Saturday, 12 August 2017

A weekend pause



A slow moving winding waterway runs through the verdant flat plain of mid-Cheshire, the River Dane, a name derived from Old Welsh dafyn which means trickling stream. Here in Northwich it joins the River Weaver, the confluence being in the centre of town. But before it does, its last meander is through the middle of farmland, past cows who clumsily dip in for a drink or to cool on a summer's day.

As part of a Sunday afternoon drive, the first stop is at a farm that over looks the Dane although it cannot be seen, just picked out by the trees and denser plants that flank the river. A looping greener way into town so sinuous it's as if the river couldn't quite make its mind up until deciding that town life and merging forces with the Weaver was the better option after all. 

Shipbrook Hill where I stand is the site of a Norman Castle and local folk have told me of some ruins of it being within the farm's garden. I found no trace but on this escarpment is the treasure of a view on this fluffy sky day with the steeple of the church in the distance piercing cumulus and equally cotton wooled sheep frolicking in the nearby field. On an ox bow beyond are a herd of cows, tails flicking and swallows squeal above and swoop enjoying the weather. By my feet, pink mallow stretches up and tickles the fence posts, clover flowers like baubles are bobbing about with bees and the rolling carpet of grass from shades of deep green to end of summer yellow stretches on towards the town.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Jacamo clothes for summer

Summer clothes for Little Bird's dad, a treat from Jacamo for adventuring towards autumn, perhaps up spiralling castle stairways and running down hills with much giggling.It's usually LB that has the clothes quota but this time dad could choose some items. 

First up was a chambray shirt, chosen as it is smart casual and can be worn for work which has a relaxed dress code and also for an evening at the pub or taking LB on a trip out on a cooler day, of which we are certainly having plenty of this August! The cuffs are navy on the underside so can be turned over for a different look.
Jacamo shirt

Next were some chino trousers and denim shorts. The chinos are not those ones that I remember half the IT department that I worked in wearing but are surprisingly now on-trend and an essential for any time of the year. These are charcoal ones with a twisted fit to the leg, great for work again and can be dressed up or worn as casual. In fact he will wear them with the shirt and add a smart pair of shoes for when he goes out with friends. 


charcoal chinos
The last item chosen was a pair of jean shorts which will be the best summer item for taking LB to the park and generally messing around on boy's days out with the other two lads in the family. Usually kicking a ball around and fooling about, the shorts will be perfect for that and are machine washable, like the other items. The detail on the short's pockets was particularly nice and the casual look of them will coordinate with t-shirts and shirts, and a pair of retro trainers.
Jacamo clothes Jacamo have a wide range of clothes and footwear, all at reasonable prices and whatever your style is. Sportswear, lots of brands and offers such as 2 x £35 on hoodies and chinos. On your first order there is free next day delivery and after that, it is £3.99 or click and collect for free from a Jacamo store or a MyHermes Parcel Shop (orders over £40), which is good if you are usually out during the day.

Items were gifted for the purpose of the blog post, views are my own honest opinion.

Monday, 31 July 2017

First impressions of a home town and house

The day I first saw the town I live in, Northwich, it was a sunny summer's day and I was on my way to a family wedding. The sky was blue with puffy white clouds and the grand entrance to my future was also bright blue, a bridge over a river where herons stood sentry and bicycles streamed along the river path, happy families and barking dogs pulling on leads. Every so often a canal boat gently chugged past and this low humming was only broken by rowers in unison of intense synchronicity, slicing through glinting water. Once out of sight, only a quack could be heard. Exploring further through the town, noting grand old houses and red brick terraces, black and white timbers by a boat marina where colourful pleasure craft bobbed about, a merry dance of a little market town, I made a collective first impression. One that lingered and several years later when a move was required, fell like a pinball rolling, sending off glowing light bulbs of knowing where I had to look to live. And here I am, nearly 15 years later, it's my home and I consider myself a proper local.
Sunnyside Up Boat Cheshire


































First impressions can be everything, whether it is the first time you meet somebody or at the reception desk of a company. In a few snapshots you take in your surroundings and the demeanour of a person and piece it all together. In the first half hour in my town it had had an effect upon me, a positive one of boats and bikes, of slightly alternative people, live music and happiness of ordinary folk. A community feeling that enveloped me and set my mind for what I wanted. 

That same warm fuzziness grabbed me the moment I stepped into my current house. A cold February afternoon, snow was gently falling and as soon as I saw the front with its Victorian features I knew it had to be mine. Within ten minutes I had told the estate agent that I would have it. The power of those first impressions. Of course all was not completely rosy (like the cat mess in the bedroom!) but how we can be guided by our first thoughts and feelings on something or someone. 
Northwich marina sunset



Perhaps I am rather impulsive but I find my first impressions are often the right ones, a gut instinct. Often I know when I meet somebody that we will be friends or if we will be avoiding each other. For my home town, I still have that glow about the place and a sense of pride when I show people where I live. The boats still often warrant a detour on my way home to take a few photos of the marina as dusk falls and when I see my blue bridge I know that I am back where I belong, by the river and its swans by the rowing club. The friendly people that say hello, the homely market and its curious mix of industrial history and havens for wildlife in the nature reserves that skirt the town.

Likewise with my home, the stairs to the loft room still give the pleasure of looking out across town, over rooftops and seeing the river in the distance as I first discovered on that very first impression I had. The garden which although at that time was sparse of plants, had the potential for being my piece of heaven and the little side passageway onto a row of cottages felt like a link to a tucked away backwater of people that would grow sweetpeas in summer and fetch your bin in for you. 

Even some imperfections can add to a first impression still remaining positive, they keep it real and I suppose I'm like that with people, too perfect and I'm suspicious but both good and bad feel like the real thing. So I'm glad that I rely on my first impressions and if you have a bad one, it can be so hard to change and remove those thoughts from your head. Something to remember as we go about our day-to-day business but back to my home and hence why you'll always find flowers adorning the front door and a dragon guarding the entrance :)

Weaver Navigation

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

North Wales #Cultural Drives

I'm history mad, mostly churches and the weekend is when I jump into the car and go on a church crawling trip, dragging my son along who generally enjoys it too, the anticipation of not knowing exactly what we will discover . Chill Car Insurance are putting together a book of Creative Drives and this got me thinking about a drive that I would recommend. 
Map North Wales

For me it would be a history drive along the North Wales coast along the Express Way taking in the scenery of the seaside towns and headlands from Flintshire through to Anglesey.  Although in parts industrial, along the Dee Estuary with ports and remains of coal mining, the coast here is a wonderful blend of past centuries with castles and churches aplenty and wind farms and collieries. A short journey off the Expressway and you are immersed in history and reminders of the Welsh fortitude and resilience in this rugged and beautiful landscape.

Holywell
First stop is the enigmatic shrine of St Winefride. With vaulted ceilings above the reputedly healing waters you can follow in the footsteps of pilgrims like so many have done for hundreds of years. Less than £2 for a family ticket that incorporates the small museum and access to the chapel above the shrine. Look for stone carvings, graffiti of people seeking cures and remembering their spiritual experience. There are tours and you can of course at certain times have a dip into the spring waters. One of the Seven Wonders of Wales
Holywell Shrine
Talacre
Not far off the Expressway is  the village of Talacre with its sandy beaches and broad dunes popular with families and great for waking dogs. Part of this area is Point of Ayr,which is the most northern point of the Welsh mainland and the 18th century lighthouse on the beach is the oldest in Wales. No longer an operational lighthouse but reportedly haunted by one of the previous lighthouse keepers. Stop here for salt water paddling, sandy adventures and a bag of chips afterwards.
Point of Ayr lighthouse




Bodelwyddan
A familiar sight along the Wales Expressway, the Marble Church due to the fourteen different types of marble used within. 
The towering spire rising to 202ft is visible from afar, a Gothicly wonderful church to stop off and have a look at inside and out. Built as a memorial commissioned from a wife, Lady Margaret to her husband Henry Peyto-Verney and completed in 1860. The graveyard has more than 80 war graves of Canadian soldiers who were based at the nearby Kimnel Park army camp where they sadly died in the Spanish Flu epidemic after the end of World War 1.
The Marble Church, Wales


Rhos-on-Sea
A small coastal village with a puppet theatre that is a permanent fixture and shows are at 3pm. Founded in the 1950's the small theatre has over 1000 marionettes. The current show is Hansel and Gretel.  
The smallest chapel in Wales is on the promenade by the beach with amazing views across Colwyn Bay. St Trillo's chapel founded by the 6th century Celtic saint is a rough stone structure, enough room for only a few people and the altar has a holy well underneath. Nearby are the remains of a weir built by Cistercian monks to catch fish which you can see at low tide. 
Also for children, there is an outdoor paddling pool and crazy golf, a quieter resort stop off to entertain little ones. 
Rhos on Sea





LLandudno 
This Victorian resort has a beautiful pier to walk along and is overlooked by limestone headlands on either side of the famous Great Orme and Little Orme - Orm means serpent's head and was named by the Vikings in the 9th century. Famous for this being the place  where Lewis Carroll met the little girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland so there is a trail of white rabbits, Mad Hatters and caterpillars on mushrooms that you can do. The pier is full of the usual amusements and small shops, Punch and Judy by the beach and go on a boat trip on the Sea-Jay. It's a fun filled stop on this cultural drive through North Wales and well worth staying over to experience a full day here. The cable car up the Great Orme will offer superb views and then you can catch the tram back down. Llandudno beach is part sandy and also pebbly with a  huge ridged sea break, this is a great spot for practising skimming pebbles across the sea. There are plenty of places to eat and then it's back into the car to head further around the coast.
Llandudno Pier

Bangor
A bustling university town with a very interesting pier, quiet and nostalgic. Through iron gates are many memorials which are fun to read as you walk along. The beach here is muddy and a great place for watching birds such as oystercatchers and comorants. We have watched mottled brown turnstones on the iron steps underneath the pier, chattering away.
Bangor Pier




Anglesey
Deserving a whole post of its own is Anglesey but I couldn't not mention it on this road trip for the grand finale is the awesome sight of the Menai Bridge. We often just drive over so we can stop off and see this view from the other side. On Anglesey there is a lot to see, beaches, the colourful village of Beaumaris or the spectacular kite surfers of Rhosneigr.


I hope this brief guide has shown you some of the interesting things to see along the north Wales coast, there are many more and the castles of Conwy and Penrhyn are also notable. The gateway to my road trip starts once we have passed though Chester and it's always exciting to see the first Welsh road sign. 
Menai Bridge

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Friday, 14 July 2017

Handcrafted gifts for the home: UncommonGoods


It's a cloudy afternoon and after a little tidying I am sitting down with a cup of tea and having a look at some homeware products from UncommonGoods who with being based in Brooklyn, New York know a thing or two about design. 

Their latest collection has items that make me swoon with great ideas for home accessories such as these stained glass feathers that would look wonderful hanging in a sun streamed window. UncommonGoods support artists and designers, with half of the items sold being made by hand. 
stained glass feathers
I also love the colourful look of the Fabric of our Family Blanket which is a homely way to put a personal note into your home. It's a perfect keepsake and the squares can be customised with your own special dates and icons to show hobbies or traits  - there is a large selection from sports, animals, zodiac signs and games. It's woven and a great size for snuggling on the sofa under.
Fabric blanket

Also for comfort I really like the Vintage Camera Pillows since photography, ie. my surgical attachment to my iPhone for taking snaps with, or my other camera, feature prominently in my life. I like my home to be quite personalised so these would love brilliant on a chair or on my bed. These are hand-made artist prints onto cotton sateen that are then sewn onto cotton twill. Once I get a study area sorted, they would look great on a reading chair. Have a look at these great items for a home office too from paper weights that would make great gifts to fun bookends and stationery.
Vintage camera pillows

A third of the UncommonGoods collection is made from recycled/upcycled materials such as these lovely Craft Wax Beer Candles made from amber beer bottles - scents of 'hard cider' and 'blood orange' are my kind of homely fragrances. I love my candles, a treat at the end of the day to relax to and these give 60 hours burn time - perfect.
craft beer candles

For nighttime I also really love this blackbird night light that is absolutely adorable! It's a mother bird (appropriate for a happy homebird) and is made from recycled glass. A pretty glow for atmospheric evening chilling out.
Bird night light
Of course , there are also handcrafted gifts for the garden and these bat sculptures caught my eye and the hanging yoga poses. I think they'd look really quirky hanging from one of my small trees in the back garden. Both are made from copper by an artist and what a lovely present they would make......although I would want to keep for myself. The sun has come out again and I think a copper bat roosting in the rose bush would make a sweet feature to look at whilst I sit my with cuppa.
decorative bats

yoga decorations

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Things at the moment

My life seems to have phases, things come in blocks, so a particular series or fascination with something or coincidences whether good or bad.

This has been the summer of watching The Handmaid's Tale. I rarely watch television, but this series looked interesting and so I am watching it online and await each episode eagerly with a relish I remember from my younger years when Lost or Twin Peaks were favourite. It's based on a book by Margaret Atwood, admittedly I have not read it. I do have a copy of one of her other books Oryx and Crake so on the back of this series and its great story line, I think I will give it a whirl. The Handmaid's Tale is gripping and following the main protagonist, June/ Offred and life in a dystopian USA where a totalitarian government has take over and the main gist of it is that only some of the woman are still fertile, the Handmaids and they are sold as slaves of reproduction to the wealthy families. Really worth catching up with on Channel 4 or read the book as I'm told it is amazing.
pink roses


Sadly this summer seems to be a lot about cancer. It's rarely touched on my life before and yet this summer I have people that I know who are bravely battling the disease. Indeed my poor little dog is too. I can't begin to imagine how life changing it is for a person and the ladies that I know, I have so much respect for their strength. I've heard their words around chemotherapy and how poorly it makes them feel. One of the ladies was trying to perk herself up, wearing a pretty chemo hat, having pampering sessions and going out for lunch on the days she felt ok. It must be just so hard to keep going and I have huge admiration and hope for them to recover soon.

This summer has also started a rosé wine / white wine and soda drinking phase for me. I wasn't really drinking so perhaps it is the studies but it is rather nice to have a cool glass of wine on a sunny day or evening. Also olives have sneaked back into my life, tubs of them in olive oil, with feta cheese and stuffed with pimentos. 
Rose wine



















Also I have become mad on roses. I bought two from the market at Ludlow for £6.50 each, a large buttery yellow one called Absolutely Fabulous and an interesting striped pink rose called Ferdinand Pitchard. Both are heavily scented and will be going into a new flower border.
Then my neighbour popped over with some pretty roses in a jam jar from a wedding so that was really nice gift and I put it on the mantelpiece. So roses, roses everywhere! Next year I will have more in the garden so I can cut more to bring inside and fill the house with their scent.
garden roses

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Recent hot days

Tonight is so muggy, hot and sticky after a gorgeous summer's day where all the washing dried beautifully on the line and the sunflowers started to tilt their heads towards the burning rays. The tomatoes are growing bigger and the patio is blooming with all the flowers enjoying the heat, accompanied by my terrier who basks for a while until it gets far too warm and I shout him in.
Garden dogs


On days like this we need to keep cool, particularly little ones, so I limit how long Little Bird is in the sun for although he's pretty good at staying out of the sunshine as the bright light can be bothersome for him. The dog however need reminding and I bring him in to cool off. I need a portable fan to help keep him cool whilst he is poorly, for he has cancer so keeping him stress free is important and I don't want to heat to start making him feel ill. I make sure he has fresh water at all times and there is plenty of shaded areas to lounge in. It's important to look out for any signs of sunstroke in pets, lots of panting and flopping down (damp their coat, bring your pet into shade and contact the vet) but making sure it doesn't get to this point by keeping him out of the sun aside from his small spell out by the plants - most of the time he realises himself and comes trotting back into the house. 
sunbathing dog


Icecream van

Meanwhile our day trips to the beach have helped during the hot weather. Sunscreen slapped on, walks not in the midday sun and plenty of cold drinks - maybe an ice cream too :) We went to North Wales, to Talacre beach, a popular spot for those from Cheshire to escape to for some sandy adventures on a summer's weekend. With feet paddling through the tidal pools, we cooled down along with the dogs. The beach is backed by extensive sand dunes that are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the flora and fauna found there such as marram grass, natterjack toads and sand lizards. Behind the dunes is the Warren where the succession to scrub land/grassland occurs and you can walk through and explore.
dog in the sea



























The wide beach here is on the Dee Estuary/Irish Sea and you can see the Rhyl Flats Wind Farm out at sea. Part of the Welsh coastal path, this particular part is a mixture of heritage and industry with a lot of reminders of shipping and mining. The beach road has a few places to eat and drink so you can have a pleasant sunny day spent here. 

Dipping toes into the cool water we had fun just walking along, people watching and looking for shells - cockles and razor shells, drawing in the sand and watching boats come in. Eventually Little Bird was completely saturated and the tide was coming in so it was time for a huge portion of chips to share on the way back to the car. Always a cheerful beach trip from Cheshire on a hot day.Talacre Beach
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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Late summer events in Cheshire

I live in Cheshire and it is such a great county with a variety of things to do over the rest of the summer. Here are my ideas for the Cheshire area.....

RHS Tatton Garden Show
Loads of glorious show gardens, floral marquees and Pimms. The ultimate posh Cheshire day out and a source of inspiration for gardeners. There's usually a big wheel laden with flowers and plenty of music and food. Take your little wheelie trolley to take home tons of plants in and gain some green fingered knowledge from the veggie growers and their displays of perfect carrots and lettuces. The community gardens, usually done by school are a favourite and it's fun to spot the scarecrows. 
Flower ferris wheel


Congleton Jazz and Blues Festival
August Bank holiday music and over 50 jazz bands in bear town. A free event and one that makes for a super musical pub crawl.

Rewind Festival
The ultimate 80's festival with a line up including Belinda Carlisle, Kim Wilde and T'Pau. August 4th to the 8th at Capesthorne Hall. I want to go badly for 80's is my thing, pop my wellies on, shorts, shirt, glitter on my face, cool hairpiece, flower crown and shades. There's lots of 80's dressing up too with day-glo and people dressed as 80's cartoon characters - a lot of fun.Themed bars and food, fairground rides and much singing. You can camp there or just go on a day pass. 

Just So Festival
The ultimate children's festival at Rode Hall. Creative, magical happenings of characters and stories.Singing, dancing, weird creatures, lanterns and stars. There are games to play and tent to camp in, the perfect family event in August. 18th to 20th August.
sunglasses


Knutsford Foodies Festival
A favourite of mine for sampling cheese and wine and coming home with bags full of delicious delights. Held at Tatton Park, 14th to 16th July. Try the chilli eating competition of relax in the vintage tea tent.

Live in the Park at Arley Hall
The nearest stately home to where I live and I'll be able to hear the fireworks going off that night of the 15th July in their grand finale of the annual picnic music event all for charity.  

Astle Park Traction Steam Rally
Steam engines, cars, motorbikes, a roaring event of stunts and feats with a fairground and camping on the weekend of 12th-13th August.

Creamfields
Coolest event in Cheshire. Too cool for me. August Bank Holiday weekend, much dancing, much drinking Ibiza style in Cheshire

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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Being happy

When I was younger I had a lot of things bothering me. In my twenties, I was not sure of myself, always wanting to be somebody else and not happy in my own skin. Things are quite different now, I have my moments but mostly I'm past caring what others think of me too much and I'm happy to be healthy and content. 

One of the things in my life that I've worked out, of which I was reminded of this week is that comparison is the thief of joy. As soon as you start comparing yourself to others then it is just a situation where you start feeling miserable and inadequate. Nobody else is on your particular journey and all the things that it encompasses - family, life situation, money so what I've discovered for a happy life is just to enjoy that journey. Right now, I'm learning, I'm on a course. I'm no expert, I'm learning and that is fine - I enjoy it. Of course I'm not going to know as much as somebody else who is ahead of me in this particular area of study but actually that is something to embrace. I welcome people who know more than me, I welcome the knowledge they have to offer. I focus on my own journey and keep on. When you compare, the journey gets halted, you get bogged down with negativity. This goes for everything else too. I am who I am and try to just love life.
dog in the sunshine


Home
Well it's not a huge manor house or a cottage with a picket fence or the house in the Cotswolds that I fell in love with but it's a home and I'm grateful for it. It needs redecorating, if I ever get the chance and I have a boisterous seven year old that chips paint off and creates a huge mess but it's a home. It's filled with my life - memories, little boy giggles, photos, books, warm throws, a pretty garden and the security of my head hitting the pillow each night whilst by two dogs snore away. If I had a wonderful five bedroom home, sure that would be great but I'd still sleep, still eat, still have a bathroom to clean and well my compact home does the trick. 

I have a garden that is big enough for different purposes, a bench where I can sit with a glass of wine and enough flowers around to make it my happy space. It's good to dream of what you want, it gives focus and determination but comparing to others and what they have just distracts. Here's an ideal home I have in mind, maybe one day....
white cottage

Myself
Ah when you look at yourself in the mirror and think, oh I hate that way one eyes looks smaller, I hate the way my thighs look or I wish I had brown eyes or whatever. Stop! I'm happier than I ever was with myself, sure I have things I want to work on, part of my journey but most importantly I am happy. I quite like my imperfections, I'm grateful for the strength I have and how I am healthy. I'll never be a skinny sort, I'm just me, shaped how I am by genes and a love of cheese :) I love buying clothes and know what suits me and what doesn't for my shape. So always embrace yourself, hit the shops and make yourself feel beautiful whether it's fashion for plus sizes or you wish you were curvier, be healthy and enjoy the process.
Me and my boy

Work and study
A huge proportion of my time is taken up with my post graduate diploma and it has been very hard going. When I first started I was so overwhelmed by what the other course members knew and how engaged they were in debates. Instantly I felt disheartened but then I took a step back. Many of the others were older than me or had been working within churches already, or had done previous medieval study. I had to realise that this was my thing and I was doing ok what with juggling looking after a little boy with extra needs and keeping afloat. I'm still behind with the course but I'll get there and it's not a race. As long as I keep a smile on my face and manage to pick up a course book each day I'll be fine and we'll see where it takes me.

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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Places I'd like to live

Every so often I feel like moving to a different area, I have a bad day and want to up sticks and go to another part of the country or even another country entirely. Some days it might be the city and on other days the coast. if I'm on days out I get seduced by new places and start imagining a life there and how things would be different. 

One place that always appeals is the wonderful city of Bristol and its association to me of nature and its culture. I first found myself there in my twenties as a student of ecology attending a Mammal Society conference and dreaming of working for the BBC Natural History Unit. As soon as I see the Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Avon Gorge I get a flurry of excitement. The arty culture in Bristol is vibrant from the street art of Stokes Croft to the annual balloon fiesta with over 150 colourful hot air balloons flying over the city.
Hot air balloons Bristol


Another place that appeals is Scandinavia. I'm a bit obsessed with the culture and the lifestyle of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The wooden houses, the design, the snowy landscapes of winter and the greenery of summer. Folklore of trolls and brownies that you leave porridge out for, Norse gods and goddesses and the other worldliness. I am particularly in awe of the wooden stave churches. There is something about the Scandinavian life that exudes coolness and sophistication - their flair for home design is something the Brits love. Family life in Scandinavia seems pretty trendy too, think Ikea and how the family room is the heart of the home, open airy living that promotes communication and togetherness. I spent a little time in Norway some years ago and was incredibly impressed, making it one of my dream places to live.
Wooden stave church By Eduardo [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
France
Living in France would also be pretty amazing. I imagine myself in a French village, collecting my pain au chocolat and croissants from the boulangerie, walking past vintage Citroen cars and past beautiful gîtes with shutters and pink roses scrambling whilst beans grow up canes. There are so many regions that I would choose, perhaps Brittany and all its coastal castles. A tumbledown cottage would suit, in a French medieval town, windy streets and steps past bars and small shops, sparrows chattering away and the late afternoon sun dipping behind the church tower.

Cornwall
Quaint seaside towns and harbours with colourful boats and cottages along lanes with flower and crab pots by front doors. Cornwall is a county that I adore for its pace of life and wonderful beaches to walk along and watch the surfers. Cream teas, Cornish pasties as you go, dog walks, clear water and a sense of freedom. The community feeling of local festivals, markets and buying local produce. I long to go back and explore some more and will have to be satisfied with staying in holiday cottages but pretending that I live there for a week is pretty exciting. 
Cornwall


Monday, 3 July 2017

Gardening for health and well being

Things around here have been stressful lately what with trying to get my son a school place and having no help at all from the LEA, my dog being poorly (I'll save this for another time since I cannot quite write the words) and family stuff, well it's been all stress after stress. The one thing that keeps me sane, helps me to unwind and not be so completely consumed by stress is the garden and also the allotment - the latter of which needs a lot of work but hey ho, it's still stress reducing and I get to take home fresh fruit and vegetables.

Grow Your Own
When you sprinkle a packet of seeds onto compost or push a seed into the earth it starts the whole magic off. Every day checking and nurturing that seedling until you have a leafy plant that starts flowering and fruiting. There is something so addictive and so calming about the whole process, unless the slugs get them. But even the challenge of successful growing is a good occupier of the mind. If you're combating slugs then some of your angers are taken away by that. Most years I grow strawberries and having them in baskets on my patio is really satisfying as I can catch them when they are ready and eat them straight way, sharing with my son. I grow potatoes at the allotment and lots of beans, bringing home a full bounty of goodies to eat is very rewarding and improves how I feel.
Home grown Strawberries


Community gardens
If you don't have a garden of your own, or a place for even a few pots at the front of the building then have a look for a local community garden. Great places for meeting like minded people and many work with lots of local charities too, so it become a wonderful place for all working together. My local gardens are open to all and you can learn new skills there, even how to be a bee keeper. Garden therapy can work on its own or add as part of a plan with experienced psychologists and psychiatrists to help when things get too tough. Stress and depression is not an easy matter and I'm glad people are becoming more away of these issues. My son suffers with anxiety, it is part of the way he is and being out in the garden helps him so much. The social aspect of community gardening is a great way for socialising in an indirect way. Weeding and potting up require no words, is calming and informal for ways of interacting with other people.


Growing cut flowers for the home
When I was young my father grew amazing blooms such as dahlias and we would always have some in the house over the summer as a cut flower. Flowers within the home do brighten the place up and being able to pick your own from the garden is easy and a quick pick-me-up. Roses in the garden provide blooms nearly all the way through the summer. Next year I would like to grow a cutting garden, you can buy packs of seeds where they have been carefully selected for being a good cut flower. The bees win too and you will be rewarded with nature aplenty.
Pink David Austin rose

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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Quick fixes to spruce up the summer home

In the summer I go through the house and make a few updates here and there, nothing expensive as I'm on a budget. Perhaps switching a few things over, swapping items from my bits and bobs cupboard where I will find summery candles or pictures that I can use to brighten the rooms up. Now the sun is shining, I'll wash all the soft furnishings and line dry then to freshen up and each room will perhaps have a few investment pieces for summer colour and the latest trends.

Bedroom
My main relaxation area, my bedroom, must have some new summery bedding. I'll look for something colourful and cheery, perhaps spots or a floral pattern that will fit in with the existing scheme. I keep the walls plain so this helps being able to change room slightly each season. I'll pop a few new candles in the room, coconut is a favourite summer scent and anything fresh and fruity. Sometime I'll buy the small votive candles or scented tea lights as I can buy lots for not a lot of money and switch them over frequently. Use citrus candles to keep the bugs away.

Image source: George at Asda







Family Room 
The family room is where we eat,play,relax and study. The sofa has been recently updated so I will add new cushions and the woodburner whilst it is out of service, even though it's been chilly, will have a new spray of paint. New storage is always helpful and pretty boxes to add paperwork or bits and pieces into. I need a new desk chair so I'll have a look at office furniture suppliers for something ergonomic and colourful that I can swirl about on and do my work.

Bathroom
The bathroom actually needs some work after a leak ruined the flooring so I'l be ordering some new lino, hopefully a shiny white one that will bring light into the bathroom. New hand towels and bath sheets however, will add some colour and I have my eye on some bright pink Egyptian cotton towels for a feminine touch. I might contrast these with turquoise for a holiday feel. On the sink I'll pop a pretty bottle of hand wash and some hand lotion, particularly if I'm having friends over to stay. When I do my weekly supermarket shop, I'll try a different shower gel too, scents that remind me of the sea and salty air.

The colour combinations I like for the bathroom could also have a pop of yellow, probably my favourite colour and even an orange would work against the light grey tiles.
Design Seeds - http://kitsdesomni.typepad.com/kits_de_somni/2014/04/el-color-de-abril-2014.html


Kitchen
In the kitchen at the time of year it starts to become full of produce from my allotment. Tubs of soft fruits such as raspberries and currants, also beans, potatoes and lettuce. So much fresh fruit and veg to make exciting summer dishes with that I like the kitchen feeling updated with a few items since I will be spending more time in there. On the open shelves, a stack of colourful crockery adds a colourful dash and some pretty new plates to serve my food on.

Coloured and pressed glass tumblers are very summery, I have seen some with a little bee motif pressed into them that would be great to go into my kitchen shelf units. The shelves are set against a white backdrop so the coloured glass will really stand out. I might also gather some sweetpea flowers from the allotment and bring the intoxicating scent of them into the kitchen.
Colourful kitchen
http://keltainentalorannalla.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/vari-ideoita-maanantaille.html?m=1


Living room
Easiest addition the smarten the living room up is a new set of cushions which I'll pick up from the home ware section of a supermarket or from the high street. £5 a cushion, a bright and colourful pattern of animal and that will make the sofa look great for summer lounging. I have found some bumblebee cushions that will be perfect and add a yellow throw for cooler summer evenings or rainy day film watching - it was quite chilly the other day considering it was June.
Finally, a new set of fairy lights to twinkle away and I'll rearrange the books on the mantelpiece to be around summer nature and day tripping around the UK. Some flowers too, maybe a rose from the garden into a bud vase and I shall feel like the house feels a bit more cheerful for over the summer months. 

*Collaborative post

Friday, 30 June 2017

Post assignment perk me up

Hooray, I have now finished my first year of my post grad diploma in Parish Church Studies and I am absolutely shattered. In the last week I did a couple of almost all night study sessions where at 4-5am I thought, well I best get some sleep. Hence I look tired and my good friend remarked that I could perhaps carry my shopping with the the bags under my eyes. 
Hooray, I have now finished my first year of my post grad diploma in Parish Church Studies and I am absolutely shattered. In the last week I did a couple of almost all night study sessions where at 4-5am I thought, well I best get some sleep. Hence I look tired and my good friend remarked that I could perhaps carry my shopping with the the bags under my eyes.  So with summer ahead, what can I do to improve my well-being before the work all starts again in September?


Beach visits

Firstly I will be going off to the beaches of North Wales for some brisk walks and that feeling of freedom on wide expanses of sand. Saltyness on my cheeks and the thundering roar of the sea, well the Dee Estuary..... Flintshire is the nearest coastline to visit and is 25 miles long, of which my favourite beach is Talacre - flat sands, a forgotten lighthouse and a series of dunes for a nature walk. Offshore there are the wind turbines, this is an industrial coast but still it is a great spot to visit for some gathering of thoughts and recharging the batteries. When you have so much space around you it is somehow a great release of stress and all those tensions of finishing essays disappears for me. The beach is great for people watching which also helps with the unwind. 
Talacre Beach



Beauty Session
For some pampering and relaxation, perhaps a Mummy Makeover Package is required  since studying and being a mum is hard. Late nights revising and writing after a little one has gone to sleep really take their toll. dark circles, skin looking dull and excess weight from midnight snacking! So a trip for some beauty therapy would be utter bliss, from laser resurfacing of the skin for a more youthful look to toning up, removing toxins and improving circulation for firmer skin. I would like to feel better and less as if the years are catching up to me, some sleep and tlc would be most welcome.

Nature therapy
Just like going to the beach, immersing in the natural environment is a way I like to unwind. Living up the road from a huge forest is great and going on the trail works burns off calories and stress. The country park also is a place I like to visit and walking through the woodland at this time of year, listening to the birds and hearing the breeze rustle the leaves is so calming. I also like to try and identify the flowers that I come across, a challenge with identification book in hand and a sense of satisfaction at learning something new. The local conservation groups have id sessions where you can meet other nature lovers and it is great way to learn and enjoy being in nature at the same time. For the time I really need to relax, I find just sitting on a bench on a nature walk is a way I like to release any negative energy and feel at ease. Looking at the landscape around me, the colours of the grasses and the flowers, the mixture of textures and seeing the movement and rhythm of the flower heads is a free and easy way to feel at ease again.
Rosebay willowherb


Flying a kite

I remember my first kite. My father bought it me, it had a tail with red ribbons that trailed beneath its red and yellow diamond frame. I ran up a hill in the park and then ran down, desperate for it to take off and dance up in the clouds. You can pick kites up over summer in some of the budget supermarkets - it's an annual offer, look out for them. The best fun you can on a breezy day, as the kite soars and you control its movements, so do your worries fly away. Look out for kite festivals as their colourful array of fun kites, coastal towns often host these events.
kite flying


Local pool
If I can't get to the beach and the sea then the town pool will be great. We have two in my town, one a paddling pool with a giant toadstool fountain and the other an outside pool in a park, swimming beneath great pines and oaks. Enchanting and freeing. There are many places in the UK to swim outdoors, wild swimming is popular and the tradition of lidos still mean you can find a unique pool to visit. Compared with swimming in a leisure centre and its echoes and smell of chlorine, outdoor swims are more opening to the senses, more inspiring for feeling within nature and a wild feeling for an exhilarating rush. My son loves our outdoor paddling pool, splashing away and I can relax knowing that he is happy. 

This summer will be a chance for me to get back to having some fun after the heavy workload. I'll still be reading for my course but the extra time will be well spent doing other things whilst the sun shines. 


*Collaborative post

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

On finding a school place

This year I  have decided to put my son into school as I had been home educating him since his brief spell in preschool. Now was the time for the once anxious boy, now out of his shell to venture into the big wide world and burn off some of his energy. My nerves and my house can no longer take it but he needs to added input for his speech and language among other things. Little Bird is ready to play with paints and glue, to be in a stricter routine of playtime and lunchtimes with learning activities structured around him and this has become impossible at home as well....I'm mum and he can mess me around quite a bit. We need a break from each other, different adult in his life to have influence and provide encouragement. He needed the extra time at home but now he is simply too bored and needs more than I can provide Monday to Friday. I felt like I was giving up for a while but then I realised it was simply a case of things changing and our natural development as mother and son. I feel better now that I'm being a good mum and recognising that now my little boy needs more. 

At the moment I am in waiting situation with the LEA, despite him having a full statement it seems there are lots of meetings to be had, hoops to jump through and lots of red tape. It's strange how getting him into school seems so much harder that not sending him in the first place when the LEA were keen to talk. Now, it's delay after delay and meeting after meeting, panel after panel....time wasting. The issue is really that there are no school places left, unless somebody moves at the last minute or changes their mind. Where will he go? I perhaps will know later this week but it is frustrating and a bit of a worry. I'm staying positive and then I can start to buy everything he needs which will be really exciting as he's never had all those school type things before.
Little bird walking along a path

5 things we need for school:

1. A school bag for all LB's books, spare clothes, drink, pencil case and the passing to and fro of notes between the teacher and I. Probably a rucksack with a nice pattern on it like cute dinosaurs or animals that is easy to wipe clean and comfortable straps for his shoulders. 

2. One of the most important items for any school child are name labels for EVERYTHING! From his coat to his bag and lunch box, they will all have some colourful labels with a little picture beside them. They will help LB know which things are his, 

3. We will also need some stationery items for school, a jolly pencil case filled with pencils, coloured pens, crayons and a ruler. For home a new calendar to keep track of school events and a notebook/diary for my bag - after all with parent's evenings and future Nativity plays to watch I will need to make sure I can quickly make a note. 

4. I can remember my school lunch box as a child, it was turquoise and had little cherubic-like characters on it, plus stickers on the back - such was the craze in the 1980's. For LB I'd like to find a cheap and cheerful lunch bag that will last a couple of terms since they get quite grotty there is not point spending a lot as I will replace it every few terms. I would quite like to find a space themed set for him complete with drinks bottle. Then I will have to look to Pinterest and try and be one of those super Bento making parents!
Bento box


5. 
5. Finally a PE bag for those shorts, t-shirt and pumps. I was not a sporty child and shied away from PE lessons but perhaps my son will enjoy sports day and the egg and spoon race - I bet he won't though he's too much like me. However, we shall see and he'll certainly have a smart bag to take his things in. 

Then of course there will be the new uniform, although until I find out which school he will be going to I have no idea what it will look like. Hopefully next week I will have some news......

*Collaborative post