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

*Collaborative post

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

*Collaborative post

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

*Collaborative post

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
*Collaborative post

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

*Collaborative post


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.

*Collaborative post

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

*Collaborative post

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