Friday, 31 May 2013

Pretty Garden on a Budget

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If you are trying to update your garden there is absolutely no need to spend heaps of money, have a look at some of my ideas based on the past 6 years of gardening at my current house.
 Pretty garden
Pick your plants carefully. Don't just turn up at the garden centre and grab what you like. Draw up a list of the areas of garden - sunny, shady, waterlogged and research what plants go well. I have lost many plants over the years by spending without thinking. Also, if you have children think about how robust the plant is. I spent a lot of money on beautiful alliums only for an over eager 3 year old to pull their heads off when my back was turned. Of course that's it now until next year, game over. Whereas my row of chives that produces hundreds of flowers can take a few cheeky swipes. Herbs are great doers in the garden and are tough - thyme, mint, lemon balm, lavender. Pick plants/shrubs  that earn their keep, big gestures for a small amount of money like verbena bonariensis, lavatera and buddleja. Local nurseries are a lot cheaper than the garden centres - usually 50% less. Also the pound shops have shrubs that with some tlc can do well in your borders. I bought a gooseberry from a cheap shop and with a bit of fertilizer it is in top condition now.
 Laying paving slabs
Check Freecycle for old sheds, paving stones, plants and bricks etc. You would be surprised at what people have lurking in their garden that they do not want anymore. For our summerhouse I put a request onto Freecycle for paving stones. We ended up collecting 30 from a local house- this would have cost me well over £100 and for something that isn't seen like the base of a shed it's an expense I didn't want. 
Pale Tulip seeds
Buying seeds and bulbs are cheap ways of growing plants. Shops like Wilkinsons are brilliant for getting bargains - 99p packs of seeds and tulip bulbs. Or your local garden centres usually sell the more expensive seeds at 50% off in the autumn - that is when my dad buys all his vegetable seeds for the allotment. Save seed from the flowers you currently have growing too at the end of the season, keep them in little labelled envelopes ready to sow again. At garden shows, look out for seeds being given away as freebies. To grow them all in, the cheap plastic greenhouses are so handy and will last a good few years.
 Garden Bird Decorations
There are so many cheap and cheerful decorations to be found from solar lighting to wall art. I look to bargain shops like B&M, Quality Save and pound shops for items to liven the borders or patio up and perhaps provide structure and interest when it's winter. These types of shops are also great for cheap garden sundries like plastic pots and tools. I buy cheap plastic pots and spray them or paint them with tester pots or leftover emulsion. I've currently gone yellow crazy with Plasti-kote on cheap containers. Much cheaper than the posh glazed pots and I don't have to worry about kids or dogs knocking them over and breaking them.
Bunting instantly cheers up a garden and costs hardly anything if you save scraps of material. The humble jam jar with a tealights plopped into them make the most sweetest nighttime lights on your patio.
 Seashells in a plantpot
Don't rush your garden. It can be tempting to want to have a Titchmarsh style makeover but give it time. You'll be amazed at how quickly gaps fill and planting too much initially leads to cramped conditions and ultimately plants dying through competition. I buy plants when I am on holiday in the UK and it's a nice reminder of where you went. My red veined sorrel in the wall container will always remind me of the sweet honest stall near Corfe Castle in Dorset. Collect shells and pebbles from the beach to decorate your garden with too.
Divide up your own perennials or take cuttings. Having plants repeated throughout the garden is good design and also good for your pocket. Ask friends and family to donate any plants they have an abundance of. In our garden we have plants from our old house, both sets of parents houses and friends. It's a great way to bulk your garden up.
 Tyre Planters
I save all sorts to use in the garden - bits of cord and ribbon to tie plants in, lolly sticks for seed labels. I reuse plant pots time and time again for growing my seeds in. Check with your local council for composting schemes. Many sell composters at a much reduced price and of course making your own compost is a great way to create your own free soil improver.
Brick edging
Reuse old materials you have creatively. Our small front wall that collapsed became a circular lawn edge and the edge to a kitchen garden bed too. The coping stones are now used as a feature in our side return with ferns growing around them. That saved the hiring of a small skip and has added character to the garden.
 Benjamin Bunny
Use old wellies for petunias, sinks as herb gardens, collanders as hanging baskets. Use anything, just drill holes into the bottom for drainage and anything can be used to grow in. Pallets used as upright planters (check them out on my Pinterest board) are a great focal point or use a pallet to make a bug hotel with the kids. We have used old pallets to fence off our decking area and make a little gate which cost nothing but time.
Be cheeky and ask for plants for birthdays or hope that guests turn up with the odd gift :) Enter competitions on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs - so far this year I have won several items for the garden including a cherry tree, cold frame and gnomes!

For all sorts of other money saving ideas, check out the Pinching Pennies website.

Vanish Review - pretty tea towels and grubby knees

Vanish Oxi Action
I love days where I can get all my washing done and then hung out on the line to dry. A full washing line is one of life's beautiful sights or is it just me that feels that way? :) What I do not like quite so much is when my washing efforts don't remove stains. It's a real annoyance, even down to the tea towels, which to me are often pieces of art - ruined by certain people in my household using them as a quick cloth to wipe up any old mess. Vanish asked me to try out their stain removal products so I have tested it out on my recent washes.
Vanish removes stains
Whilst having a bit of a pyjama day, Little Bird decided he would escape to the muddy garden. For five minutes it really wasn't worth the battle so I let him enjoy his quick run around. However, he came back in, after of course falling over, with big dirty black knees. The soil is very clay-like and is a pain to get out of clothes, so here was my first test.
Vanish in action
Mixing 1/4 of a scoop of Vanish Oxi Action powder (the pink tub) to 3/4 warm water using the handy scoop included in the tub, make a paste and rub the stain with the scoop (it has a nobbly base). I left this for a few minutes and then put into my dark wash load with another scoop of powder. You can see in the above photo that it brought the worst of it out, there is still a little bit of a dark smudge but perhaps I will try soaking them next time. An improvement on past washes with just my normal washing powder. 
Vanish Oxi Action Crystal White cleans up kids shoes
I hate it when Little Bird's pumps get all grubby looking. To be honest they weren't that bad but I wanted to see how Vanish Oxi Action Crystal White fared with its promise of  up to 3 shades whiter. The picture speaks for itself and I was very pleased with how clean they look. I'm going to have a blitz on all our bedding next which always seems to look a bit grubby. 
Removing tomato stains
Now my precious tea towels! I like buying ones with fun illustrations and slogans so they look all pretty hung over the side of the sink. Frequently they get covered in curry, bolognese and oil. It never comes out. Sure enough it didn't take long for one of my favourites to be used to wipe a Little Bird free of tomato ketchup. Feeling very cross I took a piccy to show how it was and set about soaking it 1 scoop of Vanish Oxi Action in a bowl of warm water. After a wash with another scoop of Vanish - look, look. look!! It all came out! So pleased with this. Nana Bird is now going to buy some after I told her of how it removed the dreaded tomato sauce. I like keeping my clothes and homely items pretty so Vanish is a winner and I would use it again. 

The Vanish site has an extremely useful guide to removing spillages on clothes, carpets or upholstery such as coffee stains and red wine stains with plenty of handy tips.

Vanish provided me with samples of their Oxi Action Stain Remover for the review but it is my own honest opinions and all the words and pictures are my own.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hoops and Crosses Lunchbox

Owl Bento Hoops and Crosses This is my entry into the Tots100 #HoopsandCrosses competition

Ham and cheese sandwiches, red pepper and cucumber crudités with Hoops and Crosses, ham flower, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries and kiwi fruit. Twit twoo.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Turkey and Cheesy Courgette Meatballs

 turkey meatballs
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For the turkey meatballs:
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2tbsp vegetable oil
1 small courgette, grated
500g turkey mince
Breadcrumbs from 1 slice of brown bread 
1tsp paprika
 1tsp turmeric
1tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1tsp garlic powder
1/4tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1 egg
40g grated cheddar cheese

For the tomato sauce:
1/2 onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves, crushed
tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oregano
Glug of olive oil
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Gently fry the onions and garlic with vegetable oil
Meanwhile grate the courgette
In a large bowl mix together turkey mince,courgette and breadcrumbs 
Add all the spices and the garlic powder
Add the egg and the grated cheese, mix together
Add half of the sautéed onions and garlic, mix
Form the mixture into small balls and place on a baking tray
Heat the oil and fry the meat balls for 15 minutes, browning on all sides.
Whilst the turkey meatballs are cooking make some tomato sauce
Using the rest of the sautéed onions and garlic, add the chopped tomatoes.
Bring to a simmer
Add the sugar, oregano and a glug of olive oil
Serve the sauce with the turkey meatballs and a warm pitta.
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Perfect for my Little Bird as it is a meal that can be ready within 30 minutes and I'm sneaking some vegetables in there too.
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This post is an entry for BritMums’ Summer Turkey Recipe Challenge
The Lean on Turkey website has lots of other exciting turkey recipes, nutritional advice and lots of hints and tips.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Hunter Wellies

 Hunter wellies

Quick, quick if you love Hunter wellies, go to Sitting Pretty blog where the lovely Claire has a fantastic giveaway of a pair of Original Tall Hunter Boots.

Perfect posh wellies for the allotment or festivals - although I have yet to go to any as yet. Perhaps in a few years I will take Little Bird to one of the kid's festivals.

Good luck if you enter. xx

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

May Days

 May garden 
 Kings Choice Tea  Sweet Peas  Path  Tomatoes  Tulips  Pelargoniums  Evening Garden
It's still a bit nippy but the garden is coming alive. Plants I had forgotten about, weeds that I'd rather forget and some new additions. I always buy Pelargoniums/Geraniums (which one? I never know) and plant up the window boxes and pots as they last for months and the slitherers don't munch them.

Still plenty to do. Seeds to sow for a cutting garden, play houses to finish decorating, gravel paths to put down. My tomato seedlings did not germinate so I've cheated and bought tomato plants. To be honest, I never have much luck with tomatoes.

Little Bird is happy on the days he can mooch around the garden although he has developed a love for taking flower heads off - my poor tulips. 

Joining in with Mammasaurus and How does your garden grow linky. There are some lovely garden to look at over there. 

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Curried Scrambled Eggs

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As a vegetarian I use eggs in many of my main meals as a great source of protein. Daddy and Little Bird are not vegetarian but several times a week it is easier to cook just the one meal that suits us all. One of my favourite egg based recipes is Curried Scrambled Eggs. Little Bird likes a bit of spiciness to his food so he loves this meal and it is very quick and easy to make. Of course you can make it spicier if you like but we just put a bit of chilli with Little Bird being only 3. 
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Ingredients (serves 4) 
4 eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 pepper (I used red but green is fine too)
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 tsp Turmeric 
1/4 tsp Ground Coriander
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
Chopped fresh chilli or Easy Chillies (I always have a jar of these) 1 tsp or more if you're brave
Fresh Coriander, chopped
Salt, to taste
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1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the onions, peppers and the chillies.  Fry until golden.
2. Beat the eggs and put to one side.
3. Add the tomatoes and all the spices, stirring to ensure they do not burn.
4. Stir in the eggs and cook until they reach your desired consistency. Should take no longer than 5 minutes.
5. Season as required and add the chopped coriander. 

This is such a simple comfort food that can be made within minutes. It can be served with bread or perhaps a naan bread, especially garlic naan that Little Bird loves :)

This recipe is my entry into the #eggmainsinminutes Linky on BritMums sponsored by British Lion Eggs whose webpage Main Meals in Minutes is a great resource for egg recipes.

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Chilly Early Spring

 Early Spring garden
Hyacinths  British Flowers Tired after school Easter Playing Out Snuggling Up Garden Pots Exploring Planting Potatoes Chilly Evenings
My Early Spring Round Up
#Chilly Spring days in the garden. Making changes, updating with new plants, a rocking bench and a summer house for Little Bird to play in. Work in progress.
#Making the house cheery with flowers every week. Spring cleaning, getting unwanted items onto eBay and making plans to decorate and improve. (I won the bathroom suite competition!) 
#Little Bird tired out after doing 3 days at pre-school and assessment sessions for his diagnosis. Still no words but understanding so much more. Knowing the names of every animal so when we ask' Where is the...' he runs off and gets the correct animal. A great game to improve communication and taking turns. I had no idea he would know a hyena, a grasshopper or ostrich but it seems he does :) We now have an annual zoo pass as Little Bird is animal mad and I'm seizing the opportunity to help him learn through animals.
#An Easter that was more indoors this year, egg hunts around the living room rather than in sunshine.
#Planting potatoes very late this year and still have some to go in. The broad beans have been planted and there is so much weeding to be done at the allotment. The cold weather does not put off the couch grass with its stringy roots all over my plot.

Moving onto Late Spring with the hope of warmer days...............