Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bodnant Garden in North Wales

view of Snowdonia from Bodnant Gardens The glory of the spring garden in Wales, alongside the River Conwy and with a snow tipped view of Snowdonia, Bodnant Garden was the perfect day trip for us all and especially a recently poorly little boy. Fresh air and fluffy clouds, tulip blooms and trumpeting daffodils, all an excellent antidote to tummy pains and stress. 

80 acres to explore from terraces to glades and a thundering waterfall and mill 'race' in the dell. It's a beautiful garden to explore and this year is like a dreamy watercolour wash of azalea and rhododendron and a lushness of emerging green perennials and exquisite hellebores. The boys had lawns and paths to run around and plenty of stones in pockets picked up to plop into the cascading waters. View points are aplenty and there are some areas where my hand tightly gripped Little Bird for fear of him rolling over the edge into the fir tree abyss. I was happier back on formal bed territory with the tulips. 

A surprise was the family mausoleum, called the Poem that you could peep through the door of into a marble decorated room filled with memorials of the previous inhabitants of the estate. Of course this appealed to me and my church/graveyard tendencies, inside was a chair - who for I wonder?

Back in the land of the living, it was a picnic and tomfoolery and a promise to come back and visit in the summer to see how the gardens are flourishing.
tulip bed Bodnant tulip mania daffodils fountain and parterre hedges pink azalea fountain at Bodnant Garden Bodnant Hall hellebore Snowdonia view Bodnant Garden daffodils nodding heads down the daffodil path little yellow boots grand garden steps The POEM mausoleum at Bodnant Garden looking throwing pebbles into the stream Welsh mountain view Bodnant Hall hellebore conservatory the boys on the bench magnolia

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 29 April 2016

Degustabox March - bunnies and popcorn for post Easter treats

Degustabox March

A great Degustabox arrived alas we have all been ill throughout the month and have hardly eaten but it was a great month for treats and some items to cheer us up. Here is what was in March's box of goodies:
Skinny popcorn
Metcalfe's Skinny Popcorn in cinema sweet flavour, £1.50. I love popcorn and this is super as it is sweetened with natural stevia leaf extract - 67% less sugar than other sweet popcorns. A serving has only 93 calories making it a lovely low cal snack. 
Chewits sweets

A classic from my childhood but I sadly didn't have these because of my veneered teeth and passed them over to the OH who gladly took them to munch at his workdesk. Chewits, 4 x 35p in blackcurrant and strawberry flavours. I had no idea they had been going for so long but then I should remember that I am 38 (eeek) and had them in primary school. In actual fact they started in Southport in the late 60's and did you know the mascot is called Chewie the Chewitsaurus.
Pipers crisps

Pipers Crisps £2.00, in Cheddar & Onion flavour and very cheesy they were. The brand has won various awards such as 'Best Snack Brand' and the company prides itself in using locally sourced potatoes in sunflower oil and seasoned with hand crafted West Country cheese. Can't go wrong with crisps for me and I'd seek these out again and look for their other flavours too - especially the Cider Vinegar and Sea Salt.

Greek Meze snack
Karyatis Meze To Go £1.99 I was so excited when I saw this but couldn't see a vegetarian symbol on it and had to look up.....and of course that was because it's not, so I couldn't have it :( I love dips like this too, have to assume the Feta has rennet in it. OH won't eat it either so one still sat in the cupboard. Great snack idea, if only they'd use vegetarian cheese. 
Weetabix on the go drinks
Weetabix On the Go Breakfast Drinks 2 x £1.50, Blueberry & Blackberry, Strawberry & Raspberry. OH had these when he was in the usual morning rush and really enjoyed them. I'm pretty sure we tried these last year too and these are new flavours to the range. Containing the energy and fibre of Weetabix with milk, vitamins, iron and calcium they make a really handy quick breakfast. 
Hide & Seek biscuits

Monaco biscuits
Little square biscuits with chocolate chips, Hide & Seek 59p and savoury Monaco biscuits 39p. Cheap and cheerful snacks, we ate these on a day out. 
Kallo multigrain cakes

Two lots of Kallo products, Milk Chocolate Rice Cake Rounds £1 and Quinoa & Seeds Multigrain Cakes £1.89. My son loved the chocolate ones and these are now part of the weekly shop. Belgian choc on puffed wholegrain rice. 
I lked the quinoa ones as a savoury snack with cheese or peanut butter on.
Hemp milk

A dairy free milk offering, Good Hemp £1.49. Not too bad with cereal but I couldn't get used to the taste in tea or coffee. It's a great source of Omega 3 and is allergen free, useful for those people on restricted diets.
cranberry and orange stuffing

Cranberry & Orange Stuffing from Kents Kitchen, £1.85. Easy to make, just add water and bake. Lovely with a  roast dinner or some meat alternative, then great on sandwiches the day after. The range has some great combinations using natural ingredients and chunky pieces of fruit. 
Brioche Pasquier £1.40 A firm favourite of my sons so all gone before I had chance to take a picture. Pain au chocolate individually wrapped so we take them as day trip snacks. 
Finally the best item of the month.......
Lindt white chocolate bunny

Lindt white chocolate bunny, £2.99. Was so excited to open the box and find this bunny. All mine, what else is there to say but delicious. 

Overall, despite our poorly month we had a good try of the products in March's Degustabox. Lots of nice treats and a good range of products for the £12.99 value of the box since the items added up to far more than that. 

If you would like to try Degustabox, the code  BLDEG15 will get you an amazing £6 discount.

*I received a Degustabox for the purpose of the review, words are my own honest opinion.

Getting rid of weeds

As a keen gardening and allotment fanatic, one of my constant tasks is weeding. Sometimes it can be therapeutic, pulling up weeds between the flowers, making a patch look tidy then standing back and admiring, cup of tea in hand. Other times, weeds are just rampant and the job if huge and boring so I've been looking at ways of managing them and making the task an easier one. Weeds compete with your crops and flowers for space, nutrients and light so keeping them under control will ensure your plants are happy and healthy.
Allotment in early spring

Weeding by hand and with the hoe
A favourite for a sunny day where you can Dutch hoe in between your plants, cutting the annual weed tops off and then leaving on the soil surface to just shrivel up. Hoe when the weather is dry but weed by hand when it is wet. Larger perennial weeds with long tap roots like dandelions will need digging out, tricky when close to plants you want to keep, so use a hand fork. Dig all the root out as any small pieces left will regrow. It's an ideal job to get the children helping out with and you can help learn what common weeds are here
weeding at the allotment
image source: weeding, Shutterstock

To suppress weeds, a layer of mulch will help inhibit their growth. Use bark chippings, compost, leaf mould etc of around 5cm deep that will also add nutrients and keep moisture retention in the soil. Mulching makes the garden beds and borders look tidier too and the flowers really stand out. 

Problem weeds such as Japanese Knotweed
Specialists such as Westland Estates are able to remove troublesome weeds like Japanese Knotweed in an environmentally friendly way. The weed is incredibly invasive and can spread rapidly in a garden so having the professionals in to remove it is a wise decision. Himalyan Balsam and Giant Hogweed are also thugs in the garden, the latter having a sap that can cause photodermatitis skin burns.

Vintage book weed drawings for indentification

Using weeds to your benefit
Remember that a weed is all but a plant in the wrong place and some are beneficial to insects. Early in the season I let a few dandelions remain as they are a source of nectar for emerging bees. A patch of nettles in a wildlife corner are a food source for beneficial insects and the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. A nettle 'tea' garden ferilizer can also be made by soaking picked nettles in a bucket of water for a few weeks - it makes a very smelly but nutrient rich manure for the garden.

*collaborative post

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Blyth Church

The priory church of St Mary and St Martin in Blyth, Nottinghamshire. Perfect with the churchyard filled with daffodils and the Union flag fluttering from the tower. We waited for the wedding party to disperse and then explored the grounds, since the doors were then firmly locked - another time......

If you watch Gogglebox (I don't), this is Rev. Kate Bottley's church. 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Kinver Rock Houses

Kinver Rock Houses We love finding quirky days out and this was one of the most unusual places we've found so far - Kinver Rock Houses owned by the National Trust. 11 families used to live in the Holy Austin Rock Houses, up here in the red sandstone outcrop in Staffordshire. Past names carved into the rocks, you climb up to the houses and then are in for a lovely view of how life was here.
national Trust Kinver Mr & Mrs Fletcher rock houses high on the rocky crag Cosy little fires and tiny bedrooms with vintage detail that show the characterful feel of the house where people still lived until the 60's. Just the bats live here the fireplace tea plates Kinver rock houses a little rock house pantry Then up to Kinver Edge where there is an Iron Age Hill Fort and some great views. We spent some time here collecting sticks and kicking the dried woodland leaves up into the air. An all round great place to visit, hobbit houses, a tearoom and mysterious woodland. view from Kinver playing with sticks National Trust Kinver stood on a rocky crag

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall