Friday 27 May 2016

A year on the allotment: May 2016

I think May's weather could be described in one word, and that word would be 'changeable'. The end of April saw hail and snow in many parts of the country. We had to hold off planting lots of things down at the plot due to the cold weather.

yellow dandelion worn as a pretty buttonhole on a childs cardigan

Then, from out of nowhere came something of a heatwave. Suddenly we were able to eat our evening meals outside on our newly upcycled cable reel table. As soon as the supermarkets stocked up on charcoal and flip flops, the heavens opened and we had days of wet weather.

The one good thing about warm and wet weather is the plants love it. Alongside the plants we want to grow come the plants we don't particular like, aka, the weeds. I seem to have spent quite a few hours pulling out couch grass this year. I hate the stuff. You only have to leave a tiny bit of root in the ground and it sprouts back up all over the place.

We also have some stonking dandelions on the plot. Magoo loves their sunny yellow flowers and when she says 'I've picked a pretty flower for you Mummy', I almost start to like them. I put this one into the buttonhole of her cardigan and took a quick photo. I think even the humble dandelion can have its moment in the sun...

allotment grown rhubarb in a denby ware pot

We haven't got lots of things to harvest at this time of year, but we have had our first taste of allotment rhubarb. This particular batch came from a neighbour's plot because they couldn't eat it all. It was beautiful stuff, much bigger than ours, so I took an armful home with me. I had it baking in the oven with brown sugar and finely chopped fresh ginger within a hour of picking it.

In my post "Five ways an allotment makes family life better" I talked about the community aspect of owning an allotment. I love the way fellow allotmenteers are often happy to share their crops and knowledge with each other.

chopped up allotment grown rhubarb

Another plant that's growing away happily is mint. The smell of crushed mint leaves is right up there as one of my favourite scents. I've been grabbing handfuls each I visit the allotment. It's great for chopping up and adding to plain yogurt to make a zingy salad dressing. We also made Lamb Koftas at the weekend to cook on the barbecue. You could really taste the allotment mint coming through in the cooked Koftas, it certainly doesn't lack flavour. If you'd like to try this recipe, grab it quick before the BBC 'mothballs' 11,000 of their online recipes

As you can see I always try to find the classiest container to keep my mint in...

fresh mint picked from the allotment

We've been really busy with planting this month. All the spuds are in now. We also planted broad beans, peas and sunflowers from seed and they are all coming up. The peas look a bit moth eaten though. An allotment-neighbour says the pidgeons really love to nibble on the pea shoots. I need to get some bird scarers set up pronto. There lots of great ideas for upcycled plastic bottle wind spinners online, this one from Instructables is good.

I also had plans to make a scarecrow last year and put together a Pinterest board of my favourite ideas...some are very elaborate to say the least.

Another good thing we've discovered this month is a place to source used coffee grounds. My husband is a Support Worker and often visits the local branch of Coffee#1 with Service Users. He noticed a sign saying 'free coffee grounds for your garden' a little while ago and he's been bringing home a steady supply ever since. We used it to mulch the strawberries and they look incredibly perky this year - obviously keen on the caffeine hit. It's also great stuff to add to compost bins because of the high nitrogen content.

used coffeed grounds from coffee#1

I haven't got many photos of Magoo enjoying the plot this month as she had a nasty accident in the playground at school last week. She ended up having to go to A&E to have her nose glued and butterfly stitches applied. She has looked a sorry state for a few days, but is healing quickly now. It wont be long before she's back to climbing on top of the compost bins at the allotment and giving me heart failure everytime she slips off.

Plans for June include getting the courgettes and butternut squash in the ground. We also have runner beans and dwarf beans to go in. Hopefully I will have made some bird scarers and the peas will look a bit more healthy. We're also going to try growing Brussel Sprouts for the first time this year. Obviously we wont be eating them until the Winter, but allotments are all about planning ahead...

This week I'm linking up with...

"How Does Your Garden Grow" over on the beautiful

"Country Kids" over on

"Making Home" over on

"Happy Days Linky" over on and

"Home Etc" over on and

Thursday 19 May 2016

DIY project to make you fall in love with wooden cable reels

One thing missing from our garden is a decent table for outdoor dining. Now the weather is warming up, we wanted to source a piece of furniture that would be robust enough to live outside all year round.

Somerset Wood Recycling is one of our favourite places to mooch around on a Saturday morning. I blogged last year about the wood we bought to make Magoo's upcycled garden swing. They have so many pieces of wood in all shapes and sizes at SWR. I don't have any carpentry skills, but I love looking at the wide range of patinas and grains on display.

However, Mr M does see himself as something of a woodsman. This year he bought himself an axe which we used to break up our allotment shed back in February. I think he has visions of living in the woods, carving his own bow and arrows. At Christmas I also bought him some wood whittling tools and a 'how-to whittle' book. Working with wood seems to be his thing, so he doesn't need much persuading if I suggest visiting Somerset Wood Recycling.

Last time we visited, a large pile of wooden cable reels stacked up outside caught our eye. We have considered making a table from one of these reels for quite a while now.

We decided a few weeks ago to buy the largest reel we could fit in the car. Once it was home, Mr M set about sanding it down. It was always going to be a rustic table so we weren't aiming for a perfect finish. Even so, the reel still had some very rough edges, we couldn't use it as a table until it was smoothed down.

After the sanding, Magoo wanted to pitch in and get involved with the project. Magoo and her dad set about painting varnish onto the wood. This table will sit outside all year, so we want to try and preserve it as much as possible.

And that's pretty much all we did to create a strong, wooden dining table. Over the past few weeks we have used it for meals, playing board games and outdoor colouring sessions. It really adds an extra dimension to our garden and it was a bargain at only £20.

One of the best things about the wooden cable reel is there is a pre-existing hole right down the middle. Perfect for putting your sun umbrella in and no drilling required.

The next stage is to install a patio in the corner of the garden where the upcycled table will sit. We managed to get hold of some amazing slabs from FreelyWheely and they didn't cost a penny.

All in all it has turned out to be a thrifty DIY project. Since getting hold of our reel I have looked online to see how other people have upcycled theirs. There are so many fantastic example out there. We quite like the rustic look of the plain wood, but there is plenty of scope to get more creative with the cable reels. Some ideas include adding mosaic to the top, whitewashing the wood and wrapping rope around the central column.

I love these cable reels so much I'm going to go back and buy a smaller one for the allotment. It will be perfect for putting our cups of tea and sandwiches on...

I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:

"Trash 2 Treasure" over on

"Making Home" over on

"Let Kids Be Kids" over on

"Country Kids" over on

"Sweet Inspiration" over on

"Home Etc" over on

Sunday 15 May 2016

My Sunday Photo 15th May: Big Ted's Operation

girl nurses her teddy bear

Today I assisted a highly skilled nurse in carrying out a delicate operation on Big Ted's neck.

mending a teddy bear

sunday photo of big ted's operation

Sadly his stitching has started to come undone in various places (I know that feeling). He needed a bit of TLC and some urgent surgery.

Once the nurse had carried out extensive observations I moved in with the needle and thread.

mending an old teddy bear

I'm pleased to say that Big Ted has made a full recovery. In fact, he was last seen playing on the trampoline with the nurse and a menagerie of other soft toys...

My Sunday Photo 15th May: Big Ted's Operation

I'm linking up with these lovely blogs:


Point + Shoot over on and

"Let Kids be Kids" over on

Friday 6 May 2016

Crafting is my Therapy #4 + Giveaway

May's Crafting is my Therapy linky image featuring selection of crafts

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

This month we are holding another giveaway.
Up for grabs is a fab selection of crafting materials including:
Stabilo colouring pencils // Blu Tack Glu Dots // Blu Tack Foam Pads // Sellotape Clever Tape // Three rolls of decorative fabric tape // Two Sharpie pens, thin and thick // Metallic marker pens // Pack of ribbons // Large decorated wooden buttons

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:
- Working on my “it’s Cool to be Kind” embroidery hoop. I was inspired by selfless acts carried out by people who are either paid or unpaid carers. Kindness is something I value in my own life and it can often be overlooked. Head over to my blog post to read more. I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject, either as a carer or as someone who is cared-for. I'd also like to hear about experiences where an act of kindness has made a difference to your life.

Last month was our busiest link-up so far. We loved seeing everything you’ve created. My favourite links from last month’s Crafting is my Therapy are:
– I was genuinely moved by Amy Loves to Sew’s post about the handmade artwork she created for her baby daughter. So much thought & effort went into the piece. This is the real beauty behind making something yourself…you can put lots of love into it.
– As a vintage fabric fan, I adored Zeens and Roger’s patchwork knitting bag, head to her blog to find out more…
– The Messy Brunette worked her crafty magic on her haul of prizes won from a blog giveaway. I make no secret of the fact I love her hand painted jars and take every opportunity to tell her so. Hopefully she will put together a tutorial on her blog soon
– And finally, Simply Blossoms blogged about an ingenious way to colour match yarn before you start a knitting or crochet project. Take a look at her post to see the idea in all its colourful glory.

April's Giveaway Winner
Last month we also held a giveaway. There were 8 posts (not including the hosts) added to our link-up in April. Using the random number generator, I can tell you that the winner is…Amy Loves to Sew! A bundle of crafty goodies will be heading her way shortly.

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, planning posts or tutorials too.

Please Grab the Crafting is my Therapy badge:

Me You and Magoo
Giveaway Entry Rules:
- The prize is a box of crafty goodies as detailed 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 or using the badge, and it must link back to one of the linky hosts. The linky will remain open until Thursday June 2nd 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.

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. Want 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 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 )
– 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.

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.

it's cool to be kind hand embridered quote

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. Wouldn't it be nice if success could be measured by the selfless acts you carry out? Care staff 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.

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...

protest banner inside Banksy's Dismaland Geodome tent

Anyone can bring more kindness into their life. I love the idea behind the Random Acts of Kindness movement. The quote I love from their website is: “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.

close up detail of chain stitch on embroidery hoop

"Crafting is my Therapy" is a project I decided to embark on at the start of the year. I wanted to create at least one sewing project a month and share it on my blog. I like to jot down phrases or quotes that mean something special to me. I then embroider the words onto vintage fabric or calico and display them in a hoop or attach to a canvas. I am a big fan of the Craftivist Collective who believe "craft can be used as a tool for gentle activism". I think words can be powerful, they make us think and reflect on certain aspects of our lives.

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.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject, either as a carer or as someone who is cared-for. I'd also like to hear about experiences where an act of kindness has made a difference to your life.

Carers UK
Carers Trust
Shared Lives Plus
Random Acts of Kindness

embroidery hoop featuring chain stitch and back stitch

This week I am linking up with these lovely blog:
"Making Home" over on
"Magic Moments" over on
"Happy Days Linky" over on and
"Share With Me" over on
"The Truth About..." over on
"Blogger Club UK" over on and

"The Prompt" over on
"Candid Cuddles Quotes" over on
Brilliant blog posts on


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