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Menopause – A New Beginning!

Late last year, I attended a yoga workshop focusing on the menopause, run by Barefoot Yoga. I am afraid that I have reached “that age!”. I have been reading up on the perimenopause and menopause over the past year or so and have tried to take note of ideas and have adapted my diet and lifestyle accordingly. Hopefully those of you who read this article may pick up some useful advice and tips.

Exercise

I started learning yoga a few years ago to help with anxiety and panic attacks – I also tried meditating at the same time – with mixed results! I am hopeless at class mediations and find my mind wandering with what’s for dinner that night etc! However I have found the Calm app works for me. What with working from home and looking after a family, moody teenager, a senior cat and 3 rescue chickens, I just didn’t seem to find the time to meditate successfully. The calm app provides a daily calm meditation lasting 10 mins, which is ideal for those of us with limited time in the day. I still struggle with meditation after wind down yoga classes to be honest With yoga, I used to go for the fast energetic class, but now approaching 50, I’ve gone back to Hatha and I like the gentle flow classes and and yin relaxing style. I like the flexibility my body gets from yoga. I know it is doing me good and for that 1 hour, I can clear my headspace and not think about work, family and home etc.

I also love going walking. I don’t live in the country but there is an abundance of parks in Birmingham and it is just nice to get out and about in nature and fresh air. Sometimes, when time is limited, I just walk around the roads where I live and use my Calm meditation walking app. Mindfulness walking really helps to clear my head and relax. You can choose how little or how long you wish to walk for or whether you would like a guided meditation or not. It’svery flexibile.

Also, again after researching and talking to friends, I have started with resistance classes. All of the menopause books will tell you that weight resistance training is great for your body during the menopause years. Strength training exercises help to build bone and muscle strength, burn body fat and increase your metabolism. It is basically all about the oestrogen! During perimenopause and menopause, a woman’s oestrogen levels decline and weight training can help to maintain a good muscular system plus get rid of the excess weight that has seemed to form around my middle! Most gyms will offer personal trainer advice and classes. To be honest, there’s a wealth of online stuff out there. The one I particularly like is the “Live Yourself Youhg” channel on Youtube.

Diet

Until I met my husband 15 years ago, I was a vegetarian who ate fish (the term pescatarian didn’t exist back then! I started eating meat again, but for the past couple of years, I’ve completely gone off it and now have come full circle and am a pescatarian. I did used to eat chicken until last summer, then we became the owner of 3 glorious rescue chickens and I haven’t been able to touch chicken since!

Reading about diets favourable to the menopause is very interesting. It seems to be a mediterranean diet is recommended – good for me with all that fish! There is alot of emphasis on breakfast too and the importance of eating a healthy balanced meal to regulate your blood sugar. Protein is the key – its a good job we have chickens who lay 3 eggs a day! I eat an egg most days, sometimes a simple omelette for lunch or with an avocado on toasted bread for extra protein and good fats. I love reading about nutrition and diet. I wish i could have been a nutritionalist – however i need a science degree to become an approved nutritionalist. So i just have to satisfy myself by writing about it! More diet and healthy eating tips on my next blog!

I try to eat lots of fibre anyway as I have always had trouble with constipation. It has been wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and rice for years in our house. I’ve also been trying to eat more pulses too, as they are so good for you. Home made hummus here we come! Basically, its about keeping blood sugar levels constant, so unfortunaetly very little biscuits, cake and refined carbs. Try as I may, i do need a biscuit occasionally and I console myself with 80% dark chocolate is not that bad for you. I do love cake however, but as I have a nut allergy, I generally make my own and have started using wholemeal flour as a substitute for white. Courgette cake is my speciality! Don’t knock it until you try it!

I have also started to eat more yoghurt, especially plain greek yoghurt. I was eating plain yoghurt with summer berries after dinner with a sprinkling of flaxseed for added fibre, however apparently greek yoghurt provides more protein.

Homemade soup is a great lunch meal as it uses to any left over veg plus I add lots of lentils to my soup for extra protein. I have also started buying the Merchant Gourmet resealable packs – great to add to a pasta sauce. Their cookbook is really good and there’s some simple and more importantly quick recipes in there.

Caffeine and alcohol are both no-no’s. I don’t drink coffee, apart from the odd decaff now and again. However I do like green tea, which i didn’t realise contains as much caffeine as black tea. However it is supposed to be a good anti-oxidant, so I still have at least one cup a day. Talking of teas, I have switched to Yogi teas. Their women’s energy and the Inner harmony teas are lovely and I would definitely recommend them. There are lots of different varieties of herbal teas on the market, but I find the Yogi ones the best. You can buy Yogi teas from lots of health food shops and delis, however there are some that are hard to get hold of. Ethical Superstore usually has a wide range available online.

As for alcohol, cutting down may be a problem for some people, however since I had my son, my capacity for holding down a drink has vanished! One glass of wine occasssionally is all I can manage and I can’t see the point of cutting that small pleasure out.

Vitamins and Supplements

I have always taken multi vitamins and fish oil tablets as I used to be pescatarian and after a few years of eating meat, have now come back full circle and am once again a pescatarian. Plus I have a nut allergy so on the whole, I find taking multi vitamins will benefit me and my body. Since my anxiety I have also been taking magnesium supplements from Higher Nature

They come in an effervescent form. After swapping stories with other women on the yoga workshop, I have also started taking probiotic supplements. I did some research on the benefits of probiotics and I’ve gone with Higher Nature again and am taking their probiotic digestion supplements. Some of their products are in a few health food shops, however I buy mine online.

In conclusion, every woman is different and will experience different menopausal symptoms or maybe no symptoms at all! I just hope that someone reading this will take something from it and try some of my suggestions. There’s so much information out there about menopause, its sometimes difficult to know where to start. I hope that this blog helps!

Next time – healthy eating and nutrition for the menopause.

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The City Chicken Keeper

An inquisitive Sybil!

This is the story of the woman who had the romantic notion of keeping chickens in her back garden and collecting fresh eggs each morning. Last July, that notion became a reality. Welcome to the City Chicken Keeper and her 3 chickens, Julia, Sybil and Margot.

The idea of keeping chickens to be honest happened a few years ago and I was reluctant to pursue the idea as I was sure I would come down one morning to feathers and dead chickens, courtesy of a fox. However, I saw an article in a magazine about a fox proof chicken run from a company called Omlet. After talking about it, we decided to give chicken keeping a go.

Fun in my veg box!

Julia sampling the delights of the veg patch! Margot and Sybil looking on

First decision, how to go about adopting hens. I contacted the British Hen Welfare Trust and explained the situation. They said that they only rehomed 3 hens at a time as they were fairly social creatures, plus if one died, the others would have each other! Nice. The BHWT operates throughout the UK and there were 2 collection points fairly near to us that we could pick the chickens up with. However, we couldn’t apply for hens until we had a run, so we had to wait. Secondly where was the run going to go? We have a fairly narrow and long back garden, pretty spacious for South Birmingham. There is a deck, then a lawn and then a gravel part up the top. The obvious location was the lawn as I remember reading that chickens like the feel of grass underneath their feet. Sorted.

Finally D Day came and in June last year, the run arrived; all 9 boxes of it. The DHL man asked what on earth we had ordered. We started building that weekend. It was a fairly straightforward build if a little fiddly. We had ordered the Eglu Go Chicken Coop with a 3m run. When it was finally built, we looked at it and said how on earth would be move it around the lawn so that the grass would grow back. Answer – we wouldn’t! So back to the drawing board. Eventually it was decided to move the run to the top gravel part of the garden, which would be good for the chickens in the summer as it was part shady. So, back to dismantling and erecting. Now that had been decided, the nice part of reserving the chickens came. We had to wait a couple of weeks to collect our chickens from the Warwickshire collection farm. In the meantime, all the food and bedding and grit and oystershell and the numerous other things that you have to buy as a first time chicken keeper were purchased. All set.

Having fun in the coop!

On an extremely hot Sunday at the end of June, we arrived with the cats vet box and some cardboard boxes to collect our chickens. Lots of other people had arrived too, all obviously had been through this before – we were the newbies. At first sight, there were hundreds of chickens milling around in the farmyard. I looked at my husband and he looked at me and we both said, ” they are big, arenty they”. I don’t really know what I expected, but these chickens looked very scary and big. I said, “have we made a mistake?” “No, dont be silly!”, was the reply and we waited in turn to be handed our 3 chickens. Three were unceremoniously plucked from the floor and placed into our boxes, 2 in the one box and 1 in the cat carrier. Rather bewildered, we went back to the car, with my teenager son sitting in the middle of the chickens worrying that they would pee on him! (Lots of newspaper lined the boxes), so no unexpected accidents happened. When we got home we released the hens into their new home. We must have spent most ot the evening watching them and trying to decide names.

I had read in my research that there was always a pecking order amongst hens and that they also had their own little personalities! Over the days, both of these statements became clear. Julia (named after the lead character in Motherland) was obviously leader of the pack, followed by Sybil (Sybil Fawlty – she is very noisy and sqwarks alot!). Finally little Margot (named after Queen Margot of Navarre – I have a passion for female historical figures!), bought up the rear. The first day, Margot laid an egg for us! We were over the moon! I wasn’t really expecting eggs, i was just happy to save them from death and to give them a home. After that, they laid regularly and we had 3 eggs every day. Amazing to go out and pick up a warm egg from the roost – the simple pleasures of life…

Sybil – the one who will find her way into anything and everything!

The chicken obsession continued for quite a while, with all of us going out to see them during the day and giving them healthy treats – cabbage hung up on a string is especially popular! We let them out late afternoon so they could roam the garden and have some freedom. I was a soft touch and thought, ah they’ve been cooped up and never seen fresh air so why not let them have some fun. However, I love my garden and hadn’t bargained on the amount of destruction a chicken can manage. We would go out in the summer evenings and sit with them and try to stop them getting into my flower borders and veg patch. I lost count of the barriers we put up to contain them.. They just seemed to find a way through. Indeed this culminated one evening last year when we were herding them into their roost and my husband yelled out to me that he had lost a chicken! It turned out Sybil (its always her – the one in trouble – the miscreant!) had squeezed through a gap in the fence and went into next doors garden. Unfortunately next doors were away. We Whats App our street to get them to look our for a wandering chicken – even though its suburban Birmingham, a few of us keep chickens on the road, so people were very helpful. I decided to go to the neighbour 2 doors down in case Sybil had gone through to them. Luckily I found her and managed to pick her up and carry her back home – she was not a happy chicken!).

That’s one thing that i’ve got used to – picking chickens up! When we first had them, I never thought i would be able to do it, but as your confidence grows around them, it just happens. They are extremely light really, you just have to hold them so their wings can’t flap in your face. We even give them a bath! They do give themselves a dust bath but occasionally we get the old pond liner out and give them a sponge down and a gentle hose down. Never in a million years did I think i would be bathing chickens! They’re surprisingly good about it really – they don’t seem to mind too much.

Anyway, going back to the garden bit – I finally had enough of half eaten plants and vegetables dug up so we decided to fence off the borders so they couldn’t get in and destroy my lovely plants. This worked well for a week then lo and behold one day, Sybil appeared in the flower border having a lovely time eating my plants. This went on for quite a while, we would block where we thought they were getting in and even put chicken wire on the top of the fence only to be thwarted yet again with an escaped chicken. I felt like i was forever checking up on them and removing them from spaces they weren’t allowed in. Finally it was sorted and the chickens were kept at bay, only to find out that avian flu had struck the UK and we had to keep our hens locked up. So be warned, if you, like me, love your garden, either be prepared to lose lots of plants or make sure you have a secure fence area where they can’t get into! Actually reading about it, there are some plants that chickens don’t like, namely rosemary and lavender to name just a few.

After having the chicken for a couple of months, we went on holiday with our lovely cat sitter company, Kitty’s Angels looking after all our animals. (By then we had 10 outdoor goldfish too)!. Before we went, I began to feel sorry for the chickens in that they wouldn’t have a huge amount of space to roam around in while we were away or for that matter in the winter and in the rain etc. so we decided to buy from Omlet a 6 ft x 6 ft walk in chicken run in the form of a cage. Again, construction took place over a weekend and the new extension was both loved by the chickens and also by us as we didn’t need to keep bending down to sort food and water out.

I love our chickens and Sybil, Julia and Margot are part of our family, their eggs are like no other i’ve tasted and I always bought organic eggs too as I was so opposed to battery farming. I love going out to see them and observe their little personalities – Its great to think that we’ve given these 3 chickens a home and saved them from death and that they seem to like their new home and of course its a thousand times better than the conditions they were used to.

The chicken’s eggs have an amazing large yolk and taste delicious.

There are of course negative aspects. Its great cleaning them out in summer mornings, but in the winter when its raining (the worse) and cold, it’s not great fun. Also, we have spent a small fortune on these 3 little chickens. Okay, you could buy cheaper and smaller runs etc but there is still the cost of the food and the bedding, grit and oystershell etc. Our chickens love Poultry Porridge so that gets ordered most weeks. I know i’m a soft touch when it comes to my pets. (The cat is currently reclining in his heated cat bed!). but the chickens are so worth it with the pleasure they give our family. Plus the eggs are a bonus! If you are thinking of adopting chickens, just be prepared and don’t hesitate.

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Agatha Christie, Greenway

I had always wanted to visit Greenway, the picturesque summer house of Agatha Christie in Devon. On a recent weekend away in the lovely Dartmouth, I was lucky enough to fulfill that wish.

The magic that is Greenway

My obsession with Agatha Christie really started in the 1980’s with the BBC TV adaptation of the Miss Marple books, with the fabulous Joan Hickson. I absolutely loved them! Loved the nostalgic era, the clothes, locations etc. My favourite adaptation was and still is Sleeping Murder, set in Dilmouth which is of course Sidmouth. I’ve been to Sidmouth so many times and actually found the location of Guy and Gwendas house which was situated in nearby Budleigh Salterton. So being just a slightly obsessive, I couldn’t wait to visit the house where Agatha Christie spent her summers and even reputedly used as a location for “Dead Man’s Folly” and “Five Little Pigs”.

View down to the Boathouse

Greenway did not disappoint. Agatha Christie acquired the house in 1938 for a total of £6,000. £41,426 in today’s money. Built as a Tudor mansion in the 16th century, the house passed through several owners before Agatha Christie bought Greenway. Indeed it was requisitioned during the second world war by the War Department. Today Greenway is in the hands of the National Trust, who were gifted the house in 2000.

I wish I could grow these exotics all year round!

Although due to COVID restrictions it wasn’t possible to visit the house, the garden was a still a joy to walk around, even in the rain! The place has a romantic woodland feeling about it. From the superb views down to the Dart estuary to the walled gardens and the Peach House and Vinery. Especially the Boathouse with its historic plunge pool, where Agatha hosted parties.

View to the greenhouses and Peach house

You could just imagine the family and summer visitors playing tennis on the court and having fun on the famous Clock Golf Lawn and croquet court. Greenway was in its heyday in the 1950’s.

As a gardener, I admired the exotic planting. In particular the Chinese rice-paper plant and the echiums. There was definitely a sub-tropical feel to the gardens. Beautiful magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias all thriving in the acid soil.

I would love to come back to Greenway in the near future, when I can visit the house and perhaps see the dahlia border and once again lose myself in the nostalgia of a time long since passed.

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February Escapism, Homemade Style!

Hi guys. A very belated Happy New Year!

I can’t believe it’s been over 6 months since I’ve written a blog. With a mixture of home schooling and an increase in sales to my Etsy shop (one good thing to come out this situation!, I don’t seem to have any spare time whatsoever.

At least it’s now February and spring in around the corner, the afternoons are getting longer and it’s not quite so dark early. Think, next month should see the start of Gardener’s World too!

Just some of the seeds I bought from Wilko’s!

This year, apart from the usual suspects of tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots etc, I have bought some dwarf climbing French beans and also some borlotti beans for the first time. I usually grow runner beans but fancied a change this year. On the flower front I’ve bought a new type of container cosmos from Sarah Raven as well as a Tithonia. Also, I don’t have much luck with sunflowers, but couldn’t resist the Helianthus “Magic Roundabout”, I think it was the lovely name which attracted me. I also went for “Ms Mars”, a cute pink sunflower.

My favourite Sarah Raven seeds

I’ve always loved gardening, but, along with so many other people last year, I found it so beneficial during lockdown. It was lovely to get out after home schooling and spend some time gently weeding or seed sowing and dead-heading in the garden. It’s been difficult to get much gardening in lately, due to snow and generally wet weather. However, i’m really looking forward to getting out there again and getting stuck in. Plans for half term include mulching and sorting out the greenhouse!

Hopefully. I can get started on my seed sowing campaign shortly. First to begin with will be the chilli plants. I always look forward to January in the garden centres; most of the Christmas stuff has gone and the new seed varieties are beginning to appear on the shelves. I recently made a trip to Wilko’s and splurged on some vegetable and flower seeds. I always buy the basic varieties from Wilkos as year after year, they are always reliable and of course a great bargain! Any seeds that are a bit trickier to get hold of, I now generally buy online at Sarah Raven. My obsession with Sarah Raven started last year, when I ordered a packet of the “Turquoise lagoon” sweet peas, a beautiful and eye catching colour in my garden. Since then, I’ve never looked back. Sarah Ravens dahlia bulbs were magnificent last year. Twice the size of other competitors.

Some fun books to read!

Other things during the past couple of months that have kept me sane are books. I seem to have an obsession with book buying at present. Sainsburys is good for cheap and cheerful reads, but I’ve recently discovered the Bookshop site, which helps struggling independent bookshops. I’ve ordered a few books from there. My recent reads include “Small Pleasures” by Claire Chambers, set in the 1950’s about a single woman and her life. Also I read “Father” by Elizabeth Von Arnim, she of “Enchanted April” fame. Although I did enjoy this book, it was quite a slow read. One other recommendation is “The girl who reads on the Metro”, by Christine Feret-Fleury. As a book lover and a francophile, I really loved this book. Its gentle and nothing much happens but if you like books and France, then I think you will love it.

Just some of the magazines that have kept me going!


With regards to TV, I’ve enjoyed watching “Dash & Lily” on Netflix. My 50 plus friend recommended this to me and although its about teenagers, it’s a lovely watch and is set in the famous Strand bookshop in New York. I was lucky enough to visit the Strand a few years ago (pre kids!) and would absolutely love to go back. In fact, I enjoyed the series so much, that I ended up buying the book. Also, along with 63 million people, I have enjoyed watching Bridgerton on Netflix too. I didn’t realise that the series was based on the books by Julia Quinn – I may be buying some of her novels! I used to love costume dramas and the classic works of fiction they were based on. I think it’s the romantic side of me. Bridgerton and Dash & Lily are pure escapism from daily life. Nothing wrong with that. ..


Our Favourite Recipes

Spaghetti with Tomato, Spinach, and Shaved Parmesan

Creamy Tomato Soup with Cheese Toasties

Grilled Asparagus & Poached Egg on Toast

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La Seigneurie Gardens, Sark

On our family holiday this year we were lucky enough to visit Jersey for a third time I love this little island, where time stands still and everyone is polite and the traffic filters in turn at roundabouts.

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As we were there for a couple of weeks, we decided the visit Sark, which actually falls under the jurisdiction of Guernsey. I’ve seen holiday programmes on Sark and have always wanted to visit.  The main attraction being the total ban on cars etc.  If you want to get around on Sark you walk, hire a bike or take a horse and wagon tour.

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We caught the boat early one morning and after a horrendous sea crossing where most people were seasick we finally arrived!  After I had a drink of water (a cafe owner suggested I pick some mint from her garden to flavour the water!), we walked around.

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We had planned beforehand to visit La Seigneurie gardens which were absolutely amazing.  Honestly if I lived in Sark I would visit these gardens daily.  These beautiful walled gardens were small but perfectly formed.  Lots of seasonal interest and eye catching plants and beautiful flowers, an obvious micro climate. I loved it and could have stayed all day.

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It was a very peaceful and tranquil. Also the gardens were immaculate and so well maintained. Not a weed in sight! Plus there was a little cafe for a cup of tea after your visit.

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All in all, despite the sea sickness I absolute loved Sark and La Seigneurie was the main highlight of the day

If you are lucky enough to visit the beautiful Channel Islands, then please visit!


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Samares Manor, Jersey

This was my second visit to the lovely Samares Manor botanical gardens in Jersey.  Last year we visited on the last day of our holiday and I found out that you can have a free return visit within 2 weeks so I didn’t make that mistake again and we went early in our holiday!

Samares Manor is small but so tranquil and lovely.  There’s lots of different garden areas for interest, including a Japanese garden, a herb garden and a particular favourite of my son’s: a shade and damp area with lots of stepping stones and ducks!

My favourite area of these gardens however is the walled garden. I have always wanted a walled garden. This one at Samares Manor doesn’t disappoint with lots of cottage style planting which I love. Beautiful rudbeckias, verbena and dahlias come to mind.   There are also lovely espaliers of pear trees that greet you as you meander through the garden.

Whilst visiting Samares Manor, don’t forget to visit their cafe. The Herb Garden cafe is a fabulous outdoor tearoom serving the most delicious and largest piece of lemon drizzle cake I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat! I would be sampling my way through the menu if I lived there. When we visited they were advertising a special lunch menu which was a delicious sounding fig and feta cheese pizza. All cooked on their outdoor pizza oven.  Unfortunately I was too full of cake to take advantage!

You could spend an hour plus here, it’s not that large, but it is so pleasant and definitely visit the cafe. It’s well worth it, especially if like us you are on holiday and get a free return visit! It’s just so nice to have a stroll around in pleasant conditions.

Overall even though it’s not that big, there is quite a lot of interesting areas to explore. The shop sells a nice array of local crafts and although I couldn’t bring back any plants on my flight, the garden centre plants looked in great condition and were reasonably priced.

I’m already looking forward to visiting the gardens again soon


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RHS Malvern Spring festival

69a4c9fc-71f2-42fc-bc36-7ce9cfaf3465I’ve always wanted to visit the RHS Malvern Spring show and this year I actually remembered to book tickets and off we went a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Saturday!

I watched Gardeners World the Friday beforehand as I thought they would be filming there and I was not disappointed.  I loved the look of the show gardens and the floral marquee and couldn’t wait to visit the Three Counties Showground in Malvern the next day. I was crossing my fingers that the weather would improve too after a deluge of rain a few days before.

The big day arrived and the sun came out. We arrived mid morning, along with thousands of other people too!  First stop coffee and a 10 minute wait for the ladies’ loo’s!  (Generally speaking there are more women at shows like this so why not provide extra toilets?!).

cf338afb-9e7f-41bb-94b4-2a116f37bb59Second stop was the show gardens. Unfortunately due to the previous days rain, these were in a muddy field! From watching GW I was really looking forward to seeing the show gardens and they didn’t disappoint.  On the down side, it was so busy you had to queue In order to get a look in. It’s always disappointing at these things as there are so many people like me wanting to get a look. On TV they obviously film when no ones around. A false sense of reality!

c9f6a9f9-1c74-41d4-8593-19ad2ec5df39Anyway after I managed a quick peak, I really liked this garden. It was so bright and colourful. Lots of fun in the garden.  It really appealed to me as my garden is also full of bright, fun colours and eye catching planting.

The schools gardens were excellent too.  Lots of hard work went into them and I loved the bright happy colours and the planting.

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My absolute favourite garden was “the bra garden” though!  I saw Carol Klein talking about the bras and couldn’t find a record of it anywhere in the programme. My husband came up with the idea of re running the GW episode to find out what the garden was called  I was getting obsessed with finding this garden at one point.  We managed to locate the garden due to the placement of some giant tepees in the end! It was great fun and unbeknown to me it was made by a local school in Birmingham.

49ff6d4d-c3d0-4e43-93eb-7ef55ace8165All in all, a good day out was had by everyone. My husband and son enjoyed their burger and pizza respectively and I enjoyed looking around the gardens, actually in the sunshine!

Im thinking about a return visit to BBC Gardeners World Live next month, but I may be going on a solo trip, unless there is some street food there to tempt the family!


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Flower pot madness!

We had planned a warm Easter school holiday trip to Estepona, south of Malaga, Spain. In reality we were rained in, cold and were grateful of the heated seats in the hire car!  It took us 3 days to finally visit the lovely town of Estepona in all it’s sunny glory. It was worth it.

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From what I had read, I pictured an idyllic Spanish local town, generally off the tourist trail where Spanish friends and family met on Saturday mornings in their favourite cafe over a Cortado. I wasn’t disappointed. We were the only foreigners there!  Lots of locals doing their Saturday morning shopping.  And the shoe shops were to die for!!! 3 pairs of lovely sandals made it back into my case!

Anyway, to bring me to the point of this blog. What I hadn’t realised was that Estepona is famous for its flower pot trail!  The guidebook said, go into the tourist office and ask for a trail map. We duly did and began to walk street after street of beautiful, colourful flower pots full of red geraniums which were attached to the street walls. Apparently each street has a themed flower pot colour too!  I have to say my favourites were the pink spotty ones and was quite disappointed that I couldn’t bring one back in my suitcase!

The trail went on for lovely street after street until my 9 year old had decided enough was enough and he wanted an ice cream! I took so many photos, that here is only a small selection.

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So if you are a fan of flowers, gardening and spotty plant pots, you will love it here!

Lovely Estepona, I can’t wait to go back.


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Peg bags

Although I consider myself to be a feminist and fully intend on continuing to bring my son up to believe that women can do anything that a man can do (if not better!), I find some strange personal satisfaction when I can hang out my washing on a lovely breezy summer’s day, watching it all blowing in the wind!

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I love my garden which is bright and cheerful.  Yes, i’ve made pretty bunting to cover fences and there are matching seat covers with parasol trims, so I thought why not pretty up my peg bag. I don’t think its just me either!  All the homestyle magazines keep re-iterating using the garden as another room, a mere extension to you indoor living space. Well, my indoor living space consists of pretty cushions, bunting, Cath Kidston tablecloths, amongst other items, so why not extend out to my garden?

I’m sure I’m not just the only one too! I’m just starting getting into the world of craft markets and have found that peg bags are one of my best sellers. I get people actively searching for the type of old fashioned fabric peg bags that perhaps reminds them of their childhood with favourite granny’s and other nostalgic memories.

My peg bags are a showcase for both pretty and floral stashes of fabric plus a bit more of an adventurous fabric in a retro style. I picked up a delightful one from my local fabric shop; Cottonpatch, which is part of a cat range and consists of cat food tins.  Purrfect!

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Peg bags are both useful and functional. If you enjoy your garden why have a boring bland green peg bag that everywhere sells, when you could have a handmade object in your choice of fabric to brighten up your washing line.

Peg bags can also be made out of old clothes – kids clothes, especially girls dresses work really well and can be adapted quite easily.  There’s an upcycling project for you!

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To start with you need to cut out a paper peg bag template.  My template measures 30cm across and 45cm vertically.  You can adjust your template to make it smaller or bigger – it’s entirely up to you!

Next, choose your chosen fabric and cut out one template.  This is going to be the back of the bag.  You could choose to have a different colour/pattern back to front or keep them the same.

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Secondly, you need to cut out the front of the peg bag.  This will come in 2 parts as you need to leave a gap for the pegs!  Following my template you need to cut out the top of the bag.  Mine measures 30cm across and 18cm down from the point of the top, so you are left with a sort of a triangle shape.  Next,, cut out the bottom of the front section, this roughly measures 24cm down and 30cm across.

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Next you need to bind the bottom edge of the front top and the front edge of the front bottom section.  You can choose matching binding or something contrasting for fun!  When you have bound the edges, Place the 2 parts right side together and pin. Measure 7cm from either side (I mark with a fabric pen) and sew from the edge to the 7cm mark.  Do this on both sides and you will be left with a nice gap big enough to put pegs through.

Next, with right sides together, sew around the whole of the peg bag, ensuring that you leave a small gap at the very top where the coat hanger is going to poke out of.  I find marking this gap with pins reminds me not to sew completely all the way round.

Turn the peg bag the right way round and finish off by adding a strip of binding or ribbon to the bottom of the peg bag.  Insert your hanger and hey presto, you have a unique peg bag!

You can find all these peg bags on my Etsy shop.  I also provide custom order service  so if you fancy a particular fabric or style and colour, then just get in touch with me.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Lizzyshomemade


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St. Valentine’s Day

So, we have nearly arrived at St. Valentine’s day, where the shops sell cheesy items that you just don’t need and your recipient mostly doesn’t want!  The price of a bunch of roses increases at least twofold and restaurants are full of young romantics, looking forward to staring into each others eyes over a bottle of Prosecco!

Do I sound cynical? I’m not really.  It’s just hard to do all that when you have an 8 year old with no babysitters available on that special evening.  Tuesday 14th February is cubs night anyway and he’s no intention of missing that!  The best me and my hubbie can come up with is a M&S meal (no cooking for either and minimal washing up!) after we drop him off then a bottle of fizz after we collect him and bedtime is over.  Not very romantic for some but not too bad for us either.  I get a break from cooking and we get to enjoy a dinner in peace without being interrupted about Lego!

So, where does St. Valentine’s Day originate from?  Is it just an American thing that has now turned commercial and merely a money spinning opportunity?

untitledApparently, the saint officially recognised by the Roman Catholic Church was a real person who died around AD 270.

The story goes that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in several bloody campaigns. Claudius found it tough to get soldiers and felt the reason was men did not join army because they did not wish to leave their wives and families.

As a result Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. However, a romantic priest called Saint Valentine defied Claudius’s order and married couples in secret.  How splendid!

Unfortunately, when his defiance was discovered, Valentine was brutally beaten and put to death on February 14, about 270 AD. After his death Valentine was named a Saint.

Interestingly, Valentine  is also the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy among other things. That doesn’t stop people calling on his help for those romantically involved. He’s now also patron of engaged couples and happy marriages.

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St. Valentine’s Day became associated with love and romance from as early as the 14th Century.  Throughout the years, especially in the 18th century, lovers sent greetings cards, known as “valentines” which were handmade.  I suspect these were quite cute, unlike some of the mass produced rubbish we get nowadays. However, in America in 1913 Hallmark Cards began mass producing specific Valentine’s Day cards. Now about a billion cards are sold every year and it’s the second biggest card sending time of the whole year. Looking at images of the old cards, I much prefer them!

We all know the symbols associated with Valentines today: anything heart shaped and a bouquet of red roses feature prominently. The red rose was believed to be the flower favoured by Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love, and has therefore come to represent that .

Why February 14th though?  Some believe that Valentine’s Day’s is celebrated mid-February to mark the anniversary of St Valentine’s death. Others maintain that the Christian church decided to place St Valentine’s feast day at this time of the year in an effort to ‘Christianise’ the pagan festival of Lupercalia.

Well, there you go!  When you are enjoying your fancy restaurant meal and bottle of sparkling wine, spare a thought for poor Saint Valentine who paid an awful price for believing in enduring romance!

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Any of you who are stuck for ideas or inspiration, have a look at my Etsy shop for anything pink, heart shaped and red roses! https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Lizzyshomemade?ref=hdr_shop_menu