'm hoping to grow them with Magoo in a pot at home. I've always been put off growing carrots because of the fly they attract. I hate using chemicals, so only like to grow things that are pretty pest free. Anyway, we're going to give the carrots a whirl and see what happens.

Magoo also wanted a homegrown pumpkin for Halloween. Last year we started growing them too late and had nothing to carve in Autumn. This year we'll try and be more organised. Famous last words...

We found a small local nursery that sells strips of vegetable seedlings last year. They worked really well on the allotment. I don't have a large greenhouse so I can't grow loads of things from seed. I'm happy to let someone else do the tricky germination bit and buy the seedlings to save on time and space on our crowded windowsills.

Wish us luck with the carrots...

seed tin with lid open showing selection of seed packets

I'm linking up with 'How Does Your Garden Grow' over on the beautiful

'The List' over on

'Making Home' over on


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